mercredi 30 avril 2014

Saint ROBERT de MOLESME, abbé bénédictin et fondateur


Saint Robert de Molesmes

Robert de Molesme naquit à proximité de Troyes, en Champagne vers l'an 1028. Il se fit bénédictin à l'abbaye de Moutier-la-Celle à l'âge de quinze ans. Cette abbaye avait été fondée par Luxeuil vers l'an 660. Nommé prieur quelque dix ans plus tard, il fut élu ensuite abbé de Saint-Michel à Tonnerre vers 1070. Les moines avaient le désir de se réformer, mais ils y renoncèrent, et Robert retourna à Moutier la Celle. 


Il eut des contacts avec un groupe d’ermites vivant dans la forêt de Colan, et ceux-ci souhaitaient voir Robert à leur tête. Alors que Robert venait d’être nommé supérieur de Saint Ayoul de Provins, les ermites en appelèrent au Pape Grégoire VII, qui enjoignit en 1074 à Robert d’aller à Colan. En 1075, il déplaça sa petite communauté à Molesme. La fondation de Robert eut un tel succès, après quelques années difficiles, que Molesme devint bientôt un « petit Cluny ». 

En 1098 il y avait 35 prieurés dépendants de Molesme, ainsi que d’autres annexes et quelques prieurés de moniales. C’est à cause de cette réputation que vers 1082 Bruno de Cologne vint demander conseil à Robert et qu’il reçut de lui l’habit monastique, avant d’aller fonder la Grande Chartreuse. Cette réussite obligea Robert à jouer un rôle dans le monde de la féodalité. Les bienfaiteurs donnaient leurs enfants à éduquer, venaient faire des réunions de nobles au monastère, et la quantité de terres reçues demandait un grand nombre d’employés. La complexité de cette vie conduisit Robert à prendre un temps sabbatique. C’est ainsi que nous le retrouvons à Aulps, au diocèse de Genève… 

Pendant ce temps sabbatique, les moines se lamentaient de l’absence de leur supérieur. Ils allèrent jusqu’à demander au Pape Urbain II d’intervenir, arguant de la ruine à la fois morale et financière de leur communauté. Bien que la paix soit revenue à Molesme avec le retour de Robert, il y avait toujours en communauté un groupe de religieux aspirant à un style de vie plus simple. On peut penser qu’il s’agit plutôt d’une divergence d’idéals et non pas de moines exigeants et de moines laxistes. Mais le résultat pour la communauté était source de disharmonie, querelles et discorde. 

Ne trouvant pas de modérateur auprès de l’évêque local, les « réformateurs » allèrent trouver Hugues de Die, réformiste, archevêque de Lyon et légat du Pape Urbain II. Hugues proposa de diviser la communauté entre Molesme d’une part, et le « Nouveau Monastère » d’autre part. Robert fut installé comme abbé de Cîteaux par l’évêque Gauthier de Chalon, et les moines changèrent leur stabilité. 

La situation des moines de Molesme allant se dégradant, ils cherchèrent encore une fois à faire revenir Robert. Ce dernier ne resta donc supérieur du « Nouveau Monastère » que pendant un peu plus d’un an. L’abbaye de Molesme continua à croître sous son gouvernement, jusqu’à sa mort, survenue le 17 avril 1111, à l’âge de 83 ans.




Saint Robert de Molesmes

Abbé, fondateur de Cîteaux ( 1110)

Ce jeune bourguignon entra très jeune chez les bénédictins de Moutier-la-Celle dans l'Aube. A peine son noviciat terminé, il fut nommé prieur. Les bénédictins de Tonnerre ayant voulu l'avoir comme Père Abbé, il accepta, mais les ayant trouvés très relâchés et surtout peu réformables, il prit congé d'eux et revint à Moutier. Quelques ermites l'invitèrent à se mettre à leur tête et il partit avec eux dans la forêt de Molesmes en Côte d'Or dans des petites huttes de branchages autour d'une petite chapelle. Les recrues et les dons affluèrent, les huttes disparurent, un monastère se construisit et les ermites devinrent plus soucieux de leur confort que de l'ascèse. Saint Robert les quitta, mais les dons cessèrent en même temps. Ils le supplièrent de revenir et il revint. La ferveur, elle ne revint pas. Alors avec une vingtaine de moines plus décidés, dont saint Albéric et saint Étienne Harding, il se fixa à Cîteaux pour y établir la vie monastique qu'il rêvait. Ainsi naquit l'Ordre cistercien en 1098, mais le pape lui intima l'ordre de reprendre la tête de son monastère. Il obéit, et eut la consolation de voir ses moines revenus à de meilleures dispositions. Il mourut ainsi en paix. 



