Times change and now it is America that evangelizes Seville. Jacquelyne, Colombian, mother abbess of the Monastery of San Clemente, welcomed Sister Yelitza Lorena Cárdenas Briceño, a Venezuelan, into this almost thousand-year-old Cistercian order, in a ceremony that has not lost an iota of its solemnity in a building built in the 13th century and preserved by nuns fully integrated into the 21st century.
It all happened last Saturday, August 20, the feast of San Bernardo. This monk, born near Dijon, the French town where the first copies of the Ulises of James Joyce, joined the Cistercian in 1111. Its rules and those of San Benito are the spiritual guide of this community that owes its name to the festival of San Clemente, November 23, the day of 1248 that Fernando III chose for the reconquest of the city and the reception of the keys by Axataf.
The exemplary life of Saint Bernard appears in the hymn with which the ceremony began. The Psalmody includes some verses from the Aleph, which long before being a Borges book was a fundamental part of the Bible (the beginning of everything). The Rules of the community were read, the abbess spoke, she proceeded to the interrogation and, accompanied by another sister, she performed a deeply delicate sacred ritual, the dressing of the habit. Garments of this new monastic journey that two women carried on separate trays. Pure mystical goldsmithing, intimacy with the public.
Yelitza Lorena was born in Caracas in 1976. She is the third of six children. She thanked her parents for transmitting the faith, her siblings for her patience, and her grandmother “for praying so much.” She began her emotional speech with a phrase from Isaiah, “like a bride who adorns herself with her jewels.”
She is the second Venezuelan novice to consecutively enter the community of San Clemente. Her vocation arose in the Venezuelan diocese of Guarenas. The priest who took her spiritual direction traveled to Seville to preside over the religious celebration. “I did not cry in my priestly ordination and here I have not been able to avoid tears,” Father David Dziedzic said from the height of almost two meters of her.
This priest was born in Krakow in 1987, the former Archbishop of that city Karol Woyjtila being Pope of Rome. In 2016 he arrived in Venezuela, where with three other Polish priests and a Venezuelan seminarian he is part of the Pallottine congregation, founded by Saint Vincent Paloti, an Italian saint from the 19th century. Father Dziedzic wants to make the most of his pastoral vacation. He has traveled to Europe from Venezuela with a double purpose: to attend Yelitza Lorena’s inauguration and to travel to Krakow, his hometown, to baptize a nephew. The days that he is going to spend in Seville he wants to take advantage of them to go to the Cathedral and in passing see the statue of Juan Pablo II that Juan Manuel Miñarro sculpted.
At the end of the ceremony, the nuns offered those present a modest and warm refreshment in the cloister of this monastery where two Spanish princesses are buried, Doña Leonor and Doña Beatriz, daughters of King Enrique II.
With her entry into the Congregation, Sister Yelitza Lorena is invited to lead “a simple, joyful and fraternal life”, to follow a path of salvation that in the words of Saint Bernard “is necessarily narrow at first”, but which with the monastic life will broaden. At the end of the act, she hugged all the sisters of the community and distributed to the faithful a memory card with a phrase from Saint Bernard. Next to the church pews, a small library with books such as Solemnity of Our Father Saint Bernard, Office of Compline or Cursillo de Novices. There is already another candidate prepared for admission to the Cistercian, a way of being in the world, in its heart, but far from the world, with the immutable principles that its Rules carry: the return to poverty (which is not forgetting the poor), the rejection of temporary goods and the appreciation of manual work as a way of life.
Regulars attended the prayers and rites at the San Clemente Monastery, the closest to the Expo 92 site and which played such an important role in the event. Among them, Fernando Fernández, professor, academic of Fine Arts, former director of the Archaeological Museum. He came with his daughters and two batches of grandchildren, the English and those from Castilleja de la Cuesta. Academician Fernández is always willing to collaborate with the nuns in maintaining a monastery that is a compendium of artistic treasures, a synopsis of the city’s history, and a permanent laboratory of spiritual life.
Time doesn’t stop, but in San Clemente it stopped. Ancestral rituals for women who make a revolutionary decision in their lives. The Venezuelan novice was already prepared in the missions of Guarenas, a town founded in 1609 by a cell of Felipe III, a city in the state of Miranda. She sap American to irrigate the spirituality of the land of Mary Most Holy and prevent the postulates of the faith from putting an expiration date. Sevillian and universal Church in a ceremony led by a Polish priest recently arrived from Venezuela.