Pro Orantibus Day 2013: Pray for those who pray

A Benedictine monk in silent contemplation in the clausura of San Beda Abbey

A Benedictine monk in silent contemplation in the clausura of San Beda Abbey

Our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI proclaimed today’s feast (Our Lady’s Presentation) as “Pro Orantibus Day”. “Pro orantibus” is Latin for “for those who pray”. His Holiness instituted this day of remembrance for all the cloistered nuns and monks in Christendom, a day wholly dedicated for praying for those who pray.

A cloistered nun from the pre-Vatican II tradition of putting-on face veils

A cloistered nun from the pre-Vatican II tradition of putting-on face veils

The monastic life has always interested me. Early on, Hollywood films portraying monks in hoods singing Gregorian chant while walking around a cloister or of nuns singing behind grills (Sound of Music, hello!) had always piqued my interest. Fast forward to 2013, I have encountered these cloistered nuns and monks first hand either by attending Mass and Liturgies at their monasteries or by conversing with them at their locutorios or parlors.

Indeed, the former Pontiff was wise and charitable for instituting this day as the monastic life is under grave threat.

Western civilization was preserved, and actually blossomed, thanks to the works of these monks and nuns. Latin, the beautiful, ancient and sacred language of the Church, survived the barbarian invasions of Europe because manuscripts, grammar books and ancient texts were preserved by these men and women. Ancient crafts were perfected by these monks and nuns too such as the production of illuminated texts, liquor (wine, beer, etc), pastries, embroidery, candle making, etc.

A Pink Sister showing me articles that chronicle the opening of their convent in New Manila

A Pink Sister showing me articles that chronicle the opening of their convent in New Manila

Unfortunately, due to Europe becoming more and more atheistic and highly-secularized, attraction the religious life has been on a terrible low. Many great and important monasteries that used to be, for centuries, humanitarian,cultural, religious and academic hubs are now being closed down, sold and transformed into hotels, hospitals, orphanages and even clubs, restaurants and God knows what!

Feast of St. Therese in the Carmel of St. Therese in Gilmore, New Manila

Feast of St. Therese in the Carmel of St. Therese in Gilmore, New Manila

However, after my dialogues with these nuns and monks here in Manila, I realized the great wealth they offer to humanity. Their spiritual depth, their deep faith in the Lord, their broad knowledge in the humanities and most importantly, their genuine relationship to their own humanity are wellsprings of hope, wisdom and yes, charity.

The Clarisas or Poor Clares, the oldest contemplative group in the Philippines, in choir during the feast of Sta. Clara which draws thousands of devotees to the Monasterio de Sta. Clara

The Clarisas or Poor Clares, the oldest contemplative group in the Philippines, in choir during the feast of Sta. Clara which draws thousands of devotees to the Monasterio de Sta. Clara

Poor Clares singing in their seraphic voices

Poor Clares singing in their seraphic voices

The Mother Superior imparts her blessing. The nuns bow. The Mother Superior of Sta. Clara was the only female during the Spanish period who also had a crozier and a pectoral cross similar to that of a bishop

The Mother Superior imparts her blessing. The nuns bow. The Mother Superior of Sta. Clara was the only female during the Spanish period who also had a crozier and a pectoral cross similar to that of a bishop

The nuns approach the Mother Superior to kiss her hand after she imparts her blessing

The nuns approach the Mother Superior to kiss her hand after she imparts her blessing

I will never forget my conversation with the Vocation Directress of the Pink Sisters in New Manila. She told me that even if they live within the clausura, even if they are seen behind the grills, they are actually freer! And true! They may not have access to Facebook or Twitter. They may be physically separated from the world. But their deep connection and solidarity with humanity through prayer is immense.

Eucharistic adoration at the Pink Sisters' convent

Eucharistic adoration at the Pink Sisters’ convent

People come to them to share their pains, their sorrows, their troubles and anxieties. People write to them to express their doubts and fears. Random men and women call them and ask for sound advice and even their blessing. Through these engagements, they are more and more immersed into the problems of their fellow human beings. Stories of families being torn apart, of unfaithful husbands, of mothers working abroad, of children being addicted to drugs or of families starving are just some of the many stories they hear from people who flock to their convents. But there are also those stories of hope – of children leaving their jobs to take care of their ailing parents, of teachers who continue teaching even if they haven’t received 6 months of their salary, or of people finding work.

The nuns filing to enter the clausura or the enclosure

The nuns filing to enter the clausura or the enclosure

They enjoy greater freedom in the confines of the walls of their monasteries and abbeys. They are not enslaved by the trends of the world and the materialistic mindset of the rest of humanity. They are not driven mad by new models of phones, of new cars and fashions.

The Benedictine monks gathering for Vespers at the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat, built by George Asp, a Swedish architect

The Benedictine monks gathering for Vespers at the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat, built by George Asp, a Swedish architect

The Abbot of San Beda Abbey presiding over Vespers

The Abbot of San Beda Abbey presiding over Vespers

But alas, they need all our prayers and even our material help. Some are struggling to maintain their communities because some convents can’t generate enough profit through the sales of their products. Some communities live entirely on donations.

Dom Maurius, OSB leading me around the cloister of San Beda Abbey, which really pervaded with the air of silence, prayer and also, muted elegance

Dom Maurius, OSB leading me around the cloister of San Beda Abbey, which really pervaded with the air of silence, prayer and also, muted elegance

The choir stalls in the Chapter Room of San Beda Abbey

The choir stalls in the Chapter Room of San Beda Abbey

The Chapter Room's sanctuary

The Chapter Room’s sanctuary

The entrance into the cloister of San Beda

The entrance into the cloister of San Beda

I am very, very fortunate that I live in close proximity to these communities.

The courtyard by San Beda Abbey

The courtyard by San Beda Abbey

The liturgies and the over-all aura in these chapels and convents are amazing. Solemn and bereft of stupid, clown innovations of other priests, Masses and liturgies optimize the great wealth of Catholic tradition. Hymns in some of these communities continue to be in Latin while silence pervades greatly. None of the senseless improvisations and dancing nor the use of the guitar and drums. Here, in these sanctuaries, the Mother of all Church Instruments, the Pipe Organ, continues to dominate.

In nomine Jesu omne genu flectatur, coelestium, terrestrium, et infernorum: et omnis lingua confiteatur, quia Dominus Jesus Christus in gloria est Dei Patris

In nomine Jesu omne genu flectatur, coelestium, terrestrium, et infernorum: et omnis lingua confiteatur, quia Dominus Jesus Christus in gloria est Dei Patris

I hope and pray that more and more young men and women consider the monastic life. It is a source of great meaning and purpose, and perhaps, joy.

About hechoayer

Things made yesterday still influence us until today. Things made today will influence us tomorrow. Things of the essence such as faith, culture, food, music and values should never disappear nor eroded by the times. Instead, these must be recorded, lived and shared. Something made yesterday - hecho ayer - can be tomorrow's saving grace. Never ignore the past.
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