Saint Robert est commémoré le 21 mars au martyrologe romain (date de sa naissance au ciel en 1110).

L'ordre de Cîteaux nous communique: les 3 Fondateurs ne sont objet d'une solennité commune que depuis peu, le 26 janvier:

Saint Robert, saint Albéric et saint Étienne, abbés de Cîteaux, solennité dans l'OCSO (l'Ordre Cistercien de la Stricte Observance) source: rituel cistercien


Martyrologe romain


St. Robert of Molesme

Born about the year 1029, at Champagne, France, of noble parents who bore the names of Thierry and Ermengarde; d. at Molesme, 17 April, 1111. When fifteen years of age, he commenced his novitiate in the Abbey of Montier-la-Celle, or St. Pierre-la-Celle, situated near Troyes, of which he became later prior. In 1068 he succeeded Hunaut II as Abbot of St. Michael de Tonnerre, in the Diocese of Langres. About this time a band of seven anchorites who lived in the forest of Collan, in the same diocese, sought to have Robert for their chief, but the monks, despite their constant resistance to his authority, insisted on keeping their abbot who enjoyed so great a reputation, and was the ornament of their house. Their intrigues determined Robert to resign his charge in 1071, and seek refuge in the monastery of Montier-la-Celle. The same year he was placed over the priory of St. Ayoul de Provins, which depended on Montier-la-Celle. Meantime two of the hermits of Collan went to Rome and besought Gregory VII to give them the prior of Provins for their superior. The pope granted their request, and in 1074 Robert initiated the hermits of Collan in the monastic life. As the location at Collan was found unsuitable, Robert founded a monastery at Molesme in the valley of Langres at the close of 1075. To Molesme as a guest came the distinguished canon and doctor (écolâtre) of Reims, Bruno, who, in 1082, placed himself under the direction of Robert, before founding the celebrated order of the Chartreux. At this time the primitive discipline was still in its full vigour, and the religious lived by the labour of their hands. Soon, however, the monastery became wealthy through a number of donations, and with wealth, despite the vigilance of the abbot, came laxity of discipline. Robert endeavoured to restore the primitive strictness, but the monks showed so much resistance that he abdicated, and left the care of his community to his prior, Alberic, who retired in 1093. In the following year he returned with Robert to Molesme. On 29 Nov., 1095, Urban II confirmed the institute of Molesme. In 1098 Robert, still unable to reform his rebellious monks, obtained from Hugues, Archbishop of Lyons and Legate of the Holy See, authority to found a new order on new lines. Twenty-one religious left Molesme and set out joyfully for a desert called Cîteaux in the Diocese of Châlons, and the Abbey of Cîteaux was founded 21 March, 1098.

Left to themselves, the monks of Molesme appealed to the pope, and Robert was restored to Molesme, which thereafter became an ardent centre of monastic life. Robert died 17 April, 1111, and was buried with great pomp in the church of the abbey. Pope Honorius III by Letters Apostolic in 1222 authorized his veneration in the church of Molesme, and soon after the veneration of St. Robert was extended to the whole Church by a pontifical Decree. The feast was fixed at first on 17 April, but later it was transferred to 29 April. The Abbey of Molesme existed up to the French Revolution. The remains of the holy founder are preserved in the parish church.

Sources

Vita S. Roberti, Abbatis Molismensis, auctore monacho molismensi sub Adone, abb. saec. XII; Exordium Cisterciensis Cenobii; CUIGNARD, Les monuments primitifs de la Règle Cistercienne (Dijon, 1878); WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY, Bk. I, De rebus gestis Anglorum, P.L., CLXXIX; LAURENT, Cart. de Molesme, Bk. I (Paris, 1907).


