The name Boschi is the name of the area where a small Trappist community settled. In the Ermeta valley, in the municipality of Vicoforte (CN), there is a cluster of peasant houses called “i boschi” (“the woods”). In fact, the valley is full of woods: in other times, fruit chestnuts, now only coppice woods. Both for this environmental aspect and for the aforementioned name, it was deemed appropriate to maintain this name. Since all Cistercian monasteries are dedicated to the Mother of God, it was obvious that this small monastery would be called “Madonna di Boschi”1. In the summer of 1971, three monks from the Monastery of Frattocchie in Rome, invited by a friend of Fr. Filiberto Guala, came to Piedmont, to S. Biagio – Morozzo (CN). The community of Frattocchie had been considering a move to a more secluded area for years: Ciampino airport and the Appian Way, which passes in front of the monastery, seemed to be obstacles to the monastic life of the community. A property was now being offered, and three monks came to see the possibility of a move. In September, the three monks returned to Frattocchie, but the community did not accept the idea of the move.
Fr. Guala, for his part, did not give up his idea of reviving that Benedictine priory, reduced to a farm for centuries; he tried to involve Lérins, Tamié, and Tre Fontane, but the idea faded away like smoke, given the impossibility of trying to bring together three or four monks with different backgrounds. Fr. Filiberto was disappointed, but returned – at least for the moment – peacefully to Frattocchie. The prospect of a Cistercian monastery in Piedmont had aroused interest among the people, the clergy, and the Piedmontese bishops (Cardinal Michele Pellegrino who was in Turin in that time, one day being in Rome, he came to Tre Fontane; he spoke in Chapter and aroused interest in the younger part of the community for a simpler and more authentic monastic life, less structured). The parish priest of S. Biagio, Don Bongiovanni, with Mons. Bono and with the Bishop of Mondovì, Mons. Brustia, subsequently came to Tre Fontane to ask this community to take on the commitment that Frattocchie had declined. The community of Tre Fontane had no problem with the move; however, there was a need for a monastic life less burdened by a structure made up of secular buildings. Moreover, the post-conciliar period had induced the order to open up to new needs and to allow two or three monks of a community to live a simpler monastic life, still linked to the community. For this new and unusual experience in the Trappist Order, a statute and a name were found: “Annexe”! This was the idea that animated several members of the community: dependence on the Abbot and the community, but in a simpler place. The issue was debated in the community. During the regular visit, the Immediate Father (from La Trappe) suggested a vote to the community.
This vote was no longer about whether or not to have a dependency, an Annexe, but about choosing to buy a small property with a relative farmhouse! Some monks – two – who came to Mondovì in early March with Abbot Father Domenico Turco to report the community’s decision to the Bishop of Mondovì, pointed out to Monsignor Brustia that San Biagio had not been considered a suitable place for the purpose. Monsignor Brustia, being very realistic and knowing the situation of San Biagio, replied: “You choose the place, but I want you to come to my Diocese.”
” Father Domenico Turco, who was originally from Vasco, suggested having lunch with his brother, who during lunch asked why we were in Mondovì. After explaining the reasons, he said, “I know what you’re looking for. There is a house for sale that certainly suits your needs.” After lunch, we went to the place and found two rooms upstairs and a room on the ground floor, divided into a kitchen, refectory, another small room, and a corridor leading to the cellar. The stable caught our attention: it protruded a little from the building and could be adapted to a future chapel. The barn above the stable could be suitable for a dormitory. There were no services to be seen (there were none!). Water was supplied by a Honda motor that pushed a drip of pseudo-potable water into a tank behind the stable. For the rest, there was a hand pump that barely allowed us to draw rainwater from a cistern. We immediately reached a compromise and bought it. Meanwhile – from March to May – in the community, those who were more suitable and even more enthusiastic emerged. The number was limited to three with a possibility of “mobility”. One of the reasons for this Annexe was to offer the possibility of a simpler monastic life. There was already a monk from Tre Fontane – Fr. Daniele – who had been living in Palaia for several years in a house furnished (monastically) by a community opened by D. Divo Barsotti, then dissolved. Another member of the first group was Fr. Basilio. Father Domenico chose Father Bernardo as responsible for the Annexe.
