Religious of the Order of Citeaux, a Benedictine reform, established at Citeaux in 1098 by St. Robert
Cistercians.—Religious of the Order of Citeaux, a Benedictine reform, established at Citeaux in 1098 by St. Robert, Abbot of Molesme in the Diocese of Langres, for the purpose of restoring as far as possible the literal observance of the Rule of St. Benedict. The history of this order may be divided into four periods: I. The Formation (1098-1134); II. The Golden Age (1134-1342); III. The Decline (1342-1790); IV. The Restoration (1790).
I. THE FORMATION (1098-1134)
—St. Robert, son of the noble Thierry and Ermengarde of Champagne, was Abbot of Molesme, a monastery dependent on Cluny. Appalled by the laxity into which the Order of Cluny had fallen, he endeavored to effect reforms in the monasteries of Saint-Pierre-de-la-Celle, Saint-Michel of Tonnerre, and finally in that of Molesme. His attempts at reform in these monasteries meeting with very little success, he, with six of his religious, among whom were Alberic and Stephen, had recourse to Hugh, Legate of the Holy See, and Archbishop of Lyons. Authorized by Archbishop Hugh to institute a reform, Robert and his companions returned to Molesme and there chose from among the religious those whom they considered most fitted to participate in their undertaking. To the number of twenty-one the company retired to the solitude of Citeaux (in the Diocese of Chalons), which Raynald, Viscount of Beaune, had ceded to them. (See Abbey of Citeaux.) On the feast of St. Benedict (March 21), 1098, which fell that year on Palm Sunday, they commenced to build the “New Monastery”, as it is called in the “Exordium sacri Ordinis Cisterciensis”. This, therefore, was the birthday of the Order of Citeaux. By order of the Apostolic legate, Robert received the pastoral staff from the bishop of the diocese, Gauthier, and was charged with the government of his brethren, who immediately made their vow of stability. Thus was the “New Monastery” canonically erected into an abbey.
At this news, the monks who had remained at Molesme sent a deputation to Pope Urban II, asking that Robert might be sent back to his first monastery. The pope yielded to their petition, and Robert returned to Molesme, after having governed Citeaux for one year. There the prior, Alberic, was elected to replace him, and, in his turn, sent the two monks, John and Ilbode, as delegates to Pascal II (who had just succeeded Urban II) to beg him to take the church of Meaux under the protection of the Apostolic See. By Apostolic Letters, dated at Troja in Campania, April 18, 1100, Pascal II declared that he took under his immediate protection the abbey and the religious, of Meaux, saving their allegiance to the Church of Chaions. Dating from this day, Alberic and his religious established at Citeaux the exact observance of the Rule of St. Benedict, substituted the white habit for the black which the Benedictines wore, and, the better to observe the rule in regard to the Divine Office day and night, associated with themselves lay brothers, to be chiefly occupied with the manual labors and material affairs of the order. These lay brothers, or conversi, though they were not monks, were to be treated during life and after death just like the monks themselves. St. Alberic died in 1109.
His successor was Stephen Harding, an Englishman by birth, well versed in sacred and profane science, who had been one of the first promoters of the project to leave Molesme. St. Robert, his two immediate successors, and their companions had but one object in view: a reaction against the laxity of Cluny and of other monasteries—to resume manual labor, to adapt a more severe regimen, and to restore in monastic churches and church ceremonies the gravity and simplicity proper to the monastic profession. They never thought of founding a new order, and yet from Meaux were to go forth, in course of time, colonies of monks who should found other monasteries destined to become other Citeaux, and thus create an order distinct from that of Cluny.
St. Bernard’s entrance into the Order of Citeaux (1112) was the signal of this extraordinary development. Thirty young noblemen of Burgundy followed him, among them four of his brothers. Others came after them, and in such numbers that in the following year (1113) Meaux was able to send forth its first colony and found its first filiation, La Ferte, in the Diocese of Chalons. In 1114 another colony was established at Pontigny, in the Diocese of Auxerre. In 1115 the young Bernard founded Clairvaux in the Diocese of Langres. In the same year Morimond was founded in the same Diocese of Langres. These were the first four offshoots of Meaux; but of these monasteries Clairvaux attained the highest development, becoming mother of sixty-eight monasteries even in the lifetime of St. Bernard. (See Abbey of Clairvaux.)
After this St. Stephen Harding was to complete the legislation for the new institute. Cluny had introduced into the monastic order the confederation of the members among themselves. St. Stephen added thereto the institution of general chapters and regular visits. Thus mutual supervision, rendering account of the administration, rigid examination of discipline, immediate correction of abuses, were so many sure means of maintaining the observance in all its purity. The collection of statutes which St. Stephen drafted, and in which are contained wise provisions for the government of the order, was called the Charter of Charity (La Charte de Chanty). It and the “US”, the book of usages and customs, together with some of the definitions of the first general chapters, received the approbation of Pope Callistus II. At the death of St. Stephen (1134), the order, after thirty-six years of existence, counted 70 monasteries, of which 55 were in France.
II. THE GOLDEN AGE (1134-1342)
—The diffusion of the new order was chiefly effected by means of foundations. Nevertheless several congregations and monasteries, which had existed before the Order of Citeaux, became affiliated to it, among them the Congregations of Savigny and Obazine, which were incorporated in the order in 1147. St. Bernard and other Cistercians took a very active part, too, in the establishment of the great military orders, and supplied them with their constitutions and their laws. Among these various orders of chivalry may be mentioned the Templars, the Knights of Calatrava, of St. Lazarus, of Alcantara, of Aviz, of St. Maurice, of the Wing of St. Michael, of Montesa, etc. In 1152 the Order of Citeaux already counted 350 abbeys, not including the granges and priories dependent upon the principal abbeys. Among the causes which contributed to this prosperity of the new order, the influence of St. Bernard evidently holds the first place; in the next place comes the perfect unity which existed between the monasteries and the members of every house, a unity wonderfully maintained by the punctual assembling of general chapters, and the faithful performance of the regular visits. The general chapter was an assembly of all the abbots of the order, even those who resided farthest from Citeaux.
This assembly, during the Golden Age, took place annually, according to the prescriptions of the Charter of Charity. “This Cistercian Areopagus“, says the author of the “Origines Cistercienses”, “with equal severity and justice kept watch over the observance of the Rule of St. Benedict, the Charter of Charity, and the definitions of the preceding Chapters.” The collection of statutes published by Dom Marten informs us that there was no distinction of persons made. After a fault became known, the same justice was meted out to lay brothers, monks, and abbots, and the first fathers of the order. Thus, as all were firmly persuaded that their rights would be protected with equal justice, the collection of statutes passed by the general chapter were consulted and respected in all the monasteries without exception. All the affairs of the order, such as differences between abbots, purchase and sale of property, incorporation of abbeys, questions relating to the laws, rites, feasts, tributes, erection of colleges, etc. were submitted to the general chapter in which resided the supreme authority of the order. Other orders took these general chapters as models of their own, either spontaneously, like the Premonstratensians, or by decree of the Fourth Lateran Council, that the religious orders should adopt the practice of holding general chapters and follow the form used by the Order of Citeaux.
The general chapters were held every year up to 1411, when they became intermittent. Their decisions were codified. The first codification was that of 1133, under the title “Instituta Capituli Generalis”. The second, which bears the title “Institutiones Capituli Generalis”, was commenced in the year 1203 by the Abbot Arnoud I, and was promulgated in 1240. The third, “Libelli Antiquarum Definitionum Capituli Generalis Ordinis Cisterciencis”, was issued in 1289 and in 1316. Finally, the general chapter of 1350 promulgated the “Novell Definitions” in conformity with the Constitution of Benedict XII, “Fulgens ut stella” of July 12, 1335. The regular visits also contributed much to the maintenance of unity and fervor. Every abbey was visited once a year by the abbot of the house on which it immediately depended. Citeaux was visited by the four first fathers, that is to say, by the Abbots of La Ferte, of Pontigny, of Clairvaux, and Morimond.—”The Visitor”, say the ancient statutes, “will urge the Religious to greater respect for their Abbot, and to remain more and more united among themselves by the bonds of mutual love for Jesus Christ‘s sake…The Visitor ought not to be a man who will easily believe every one indiscriminately, but he should investigate with care those matters of which he has no knowledge, and, having ascertained the truth, he should correct abuses with prudence, uniting his zeal for the Order with his feelings of sincere paternal affection. On the other hand, the Superior visited ought to show himself submissive to, and full of confidence in, the Visitor, and do all in his power to reform his house, since one day he will have to render an account to the Lord…[The Abbot] will avoid both before the Visitor and after his departure everything that will have the appearance of revenge, reproach or indignation against any of them” [sc. his subjects].—If the visitor should act against prescriptions, he was to be corrected and punished according to the gravity of his fault by the abbot who was his superior, or by another abbot, or even by the general chapter. Likewise, the abbot visited should know that he would become grievously culpable before God by neglecting the regular form of visit, and that he would deserve to be called to account by his “Father Immediate” or by the general chapter.
