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Worldwide celebration of 900th anniversary of Premonstratensians in Prague

  • November 2020

At the beginning of this year’s Advent, on Saturday 28 November 2020 at sunset, the Royal Canonry of the Premonstratensians in the Strahov monastery (in Prague) launched the celebration of the 900th anniversary of the founding of the order in its monastery basilica of the Assumption, with the participation of Prague Archbishop Dominik Cardinal Duka OP. The joint singing of the first Advent vespers was followed by the blessing of new bells and the display of the remains of Saint Norbert (1080–1134), the founder of the order, who is buried in the basilica.
On the following first Sunday of Advent, 29 November 2020, the Apostolic Nuncio in the Czech Republic Charles Daniel Balvo celebrated the Holy Mass which marked the beginning of the worldwide jubilee year of the Premonstratensian Order.
St. Norbert came from Xanten on the Lower Rhine, where he became a canon at a young age. In 1120/1121, he founded a monastery of the new canonical order following the monastic rule of St. Augustine in “the place shown in advance”, called Prémontré, in the valley near Laon in Provence (France). He later became archbishop of Magdeburg, where he died on 6th June 1134. In 1627, his body was transferred to the Strahov Monastery in Prague. Soon after, he was included among the Czech national patrons. An important role was played by the fact that the Premonstratensian Order was already one of the most numerous religious orders in Bohemia and Moravia.
The celebrations of the anniversary of the Premonstratensian Order are taking place around the world through a series of festivities, lasting until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord in 2022. In addition to celebrations at individual Premonstratensian monasteries in the Czech Republic, on the occasion of the anniversary, for example, an exhibition will be opened in Prague Strahov. Among the worldwide events prepared for 2021, the international meeting of juniors (novices and students) of the Premonstratensian Order in Mondaye (France) or the meeting of prelates of the Premonstratensian monasteries in Rome, and a special audience with Pope Francis, deserve particular attention.
The Premonstratensian Order has around 1 300 members worldwide. In its work, it focuses on emphasizing reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and on exemplary care for the choral prayer of the Divine Office. It is engaged in exemplary administration of incorporated parishes and many pastoral activities, care of libraries, and many of its members are dedicated to science and teaching, especially at universities.
During the forcible elimination of all men’s monasteries in Czechoslovakia in 1950, all Premonstratensian activities were abolished, and many members were imprisoned on the basis of kangaroo court, or without trial in internment prisons or deployed to auxiliary technical battalions of the army. When, after a brief liberalization of the regime in 1968, some monks began to secretly associate in secret communities and accept novices again, the Premonstratensians were among the first. Therefore, during the renewal of the order’s life in 1990, together with the Salesians, Jesuits, Dominicans and Franciscans, they were among the most numerous renewed male orders in Czechoslovakia. (According to the list drawn up by the Conference of Senior Religious Superiors, all four abbeys (canonries) of the Premonstratensian Order in Bohemia and Moravia were restored, and as of that date it had 116 members.)
At present, there are four Premonstratensian abbeys (canonries) in the Czech Republic, namely in Prague in Strahov, in Teplá near Mariánské Lázně in western Bohemia, in Želiv in eastern Bohemia and in Nová Říše in western Moravia. Each canonry has its own abbot. Some of them have subsidiary monasteries in a larger number of places in the Czech lands and in Slovakia.
As soon as 1990, the public activity of the sisters from the Premonstratensian religious congregation was resumed. It is now housed in the monastery at the Svatý Kopeček pilgrimage site near Olomouc.
In 1998, the abbot of Strahov Michael Pojezdný, agreed with the administration of the monastery of Premonstratensian nuns in Cracow – Zwierzyniec on an attempt to restore the Premonstratensian canon monastery in Doksany (northern Bohemia). First, the religious house dependent on the parent canonry in Krakow was founded. In 2007, the Apostolic See decided to promote it to an independent canonry and submit it to the abbot of Strahov as its prelate.
The fact of interest is that there are two Premonstratensians and two Dominicans among the teachers of canon law at Czech universities: Ignác Antonín Hrdina OPraem and Bartoloměj Marián Čačík, both Premonstratensians from Strahov, Jiří Rajmund Tretera from the Dominican monastery of St. Giles in Prague and Damián Němec from the Dominican monastery of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary in Olomouc.
The monumental Premonstratensian monastery in Strahov, the seat of Premonstratensian theology students from the Czech lands who study at the Catholic Theological Faculty of Charles University, is home to of the largest publicly accessible libraries in the Czech lands. The basilica and the monastery, together with Prague Castle, form a beautiful and world-famous Prague panorama.

See "Church Reporter No 12/2020", Church Law Society, pp. 2–4.

D 4 January 2021    AZáboj Horák

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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