Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cistercian vocations in the news.

Yesterday I chanced upon an article from the Dallas Morning News examining life at the Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, a Cistercian monastery in Irving, Texas. Founded in the 1950s by a group of Hungarian Cistercians fleeing Communist persecution in their homeland, Our Lady of Dallas has enjoyed an impressive influx of vocations in recent years: of the twenty-eight monks in the community, twelve are men in their twenties and thirties who entered in the past seven years.

The Dallas Morning News piece focuses on one of these young monks, Brother Lawrence Brophy, an alumnus of the Abbey-affiliated Cistercian Preparatory School who entered the monastery after earning two degrees in mathematics at Texas A & M University. Now teaching at his alma mater, Brother Lawrence shares some of his vocation story:

"I guess it was providential," Brother Lawrence says. "That's the most reasonable explanation."

He is recalling the bicycle tour he and four friends took from Austria to Hungary the summer after he graduated from high school.

He ended up at the ancient abbey of Zirc, near Budapest. White-cloaked monks ushered him into the church, where - "it was beyond coincidence" - his [high school] math teacher was presiding over the burial Mass of a Cistercian vicar.

At the time, Ed Brophy knew only vaguely the twined histories of Zirc and Our Lady of Dallas: How half a century ago, amid communist repression, the vicar had sent a handful of his monks to safety in Texas.

Much less could Brophy glean that, five years later, he would lie prostrate before his math teacher, the Abbot of Our Lady of Dallas, and in solemn ceremony take the name of the dead vicar - Lawrence.

. . .

Brother Lawrence was neither the first nor the last to take the novice habit. In the monastery's first 45 years of existence, it added only seven new monks. But since 2003, a dozen young men have entered and stayed.

Brother Lawrence recalls his investment [sic: investiture] ceremony: "The abbot calls us forward. You prostrate yourself before him, lying on your stomach. He asks, 'What do you ask?' We respond, 'The mercy of God and that of the Order.'"

"That was pretty intense."

Brother Lawrence walked out of the ceremony with a new name, wondering how to tie his cincture.

"Now it's for real," he says. "Now the clock starts ticking."

To read the rest, click here. For my part, I was fairly impressed with the article; reporter Avi Selk gets some Catholic terms and concepts wrong, but he shows empathy and respect for the dynamics of discernment and the rhythms of life in religious community. He also shows us that members of religious orders are normal people, a point that some articles on vocations fail to get across. Kudos to the Dallas Morning News for offering a positive look at Catholic religious life - if this gets more people thinking about vocations, some good will have been accomplished. AMDG.


At 3/25/2010 9:35 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

My parish growing up was run by Cistercians...I found out later that was apparently uncommon?

At 3/25/2010 10:06 AM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...


Yes, it's extremely uncommon... I can count the number of Cistercian parishes I've heard of on the fingers of one hand. I'm glad you had the exprience - as you say, it's a very rare one.


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