The monastic way of life, seen often working within its cloistered walls, or in far flung exotic villages, away from the hustle and bustle of city life is where we often find monasteries. Quite the opposite is where we find the Monastic Communities of Jerusalem.
Life in the city today is often a wilderness for the masses of men and women who live there, some worrying about the future, some unconcerned, most unknown to each other. The Monastic Communities of Jerusalem want to live in solidarity with them and to provide them with an oasis –a place of silent prayer and living liturgy, in a spirit of welcome and sharing; a place where life is recognized as more than talk and activity; a place of peace where all people, whatever their social background, age or outlook, are invited to come and share in a common search for God. A place where Christ is truly present to everyone’s “here and now.”
The first community of cenobitic monks was founded on November 1, 1975, by Father Pierre-Marie Delfieux in collaboration with Cardinal Francois Marty at Saint Gervais Church in Paris. Since then a community of brothers and sisters living a more eremitical lifestyle, groups of associate members and of young people discerning their vocation, and prayer and sharing groups for lay people of all ages, from children to seniors, have sprung up. Together these different expressions of the Jerusalem charism form the communion of Jerusalem.
In response to one of the major social phenomena of our day –urbanization- they choose to be neither Benedictines, Carmelites, Trappists, or Dominicans: they are “city folk,” monks and nuns of Jerusalem.
Thus they live “a search for God alone” in the heart of the city, in solidarity with today’s world. The essence of their life could be summed up by Jesus’ own prayer, “father, I do not pray that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (Jn 17:15)
They want to follow in the footsteps of the early Christian Fathers who went out into the desert to do battle with evil, seeking God in the very place of struggle. Today they want to enter into the new “desert” of the modern city, to do battle against its illusions, greed and loneliness. They want to recognize its true beauty, its yearnings and innermost values, “to the praise and glory of God.” They want to pray in the heart of the city and keep the city in the heart of their prayer.
Concretely, the vocation of the brothers and sisters of Jerusalem is typified by five distinctive characteristics: They are city dwellers -following the rhythms of city life, they are wage-earners –doing humble morning part time work, they rent their housing –like most city dwellers and do not own any property, they have no walled cloister –though they live a spirit of enclosure by not traveling about needlessly and by keeping clearly defined times and places of silence and solitude, they are part of a local church –in the spirit of Vatican Council II, being recognized by the local bishop as two distinct Religious Institutes of diocesan right.
In the Heart of the City, In the Heart of God is not just the rule of life of the monastic communities; it is also a “Book of Life” expressing the ideal lived by all those in the Communion. It is a spiritual guide for both monastics and laity, since their common baptismal vocation has its source in the one Gospel and its model in the unique face of Christ.
You can visit the community at Saint Gervais 13, rue des Barres 75004 Paris.
Services: Tues-Sat 7am (morning prayer) 8am (sat); 12:30pm (midday prayer) 6pm (evening prayer followed by Eucharist; Sun 8am (office of the resurrection) 11am (Eucharist)
NB. All services are preceded by 30 minutes of silent prayer. There are no public liturgies on Mondays.