Thus everything was foreseen and provided for the maintenance of good order and charity and for the preservation of the unity of observance and spirit. “No one then ought be astonished”, says the author of “Origines Cistercienses”, “to find in the Cistercian abbeys, during their Golden Age, so many sanctuaries of the most fervent prayer, of the severest discipline, as well as of untiring and constant labor. This explains also why, not only persons of humble and low extraction, but also eminent men, monks and abbots of other orders, doctors in every science and clerics honored with the highest dignities, humbly begged the favor of being admitted into the Order of Citeaux.” Thus it was during this period that the order produced the greatest number of saints, blessed, and holy persons. Many abbeys—such as Clairvaux, Villiers, Himmerod, Heisterbach, etc.—were so many nurseries of saints. More than forty have been canonized by the Holy See. The Order of Citeaux constantly enjoyed the favor of the Holy See, which in numerous Bulls bestowed upon the Cistercians the highest praise, and rewarded with great privileges their services to the Church. They enjoyed the favor of sovereigns, who, having entire confidence in them, entrusted to them, like Frederick II, important delegations; or, like Alphonsus I of Portugal, placed their persons and kingdoms under the care and protection of Our Lady of Clairvaux; or again, like Frederick II, feeling themselves near the point of death, wished to die clothed in the Cistercian habit.
The Cistercians benefited society by their agricultural labors. According to Dr. Janauscheck, “none but the ignorant or men of bad faith are capable of denying the merited praises which the sons of St. Benedict have received for their agricultural labors throughout Europe, or that this part of the world owes to them a greater debt of gratitude than to any other colony no matter how important it may be.” They also conferred great benefits on society by the exercise of Christian charity. By means of their labors, their economy, their privations, and sometimes owing to generous donations which it would be ungrateful to despise, they became more or less rich in the things of this world, and expended their wealth upon the instruction of the ignorant, the promotion of letters and arts, and the relief of their country’s necessities. Caesarius of Heisterbach speaks of a monastery in Westphalia where one day all the cattle were killed, the chalices and books pledged as security, in order to relieve the poor. The Cistercian abbeys had a house for the reception of the poor, and an infirmary for the sick, and in them all received a generous hospitality and remedies for the ills of soul and body.
Intellectual labor had also its place in the life of the Cistercians. Charles de Visch, in his “Bibliotheca Scriptorum Sacri Ordinis Cisterciensis”, published in 1649, devotes 773 historical and critical notices to authors who belonged to the Cistercian Order. Even in the very first period, St. Stephen Harding left a work on the Bible which is superior to anything of its kind produced by any contemporary monastery, not excepting Cluny. The Library of Dijon preserves the venerable manuscript of St. Stephen, which was to serve as a type for all Cistercian Bibles. The Cistercian libraries were rich in books and manuscripts. Nor did the sons of St. Bernard neglect the fine arts; they exercised their genius in building, contributed powerfully to the development and propagation of the Romanesque and the Gothic architecture throughout Europe, and cultivated the arts of painting and engraving.
III. THE DECLINE (1342-1790)
—The decadence of the order was due to several causes, the first of which was the large number of monasteries, oftentimes situated in the most widely distant countries, which prevented the “Fathers Immediate” from making the regular visits to all the houses of their filiation, while some of the abbots could not assist every year at the general chapter. Some were also found who, seeing themselves thus sheltered from the remonstrances and the punishments either of the general chapter or of the visitor, permitted abuses to creep into their houses. But the principal cause of the decline of the order (which is based on unity and charity) was the spirit of dissension which animated certain superiors. Some abbots, even not far from Citeaux, explained in a particular sense, and that adapted to their own point of view, certain points of the Charter of Charity. The solicitude of the Roman pontiffs themselves, who tried to reestablish harmony among the superiors, was not always successful.
And yet at that time there were found some courageous and determined monks who became reformers, and even founded new congregations which were detached from the old trunk of Citeaux. Those congregations which then severed their union with Citeaux, but which no longer exist at the present time, are: (I) The Congregation of the Observance of St. Bernard of Spain, founded by Dom Martin de Vargas, in 1425, at Monte Sion near Toledo; (2) The Congregation of St. Bernard of Tuscany and of Lombardy, approved by Alexander VI (1497); (3) the Congregation of Portugal, or of Alcobaca, founded in 1507; (4) the Congregation of the Feuillants, founded by John de la Barriere in 1563, which spread into France and Italy, the monasteries of Italy, however, eventually detaching themselves from those of France to form the Congregation of the Riformati di San Bernardo; (5) the Congregation of Aragon, approved by a Bull of Paul V (1616); (6) the Congregation of Rome, or of Central Italy, created by a Decree of Gregory XV in 1623; (7) the Congregation of Calabria and Lucania, established by Urban VIII in 1633, and to which was united the old Congregation of Flore, which had for its founder Blessed Joachim surnamed “the Prophet”.—Together with the congregations which separated from Citeaux there were five or six others which, while remaining subject to the jurisdiction of the parent house, were legislated for by provincial or national chapters. Chief among these congregations were those of Northern Germany, the Strict Observance, and La Trappe. The Congregation of Northern Germany was erected in 1595 by Nicholas II (Boucherat), Abbot of Citeaux, at the desire of Pope Clement VIII, in the monastery of Furstenfeld. It comprised four provinces ruled by the abbots, vicars of the general. It counted twenty-two abbeys, only three of which survived the revolutionary tempest, and now form part of the Common Observance of Citeaux, as the Cistercian province of Austria-Hungary. The Congregation of Strict Observance, resulting from the efforts for reform of the Abbots of Charmoye and Chatillon, was established at Clairvaux by Denis Largentier, abbot of this monastery (1615). The Abbot of Citeaux, Nicholas Boucherat, approved the reform and permitted it to hold special assemblies and to choose a vicar-general with four assistant generals. The general chapter of Citeaux in 1623 praised it highly, Cardinal Richelieu became its protector, and the popes gave it encouragement. In 1663 it received an important member in the person of Abbot de Rance, who introduced the Strict Observance into the Abbey of La Trappe in the Diocese of Seez, adding to it other very severe practices.
The abbeys which did not respond to the appeal of Martin de Vargas, of Denis Largentier, or of Abbot de Rance, formed an observance which Pope Alexander VII, in his Bull of April 19, 1666, named Common, to distinguish it from the Strict Observance, from which in reality it differed only in the use of meat and similar articles of food three times a week, a use certainly contrary to the rule of perpetual abstinence which obtained in the early days, but which the religious wars and other evils of the times in a measure rendered necessary. Mention should be made of two other reforms: that of Orval in Luxemburg, by Bernard de Montgaillard (1605), and that of Septfons, in the Diocese of Moulins, by Eustache de Beaufort, in 1663. The former numbered six monasteries, the latter did not extend beyond Septfons.
The Strict Observance developed rapidly. In a very short time it counted fifty-eight monasteries. At the death of Denis Largentier (1626), Etienne Maugier, who succeeded him, inspired it afresh. From that time it aimed at a certain superiority to which it believed it had some claims, and was resolved, in case of meeting with any opposition, to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the General of Citeaux. Hence arose quarrels and litigations which lasted forty years or more. In 1632, at the request of the king (Louis XIII), Urban VIII continued the powers which Gregory XV had given ten years before to Cardinal De La Rochefoucauld for the reform of the monasteries of the kingdom. The cardinal heard only the Fathers of the Strict Observance, who persuaded him that no reform was possible without a return to the abstinence from meat. He therefore passed a sentence in 1634 which derogated in many points from the ancient constitutions and the Charter of Charity, particularly in what concerned the jurisdiction of the Abbot of Citeaux and of the four first fathers. The College of St. Bernard at Paris passed into the hands of the Strict Observance. The Abbot of Citeaux, Peter de Nivelle, appealed to the sovereign pontiff. The latter annulled the sentence of the cardinal in every point in which it was contrary to legitimate authority. In the meanwhile Peter de Nivelle having resigned, the non-reformed, in the hope of escaping from the authority of Cardinal de la Rochefoucauld, elected Cardinal de Richelieu Abbot of Citeaux. The cardinal applied the reform in his monastery. Sustained by him, the reformed took possession of Citeaux after having dispersed into other monasteries the professed religious of this monastery. At the death of Richelieu the expelled monks assembled at Dijon, January 2, 1643, and elected to his place Dom Claude Vaussin, but the king vetoed the election; they voted again, May 10, 1645, and gave all their votes to Claude Vaussin, while the reformed, to the number of only fifteen, voted for Dom Jean Jouaud, Abbot of Prieres in Britanny. On the 27th of Nov ember following, Innocent X sent his Bulls to Dom Claude Vaussin, and imposed silence on the reformed. February 1st, 1647, a Brief of the same pope reestablished all matters in the condition in which they had been before the sentence of Cardinal de la Rochefoucauld.
