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

A translation into English of this article, plus some personal comments at the end by squirrel.

Coronavirus in Solesmes’ Abbey – Relics against the epidemic at the Abbey

On the question of the impact of confinement, Father Geoffroy Kemlin, prior of the Saint-Pierre Benedictine Abbey, does not need to hesitate long:  “Our way of life hasn’t changed at all.”

Behind the high walls erected to cut them off from the world, dozens of monks have not really had to make profound changes in
their daily lives since the implementation of measures to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus. It’s pointless to speak to them about attestation of displacement even if according to the Prior “we must obey the civil and ecclesiastical authorities by not leaving. While the objective of government measures is to limit close contact between individuals, community life could be seen as risky.  On the contrary, the religious accept the situation with a philosophical attitude: “We started from the principle that if one of us gets sick, we will all go through it.”

Fatalism? Not really.

Father Geoffrey Kemlin says: “This situation allows us to lead our monastic lives very seriously. We live it as a time of retreat, silence and meditation. A grace. It falls right in the time of Lent. We are privileged.”

The community of monks learns about life beyond its walls. The small front door at Place Dom-Guéranger is open (except during services) to let people enter the abbey church. “Churches can stay open. People have the right to go out to walk near their homes. Our church can become an exit destination,” says Father Kemlin, before adding that it is always possible to ask for confession.

However, an extremely rare event occurred the day after confinement was decreed. To fight the coronavirus pandemic, the
Benedictine monks brought three relics out of their repository, in the treasury of relics of Solesmes Abbey. According to the prior, “they are the relics of three saints, particularly effective against epidemics in their time. They liberated cities from epidemics like the plague.”

  • Saint Gregory the Great, who was pope from 590 to 604
  • Saint Aloysius de Gonzaga, who cared for plague victims in 1591 in Rome and died of the plague at 23 years of age, and
  • Saint Charles Borromeo, who was archbishop of Milan, a city struck by the plague in 1576.

They will be invoked against the coronavirus.

How, you may ask? The relics of these three saints have been placed in the abbey church, “where the relics of saints are usually

“We can pray to them, it is up to everyone’s will, but even without the relics, everyone can also invoke these saints.”

On the other hand, people are not allowed to meditate in front of these relics, these being exposed in the part of the sanctuary reserved for monks. Moreover, the community plans to use processions in the abbey gardens, if necessary, to petition for an end to the epidemic, while respecting safety distances and barrier gestures, in the order in which they were created.

Last personal comment, question and development/extension

In face of this unprecedented health crisis in a wavering, “modern” world, everyone is trying to find a way to reassure themselves. Hope can be found from many sources, including the words of scientists, historians, religious figures, …even keeping in mind the earlier positive, anesthetic words of Richard Armitage. The truth is elsewhere, everyone has to find their own way. To seek truth is to face its own limits and uncertainties, each one will be destabilizing. Insecurity is the price to be paid not to be blinded by the speeches of preachers, politicians, and all those to whom we give too easily the floor, those who always have easy, reassuring but surely fallacious answers.

The world in which we will live in future will no longer be as before. It will be necessary to build new relationships between humans, despite distrust of others, and reconnect with less sanitary contacts whom we trust. I hope everyone can get on with it.

Here is the abbey site:

~ by Servetus on June 6, 2020.

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

  1. Bonnes journées à vous tous et toutes.!
    Merci Servetus de m’avoir laissé m’exprimer sur un sujet inhabituel et en dehors des courants intellectuels à la mode actuellement.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. L’Abbaye de Solesmes : my father loved that place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • La vallée de la Sarthe offre un beau paysage. L’abbaye est un bâtiment imposant, fascinant, sorti du fond des âges. Une ambiance de mystère entoure ce lieu, car la vie recluse en exclut le commun des mortels. Mais c’est un véritable lieu de vie. Ils sont les gardiens, les témoins de leur tradition, tout en vivant à notre époque. Loin de moi, de faire ici leur apologie mais de parler comment certains affrontent la pandémie et l’isolement.


  3. The cover of American Magazine last week is “we’re all monks now.”


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