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.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in Liguria

In spite of the freezing winter which has come over Italy (it is often 5°C—in the forties Fahrenheit—in our church), the sun sometimes puts in an appearance over our land of Liguria and leaves the chastity and beauty of its landscape untouched.

We are able to provide as a witness this wonderful winter sunrise where you can see Corsica and its mountains on the edge of the horizon.

These flaming colours inspired our Christmas card, done by a computer whiz friend, Francine Carpentier, who has by this modern means also come to the defence of the memory and the honour of Pope Pius XII. See these remarkable videos by clicking these links: Première Partie ; Deuxième Partie ; Troisième Partie.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Relics of St. Athanasia at Villatalla

The Poor Clares of Paris have had for more than a century the relics of a young Roman virgin-martyr of the fourth century, whose age, according to a legal statement, was not more than thirteen. The maiden bears the lovely name of Saint Athanasia, from the Greek Athanatos, immortal.
White waxen figure containing her remains. In the right hand, a vase contains her dried blood. Sur la châsse, un second reliquaire contenant le chef.

Her relics, whole, were discovered in the Roman catacombs with the wreckage of an ampoule of Venetian glass where the martyr’s blood had been kept.
At some point now unknown to us, the relics were transferred to Florence and venerated in the basilica of the Trinity. Then, a legal statement of December 30, 1891, signed by the curé, shows us that they were given to the sisters of the Interior of Mary (what a lovely title!) at the Grand Montrouge at Paris.
Placed in 1904 at the home of the vicar of Montrouge, the saint’s body would not return among the Sisters because they had lost hope of re-forming their Congregation. In 1913 it was transferred to the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, Mgr Amette, who entrusted it to the Poor Clares of Paris, in 5 Villa de Saxe.

At this moment, because of the vocations crisis, the convent must close its doors and liquidate all its goods. With the mediation of a Benedictine-oblate friend, the Mother Abbess offers to the monks of Villatalla the worthy relic, which, while waiting to be transferred to the church here, has been placed in the traditional school CoursSaint-Benoît (www.courssaintbenoit.fr), founded in Fontenay Mauvoisin by Luc Perrouin.

At the request of Higoumene Nikon, the superior of the Russian monastery Saint Pantalaimon at Moscow, Father Jehan gave him the small reliquary containing a part of the skull of the virgin martyr for the church of St Nikita the Megalomartyr at Moscow, and wrote these lines to him:
“We will ask this saint of Paradise, who will henceforth unite us in prayer, to obtain for us the grace of a perfect ecclesial union under one shepherd’s crook. May the prayer of Jesus be heard: that they may be one as We are one”.

At last St. Athanasia’s sacred relic, expatriated for more than a century in France, made her return to Italy on October 23, and comes now to bless and protect by her presence the little monastic community and the parish of Villatalla.
She will rest henceforth at the foot of the altar of Notre-Dame du Secours, at the right side of the church, where monks and faithful come each day to recommend themselves to the power of her intercession.
“Among all the miracles of Thy power, Thou hast given, O Lord, even to weak young women to receive the martyr’s victory. In the day in which we celebrate the heavenly birthday of St. Athanasia, Virgin and Martyr, give us, by inspiring us with her example, the grace to persevere to Thee” (collect of the Mass).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Visit to Mons. Guido Pozzo

A few days after our annual retreat, another event — important for us and the traditionalist world —, was our visit to the new secretary of the Pontifical Commissione Ecclesia Dei, Mons. Pozzo, who had only been recently installed.
Together with Brother Ansgar Santogrossi and Brother Toussaint we were received in a most cordial manner.

We simply and directly mentioned our situation in Villatalla and Mons.Oliveri’s welcome in respect of our own right, which foresees the exclusive use of the traditional rite of Mass.
Then we talked about the interpretation of the conciliar documents in the light of the imminent discussions between the Vatican and the priestly fraternity of St Pius X.

So herewith a short resume of the meeting which certainly marks an opening and a step forward towards the recognition of the values defended by the traditional movement, even if we do not share all points stated by the new secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission .

