Benedictine monasteries are autonomous. Although most of them belong to a monastic congregation, such a body is only a loosely-organized association for mutual assistance. It does not often impinge upon the daily life of its member monasteries.
The principal exception to this is the visitation, when abbots and monks from other houses come to examine the life of a particular monastery. It is a means of helping a community to see where it is going, what problems it finds along the way, and what can be done to solve them. Visitations are the principal means by which the congregation assists individual monasteries.
Shortly after Vatican Council II, the American-Cassinese Congregation took steps to improve its visitation practice. These efforts resulted in the Guidelines for Visitation, published in 1974, that have served us well as the norm for our visitations for nearly two decades.
In 1990 the Congregation published The Constitutions and the Directory, which now constitute its proper law, including provisions for visitations. Although the new law made few changes, a revision of the visitation guidelines was needed to bring them into full conformity with the proper law and to recognize changes of emphasis that have now become desirable.
The forty-third general chapter in 1989 mandated the appointment of a committee to draft a revised version. The committee consisted of Abbot Owen Purcell (B) and Fathers Daniel Ward (J) and Clement Zeleznik (An), with Father Claude Peifer (Bed) serving as chairman. The draft that they prepared was discussed, revised, and approved by the forty-fourth general chapter at St. Bernard Abbey in 1992.
The result of these efforts is this new Guide for Visitations in the American-Cassinese Congregation of Benedictine Monasteries. May it help us to use this ancient instrument of monastic renewal effectively in order to bring new vitality to our monasteries today.
March 21, 1994
+ Melvin Valvano, O.S.B.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT AND PURPOSE OF VISITATIONS
THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF VISITATION PRACTICE