WHAT drives the intense interest in the history of WA’s Benedictine monastery town?
UWA European languages Associate Professor John Kinder pondered the question at the launch of two publications on New Norcia in Subiaco last Thursday night.
He launched the 24th edition of the annual New Norcia Studies journal and an until-now unpublished history of the place penned in 1924 by Spanish monk and then monastery Prior Roman Rios.
The Rios manuscript was revised by another monk in 1943 and edited for publication this year by current New Norcia archivist Peter Hocking.
It’s the seventh book in four years published on the primary sources in the monastery archives, work Professor Kinder has himself been involved in.
“Why do so many people care so much and do so much for New Norcia?” he asked, reflecting on the new wave of publishing about New Norcia’s long history.
“I am sure it is partly curiosity, partly a desire to get the record straight, a desire to preserve our heritage, maybe also a bit of nostalgia. But these are not enough. I think the answer has to do with love.
“People love this place and are grateful that in our neighbourhood, so to speak, there is a place that exists above all else to help people seek God.
“This mystical searching, let’s say, is proposed to us in the Benedictine way, through the incarnational ordinariness of the Christian experience. This is why so much history is being published about New Norcia, to help us all understand this special place and its unique place in our history.”
Prof Kinder recommended the Rios history and the latest studies journal, featuring Lawrence Rhoads’ piece on 19th century “hard working” Italian monastery infirmarian Mauro Rignasco and historian Katharine Massam’s article on Spanish Benedictine women at New Norcia.
“This essay (by Massam) gives us glimpses into the very private decisions of young Spanish women, from small villages in northern Spain to leave everything they knew and work in the mission,” Prof Kinder said.
Among the journal’s other articles is a history of blacksmithing at New Norcia – which records the lives of Benedictine lay brothers who learned their trade in Spain and Noongar men like Charles Mortimer and Old Alf Taylor.
“These really are humble heroes: they left very few written papers of their own, so in the absence of their own voice we must thank (author) John Kagi for reconstructing their lives and showing their portraits and their work in the photos that accompany his article,” Prof Kinder said.
New Norcia publications launch
Hosted by the City of Subiaco & Abbot John Herbert
New Norcia Studies Number 24, 2017 More Voices!
History of the Benedictine Mission and Abbey ‘Nullius’ of New Norcia 1943 Edition by Roman Rios (Edited by Peter Hocking)