1. Mons. Pozzo told us that according to the letter accompanying the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, the roman rite exists under two forms and that no priest “can refuse to celebrate in principle, in either form». In practical terms it means that, in his opinion, a priest who normally celebrates in the extraordinary form and who finds himself in a situation of pastoral necessity where the competent authority demands a celebration in the ordinary form, should accept to do so.
Mons. Pozzo listened on the other hand to the opinion Mons.Stankiewicz, dean of the tribunal of the Rota, had expressed to Fr.Jehan after having read carefully the constitutions of Le Barroux and according to which a monk-priest of Le Barroux does not have the right to celebrate according to the Novus Ordo Missae, be it inside or outside the monastery. So the obligation to celebrate according to the ancient rite should be a particular right/obligation for the monks of Le Barroux, wherever they might be.
Mons.Pozzo said he knew Mons.Stankiewicz. He simply added by saying that if the pontifical letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum states that priests celebrating according to the ancient rite cannot refuse as a matter of principle the celebration of the newer form, this nevertheless leaves the possibility of a right proper to certain societies of which the members are to celebrate according to the ancient rite exclusively.

2. Concerning the Second Vatican Council, for Mons.Pozzo, the problem has less to do with the actual texts than with their abusive interpretation and application, according to that well known “spirit of the Council”. But after so many years of a quasi-monopoly of public expression in the media and in the Church, it has now become very difficult indeed to separate this “spirit of the council” from the actual texts. We must then explain this difference to the FSSPX (Fraternity of St. Pius X) and, therefore, its members will now be able to accept the texts of the Council.
When he was responded to that the FSSPX knows this line of thinking very well but continues to state there are serious problems within the conciliar texts themselves, Mons.Pozzo altered his view:
* It is true, he added, that there are badly formulated and unclear parts in these texts. This is due to the fact that the conciliar fathers wanted to avoid the classical theological language, in order to speak in a way “more accessible to man at that time”. This of course, can bring up ambiguities, but it does not mean a deliberate intention to change or deny Catholic traditional doctrine. On the contrary, the fathers considered catholic doctrine to be indisputable. Only the manner of expression was altered for pastoral reasons. In this view it is therefore legitimate to criticize unclear parts of the texts from a doctrinal point of view, as taught before. But one should not give them a heterodox meaning, as there was never any intention to change traditional doctrine. According to a healthy hermeneutic, the lines of Vatican II giving difficulty are to be understood in a manner not going against the previous constant Magisterium, as it is the same Magisterium teaching in and for all times.
* Thus are to be distinguished in the documents, an indeed in every document, the re-affirmation of dogma and traditional faith, proposals taught as doctrine from the authentic Magisterium of exhortations, directives and finally of opinions and theological explanations brought forward by the Council without any pretention to bind (pretesa di vincolare) the catholic conscience. The pure and simple acceptance of opinions the Council itself did not impose with the pretension of demanding intellectual consent are therefore not to be imposed on Catholics. Concerning this point, it would be useful to go through the theological notes that theology and the Magisterium brought together over the centuries. Unfortunately, even bishops today are not capable of making such nuances in the documents of the Church.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Annual retreat

From 3-8 August Rev. Fr. Andre Forest, founder of the Canons regular of St Augustine in Sant’Animo near Sienna, will come and preach our annual retreat.

The enthusiastic and reinvigorating theme will be that of the beatitudes: They are the life-rule of the New Testament, given by Christ himself, the elating path traced by his grace, far more demanding than the Decalogue but the only ones capable of uniting ourselves intimately to God in his Trinitarian mystery:
“Bessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven […], Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Such is the Christian paradox: participating in the sufferings and in the Cross of Christ is a source of immeasurable interior joy. “By this wood joy for the entire world has come” (Good Friday liturgy).

A warm thank you to Fr Forest who succeeded in immersing our souls in the perfume of this joy, joy beaming through his words and on his face. He will remain in the Annals of Villatalla as the first preacher to our little foundation.

