Meeting of Formators at Notre-Dame, Matutum

Sr Martina Surjoseputro, OCSO, Abbey of Gedono, Indonesia

The region of Pacific East Asia, OCSO, held a formation session at Matutum on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines from 9th- 15th September, 2009. It was designed for the formators of 17 communities of Asia (Japan, Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Lantao, Taiwan, China, India, Australia, New Zealand). Mother Giovanna and the community of Matutum put on a wonderful welcome. The liturgy and the meals were magnificent. Dom Filomeno, Abbot of Guimaras (Philippines) had sent one of their monks to Matutum to help the sisters manage the extra work-load. Each of the participants was very grateful for this generosity.

Mother Martha Driscoll, abbess of the Trappist monastery of Gedono in Indonesia gave teaching on the theology of the body of John Paul II (1), which in fact is an actualized anthropology of the human person. His teaching on the beauty of human love and on the stages of humanization throws a new light both on the vocation to marriage and on the vocation to virginity for the Kingdom of God. This makes possible a new approach to monastic spirituality, deepening chastity as the basis of a real communion in monastic life. Mother Martha shared her profound conviction that these elements are not specific to any particular culture. The revelation of God and the magisterium of the Church are trans-cultural and can be understood and transmitted in any culture.

Br Michael Casey of the Abbey of Tarrawarra (Australia) gave two conferences on questions concerning masculine celibacy and chastity from the psychological and social point of view.

There were two papers each morning with a pause of thirty minutes between them, and two meetings for discussion and exchanges in different groups in the afternoon.

Comments of Two Participants

• During the coffee-breaks and at the evaluation we said that this session was very fitting and much appreciated. Several of us had read The Theology of the Body but we all appreciated Mother Martha’s new approach. We were encouraged to commit ourselves more deeply to our task as formators. Everyone expressed astonishment at how well we fitted together; there was very rich human potential and monastic experience. As monks and nuns entrusted with formation we feel a growing intensity in our relations with one another, in the communion of our vocation and in our mission. There is a growing friendship between us. Linguistic difficulties seem to be overcome by ‘the language of love’.

• The Theology of the Body applied to Cistercian monastic life truly helps us to deepen our appreciation of the dignity of the human person created by God, the drama of sin and the gift of redemption in Christ, which we feel as a school of love in the bosom of our community. The importance of communion and of dialogue, with all its difficulties and challenges has become clearly a means of living the gift of God in a very concrete fashion. I have discovered the meaning of joys, suffering, sadnesses in the accompaniment of our young people so that they may discover the gift of the vocation offered to them. Thanks to this session I discovered the real meaning of spiritual motherhood/fatherhood. I think that we should follow up and deepen our exchange on this subject. The sharing in groups was particularly open, not only the sharing of our experiences as formators, but also the sharing of our personal experience. Br Michael Casey’s presentation on the questions and challenges of the modern world accentuates for me the beauty and fertility of celibacy in monastic life.

(1) The Theology of the Body of John Paul II makes reference to 129 conferences given by the Pope at his Wednesday General Audiences of September 1979 to November 1984. These texts have been brought together under the title Homme et femme il les créa (Editions du Cerf, 2007).