Chairs for a Church of the Carmelite Fathers in the Czech Republic
Project Code: 430-04-19
At midnight on the night of April 13th to 14th, 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, close to 12 miles 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 garbage dump; it was even as a zoo. The monastery happened to be in a region where the communists were particularly determined to impose atheism.
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 no room 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 garbage 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 today a little jewel of peace and beauty. Around the monastery, in the town that the communists once wanted to turn into a center of atheism, a lively community has sprung up with many young families in it. Every year, at the Easter Vigil, several adults receive baptism, and at every Sunday Mass up to 30 children are involved. A small mixed choir from the local community ads to the beauty of the liturgy, which is celebrated by the 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 insead sprung forth.
The monastery also serves as a retreat house, so that, in addition to the Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague, it is an important center of 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 communist times is now only remembered in photographs. For some years, Holy Mass had to be celebrated in one room of the monastery, for example, because the church itself had to be restored. Now Mass is celebrated once more in the church, but there is nowhere for the congregation to sit. Up till now, chairs have had to be brought in to the church from elsewhere in the monastery and then taken back again afterward. This was clearly not a long-term solution. Now the Carmelites have asked ACN for help. We have promised them $6,700.
Will you now give to provide chairs for this church of the Carmelite Fathers in the Czech Republic?