Fr Olivier Raquez osb, Postulator
To the Brothers and Sisters who follow the Rule of St Benedict
The beatification of Abbot Columba Marmion (1858-1923) is yet another confirmation by the Church of the validity and richness of the benedictine path to holiness. Over many centuries the monastic life drawing vital sap from the Regula Benedicti has acquired a great variety of forms. Like a vigorous plant, its seeds have adapted to different "climates" and to a multitude of different circumstances without, however, ceasing to produce the flowers and fruits of sanctity (cf. Dante. A., par., 22, 48), under the constant action of the Holy Spirit.
Among the latest sons of St Benedict to have been raised to the honours of the altar by the Church we number before the throne of God the blessed Placidus Riccardi, priest and monk, chaplain to a community of nuns, and solitary rector of the historic abbey of Farfa; the Blessed Fortunata Viti, a humble lay sister; two Archbishops and Cardinals, Ildefonso Schuster and Giuseppe Benedetto Dusmet, who were moved from their responsibilities as abbots to the pastoral care of two large dioceses in particularly difficult times both for society and for the Church; and finally we recall the blessed Columba Gabriel whom Providence called to found a new family of benedictine nuns.
The Cistercian family has given the Church three beati. These serve to present a more variegated picture of monastic sanctity; the Blessed Gabriela Sagheddu devoted herself to the cause of reconciliation between the Churches; the Blessed Cyprian Iwene Tansi and the Blessed Rafael Arnaiz, an oblate brother.
The candelabrum now acquires another light in the form of an abbot totally immersed in the life of God and the search for Him, together with his brothers, in a benedictine community which was born of one of the most important monastic reforms of the nineteenth century. It is noteworthy that the official title describing his ecclesiastical office is that of abbot!
The new beatus presents a complete picture of the monk. His benedictine vocation matured during the early years of his priestly ministry and led him, at the age of thirty, to leave his Irish homeland and join the community at Maredsous in Belgium where he immersed himself in a demanding life of obedience, monastic discipline, community life and prayer. From the time of his solemn profession, the tasks entrusted to Marmion enabled him to develop those spiritual talents which would constitute his proper charism: the development of a spiritual doctrine solidly built on the Bible and the Liturgy which he propagated in his retreats, spiritual conferences and, above all, in his spiritual direction of a vast number of souls.
We are undeniably in the presence of an authentic charism of the Spirit. His teaching develops that attitude which is essential for the Christian soul once it comes into contact with God: the attitude of the Son towards the Father. It is the same as that of the Only Begotten who, according to St Paul and St John comes into us, prays in us and brings us to the Father.
The example and teaching of Columba Marmion constitute an important contribution to the history of modern Christian spirituality as well as to monastic spirituality, which he roots in the liturgical experience of the mystery of salvation.
This charism of spiritual teaching flowered and reached its brightest and most convincing embodiment in Columba Marmion's abbatial service which he was called to exercise in the community at Maredsous. But it also shines as rays of light in a much wider arena. Dom Marmion's influence as a spiritual father found an extraordinary vehicle when his conferences were published in book form. Translations and editions of these conferences multiplied in a very short time.
What characterises the spiritual teaching of the Blessed Columba Marmion, and what explains the incredible popularity of his writings among all walks of ecclesial life is the fact that he emphasised the biblical, liturgical and theological roots of experience in such a way that any Christian reading his works can find himself immediately at ease. According to Marmion, the monastic life is nothing other than the Christian life brought to its perfection. The liturgical piety of monks is that of the Church and nothing more.
It is this universal opening of the treasures of the monastic life which guarantees that the Blessed Columba Marmion's teaching will be received by future generations.
The solemn beatification of Dom Marmion is an invitation to all Christians, especially to the monks and nuns who are the sons and daughters of the Patriarch of Norcia, to see in this great Abbot a beacon of light radiating evangelical wisdom and illuminating the sure path that leads to life, and to God.
Bibliographical note on the latest editions of the works of Dom Marmion:
Columba Marmion, Oeuvres Spirituelles (containing Marmion's three principle works: Christ the Life of the Soul, Christ the Ideal of the Monk, and Christ in His Mysteries, together with a translation of his English correspondence), Paris, Éd. Lethielleux 1998.
M. Tierney. Columba Marmion, a biography, Dublin, Columba Press, 1995.
M. Tierney, French translation of this work to appear shortly.
F. Poswick et C. Soliamont, Dom Columba Marmion (1858-1923), Un guide spirituel pour notre temps, Namur, Éd. Fidélité 2000.
Fr Olivier Raquez was born in 1923 and professed in the Abbey of St-André, in Bruges, Belgium in 1944. He is Procurator General of the Congregation of the Annunciation: Passeggiata del Gianicolo 5, 0165 Roma.