The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all he has and buys that field. — Matthew 13:44
These are the opening words in a new book about Mount Saviour Monastery in Pine City, just outside of Elmira. According to Benedictine Father Martin Boler, this Scripture passage sums up the origins of a spiritual haven that has endured for 55 years, attracting worshipers from far and wide.
“Probably nothing better describes the situation of Fathers Damasus, Gregory, Placid and Bernard when they founded Mount Saviour in the fields of the Hofbauer farm — joy. They experienced true joy which prompted all that followed,” wrote Father Boler, the monastery’s longtime prior (see story below.)
Mount Saviour’s vast influence is celebrated in The Contribution of Monastic Life to the Church and the World. Begun as a tribute to the monastery’s 50th anniversary in 2001, the book was released in the spring of 2006 and is published by Sacred Heart University Press. It contains 13 essays from a wide range of notable religious figures who have visited the monastery.
Despite its impressive list of contributors, Father Boler emphasized that readers don’t have to be deeply schooled in theology and spirituality to appreciate the 196-page hardcover book.
“This is not so erudite that they wouldn’t get a lot out of it,” he said, adding that the pages contain excellent food for spiritual reflection. “It’s the kind of book that the ordinary person can read with a great deal of profit, and that can be read and re-read. Each time you do, you get something more out of it.”
Essayists in The Contribution of Monastic Life to the Church and the World frequently contrast Mount Saviour and Benedictine spirituality with today’s secular world. Consider the following excerpts:
“In a society increasingly obsessed with consumerism and materialism, the Gospel lived here according to the Rule of St. Benedict teaches that to be human is of infinite worth and value, not because of what one possesses but because each person is an image of God,” wrote Anthony J. Cernera, president of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., and co-editor of the book.
“Monks are no better and no worse than anyone else. Their way of life is an alternative way of saying Christ to the world, just as marriage is a way of saying Christ to the world,” stated Benedictine Father Timothy Kelly, abbot of St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota.
“What the monastic life does is to highlight what the rest of us are looking for and hoping for,” wrote Sister Marie Julianne Farrington, former general of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur.
“I realize more and more how much I can appreciate what is going on in my life by virtue of the stability of a place (Mount Saviour) I know and can return to,” wrote Frank T. Griswold, bishop of the Episcopal Church USA.
“Our world needs places where mercy and compassion and loving-kindness for the world’s suffering are able to be linked directly to the prayer of Christ and the mystery of the divine design. The people of central New York are already blessed that Mount Saviour Monastery ventured onto this path,” wrote Sister Mary Collins, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters at Mount Saint Scholastica in Atchison, Kan.
Father Boler added to these points by telling the Courier that “it is important to realize that prayer is not only words, but time spent allowing God to be present in our lives. It may be difficult to convince ourselves today that there are some good things that are utterly inaccessible without taking of time. Our hectic lifestyle and a tremendous influx of information discourage us from the realization that significant events need time to be understood.”
Father Boler also said that by taking the time “to ponder more fully what is going beneath more superficial happenings, we can encounter God everywhere.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Contribution of Monastic Life to the Church and the World may be purchased at Mount Saviour Monastery’s gift shop for $19.95. Mount Saviour is located at 231 Monastery Road in Pine City, Chemung County. The book also may be ordered for $24.95 by calling 203/396-8097 or visiting www.sacredheart.edu/pages/1349_catholic_intellectual_tradition.cfm. For more information about Mount Saviour Monastery, visit www.msaviour.org.