We were four monks to follow this retreat, amongst others Brother Ansgar Santogrossi, American, and a young Franciscan of the immaculate, Brother Egidio-Maria Mariani, Italian. Both had the intention to join us but will finally be leaving us for a formation at the seminary of the FSSP in Denton and the other to return to his Franciscan community.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mgr Oliveri at Villatalla on the Feast of St. Benedict

On July 11 of this year, our bishop, Most Rev. Mario Oliveri, provided us with the grace and pleasure of his company in order to celebrate Pontifical Mass for the solemnity of St. Benedict. He came with a good number of priest friends and acquaintances of our house, including Canon Guitard of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign High Priest.In his homily, Bishop Oliveri first of all emphasized the holiness and spiritual influence of our founder: “On this holy day which finds us gathered in this parish church of Villatalla, our attention is drawn in particular to the holy soul of St. Benedict, father of a multitude of consecrated souls, father of monasticism in the West, a father who built a new mansion in the great house which the Church is; St. Benedict who is a teacher of the spiritual life, a divinely enlightened teacher of the monastic life. Let us pay special attention as well to all his sons, to all those who wish to live according to his teaching. We need to pay special attention to them so as to understand how to live well our Christian lives; we should take them as examples; they are among us, here as elsewhere in the Church, as examples who live the fullness of the demand which the Gospel [we have just heard] speaks about: ‘Whoever leaves houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother or children or fields for the sake of my name will receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life’.”

And then, with the faith and authority of a true pastor, Bishop Oliveri spoke a few words about the silence of the Canon of the Mass which made a strong impression on the souls of the hearers: “Oh, my dear brethren, how beautiful it would be to be recollected during this holy celebration, in these moments of total or almost total silence! Especially during the Eucharistic Prayer, when this unique [single] Sacrifice arrives, sacramentally present, on our altar... Our attitude is not so much to say many things, or to understand each word spoken, but to keep what is happening vividly present to the soul, and to place ourselves in full and complete adoration,l in the state of contemplation and assent.
“Let nothing --says the Rule of St. Benedict-- be preferred to Christ” and then “let nothing be preferred to His Work.” But what is the Work of Christ? It is the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son, the mystery of the Son who is made flesh, who died on the Cross to rise on the third day. It is the mystery of the Cross, the mystery of Christ, the mystery of his Sacrifice. The Work of God is the whole divine liturgy.
Dear Brethren, believe this, accept this, live this. There is nothing more important in your life than participation, your participation, in the celebration of the divine mysteries, the divine liturgy.
Now, you understand why holy monks, particularly Benedictine monks, must live singing all day long the praises of the Lord, praying continually, celebrating the divine liturgy of the Sacrifice of Christ and the Hours, the holy Hours, the Hours of the prayer of the whole Church.
As for us, we promise to these dear monks who are established here in this presbytery of the parish church, who offer the sacraments and pray in this parish church, we promise them to be always near them and we assure them of our ardent prayer that they be saints and good models. And that is why we ask of them just that: be you the example that we must follow. Show us in all things the way of salvation, the way that leads to Jesus Christ, the way that leads to eternal life. Praised be Jesus Christ.”

Brother Ansgar, Père Jehan and don Giancarlo, parish priest of Villatalla, in the stalls from the seminary of Albenga 
offered by Mgr Oliveri.

Mgr Oliveri at the faldstool: he is removing the pontifical vestments which he had put on to celebrate Holy Mass.

After Mass, Mgr Oliveri blessed our new chapter room-library. He was delighted at the fine work done in the old cellar, thanks to our benefactors, and spoke to the monks with brief and fatherly words of encouragement.

Afterwards some families of Villatalla offered a sumptuous meal to His Excellency and a score of priests and friends of the Benedictines of the Immaculate. More than once afterwards we were told privately that that day had been one of light and grace for many.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Feast of Corpus Christi

The whole village joined together after Mass on this Sunday for the traditional procession in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. The streets dusted with scattered flower petals resounded with hymns expressing the faith and devotion of the people.

