"The Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signatura has finally confirmed the dissolution of the St. Birgitta Monastery in Altomünster, Dachau district. In a corresponding Decree from the Vatican, which is now in the archdiocese, the rejection of the complaint of the last religious who lived in the monastery, Sister Apollonia Buchinger OSsS, already confirmed in June 2017, will be upheld. The decree, written in Latin, expressly states that there were no candidates, postulates or novices at Altomünster Monastery at the time of dissolution, and that the women thus designated were neither validly admitted or were nuns from another monastery. The decree confirms once again that a presumptuous resident of the convent, who was still living in the convent, was never regarded as such and is obliged to move out.
On Monday, Pope Francis published his new Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate . In it are words that seem to be directed against the two-thousand-year-old, contemplative charism of the order:
The archdiocese can now focus more on a concept of use for the former monastery and associated areas and develop the future of Altomünsters as an ecclesiastical location." [A boutique hotel or disco? A bookstore where they can sell softcore pornography?]
"It is not healthy to love the silence and avoid meeting others, to want peace and reject activity, seek prayer and despise ministry. Everything can be accepted and integrated as part of one's own existence in this world and be integrated into the path of sanctification. We are called to live contemplation in the midst of action, and we sanctify ourselves in the responsible and generous exercise of our mission "(GeE, 26).The Birgitines
Saint Birgitta of Sweden (1303-1373), the most famous mystic of Scandinavia, came from her mother Ingeborg's royal family of the Folkunger. Her husband, the knight Ulf Gudmarsson, held a leading position as Lagman in the Swedish countryside Östergötland. Birgitta had four sons by him and four daughters. After a joint pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, both decided to enter the monastery. Ulf became a Cistercian. In 1346 Birgitta founded the monastery Vadstena after receiving divine visions. It became the mother monastery of the Order of the Blessed Savior (OSSalv) founded by her, a contemplative order with a strict rule.
The order spread mainly in the Nordic area, in the Scandinavian countries, in Estonia and Livonia as well as in the German-speaking world. Only to a small extent, however, in the Latin countries.
In Germany, the order perhaps flourished in the late Middle Ages and counted itself among the most prosperous of monasteries. Birgitta founded a women's order, but provided for the celebration of the holy sacrifice of the Mass and the pastoral care of religious women that the monastery should also include priests (maximum 13), deacons and brothers. They lived outside the cloister and were strictly separated from the nuns. The leadership of the entire monastery was exercised by the abbess. The male branch was headed by a prior.
Altomünster - the youngest monastery survived the longest
The oldest monastery in Germany was Marienwohlde near Lübeck, which was built in 1413. Shortly thereafter, the foundations of Marienkron at Stralsund and Marienforst in the Archdiocese of Cologne followed. The monastery Maria Altomünster, established in 1496, was the twelfth and most recent founding of the Birgitten Order on German soil. It was one of two daughter foundations of the Bavarian Abbey Gnadenberg. In 760, St. Alto built a hermitage, which became a Benedictine monastery. In 1056 there was an exchange. The Benedictine nuns of Altdorf Abbey (Weingarten) near Lake Constance were able to move to Altomünster Abbey, while the Benedictines went to Altdorf and rebuilt the burned-down monastery. In 1496 the monastery was passed on a ducal wish to the Birgitine Order.
Only four monasteries survived the Protestant Revolt, as the whole of the Briggitine Order was gravely affected by the Revolt's Nordic focus. In Scandinavia, under severe austerity, only the mother monastery Vadstena was able to hold for some time until 1595 when it was dissolved and expropriated by the Lutheran state. There has been a convent since 1963. In the Catholic countries, the Order experienced a second flowering in modern times, which led to the emergence of its own religious branch in Spain, where the Order only came after the Protestant Revolt.
The second flowering and the rapid declineStill five independent monasteries of the original order existed in 2012. Today there are Vadstena and two abbeys in the Netherlands. Syon in England was abandoned in 2012 and now Altomünster has been dissolved.
The Altomünster Abbey survived the Protestant Revolt in Catholic Bavaria, thanks to the energetic Abbess Ottilia Öffler. On average, 30 nuns lived in the monastery and about 15 priests and brothers. In 1803 it fell victim to the storm of the monasteries in Napoleonic times and was abolished. The sisters were allowed to remain in the monastery until their death. Four sisters survived until the anti-Church climate subsided and King Ludwig I of Bavaria allowed them again in 1841 to accept novices. Since then Altomünster has existed as a pure convent.
In 1947 the convent counted 62 nuns. Such a high number was reached only in the early 16th century. Today, only one Briggitine lives in Altomünster, the former prioress Apollonia Buchinger, which is why the Vatican had already ordered the abolition of the monastery in 2015. On the other hand, as it turned out, the only nun struggled unsuccessfully. Sr. Apollonia had to leave the monastery in February 2017. A candidate, who wanted to enter as a postulate, is now the subject of a lawsuit against the abolition of the monastery, which was decided with the verdict of the Apostolic Signatura. The archdiocese of Munich-Freising, which owns the properties, successfully attempted an eviction procedure before Bavarian courts.
A new Birgitine monastery in Bremen belongs to the third female branch, which was founded in 1911 by the Swedish convert Elisabeth Hesselblad in the tradition of the Order of the Redeemer, which today has 50 branches worldwide. The monastery in Bremen, which was built just a few years ago, does not yet include a German nun.
A few years ago, the youngest in the United States established a branch of the Order of the Briggitines, who have returned to the original tradition and cultivated the Immemorial Roman Rite.
Text: Johannes Thiel
Image: SMM / Wikicommons (Screenshots)
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