Adieu to the Cistercians

As a follow-up to Emmet Scott’s most recent article, this brief report from Boulevard Voltaire describes the steep decline of monastic Catholicism in France. Many thanks to Ava Lon for the translation:

The Cistercians are disappearing from the French spiritual landscape

September 17, 2016

The departure of the last monks of the Cistercian Abbey of Melleray marks a new stage in the decline of Catholic life in France.

Ignored by mainstream media (and therefore unnoticed by the general public), starting this month, the departure of the last monks of the Cistercian Abbey of Melleray, near Nantes, marks a new stage in the decline, seemingly unstoppable, of Catholic life in France, and of monastic life in particular.

This departure is sure to sadden those who, like me, once knew this monastery, which dates back to the twelfth century, flourishing with youth and vitality.

But that was before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

The alleged reason for their removal? The lack of recruitment. At Melleray there were, we are told, a dozen elderly monks, who could no longer support themselves, nor could they maintain the buildings of the property. Replaced by a male and female community “with an ecumenical vocation,” some of them were sent to the Abbey of Port-of-Hi near Laval, even less populated than Melleray and threatened with extinction as well.

Thus, with the removal of the Abbey of Dombes, in Ain, in 2001, followed by three female monasteries (Belval, Grace Dieu Ubexy) in 2008, the free-fall of the Cistercian order increases, its presence being gradually erased from the French spiritual landscape.

But what has become of Catholicism in our country? And what kind of Christianity is being preached in those churches that are still open and visited, according to the latest statistics, by only 8% of the population? This is the question that many leaders stubbornly refuse to consider.

The search for personal perfection (“Be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect”, Matthew, V, 48), the driving force of the monastic life is — as one of those leaders told us one day — “egocentrism”.

To center their lives on God in the silence and privacy of a monastery, to live close to him, and radiate the love and joy he gives us: self-centeredness!

St. Benedict, St. Bruno, St. Bernard, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Blessed Charles de Foucault: all egocentrics!

We understand now, that with such a design, allegedly renovated, for the Christian life, why both atheism on the one hand and Islamism on the other continue to progress among us.

20 thoughts on “Adieu to the Cistercians

    • No, but I’m sure some leftist group or another has an eye on it. Needle exchange, safe injection site, gay nightclub, multicultural freindship center, refugee holding tank, etc…. maybe they should just roll the thing off a cliff and spare us the agony.

  1. Not so far from us, a new seminary is in its final stages of completion, everyone working to have the building ready for its inaugural academic term, beginning in October:

    St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary will function in the monastic tradition, training one hundred men for the priesthood. I’m not sure where they will serve after ordination…

    I’ve heard there will be a vineyard, so perhaps they hope to be self-supporting to some extent. Certainly there will be a working farm of some sort – I’ve been through the website and seen cattle, etc.

    For anyone in Virginia who wants to attend the pontifical Mass, lunch and – as they emphasize – the one and only guided tour of the building, here are the details:

    I’m sure there will be people in attendance from around the country, perhaps particularly those in Winona Minnesota, from which this seminary is departing.

    • That’s a new seminary for the Society of St Pius X: I’m not associated with the SSPX, though I am sympathetic to them, nor am I in America, but I suppose that these future priests will serve the US District of the SSPX, a catholic society of secular priests (not monks) with a traditional charism and a difficult relationship with the Roman authorities. I think that means that the future priests will serve communities all over the United States.

      • Thanks, Simon, for the information. The SSPX is hard to get my head ’round. I was told that Benedict was sympathetic to them and wanted them ‘back in the fold’ but that this is not the case currently.

        I well understand the difference between secular priests, those called to serve in a particular diocese, and priests (or brothers) who belong to a particular order (e.g., the current pope being a Jesuit). What is confusing is that the “diocese” in which the SSPX priests serve must at some point interfere with the geographical boundaries of the dioceses in the U.S. For example, the SSPX seminary that is being finished is physically within the boundaries of the regular Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond. But somehow I doubt there is a working relationship there.

        It’s hard to get information…feels Byzatine, to coin a phrase.

          • Any wonder, Dymph’ ? After all, we know all about God now, don’t we? So why bother to continue to study that which we have concluded doesn’t actually exist (anymore, at least, if ‘It’ ever did)?

            This would perhaps be the view of these theology schools, Catholic included … though ‘Catholic’ seminaries often send their seminarians to nearby secular universities to get their ‘theology’ training from non-Catholic professors.

            I think the explanation is that many of these ‘schools’ have had as their Directors of Curriculum Development Mephistopheles, Beelzebub, Astarte, Gaia and various other minions of and stand-ins for Lucifer, and they have also ‘educated’ all these clergy-wannabes to know that Lucifer, too, no longer exists.

            Despite all the evidence.

            But God will help us, if we pray hard and long enough. The flourishing of faithful, tradition oriented orders like the SSPX (and the FSSP) is evidence that some people are doing so … and supporting such enterprises with their alms.

          • Over at is a recent post about SSPX. Sorry, old timer, new smart phone, can’t figure out how to add link to comment.

  2. I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Mathew 16.18

    True words from Jesus, He speaks Truth & He is Truth! He is also the True Light, John 8.12 “I am the light of the world whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life”.

