July 22, 2021
Feast of St. Mary Magdalene
Dear friends of Saint Leo Abbey,
As you may have heard, the Holy Father has issued a new mandate, Guardians of the Tradition, regarding the pre-conciliar liturgy. I want to share my response to this essential mandate and reminders about the liturgical customs of our Benedictine community. As Benedictine Monks, we are tasked as guardians of the sacred liturgy in service to the Pope, as we consider him the “Abbot of the Abbots.” Thus, our obedience to him and his mandates is without question. the Church is not a democracy; keep that in mind always. Like all Catholics, we are charged to follow the Church’s teachings; especially her instructions from the beautiful documents produced by the Second Vatican Council, while trying to accommodate all.
I am sure you have observed our use of ancient treasures in our Abbey liturgies: solemn processions with incense, ancient Marian prayers, Scriptural Antiphons, Psalms, and Canticles all proclaimed through Gregorian chant encompassing the English, Greek, and Latin languages. Gregorian chant is the Benedictine order’s tradition and gift to the universal Church. Guardians of the Tradition has placed no restrictions on the Church’s treasures of Gregorian chant, nor the traditions mentioned above; hence, our continued use of them during our celebrations of the Divine Office and Eucharist. As Benedictines, we are responsible for providing the Church with a sacred, reverent, and unifying liturgy; we will continue doing so until our dying day!
Our guests must be aware that Saint Leo Abbey is not a parish. We are an autonomous monastery that serves the spiritual needs of our monks while generously welcoming all that wish to pray with us. In other settings, you may have noticed that the assembly may pray quickly, without cohesion. At Saint Leo, we pray slowly as one body as we call God our Father, to hear us, aid us, and forgive us. We expect all to pray with us in the same manner as we promote what the liturgy demands: unity. As you pray with us, we respectfully ask you to follow our monastic traditions, including following the responses and bodily gestures of the monastic community, upholding the precept: a common bodily posture, observed by all, is a sign of the unity of the members of the Christian community gathered together for the Sacred Liturgy (GIRM 42). In these simple yet significant details, we can make an immense difference in providing our community with a reverent liturgy. I ask all to consider our traditions the same way as when you visit a friend’s home, you follow their customs and do not impose your practices. Saint Leo Abbey is our home, and we welcome you among us to be one with us; following our ritual, not one’s own.
We are proud to be Benedictine monks! As theologians talk about theology, we Benedictine monks live theology, as we live in God’s presence, imploring Him with the needs and intentions of the Holy Father, the Church, and those who entrust us with their petitions. We hope to express our Benedictine identity by having reverent, unifying liturgical celebrations. God willing, you will feel God’s presence among us as you unite yourself in worship with us.
Lastly, I implore all to read the Motu Proprio, Guardians of the Tradition (Traditions Custodes), rather than merely listen to what is said about it on television, social media, or even from distressed preachers. Read what the Holy Father teaches and try to understand that the Holy See is not trying to alienate anyone but striving to ensure the unity which our liturgy demands, and the communion which Catholics are obliged to maintain as we move as one on our pilgrimage to the Lord (Can. 209). I desire that our community will soon offer our guests a deeper catechesis on sacred liturgy where all may learn why the liturgy is the heart of our faith, to lead all to that fully conscious and active participation that is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy (SC 14).
Yours in Christ & Saint Benedict,
Abbot Isaac Camacho, OSB