MAURUS
WOLTER O.S.B
(1825-1890)


Founder of the Archabbey and Congregation of Beuron

  

Maurus Wolter

IN 1857 Rudolph Wolter, a secular priest from the diocese of Cologne, was professed as a Benedictine monk at the abbey of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome: he was given the religions name   “Maurus”.  He had followed his brother Ernst, also a priest,  into monastic life.  Ernst had been professed the previous year and had received the name “Placidus”.

In 1860 the Brothers Wolter came to know the recently-widowed Princess Katherina Von Hohenzollern, an extremely pious woman who asked the Wolters to accompany her on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1860. With the financial and political backing of the princess, the Wolters began to make plans for the restoration of monastic life in Germany.

In 1861 Abbot Pescatelli, the new superior of St. Paul’s, who considered his German subjects less an asset than had his predecessor, gave his grudging consent to the project of a monastic foundation from St. Paul’s in Germany.

In 1863 after an unsuccessful attempt to found a community in northern Germany, the Wolters relocated in the former Augustinian monastery of Beuron in the Danube Valley. . Following the German Secularization Decrees of 1803 the property had come into the possession of the Von Hohenzollerns; and the princes. was delighted to offer the two brothers the opportunity of settling on her property. They began to distance themselves from their mother-abbey in Rome, and they developed maintained close links with Abbot Prosper Gueranger at Solesmes.26

With the help of the princess, the Wolters elaborated a plan which would give them wider scope for the “unfettered development” of specifically German Benedictine monasticism.27 In February, 1863 Abbot Peecatelli was astonished to discover that the fledgling community at Beuron had been elevated to a priory through the direct intervention of the Holy See, and that Maurus Wolter had been named prior. The community had the right to its own novitiate and was recognized as completely independent of St. Paul’s: the priory of Beuron was authorized to follow the Constitutions of Solesmes rather than those of the the Cassineee Congregation, to which St. Paul’s belonged. The princess had directly petitioned Pius IX to sever the liaks between St. Paul’s and Beuron, and her petition had been accepted.28

 In 1868 the abbots and priors of several of the European monasteries met at St. Peter’s Abbey, Salzburg, Austria, the oldest Benedictine monastery with an uninterrupted history since its foundation. It had been established by St. Rupert in the seventh century. The immediate occasion of the congress was a discussion of common Benedictine interests in light of the forthcoming Vatican Council (1869-70). It was during this discussion that the first intimations arose of the need for what would become Maurus’ Wolter’s magisterial Principles of Monasticism, a work written largely during the following years of exile.

In 1875 the German anticlerical Kulturkampf drove the monks out of Beuron and Germany, into a twelve-year exile. Dur­ing this exile new foundations were made in England (Erdington, 1876) Prague (Abbey of Emmaus, 1880), Belgium (Abbey of Maredsous), Steir­marck, Austria (Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Seckau, 1887), Louvain (1888), and Marialach (1892). When the monks were permitted to return to Beuron in 1887, it was to a home that had been elevated to abbatial status in 1884 (again with the assistance of the princess).  In 1888 the Beuronese Constitutions were approved in Rome. The Beuronese Congregation had been born; and within it would be trained the respective founders of the St. Ottilien Congregation and the Missionary Abbey of St. Andre, Andreas Amrhein and Gerard Van Caloen.

On his death in 1900 Archabbot Maurus Maurus was succeeded by his brother, Placidus, who had been Abbot of Maredsous in Wallonia, Belgium.

Adapted from The Benedictine Missionary Movement, by Luke Dysinger, O.S.B., St. Andrew's Abbey, Valyermo, CA.

 

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