First Tasmanian Benedictine Monastery

By Fr Pius Mary Noonan OSB, 17 January 2018
Archbishop Julian Porteous with the four candidates and Fr Pius Mary Noonan OSB (second from left). Image: Supplied.

They say this is one of the hottest Novembers (November 2017) in (recorded) Tasmanian history. One thing is sure: hearts surely were ablaze in Colebrook on the feast of Our Lady’s Presentation, 21 November 2017.

The event was the first ever Benedictine monastic clothing in Tasmania. Our four young candidates having completed their time of postulancy, their “clothing day”, that is, the day they receive the holy habit, was set for Our Lady’s Presentation in the Temple.

At 5pm, in St Patrick’s Church, Colebrook, Archbishop Julian Porteous presided at Pontifical Vespers, after which all the ministers processed out, then returned to choir, this time without the postulants. One of the priests, filling the role of Novice Master, then came forward to address the Prior, informing him there were several men desirous of receiving the Benedictine habit.

At Fr Prior’s behest, the men were brought in and proceeded to prostrate themselves, lying flat on the church floor in the presence of all. Absolute silence. Awesome. Fr Prior asked them what they had come for, to which they replied: “The mercy of God and fraternity in the community”.

Fr Prior then, having commanded them to rise, addressed them according to custom on such occasions, reminding them of the difficulties involved in monastic life (you will find the text of this address on the following pages). The Prior then presented each of them with the Rule of St Benedict, inviting them to enter, should they still persist in the desire to become a monk.

The next part of the ceremony, somewhat surprisingly, was the washing and kissing of the feet. Fr Prior knelt before each postulant, as our Blessed Lord did before His apostles, washing and kissing their feet.

Having accomplished this humble task and recited a magnificent prayer asking that “we might attain that peace of heart which Mary received while she kissed the feet of her Redeemer”, Fr Prior then intoned psalm 23 with the beautiful antiphon “Hi accipient”: These shall receive a blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God their Saviour: for this is the generation of those who seek the Lord.

This was followed by another antiphon “Beati eritis”: Blessed shall you be when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Be glad in that day and rejoice; for behold, your reward is great in heaven.

As the assistants chanted the canticle of Zachariah, Fr Prior then imposed the habits on each of the postulants, accompanying each part of the habit (tunic, belt and scapular) with a prayer adapted to the symbolism of each.

After a final prayer in which he asked the Lord to surround these men “with the helmet of faith, so that, favorably thus protected, they may taste of the sweetness of having fled the world”, came the final part of the ceremony, in many ways the most awaited: the imposition of the new names.

Tomas Cannavo received the name of Br Bede Mary. St Bede, monk and doctor of the Church, is one of the glories of the Benedictine order. But the name was also chosen because it was the religious name of the first Australian Benedictine, Archbishop John Bede Polding, whom we look up to as the model of the Benedictine pioneer.

Alec Hobbs received the name of Br Gregory Mary. St Gregory the Great, biographer of St Benedict, Father and Doctor of the Church, was probably the most widely read author of medieval monks, and he remains a great inspiration to us today.

David McMahon received the most coveted of names, that of the foster-father of Our Lord; he is now Br Joseph Mary. Finally, Graham Leach was placed under the patronage of the great abbot of Clairvaux, St Bernard, the “bard of Our Lady”.

So, as you can see, the new novices have a lot to live up to. At the same time, they are under the special patronage of these glorious saints as well as under that of Mary Immaculate. Please keep them in your prayers!


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