26 January, 2018 - Gethsemani celebrates Cistercian Founders


 A statue of St. Robert of Molesme on the abbey church's front porch 

A statue of St. Robert of Molesme on the abbey church's front porch

The Abbey of Gethsemani celebrated the Feast of Sts. Robert, Alberic and Stephen – founders of the Order of Cîteaux – on Jan. 26. A solemnity for Cistercians, the annual remembrance is also known as Founders Day.


During the second reading at Vigils, monks heard an excerpt from the Exordium Parvum, a 12th century document that outlines Cîteaux’s early history. The reading recalled “how this Monastery and its way of life took its beginning” in 1098 and described the scene when 21 monks arrived at “the desert which was called Cîteaux:”


Because of the thickness of the woods and undergrowth, it was very rarely visited by people and it was inhabited by nothing but wild animals. When they arrived there, the men of God immediately conceived a great and holy reverence for the place, for the more contemptible and inaccessible it was to the people of the world, the more they considered it fit for their life.


During his homily at Mass, principal celebrant Fr. Alan praised the “Three Religious Rebels,” taking the epithet from the title of a historical fiction novel about the founders of Cîteaux , which was written by Fr. M. Raymond of Gethsemani and published in 1944.


He said that when the blessed founders began the New Monastery, “where the Rule of St. Benedict could be lived with utter faithfulness and simplicity,” God brought through them a way of life where form was central. “Their great faith would be rewarded,” Fr. Alan said. “Little did Robert, Alberic and Stephen know that all who were to follow the form of the New Monastery over the centuries would be standing on the shoulders of these giants.”


He added that the celebration was a time of reflection for the monks of Gethsemani. “This solemnity each year invites us as a Cistercian community to reconsider where we are, where we have come from and where we are going,” Fr. Alan said. “May we and all Cistercians be grateful for, and faithful to, the great work God has done in these “Three Religious Rebels!”