Robert of Molesme, OSB Cist. Abbot (RM)


Born near Troyes, Champagne, France, in 1018; died on March 21, 1110; canonized in 1222. Born of noble parents, Robert was one of the founders of the Cistercian movement, which, like the monks of Cluny in the 10th century, was of Benedictine stock. The Rule of Saint Benedict had lost none of its value since its foundation in Italy in the 6th century. Absolute fidelity to this rule, and its greatest possible extension in the religious life were the two aims Robert pursued throughout his life. Saint Alberic joined Robert in this pursuit, followed by Saint Stephen Harding. But would they have taken the initiative without Robert? Or would they have postponed it. Or might they not have become discouraged while en route? For Robert was endowed with an uncommon will to overcome all obstacles.


There was no lack of obstacles. Like Stephen Harding, Robert had received Benedictine training at Moutier-La-Celle beginning when he was 15. He was appointed prior soon after his novitiate, then abbot of Saint Michael of Tonnerre at a very early age. He was unsuccessful in his attempts to reform the abbey. The scandals at the abbey were the motivation behind Robert's activity.

How did it happen that the Benedictines had forgotten Saint Benedict and his rule to this extent? It was not that the rule was antiquated but men who were wicked, and his first desire was to convince them of their error. But since they did not listen to him, his second desire was to leave. "But whatever town you enter, and they do not receive you-- go out into the streets and say, 'Even the dust from your town, that we shake off against you'" (Luke 10:10-11).

Robert returned to Moutier-La-Celle, after having learned about a little group of seven hermits in forest of Collan, near Tonnerre, whom he greatly desired to join and who in turn wanted him to live with them. But Robert first of all owed obedience to the abbot of Moutier-La-Celle who sent him to Saint-Ayoul. Nothing less than a decree issued by Pope Alexander II was required before Robert and the hermits could come together again; the decree appointed him their superior. But they did not last long in Collan, since Robert decided to leave that unhealthy site for a more salubrious setting in the forest of Molesmes (c. 1075).

It was there at Molesmes that Robert met Stephen Harding. For Stephen Harding, as for posterity, Robert was always to be known as Robert of Molesmes. What Robert accomplished there, what Stephen saw there was the model, in miniature but perfect, of what the Cistercians were to become later: cells, which were mere huts grouped around a chapel that was really an oratory, and men who formed a little republic according to the Spirit, governed by an elected abbot, and who had given themselves as a constitution the famous Benedictine Rule.

These men, who spent their days divided into alternate periods of silence and common prayer, of contemplation and manual labor, had greater dependence on God than on the world. They practiced the evangelical counsels--poverty, chastity, and obedience--and found that they were both viable and profitable, enabling them to live in an atmosphere of peace and joy.

The austerity and holiness of the members of the rejuvenated community led to a great influx of ill-qualified candidates, and when Robert was unsuccessful in raising the standards to their previous level and stymied by the bishop of Troyes, who caused its constitution to be violated. Robert once more shook the dust from his feet, leaving Alberic and Stephen Harding behind, to retire to a hermitage at Or.

Recalled again to Molesmes, and again disgusted with the laxity of the monks, Robert, again shook the dust from his feet, this time took Alberic and Stephen Harding with him. They escaped the jurisdiction of the bishop of Troyes to fall under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Langres, and finally received approval from the archbishop of Lyons, the papal legate (in 1098), to found their new republic at Cîteaux, near Dijon, in the diocese of Chalon- sure-Saone, which gave its name to the order. The new community was dedicated to strict observance of the rule of Saint Benedict.

Robert was elected abbot in which post, however, he remained for just a year because the monks of Molesmes appealed to Rome and Urban II responded by ordering Robert to return to Molesmes in 1099. It was in Molesmes, regenerated on the model of Cîteaux, that Robert died, after having governed this abbey for nine years. But in Robert's mind Cîteaux and Molesmes were only guideposts.

The Lord could have said to this man: "Your plans are grandiose but you will not realize them all. Like Moses you will die before reaching the Promised Land. You will be the inventor, the architect. Another will be the contractor, he will exploit your invention. Another will steal from you the title of founder, this man will be Bernard of Clairvaux.

"It was necessary that I concern myself with your personal sanctity. It is not the least of things that the first of the Cistercians be a saint. You will not have stolen this title of saint, and nobody will steal it from you. You love the Truth, but you are not notable for your patience. You want to discover the great Benedictine current of spirituality at its source, you want to inundate France and Europe with it.

