Requiem for a German Abbey

Source: FSSPX News

After nearly nine centuries of Cistercian presence in Himmerod, in Rhineland-Palatinate, there are only six monks left in 2017. The fate of the abbey’s community has just been sealed by the decision of the congregation’s chapter to dissolve it.

“The precarious financial situation and especially the small number of monks played a key role in the painful decision,” declared Fr. Johannes, superior of the congregation of Mehrerau, a branch of the Cistercian order, in the columns of the October 15, 2017 issue of the Frankfurter Allgemeine.

The abbey of Our Lady of Himmerod was founded in 1134 in Rhineland-Palatinate, in the Eifel Valley. That year, twelve monks, led by Randulf, left Clairvaux. St. Bernard, the founder of the Cistercian order, sent them to found a monastery. A Romanesque basilica was built a few years later on the model of Clairvaux, in the form of a cross with a main nave divided into two parts: one for the monks, the other for the faithful.

Subjected to the vicissitudes of time, the building was replaced by a new church, built in the Baroque style and consecrated in 1751. But the new building was secularized in 1802. Demolished little by little, the abbey came to serve as a stone quarry. The monastery and church began to be rebuilt on the 17th-century foundation in 1925. This second architectural and spiritual rebirth of Himmerod was directed by Vitus Recke, abbot from 1937 to 1959.

For several years, the monks of Himmerod had been simply maintaining their presence without any new arrivals, despite the springtime of the Church announced by the Second Vatican Council. A decision had to be made. The Cistercians will leave. The ownership of the monastery will soon be transferred to the diocese of Treves on whose territory it is situated, and the religious will choose their new residence.

Will there be a third rebirth for Our Lady of Himmerod? In any case, the closing of the abbey is yet another sign of the spiritual and religious decline in all of Europe. What are the causes? Doubtless the secularization of modern societies can be blamed. Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, wrote in 2015 in his book-interview God or Nothing: “Western man seems to have made up his mind; he has liberated himself from God; he lives without God.... God no longer interests anyone. But the death of God results in the burial of good, beauty, love and truth; if the source no longer flows, even if that water is transformed by the mud of indifference, man collapses”.

Another cause is the crisis in the Church, whose reformed liturgy after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) provoked a loss of the Faith and a collapse of Christian life. The heterodox novelties, the doctrinal and moral relativism that has spread – even if it continues to be denounced –, religious indifference, and modern practice far from the meaning of the Cross and of sacrifice could not but empty the seminaries and novitiates. For Catholic society to be reborn, the Church needs to return to her tradition. Omnia instaurare in Christo!