The Real Legacy
of Vatican II : the Renewal that
Became a Requiem
and the Death of Two Monasteries
after Vatican II
The Death of Two
... and a
became a Requiem
LEGACY OF VATICAN II
History ... and a Sober Reminder
Franciscan Seraphic Seminary and the
Poor Clare Monastery
blankly face each other on one single street in Andover, Massachusetts
click on any image
to expand it
repair My house
which, as you can see, has fallen into ruin”
From the Statue of St. Francis at the entrance to the
Franciscan Seraphic Seminary in Andover Massachusetts
(donated by St. Leonard’s Church in Boston – which itself
has been closed as part of the “Reconfiguration”
of the Churches in the Archdiocese of Boston)
magnificent Franciscan Seraphic Seminary and Monastery, and
the Poor Clare Monastery,
each other across a quiet street in Andover, Massachusetts.
Seminary was built around 1940, the Poor Clare Monastery in 1959
— the year that Pope John XXIII (on January 25, 1959) called for
a general council of the Church, in what has subsequently been called
an “Aggiornamento” for “updating” the Church in light of its contemporary
cultural and social milieu.
brief pictorial history of two erstwhile thriving institutions filled
with vocations is a silent testimony that needs little comment.
Seraphic Seminary is now a “Retreat and Conference Center”
for a variety of programs, non-religious, inter-denominational,
social and, as the name implies, retreats. A handful of people,
mostly lay, staff the largely empty building. Not one Franciscan
habit is seen by a visitor.
street, the expansive and once lovely Poor Clare Monastery built
in 1959 is in a state of complete abandonment and ruin. It is unoccupied.
Not one Nun. A private investor has acquired the property
for a commercial enterprise.
It is a deeply
disturbing pictorial, for in the plaque on the statue in the picture
above, one sees a list of names, benefactors, who had ultimately
made a very poor investment in the very best of faith. We cannot
avoid seeing a reflection of our own faith and a catastrophic failure
to authentically understand — and respond to it. These sacred places
were built, and thrived, on “the faith of our fathers” — and fell
into ruin and emptiness through an attempt to articulate that faith
on the terms of the world, in the mistaken belief that if we become
like the world, the world will become like us. It calls us to question
many things, troubling things, from a vision of “renewal” to the
reality of vacancy; of the tremendous hemorrhage of vocations, and
renounced vocations following a terrible miscalculation, an astonishing
misunderstanding, in the breathless pursuit of contemporaneity,
of accommodating the Church to the world, and finding, in the end,
that not only the have the seminaries and monasteries been emptied,
but the pews as well.
speak for themselves.
We can only
stand back in astonishment and ask, “Who will rebuild the Church
that St. Francis rebuilt ... and which we have let fall once again
If we do not,
no one will.
Boston Catholic Journal
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A Nun’s Response
abandoned, disused, Poor Clare Monastery,
Fallen into ruins ... Its hours of Glory Passed.
walls and halls wrapped in silence.
The death of a Community.
And yet for the time appointed
it carried on the light of Christ.
To Faith, all things are possible,
all things have their purpose if we do but believe.
Behold, the universal mystical body of Christ,
In many lands, new communities are being planted
It is their hour of Annunciation.
In yet other areas young women enter the House of the Lord
and are espoused to Christ,
Jesus is born anew.
To some is given the witness of Christ's mission.
And to so many, in war torn countries,
in areas scourged with aids, and even communities,
struggling with internal conflicts,
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ
is being lived and prayed through daily.
And to some at this moment of time,
by their very silence
speak of the dead Christ,
Laid in the arms of Mary,
Mother of the Church
This is Christ's Pascal Mystery
being enacted in the Universal Church.
Rejoice, for many Sisterhoods have risen out of the ashes of war,
They proclaim the Risen Life of Christ!
A Poor Clare
to some at this moment of time, by their very silence [they] speak
of the dead Christ ...”
Poignantly ... they speak of a Christ Who is no longer alive in
our midst, in our lives, in our vocations, in our homes, in our
societies, in our governments — yes, a Christ Who is dead to us
... and Who no longer has a place, a purpose, in our lives.
speak of a Gospel, an evangel, that has become so distorted, so
detached from its Kerygma, that it has evolved into something
largely “social”; a call, not to conversion and God, but to “social
consciousness" and the world;
Let us look
soberly, objectively, at the aftermath of this transvaluation:
Devastated seminaries, some so distorted, so
detached from their charism, that they have evolved into something
largely “social”; a call, not to conversion and God, but to
“social consciousness” and the world
homosexuality in the clergy and seminaries
in defiance of the Holy See
in defiance of Bishops
in defiance of Priests
confessionals despite being re-anointed “Reconciliation
and Clerical Collars as artifacts
theologians in contempt of the Church that pays them to
teach contra Fide (against the Faith)
who know little more than the catechumens.
Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament evicted from the Altar
and relegated as an embarrassment to obscure niches in remote
corners of the Church
sterilization of the Church through the removal of sacred
statuary and art in favor of unadorned walls, fake organ
pipes, and insipid banners.
total abandonment of 2000 years of Sacred Music and Chant
in favor of irksome and distracting pop music, guitars,
pianos, drums, trap sets, flutes, and fiercely competitive
no longer recognize sin ... we only have “faults and failings”
(sin uniquely pertains to God, “faults and failures”
to social and market deficiencies).
children no longer know the most basic tenets of the Catholic
do our adults.
is endless and in the end pointless. If what we have arrived
at after 2000 years is a “dead Christ” in our midst – even if
He is alive in other continents less affluent and “enlightened”,
and even thrives there —
this place, in
our own faith is a smoldering wick ... because we did not have
the conviction to pass on the torch – and those who passed it
to us, first snuffed out the flame.
