Most monastic foundations in the past 50 years have been in Asia or Africa. Why is Cîteaux, with its first foundation since the 15th century, going to Norway, a wealthy, highly developed European country where the state religion is Evangelical Lutheran? And why is Cîteaux, who has more 80-year-old monks than new vocations, founding at all?
The Spirit led them to a new place.
Brother Joel, Cîteaux's Prior, spent a sabbatical at the Cistercian sister's new monastery in Tautra, Norway in 2006. Tautra Mariakloster's presence began barely 10 years ago by American Cistercian nuns, near the ruins of another Cistercian monastery established in 1207. They reintroduced contemplative life and monastic welcome into the center of secular Norway on the bank of the Trondheim fjord. Their reception by Norwegians has been profound, sometimes evidencing simple curiosity, sometimes the depth of the hidden roots of Norway's Christian culture, sometimes an insatiable thirst for a deeper spirituality.
Benedict XVI in September 2008 at Castel Gandolfo, appealed to abbots and abbesses to found new monasteries, "there where Providence calls you to establish them." And to provide "places where men and women, also in our age, run to seek God and learn to recognize the signs of the presence of Christ, of his charity and of his mercy."
Enlightened Norway, with an effective social structure, almost no unemployment, top rankings in almost every category by most rating groups can become the secular, developed nation and culture able to rediscover the other Kingdom. Munkeby Mariakloster will provide a quiet presence with the spiritual riches of liturgy, meditation, and lectio divina and transmit them to those who come seeking to draw living water from its deep Cistercian well.
To read the presentation Brother Jöel made at the outset of our endeavor, please click here.
Munkeby is located in central Norway, about 75 miles northeast of Trondheim. The northernmost Cistercian monastery in existence, Munkeby Mariakloster resides just below the Arctic Circle at the 66th parallel.