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.

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.