Tautringer – feb 2010
Munkeby once again has monks!
September 14, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, was the occasion of the official opening of Munkeby Mariakloster, only an hour’s drive north of us. The date was chosen because the Feast was the day the General Chapter opened at Cîteaux, the motherhouse, in France, through the centuries. By choosing Sept.14, Dom Olivier, the abbot of Cîteaux, and the four founding monks wanted to say that Munkeby is of importance for the whole Order. The founders, Joël, Cyrille, Bruno and Arnaud, invited the nuns of Tautra Mariakloster and a few close friends to a 12.00 Mass in their new house. The house is the perfect size for the four of them, fits into the landscape, and its cathedral ceilings give it a lightness particularly appropriate to the chapel. This house will become the guesthouse when enough funds are raised to build the permanent monastery in the adjacent field, and the monks move over there. (Sound familiar? We know the routine!) During the Mass, Dom Olivier preached on the significance of the Feast for the Cistercian order and for Munkeby, citing a letter of St Bernard, "our Order is the Cross." The opening Mass was followed by a picnic lunch for the 30 or so present, provided by us sisters who are just delighted to have a brotherhouse so close to us and so soon after our own foundation. (We know how to do picnics!) Many others who wanted to be part of this historic event were invited to 5.00 vespers. After the psalmody we processed to the edge of the woods where the foundation cross was set up and blessed. It had been raining all week, but at this moment the sun came out and God gave us perfect weather.
There is a bit of mystery surrounding the original Munkeby, the ruins of which look very Cistercian, but which does not appear on the official list of foundations of the Order. The sparse historical record shows that it came into existence before Tautra, in the 1180s, lasted for maybe 30 years, was placed under Tautra’s administration and later owned by Tautra. We like to think some of the Munkeby monks joined the community at Tautra, and we look forward to continuing a close filial relationship with our brothers from Cîteaux. They have already started providing us with their newly developed Munkeby cheese, which does not smell as good as our soap, but certainly tastes better!
At the end of September, we hosted a meeting for the prioresses of monastic houses in Scandinavia. There were some 11 guests, representing the Dominicans and Poor Clares in Norway, the Benedictines in Denmark and Sweden, the Brigittines of Sweden and the Carmelites in Iceland. Some of these monasteries have amazing histories, such as one house converting from the Swedish church to Roman Catholicism and becoming Benedictines. We were impressed with the Carmelites in Iceland—they were originally from Poland, and are now 12, between the ages of 28 and 50, after making two foundations in Tromsø (Norway) and Hanover (Germany). The meeting was a wonderful way to get to know the other monastic communities in Scandinavia and we want to stay connected.
When we planned the permanent monastery, we wanted to use a fjord warming system as the basis for heating the building. After three years and many problems with installation and maintenance, however, we had to give up on the fjord warming that never really worked, and change to geothermal. The original estimate was to drill 3 wells to a depth of 80 meters. The first hole they bored did not hit bedrock until 91 meters. They went down to 190 meters but to get enough heat out of the ground, they needed 4 additional wells, all to a depth of 250 meters. Thanks be to God, now the system is functioning properly, though we had a little excitement two nights before Christmas. About 9 pm, when we had been in bed for an hour, the fire alarms went off. Most of us came out of our rooms in our nightclothes and bare or next-to-bare feet (not very smart if we'd had to go out in the snow) to find the others gathered in the back hall. Someone had seen the central system indicating the source was in the boiler room. When the door was opened, there was a lot of smoke but no fire. It seemed to be the heat exchange unit for the geothermal. We opened the outside doors to clear the smoke, shut off the alarm and went back to bed. Fifteen minutes later it went off again. More smoke. So S.Lisbeth called the plumber on the island because the man who is responsible for the heat system was in South Africa (Murphy’s Law!). Lisbeth shut down the whole system so we were running on oil. We went back to bed again and had vigils late, at 5 a.m. instead of 4.20. We have since had one more smoke alarm, but the pipe is repaired now, and we are very grateful for God’s loving care for us and all the practice at fire drills which will stand us in good stead if we ever have a more dangerous situation wake us up in the middle of the night.
On New Year’s Eve we always listen to the King’s speech, in which he noted it has been 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. He said "Berlin Walls" may be found everywhere. Walls of irreconcilable hate and mistrust contribute to war and conflicts in many places in the world. Inequality and injustice are also building walls and creating divisions. He sent a special greeting to all the enthusiasts of our society, who act as the glue in the local community and spend their lives for others. You may not know that Queen Maud (our present king's grandmother) was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, ie British. So King Harald is a great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria.
Every three years, our Region (of the Isles) meets at one of the larger monasteries to begin preparing for the next General Chapter. The first week of March, M. Rosemary (prioress), S. Hanne-Maria (delegate) and S. Sheryl (secretary) will be heading off for Mount St Joseph Abbey in Roscrea, Ireland, which happens to be our chaplain Fr Anthony’s monastery and the home of Dom Richard Purcell, our new Father Immediate. Dom Richard was born in Dublin in 1976 and entered Mount St Joseph in 1997. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2005 after making solemn profession in 2002. Technically Richard had to be postulated (which requires a two-thirds majority vote) because he was only 33 (our constitutions state a minimum age of 35) and was three months short of the seven years in solemn vows required by canon law. Dom Richard is the 8th abbot of Mount St Joseph, and only the 2nd Father Immediate of
Tautra Mariakloster. Richard is, among many other things, an accomplished musician, and we look forward to a long and fruitful collaboration with our "neighbor abbot."
The new year 2010 holds a couple of jubilee celebrations for our community: M. Rosemary marks 50 years of profession on July 1, and S. Sheryl has her silver anniversary on Dec. 8. Between celebrations, we intend to follow the example of Bl. Cyprian Michael Tansi (a Nigerian who persevered at Mount St Bernard Abbey in England), an ordinary monk, "monking about."
In January, together with most of northern Europe, we had a cold spell when it was minus 10 (Celsius) outside, and about 12 in church. But it was minus 21 in Trondheim! We have had more snow than usual, which lightens the landscape, but the drifts have sometimes made it a challenge to get out the door. On these very cold days, however, we are often treated to the lovely sight of "frostrøyk" (frost-smoke) which forms when there is at least a 20 degree difference between the relatively warm water of the fjord and the really cold air above it (see photo). This phenomenon can be a parable of life in a community, family or society: the "clash" of great differences can lead to mutual transformation and the creation of something new and breathtakingly beautiful.
With love and prayer from your sisters on Tautra
Cistercian monks have always been known for their ability to build: Fr Anthony may have had Eskimo ancestors! (There was a rumor the igloo was really for his cat Jenny.)
Sticking one’s head out the door behind our little chapel affords an interesting view towards our boathouses and the Tautra ruins across the bay, reflected in the large windows behind our altar.