From Pilgrimage to SARS-CoV2 [guest post by squirrel; 1 of 2]

About containment and relics veneration: From “Pilgrimage” movie to SARS-CoV2 / Covid-19

I came across two recent press articles of interest on the topic of the Coronavirus epidemic. One was here.

Coronavirus – Solesmes’ Abbey – The advice of a monk to live better in confinement

On both sides of the planet, for each of us, confinement can make us feel as if we’re living like monks or nuns. So, why not listen to a Benedictine monk named Father Patrice Mahieu, who is offering his reflections on life in isolation?

He has been living behind the high walls of Saint-Pierre Abbey in Solesmes for 42 years. Part of the regular (from Latin: regularis)
clergy, he is living according to the rule of Saint Benedict, as opposed to the secular (from Latin: sæcularis) clergy, which lives among the laity.

Since containment, like all French people, monks have followed national instructions and rules to the letter. In department of Sarthe, Saint-Pierre Abbey in Solesmes is a place kept away from the world by its functioning. The 50-60 monks are living through the containment period, hardly changing their habits. The hygiene measures and the content of the prayers constitute the only real changes in daily activities.

In the abbey church, the holy water fonts were emptied according to current sanitary measures, and communion protocol was altered, too. The church remains accessible, but only outside office hours.

Monks pray a lot for people outside, thinking of those whose professional activity is vital, sensitive to what they are going through. Thinking about patients and caregivers, they would like to assure us of the support of their prayers.

But the monks are even more cut off from the outside world than usual. Because on the other hand, within the abbey:

  • the abbey church is rather empty, nobody can attend the various daily offices, and
  • the hotel business (reception of laymen who wish to make a retreat from the outside world) is usually full. But the last two to leave were British people, now it’s empty
  • and the gatehouse (the store which is very popular with tourists), which were their only links with the outside, are closed.

For this monk, the consequence of the most painful containment undoubtedly remains the celebration of mass in front of empty

“But finally, celebrating Mass when there is no one, obliges us to be closer to those who are suffering, to those who cannot
be there.”

Father Patrice Mahieu looks at the current containment and says: “Walls are not obstacles.”

But to be cloistered according to the tradition of Solesmes is not to be locked up. The Benedictine community of Solesmes has been studying liturgical chants for centuries. Renowned worldwide for Gregorian chant practices, the great voice of the choir and its Gregorian liturgy were recorded by Herbert von Karayan. Nowadays, during masses the use of the Latin language and Gregorian chant endures (in filial obedience to the Pope and his teaching). From bread making to gardening and to various craft practices like
carpentry, electricity, shoe repair, book publishing, the study of theology and philosophy and the writing of sermons: the brothers are not locked up.

To live better in this current confinement, Father Mahieu summed up his advice in three words: “Find a balance”: in a SPIRITUAL,

“To begin with, I would say that it is not necessary to limit oneself to the MATERIAL, it is important to make room for God in one’s life, that immediately opens up other horizons. Because God is beyond the premises of my little apartment … In our solitude, we can speak to God,” underlines Father Mahieu.

But what about those who are not believers?

“In fact, we always believe in something, if it is not in God, it is in love, in life … Whether we are believers or not, we are all on the path.” And the Benedictine added: “Walls are not obstacles, we always believe in something.”

“Those who do not believe can take advantage of this moment to become aware of what lives in them, of what their life is built on, of what gives meaning to their life. This can give them strength to wait.”

Overcome superficial things (PSYCHOLOGICAL REALM):

“In this period of confinement, we are all deprived of social ties. How to overcome this isolation? We can still write, phone” (or email, but not monks). ”

“Being limited in our social life allows us to find a deeper bond” (HUMAN REALM)

More generally, Father Mahieu sees in this confinement a means of “going beyond material values. Many things are superficial. Now, with this confinement, we will find those which are essential: love, devotion for others, generosity…”

Seeing such dedication on the part of caregivers, but also outbursts of generosity here and there proves, according to the Benedictine monk, that “there is much good in the person. It was buried under superficiality and it’s coming up right now.”

Could this health crisis lead us to question the primacy of money and the economy over people?

“This will challenge our whole way of life, starting with the globalization of money. But are we ready?” wonders Father Mahieu, drawing on the Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si’  in which Francis shows, from an ecological point of view, the limits of globalization.

“Jogging three times a week”!

To promote this human balance, Father Mahieu does not forget the PHYSICAL aspect and recommends regular physical activity. He runs three times a week in the abbey park.

“Despite the confinement, it is still possible to go out to run at least an hour a day, a kilometer around your home, you have to do it if you can.”

“Afterwards, you are in good shape and it also helps to avoid family tensions when you are confined to a small house.”

I could add: getting fit will help you fight off the infection.

~ by Servetus on June 2, 2020.

6 Responses to “From Pilgrimage to SARS-CoV2 [guest post by squirrel; 1 of 2]”

  1. Thank you for your post Squirrel, it acted like a balm. I’m looking forward to Part 2.


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