Father Domenico chose Father Bernardo. We left with a small truck on which we had previously loaded part of Daniele’s “furniture” on May 17, 1972, following the political elections in which the Communist Party had obtained many votes. The journey was quite adventurous, but around five o’clock in the afternoon, we arrived. With a little patience, we settled down for dinner and the night. The Eucharist had been celebrated at Tre Fontane before leaving. And life began! The three “elements” immediately manifested their diversity of views: one was a champion of poverty, the other desired “Eucharistic fasting” to have more time for work; Father Bernardo, in relation with the Abbot, said that there was no need to invent anything. The simplicity of life, sometimes the lack of means, would have forced us to take the content of Cistercian life seriously. The first two months, June and July, passed not only in trying to order the essential things to live, but also in cultivating the garden and vineyard, and the orchard, which was still efficient and productive. In August, Daniele returned to Palaia. In September, Father Gianmaria and Petruccio, a skilled mason who worked for Tre Fontane, came. The first thing to do was to clean up the stable a bit, then redo the floor to use it as a church. On the eve of All Saints’ Day, we celebrated the first vespers and the Eucharist. Yes, the door was missing, but we folded a tent made of sewn sacks together. The next morning, the vigils! A container of iron with embers had to be used for heating the room, which, instead of warming, only produced smoke.
The adaptation work continued. However, perhaps in November 1972, the rumor began to circulate that as soon as Father Guala had sorted out the matter of the chocolate factory in Frattocchie, he would come to San Biagio. Bishop Monsignor Brustia, who followed our presence with interest, came one day to see the work. I was a little discouraged; I presented the issue to Monsignor Brustia, telling him that if this happened, we would pack our bags and look for another place. It was not appropriate to present the same situation that already existed in Rome with the two monasteries. The Bishop’s response was clear and precise: “Father Filiberto wants to come to San Biagio for a spirituality center. For me, you are the Trappists, and I asked you to come to the Diocese of Mondovì. Furthermore,” he added, “the community opposes Father Guala’s project, and he has asked the Holy See for exclaustration for three years.” Encouraged by this response from the Bishop, we continued with the adaptation work: winter was now approaching, and it was tough! There was a bit of wood left by the farmers; we had to saw it by hand to keep the only stove that served as a kitchen burning.
Boschi has never sought or cared for popularity. In those years, an article had appeared in a magazine (perhaps Jesus or Famiglia Cristiana) that sounded like this: “Piedmont: Umbria of 2000.” Two monastic experiences were reported – if I remember correctly: that of Father Charles of Tamié and that of three Benedictine monks from San Paolo Fuori le Mura, thus exalting the courage of monastic renewal! When I was about to adapt to simple life and tried to deepen the sense of monastic life, not only for myself but also for contemporary man,
Father Domenico Turco had been forced to resign as Abbot of Tre Fontane. The Visitor - D. Gervasio di Frattocchie - came to Boschi and asked me to become the Superior at Tre Fontane. I knew the situation of that Community well: a French Administrator who had delegated the management of the Community to the Prior from the Trappist Monastery, and the novitiate was given to Father Agostino, also from the Trappist Monastery. The economic situation was very complex and tangled. I replied to D. Gervasio that I did not have the vocation to maintain the ancient walls if they did not serve the monastic life. To which he replied, "Then I'll close the monastery." After a few days of hesitation and a little prayer, I accepted. On February 2, 1974, I was "installed" as Superior "ad nutum" for three years. What would happen to Boschi? The Visitor assured me that the experience would continue with the sending of Father Domenico in my place. For the visitor, it was not a problem to keep Boschi open, but in this way, he found a solution for Father Domenico. The three years of Fr. Bernardo as Superior of Tre Fontane do not directly enter into the history of Boschi, although they have had a not entirely positive impact on the life of Boschi. In February 1977, Fr. Bernardo, after completing his term as Superior, asked the Father General to return to Boschi to live his monastic vocation. Upon arrival, he found Father Domenico there with a certain Giovanni Van Wess, a very curious individual. He had lived for years at Tre Fontane as an Oblate, then at Frattocchie. Finally, definitively removed from Frattocchie and Tre Fontane, he had returned to Holland. But having learned that Father Domenico was at Boschi, he installed himself there (the term is exact because Father Domenico, as submissive as he was, let him do everything). In the meantime, Father Lino, a Scalabrinian, had arrived for a period of six months and then with the intention of staying permanently if this were God's will. Inevitably, the conflict with Van Wess arose; I had already known him from Tre Fontane, and he had formed his own circle of friends and imposed himself. He moved to an apartment in Mondovì, and money was not a problem for him. The new Superior at Tre Fontane did not view Boschi sympathetically; he wanted to end the experience of an Annexe. I replied that it would be possible, but it was necessary for the entire Community to express themselves on the matter. Above all, it was appropriate to inform the bishop of Mondovì. He dropped the idea of closing it.