"You think that the truth which dwells in it is beautiful and good for all men. You count on the indwelling force of this truth to prevail by virtue of its appeal. You do not want to do violence to consciences. You want them to feel violence being done to them from within.

"But you forget that there are closed consciences which must be opened, that the kingdom of truth does not arrive without a struggle. This is why I shall place obstacles in your path. You shall be bound by wills other than your own, and you will go where you do not wish to go. But that which you will have done for the salvation of others, even without success, will at least be useful to your own salvation for without these self-imposed troublesome tasks, you would never have become a saint" (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).

Saint Robert is portrayed in art as a Cistercian monk writing a book. He may also be shown with a cross and ring, and the arms of the abbey of Molesmes by him; or with Stephen Harding (Roeder).



St. Robert, Abbot of Molesme, 

Founder of the Cistercians


        
From his life by Guy, abbot of Molesme, his immediate successor, and other monuments collected in the History of Religious Orders, t. 5, p. 341. M. Stevens, Monas. t. 2, p. 22. See also Le Nain, t. 1, p. 1, Hist. Litér. de la France, t. 10, pp. 1, 11, Gallia Christ. Nov. t. 4, p. 729, 730.

A.D. 1110.


ST. ROBERT was born in Champagne, about the year 1018. His parents, Theodoric and Ermegarde, were no less noble than virtuous, and brought him up in learning and piety. At the age of fifteen, he became a Benedictin monk in the abbey of Montier-la-celle, where he made such progress in perfection, that, though he was one of the youngest in that house, he was chosen prior, and some time after made abbot of St. Michael de Tonnerre. But not finding the monks of this place disposed to second his good intentions and labours to establish regular discipline among them, but rather of a refractory temper and obstinate behaviour, he left them on the following occasion. There dwelt at that time, in a neighbouring desert called Colan, certain anchorets, who, not having then any regular superior over them, besought him to undertake that office. After several impediments he complied with their request, and was received by them as another Moses to conduct them through the desert of this world to the heavenly Canaan. Colan being unhealthily situated, Robert removed them thence into the forest of Molesme, where they built themselves little cells made of boughs of trees, and a small oratory in honour of the Holy Trinity, in 1075. The poverty of those religious, and the severity of their lives being known, several persons of quality in the neighbourhood, stirred up by the example of the bishop of Troyes, vied with one another in supplying them with necessaries, which introduced by degrees such a plenty as occasioned them to fall into great relaxation and tepidity, 1 insomuch, that the holy Robert, having tried in vain all means to reduce them to the regular observance of their profession, thought proper to leave them, and retired to a desert called Hauz, where certain religious men lived in great simplicity and fervour. Among these he worked for his subsistence, and employed as much of his time as possible in prayer and meditation. These religious men, seeing his edifying life, chose him for their abbot. But the monks of Molesme, finding they had not prospered since his absence, obtained of the pope and the bishop of Langres, an order for his return to Molesme, on their promising that Robert should find them perfectly submissive to his directions. He accordingly came back; but as their desire of his return was only grounded on temporal views, it produced no change in their conduct after the first year. Some of them, however, seeing their lives were not conformable to St. Bennet’s rule, which was daily read in their chapter, were desirous of a reformation, which the rest ridiculed. Yet the more zealous, seeing it was impossible faithfully to comply with their duties, in the company of those who would not be reformed, recommended the matter to God by ardent prayers, and then repaired to Robert, begging his leave to retire to some solitary place, where they might be able to perform what they had undertaken, find were engaged by vow to practise. 2 St. Robert promised to bear them company, and went with six of the most fervent of these monks to Lyons, to the Archbishop Hugh, legate of the holy see, who granted them letters patent to that effect; wherein he not only advised, but even enjoined them to leave Molesme, and to persist in their holy resolution of living up to the rigour of the rule of St. Bennet. Returning to Molesme, they were joined by the rest that were zealous, and, being twenty-one in number, went and settled in a place called Cistercium, or Citeaux, an uninhabited forest covered with woods and brambles, watered by a little river, at five leagues distance from Dijon, in the diocess of Challons. Here these religious men began to grub up the shrubs and roots, and built themselves cells of wood, with the consent of Walter, bishop of Challons, and of Renaud, viscount of Beaune, lords of the territory. They settled there on St. Bennet’s-day, the 21st of March, in 1098. From this epoch is dated the origin of the Cistercian Order. The archbishop of Lyons, being persuaded that they could not subsist there without the assistance of some powerful persons, wrote in their favour to Eudo, duke of Burgundy. That prince, at his own cost, finished the building of the monastery they had begun, furnished them for a long time with all necessaries, and gave them much land and cattle. The bishop of Challons invested Robert with the dignity of abbot, erecting that new monastery into an abbey. 3 The first rule established by St. Robert, at Citeaux, allotted the monks four hours every night for sleep, and four for singing the divine praises in the choir: four hours were assigned on working days for manual labour in the morning, after which the monks read till None: their diet was roots and herbs. 4

