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Catholic monks part of a secret mission to Islamic treasures

Posted by: Katie Loftus   🕔 Sunday 24, April 2016 Categories: Ecumenism,Church History,Scripture,Consecrated Life

The Benedictine Monks of St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, MN, led by Fr. Columba Steward, O.S.B. and the staff at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Libray, are helping to preserve precious Islamic literary works that were threatened with destruction by militants in Mali, reports The Economist.

The secret evacuations began at night. Ancient books were packed in small metal shoe-lockers and loaded three or four to a car to reduce the danger to the driver and minimise possible losses. The manuscript-traffickers passed through the checkpoints of their Islamist occupiers on the journey south across the desert from Timbuktu to Bamako. Later, when that road was blocked, they transported their cargo down the Niger river by canoe. 

The man behind the project was Abdel Kader Haidara. In 2013 he put out a request for help to digitize the more than 370,000 manuscripts, including Korans, Hadiths, and studies on grammar and rhetoric, that were brought to safe houses. He received an answer from a monastery on the other side of the world.

Father Columba sees digitizing these sacred texts as part of the Benedictine tradition of literary preservation dating from the sixth century when St. Benedict of Nursia set down his Rule. “We had scriptoria for very practical reasons,” referring to the “writing places” of medieval European monasteries. “You can’t do theology without philosophy,” he says, standing in his own 21st-century equivalent. “You can’t try to be a self-sustaining monastery if you can’t take science seriously.” So, as a policy, any relevant text was copied. Over one and a half millennia, knowledge has been a matter of survival for the Benedictines, allowing one collective to pick up where another left off, in low times and in high. Today, thanks to machines, the library is copying more efficiently.

“Benedictines are fundamentally optimistic about the human project, says Fr. Columba. "That’s why we’re not frightened by science or novelty. When people look at what we’re doing with Muslim communities, they say, why do you do this? I say, this is the time God has given us. We can’t pretend we live in the sixth century when Benedict wrote his rule, or the 13th, or the 1950s. We live now. And part of the reality is cultures which are threatened trying to figure out how to work together on this fragile planet.” 

And so, "guided by a Christian teacher from the sixth century, monks of the 21st century archive texts about an Arabian prophet from the seventh." 

Benedictine monastery commissions handwritten, illuminated Bible

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Tuesday 16, February 2016 Categories: Church History,Scripture

Saint John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota commissioned the Saint John's Bible, the first completely handwritten and illuminated Bible since the invention of the printing press more than 500 years ago. Twelve were produced.

One copy of this rare Bible was gifted and presented to the Library of Congress in honor of Pope Francis' address to the joint meeting of Congress in September 2015.

Since 1998 theologians at Saint John's Abbey and University and a team of artists and calligraphers have been working on the Bibles entirely by hand, writing with quills and illuminating it with precious metals and paints ground manually from minerals.

The Bible is on display at Saint John's Abbey and will go on tour as an exhibit around the world, including as part of a 2016 summer seminar: The Resurrection in the Gospel of John Illuminated through the Saint John's Bible at Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana. 

Franciscans restoring Memorial of Moses on Mount Nebo in Jordan

Posted by: Jennifer Tomshack   🕔 Wednesday 11, November 2015 Categories: Church History,Scripture

“God keeps his promises,” Franciscan Father Fergus Clarke assured a group of Catholic reporters gathered for Mass in October at the friar’s small chapel atop Mount Nebo in Jordan—the very place a testament to his statement.

It was on Mount Nebo that Moses finally gazed upon the Promised Land. He died and was buried in the vicinity, according to Deuteronomy, but the exact place of his tomb is unknown.

Centuries later, according to 2 Maccabees, just before the Babylonian invasion of Israel, Jeremiah hid the Ark of the Covenant (the chest containing the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written) at Mount Nebo in a cave and sealed the entrance. The location of the lost Ark is, of course, a matter of great conjecture.

As part of the Franciscans' traditional ministry of caring for Christian sites in the Holy Land, the Franciscans maintain the Memorial of Moses on Mount Nebo. “By our very presence here, we proclaim that Jesus lives,” Father Clarke said.

The Ireland-born priest, formerly the guardian of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection), and two other friars reside on Mount Nebo and are overseeing the renovation of the remains of a Byzantine church at the summit.

The building has been closed to the public since 2007, although reporters were given a preview, as workers restore its stunning, sprawling mosaic floor, including one piece, in what was a shrine to the Blessed Virgin, that is an image of the Tabernacle in the Temple in Jerusalem.

The 4th-century church was discovered in 1933; it had been abandoned for more than 1,000 years. Several tombs have been found beneath the church, including one in the center of the cruciform.

Father Clarke said he hopes the building will reopen by early next year.

Abbot captures power of psalms in revised translation

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Monday 20, July 2015 Categories: Scripture,Clergy
    “The Psalms have that very close proximity to the human experiences of longing,
need, thanksgiving, and praise of God,” Abbot Gregory Polan said.

When the U.S. Catholic bishops wanted a new translation of the psalms that captured their musicality while hewing closely to the original Hebrew, they turned to Abbot Gregory Polan, a musical prodigy and scripture scholar who teaches Hebrew.

