A new community of strict observance in the Benedictine tradition was born on July 2nd 2008 in Villatalla, a small Italian village located in Liguria on the heights of Imperia, very near to Ventimiglia and the French border (see map).
This community was founded by two monks originally from the abbey of Le Barroux (France), at the request made to them by His Excellency Mario Oliveri, bishop of Albenga-Imperia. Here you will find information on this monastic project and some of the events which marked their recent installation.
This information is above all an appeal to the charity of your prayer and, for those who can, a request for material help. Heartfelt thanks.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Holy Mass of Bishop Mario Oliveri in Villatalla

This year, Bishop Mario Oliveri came to Villatalla to preside over the festivities of St Michael’s Day, patronal feast of the village and of the parish church. Because of liturgical obligations in his cathedral of Albenga which is under the same patronage, the feast was anticipated the day before, September the 28th.

The faithful met on Saint John’s Square at the entrance to the village. A statue of St. Michael enthroned was carried on the shoulders of four men. Behind the processional Cross held by the altar server, Don Sandro, pastor, led the rosary. At 4 P.M., the Bishop’s car entered the square. The rosary was finished with a Gloria Patri, the car stopped, the parish priest opened the door of the car and the bishop came out, wearing amaranth cassock and biretta. He greeted ecclesiastical and civil authorities, the little crowd squeezed up around him, and he blessed them all.

At once the procession began to make its way to the church, to the rhythm of popular songs. The cross opened the way, followed by the crowd, the monks, the clergy, the Bishop and the statue of the archangel.

Upon entering the church, with the sound of the pipe organs and the singing of the schola, the Bishop moved up the central aisle, again blessing the crowd left and right, then kneeling and reciting the prayers of the Pontifical upon arrival at the sanctuary. Then he took his seat to hear the welcome speeches from the pastor, Father Jehan and the mayor.

During the pontifical mass which followed, celebrated in the traditional rite, Bishop Oliveri pronounced a vigourous sermon on the importance of spiritual life founded on Catholic faith and doctrine, and he ended with words expressing benevolence and paternal friendship for the monks:
“Very dear brethren, You have now among you the presence of the monks. The goal of their life and dedication has been fully and well evoked a few minutes ago by dear Father Jehan de Belleville at the beginning of our meeting. They are a continual reminder of fidelity to the Lord. They are a continual reminder to always give our Lord the first place: He and He only. Everything else is secondary. Everything else must be used by us to walk towards the eternity of the Lord. Everything. The whole life of the human being has no other goal than to purify him, to prepare him to enter eternal life.
Dear Benedictine monks, thank you for having chosen this place for your consecrated life. I am happy to learn that you were welcomed here, as it should be, according to justice and charity. I am happy to know that you have the support of this small population so that you do not lack any of the small needs which always accompany man on his pilgrimage through time.
I am asking you, dear faithful : continue to support them. Please God that in this place they find a suitable environment, well adapted, to be able to grow and truly become a monastery able to give back the luminous testimony that the Lord is the Lord and that nobody else can take His place. Thank you! Thank you, dear monks.
I bless you and will accompany you with a huge joy so that in any need, you can find in me a father, you can find in me someone who understands you. And I pray the Lord that what you found in me, you may also find in all the priests of my diocese, in all the faithful and particularly in the faithful of this parish of Saint Michael The Archangel in Villatalla.
May all be blessed, and blessed you are if you are in friendship with the Lord”.

After the Mass, Bishop Oliveri visited the monastic house Santa Caterina da Siena, next to the church, and proceeded to its blessing.

Upon coming out, he greeted various persons and groups, for example the carabinieri who attended the ceremony.

Then Father Jehan accompanied the Bishop back to Saint John’s Square, where the faithful were waiting with tables of delicacies and beverages laid out by the ladies of the parish. Bishop Oliveri departed quickly, but left great joy in all hearts.

Thus on two days in September 2008, the Bishop of Albenga-Imperia has celebrated Mass publically in the traditional rite, first for the Franciscan contemplative sisters in Alassio, on the 23rd, and then on the 28th in Villatalla. But that is not all, because on October 26th, feast of St. Maurice and his martyr companions, in the co-cathedral of Imperia, he will again celebrate the ancient rite, and this time a pontifical Mass, during which seven Franciscan sisters of the Immaculate Conception will pronounce their solemn vows.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Consecration to Mary Immaculate

Particularly thankful towards the Most Holy Virgin Mary, whose obvious signs of particular protection they have had for two years, Fr. Jehan and Brother Toussaint are in Lourdes today, not only to observe the jubilee of the apparition and gain a plenary indulgence, but also to renew their Marian consecration and entrust to Mary’s Immaculate Heart the monastic work begun in Villatalla.