  The year following, 1099, the monks of Molesme sent deputies to Rome, to solicit an order for their abbot St. Robert’s return to Molesme, alleging that religious observance had suffered greatly by his absence; and that on his presence both the prosperity of their house, and the security of their souls depended: assuring his Holiness that they would use their best endeavours to give him no further reason to complain of them. Urban II. therefore wrote to the archbishop of Lyons, to procure St. Robert’s return to Molesme, if it could be conveniently compassed. The legate sent his orders to that effect, and Robert immediately obeyed, remitting his pastoral staff for Citeaux to the bishop of Challons, who absolved him from the promise of obedience he had made him. He was installed anew by the bishop of Langres, abbot of Molesme, which he governed till his happy death, which happened not in 1100, as Manriquez imagined, but in 1110; for, in that year, he reconciled together two abbots, who had chosen him umpire in a quarrel. 5 The ancient chronicle of Molesme says, that St. Robert was born in 1018, and died in 1110: consequently he lived ninety-two or ninety-three years, and survived St. Alberic, who died in 1109. Upon proof of many miracles wrought at his tomb, Pope Honorius III. enrolled his name among the saints. Martenne has published the information of several of these miracles, taken by an order of that pope. 6 Mention is made of this his canonization by Manriquez, 7 the Younger Pagi, 8 and Benedict XIV. 9

Note 1. Baillet and some others have retailed false exaggerations of the disorders which reigned among the monks of Molesme. Robert de Monte assures us, they consisted only in this, that St. Robert would oblige them to manual labour, for their subsistence, forbade them to receive oblations, and retrenched certain innovations in their habits; for which relaxations the monks alleged the examples of St. Columban and St. Odo. Sea Hist. Litér, t. 10, p. 6. 

Note 2. Martenne, Ampl. Collect. t. 6, Præfat. n. 40. Orderic Vitalis, l. 7. Hist. p. 711. Robert. de Monte, l. de Abbatiis Normanniæ, post Opera Guiberti, p. 311. 

Note 3. The Cistercian Order professes to follow the Benedictin rule in its primitive rigour. The habit used at Molesme was tawny. St. Alberic, who succeeded St. Robert at Citeaux, changed it for white, and the Order took from that time the Blessed Virgin for its special protectress. The Cistercian nuns were instituted before the death of St. Alberic. Within fifty years after its institution, this Order consisted of no less than five hundred abbeys; which number was increased to eighteen hundred soon after the year 1200. The sole monastery of Trebnitz, in Silesia, reckons above forty princesses of Poland who have there professed this Order. The noble military Orders of Calatrava, Alcantara, and Montreza in Spain, and those of Christ and of Avis in Portugal, are subject to it, and borrow from it their rules of piety. The primitive extreme austerity of the Cistercian Order being relaxed, Pope Sixtus IV. in 1475, granted to the superiors power to dispense with the original obligation of abstinence from flesh. But several reformations have been since established in it to restore its ancient severity. That of the Feuillans in France, which took its name from Feuillens, a Cistercian abbey in Guienne, in the diocess of Rieux, (which is the chief of this reformed congregation, and the residence of the general, whose office is triennial,) was begun by Dom. John de la Barriere, a native of Quercy, and abbot of Notre Dame des Feuillans. Whilst a student at Paris, he resolved to become a monk, and reform it. After many tears and prayers in the Carthusians’ church at Paris, he went thither and took the habit in 1577: established a reform to use no food but roots and herbs, often not dressed by fire: no raiment but a single tunic, even in winter, without sandals, sleeping and eating on the ground. Clement VIII. in his bull of confirmation in 1595, mitigated these austerities: but the founder himself observed them to his death. Dom. Bernard, called the Petit Feuillent, chosen abbot of Urvab, in the Low Countries, established a great part of these austerities there. King Henry III. founded at Paris the second convent, called St. Bernard’s, in 1601. Doctor Asseline, famous at Paris, thirty-two years old, in 1605, took the habit, taking this motto:—