The Strict Observance then tried to form an independent order under the authority of the Abbot of Prieres, and with this object in view raised new difficulties in relation to the question of abstinence. A Brief of Alexander VII, dated November, 1657, confirming the decision of Sixtus IV, in 1475, that abstinence from flesh meat was not essential to the rule, did not quiet their scruples. Finally, January 26, 1662, the same pope interfered in a decisive manner by inviting the two parties to appear at the Court of Rome. The Common Observance sent Claude Vaussin; the Strict Observance, Dom George, Abbot of Val-Richer; La Trappe, Abbot de Rance. On the 19th of April, 1666, appeared the Bull “In Suprema”, which put an end to the divisions. It recommended that the visits be regularly and strictly made, that monks should live in the monasteries, and that the general chapters should be held every three years. It restored the night silence, poverty in apparel, and the monastic tonsure. It maintained the use of meat where that already obtained, and recommended the religious who had made the vow of abstinence to be faithful to it. The Strict Observance remained under the jurisdiction of the Abbot of Citeaux. This constitution was accepted by the general chapter of 1667, which was held at Citeaux, in spite of protests from the opponents, and in particular of Abbot de Rance, and the new reform was put into force in all the monasteries of France, where the number of monks was sufficient.
During the eighteenth century, however, there was introduced into the Order of Citeaux, as into almost all the great religious families, a pernicious licence of thought and morality. New conflicts between the Abbot of Citeaux and the abbots of the four first houses of filiation arose concerning the government of the order and their own jurisdiction. In virtue of the liberties of the Gallican Church, the king and his council appointed a commission to restore order. A new collection of statutes was drawn up, but these were not definitively adopted until 1786. The general chapter of that year finally agreed among themselves and adopted the new statutes on the eve of the French Revolution. The political and religious disturbances which then and at the commencement of the nineteenth century troubled France and Europe almost ruined this venerable order. When the National Convention, by the decree of February 13, 1790, secularized all the religious houses of France, the Order of Citeaux had in France 228 monasteries, with 1875 religious; 61 of these houses, with 532 religious, were in the filiation of Citeaux; 3, with 33 religious, in that of La Ferte; 33, with 171 religious, in that of Pontigny; 92, with 864 religious, in that of Clairvaux; and 37, with 251 religious, in that of Morimond. The sixty-second and last Abbot of Citeaux, Dom Francois Trouve, having lost all hope of saving his monastery, begged Pius VI to transfer all his powers to Robert Schlecht, Abbot of Salsmansweiler, of the Congregation of Northern Germany, so that the remnants of the ancient corporation of Citeaux might still have a ruler.
From France the hatred of religion passed with the arms of the usurpers into Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, and other countries, and there continued the work of destruction. By an imperial veto of the 25th of February, 1803, and a decree of the Prussian Government of the 28th of April, 1810, all the monasteries of Germany were ruined. The abbeys of Portugal were abolished by a law of the 26th of May, 1834, those of Spain by the laws of the 25th of July and the 11th of October, 1835, those of Poland disappeared before the decrees of the Russian and Prussian rulers.
IV. THE RESTORATION (1790-)
—The reform inaugurated at La Trappe by Abbot de Rance, reviving the austerity and fervor of primitive Citeaux, was maintained, almost intact, against difficulties of every kind, until the French Revolution. There were then at La Trappe seventy religious and a numerous and fervent novitiate. When, on the 4th of December, a decree of the National Assembly suppressed the Trappists in France, Dom Augustin de Lestrange, then master of novices at La Trappe, authorized by his local superior and the Abbot of Clairvaux, set out with twenty-four of his brethren for Switzerland. The Senate of Fribourg permitted them to settle in Val-Sainte, June 1, 1791. Pope Pius VI, by a Brief of July 31, 1794, authorized the erection of Val-Sainte into an abbey. Dom Augustin was elected abbot on the 27th of the following November, and on the 8th of December of the same year, a solemn decree of the nuncio of the Holy See at Lucerne, executing the Brief of Pius VI, constituted Val-Sainte an abbey and the mother-house of the whole Congregation of Trappists. There the Rule of St. Benedict was observed in all its rigour, and at times its severity was even surpassed. Novices flocked thither. From Val-Sainte Dom Augustin sent colonies into Spain, Belgium, and Piedmont.
But the French troops invaded Switzerland in 1796. Obliged to leave Yal-Sainte, Dom Augustin, with his religious of both sexes, commenced two years of wanderings through Europe, during which period they gave to the world the spectacle of the most heroic virtues. In 1800 Dom Augustin returned to France, and two years later resumed possession of Val-Sainte. In 1803 he sent a colony of his religious to America under the direction of Dom Urbain Guillet. In 1811, fleeing from the anger of Napoleon, who first favored the Trappists and then suppressed all their monasteries in France and the whole empire, Dom Augustin himself left for America. In 1815, on the downfall of Napoleon, he returned immediately to La Trappe, while Dom Urbain Guillet established himself at Bellefontaine in the Diocese of Angers.
During this imperial persecution, a schism took place in the Congregation of La Trappe. The colony which Dom Augustin had sent from Val-Sainte into Belgium under the direction of Dom Eugene de Laprade, and which had settled first at Westmalle, and then at Darpheld in Westphalia, had abandoned the Rules of Val-Sainte to embrace those of de Rance. It returned to France and occupied Port-du-Salut in the Diocese of Laval; Westmalle, restored in 1821, withdrew from the jurisdiction of Dom Augustin to form, five years later, the Congregation of Belgium.
Dom Augustin died July 16, 1827, at Lyons. A Decree dated October 1, 1834, confirmed two days later by Gregory XVI, united the different houses of Trappists in France in one congregation known as the Congregation of Cistercian Monks of Our Lady of La Trappe. The General President of the Order of Citeaux is its head and confirms its abbots. The four first fathers are the Abbots of Melleray, Portdu-Salut, Bellefontaine, and Gard. The Rule of St. Benedict and the Constitutions of Citeaux or those of de Rance, according to the custom of each monastery, are observed. But with this diversity of observance, the union did not last long. A pontifical Decree dated the February 25, 1847, and granted at the request of the religious of each observance, divides the Trappist monasteries of France into two congregations: the Ancient Reform of Our Lady of La Trappe, which follows the Rules of de Rance, and the New Reform, which follows the Primitive Observance and is governed by the Charter of Charity. Already Westmalle in 1836 formed a distinct congregation known as the Congregation of Belgium. There were then three distinct congregations of the Trappists.
It was reserved for a later generation to see the most complete reform effected by the fusion of all the congregations into one order in unity of government and observance. On the first of October, 1892, at the desire of Leo XIII, a plenary general chapter was held at Rome, under the presidency of Cardinal Mazzella, delegated by the Cardinal Protector Monaco della Valetta. The assembly lasted twelve days; the fusion was adopted; Dom Sebastian Wyart, Abbot of Septfons, who had taken the most active part in all the negotiations to effect this union, was chosen “General of the Order of the Reformed Cistercians of Our Lady of La Trappe“. Such was the name given to the order. A decree of the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars of December 8, 1892, then a pontifical Brief of March 23, 1893, confirmed and ratified the Acts of the chapter. On the 13th of August, 1894, the sovereign pontiff approved the new constitutions and the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars promulgated them on the 25th of the same month. In 1898, the 8o0th anniversary of the foundation of the order, the sons of St. Bernard again took possession of the ancient Abbey of Citeaux. Dom Sebastian Wyart was elected abbot, and thus was restored the chain of abbots of Citeaux which had been broken for 107 years. It was then decided to suppress in the title of the order the words “Our Lady of La Trappe“, the Abbey of La Trappe yielding the first rank to Citeaux. Finally, on the 30th of July, 1902, an Apostolic Constitution of Leo XIII solemnly confirmed the restoration of the order and gave to it the definite name of “Order of Reformed Cistercians, or the Strict Observance”. Dom Sebastian Wyart died August 18, 1904. The general chapter, postponed that year until October, chose for his successor the Most Rev. Dom Augustin Marre, Abbot of Igny, and titular Bishop of Constance.
