Cistercians in Sparta, WI – saving the world

From a reader:

This morning at Spring Bank Abbey, [Sparta, WI] the Conventual Mass for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God was celebrated ad orientem, which will now be the normative manner for saying Mass at the abbey. (The Mass was solemn Latin in the ordinary form using the Cistercian Graduale.)

There are still many kinks and questions to address pertaining to the rank of feasts, the customs of the ordinary form v. surviving Cistercian usages, the size of our community, and the layout of our oratory. The draft customary will certainly see much fleshing-out and many amendments over the coming months, but Fr. Prior thought that today was the appropriate day to begin to face God together, it being the first of the year and a solemnity of Mary.

I thought that you and your readers might be interested.

I’ve attached a photo and there are more here.

Here is a shot.


This is, IMO, the sort of thing which will help to save the world.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Thank you Father Prior!

    How pleasing it is to see the monastics doing this. It puts everything in the right frame: Seek not the face of the priest in the Mass, but the Face of Almighty God!!!

  2. josephus muris saliensis says:

    It is all of a piece: facing God, the dignity of the liturgical arrangement and these stunning french vestments, worthy of Saint Denis!

  3. Bailey Walker says:

    Excellent! But I have one question: where are the candles? Or am I missing something very obvious?

    Happy New Year, everyone.

  4. The candles are wrought iron pavement lights as were once commonly used in the Cistercian and, I believe, Dominican Rites. You can see them here:

    The placement and number of candles is one of those issues we’re still sifting through since Cistercian custom has a long and varied history on this subject and many questions of usage were left open in the liturgical revisions of our rite following Vatican II. Bit by bit…

    And, as always, THANK YOU FR. Z. for your support of what we and so many others are trying to do.

  5. Truman says:

    What a splendid way to begin the year! Only with the revival of religious life can Christian life at large be revived–and I am fully convinced that religious life must be centered on authentic liturgical principles.

    Happy new year to one and all.

  6. Nathan says:

    Deo Gratias!

    Brother Stephen, congratulations on your clothing in the Cistercian Order–may Almighty God, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother and St Joseph, grant you abundant graces to live out your vocation in holiness.

    I will offer None (in the Little Office of the BVM) for you today.

    In Christ,

  7. Chris M says:

    I love the matching vestments! Simple, elegant, and beautiful!

  8. Silvestro says:

    Interestingly, I note one of the German Cistercian abbeys has gone over the head of its superiors (unless I am misreading it) and successfully applied to Rome for permission to revert to the 1964 usus for all its offices.

  9. patrick finley says:

    Monks usually get it right, especially benedictines/cistercians. Though I might be partial, I visit a local benedictine monastery often, and I spent part of my vacation as a retreat at St. Bernard Abbey (benedictine, but named for a great cistercian (who are at their root, benedictine, as they follow the rule)

    Monks are good for that though. The rule kinda demands that you simply do it, because God says so(and in this case, Pope). No liturgy commitees, no bishop conferences for translations, just simply following the directives from Rome. They keep it simple. Brilliant!

  10. Bailey Walker says:

    Brother Stephen, Thank you… I suspected as much. Best wishes on your continued efforts. It is very encouraging to see these positive signs. God bless you and your community. Oremus pro invicem.

  11. Joseph says:

    In the words of the host priest-blogger: Huzzah!

  12. ok – dumb question…..

    I assumed it was a Novus Ordo celebrated ad orientem when I did not see the altar cards (but I now see a book on the altar that could have the words), or candles.

    Please explain “Conventual Mass”. Would we assume by that name that it would be the usus antiquior?

    Just to clear it up was it a Novus Ordo or TLM? If it was a Novus Ordo, was it in Latin, as well?

  13. Oh – and, Bro Stephen congrats!

    BTW – I have you covered on my modest blog to. I don’t get nearly the number of hits that Father Z does, but I do have a few hundred regulars who peak in.

    I loved your blog, as well as your main site for the Abbey. Got ’em both linked, as well as lasermonks!

  14. Sam says:

    As memory serves their current chapel is situated on the East-West axis. That means that Fr. Bernard and the congregation are actually facing East for the consecration.

    Pray that their monastery continues to grow at a pace they can maintain. They are a good group of fellows and are the hope for monastic life in the upper Midwest.

  15. Diane,

    Thank you for the kind words and the link.

    The Mass at Spring Bank is Novus Ordo/Ordinary Form with the adaptations appropriate to the Cistercian Rite, i.e. the chalice is mixed at the credence before the Mass, the crossing at the gosepel is one large cross instead of three small ones, our equivalent of the Ecce involves separate elevations of the elements, and we still have the proper collects and secrets from our own rite. On Sundays, Solemnities, and feasts, the Mass is said in Latin. On all days, the Latin propers and Mass settings are used from the Cistercian Graduale and Kyriale.

    “Conventual Mass” is the old term for a house’s main Mass of the day.

  16. Maureen says:

    That is a very nice altarcloth. The edging and the design are very striking, and yet very simple.

  17. Brother Stephen,

    How beautiful! Thank you for sharing this. I especially like the raised ambo/bema in the center of the chapel.

    I was curious what kind of iconography you have in the chapel. I can see from the side an image of the Mother of God.

    Along with the rite, is there a tradition of liturgical iconography for the Cistercians? Just curious…

  18. Fr. Deacon Daniel,

    The idea of the Cistercian aesthetic has been a hotly debated topic for many centuries. St. Bernard engaged in a war of words with the Cluniacs over what he thought to be their excesses in art and worship and the early General Chapters of the order legislated restraint in all forms of decoration. In later centuries, abbeys adapted to their culture and time and produced some notable examples of the Baroque. After Vatican II, the debates over aesthetics raged again, particularly among our separated Trappist brethren. You can get a sense of the range of histoircal styles from some of the photos I’ve begun posting from the house archives:

    The image you see in the photos from the Mass is of the wonder-working Madonna given by King Wenceslaus II to the Abbey of Konigssaal near Prague in 1297, which was crowned and decorated as its reputation grew over the centuries. The precise age and provenance of the image in our oratory, like the idea of Cistercian simplicity, has been hotly debated since it came into our possession in the 1930s. Here’s a closer shot:

  19. patrick finley says:

    quote “Please explain “Conventual Mass”. Would we assume by that name that it would be the usus antiquior?”

    I see this used all the time. I think it simply refers to the communities mass of the day, one that they all join to do. I know the few monasteries I have had experience with they also serve as the parochial staff for a parish, so if I am not mistaken (PLEASE CORRECT ME if I am), its their mass where the community as a whole is there and the mass is offered for the community as a whole. General the Father Prior will celebrate. (?)

    I love the statue of St Bernard you have there, Brother. Nice dog too! I know dog’s at monasteries and seminaries tend to get spoiled so I bet he is happy as ever!

  20. Brother Stephen,

    Fascinating… Thank you for the images and the explanation.

    What miracles are associated with this icon of the Mother of God?

  21. Nan says:

    What a beatiful Theotokos!

  22. Thanks for explaining Br. Stephen

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