Omnia nil sine Te, sine Te, Deus, omnia vana:
Cuncta relinquenti sis mihi cuncta Deus.

which he often had in his mouth. He took the name of F. Eustache de S. Paul. (See his life in French.) This reformation extended itself into Italy, under the name of Reformed Bernardins. The most pious and learned Cardinal John Bona, who died in 1674, was of this congregation.

  The most austere reformation of this Order is established at La Trappe. Its author, John le Bouthillier de Rancé was of a noble and puissant family, who, having embraced an ecclesiastical state, was designed to succeed his uncle in the archbishopric of Tours. By his learning and eloquence he distinguished himself among the French clergy, was their oracle on many important occasions, and their speaker in their general assemblies. He was chaplain to the duke of Orleans, and enjoyed several considerable pensions, and a large church revenue. But, at thirty years of age, entering seriously into himself, he thought it inconsistent with his profession to employ the revenues of the church in support of a splendid equipage and a great table, and to spend his precious time in company and diversions. He addressed himself to those directors who would the least flatter him; and in order to make restitution for past superfluous expenses, he, by their advice, sold his paternal estate of thirty thousand livres, or between two and three thousand pounds sterling a year, and out of the purchase-money distributed a hundred thousand crowns among the poor, and gave the remainder to pious uses. He resigned three abbeys and two priories, which he possessed in commendam, and reserved only the abbey of our Lady of La Trappe, in which he took the Cistercian habit, commenced regular abbot, and, in 1664, introduced a reformation of that Order according to the austere primitive institute of St. Bennet, afterwards renewed by St. Bernard. His books on the obligations of a monastic state, cannot be too often read by those who profess it; nor his edifying life, written by Le Nain, which seems preferable to that published by Marsollier. He lived thirty-seven years in this rigorous solitude, and died in 1700. The monastery is situated in a forest in le Perche, near Normandy: it consisted, in 1746, of sixty lay-brothers and novices, and fifty-seven choir monks, of whom eighteen were priests, three oblates or extern lay-brothers, who are allowed to speak upon necessary occasions. One of these opens the door to strangers, prostrates himself before them, and then leads them first to the chapel, and, after a short prayer, into a parlour; but desires them, while within the monastery, to refrain from speaking of news or any worldly affairs: only the abbot, prior, or guest-master are allowed to speak to them. The monks are never allowed to speak to visitors, nor to one another, otherwise than by signs, except it be to their superior or confessarius. They never write to their friends in the world after their profession, nor hear any thing relating thereto; being content to know that there is a world, that they may pray for it. When the parent of any monk dies, the news is only sent to the superior, who tells the community that the father of one of them is dead, and orders their joint prayers for his soul. When a novice is about to make his profession, he writes to his friends to take his last leave of them, and makes a renunciation of whatever he possesses in favour of his heirs; but gives some part to the poor, to be distributed in his own country: for nothing is received by the monastery, which, though its revenues are not large, maintains a great multitude of distressed persons. The monks till their ground themselves. They usually keep their eyes cast down, and never look at strangers; but make them a low bow if they pass by. When Pope Innocent III., returning from the emperor’s court, called at St. Bernard’s monastery, he took notice that not one of the monks lifted up his eyes to see him or his attendants; so much were they dead to all curiosity, and to whatever could interrupt their attention to God; which made that great pope call St. Bernard’s monastery the wonder of the world. In like manner the recollection of the monks of La Trappe in the fields, at work, at meals, and particularly in the church, is a most moving spectacle. The more perfectly to renounce their own will, they are bound to obey not only superiors, but the least sign of any other, even the last among the lay-brothers, though by it they spoil their work; as it happened to one who, by obedience to another’s sign, knowingly set wrong all the books of the church-music which he was composing. And abbot John told the brother who was gardener, it were better that they should be without herbs, than that there should be found in the garden one plant of self-will. Their drink is a weak cider, such as is used by the poorest people in Normandy: but small beer is allowed those with whom