JOURNEY WITH ACN is our Friday newsletter which will be regularly posted to our blog.
Our weekly newsletter was designed to provide us with an opportunity to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and with some of the projects we have been able to realize together with ACN benefactors.
This week: Czech Republic
A spiritual centre for the Archdiocese of Prague, following the demise of communism.
ACN International, adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada
At midnight in the night of 13 – 14 April 1950 all the male religious houses in Czechoslovakia were raided by the ‘People’s Militia’, the state security services and units of the Interior Ministry. The monks were rounded up and arrested and transported to so-called “collection monasteries”. These, as Church historian Vaclav Vasko has written, were “nothing more than supervised concentration camps for monks.”
All the monastery buildings were confiscated by the State. It was a fate suffered also by the Franciscan monastery of Slany, around 12 miles (20 km) to the south of Prague. After the expulsion of the monks, the monastery was used, and abused, as a prison and workshop and its gardens as a shooting range and rubbish tip, and even as a zoo. The monastery happened to be in a region where the communists were particularly determined to impose atheism.
A little jewel of peace and beauty
Over four decades later, after the collapse of communism, Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, who was then the Archbishop of Prague, decided to transfer the monastery in Slany to the Carmelite Fathers, who had meanwhile also returned once more to their former monastery close to the world-famous shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague. The Carmelites had nowhere in the utterly run down and derelict monastery for the young men who wished to join their order, and so it was that the monastery in Slany became their novice house.
The former Franciscan monastery also looked like a ruin at the time and was full of rubbish and rubble. But the brothers rolled up their sleeves and set to work. Thanks to the hard work of the Carmelites over the past 20 years, the monastery is a little jewel of peace and beauty. Around the monastery, in the town the communists once wanted to turn into a centre of atheism, a lively community has sprung up including many young families.
Every year, at the Easter Vigil, several adults receive the Sacrament Baptism, and at every Sunday Mass up to 30 children are involved. A small mixed choir from the local community adds to the beauty of the liturgy celebrated by young monks with great reverence and joy. One senses that in this place, where the communists sought to deal the Church a deadly wound, new life has sprung forth instead.
The monastery also serves as a retreat house in addition to the shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague, making it an important centre for the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Prague. Many people would like to get to know the spirituality of the Carmelite order better. They spend a few days, individually, or in small groups, living with the monks and deepening their faith, in the silence of this place.
Nonetheless, there is a great deal to do, even if the devastation of communism is now only remembered in photographs. For example, for a few years Holy Mass had to be celebrated in one of the monastery’s rooms because the church itself had to be restored. Now Mass is celebrated in the church once again, but there is nowhere for the congregation to sit.
Until now, chairs have had to be brought in to the church from elsewhere in the monastery, and then taken back again afterward. This is clearly not a long-term solution. Now the Carmelites have asked ACN for help. We have promised them $7,200.