St. Vincent, May 1, 1876
TO BENEDICTINE ABBOTS
Right Reverend Abbots and Prelates of the Order of Our Holy Father St. Benedict: Greetings in the Lord! What a happy and joyful occasion it will be for the international family of St. Benedict when in four years we mark another centennial feast of our holy father. Since such an event occurs so rarely, it is certainly incumbent upon us to celebrate it in a special manner. After considering the matter thoroughly, our general chapter, which met last year, decreed with wonderful unanimity, after careful consideration, that a committee be established in our congregation to organize a worthy and dignified celebration of this feast, and that this committee be delegated to oversee all aspects of the solemnity. When we decided this, we did not have in mind to restrict our endeavors to narrow ends but rather to encourage all students everywhere of our great patriarch to join in these pious efforts.
At the time of the chapter, we considered giving the honor of leading this endeavor to some more ancient monastery of our Order, but in the end, we decided to take the initiative ourselves for two reasons. First, we had already reflected on the matter, and others had received our many efforts with general applause and praise. Second, we considered that the wonderful freedom of our American Republic (which we pray God to preserve) would favor our administering the initiative. In any event, we are prepared to undertake the work ourselves, but if our boldness should offend anyone, we declare ourselves ready to correct our error by surrendering the glory of beginning the undertaking to others. Therefore, if I may be permitted to do so, let me provide the right reverend abbots and prelates with some details about the suggestions made by my confreres for the centennial celebration.
First, it is appropriate that all the congregations and monasteries of our holy Order should be invited to participate in the celebration of this feast. Then, in order that the auspicious event might be brought about and concord and harmony among all our members be achieved, we think that the superiors of each of the congregations and monasteries should appoint several capitulars to undertake the work of planning and that when they have organized celebrations with the consent of their superiors, they should report their plans in writing to:
Rt. Rev. Abbot B. Wimmer, O.S.B.
St. Vincent’s Abbey
Westmoreland Co., Penna.
United States of North America
The members of our collegiate institute have designated as the patron of our work the distinguished son of our Holy Father St. Benedict, Cardinal John Baptist Pitra,38 and they have suggested that the right reverend abbots and prelates also consider asking Cardinal Pitra to accept the patronage of the worldwide endeavor to mark the centennial celebration of St. Benedict. Moreover, my confreres have considered proposing the following to the right reverend abbots:
(1) That students of the whole Order be invited to participate in a poetry contest to celebrate the praises of St. Benedict in centennial poems written in Latin;
(2) That all the sons of St. Benedict versed in rhetoric be invited to write a Latin panegyric in honor of our holy father;
(3) That those who compose the most outstanding poem or the best panegyric be given an honor and a prize;
(4) That a contest and a prize be established for a short hymn appropriate to the feast;
(5) That the winning poem, panegyric, and hymn be published in a new edition of the Album Benedictinum;
(6) That a sung Mass in honor of St. Benedict be composed and a prize be awarded to the composer;
(7) That a diploma be granted by the most eminent patron and judges of the competition as a complementary prize to each of those who participate in the competition;
(8) That one person who is known for his sound doctrine and literary knowledge, but who is not competing for a prize, be selected by the most eminent patron from each congregation, and from any monasteries that do not belong to a congregation, to serve on a panel of judges;
(9) That one or several Benedictine students write an epitome or summary of the history of our Order, not to exceed 600 pages, in any language;
(10) That the Holy Apostolic See be petitioned to grant certain spiritual benefits, such as the opportunity to receive a plenary indulgence on each day within the octave of the feast of our Holy Father Benedict;
(11) That a memorial medal, funded by the whole Order, be minted in honor of our Holy Father Benedict, and that everything having to do with the minting of this medal (including its inscription) be the responsibility of the Right Reverend Angelo Pescetelli,39 Abbot of Farfa and Procurator General of the Cassinese Congregation;
(12) That a votive gift be offered by the whole Order at the tomb of our Holy Father at the Archabbey of Montecassino, and that the type of gift be determined by the right reverend abbots when they consult with one another at some future time.
We ask that the distinguished prelates of our Order receive and consider our well-intentioned suggestions, and that they send any questions or further suggestions to me as soon as possible, for although the feast might at the moment seem in the distant future, nevertheless when one looks at all that must be done, he can easily see that there is not much time left to make the necessary preparations.
We ourselves will accept the responsibility for publishing a new edition of the Album Benedictinum, and we have assigned the editorship to the secretary of our college who will explain the plan for the new edition in a separate letter. Because the cost of publishing this work is not insignificant, I respectfully ask the right reverend abbots to indicate to me as soon as possible how many copies they wish to order.
I am confident that the great love we all share for our holy patriarch will result in widespread and generous support for this undertaking and that our purpose will be accomplished.
In conclusion, I pray that the good Lord grant all Benedictine abbots and prelates His blessings and His graces. Boniface Wimmer, Abbot of St. Vincent and President of the American-Cassinese Congregation
38 Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pitra, O.S.B. (1812-1889), a monk of the French abbey of Solesmes who became cardinal in 1863 and prefect of the Vatican Library in 1869.
39 Angelo Pescetelli, O.S.B. (1809-1885).