They want to follow the example of the Franciscans of the Immaculate (founded on August 2nd, 1970 by two Conventual Franciscan friars, Fr. Stefano Maria Manelli and Fr. Gabriele Pelettieri), whose founding charism adds to the three vows of religion a particular consecration to the Immaculate, according to the Marian spirituality of St. Maximilian Kolbe.
The most recent general chapter of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, which took place on Pentecost, decided to make provision, as an order, for the traditional Latin rite of Mass. All their priests (currently about 100) must from now on be familiar with it.
This decision — of great importance for their religious family and for the Church — together with the climate of humility which is felt among them, seems explainable only as a particular favor from blessed Mary.
Fr. Jehan, who spent more than six months in Rome in one of their houses, saw in this spiritual miracle obtained through Mary's mediation, a sign from Providence for the path he too should follow.

On March 10th, 2008, after the hour of Sext, Fr. Manelli gave Fr. Jehan a Miraculous Medal which he now wears visibly over his heart, as his brother Franciscans do. "Father Jehan taught us the Tridentine Mass," the Franciscan founder was able to say, "and we for our part give him the Miraculous Medal." And Fr. Jehan concluded, "It is unquestionably Mary who raised up the family of the Franciscans of the Immaculate; if it is the will of God that a new Benedictine family be born, they will be the Benedictines of the Immaculate." The reaction of the Franciscans was thunderous applause.

From now on, Franciscans and Benedictines are joined like two branches of a family under the mantle of the Immaculate in fidelity to their respective religious rules and to the liturgical tradition of Holy Church, notably to the ancient ritual of Mass from which "countless saints copiously fed their piety towards God".

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Canonical Status

Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
and 150th anniversary of the last apparition of Our Lady in Lourdes

With the consent of Bishop Mario Oliveri (in his letter of welcome of February 6th), as well as the consent of the Abbot and of the council of seniors of the abbey of Le Barroux, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei willlingly grants to Father Jehan de Belleville and to Brother Toussaint Menut a pontifical indult of exclaustration which allows them to live their monastic life in the diocese of Albenga-Imperia.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Official Reception in the City Council Chamber of Prelà

After the reception in Villatalla by Don Sandro and the population, the mayor of the town of Prelà, which unites under its administration several small villages, including Villatalla, also wanted to honour the recent arrival of the Benedictine monks on its territory.
On July 5th, in the city council chamber, in the presence of his assistant and his council, of the pastor of Dolcedo and the mayor of a neighbouring town, the mayor gave the monks a solemn reception which included not less than five heartfelt and energetic speeches, some of them characterized by a high degree of political thought. Indeed, all underlined the importance of a religious and monastic presence which will be an assertion of our Christian culture so threatened in our days by materialism and an ever stronger Muslim presence.
The moment for gifts followed: the monks received big baskets adorned with flowers and containing all kinds of regional products, including olive oil, tapenade, honey, stewed fruit of lemon, and wine. In his turn, Fr. Jehan thanked everyone for this reception as extraordinary as it was unexpected.
The reception ended with refreshments. Local television gave coverage to these unforgettable moments.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The reception of the Benedictines by Don Sandro

In the village square of Villatalla, this afternoon of July 2nd 2008, Don Sandro Marsano, parish priest of Dolcedo on which the church of Villatalla depends, officially welcomed Reverend Father Dom Jehan, a first disciple and associate of the late Dom Gérard Calvet, and Brother Toussaint, both originally from the Abbey of Le Barroux, for establishing here a new branch of the large Benedictine tree. Today and for several days following, a third monk was with them, Brother Ansgar Santogrossi, of Mount Angel Abbey in the United States.

In this little village, the last one situated on the heights of a valley which opens on the calm horizon of the Ligurian Mediterranean Sea, the arrival of the monks was a great event. The few remaining inhabitants - about thirty - gathered aroud their priest to welcome these men of God. Various priests and seminarians of the diocese, like fellow-members of a close brotherhood, wished by their presence to give joyful support to a work of prayer and Tradition in their own diocese.

In cassock, but wearing for the occasion all his ecclesiastical insignia, the parish priest addressed Fr. Jehan:
“In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Who are you? What are you seeking?
— We are sons of Saint Benedict and come to pray and work as commanded us in the Holy Gospel and our Holy Rule.
— Does our Bishop of Albenga know you?
— Yes he does, and he asks you to give us hospitality.
— What the village of Saint Michael [i.e. Villatalla] can offer you, is a roof, a church and a small piece of land.
— Praised be God! And we will pray the Lord, the Madonna and Saint Michael for you”.
Then he finishes by these words: “Benedictus qui venit in Nomine Domini. Procedamus in Pace!

