The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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The usefulness of religious orders

Canisius | 22 June, 2007 12:58

In his entry for the feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Dom Fromage points out how St. Aloysius was gifted in government and encouraged by family and friends not to "waste" his gifts in the religious life. Dom Fromage says, heatedly (XII,195),

Just as though the Most High must be contented with useless nonentities in that select portion of men He reserves to himself amidst nations; or, as though the aptitudes of the richest and most gifted natures may not be turned all the better and all the more completely to God, their very principle, precisely because they are the most perfect. On the other hand, neither State nor Church ever really loses anything by this fleeing to God, this apparent throwing away of the best subjects!

In his entry for the next day, the feast of St. Paulinus of Nola, Dom Fromage again points out the saint's gifts in the area of government, and again emphasizes how Paulinus chose to leave behind his worldly possibilities (XII,208): "Alas! in our days how many are undeservedly set up as models of a laborious and useful life!"

As with the papacy, we are dealing here with an issue that was very much alive in those days. In the prefaces to the volumes composed by him, Dom Fromage gives his readership updates on the "persecution" his Benedictine community suffered, including expulsion from the Abbey of Solesmes. The French government did not recognize the legitimacy of religious orders because, the government held, the religious life is useless to the state. This anti-religious law was simply the codification of a strong and widely held sentiment. The community at Solesmes was tolerated initially only because they were perceived as scholars and historians and therefore possibly of some use to the state. When the state persecuted the Solesmes Benedictines in earnest, Dom Fromage took the occasion to comment on situation indirectly in his entries on the saints.

Americans of the 21st century would generally agree with the French that the religious life is useless, I think, although few would say that one has a duty to be useful to the state. While the situation has changed a bit, Dom Fromage's pointed thrusts are still on target for today.


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