Monday, February 7, 2011

The Canons - Heavy Artillery of the Church Militant

                                   (American Canons Regular of Klosterneuberg, Austria)

Did you ever have one of those days when the same topic keeps popping up in different ways, thereby giving you the idea that you're supposed to be paying attention?  Well that happened to me today concerning the monastic life and the Church.  Specifically, those priests who are known as Canons (They're not monks, but they spring from monasticism, following the Rule of St. Augustine).

Never heard of a Canon?  Well neither did I until recently, but then, like I said, they kept popping up in my reading, in my studying, in my Twitter account. 

First, I've been listening to the outstanding series of talks provided for free download by the Institute of Catholic Culture.  (Never heard of them?  Well, go immediately and book mark their site.  You will not regret it).  Anyway, I'm listening today to a series of three talks on Monasticism by Father William Fitzgerald who is a Canon Regular of St. Norbert (the Norbertines).  He explains in these talks that  Canon Regulars are priests who live together around a particular church or cathedral and have vowed to renounce private wealth.  This rule was first established by St. Augustine.

The term "Canon" rings a bell because a couple of months ago, I read in the Long Island Catholic that three Canons Regular of St. Augustine from Klosterneuberg, Austria, were coming to staff  parishes in the Rockville Centre diocese.  While the Canons will live in common, they will run different parishes.  One of the men described the difference between the Canons Regular and diocesan priests:
The most significant difference, he said, is that as members of a religious order they live in community and take vows of obedience, chastity, common property and stability.

"People shouldn’t be worried. We are not like monks who are set apart. We are not going to form a community hidden from the parish. We want to share with the faithful and the clergy in the diocese our way and offer it to them as a model."
One example is that the canons pray the Divine Office communally. Diocesan priests also say these prayers daily, but usually in private. "We will invite everyone to join us. Our communal prayer will be open to all the faithful.”
Next, when I get home from work,  I go on the Academy's Twitter account, and what do I see?   A tweet from Magnificat Magazine saying, "look at our new cover art."  And, where do you think their new cover art came from?  That's right, Klosterneuberg in Austria, home of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine.  The cover is a beautiful altarpiece created in 1181 by the goldsmith  Nicholas of Verdun.

But wait, there's more.  As I read further in the Twitter account I find a tweet from Zenit, the Italian Catholic news agency stating, "First Norbertine Female Canonry Established in United States."  That's right, today, February 7th, in the diocese of Fresno was established the first U.S. branch of the feminine order of the Norbertines.  The Canonesses' (that's what they're called) press release states the following:
 ... liturgical prayer "is the essence and heart of their vocation, interceding for the needs of the Church and the world day and night during Holy Mass, the liturgy of the hours, and their other community and private prayers."
For this reason, the members of this order are called canons and canonesses to signify their vocation and mission "for the solemn and reverential celebration of the sacred liturgy."
I don't know about you, but I feel better already about the Church militant here on earth...we've got Canons on the front lines.  We can all sleep easier.

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