After two years, a new Superior was elected, Fr. Angelo from Frattocchie. He had been a chaplain in Vitorchiano. The nuns tried to convince the new superior to take Boschi back as an Annexe of Tre Fontane. Being only "ad nutum" superior, he had no jurisdiction except under the Abbot of the Trappist Monastery. The Abbot of the Trappist Monastery took the legal issue in hand: Fr. Bernardo became a hermit under the jurisdiction of the Abbot of the Trappist Monastery. In 1980, Father Lino went to the Trappe for a year of novitiate. Meanwhile, Eugenio had arrived. Father Angelo, the superior at Tre Fontane, agreed to take on Annexe Boschi and Eugenio for their novitiate year at Tre Fontane. When the time came for simple profession, they realized that Eugenio could not make his profession in the community and then live at Boschi (it was a quibble, since the profession was for the community; the Superior could always allow living in the annex of such a community).
In addition, someone did not want Father Lino to stay at Tre Fontane for a year, as agreed. The program was clear: keep Eugenio at Tre Fontane, bring Father Bernardo back to the community, dismiss Father Lino, and thus put an end to this experience considered by some as "provocative", at the limits, if not outside, of the "trappist" vision of living the Cistercian life. The desire and attempt to reunite the Annex with Tre Fontane had no follow-up. The General Abbot, Father Ambrose, passing through Boschi, was asked by me if I should refuse these two new vocations. "Absolutely not," he replied. But practically, he did not do much to favor the legal incorporation of Boschi into the Order.
Boschi was born as an Annex, therefore with a legal status given by the order. Now, no one had clear ideas about what to do. There was an evolution in the order and a legal solution for such a novelty, the annex statute, but in practice, no solution was reached. In the summer of 1986, we turned to Tamié. Despite some legal aspects not easily solved, the community accepted Boschi as an Annex for five years. Father Lino, after three months of stay, was admitted with the votes of the monks of Tamiè and also of Father Bernardo, to solemn profession. It was on that occasion that it was decided to give Boschi the title of "Madonna dell'Unione" (Our Lady of the Union). He was then able to make the solemn profession at Boschi in the hands of Abbot Father Jen-Marc, as a member of that community, while living at Boschi. Eugenio made his simple profession at Tamié and later his solemn profession at Boschi. Silvio, who arrived more recently, made the canonical year of novitiate and simple profession at Tamié.
The General Chapter of 1993, having Tamié fulfilled its commitment with Boschi and not being willing to take on Boschi as a Foundation, entrusted to Abbot of Tamié, Father Jean-Marc, the task of accompanying its evolution, personally. (For someone, "accompanying" meant leading Boschi until extinction!). Later, Giovanni arrived. The problem of where to do the novitiate arose again: in which other Monastery could he do it? Father Bernardo Olivera, the new General Abbot, with broader views, obtained for Boschi an indult, granted to the Abbot of Tamié, to open the canonical novitiate at Boschi. Meanwhile, RIM had voted a request to the General Chapter for Boschi to be recognized as an autonomous Simple Priorate, while requiring a dispensation on the number of Professed required for this purpose by the Constitutions. The Abbot General recommended proceeding with the construction of some areas that would ensure a separation between the Community and the guests. In 1995, the Chapter wing, the writing room, and the Church were arranged, and the Church was expanded. At the same year's General Chapter, autonomy was proposed for our community, which was granted. Thus, Boschi became a Trappist Priory, with the name "Madonna dell'Unione" Monastery.
