Renew and Create

A Statement on the American-Cassinese Benedictine Monastic Life, Thirty-sixth General Chapter, Second Session, June 1969


  1. Introduction
  2. Problems
    1. Symptoms of Crisis
    2. Catalysts of Crisis
    3. Some Problems Shared with Others
    4. Some Specifically Benedictine Problems
  3. Life
  4. Conclusion


No one who reads the signs of the times can be surprised that our monasteries today should be experiencing unusual tensions and strain. For our communities mirror the ferment that pervades the whole of society and the Church itself, in what the Second Vatican Council in hope has called a crisis in growth. The aim of our Congregation's renewal efforts is to assure that this crisis does in fact lead to Christian growth and not decline.

To achieve this end the Congregation's efforts at renewal must aim at more than the solving of problems. What is at stake is the Christian growth of persons in community, the growth of men struggling to be alive to God and fellow men in faith, trust, and love. In this sense renewal efforts should be person-centered and not problem centered. Far from contradicting this affirmation, the detailed statement of problems which follows here is offered precisely in the service of each monk and each local community. It is because complex cultural factors and institutional problems have an all-pervasive influence on the individual monk and his community that they require most serious attention. On this level the Congregation's agencies of renewal should be expected to make a serious contribution.

We need, indeed, to stress the value of coming to serious grips with the institutional aspects of personal and communal renewal. Some monks, in fact, including some superiors, consider the problems which beset our communities to be simply a matter of the personal failure of individual monks. Such problems are considered to be no more than signs of the inevitable gap between practice and the ideal. The gap can be lessened, it is said, and things will return to normal, if the monks will just shape up, become more obedient, and observe the rules.

Let it readily be granted that human frailty and its consequences are an important ingredient in many of our problems and must always be seriously attended to. It is clear, however, that our communities experience not only the inevitable gap between practice and ideal but also serious disagreement about the identity of the ideal itself. Further, the monks in our communities today are not responsible for many of the options which the houses of the Congregation made in the past in response to earlier needs of the Church. Nor are they responsible for the radically changing cultural conditions of our own times. But it is precisely from the confrontation of today's changed conditions with the options and practices of the past that many of our problems arise.

A statement of problems, then, must be presented as more than a catalog of sins and defects. However much problems keep us mindful of our past and present weaknesses and limitation, they also provide us with the opportunity for creative growth. Such growth is possible, of course, only when we are capable of recognizing honestly and objectively our real problems in their causes and effects. Hence the value of attempting to set forth here some of the major problems which we currently share with other Christians and religious, and some which are peculiar to Benedictines. Indeed, may it not be a major source of hope for many in the Congregation, if the General Chapter shows itself to be unafraid of confronting the truly basic problems which trouble the Congregation?

Symptoms of Crisis >>