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On Saturday, February 4, the monks of Mount St Benedict celebrated their patronal feast day, the Feast of Our Lady of Exile.

Patronal plaque in honour of Our Lady of Exile
Patronal plaque in honour of Our Lady of Exile

The founder of Mount St Benedict, Dom Mayeul de Caigny, abbot of the ancient abbey of San Sebastian in Bahia, Brazil (founded in 1582), had declared that the monastery to be founded in Trinidad should be named after our Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Exile. When the monks arrived in Trinidad on Sunday, October 6, the Superior of the small group of three, Dom Ambrose Vinckier, brought with him a letter of introduction addressed to Archbishop John Pius Dowling written by Abbot Mayeul in which he stated: “Dom Ambrose Vinckier is to be the Superior of the Mission Btae M V ab Exilio upon St Benedict’s Hill. He has full power to regulate everything with Your Grace, and I hope he will give you satisfaction.”

One of the factors which determined the birth of Benedictine monastic life in Trinidad was the threat of religious persecution in Brazil at the beginning of the twentieth century. There was a strong anti-Catholic free masonry element in the Brazilian Government at the time which put into effect a series of attacks against the Catholic Church. There was also a serious threat to demolish the monastery in Bahia, Brazil. The founder of Mount St Benedict, Dom Mayeul de Caigny, saw in this a parallel to the threat of persecution by Herod against the child Jesus. The Matthean Gospel account of the flight into Egypt served as a motif for the abbot. The flight of monks from the monastery in Bahia, Brazil to Trinidad was likened to the flight by the Holy Family from the Holy Land into Egypt. Since the arrival of the monks in October 1912, Mount St Benedict has been named after our Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Exile. Each year on February 4, the Feast of Our Lady of Exile is celebrated at Mount St Benedict.

A place of refuge

This year’s celebration took place during the morning Eucharist. At the end of the Mass, the monks went in solemn procession to the patronal plaque in honour of Our Lady of Exile situated on the eastern wall of the Abbey Church. The plaque was venerated with incense after which the monks sang a Marian Antiphon composed by Bro Paschal Jordan for the feast. The Antiphon spells out the spirituality of the feast and is as follows:

You, who fled, at Joseph’s dream, to Egypt and security, /safe, so that the Child, preserved /from Herod’s grasp, could flourish, be mindful of your children /who flee outrage and terror,/ to live in exile far from home, / far from love, far from self.

O Lady of Exile, bring us home, /when night is past and death undone. /O Lady of Exile, bring us home! /Bring us home to your Son, Jesus!

Prayer cards with the words of the antiphon were distributed to the pilgrims. During his homily, Abbot John made mention of the numerous pilgrims who frequent the abbey each day and who find in Our Lady of Exile a mother who can identify with their own pain and suffering. When the monks at Mount St Benedict honour Mary, they do not focus on her state of exaltedness, but rather as a woman who had to live as a refugee with all the hardship and pain which accompanies that state. For this reason, the Mount is truly a place of refuge for many people.



 
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