Then the procession starts with the singing of litanies, with the cross in the lead, followed by the altar servers, the local confraternity, the clergy and the small but fervent population. Once inside the church dedicated to Saint Michael, Don Sandro approaches Fr. Jehan and solemnly hands him the large key to the church, then leads him towards the campanile so he can sound the bells as a sign of taking possession.

There followed Vespers and, on this day in which the liturgy celebrates the Visitation, when the Magnificat canticle was first heard, hearts joined their thanksgiving with the one, pure and humble prayer of the Immaculate Virgin.

Then, wearing a Roman chasuble kept in the sacristy here, Father Jehan, accompanied by the deacon and the sub-deacon, went up to the altar to sing Mass according to the ancient Latin rite.

During the homily, Don Sandro recalled the undying gratitude of Ligurians toward the sons of Saint Benedict who introduced the cultivation of the olive tree over Liguria's valleys and hills, helping to make the region famous for its oil. So it is a work of justice and of piety, he explained, to welcome the spiritual sons of our benefactors of long ago.
In his turn, Father Jehan, after explaining the purpose of the monastic life ordered to the interior life through prayer and work, expressed the overflowing gratitude of his heart. First towards Bishop Oliveri, who received him in the Albenga-Imperia diocese under his pastoral responsibility (see letter of welcome of February 6th). Then towards Don Marco Cuneo, archpriest of Artallo and canon-priest of Imperia cathedral, who was a most efficacious and wise ambassador of the traditional Benedictine cause, and friend of the first moments. Towards Don Sandro too, who quietly, charitably and efficiently directed the effort toward obtaining a suitable site in Villatalla: without him, nothing could have been accomplished. And finally towards the faithful of the parish, among whom there are already generous benefactors, not to mention everyone else, for all have shown the monks benevolence and charity with a smile and with joy at welcoming souls vowed to prayer and worship.

At the end of the ceremony, in the shade of the trees next to the church, beverages and the traditional local pizzas supplied by the ladies provided the opportunity to make better acquaintance.

Brother Ansgar Santogrossi will leave Villatalla on July the 14th to visit relatives in Abruzzo. Once back in the United States, he will take up a teaching position at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, of the Fraternity of St. Peter. No doubt he will come back to Italy after the school year.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The reception of Mgr Mario Oliveri

The bishop of Albenga-Imperia

On Wednesday of Ashes
Albenga, on February 6th, 2008

Reverend Father Jehan de Belleville,

Many meetings which we had and the various mails which you have sent me for several months apparently made understand to me the reasons which encouraged you to search a new canonical and disciplinary situation in which, with serene soul and in the full fidelity to your religious consecration, you could live your monastic life in coherence with principles and rules which led the Holy Seat to approve the foundation of the monastery and therefore of the abbey Saint-Madeleine of Le Barroux in France.

Having had opportunity to meet and to listen to the Reverend Father Abbot of Le Barroux, having also been in contact with Pontifical Secretary of the Commission Ecclesia Dei, having informed and listened to the Presbyterian Council of this diocese of Albenga-Imperia, and reflected coram Domino and asked insistently the help of divine favour,
I inform you, Reverend Father Jehan, that I am willing to welcome you under my fatherhood and my pastoral responsibility, to live extra-claustra in this particular diocese of Albenga-Imperia and, to begin, ad experimentum, during a period of one year.

If, during this first year, it is possible to reach to a stable and acceptable organisation so much for what looks at the place that for the future plan of monastic life, it will be undoubtedly possible to put down the necessary acts for your incardination in the diocese of Albenga-Imperia, in the perspective of a monastic life diocesan Benedictine. In another way, it will be possible to prorogue the extra-claustra for at all times essentials.

Intense and already deep is my spiritual communion with you, and it will still grow if it is always fed by prayer and contemplation of all what God reveals us and announces us by and in his Church and what the Father reveals us and announces us by and in his Son really loved.

Let us pray particularly so that across your presence, Reverend Father Jehan, exaggerate, in this local Church of Albenga-Imperia, research and love of “divine things”, of all what God gives us in his infinite mercy.

I bless you and ask you to invoke for me Divine blessing.

With my feelings of deep and religious respect, I declare myself your very devoted in the Lord.

+ Mario Oliveri
Bishop of Albenga-Imperia