Benedictines, Olivetan

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A monastic order whose Latin title is Congregatio Sanctae Mariae Montis Oliveti Ordinis Sancti Benedicti. The Olivetan Benedictine monks, who have belonged to the Benedictine Confederation since 1959, were established in the 14th century when Bl. Bernard Tolomei and his followers withdrew (1313) to a place of solitude called Accona (about 12 miles from Siena, Italy), where Bernard later founded the Abbey of Mount Olivet. The congregation was approved by Clement VI (Jan. 21, 1344). The monks, most of whom are priests, profess solemn vows and pursue a semicontemplative, monastic life, giving special attention to liturgical solemnities. They also engage in active ministry, particularly in teaching and retreat work. The monasteries of the congregation, each ruled by an elected abbot or a prior, are independent of one another, but are subject to the abbot general, who is also the abbot of the motherhouse, the Abbey of Mount Olivet.

The Olivetans came into existence during a period of decline in Benedictine monasticism, adopted a form of government suitable for the correction of abuses, and restored a rigorous observance of the rule. The reform spread rapidly, first in Tuscany, then in all of Italy, where, by the end of the 14th century, some 50 Olivetan monasteries were flourishing under the protection of popes and bishops. While the growth of the congregation continued into the 17th century, when there were nearly 2,000 monks in about 100 monasteries, monastic discipline deteriorated, especially because noblemen entered the monasteries without true vocations. The political disturbances and suppressions of the 18th and 19th centuries brought grave harm to the order, but from these misfortunes there emerged some outstanding monks who worked for a restoration of the congregation in Italy. Foundations, never before successful, were established outside of Italy, first in France (late 19th century), then in Austria, Brazil, and Lebanon (early 20th century). Houses were founded in Belgium, England, and Mexico. The U.S. foundations include Holy Trinity Monastery (St. David, AZ), Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey (Pecos, NM) and the Benedictine Monastery of Hawaii (Waialua, HI).

Bibliography: OSB, Official Catholic Directory #0200. m. scarpini, I monaci benedettini di Monte Oliveto (Alessandria 1952). g. picasso, "Aspetti e problemi della storia della Congr. Benedettina di Monte Oliveto," Studia Monastica 3 (1961) 383408. v. cattana, "La preghiera alle origini della tradizione olivetana," La preghiera nella Bibbia e nella tradizione patristica e monastica (Rome 1964) 703731.

[g. picasso/eds.]