The Abbey of Tamié was chosen by the General Chapter as the Mother House for Boschi. Recently, in the General Chapter of 2011, the monastery was elevated to the rank of Major Priory and canonically erected as such on Sunday, November 13, 2011.
The Boschi movement began in the ferment of the post-Vatican II period. Some may think that it arose in reaction to institutionalized monastic life. Instead, it was simply the result of a desire for a simpler Cistercian life, always with the intention of living the faith passed down by the Fathers. The central point has always been the living Lord Jesus in his Church. The path is the renewal of man through docility to the Holy Spirit. Obviously, the mystery of the Incarnation demands concreteness. Therefore, the Rule and the Abbot are the means by which we seek to shape life according to the needs of the Holy Spirit, in each person and within the community. In practice, life at Boschi is guided by the Rule of St. Benedict and the Constitutions of the Cistercian Order (Trappists).
(Our Lady of Unity)? It is not about the unity of Christians, but a more fundamental and current reality:
1 – more fundamental: Mary offered the place of Union between God and man, with her consent and her yes. The Lord Jesus, born of her, is the Word of God – Son of God, of the same substance as the Father, and son of Mary, of the same nature as man.
2 – more current: monastic life is the consent and response that modern man offers to the Father, to be transformed into a child of God and conformed to the Lord Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
3 – even more current: we all live in contemporary culture, with personalized ways of life acquired during our upbringing. It is precisely with our cultural and psychological structure that the Lord takes us and transforms us in Him. Mary is the door that allows God to manifest and realize, in her first and consequently in every person of good will, the Union of opposite realities, such as: Mary, Virgin and Mother; Jesus, God and man; every human creature, man, and participant in the divine nature; the Church, the Body of the Lord and human communion; man dies and rises, he is dead and vivified by the Holy Spirit.
We live in history. Now more than ever, it is necessary to recall the historical reality. There may be images in the virtual world of collective and individual imagination. We need history. The reality of history is our salvation: the History of God who saves man! Faithfulness and rooting in history require us to come out of our phantasmic world that the image of the self always builds and enriches every day, to be sufficiently free from the socio-cultural – especially “religious” – imaginary in which we live. Personal image – voluntas propria – and socio-cultural image – becoming estranged from the way of thinking of the world – are the great seducer (cf. Rev. 12:9). For this rooting to take place, it is necessary to “de-structure” our image by continually renewing the thoughts of our mind and the feelings of our heart and taking on the thoughts and feelings that are in Christ Jesus. It is the baptismal path; if you have risen with Christ, you must “taste” the life of Christ through his Spirit. This is the charisma of the Cistercian path. Faithfulness to history requires us to root ourselves in the reality in which this History is also being realized for us. Fundamentally and primarily, History is the Lord Jesus, alive and risen, present in his body, the Church: the One who is being realized in all things. We enter into this History – “moved” by the Holy Spirit – in the Church, through the sacrament and the Word. To enter into History means to “leave” the land of our images to clothe ourselves every day in the image of God: the Lord Jesus.
“The Cistercian grace is a particular grace of conformation to Christ that operates through a profound adherence to the path proposed by the Rule of St. Benedict.”
4,00 Alzata, Vigilie, Orazione Lectio “
7,00 Lodi, “
7,30 Colazione. Pulizie, Lectio “
9,00 Terza, Lavoro, (Incontro) 10,00 Terza
12,00 Sesta, Pranzo, Tempo libero “
15,00 Nona, Lavoro, (Incontro) Nona. Adorazione
17,00 Fine lavoro (Estate: 17,30) “
18,00 Vespri, Eucarestia (Estate: 18,30) “
19,15 Cena (Estate: 19,45) “
20,00 Compieta (Estate: 20,30) “
20,30 Riposo (Estate: 21,00) “