In his search for an order that would be able to accept the brothers, Fr. Philippe did not immediately think of the Lérins Cistercians. He went first of all to his Dominican confreres, who agreed to accept the young men on an individual basis.
Holy Trinity Chapel in Lérins
However, the small group (which numbered eleven in October, 1976) did not think they should have to be separated. Fr. Philippe then turned to the Canons of St. Bernard, who had a house in Fribourg.
Their response, which was ultimately negative, was conveyed to Fr. Philippe while he was in Lérins teaching a philosophy course.
The abbot, after conveying the message, asked : "Why not with us?" No one had thought of it ! Bishop Barthe, who was bishop of Fréjus-Toulon at that time, gave his consent and his encouragement, adding: "If I were younger, I would request admission to your community...".
How did the connection with Lérins influence the community ?
We became "quasi-regular oblates" of the Abbey of
de l'abbaye Notre-Dame
de Lérins, meaning that the abbot was responsible for our entry into religious life and for the development of the community within the Church. He delegated responsibility for our spiritual and intellectual formation to Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe.
But the bond with Lérins especially enabled us to become rooted in monastic life. From this time on, brothers who entered the community would spend several months on the island of Saint-Honorat, where the abbey is located. This constituted their novitiate, supplemented by a period of solitude and prayer in the diocese of Gap with Father Emmanuel, a Benedictine monk from En Calcat.
What was Rome's attitude concerning the birth of this new community ?
The case was referred to Rome - that is, the Congregation for Religious - as early as 1976-77. First official recognition dates from April 27, 1978, when the Congregation for Religious allowed the Abbot of Lérins to proceed with the brothers' ties to the abbey "ad experimentum", that is, as an experiment carried out provisionally (for seven years), with the intention that the Community would eventually obtain its own statute.
It was then that we took the name "Community of
John". We also had to present a rule of life -this was drafted by Fr. Philippe, who was inspired particularly by the prayer of Christ in Chapter 17 of Saint John's Gospel- and the Constitutions, which describe the internal affairs of the Community.
Thus the essential bond with "Peter" was able to be rapidly established. It is found in the Rule of Life, which explicitly states that the "Brothers of Saint John will obey the Sovereign Pontiff as their highest superior".
Finally, why was this new community founded ?
You would have to ask the Holy Spirit! He is the only One who clearly understands.... But the characteristics of the Community appear quite distinctly: insistence, from the very beginning at Fribourg, on the search for the truth through philosophical and theological work; a life consecrated to God, emphasizing silent prayer in community and the Eucharist; the importance of communal life in intense fraternal charity.
Yet it is impossible to live all this without the discovery of a personal bond with the Virgin Mary whom we receive as our Mother, following the example of St. John (Jn. 19:27) : "And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they may also be consecrated in truth" (Jn 17:19).
"The brothers will live a life of silent interior prayer, brought to completion in the heart of Mary, the true milieu of their life of orison "
(Rule of Life)