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Neither Arson nor being Poisoned has Stopped this Intrepid Foundress

Mother Benedykta

Caitlin Bootsma - published on 10/20/14

Like many Church buildings in the former Soviet Union confiscated during Communist rule, the building that the local seminary gave Mother Benedykta to house her order was inhabited by a Communist family. When the family was asked to vacate the building (which was never rightly theirs) the family’s son set fire to the house.

And that was only one challenge the community faced. A young lady who was discerning entering the order was physically attacked. People constantly stole the community’s food, and Mother Benedykta herself was poisoned. She was hospitalized for weeks and still suffers the ill effects decades later.

When asked about this persecution and the survival of her community, Mother Benedytka replied:

It is a story of how a contemplative religious vocation in our 21st century can meet and surmount all challenges with the help of our Merciful Lord, and follow Him with what He called our spiritual life — which the worldly call "radical convictions" — (practicing the theological virtues through our hidden life grounded by the three Evangelical Counsels (poverty, chastity and obedience) in a cloistered life of prayer, joy, peace and enthusiastic camaraderie, i.e. community.

When it became clear that the Paulicrucians could not thrive in the current Latvian climate of oppression, Mother Benedykta moved back to the United States. She had hoped to return to Eastern Europe, but acknowledges that — for the foreseeable future — the community would not be free from hostility.

And so, after some time searching for the ideal location, the Paulicrucians have taken up residence in a small town in central Virginia. While they currently reside a brick house near the town of Farmville, plans are being made for a priory.

Mother Benedykta is praying for new vocations to this reformed community and believes that it has an important place in the Church today:

Our charism is strategic for our day and life. The monastic life is living in simplicity. It’s the intellectual life. The goal is union with God through mystical and theological study.

She explains that monastic communities are made up of women of all different characters and personalities. Like the Body of Christ as a whole, religious communities need those who are introverted and those who are extroverted, women who are scholarly and women who are artistic.

We accept women of our century who are called deeply in their hearts to leave the distractions of the world, live a spiritual life which daily learns through reading, guidance, prayer, community and work to participate in the mystical charism of St. Paul of the Cross. They are pioneering and strong women inside, though their exterior or personality may seem out of step with what the world holds as "conforming." They are individuals with goals in life, thoughts they want to share and a fervor to live in community sharing their unique talents and personalities in fraternal charity. Their hope and faith is contagious: it adds a shine, a glow, a vitality to the gold patina of our shared monastic endeavors.

What her community is not looking for are women who are hiding from life. "No," Mother Benedykta asserts, "a monastic community is not a hiding place, it’s a place to see the beauty of life.”

Visit the Paulicrucians for more information.

Caitlin Bootsmais the editor of Human Life International’s Truth and Charity Forum (truthandcharityforum.com) as well as the Communications Director for Fuzati, Inc., a Catholic marketing company. Mrs. Bootsma received a Licentiate in Catholic Social Communications at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome as well as a Master’s of Systematic Theology from Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and two sons.

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