Maria Theresia

The Studentenverbindung in Heiligenkreuz recently organized a guided tour of the exhibition marking the 300 birthday of the Empress Maria Theresia in the State Hall of the Austrian National Library. Photos of the tour by our Consenior can be found on the Facebook page of the Verbindung. The tour guide was the delightfully amusing and informative Albert Pethö, editor of the Viennese monarchist newspaper Die Weiße Rose Continue reading

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Plus ça change…

Though in many respects Bl. Pope Innocent XI was very different from our current Pope, yet in his approach to the trappings of ecclesiastical dignity one can see a certain similarity:

Benedetto Odescalchi was determined to continue as Pope the life he had led as a prelate and a Cardinal. He was retiring, devout, conscientious, strict, most liberal towards those in want, exceedingly parsimonious for himself. In this respect he went so far as to use the clothes and ornaments of his predecessors though they were too short for his lofty stature. For ten whole years he wore the same white cassock until it became quite threadbare, and only when a certain prince commented on the subject did he have the old garments replaced by new ones. By his orders his rooms were furnished with apostolic simplicity. In his study there was only a wooden table with a simple ivory crucifix, a few religious books, three old pictures of Saints, a wooden chair and an old, silk-covered chair for visitors of mark. Many an Abbot had to confess, to his shame, that he was more splendidly lodged than the Head of the Church. In order to set an example to the wealthy Prince-Bishops of Germany, the Pope gave orders for the greatest possible reduction of his stables. At the Quirinal, where after much hesitation he at last took up residence in May, 1677, he chose for himself the worst rooms, from which there was no view. The personnel of the ante-rooms was reduced to a minimum. As a Cardinal, he was wont to say, he had been rich, as Pope he wished to live in poverty. Accordingly he only allowed a few giulii to be spent on his table. On the occasion of the taking possession of the Lateran, on November 8th, 1676, he insisted on the avoidance of all display and expressly forbade the erection of the customary triumphal arches. At first he wished to carry out the ceremony without the participation of the College of Cardinals… (Ludwig von Pastor, The History of the Popes, vol. XXXII, pp. 14-15)

 

Abt Christian Feurstein, 1958-2017

Abbot Christian in his days as Prior of Heiligenkreuz

Of your charity, pray for the repose of the soul of Abbot Christian Feurstein, O.Cist., former Abbot of Stift Rein in Styria, who died last night after a long struggle with heart disease. Abbot Christian was a monk of Stift Heiligenkreuz before being postulated as abbot by the monks of Stift Rein. For many years he was prior and novice master in Heiligenkreuz. He was my novice master, and I will be eternally grateful for kindness and patience in leading me into the monastic life. Every day for a year the other novices and I had lessons on the Rule of St. Benedict and Psalms from him. I’m afraid that I may have been a somewhat trying disciple. “It befitteth a master to speak and teach,” St. Benedict teaches in the Holy Rule, “and it beseemeth a disciple to hold his peace and listen.” But I had come fresh from the disputatious atmosphere of the great books seminars of my college, and was accustomed to speak and argue, while a tutor held his peace and listened. But if Pater Christian found me trying, I never knew it; his patience with me was boundless.

The novices of ’06-’07 and ’07-’08 with Novice Master Pater Christian, Abbot Gregor, and the Subprior of Stiepel, P. Jakobus. The author of this blog is in the back row on the far left.

He was not a man of great speculative brilliance, but he had a deep experiential wisdom from a life of fidelity to Christ. He was great example of true monastic humility. I do not think that I have ever met a more humble man. “The seventh degree of humility,” St. Benedict teaches, “is not only to pronounce with his tongue, but also in his very heart to believe himself to be the most abject, and inferior to all.” I remember Pater Christian telling us about some renowned intellectual giving a talk at Heiligenkreuz’s priory in Stiepel, in the Ruhr Valley (P. Christian was one of the founding monks of that priory). The intellectual was talking about how the seventh degree of humility is terribly bad, and that a healthy person has to have self-esteem etc. P. Christian tried to defend St. Benedict, but was unable to convince the intellectual. He couldn’t explain it, but he knew that the seventh degree of humility was good. I think that he knew it con-naturally, because he had attained it in his own life. In recounting this story, P. Christian laughed. He had not, you see, attained the tenth degree of humility, for he was very prompt to laugh.

