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Among people with joy
750 years of presence of the Augustinians in Czech lands
The Order of St. Augustine celebrates the 750th anniversary of its arrival to Czech lands, bringing the richness of its spirituality to the people in the region of Bohemia and Moravia. Danka Jaceckova, for SIR Europe (Bratislava), has interviewed Fr. Juan Provecho, parish vicar of the St. Thomas Church in Prague, on this occasion.
What were historical circumstances of the arrival of the Augustinians to the land of today’s Czech republic?
“The arrival of the Augustinians in Bohemia (the ‘crown lands of St. Wenceslaus’) in 1262 marked one of the earliest attempts to bring the Order of St. Augustine among the western Slavs. An ancient tradition spread during the baroque period attributes the founding of the monastery to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The chronicler relates that on 24 March 1260 she appeared to Ulrich Zajic of Valdek, an influential courtier at the court of king Premysl Otakar II, asking to build ‘a church and monastery’ dedicated to her Annunciation for Augustinian friars on his land. It was built and consecrated by May 1262 and become the first place where the Augustinians were invited to work and do their pastoral work. Shortly afterwards, in 1267, the monastery of Mariae Virginis Corona was founded in the northern Moravia, followed by the monastery of St. Lawrence in Sopka in northern Bohemia in 1268. However, the most important of these and subsequent foundations was the royal church and monastery of St. Thomas and Augustine situated beneath the kings’ own castle in the burgeoning capital city of Prague”.
How many Augustinians currently work in Czech republic?
“We have two augustinian provinces in Czech republic today – one in Bohemia (Prague), with six Augustinians and one candidate, and another one in Moravia (Brno) with two Augustinians”.
How do you see position and influence of the Order of St. Augustine in regard to formation and development of religious life in Czech republic?
“We think that our mission is to work with the local Church on creating a new generation of honest people and Christians. Times of communism had been very difficult for this land. People lost their orientation in life and along with that, also some of their moral values. It is time to work with these people, offer an alternative and a different way to find their happiness. A lot of patience is needed there but we work with hope and joy. Last year we opened an augustinian school that intends to work in compliance with this direction”.
What activities do you plan during the Jubilee Year on the occasion of the 750th anniversary of the augustinians’ arrival to the region?
“We’ll have many activities during the following months, wanting to celebrate this anniversary in all five monasteries we currently have in the Czech lands. The most important celebration will take place in the monastery of Prague, the mother house of the Bohemian province. Until December 2012 we wish to bring awareness of various events important to us as Augustinians laboring for the glory of God and spreading the Gospel in Czech republic. The Jubilee Year was open on 24 March at ‘Svata Dobrotiva’ monastery, to be followed by the 15th Annual Marian Pilgrimage on 19 May and the visit of the president of the Czech Bishops’ Conference, cardinal Dominik Duka, who will confer the sacrament of confirmation on 30 June. On 23-26 April, the XV Augustinian Week will be held at St. Thomas, Prague. The solemnity of St. Wenceslaus, coinciding with the 300th anniversary of the consecration of the local monastery church, will be celebrated in Bela pod Bezdezem on 28 September. Special tours of our former monasteries and churches in Domazlice, Melnik and Ceska Lipa will be organized. On 13 November we will commemorate both the birthdate of St. Augustine and the last consecration date of our Church in the St. Thomas parish, Prague”.
What can augustinian spirituality offer to a contemporary man?
“Augustinian spirituality can help people of our world in crises to experience a deep interior life and life in community. St. Augustine invites everybody to look inside and find time to meet Jesus who can give answers to many of our questions. There is also an experience of community, friendship and awareness of the fact that we all have restless hearts that are only going to find rest in God”.