A merry Christmas to all my readers. The video embeded above shows Midnight Mass in Heiligenkreuz, which I missed this year because I have got the flu.
The Austrian composer Ferdinand Rebay (1880-1953) had been a choir-boy here in Heiligenkreuz, and after his death a great many manuscripts of his compositions were entrusted to our music archive. My confrère, P. Roman, and the musicologist Dr. Maria Chervenlieva-Gelew have been bringing some of those compositions to light. A few of them, including the Ave Maria embedded above, were sung at conventual Mass here on November 15th, the Feast of St. Leopold, by the Wiener Schubertbund. Rebay’s music strikes me as being suffused by a deep sadness.
Yesterday I returned from another walking pilgrimage to Mariazell, this time with the seminarians of the Leopoldinum. The Leopoldinum makes the pilgrimage every year, and takes only three days. The first stage is quite long, so we began before sunrise. It rained hard the first day, but the weather kept getting better after that. We took a slightly different route this time. We spent the first night up on the Unterberg, where I got to celebrate Mass in the lovely little wooden chapel.
Last week I took part in a four-day walking pilgrimage to Mariazell with a large part of our community. Many of us had walked to Mariazell with groups from the monasteries parishes or elsewhere, but it was the first time that the community as such made such a walking pilgrimage. The occasion was the year of mercy. Many of us had received new assignments, and it was a good opportunity to entrust them to Our Lady.
There are two main routes to Mariazell from Vienna: the Via Sacra, which is the oldest route, and the Wiener Wallfahrerweg. We took the Wiener Wallfahrerweg, which is supposedly more scenic, as it is more mountainous and goes through less densely populated areas. It is however the “more challenging” route, as the Mostviertel Tourism Office puts it. This made it a real penance for those of us who spend most of our time in doors. On Tuesday there was torrential rain, and we took the steepest ascent from Kaumberg to Kieneck. We completely exhausted when we reached the cabin at the top of Kieneck. But entering that warm cabin after the cold and wet outside was like going to Heaven. This is perhaps one of the main reasons for walking pilgrimages: to remind us that we are in via toward the heavenly city. “If they had been remembering the country from which they came, they would have had occasion to turn back; but as it is they long for a better one, that is, the one in heaven.” (Hebrews 11:15-16)
Mariazell is the most important Marian shrine in Austria. The name “Zell” comes from a cell built by a 12th century monk of Sankt Lambrecht to house a statue of Our Lady after a boulder was miraculously split. The “cell” is still vaguely visible in the marble construction in the center of the Church. Mariazell is in the Southern Austrian province of Styria, but near the border to Lower Austria. Growing up I lived for some years in Gaming, which is just on the Lower Austrian side of the border. We often visited Mariazell.
The Leopoldinum is the place where diocesan seminarians who study theology at the Hochschule in Heiligenkreuz live. It was originally established by Bishop Rudolf Graber of Regensburg (author of Athanasius and the Church of Our Time), as part of an institute for the renewal of priestly formation known as the Opus Summi Sacerdotis. After Bishop Graber’s death it was called Collegium Rudolphinum. It remained under the care of the bishop of Regensburg, but also accepted ever more seminarians from other dioceses. But in 2007 the then bishop of Regensburg decided to bring all of his seminarians to Regensburg, and to end involvement in the Rudolphinum. At that point it was decided to turn it into an inter-diocesan seminary, and to rename it the Leopoldinum, after St. Leopold III, Margrave of Austria. Today it is under the immediate care of the abbot of Heiligenkreuz, and is supervised by a permanent commission of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference—the three members of the commission are the Archbishop of Vienna, and the Bishops of Graz and Sankt Pölten.
There are currently 35 candidates for the priesthood living in the Leopoldinum. The Direktor is Martin Leitner, a diocesan priest and alumnus of the Hochschule in Heiligenkreuz. As Vizedirektor I will be “supporting the Direktor in his work,” as the statutes put it. If my readers would say a prayer for me as I begin this new officium I would be most grateful.
The video embedded above shows the Mass of the Assumption in Heiligenkreuz yesterday, during which four of my confrères made their solemn profession of vows. The Assumption is the patronal feast of all Cistercian churches, and it is very often the occasion of vows. During the glorious liturgy I thought back to the first time that I witnessed solemn vows in Heiligenkreuz on the Assumption day of the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. It was then that I decided to enter Heiligenkreuz myself. And, of course, I thought back to my own solemn vows on Assumption day of 2010. Each subsequent Feast of the Assumption has been for me a renewal of joy and gratitude at being a monk of this abbey. Continue reading
Photos: Stift Heiligenkreuz on Facebook