The Canons Regular are little known in France, but their form of community life - contemplative and apostolic at the same time - has attracted renewed interest nowadays, because it meets a real need. Split into several autonomous congregations and abbeys, they did not initially appear to be a single Order. Canons were numerous and extremely widespread but, after several centuries, they were dispersed by the Reform and then the French Revolution. In France, they almost completely disappeared.
The Canons Regular of the Mother of God are a young community founded in France only around 40 years ago but rich in the Augustinian tradition which dates back to St Augustine (who died in 430). The community reflects the movement to revive the spirit of Canons. The current community was established in 1997 as an abbey of pontifical right, answerable to the Holy See. For any apostolate outside its walls, it works in communion with the diocesan Church led by the local bishop.
The community was always in full communion with the Pope and always maintained cordial relations with the bishops of Gap. The former abbot of the community, Monsignor Wladimir, met Pope John Paul II in the Vatican in 1998. On several occasions, Mgr Wladimir had discussions with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later to become Pope Benedict XVI. By the transfer of their abbey, solemnised on July 27, 2004, the Canons became established in the diocese of Carcassonne in southern France, in full communion with the local bishop.
The life of a canon is also well-suited to women, and it was thought for a long time that St Augustine had written his Rule for a female monastery. Like their brother canons, the sisters also follow the Church's mission to pray the Divine Praises in their liturgical Office. They are now based in the Sacred Heart monastery in Gap, in the French Alps, where they took the place of their brother Canons who moved to Lagrasse. They are supported by a priory of priests who remained in the diocese.
The Holy See has officially approved a "consociatio", which joins the two monasteries under the authority of the Abbot, while maintaining real autonomy for the female community, though in a close spiritual and doctrinal union - truly an inseparable "canonial family". This association allows the Canons and the Canonesses to help one another by prayer, by formation and by work, through the complementary abilities of each group.
For further information, contact:
Canons Regular of the Mother of God
6, Rive Gauche
Phone: +33 (0)4 68 58 11 58
Fax: +33 (0)4 68 58 11 52
Canonesses of the Mother of God
Abbaye du Saint-Coeur Notre-Dame
1, place Ladoucette
Tel: +33(0)4 92 52 27 24
Fax: +33(0)4 92 52 26 10