V. CONDITION OF THE ORDER IN 1908
—Several modern congregations must be mentioned which have been grafted on the old trunk of Citeaux, and which, with some ancient monasteries that escaped the persecution of the close of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth, form the Common Observance. Their mode of life corresponds to that of the Cistercians of the seventeenth century, whose mitigation was approved by Alexander VII in 1666. They are the Congregations of Italy, Belgium, Austria, and Switzerland, and the Congregation of Senanque.
The Congregation of St. Bernard of Italy was formed in 1820 with the monasteries which remained of the Congregations of the Roman Province and of Lombardy, after Pius VII had been deprived of his States. The congregation adopted the constitutions of the ancient Congregation of Tuscany and Lombardy.
The Congregation of Belgium, formed in 1836, at Bornheim in the Diocese of Mechlin, by the religious who were expelled in 1797 from Lieu-Saint-Bernardsur-l’Escaut, observe constitutions based upon the Brief of Alexander VII and the Cistercian Ritual. They were approved by the Holy See in 1846.
The Cistercian Congregation of Austria and Hungary was formed in 1859 by the monasteries of Austria which had escaped from the Revolution and submitted to the President General of the Order of Citeaux.
The Congregation of Switzerland was formed in 1806 by the three monasteries of Hauterive, Saint-Urbain, and Wettingen, remnants of the Congregation of North Germany. These monasteries having succumbed in 1841 and 1846, the Abbot of Wettingen, an exile in Switzerland, purchased, in 1854, the Benedictine monastery of Mehrerau on the Lake of Bregenz, to which the Holy See transferred all the privileges of Wettingen. To this monastery was joined that of Marienstatt in the Diocese of Cologne in Nassau.
The Congregation of Senanque, or the Mean Observance, owes its origin to the parish priest, Luke Barnouin, who, with some associates, in 1849, attempted the religious life in the solitude of Our Lady of Calvary in the Diocese of Avignon, leaving that retreat in 1854, to take up his abode in the monastery of Senanque, which he had purchased. The new congregation, which, without returning to the primitive constitutions, did not adopt all the mitigations of later centuries, received the name of “Congregation of Cistercians of the Immaculate Conception“. It was incorporated in the Order of Citeaux in 1857, and in 1872 transferred its seat to the ancient monastery of Lerins. The constitutions of this congregation were approved by Leo XIII, March 12, 1892.
When that pope, in 1892, undertook to unite in one order the three Congregations of La Trappe, His Holiness caused the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars to address a letter to the Cistercians of the Common Observance inviting them to join their brethren of the Reformed Observance of La Trappe. But as the pope left them free, they preferred to retain their respective autonomies. Since that time the Order of Citeaux is divided into two branches absolutely distinct; the Strict and the Common Observances. To these may be added the small Congregation of Trappists of Casamari in Italy, which has only three monasteries with about 45 members.
The Order of Reformed Cistercians has (1908) 71 monasteries of men with more than 4000 subjects. In this number of houses are included the annexes which were founded in certain places to serve as refuges for the communities which had been expelled from France. These Monasteries are distributed as follows: in France, 20; in Belgium, 9; in Italy, 5; in Holland, 5; in Germany, 3; in England, 3; in Ireland, 2; in Asia, 4; in Africa, 2; in America, 10; (4 in United States, 5 in Canada, and 1 in Brazil). The Reformed Cistercians make profession of the Primitive Observance of Citeaux, with the exception of a few modifications imposed by the Holy See at the time of the fusion. Their life is strictly cenobitical, that is to say, life in common in its most absolute form. They observe perpetual silence, except in cases of necessity provided for by the rule, or when express permission is granted by the superior. Their day is divided between the Divine Office, agricultural and kindred labors, and free intervals for reading and study. The supreme authority of the order resides in the general chapter, which assembles every year at Meaux, from the 12th to the 17th of September, and is presided over by the abbot general. When the general chapter is not in session, current and urgent matters are regulated by the abbot general aided by his “Council of Definitors”.
The abbot general, who is by right Abbot of Citeaux, resides in Rome (Via San Giovanni in Laterano, 95), with the procurator general and the five definitors of the order, of whom there are two for French-speaking countries, one for English-speaking, one for German, and one for Flemish. At the house of the abbot general are also the students whom the different houses of the order send to Rome to follow the course of studies at the Gregorian University. The Order of Reformed Cistercians has for its protector at Rome Cardinal Rampolla Del Tindaro.
The four first houses, which replace the ancient Abbeys of La Ferte, Pontigny, Clairvaux, and Morimond, are La Grande Trappe in the Diocese of Seez, Melleray in the Diocese of Nantes, Westmalle in the Diocese of Mechlin, and Port-du-Salut in the Diocese of Laval. The abbots of these four houses every year visit the mother-house at Citeaux. The other houses are visited regularly every year by the abbots of the houses on which they immediately depend.
The actual condition of the Common Observance is as follows: The Congregation of Italy has five monasteries (two of them in Rome, at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, and at San Bernardo alle Terme) and about 60 members. The Congregation of Belgium has two monasteries (Bornheim and Val-Dieu), with 63 members. The Congregation of Austria, the most powerful, has 12 monasteries, with 599 religious. The Congregation of Switzerland has three monasteries, with 171 members. Lastly, the Congregation of Mean Observance of Senanque, which, since the Waldeck-Rousseau Laws of 1901, has lost Senanque, Fontfroide, and Pont-Colbert, now has but two houses, with about 102 members. The Cistercians of the Common Observance in 1900 elected as their general Dom Amedeus de Bie, of the Congregation of Belgium. He has for assistants the vicars-general of the five congregations.
The Order of Citeaux has produced a great number of saints and has given two popes to the Church, Eugene III, a disciple of St. Bernard, and Benedict XII. It has also given the Church forty cardinals, five of whom were taken from Citeaux, and a considerable number of archbishops and bishops. The Cistercians of all observances have no less enlightened the Church by their teachings and writings, than edified it by the sanctity of their lives. Among great teachers may be cited St. Bernard, the Mellifluous Doctor and the last of the Fathers of the Church, St. Stephen Harding, author of the “Exordium Cisterciensis Coenobii”, of the “Charter of Charity”, etc. Then follow Conrad of Eberbach (Exordium Magnum Ordinis Cisterciensis); Aelred, Abbot of Rieval (Sermons); Serlon, Abbot of Savigny (Sermons); Thomas of Citeaux (Commentary on the Canticle of Canticles); Caramuel, the Universal Doctor, author of a Moral Theology very much esteemed, whom St. Alphonsus Liguori calls “the prince of Laxists”; Caesarius of Heisterbach (Homilies, “Dialogus Miraculorum”, etc.); Manrique (Cistercian Annals in 4 vols. folio); Henriquez (Menologium Cisterciense); Charles de Visch (Bibliotheca Scripthrum Sacri Ordinis Cisterciensis); the Abbot de Rance (“De la saintete et des devoirs de la vie monastique”, “Eclaircissements sur le meme traite”, “Meditations sur la regle de Saint-Benoit”, etc.); Dom Julien Paris (“Nomasticon Cisterciense” in fol., Paris, 1664), Dom Pierre le Nain, sub-prior of La Trappe (“Vie de l’Abbe de La Trappe“, “Essai de l’histoire de Citeaux”, 9 vols., Paris, 1690-97); Sartorius (“Cistercium bistertium”, Prague, 1700), and others. In the nineteenth century it suffices to mention among a great many writers belonging to both Observances Dr. Leopold Janauscheck (Originum Cisterciensium torn. I, Vienna, 1877—the author died before he was able to commence the second volume), Dom Hugues Sejalon, monk of Aiguebelle (Annales d’Aiguebelle, 2 vols. and a new edition of the “Nomasticon Cisterciense” of Dorn Paris, Solesmes, 1892).
VI. CISTERCIANS IN AMERICA
—The establishment of the Cistercians in America is due to the initiative of Dom Augustin de Lestrange. He was born in 1754, in the castle of Colombier-le-Vieux, Ardeche, France, the son of Louis-Cesar de Lestrange, an officer of the household of Louis XV, and of Jeanne-Pierrette de Lalor, daughter of an Irish gentleman who had followed in 1688 James II in his exile. Dom Augustin was master of novices at La Trappe when the Revolution burst forth, and upon the suppression of the religious orders he sought refuge at Val-Sainte in Switzerland, with twenty-four of his brethren. Driven from Val-Sainte by the French troops, these religious wandered over the whole of Europe, going even into Russia. (See above under III. THE DECLINE.)