    But Men Loved Darkness Rather Than Light

    The world’s light shines, shine as it will,
    The world will love its darkness still.
    I doubt though when the world’s in hell,
    It will not love its darkness half so well.
    This is such a sad thing. As a dark-skinned heathen from a far-off land who has seen ‘the light’ I want scream out “Halt, No More, you’re being conned”.

    White, anglo, Judeo-Christian society must survive or we’re all doomed.

    • Not all of those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour are white. As a matter of fact, most professing Christians in the world today are from outside Europe and North America.

      • Skin color is merely a divinely engineered defense against UV radiation. Other than that, the Judeo-Christian ethos that has love for Yah with all of the person’s being and the love of neighbor, whoever he or she is, as much if not more than love of self is the only hope this world has. Everything else either comes up short or self-(apropos pun) destructs over time. Check your history books.

        • “Neighbor” is an anachronism now. It’s left from a time when people were born, lived, and died in small patches of earth. When people didn’t up and move. That brief time between the two kinds of nomads – the ones who wandered the earth before settling down to till the earth and the modern ones who can pick up and go anytime they want.

      • I am an indigenous Australian christian & I am very glad to embrace the dominant western grand narrative of The Bible .Western civilization has progressively flourished by the influence of The Bible & has been a great benefit to all people groups wherever it’s principles have been applied.

  3. SSPX is based on the strength of Christ; the regular diocesan church glories in His weakness as their fey leader. And they wonder why the Church is in trouble?

    • To call Christ “fey” sounds blasphemous. His Kingdom is not of this world, and to follow Him is to take up one’s own Cross. His strength is sufficient to our weakness.

  4. The monastery of NEW Melleray is in Iowa. It was founded by Irish monks in the 1840s. It is also in decline.

  5. As a (reluctantly) non-believing person, of nonconformist Protestant ancestry, I find myself conflicted over this news.

    I love visiting churches (and have been to a synagogue service- for a Jewish friend’s late mother- and a beautiful new Sikh temple in Southall, west of London). I go mainly for the architecture and art, but also the history, and the atmosphere; the hopes and fears people have invested. I found Canterbury Cathedral lacking such atmosphere, even St Thomas’ tomb, except for the oldest part of the crypt, where one could almost reach out and touch it. I’ve found several similar instances, in Protestant/Anglican and Catholic buildings, in England and Europe, though I do wish the Catholics wouldn’t clutter them up with innumerable monuments!

    Basically, I’d be disappointed to go into one of the many fine cathedrals here in England in the late afternoon and not hear the choir, or the Catholic equivalent in Bruges or Paris and not hear the organ, but I’m not prepared to subsidise such activities through taxes- yet I do want public money spent on maintaining the fabric, as the French do (in theory- I saw some churches in Brittany in 2002 in severe want of restoration). I plead guilty to inconsistecy!

    “Classy” Gentleman: if Jesus saw a disused church being used for needle exchange, he might regret the loss of the church to its original purpose, but he’d absolutely approve of saving the destruction of lives through HIV or hepatitis. Shame on you!

    • Ps Spending public money on new religious buildings, mosques in particular, is an entirely different matter.

      The Church of the Holy Family in Barcelona, still under construction, the interior of which moved me more than any building I’ve ever seen, is entirely financed by public subscription and admission charges, which I was happy to pay; I hope to live to see it completed (c 2026?) as an affirmation of the best we humans can do.

  6. It’s always sad/traumatic to hear of the closing of a long-respected community of cloistered monks/nuns, but I take heart in the number of such communities being opened worldwide. The Trappists, for example, have opened many such communities: see for a complete list. (Trappists are members of the O.C.S.O., or the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance; more at .)

    The Trappists were established in the 1660s; see .

    There are also other non-Cistercian but Benedictine Roman Catholic monasteries worldwide, as well as (Eastern) Orthodox monasteries. Benedictine institutions which offer personal retreat space are listed at ; Orthodox are at . Contact Orthodox monasteries (the term “monastery” in Orthodoxy also applies to institutions of nuns) individually to inquire whether they offer retreat space, and whether (like the Trappists) they offer quarters to members of the opposite sex from those professed at that monastery. (For example, I had no problem visiting a men’s Trappist monastery; the guest quarters ensured absolute privacy to each of us.)

    Even for non-Catholics (or non-Christians who respect the tradition), a retreat at a Trappist monastery is quite restful. I spent four days in October 1995 at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, California ( It was walnut-harvesting time, and my car accident still lay in the future. I took long walks from the Guest House to the river on the “far path”–allowed to women. Men could walk on the “near path”–where they were closer to the monks’ quarters. The Spanish Stones hadn’t yet been put together. We went to sleep with the sun and (for those who weren’t dealing with soul-killing fatigue) got up for service at 3:00 a.m. I slept until 7:00 a.m. or so. All meals were self-serve and dairy-based vegetarian, and each guest seemed to have taken a personal vow of silence for the duration. I was *not* Christian then, but enjoyed perusing the shelves of the guest house’s small library. Not surprisingly, the works of Thomas Merton predominated. 🙂

    The donations for the rooms and food weren’t prescribed at that time, but a suggested donation of $30/day was requested. Cases of need were to be brought to the Guest Master.

    I attended some of the services. Catholic guests were admitted to communion, but others were requested to refrain. The singing was soulful and heartfelt; as with all of us, some of the monks had good singing voices and others sang because it was expected of them.

    If anyone feels that a personal retreat would be useful, I encourage you to contact a religious house nearby and see what it offers to us from the “outside.”

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