minima maxima sunt

The Small things are the Great things; as in a grain of mustard seed.

Archive for the tag “monks”


trappist-introLast week I bottled my first batch of beer since our move to North Carolina. It’s been nine months since my last brewing and while I was a little nervous about forgetting something important; the whole process went very smooth. It was a little awkward working in a new kitchen but apart from that it was certainly good to be back at it.

The choice for my first beer in our new home was a classic Belgian Trippel, which is probably my favourite beer, (though sometimes it’s hard to really have a favourite…..). After doing a quick internet search for a local brewing supply store and trying to decide which one of the dozens of recipes they had kits for, I finally made my choice. This store actually had about 3 different recipes for a Belgian Trippel, so naturally I chose the biggest one. Yay!

The Belgian Trippel is a beer that has some history. Brewed by monks over the centuries, several styles of beer developed. The trippel/tripel is probably an older beer but it’s name dates to the 1930’s. Along with Dubbels and other Abbey style ales, the trippel has found a following in recent years outside of the Abbeys as home and micro breweries began to venture into the making of the great variety of beer styles. The trippel is so named because it has about three times the amount of malts which in turn gets converted into a beer that is about three times stronger than your average beer. The flavor can range from a spicy clove to a fruity, almost banana like, taste and the fragrance follows suit. I can still remember the first time I was exposed to this wonderful brew. It was a shock to the senses. I had never had such a beer with so much flavor and I honestly had to ask if this was really even a beer. Anyway this opened the door for my own adventure into the world of beer and home brewing.

My trippel has been bottled and now I’m just waiting for carbonation… In the meantime I have my pots out and wort boiling as my next beer, a Dark English Ale, is brewing.

Clare of Assisi

St. Clare

Born in 1174 as Chiara Offreduccio, St. Clare is known as the first woman follower of St. Francis of Assisi.  At the age of 18 she left her home to follow in the religious life, embracing the life of poverty, love and contemplation, which are the trademarks of the Franciscans.

Devoting her time to the poor and the lepers in her region, Clare is not only a testimony to the faith in the middle ages, but also another testimony to the importance of women in the middle ages, especially in relation to the church.

Catholic history is chock full of women saints who were educators, mystics, servants, examples of humble faith and set examples for all of us to follow down through the ages. She stands against the sad reality of modern stereotypes about women in the church and history, which often tries to dismiss the role of women in the church and in European life. Christianity from the start set the stage for  women to advance in status from the ancient world. Women are mentioned in the New Testament, in martyrologies, in the mass, have churches names after them. St. Clare not only participated in that rag-tag group of mendicants which would in later years become one of the most recognized monastic communities, she also established her own rule, The Way of Gospel Living, thus setting into motion the Order of Saint Clare, or the Poor Clares which as of 2011 it was recorded there were over 20,000 Poor Clare Nuns.

The feast day of St. Clare falls on August 11th, 1253, the day she died and two days after Pope Innocent IV, confirmed her rule as the official guide for the Poor Clares.

“Totally love Him, Who gave Himself totally for your love.” – St. Clare

Significator Horarum

Vespers, Compline, Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext and Nones. These are periods of prayers which are said through the day in the Divine Office and follow the Hours which are found in Breviaries or a Book of Hours, which is really just a type of Breviary for laymen. The tradition of the hours finds its roots in the Jewish tradition which prayed at the third, sixth and ninth hours of the day. Terce (9a.m.), Sext(noon), and Nones(3 p.m.) are Latin for three, six and nine, or the third, sixth and ninth hours of the day. The addition of the others comes from the Rule of St. Benedict, and are said at sundown (Vespers), evening (Compline), midnight (Matins), sunrise (Lauds) and the first hour (Prime).

In religious communities it was the responsibility of the monks to keep track of the hours so that prayers were said at the correct time. Using stars and constellations at night, and position of the sun in the day helped to keep the time. Devices like sundials in the day or an astrolabe at night were useful in keeping time in good weather, but bad weather rendered these useless. Candles which marked the hours or water clocks (clepsydra) would also have been helpful in determining the hours. However such devices were not always available in monasteries and so the use of liturgical prayers and psalms was employed to keep time. This responsibility was given to one of the monks who was called the Significator Horarum.

Psalm 1 from a Book of Hours

The Significator Horarum would Sing psalms or recite the Pater Noster (Lord’s Prayer) to keep time when weather prevented the use of star charts or sundials. This would have been like counting “one Mississippi, two Mississippi” in children’s games. When enough prayers were said to equal the right amount of time, the Significator Horarum would then notify another monk to wake or gather the community for prayers.

The Latin translation for Significator Horarum means a caller of the hours or indicator or time. In a way he is like a human clock, or rather a grandfather clock signaling the passage of time. In time new inventions would come along like mechanical clocks which took care of the problem of keeping time and maintaining the liturgy of the hours. When you stop to think about it, the divine office is really a continual prayer which has been going on for almost 1500 years, a great portion of which was maintained by the vigilant Significator Horarum.

Those Dwelling Alone

20120623-074459.jpgIt has often been stated that monasteries were a way to shut the world out, that monks and nuns attempted to hide away in a cloistered life while the world fell to pieces. The term monastery comes from the greek monos and means “to dwell alone”, but in fact “those dwelling alone” had a larger impact on the world than we know. While reading last night I came across a section on this subject from G.K. Chesterton from his excellent “Short History of England” which touches on this subject:

In the tremendous testament of our religion there are present certain ideals that seem wilder than impieties, which have in later times produced wild sects professing an almost inhuman perfection on certain points; as in the Quakers who renounce the right of self-defence, or the Communists who refuse any personal possessions. Rightly or wrongly, the Christian Church had from the first dealt with these visions as being special spiritual adventures which were to the adventurous. She reconciled them with natural human life by calling them specially good, without admitting that the neglect of them was necessarily bad. She took the view that it takes all sorts to make a world, even the religious world; and used the man who chose to go without arms, family, or property as a sort of exception that proved the rule. Now the interesting fact is that he really did prove it. This madman who would not mind his own business becomes the business rule. Now the interesting fact is that he really did prove it. This madman who would not mind his own business becomes the business man of the age. The very word “monk” is a revolution, for it means solitude and came to mean community—one might call it sociability. What happened was that this communal life became a sort of reserve and refuge behind the individual life; a hospital for every kind of hospitality. We shall see later how this same function of the common life was given to the common land. It is hard to find an image for it in individualist times; but in private life we most of us know the friend of the family who helps it by being outside, like a fairy godmother. It is not merely flippant to say that monks and nuns stood to mankind as a sort of sanctified league of aunts and uncles. It is a commonplace that they did everything that nobody else would do; that the abbeys kept the world’s diary, faced the plagues of all flesh, taught the first technical arts, preserved the pagan literature, and above all, by a perpetual patchwork of charity, kept the poor from the most distant sight of their modern despair. We still find it necessary to have a reserve of philanthropists, but we trust it to men who have made themselves rich, not to men who have made themselves poor. Finally, the abbots and abbesses were elective. They introduced representative government, unknown to ancient democracy, and in itself a semi-sacramental idea. If we could look from the outside at our own institutions, we should see that the very notion of turning a thousand men into one large man walking to Westminster is not only an act or faith, but a fairy tale. The fruitful and effective history of Anglo-Saxon England would be almost entirely a history of its monasteries. Mile by mile, and almost man by man, they taught and enriched the land.

From G.K. Chesterton A Short History of England


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