Examining the contributions that the Abbey of la Trinite, Vendome, made to its local community, Penelope Johnson ( Prayer, Patronage, and Power: The Abbey of la Trinite, Vendome, 1032-1187 ,158-9) notes the abbey “was actively involved in providing sustenance to the hungry” and adds that “much of this monastic charity was woven into the liturgy.”

She specifically speaks of the mandatum of the poor on Maundy Thursday: “After the morning chapter meeting, the poor were selected for the service. One person was picked for each monk as well as one for each monk who had died during the year, and two for the abbot. This group of poor people attended mass after the monks but received only the unconsecrated host. After mass, a substantial meal of bread, wine, and vegetables was given to the poor. Later in the day after none, a procession formed, and with a great pealing of bells and singing of psalms entered the church through the galilee. The entire congregation communicated at the festival mass that followed. At the end of the service, the deacon and celebrant for the week escorted the poor into the cloister where they were all seated. Each monk took his place before a seated poor person. The monks sang an antiphon after the sounding of three gongs. Then each monk genuflected and proceeded to wash the feet of the person before him. The washing was followed by kissing the feet of the poor person and then offering him wine. Finally, each monk knelt before his partner in liturgy, offered him two pennies, and kissed his hands.”

All Saints’ was another day of liturgical charity when “monks fed one hundred hungry people.” On the first Sunday of lent, “the monks went without an extra portion of food and donated it to the almoner for the poor.”

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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