Dom Augustin at length resolved to send a colony of Cistercian Trappists to America, where he saw much good to be done. Already in 1793, seeing novices flocking to Val-Sainte, he had directed to Canada a part of his religious under the guidance of Father John Baptist. But at Amsterdam this colony found itself prevented by political troubles from departing, and divided into two bands, one of which settled at Westmalle in Belgium, while the other went to England and established itself at Lulworth in Dorsetshire, in the very place where formerly there had existed a Cistercian abbey which was destroyed by Henry VIII. Dorn Augustin, however, had not given up the idea of an American foundation. In 1802 he charged Dorn Urbain Guillet to carry out his intentions in this regard. Dom Urbain, born at Nantes, in 1766, the son of Ambroise Augustin Guillet, Knight of Malta, and of Marie-Anne Le Quellec, entered La Trappe in 1785, and was the last to pronounce his vows in that monastery when the Revolution burst forth. He assembled 24 religious, lay brothers, and members of the third order (an institution of Dom Augustin de Lestrange), and sailed from Amsterdam, May 24, 1802, on board of the Sally, a Dutch vessel flying the American flag to avoid the risks of war—for Holland was at the time an ally of France, and a conflict was imminent between that country and England.
The Sally entered the port of Baltimore, on the 25th of September, after a voyage of four months, having been hindered by contrary winds, and having gone out of her course to avoid English cruisers. Dom Urbain and his companions were received at St. Mary’s Seminary, which was under the direction of the Sulpicians, to whose superior, the venerable M. Nagot, then eighty-five years of age, the Cistercian immigrants had letters. At that time St. Mary’s College possessed several eminent professors, and among these was M. Flaget, who later became Bishop of Bardstown, and then of Louisville, and who, in 1848, was to receive in Kentucky the religious who left Melleray to found Gethsemane.
About fifty miles from Baltimore, between the little towns of Hanover and Heberston was a plantation known as Pigeon Hill, which belonged to a friend of the Sulpicians. Being absent for some years, he left them the power of disposing of it as they should deem proper. This large and beautiful residence was well provided with provisions by the goodness of the Sulpicians. In the woods near by were found all kinds of wild fruits. The Trappists installed themselves at Pigeon Hill. M. de Morainvilliers, a French emigrant, a native of Amiens and pastor of St. Patrick’s church, Baltimore, used his influence with his parishioners to procure for the newly-arrived community the aid necessary for their establishment. But everything was dear in the country, and the money which Father Urbain had destined for the purchase of land did not even suffice for the support of his community. Eighteen months had already passed since the arrival of the colony at Pigeon Hill, and the true foundation had not yet been begun. Dorn Urbain had not accepted any of the land which had been offered to him. Moreover, the proximity of Baltimore was a frequent source of desertions among the young people of the third order.
About the beginning of 1805 Dom Urbain heard Kentucky spoken of. Its climate was represented to him as more temperate, and its soil more fertile. He left immediately to visit that country, and found there a devoted friend in the only Catholic priest then resident, Father Stephen Theodore Badin (q.v.). Father Badin took upon himself the obligation of finding for the Trappists a suitable establishment. Having left Pigeon Hill in July, 1805, Father Urbain and his companions arrived at Louisville in the beginning of September. The inhabitants received them with great kindness and provided for their first wants. They occupied for the time being a plantation which a pious woman offered them, at some distance from Louisville, and this gave them time to acquire, about sixty miles south of Louisville, in the neighborhood of Rohan’s Knob, a property called Casey Creek, or Potinger’s Creek.
In the meantime a new band had been sent out by Dom Augustin Lestrange, under the conduct of Father Mary Joseph, a native of Chapelle-les-Rennes, in Jura (b. April 22, 1774), who had been a grenadier in the French army. One day he had been ordered to shoot a priest, but had refused to obey; he left the army and became a religious at Val-Sainte. His community was at that time composed of seven priests, seventeen lay brothers, and twenty-one young people of the third order.
In the beginning of 1809 sixty acres of land had already been cleared at Casey Creek, a quantity of grain sowed, and a great number of trees planted. Permanent settlement was about to be made here, when a fire destroyed in a few hours all the buildings of the new monastery. Dom Urbain was deeply affected by the misfortune, and thought only of going elsewhere. An Irish gentleman by the name of Mulamphy, whom he had met in Baltimore, offered him the ownership of a habitation in Louisiana. Dom Urbain and Father Mary Joseph left together to visit this property. It pleased them, and they decided to leave Kentucky and Casey Creek.
In the “Sketches of the Early Catholic Missions of Kentucky, 1787-1826″ can be read the unexceptionable testimony which Bishop Spalding renders of the fervor of the religious during the whole time they spent in Kentucky. Faithful to the rule of penance, they retrenched nothing from the austere practices of their holy state. The Rev. Father Charles Nerinckx, in a letter to Bishop Carroll, is not sparing in his praises of the Trappists, though he blames certain details of administration which were the cause of their failure at Casey Creek. In the spring of 1809 the community left for Louisiana and took up their abode at Florissant, the property of Mr. Mulamphy, some thirty miles west of St. Louis, on a hill which slopes towards the Missouri. But Father Urbain contemplated the purchase of another property on the other side of the Mississippi, which was offered to him by M. Jarrot, former procurator of the seminary of St. Sulpice at Baltimore, who had established himself at Cahokia, six miles from St. Louis. In the first month of 1810 Dom Urbain bought on the prairie of “Looking Glass” the two highest of the forty mounds which formed the burial-ground of the Indians in the vicinity of Cahokia, known by the name of Indiana Mound.
“Looking Glass” was an immense tract of land in St. Clair County, Illinois, which, it is said, had served the savages for many generations as a burial-place for their dead. These people had built there gigantic monuments which rose up from a base of 160 feet in circumference to a height of more than 100 feet. The Trappists constructed several cabins on the smaller of the two mounds purchased by Dom Urbain, reserving the higher mound for the abbey which they intended to build later. But the new settlers soon felt the influence of the unhealthy climate. Several savage tribes who had attempted in the past to take up their abode there had been obliged to abandon the undertaking. None of the religious escaped the fever, but only one of them died. However, Monks’ Mound, as it was afterwards named, presented great advantages. The city of St. Louis was only six or seven miles distant, all around were vast prairies or abundance of wood, and the waters of the Mississippi were so full of fish that, to use the expression of Father Urbain, “a blind man could not help but spear a big fish, if he tried”. The lands were easy to cultivate and very fertile. The savages who made frequent incursions into the neighborhood never molested the monks. Dom Urbain had his rights of property confirmed by Congress at Washington in March, 1810. He wished also to acquire 4000 acres of land in the neighborhood of Monks’ Mound. The president and a certain number of members of Congress were favorable to him, but the hostility of several influential members, who feared to see this country peopled under the influence and direction of religious and Catholic priests, caused his petition to go over to the next session. While waiting, Dom Urbain, struck by the sad condition of religion in the vicinity of St. Louis and in Illinois sent two of his religious to preach the Gospel there—Father Mary Joseph and Father Bernard, the latter a Canadian priest whom he had brought with him from New York to Casey Creek. These settled in a parish which was the most renowned for its scandals. “There”, says Gaillardin (“Histoire de la Trappe”, II, 285), “a husband had just sold his wife for a bottle of whisky; the purchaser in his turn sold her for a horse; and finally she was sold a third time for a yoke of oxen.” But so zealously did these missionaries labor there by word and example that in a short time religion flourished. Father Bernard, already advanced in age, after some time succumbed to fatigue. To aid Father Mary Joseph, Dom Urbain took upon himself the care of the Christian people who were nearest to the monastery.
In 1812 a terrible plague visited the colony of the Monks’ Mound. This fever, which desolated the country for two years, attacked the community and rendered it impossible for them to do any work. At the same time all necessaries were dear, and there was no money. Dom Urbain resolved to leave Monks’ Mound. He sold all he possessed and transferred his community to Maryland. There he found on his arrival six other religious under the direction of Father Vincent de Paul, who had been sent from Bordeaux to America by Dom Augustin de Lestrange, and, having landed in Boston the August 6, 1811, with two religious, had been joined in the following year by three lay brothers. (Father Vincent de Paul was a native of Lyons, born in 1769.) Dom Urbain found the little band in the greatest misery. While waiting for better conditions, he settled them upon a little farm between Baltimore and Philadelphia, and conducted his own subjects to an island near Pittsburgh.