cider doth not agree. On fastdays they eat only dry herbs, boiled with a little salt, with a piece of coarse bread, and are allowed half a pint of cider. On other days they have an herb-soup, a dessert of a radish or two, or a few walnuts, or some such thing, and a mess either of lentils, roots, hasty-pudding, or the like. They never eat fish on any account, and never touch eggs or flesh-meat, unless when very sick, but sometimes use milk. Once, the bread being made a little less coarse than ordinary, the abbot, John de Rancé, put the whole community under penance to atone for the fault of the baker. For supper they have only three, and on fast-days only two ounces of dry bread. They use long prostrations, and practise a general mortification of their senses. Abbot de Rancé turned out a novice, as not having the spirit of the Order, because he observed him in weeding to put by the nettles too carefully, for fear of being stung. When they come to the fire in winter, they stand at some distance from the calefactory, and never put out a foot, or pull up their clothes to warm themselves, nor stay long in that place: even in their sicknesses the superior often treats them harshly, in order to increase their humility and patience: and the monks, under the greatest pains, reproach themselves as faint penitents, and add voluntary mortifications, of which we read very remarkable instances in the relations that have been published of the death of several of the religious of La Trappe. In their agonies they are carried to the church, laid on ashes, and there receive the last sacraments, and usually remain in that situation till they expire. But nothing is more edifying in this house than the most profound humility which the monks practise, and the care with which the guest-master or abbot suppresses whatever makes for their reputation, and even that of their house or Order in general, that they may avoid the dangers of a refined pride. They work in the fields many hours in the day, but join prayer with their labour. Their church duties are very long; and during the whole day no one is out of sight of some others, to take away all possibility of sloth. They lie on straw beds. The lightest faults are severely punished in chapter. It happened that a venerable abbot of a very great monastery of the Cistercian Order, full seventy years of age, being lodged at La Trappe, had by a sign, out of humility, refused to suffer a lay-brother to take the trouble to show him the way to his cell at night; but this being contrary to the rule of the house, in relation to obedience to every one, the next day De Rancé, in chapter, reproached the abbot, that, not content to ruin discipline and souls at home, he came to spread scandal among them: and enjoined him a public penance. How cheerful these holy penitents are amidst their austerities, appears from the visitations made by authority of the general, the abbot of Citeaux. In 1678, the abbot of Prieres, being deputed visiter of La Trappe, declared that he found the religious, though some were persons of a very delicate and tender constitution, yet several above four-score years old, all well, cheerful, and begging that their austerities might be increased. In 1664, when many censured the institute as too severe, the abbot De Rancé assembled his religious, and commanded them to declare their sentiments concerning it. The fathers all unanimously cried out, that their mortifications were too light for heaven, and in consideration of their past sins; protesting that they underwent their austerities with joy, and were ashamed of their sloth, and that they did so little. When it was urged by a certain prelate, that at least the lay-brothers ought to be allowed some indulgence, the same abbot, in 1687, summoned them to chapter, and ordered them to speak their sentiments. Brother Malc spoke first, and said: “Twenty years have I lived in this house, and I never found any thing in it but what was easy and agreeable. I have always regarded myself as wax, to receive from your hands whatever figure you are pleased to mould me into: I consider myself as an untamed horse, if I am not held in by the bridle. If my state wants any alteration, it ought to be more restrained.” Then, falling on his knees, he added, that he was as a handkerchief in his hand, which he might use in the manner he pleased. 2. B. Pachomius said, his life had been unprofitable, and wished his rigours augmented; and was ashamed to see many in the world undergo so much for vanity, whilst he did nothing for heaven. 3. B. Hilarion said, his austerities ought to be doubled, in order to subject his body to the spirit, lest he should lose his crown. 4. B. Firmin begged on his knees, that, instead of any relaxation, his abbot would shut him up in a close prison. 5. B. Francis prayed his austerities might be increased. The rest answered after the same manner. See abbot John’s Conferences, t. 1, p. 287.