Polan is also the leader of Conception Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Missouri that dates to 1873. He teaches at Conception Seminary College.

In America magazine, Polan calls the psalms “the heartbeat of the Bible.”

“Jesus himself prayed the Psalms,” Polan said. “They were the prayers, if I can say, that he learned on his mother’s knee.”

His revised translation of the psalms was approved by the bishops’ conference in 2010.

Armenian Monk newest Doctor of the Church

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 26, February 2015 Categories: Mary and the Saints,Scripture
Armeninan monk, Saint Gregory of Narek, is the newest Doctor of the Church.

Pope Francis confirmed this week the proposal put forward by the Plenary Session of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints to "confer the title of Doctor of the University Church" for Saint Gregory Narek, Vatican news reports.

Saint Gregory, a 10th-century Armenian poet and monk, is revered as "one of the greatest figures of medieval Armenian religious thought and literature."

His Book of Lamentations is considered to be Saint Gregory's masterpiece, the central theme being a man's separation from God and his quest to reunite with Him. His first writings, commissioned by an Armenian prince, were a commentary on the Song of Songs. At the age of 25, Gregory became a priest and lived most of his life at the monastery of Narek, taught at the monastic school, and dedicated himself to God. October is the month Saint Gregory of Narek is remembered by the Armenian church.

Discover more on monastic life and explore discerning religious life at a monastery: "How to know where God is leading you".

Exiled Dominican priest preserves ancient manuscripts

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Thursday 05, February 2015 Categories: Church History,Scripture
One of the many Christian Syriac manuscripts being preserved by Father Najeeb Michaeel, O.P.

The lifework of Iraqi Dominican Father Najeeb Michaeel is preserving Christian manuscripts in Northern Iraq. After studying in the United States, he founded the Center for Digitization of Oriental Manuscripts in 1990 to make manuscripts more accessible for study, according to Catholic News Agency.

There has been a Christian presence in Iraq for nearly 2,000 years in the cities of Mosul and Bakhdida. Mosul's Dominican (Order of Preachers) friary was established in the 1750s, and it had a library of thousands of ancient manuscripts and more than 50,000 modern volumes. When these cities fell under the control of the Islamic State, Michaeel and other Christians fled.

But first he collected about 1,300 manuscripts from the 14th to the 19th centuries, put them in two large trucks, and transferred them to a secret location in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where they are safe. They include not only Christian works, but manuscripts on the Quran, music, and grammar.

"We passed three checkpoints without any problem, and I think the Virgin Mary [had] a hand to protect us," he said in an interview with National Public Radio.

Heroes and the human faces of immigration

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Wednesday 09, July 2014 Categories: Mission & Evangelization,Scripture,Clergy
A sign of peace is offered at at all Souls Mass at the US-Mexico border.

Sisters of Charity of Cincinatti novice Tracy Kemme writes a touching account of how she "encountered the human face of immigration" in "No Fences," a blog featured on the Global Sisters Report. "Every year on All Souls Day," she writes, "people gather at the border fence to celebrate a binational Mass in memory of all those who have died crossing the border. In 2010, I attended the Mass on the Mexico side with some of the families from Proyecto Santo Niño...How unsettling that the fence prevented us from embracing or shaking hands! We were reduced to touching our fingertips together through the chain links of the fence."

But, says Mercy Sister Mary Ann Walsh, R.S.M., director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Conference, in the crisis at the border "heroes are emerging." In her blog post "Birmingham, Vietnam and Murrieta," Walsh highlights those who rate heroe status in her book: "First might be [Missionaries of Jesus] Sister Norma Pimentel, M.J., executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley... Another is Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville. He gets the problem. On his social media blog, he notes: 'What we are seeing unfold in front of our eyes is a humanitarian and refuge reality, not an immigration problem.' He adds that 'the Church must respond in the best way we can to the human need' and says 'at the same time we ask our government to act responsibly to address the reality of migrant refugees. A hemispheric response is needed, not a simple border response. And we ask the government to protect the church’s freedom to serve people.'”

Click on these links to participating VISION communities to find more about the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati and the Sisters of Mercy.

The Lindisfarne Gospels: A gift from the Middle Ages

Posted by: Siobhan O'Neill Meluso   🕔 Monday 07, October 2013 Categories: Scripture,Church History
has far exceeded the 80,000 visitors
organizers expected.

Over the summer months the Lindisfarne Gospels returned home to Durham in north-east England as the centerpiece of an exhibition held in Durham University’s Palace Green Library. This 1,300-year old manuscript, a copy of the four gospels of the New Testament produced around 715 honor of Saint Cuthbert is, “commonly regarded as one of the greatest achievements of British medieval art.”

According to the BBC Religion and Ehtics article "Lindisfarne Gospels: Why is this book so special?"  Bishop Eadfrith is said to have copied and decorated the Gospels on his own.  The manuscript “contains the oldest surviving English version of the Gospels and escaped Viking raids and turmoil - required time, dedication, and the invention of new tools and materials." Read the full article above and view the exhibit link here.

Did any of our followers see this exhibit in Durham? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.

#middleagesgift #lindisfarnegospels #sacredtexts



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