In the meanwhile Dom Augustin de Lestrange, pursued by the anger of Napoleon, who had even set a price upon his head, arrived in New York in December, 1813. The Jesuits had just given up their foundation in that city, and Dom Augustin took over the building they had used as a classical school and which was located where St. Patrick’s Cathedral now stands in Fifth Avenue. Here, with Fathers Urbain and Vincent de Paul, he began a little community which resumed the regular life and exerted on outsiders a salutary influence. They cared for a number of children, most of them orphans; Protestants were edified, and some conversions were made among them. The effort to establish a community was abandoned, however, after two years’ experience. Father Urbain made another attempt to found a colony upon a farm which was offered to him by M. Quesnet, Vicar-General of Philadelphia.
VII. MONASTERY OF PETIT-CLAIRVAUX
—In 1814 Dom Augustin, after the abdication of Napoleon, resolved to return to France to reestablish there the Order of Citeaux. He authorized Father Mary Joseph to remain in America, to continue the evangelization of the savages. Two groups left in October, the one under the conduct of Dom Augustin, the other under that of Father Urbain. A third group set sail later from New York for Halifax, under the guidance of Father Vincent de Paul (May, 1815). Here he was obliged to wait fifteen days for the vessel which was to take him back to his native land, but the vessel sailed while Father Vincent de Paul was engaged upon some business in town. He found himself without friends, without money, and in a country of which he knew nothing. But Father Vincent de Paul found there a vast field for the exercise of his zeal. He undertook to preach to the savages and, at the request of Monseigneur Lartigue, Bishop of Montreal, to found a monastery in Nova Scotia. He labored eight years for the conversion of the infidels, and then, to carry out the latter project, he left for Bellefontaine in France (1823) and, the same year, returned to America, bringing with him four religious, with whom he founded, in 1825, the monastery of Petit Clairvaux, in Big Tracadie, Nova Scotia. Father Vincent de Paul lived twenty-eight years longer, spreading the blessings of the Gospel in that country. He died January 1, 1853, in the odor of sanctity, and there is a question of introducing his cause at Rome.
For many years this foundation struggled for existence. Two fires in succession destroyed all. Discouraged thereby, the little community, in 1900, left that country and settled near Lonsdale, Rhode Island, where it founded the monastery of Our Lady of the Valley. Since 1903 the Nova Scotian solitude of Petit Clairvaux has been repeopled. Thirty religious from the Abbey of Thymadeuc (France), under the direction of Dom Eugene Villeneuve, continued the interrupted work, clearing 1000 acres of land, two-thirds of which are forestlands, two-thirds of the remainder either pasture or meadowlands; only about 15 acres are capable of being worked. The monastery is situated one mile from the Intercolonial Railway. Although the Cistercian Rule was in vigour there it was only incorporated in the Order of Reformed Cistercians in 1869.
Gethsemane and New Melleray.—The year 1848 saw the erection of two other monasteries in the New World, one in Nelson County in the Diocese of Louisville, Kentucky, not far from the scene of the labors and hardships of Fathers Urbain and Mary Joseph and their companions, the other in the Diocese of Dubuque, Iowa, twelve miles west of the Mississippi River. The monasteries are the present Abbeys of Our Lady of Gethsemane and Our Lady of New Melleray.
The Abbey of Gethsemane, in the Diocese of Louisville, was founded by the Abbey of Melleray in France. In 1848 Dom Maxime, abbot of that monastery, sent two of his religious to the United States to find a suitable location for a foundation. Bishop Flaget of Louisville—the saint of Kentucky, as he was called—indicated to them an establishment called Gethsemane, belonging to the Sisters of Loretto who were directing an orphanage. The property, consisting of about 1400 acres of good land, was purchased, and on the 20th of December, 1848, forty religious from Melleray took possession of it. On the 21st of July, 1850, Pius IX erected Gethsemane into an abbey. Dom Eutropius was chosen abbot in March, 1851, and on the 26th of the following October he received the abbatial blessing from the hands of Msgr. Spalding, successor of Msgr. Flaget in the Diocese of Louisville. The ten or twelve log houses which had served as dwellings for the Sisters of Loretto and their orphans had become entirely inadequate for the needs of the fathers, and Dom Eutropius decided to build a monastery. After eleven years of hard and incessant labor, which had considerably impaired his health, the zealous superior resigned his charge and returned to Melleray. From this place of retirement he was called to become the first superior of Tre Fontane near Rome.
His successor at Gethsemane was Dom Benedict Berger, under whose rule the beautiful abbatial church of Gethsemane was solemnly consecrated by Archbishop Purcell, of Cincinnati, assisted by the Bishops of Louisville and Buffalo, November 15, 1866. Msgr. Spalding, who had become Archbishop of Baltimore, was present on the occasion, and preached the sermon, a masterpiece of sacred eloquence. Dom Benedict died August 13, 1890, and was succeeded by Dom Edward Bourban, who trans-formed into a college the little school which the Sisters of Loretto had left in charge of the new community. This college is situated about a quarter of a mile from the abbey in a picturesque location, and has since been incorporated by the legislature of Kentucky. In 1895 Dom Edward, while on a visit to France, resigned his charge on account of the poor state of his health, and was appointed chaplain of the Trappistines of Our Lady of Les Gardes, in the Diocese of Angers, France. On the 11th of October, 1898, Dom Edmond Obrecht, cellarer of the Abbey of Tre Fontane near Rome, was elected Abbot of Gethsemane, and was blessed by Bishop McCloskey of Louisville on the 28th of the same month. This community numbers 75 members.
The Abbey of New Melleray, in the Diocese of Dubuque, Iowa, about twelve miles west of the Mississippi, is so called because its mother-house is the Abbey of Mount Melleray in Ireland, which was founded by the Melleray Abbey of France. In 1848 Dom Bruno Fitzpatrick, Abbot of Mount Melleray, sent some of his religious to the State of Iowa. Msgr. Lorans, Bishop of Dubuque, offered them 80 acres of land in the vicinity of his episcopal city. The cornerstone of the monastery was laid July 16, 1849. Raised to the dignity of an abbey in 1862, it had for first abbot, Dom Ephrem McDonald. After twenty years he resigned and returned to Mount Melleray. The Rev. Alberic Dunlea, who arrived in September, 1885, with an important colony from Mount Melleray, succeeded him as superior. He relieved the financial condition of the abbey, and ended the difficulties which had nearly ruined it under the preceding administration. In 1889 a new superior was elected in the person of Father Louis Carew. Later he became definitor of the order for the English-speaking countries, and was succeeded by Father Alberic who became titular prior. In 1897 the monastery was restored to its dignity of abbey, and Dom Alberic Dunlea was elected abbot. The property comprises some 3000 acres of land, with an abundance of excellent water. The abbey has been rebuilt, but in 1908 it was not yet completed.
Abbey of La Trappe, Canada
—The Abbey of Our Lady of the Lake of Two Mountains (better known by the name of La Trappe, the official name given to the post-office established there) is situated in the territory of Oka, in the Diocese of Montreal, about thirty miles from that city and upon the shores of the Lake of the Two Mountains, whence it derives its name. The first thought of founding this monastery was due to the venerable M. Rousselot, priest of St. Sulpice, and pastor of Notre-Dame of Montreal. Born at Cholet (Maine et Loire, France), a few leagues distant from the Abbey of Bellefontaine, M. Rousselot had often, in his youth, visited this monastery. Several times during his visits to France he had communicated his projects to the Abbot of Bellefontaine, Dom Jean-Marie Chouteau. The expulsion of the religious decreed by the French Government, and put into execution at Bellefontaine, November 6, 1880, decided the Rev. Father Jean-Marie to accept the proposition of M. Rousselot. On the 8th of April, 1881, the Rev. Father Abbot, accompanied by one of his religious, arrived in Montreal, where he was most kindly received by Bishop Fabre. After some weeks of negotiation, the Seminary of St. Sulpice ceded to the Trappists 1000 acres of land in the seigniory of the Lake of the Two Mountains. At the same time the provincial Government of Quebec promised to encourage the foundation and to come to its aid. On his return to France the Rev. Father Abbot sent to Canada four of his religious, so that the infant colony comprised five members, including his companion who remained. Father William was the superior. They installed themselves for the time being as well as they could in a little wooden house that belonged to the Mill of the Bay, as it was called, in the territory of Oka. This temporary installation lasted until the month of September. The religious then took possession of a monastery which, without being a permanent abode, gave them room enough for faithfully carrying out the Cistercian observances and receiving new recruits. This first monastery was blessed, September 8, 1881. It has since been transformed into an agricultural school.
