CHARTERHOUSE CHRONICLE by Peter Hebblethwaite
0 NLY because people keep on asking me. I would like to say that Paul VI, the First Modern Pope is complete and will be published by Harper Collins next March. One person who makes a fleeting appearance in it is Archbishop Rembert Weakland, Archbishop of Milwaukee on the east side of Lake Michigan.
For Paul VI said to Weakland exactly what he had said to Cardinal Basil Hume when he called him from Ampleforth to Westminster; "The best preparation for being a bishop is to have been a Benedictine abbot."
Yes, said Cardinal Hume when I asked him about this recently in Bradford, "not a bad pedigree". On other occasions he is ready to wax eloquent on chapter 64 of the Rule of St Benedict on the role of the abbot. Particularly important is the recommendation that the abbot should so contrive things that "while the strong have something to strive for, the weak are not crushed". Not a bad leadership principle, in any organisation.
Equal charity for all
ARCHBISHOP Weakland's motto is also taken from the Benedictine Rule. "Omnibus aequalis caritas," it declares, which is only crudely rendered as "equal charity for all". One of the things it means in the case of Archbishop Weakland is a readiness to listen to all equally. The first word of the Benedictine Rule is, "listen".
I asked Archbishop Weakland how he came by his unusual name, Rembert. He explained that he was baptised George Samuel after his two grandfathers. But he didn't like either name in the mining town of Patton, Pennsylvania. where we grew up.
He had childhood memories of monks in his parish. One of them, a brilliant scientist, was expelled from the abbey during the modernist scare, and rendered bitter by the experience of injustice and folly. Another scholar played safe by writing only in pencil.
One of the best things about entering the Benedictine noviceship was that Weakland. would be able to change his name. His novice master offered him the name Adolf (pronounced Aydolf) on the grounds that it needed rescuing from dire associations. The year was 1945.
Weakland said he did not feel any special calling to rescue the name Adolf. He became provisionally Kenan. Then he proposed to the novice-master Callistos and Rembert, though Callistos was the name he really wanted. He foolishly put this first on his list — and so got the name Rembert. The novice-master later joked that he'd got it just right: Rembert was a Benedictine abbot who became a bishop; Callistos became pope; that would have been aiming too high.
The brightest monks were sent to study in Rome. Rembert Weakland OSB was to study music and theology at San Anselmo on the Aventine Hill. His abbot, a wise man, thought that schooling should not interfere with education.
Rembert was instructed to do the full theological course but without taking any exams and otherwise to concentrate on his music. He was organist at San AnseImo while John Quinn, the future archbishop of San Francisco, had the same post at the North American College.
Ile had to use his vacations well. One summer he spent at Solesmes, the aristocratic abbey which had rediscovered how to sing Gregorian chant. There he brushed up his French and made his profession. In this post-war period the Solesmes monks wanted to be kind to Americans to make up for their support for Marshal Philippe Petain.
Next summer he went to Munich for organ classes. Thus he got to know Europe well in this post-war period, particularly the two countries France and Germany on whose permanent reconciliation the future depended. On them, too, depended the renewal of the Church.
Fr Rembert was ordained in June 1951, at Subiaco north of Rome. This was a steep rocky hillside, then overlooking a lake, where St Benedict conceived the idea of monasticism: a group of dedicated men sharing a common life devoted to work and prayer (labora et ora).
On his way home Rembert. accompanied by his sister, stopped at Ealing Abbey, and was surprised to find the church full on June 29, the feast of Ss Peter and Paul. It was a holiday of obligation, a sign, it was said, of the English devotion to the papacy. After all, we invented Peter's Pence in the eighth century.
Then they took the Queen Elizabeth back to New York. Weakland made seven crossings by ship before taking to the air. He preferred the sea crossing. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, he points out, wrote all his books on shipboard: when he started flying, he stopped writing.
Weakland's last ocean voyage was to the Synod of 1974. "Never have I been so well prepared for a meeting," he claims. But that is to jump ahead.
His next move after ordination in 1951 was to go to the Julliard School of Music in New York. Mostly it produces professional musicians. He is, not surprisingly, the only archbishop to have been come out of the school.
The fact that he was allowed to go to this prestigious school shows the liberality of his Benedictine abbot. No doubt he thought music would be useful for the opus dei or liturgy which is at the heart of the OSB vocation. He
also had in mind college teaching of music.
The result was that Weakland became a highly accomplished pianist. He still has a c.I900 Mason and Hamlin grand piano in his sitting-room. He complains of not having enough time to practice, but can move his guests with Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt. In private we had a good shot at playing Schubert's Fantasia for four hands.
NOW for something completely different. In 1978 (I think) I stood in a queue at a restaurant in East Berlin. Next to me was a student with whom I struck up a conversation. We sat down together, and having assured ourselves that the flower-pot was not bugged, conversed in low tones about the schizophrenic life led in the GDR. Three letters were exchanged over the next three years; and then silence. I met Andreas Malassa last month in Pima, 30 kilometres south of Dresden, in Saxony. He explained his silence: when doing his military service, to have sent or received letters from abroad would have meant losing leave. So he stopped writing and hoped I would understand.
Now married to Ute, and with three children, he is more prosperous than most Ossis (as the East Hermans are known). Since the Wende the word on
everyone's lips meaning the "great change" he has worked for a British company which devises computer programs for industry. Ute has lost her job in the marketing department of the glass factory. They built their own house on the ruins of a 300 year old workshop. It took six years. They keep hares in the garden to sell to their neighbours. This custom and the harescomes from Poland.
There's maybe a touch of nostalgia for the old days. "We used to have no money and plenty of time," said Andrea, "now we have enough money but no time."
This is Luther-country. The only famous person born in Pima was Johannes Tetzel, the Dominican whose preaching of indulgences sparked off Luther's protest. No connection, but I was slightly surprised to find that the Malassa children were not baptised, and that no signs of religion, whether crucifix or Bible, were to be seen. That was one of the "successes" of