Blessing of Bonnevaux: Talk by Laurence Freeman


Welcome to Bonnevaux at the start of our journey, our mission, here. Thank you for coming to be with us and by your presence to support and inspire us. Thank you to Mgr Wintzer for welcoming us with such warmth to the church here. Thank you to Pere Christophe for the fraternal kindness of the monastic community of Liguge. Thank you to the Sandra the mayor of Marcay for your welcome and support. And thank you for Br John, the prior of my community at Turvey. in England. Thank you to our neighbours and the meditators from Poiteiers and the region and to each of you who is contributing their time and talent to Bonnevaux.

Meister Eckhart said the best, indeed the only real prayer, is ‘thank you’. So I have already said it all.

Thank you to God for bringing us to Bonnevaux and making us fall in love with the spirit of peace and beauty here, which we want to build up and renew so that we can share it with everyone. Today we bless Bonnevaux as a place of peace and also a place for peace in our troubled, distracted and divided world.

Peace is a manifestation of pure consciousness. We ‘possess the mind of Christ’ St Paul tells us and that is our foundation. Consciousness can decline and darken. We need to treasure it and see that to be conscious means to be awake and practice awareness and the sign of this is the spirit of love and kindness. St Benedict understood this in a practical way and so we ask his protection and blessing today as well as the life of a community begins to grow here. We will live here in the spirit of Benedict’s Rule of life.

This is a place of living, conscious tradition. The buildings bear witness to this sense of the sacred. We will love the land and the buildings for this reason. Tradition is a stream of consciousness flowing through time – across the millennia. And it seems also to saturate certain physical locations. In those places simply to come and be there is to be more awake. We feel and pray that Bonnevaux can be – and is – such a place.

Eight hundred years ago in the early 12th century – and maybe much earlier – the contemplative life was lived here in this beautiful valley. We feel called to continue that tradition here in simple ways – practicing silence, hospitality, working, thinking creatively, eating, sleeping, breathing in a simple rhythm of life open to all in the mind of Christ. In friendship with all Christians and all seekers and the followers of all faiths. Welcoming dialogue with the secular institutions of our time that are also seeking a contemplative mind and new forms of leadership in order to face their challenges.

We pray that we can witness here to simplicity of life, to the need for personal discipline and personal harmony in order to find true liberty, to the power of solitude to cure the terrible loneliness of our time, to silence as the purifying work of pure attention, to meditation as the way to realise the common ground of human community. To Christ about whom Clement of Alexandria said – nothing that is not against nature is against Christ.

Bonnevaux will be blessed by being both rooted locally in this very particular part of France at the heart of the new Europe and yet also a centre of a global family.

John Main believed that deep silence awakens the human heart and that as we become silent we also become simple. He believed this and he taught a practice drawn from the heart of his Christian monastic tradition that could be followed and shared with all. We ask his blessing too on all Bonnevaux on this day and all the days to come.

Laurence Freeman OSB