The grain of mustard seed promised to become a great tree. Novices presented themselves, and at the same time the grounds, until then uncultivated, covered with brush and forests and filled with rocks, were cleared and tilled. After this a permanent monastery was planned. In the autumn of 1889, thanks to a generous benefactor, M. Devine, work was commenced upon it. In the month of May, 1890, the cornerstone was laid, and on the 28th of August, 1891, Msgr. Fabre solemnly blessed the first two wings which had been completed. This same day, by a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, the priory of Our Lady of the Lake was erected into an abbey. On the 26th of March the community chose as abbot the Very Rev. Father Anthony Oger, who, on the 29th of the following June, received the abbatial blessing from the hands of Msgr. Fabre in the cathedral of Montreal. Finally, in 1897, by the aid of a benefactor as modest as he was generous, M. Rousseau, priest of St. Sulpice, the monastery and the abbatial church were entirely completed, and on the 7th of November Archbishop Bruchesi solemnly consecrated the church. Thenceforth the monks could give themselves fully to their lives of labor and prayer, without fearing any inconvenience in the fulfilment of their regular exercises. But on the 23d of July, 1902, a fire destroyed the monastery, and the community was obliged to take shelter in the agricultural school. While waiting for sufficient means to rebuild their monastery, the monks constructed a temporary wooden shelter, and on Holy Thursday, 1903, were able to leave the school. The aid rendered by the different houses of the order and the traditional generosity of the Canadian people and the people of the United States, without distinction of creed, soon enabled them to commence the building of a new monastery upon the site of the former, and on the 21st of August, 1906, Msgr. Bruchesi, Archbishop of Montreal, surrounded by several archbishops and bishops, consecrated the abbatial church.
The Abbey of Our Lady of the Lake had in 1908, according to statistics, 120 inmates, including the oblates. This name is given to boys of eleven to fifteen years who are entrusted to the monks by their parents to be brought up according to the Rule of St. Benedict, so that later, if the superiors judge them to be called to the religious life, they may become monks. The rule is mitigated for them in consideration of their tender age. This is a revival of the monastic school of the Middle Ages and of the first centuries of religious life. The principal industries of Our Lady of the Lake are the manufacture of cheese and of a medicinal wine. The monastery possesses also an important creamery for the manufacture of butter. But that which contributes most of all to the renown of La Trappe of Oka is its agricultural school. In this matter the Reformed Cistercians (Trappists) of Our Lady of the Lake follow the glorious traditions of their ancestors. From their very installation in the country, their skill in deriving profit from lands previously sterile was noticed by the farmers of the neighborhood. Persons of every age and condition asked to be permitted to work with them, so as to learn their methods. This was the beginning of the agricultural school which the Government was in a short time to recognize officially, and which, reorganized since the burning of the former monastery, gives instruction in agricultural science every year to 80 or 100 students. Today the building devoted to this school is a large modern construction delightfully situated in a picturesque location, and commands a beautiful view of the Lake of the Two Mountains. This agricultural school has been affiliated with the University of Laval.
Monastery of Lake St. John
—For a long time the Honorable Honore Mercier, Prime Minister of the Province of Quebec, had, at the request of the colonization agent of the province, been earnestly entreating the Abbot of Bellefontaine and Dom Anthony of Our Lady of the Lake to send some religious into the country of Lake St. John, recently opened to colonization. He had offered to the Trappist Fathers 6000 acres of land and a considerable sum of money. In the year 1891 he charged the Rev. Th. Greg. Rouleau, principal of the Laval Normal School, who accompanied Msgr. Begin on his visit ad liming, to urge this request of the Government upon the Abbot of Bellefontaine. When the abbot, with the necessary authorization from his order, arrived in Quebec to settle the matter, M. de Boucherville had succeeded M. Mercier as prime minister. M. Pelletier, Secretary of the Province, and the Honorable Louis Beaubien, Minister of Agriculture, were exceedingly happy to continue the work of the preceding ministry. They favored with all their power the establishment of the Trappists at Lake St. John. Msgr. Labrecque, who had succeeded Msgr. Begin in the See of Chicoutimi, made the foundation the particular object of his personal care and attention. In 1892 Dom Anthony sent a little colony to Lake St. John. Thus was founded the prosperous and beneficent monastery of Our Lady of Mistassini at Lake St. John in the Diocese of Chicoutimi. In January, 1906, it was erected into a priory, and the Rev. Dom Pacomius Gabory was elected prior. The monastery in 1907 had twenty inmates.
Monastery of Our Lady of the Prairies, Manitoba
—Archbishop Tache of St. Boniface had long desired to enrich his diocese with an institution of this kind. He wrote about it several times to the Abbot of Bellefontaine, and in the spring of 1892 the latter came to an understanding with the archbishop, and his co-laborer, M. Ritchot, pastor of St. Norbert. The prelates gave the Rev. Father Abbot 1500 acres of good land in the parish of St. Norbert, and immediately sent thither a little colony under the direction of Father Louis de Bourmont. The work of construction was carried on with vigour and rapidity, and on the 18th of October in the same year, Archbishop Tache blessed the monastery and named it Our Lady of the Prairies. St. Norbert is situated on the west bank of the Red River, about nine miles south of Winnipeg, the great metropolis of Western Canada. It is exclusively an agricultural colony, and farming is carried on there on an extensive scale by means of the latest improved machinery. In 1893 the harvest was remunerative. In 1897 there were more than five hundred acres of first-class land under cultivation. The monastery of Our Lady of the Prairies had forty inmates in the year 1908. By this date a new building had been erected.
Monastery of Our Lady of the Valley, Lonsdale, Rhode Island, U.S.
—This monastery is no other than the former Little Clairvaux transferred. After the disastrous events which made it impossible for the community of Little Clairvaux to continue its work at Big Tracadie, Dom John Mary Murphy, yielding to the desire of Bishop Harkins of Providence to have some contemplative religious in his diocese, transferred it to Lonsdale, Rhode Island, in March, 1900, leaving to other religious who came from France his monastery of Little Clairvaux. He commenced without delay to build a wooden structure which would serve for a temporary shelter for the religious. At the same time he was constructing the buildings indispensable for farming. These preparations were pushed forward with such energy that by the month of July the community were able to commence the clearing and cultivation of the lands. It was an arduous and ungrateful task; no single-handed farmer would have undertaken it. But what was impossible to individual effort was soon effected by united labor, and the ungrateful soil became productive. The new monastery, begun in April, 1902, was finished in December of the same year, and in the month of January, 1903, the religious had the consolation of being installed in a building appropriate to their kind of life. For a farm the water supply is of prime importance. The religious of Our Lady of the Valley have discovered a spring which supplies water abundantly for all purposes. Moreover, this water, on account of its mineral properties, has a considerable commercial value. The total area of the property is 450 acres. The success which has thus far attended the efforts of the monks at Lonsdale is a precious encouragement for all those who are engaged in farming pursuits in that rocky part of Rhode Island.
The monastery was erected into a priory in 1907, and the religious elected the Rev. Dom John Mary Murphy prior. It retains in the order the rank of seniority corresponding to the date of incorporation of Little Clairvaux in the Order of Citeaux in 1869.
Monastery of Our Lady of Calvary, Rogersville, N.B.
—Foreseeing the evils with which their communities were threatened by the Law of 1901 (Waldeck-Rousseau), several abbots of the Order of Citeaux in France looked to find a refuge in case of expulsion. Dom Anthony Oger, Abbot of Our Lady of the Lake, wrote to Msgr. Richard, pastor of Rogersville, N. B., who answered promptly, placing at his disposal certain mills and 1000 acres of land already partly cultivated. In August, 1902, the prior of Bonnecombe, France, the Rev. Father Anthony Piana and the Rev. Mother Lutgarde, prioress, with another sister, arrived in Montreal and afterwards at Our Lady of the Lake by way of Montreal. Dom Anthony Oger devoted his whole paternal solicitude to aiding his visitors in finding a place suitable for a foundation. The abbot communicated Msgr. Richard‘s proposal to the prior of Bonnecombe, who, after two visits to Rogersville decided to accept it, and the project was submitted to the approbation of the general chapter. The abbot general, Dom Sebastian Wyart, urged Dom Emile, Abbot of Bonnecombe, to accept the offer of the pastor of Rogersville. On the 25th of October, 1902, six religious—two priests, one novice, and three lay brothers—left Bonnecombe for Canada under the direction of Dom Anthony Piana. On the 5th of the following November the little colony was solemnly received at Rogersville by the pastor and his parishioners, and took possession of the monastery, to which was given the name of Our Lady of Calvary, which was canonically erected into a priory July 12, 1904.