Letters to the Editor:
Jesus Christ! I was stunned by the photographs on the site of the
Franciscan Seminary and Poor Clare Monastery in Andover. It is not
that I am unaware of these sad happenings: however, your pictures
and captions paint a poignant scene of too many of our once vibrant
religious communities ... the departures, the demise and the inevitable
disrepair of the properties.
What can we do, for as you say, who will affect a reversal of the
present conditions and the rebuilding, renovating of these holy
grounds leading to a renewal in Religious life and the Priesthood,
if we don't!
When I entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1962, there were
102 postulants, 78 went on to the novitiate and the entire Motherhouse
was home to over 500 women. I recently saw pictures of some of the
changes that have been made to the Motherhouse; the chapel, once
so grand, reflecting the glory of God, had been completely redone,
no pews, comfy chairs and no kneelers. And I do realize that most
of the sisters at the Motherhouse are elderly, nevertheless, it
was a shock to me!
What can we do? Bring our dear little sisters from Ty Mam Duw
to Massachusetts to begin a new foundation? Wouldn't that be
lovely for us? These now deserted or converted buildings are so
large that to begin again would require an enormous amount of money
to fix and maintain even if there were nuns, priests or brothers
to inhabit them. But nothing is impossible with God, I read recently
that five of Mother Angelica's Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration
are establishing a foundation in Arizona!
In reality, I think we must continue to pray, fast, sacrifice for
the renewal of religious life. I have great hopes for our Holy Mother
Church with Benedict XVI at the helm. I truly feel that his papacy
(and, please God, let it be a long one with good health for our
Holy Father) will be a springtime for the Church.
Do you think that we can ever go back to those days of certainty?
Clocks don't run backwards, but I think we can take the good, solid
foundation of Truth and one brick at a time ... like St. Francis,
rebuild. I would be interested in more of your thoughts on this
I want to again compliment you and our sisters in Wales on a magnificent
website. There is a wealth of information there, and I sense a growth
the context of the articles. The world is hungry for the truth whether
they are aware of it now or not, but I have great hopes that the
time will come when they will be eagerly, if not frantically, searching
... and the site in there! ... all for Jesus and souls!
Thank you and may God reward you for your work for the kingdom.
In the Hearts of Jesus and Mary
Thank you for your letter. I grieve with you also ...
But I also have hope! I was in Rome when Pope John Paul II died.
I sat in the square praying with, among, hundreds of thousands.
... and of the many around me, what struck me most were the Religious
that I saw, both men and women: Roman cassocks, full Priestly attire,
full habits — and all on young, young,
men and women. All! And so, so many! It
was stunning! The bright, young, cheerful, eager faces, of those
young women and men, filled my heart with joy and great, great hope.
The men were manly and of all races and nations. The women were
lovely and chaste. It was medicine to my heart.
It also caused me to deeply question America,
the Catholic Church in America – which is effete and anemic.
There probably were American priests and nuns in St. Peter's
Square – but I would not have known them, for most do not wear Clerical
suits or Religious Habits. It is so sad. So very sad. They seem
to have lost their vocation, or to hide it in shame — the shame
of association with Christ and His Church. BUT —
only the Americans. Not the Europeans, the Asians,
the Africans, the Indians — all were Christ's Priests or Brides
Immediately I was struck by the fact that the spiritual
is a deeply lived reality to them. They appear to understand that
their mission is spiritual, to bring Christ to the world
.... not to bring social justice, equal rights, women's rights,
animal rights, rent-control, etc, to the world. That is for laymen
and laywomen. America — and increasingly, Europe — is, in a word,
ashamed of Jesus Christ, and therefore of His Church. They are not
... “correct” ... to the world, and do not pander to the "sensitivities"
of every depravity possible. They want heaven on earth — and each
to be a god unto themselves and, as gods, to make the world accord
with their own desires, and a reflection — a perverse image, if
you will — of themselves.
A renewal is at hand. A genuine
renewal. Not the largely superficial “renewal" following Vatican
II ... a mere rearranging of furniture, a wholesale trashing of
Church art, liturgy, and teaching, a large-scale burning of Habits
and Clerical Collars. The Church in America did not change its heart,
only its clothes. It did not renew its zeal for Christ but translated
it into zeal for the world. It did not “renew” God's image in man,
but largely erased it.
I truly believe this is changing. I think that Catholics have grown
spiritually sick and realize that the medicine they have been offered
will not heal them. They are looking for depth — they are beginning
to look beyond the contemporary furniture and a changing of clothes
that had nothing to do with a changing of hearts. They are spiritually
starving ... and a new generation is finding its way to the true
Christ, the true Church, the real Gospel. We are sick of the world.
The world has made us sick. Why attempt to make the Church in its
image? These young people appear to see this, to know this — they
go beyond the superficialities (and there are so many) ... unlike
their parents. Perhaps they have simply looked around and
saw what has resulted in the world, in their parent's lives, in
schools, and in governments as a result of such a tremendous defection
from Christ and His True Church.
May our children bring us
where we have been unable to bring them.
God keep you.
Boston Catholic Journal
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