Our religious life thus goes on peacefully in this remote little village, as we await the day when we will be able to find an even more monastic setting.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Work in the Garden

Around the village, there are a number of terraces, silent witnesses to long ages of labor and still used as vegetable gardens. One of them was cultivated by the parish priest when the town had one in residence, sixty years ago.

Still partially maintained by a valiant villager who is 94 years old, it deserved to be cleared and allowed once again to produce the fruit it is capable of.

After clearing and plowing this past winter, we now have the joy of harvesting the fruit of our efforts: lettuce, radishes, peas. . . Before long, Swiss chard, tomatoes and potatoes. And a little later: eggplant, white onions, squash and carrots. Deo gratias! !

But the work is not done, for as everyone knows, weeds are always with us. . .

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Remodelling the Cellar for a Library

Under the rectory we had a storage cellar. In order to free up a room in the house, we have transformed it so that it now serves as the library. Thus we have a fourth cell in the house, so that we can lodge Brother Ansgar who is returning to be with us for the summer.


As for the cellar, it underwent an astonishing transformation in the space of a few months. After the addition of a wall in the middle, the right side now serves as both library and chapter room. The left half includes a laundry room and a work area for household tinkering or repairs.

Before taking a more detailed look at all this, here are three photographs from the beginning of the labor, which had to be a bit furious and relentless. The ground was too high: the hardest and longest part of the work was removing 60 cm of earth and rock. .

A big power drill, and a lot of energy, got the job done, little by little.

In order to break up chunks of rock without dynamite, one must first find their weak points. A well-placed tool then allows one to blow up the big rocks which had appeared invincible..

And as the days pass, a pile of smaller stones accumulates, slowly but surely.

Unfortunately we didn't take any more photos than what you see here of the work while in progress. But you can see the final result:

The left side and the wall separating the two new rooms.

And the right side turned into a library and chapter room.

So we now have buildings for the common life (church, chapter room, refectory, library) which will be sufficient to welcome a few vocations which are currently foreseen.

On the other hand, we will soon need more than four cells. Several parts of houses adjacent to the rectory should be available for us to buy, and which we would then turn into new cells. Thank you for your generosity in helping us to acquire them.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

First feast of St. Benedict at Villatalla

A dozen priests and seminarians joined the monks for the solemnity and to show their friendship and encouragement.
Among them: Canon Don Ivo Raimondo, provost of the parish and cathedral chapter of Imperia, as well as vicar forane for the territory that includes Villatalla. Honour to those to whom it is due: it was for him to pronounce the first panegyric of St. Benedict, during which he naturally evoked the radiant figure of the saint whom Paul VI named patron of Europe.
Also present were Canon Don Giancarlo Cuneo, pastor of Dolcedo and Villatalla; his twin brother, Canon Don Marco, who is a pastor in Imperia and our most faithful friend and advocate from the beginning here; Don Sandro Marsano, the previous pastor of Dolcedo who welcomed us last year to Villatalla; Don Maurizio Morella, a canon of the cathedral of Albenga; Don Francesco Ramella, newly ordained priest who celebrated his first Mass in the traditional rite in Dolcedo; our neighbour, Father Giorgio Maria Michero, Premonstratensian hermit of the community of Sant’Antimo founded by Father Andre Forest; a Polish deacon, Don Tommaso, recently incardinated in the diocese; a Franciscan of the Immaculate, Brother Egidio, who has come for a long stay among us. Not to mention so many friends and neighbours who made a point of coming and completing our joy.
A Solemn Mass (with deacon and subdeacon) was celebrated under the watchful eye of Don Marco, very familiar with solemn and pontifical liturgies in the Roman basilicas and other cathedrals in Italy.

A good number of residents of the town joined us in prayer, and after the ceremony they provided the aperitif and refreshments in the piazza of the church. A neighbour then let us use her house for an excellent meal provided and served by several families of the area. The celebration ended with solemn Vespers and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.