Monastery of Our Lady of Jordan, Oregon
—In 1904 the Cistercian monks of Fontgombault (Indreet-Loire, France), were forced to abandon their monastery. They, too, looked for a refuge in America. Under the direction of their abbot, Dom Fortunato Marchand, they went to Oregon to ask for a place of retreat where they would be able to serve Almighty God, and observe their rule. The new foundation of Our Lady of Jordan is situated in the township of Jordan, Linn County, about 90 miles from the Pacific Coast, upon a plateau a mile and a half in area. The property consists of about 400 acres of land, almost 200 of which are actually under cultivation or in meadowlands, 100 in wood land, and the remainder covered with brush. A torrent, tributary of the Santiam River, bounds it on the south. Upon this torrent has been built a steam saw-mill in connection with the monastery. Here the Oregon fir-trees, which attain immense heights, are converted into lumber for the needs of the community and for commerce. The future of this Cistercian community to a great extent rests upon this industry. The land is ordinarily fertile and produces cereals, vegetables, pears, plums, apples, etc. The monastery of Our Lady of Jordan was solemnly dedicated in 1907, the Archbishop of Oregon City officiating, in the presence of a large assembly of the laity, among whom were many non-Catholics. On the same occasion the Sacrament of Confirmation was administered by the archbishop. The Right Rev. Father Thomas, Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of Mount Angel, preached the dedicatory sermon, in which he explained the nature and the object of the life of the Cistercians, or Trappists.
The Monastery of Our Lady of Maristella
… at Taubate in the Archdiocese of Sao Paulo do Brazil, is the first, and up to now the only monastery of the Cistercian Order in South America. It was founded in 1904 by the Abbey of Septfons in France, on a farm, or fazenda, at the foot of the Serra Mantiqueira, not far from the railroad between Rio and Sao Paulo, about twelve miles from Taubate and six from Trememble, a small place connected with Taubate by a tramway. The property, consisting of 4000 or 5000 acres, had remained untilled since the abolition of slavery in 1888, and the buildings were falling into ruins. One half of the land lies along the River Parahyba, and the other, consisting of hills and valleys, forms the base of the chain of mountains of Mantiqueira. Rice, coffee, sugar-cane, Indian corn, etc., are cultivated, and cattle are raised. The climate is temperate, although it is within the tropics. The community, forty in number, has established a school for the children of the vicinity.
F. M. GILDAS.
VIII. CISTERCIAN SISTERS
—The first Cistercian monastery for women was established at Tart in the Diocese of Langres (now Dijon), in the year 1125, by sisters from the Benedictine monastery of Juilly, and with the cooperation of St. Stephen Harding, Abbot of Citeaux. At Juilly, a dependence of Molesme, Ste Humbeline, sister of St. Bernard, lived and died. The Cistercian Sisters of Tart founded successively Ferraque (1140) in the Diocese of Noyon, Blandecques (1153) in the Diocese of St-Omer, and Montreuil-les-Dames (1164) near Laon. In Spain the first Cistercian monastery of women was that of Tulebras (1134) in the Kingdom of Navarre. Then came Las Huelgas de Valladolid (1140), Espirito Santo at Olmedo (1142), Villabona, or San Miguel de las Duenas (1155), Perales (1160), Gradefes (1168), etc. But the most celebrated was Santa Maria la Real, or Las Huelgas de Burgos, founded in 1187 by Alfonso VIII of Castile. The observance was established there by Cistercian nuns who came from Tulebras, under the guidance of Misol, who became its first abbess. The second abbess was Constance, daughter of the founder, who believed she had the power of preaching in her church and hearing the confessions of her religious. In the following year, 1190, the eighteen abbesses of France held their first general chapter at Tart. The abbesses of France and Spain themselves made the regular visits to their houses of filiation. The Council of Trent, by its decrees regarding the cloister of religious put an end to the chapter and the visits. In Italy, in 1171, were founded the monasteries of Santa Lucia at Syracuse, San Michele at Ivrea, and that of Conversano, the only one in the peninsula in which the abbesses carry a crosier. A century later the Cistercian Sisters were in Switzerland, in Germany, and in Flanders.
The decadence which manifested itself in the Cistercian Order towards the middle of the fourteenth century was felt also in the convents of nuns. But among them energetic efforts were made to restore the primitive observance or to introduce a new one. It was at this time that the Order of the Conception was founded in Spain, at Toledo, by Beatriz de Silva. But her religious were not slow to abandon the Cistercian rule for that of the Clares. In France Jeanne de Courcelles de Pourlan, having been elected Abbess of Tart in 1617, restored the regular discipline in her community, which was transferred to Dijon in 1625. Owing to the hostility of the Abbot of Citeaux to the reform, she had her abbey withdrawn by the Holy See from the jurisdiction of the Order of Citeaux. Another reform was effected at Port-Royal des Champs by Angelique Arnauld, 1602 (see Arnauld, under Jacqueline-Marie-Angelique), who, to provide for the ever-increasing number of her religious, founded Port-Royal de Paris, in the borough of Saint-Jacques (1622). Queen Marie de Medicis declared herself protectress of this institution, and Pope Urban VIII exempted it from the jurisdiction of the Abbot of Citeaux and placed it under that of Paris. The religious of Port-Royal de Paris and of Port-Royal des Champs ended by consecrating themselves to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. But the vicinity of the Abbe de Saint-Cyran was dangerous to them, and these religious saw the suppression and destruction of Port-Royal des Champs by order of the king (1710), while they themselves were dispersed. The property and abbatial titles were annexed to Port-Royal de Paris, which subsisted up to the time of the French Revolution, and was transformed first into a prison, and then into a maternity hospital.
After the French Revolution another reform took place. Dom Augustin de Lestrange gathered the scattered Cistercian Sisters of France, with members of other orders that had been equally dispersed, and reconstructed the Cistercian Sisterhood. In 1795 he gave them a monastery which he called the Holy Will of God (La Sainte-Volonte de Dieu), situated in the Bas-Valais, Switzerland. The Trappistines, for so the new religious were called, were obliged to leave Switzerland in 1798. They courageously followed the Trappist monks in their travels over Europe, returned to Switzerland in 1803, and remained there until 1816, when at length they were able to return to France and take up their abode at Forges, near La Trappe. Two years later they occupied an old monastery of the Augustinians at Les Gardes, in the Diocese of Angers. The Trappistines spread quickly all over France, and into other countries of Europe. They have new monasteries in almost all parts of the world, and since the reunion of the three congregations of La Trappe, in 1892, they have been officially entitled: Reformed Cistercians of the Strict Observance.
The actual status (1908) of the Cistercian Sisters, Reformed and Non-Reformed, is as follows: The Reformed Cistercian nuns, or Trappistines, occupy 21 monasteries, with about 2000 religious. The monasteries are distributed as follows: nine in France, one in Italy, three in Holland, one in England, one in Spain, one in Belgium, one in Germany, one in Switzerland, two in Canada, one in Japan. To these twenty-one houses must be added twenty others of the Non-Reformed Cistercian nuns in Spain, affiliated to the order of Reformed Cistercians so far as spiritual matters are concerned, but remaining under the jurisdiction of the bishops. The Non-Reformed, or Common Observance of Citeaux, possess: in the Congregation of Austria three monasteries with 124 members, in the Congregation of Switzerland 12 monasteries with 574 members, and in the Observance of Senanque two monasteries with thirty members. (See also Bernardines.)
IX. CISTERCIAN NUNS IN AMERICA
—A Cistercian novice who came from Europe at the same time as the Trappists, and who was joined by seventeen American women, tried to establish a community. Circumstances prevented this. Father Vincent de Paul, at Tracadie, having asked the Congregation of Notre-Dame of Montreal for three sisters to help him with his mission in Nova Scotia, established them there and after probation admitted them to the profession of simple vows of the Third Order of La Trappe. But the community never in reality formed a part of the Order of Citeaux and never even wore the Cistercian habit. The monastery of Our Lady of Good Counsel, St. Romuald, near Quebec, the first genuine community of Cistercian nuns in America, was established in 1902 by Mother Lutgarde, prioress of Bonneval, France. On November 21, 1902, she brought thither a small colony of religious women. On July 29 of the following year Msgr. Marois, as delegate of the Archbishop of Quebec, blessed the new monastery. Though this kind of life was entirely new to the young women of Canada, vocations were not wanting. The means of subsistence for this house are agricultural labor and the manufacture of chocolate. The community is under the direction of the Archbishop of Quebec. Another at Rogersville, New Brunswick, where there were already some Cistercian monks, was established by the sisters expelled by the French Government from their monastery of Vaise, at Lyons.
F. M. GILDAS