Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Fire at Our Lady of the Valley


This is a day of remembrance for our community. For on 21 March 1950, the Feast of Saint Benedict, the monastery of Our Lady of the Valley in Lonsdale, Rhode Island was ravaged by a devastating fire. The original wing was destroyed; the church was rendered structurally unsound and would have to be demolished. The community of 140 monks was homeless.

Friends and neighbors of the monastery look on
as the fl├Ęche goes up in flames.
laybrother assists the firefighters.

Well before the fire the monks had been searching for a new location that would insure their solitude and economic stability, since the population in the area around the monastery had increased considerably. And by 1949 the community purchased a large agricultural property, Alta Crest Farms in Spencer, Massachusetts. The 1950 fire merely accelerated the community's projected move. In God's providence the end of one story became the seed for a new one.

We dare not compare the plight of a few monks with the trauma of so many homeless people, especially refugees in the Middle East. Nonetheless it is good for us to open our hearts in prayer for them, recalling that we monks were once homeless as well.