  Another famous reformation of the Cistercian Order was established in the monastery of our Lady de Sept-Fons, two leagues from Bourbon-Lanci in France, by the abbot Eustache de Beaufort, in the last century; which house no one can visit without receiving from the example of those holy men the strongest impressions of piety. The gardens are cultivated by the hands of the monks, and yield their principal subsistence, their ordinary food being herbs and pulse: but of these they are allowed at dinner two portions, whereas the monks of La Trappe have only one, and that chiefly carrots, turnips, lentils, or the like: all dainty herbs and roots being forbidden them, such as cauliflowers, peas, and artichokes; the latter are not given even to the sick in the infirmary. Again, at La Trappe, the monks never taste wine, except the priests at mass, which at Sept-Fons is used with water at meals, in a small quantity, because the ordinary liquor in the Bourbonnois. At Sept-Fons the silence observed by the monks is perpetual, except with regard to superiors on necessary occasions, and in conferences of piety. Every thing in the house and church is expressive of sentiments of humble poverty and simplicity. One hundred monks in choir seem to have but one voice, so great is the order of uniformity observed in singing every verse together. They make long pauses in the middle of each verse, that their minds and hearts may draw from each word a spiritual nourishment to feed their affections. They are so intent upon their duty at that time, that no part of their body seems to have the least motion but their lips. They walk to the refectory and to their work with the most edifying modesty and recollection, with their eyes cast down; and one is surprised to see the devotion which appears in their very exterior throughout all their actions, and the vigour with which they ply manual labour in their extenuated and mortified bodies. To be the more perfectly unknown to men, they do not suffer any thing of the eminent virtues which are practised in their house to be published; and the unfeigned humility, compunction, mortification, devotion, and other virtues of these holy penitents, strongly affect those who behold them.
See Hist. de la Réforme de l’Abbaye de Sept-Fons, par M. Dronet de Maupertuy, Paris, 1702.

  
Some are startled and seemingly shocked at the extraordinary austerities practised by these monks, and by many ancient hermits. What! say they, has the kind Author of nature given us organs, and an inclination to pleasure, yet commanded us to forego it! or does he delight in our pain! These persons seem to be great strangers to what both faith and reason teach on this head. God has indeed annexed pleasure to many actions for necessary and good purposes; and many lawful pleasures of our senses may be sanctified by a virtuous intention. But ever since the corruption of our nature, and the revolt of our passions against reason, our appetites stand in need of a severe curb; and without frequent denials and restraints, self-will and the senses become headstrong and ungovernable, and refuse subjection. God has appointed the mortification of the senses, joined with sincere humility, and the more essential interior denial of the will, to be the powerful remedy, and a necessary condition for obtaining his victorious graces against this enemy: and Christ frequently inculcates the obligation of it, and declares that no one can be his disciple who is not crucified and dead to himself, as the grain of corn must die in the ground before it can bring forth fruit. To deny the necessity of mortification, both exterior and interior, would be, on many accounts, to destroy the whole system of Christian morality. But the extraordinary austerities of certain eminent servants of God are not undertaken by them without a particular call, examined with maturity and prudence, and without a fervour equal to such a state. Neither do they place sanctity in any practices of mortification, or measure virtue by them, as a Dervise or Brachman might do; but choose such as have the greatest tendency to facilitate the subjection of the passions, and regard them only as helps to virtue, and means to acquire it, and to punish sin in themselves. Nor do they imagine God to be delighted with their pain, but with the cure of their spiritual maladies. A mother rejoices in the health of her child, not in the bitterness of the potion which she gives him to procure it. The doctrine of Christ, and the examples of St. John the Baptist, St. Paul, St. Matthias, St. James, and the other apostles; of many ancient prophets, and other saints, from the first ages of our holy religion, are a standing apology and commendation of this spirit in so many servants of God. 

Note 4. Mabill. Annal. t. 1. Buching. in Vita Urbani II. 

Note 5. Mabill. Annal. l. 71, n. 99. 

Note 6. Martenne, Anecdot. t. 1, p. 904. 

Note 7. Annal. Cisterc. ad an. 1222. 

Note 8. Pagi Junior in Vitâ Honorii III. ex ejus ep. 132, l. 6. 

Note 9. Bened. XIV. de Canoniz. l. 1, c. 9, n. 9, p. 73. 

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume IV: April.
The Lives of the Saints.  
1866.