Abbot Christian (second from left) at his Abbatial Blessing in Stift Rein

He was postulated as Abbot of Stift Rein in Styria in 2010, the year that I took solemn vows in Heiligenkreuz. Once when I visited him there he was preparing to go officiate at a funeral in a nearby parish. Someone else told me that the abbot was constantly doing funerals in that parish, since the parish priest there, a monk of Stift Rein, was “too busy.” It was typical of Abbot Christian that despite the many burdens of his abbatial office he did not think himself too busy to help out in parishes. In 2015 he resigned as Abbot of Rein on account of his heart condition, and returned to Heiligenkreuz. He suffered much through his long sickness. After a stroke that followed one operation he was unable to speak. But he could still smile. He died last night in the hospital with a number of the confrères praying the commendatio animae  at his bedside. His body will first be taken to Stift Rein, where the Bishop of Graz-Sekau will sing a requiem for him on March 21st, and then his body will be taken to Stift Heiligenkreuz where the Requiem and burial will be on March 24th.

Requiescat in pace.

Heiligenkreuz to Revive the Abbey of Neuzelle

The Community in Heiligenkreuz after the November 10th Chapter. (I’m in the back row, sixth from the left). Photo credit: Stift Heiligenkreuz.

We sang a Te Deum after a momentous conventual chapter in Heiligenkreuz today. The chapter (the assembly of all the monks with final vows) decided to send a colony of monks from Heiligenkreuz to revive the Cistercian Abbey of Neuzelle in Lower Lusatia in Eastern Germany. The idea had come to us from the Bishop of Görlitz, the diocese in which Neuzelle is located. Continue reading

The Maccabean Martyrs and Our Time

The Greek conquerors who persecuted the seven sons in 2 Maccabees, whose martyrdom will be read out this Sunday in the Ordinary Form, considered themselves to be bringing civilization to the barbarian world. Recall Plutarch’s praise of the civilizalizing effect of Alexander’s conquests:

[Regard] Alexander’s discipline, and you shall see how he taught the Hyrcanians the conveniency of wedlock, introduced husbandry among the Arachosians, persuaded the Sogdians to preserve and cherish—not to kill—their aged parents; the Persians to reverence and honor—not to marry—their mothers. Most admirable philosophy! which induced the Indians to worship the Grecian Deities, and wrought upon the Scythians to bury their deceased friends, not to feed upon their carcasses… No sooner had Alexander subdued Asia, than Homer became an author in high esteem, and the Persian, Susian, and Gedrosian youth sang the tragedies of Euripides and Sophocles. Among the Athenians, Socrates, introducing foreign Deities, was condemned to death at the prosecution of his accusers. But Alexander engaged both Bactria and Caucasus to worship the Grecian Gods, which they had never known before. Lastly, Plato, though he proposed but one single form of a commonwealth, could never persuade any people to make use of it, by reason of the austerity of his government. But Alexander, building above seventy cities among the barbarous nations, and as it were sowing the Grecian customs and constitutions all over Asia, quite weaned them from their former wild and savage manner of living. The laws of Plato here and there a single person may peradventure study, but myriads of people have made and still make use of Alexander’s. And they whom Alexander vanquished were more greatly blessed than they who fled his conquests. For these had none to deliver them from their ancient state of misery; the others the victor compelled to better fortune.

If they lived nowadays they would say that they were on “the right side of history,” and that the Jews were “bigots,” enslaved to “life-denying superstitions.” Current proponents of politically correct views of human life and morals have not yet resorted to torture to liberate ignorant bigots from their superstitions, but who knows what the future holds?

The Oppenheimer Principle

I think Alan Jacobs goes to far in his rejection of the sort of account of the decline of the West that put a lot of emphasis on the role of philosophy. But I afraid I have to agree his “Oppenheimer Principle” describes a real thing. From his latest piece:

What I call the Oppenheimer Principle — “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success” — has worked far more powerfully to shape our world than any of our master thinkers.

What would have happened if the Serb government had accepted the Austrian ultimatum?

What would have happened if the Serb government had accepted the Austrian ultimatum in all its points? Not much. Such an acceptance would have made it absolutely impossible for the Austrians to go to war; whereupon a few Austrian officials sent to Serbia to investigate the assassination would have presented a spectacle of helplessness. The excuse that such a visit was incompatible with the Serb constitution can hardly be taken seriously; things which were still less in accordance with the constitution happened in Serbia. — Golo Mann

Crusades

President Obama said something about the crusades recently, prompting First Things to link their review of Jonathan Riley-Smith’s The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam from several years back. This reminded me that I wrote a review of that book for the 2009 Analecta Cisterciensia. By an odd coincidence, the first draft of that review (before the editor had me shorten it) began with something that President Obama said about the Crusades. Here is that original, long draft. Continue reading