Saturday, March 24, 2018

Sept-Fons.



As a followup to my recent post on Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery that is struggling to attract vocations, I wanted to share a more hopeful story on a monastery that belongs to the same order. The Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sept-Fons in Auvergne was founded in 1132 by Cistercian monks from the Abbey of Fontenay in Bourgone, which had been founded by St. Bernard of Clairvaux fourteen years earlier. Dissolved after the French Revolution, the Abbey of Sept-Fons was reestablished in 1845 by Cistercians of the Strict Observance and has remained in the hands of the Trappists ever since.

While other Trappist monasteries face the challenges of aging and shrinking membership, Sept-Fons has remained remarkably successful in attracting new vocations: the community at Sept-Fons numbers over ninety monks, including over thirty in formation. (In terms of numbers, Sept-Fons is currently the largest Trappist monastery in the world.) One sign of Sept-Fons's robust good health in recent decades has been the community's foundation in 2002 of a daughter house in the Czech Republic, the Abbey of Nový Dvůr, which now has over twenty monks.

The above video offers a sense of monastic life at Sept-Fons. (For those who don't understand French, English subtitles are available if one clicks on the 'CC' icon.) In writing about Sept-Fons, I don't mean to imply that the success of this monastery can be easily duplicated or that there is a single formula that can be universally applied everywhere with the same results. Nevertheless, I would suggest that the success of Notre-Dame de Sept-Fons stands as a sign of hope for the Cistercians of the Strict Observance and for the wider Church. May their witness serve to stir the faith of many others beyond the walls of the monastery. AMDG.

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