The supernatural spirit
Despite all the differences in the monasteries, I noticed some basic similarities: First of all, the supernatural spirit. In many conversations, the sacred architecture, during holy mass or the Divine Office, but also in the beautifully landscaped gardens – I could clearly perceive that the monks and nuns were genuinely trying to honour God in every possible way. Everything they did or said, could be seen as a sacrifice for Him. Everyday life became a service, a being in God’s presence, regardless of the kind of work that had to be done.
Christ sent them into this world (John 17:18), but like Him they are not of this world (John 17:16). In this sense the monks’ approach to the various crises in the church and society is quite supernatural, crystal clear and courageous. They pray a lot and intensively and study the church’s teaching regularly. It shows them the straight path through the turmoil of our times. They try to trust in God completely.
Christian culture begins in the monasteries
They try to fulfill their duties faithfully – as praying men, penitents and missionaries, as it is required by the rule and tradition of their order. Even if they are laughed at, attacked or even persecuted. Their apostolate becomes more and more important as their number is decreasing worldwide. It took me some time to understand that in these small, disregarded places the reconstruction of Christian culture begins.
I walked through the small workshop in astonishment. I looked at the icons on the tables. There they were waiting for their completion. The sisters told me about the depicted saints and church fathers, but also about the old techniques, they used for the icon paintings.
For the Immaculate Heart of Mary
The sisters belong to the Fraternité de la Transfiguration. This small and young congregation studies and practices the spirituality and traditions of Eastern Christianity. Brother Antoine explained to me that they pray for the reunification with the Eastern Christians daily. We left the sisters’ house and drove the short way back to the buildings of the priests and brothers.
They were just outside the small village Mérigny in the countryside. Magnificent flower pots lined the long gravel paths between the church, the house and the retreat house, where I stayed. The area was mainly surrounded by forests and fields.
The Fraternité ist a very special community, Brother Antoine told me. Their prayer and apostolate in Russia is supposed to be a small contribution to the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Russia. A few days later Antoine was ordained a priest.