“János-Brenner-Haus”

After three years as parish priest in Gaaden I will be returning soon to Heiligenkreuz to take up a new post as director of the new “János-Brenner-Haus” at our theological college, as well as continuing with teaching and research. The “János-Brenner-Haus” will be a house of discernment for students at our theological college, who have begun studying theology, but are still trying to decide whether to enter the religious life, or the secular priesthood, or to continue in lay/secular life. The new building is named for Blessed János Brenner, Hungarian priest and martyr, who was a Cistercian novice under the name of Frater Anasztáz.

I am happy to be returning to Heiligenkreuz, although a part of me is sad to be leaving the parish of Gaaden. Three years is not very long to be pastor of a parish, but here are a few things I learned about that difficult but beautiful vocation. In dividing the active and the contemplative life, St Thomas tells us that the division is based on a difference in what different persons delight in most, and on which they are most intent:

Properly speaking, those things are said to live whose movement or operation is from within themselves. Now that which is proper to a thing and to which it is most inclined is that which is most becoming to it from itself; wherefore every living thing gives proof of its life by that operation which is most proper to it, and to which it is most inclined. Thus the life of plants is said to consist in nourishment and generation; the life of animals in sensation and movement; and the life of men in their understanding and acting according to reason. Wherefore also in men the life of every man would seem to be that wherein he delights most, and on which he is most intent; thus especially does he wish to associate with his friends (Ethic. ix, 12). Accordingly since certain men are especially intent (praecipue intendunt) on the contemplation of truth, while others are especially intent (principaliter intendunt) on external actions, it follows that man’s life is fittingly divided into active and contemplative.

Parish work certainly has a contemplative side, but it is principally vita activa. I have always felt myself drawn more towards the vita contemplativa. For this reason, I am mostly happy to be returning to Heiligenkreuz.

An Allegorical Representation of Stift Heiligenkreuz

On the ceiling above the stairs leading to the abbot’s apartments in Heiligenkreuz there is an allegorical representation of the monastery. Stift Heiligenkreuz is represented by a lady in armor with shield and spear. Above the monastery are the three theological virtues: Faith, represented by a lady with the cross and chalice; hope with an anchor; and love, nursing a baby. A ray of light from the faith bounces off Heiligenkreuz’s shield, and drives away the powers of evil: demons, heretics, and deceitful women.

Divine Office Live-Streamed From Stift Heiligenkreuz

For a while now my monastery, Stift Heiligenkreuz, has been live streaming the divine office, so that elderly and sick monks can pray along with the community from their cells. Until now the livestream was only available to members of the community. But now the stream has been made publicly available, so that people who are stuck at home on account of the corona virus can pray the office with us. The link to the stream from our winter chapel is here.

Here’s the horarium (Austrian Time):

5.15 Vigils (Latin)
6.00 Laudes (Latin)
6.25 Conventual Mass (Latin on most days, but twice a week in German)
On Sundays the Conventual Mass is at 9.30 (Latin)

11.00 Special Mass added on account of the Corona pandemic (German)

12.00 Terce and Sext (Latin)
12.55 None (Latin)

17.00 Special Mass added on account of the Corona pandemic (German)

18.00 Vespers (Latin)

19.50 Reading from the Rule of St Benedict (German) and Compline (Latin)
20.10 Rosary (German)

King Emeric of Hungary

In my monastery, Stift Heiligenkreuz, we have annual requiem Masses for our principal benefactors. Today was the requiem for King Emeric of Hungary, who gave us Kaisersteinbruch in West-Hungary in 1202 or 1203. Kaisersteinbruch was an important support of the monastery till 1912, when we sold it to the Imperial and Royal War Ministry. We used the proceeds to buy forests in Styria, which still support the monastery today. King Emeric’s gift has thus played an important role in enabling us to live the monastic life, and it is a fitting sign of gratitude that we have been offering the Holy Sacrifice for him annually for the past 815 years.

Ordinations in Heiligenkreuz

The Prefect of the Papal Household, His Excellency Archbishop Georg Gänswein, was here in Heiligenkreuz today. He ordained three of my confrères and one Augustinian Canon Regular. Archbishop Gänswein brought us greetings from Pope Francis. He said that when he told Pope Francis where he was going, the Holy Father remarked “Ah, Heiligenkreuz. I have heard of it.”

His Excellency Hugh Gilbert, O.S.B., Bishop of Aberdeen, was here as well. He used to be the Abbot of Pluscarden Abbey, where my confrère Pater Ælred, ordained today, was one of his novices many years ago.

The Feast of the Crown of Thorns

Today is the Feast of the Crown of Thorns in Heiligenkreuz. The Feast commemorates the solemn translation of the Crown of Thorns to Paris under St. Louis IX. St. Louis gave one thorn to the Babenberg Duke  Frederick the Quarrelsome of Austria, who gave it to Heiligenkreuz. Today it is exposed on the altar. There’s a medieval painting of the Sacred Head, crowned with thorns, in a niche our Church that was probably where the reliquary used to be kept. (Now it is kept in the neo-Gothic Sacrament altar).