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, 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).