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The doctoral The Value of Religious Communion in Croatian and Bosnian and Herzegovinian Religious Communities from the Second Vatican Council until 2016 thesis focuses on how the value of communion has been lived by male and female monks in Croatian and Bosnian-Herzegovinian monastic communities in the period from the Second Vatican Council until 2016. The monastic communion is a natural and supernatural reality. Its ideal is the Trinitarian communion of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and its role model the first Christian community. The foundation of the monastic community is faith, characterised by two kinds of relationships: the first one is that of sonhood/daughterhood and the second one is that of brotherhood/sisterhood. While the first includes the relationship between the individual, the community, and God, the second presupposes mutual relations within a monastic community. The main goal of the doctoral thesis is to theoretically and practically analyse and provide an overview of the monastic communion in Croatian and Bosnian-Herzegovinian monastic communities in the period from the Second Vatican Council until 2016. The final goal is to show that the value of monastic communion always remains a value, no matter the changes, difficulties, and challenges it might be undergoing. In the theoretical part the author utilises the critical-analytical and the inductive-deductive method. The practical part consisted of a conducted qualitative empirical study that utilised the methods of focus group and individual interviews and whose results were then analysed. The study has been conducted during January and May, 2016. 36 female monks and 18 male monks, altogether 54 persons, participated in ten focus groups. 9 female monks and 7 male monks, altogether 16 persons, participated in individual interviews. The thesis is divided into five chapters. The first three chapters analyse the value of monastic communion theoretically, while the fourth chapter presents and analyses, on the basis of results of the first three chapters, certain challenges of and difficulties with communion in monastic communities. The fifth chapter presents and analyses results of the conducted qualitative empirical study among monks of Croatian and Bosnian-Herzegovinian monastic communities. The first chapter entitled Monastic communion introduces the topic through the discussion of ecclesiology of communion and situates the monastic communion within the Church as communio. Furthermore, the chapter discusses the concept of Christian and monastic community and interprets main traits of the monastic communion. Confronted with various crises after the Second Vatican Council, monastic communities were struck by the crisis of communion. Among others Pope Francis also called for the renewal of monastic communion by announcing the Year of Sanctified Life that lasted from November 30, 2014 until February 2, 2016. The second chapter entitled Monastic Communion and Dimensions of Its Realisation according to the Church Documents treats essential dimensions of the monastic communion according to the Church documents in the period from the Second Vatican Council until 2016. The Church documents enlighten the way towards good monastic communion and present an ideal that ought to be realised, but they also analyse the problem of communion in an open and critical way while proposing ways and means of overcoming this problem. The following essential dimensions of the monastic communion have been analysed in the second chapter: the renewal of the monastic life after the Second Vatican Council with an emphasis on communion; contemplation; formation; brotherly and sisterly life in a communion; mission; the vow of chastity; the vow of poverty, authority, and obedience. The themes covered in the second chapter showed that the Church documents on sanctified life always followed circumstances and changes in monastic communities faithfully and have dealt with them in a successful and responsible way. The third chapter entitled Essential Emphases of the Monastic Communion: Collection of Papers of the Monastic Weeks (1973 - 2002), the Journal Posvećeni Život (1994 - 2016), Rulings of Male and Female Monastic Prefects (1972 - 2016), and the Monastic Days (1998 - 2016), presents an overview of reflections and essential emphases of the monastic communion by analysing and following collections of papers of the monastic weeks (I-XVII; 1973-2002), the journal Posvećeni život (1994 - 2016), which collected most of the lectures held during 32 monastic weeks in Croatia, counsels/rulings of male and female monastic prefects (1st-45th; 1972 – 2016) and the Monastic Days (1998 – 2016). The chapter first generally presents three specific and most numerous gathering of male and female monks in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina: the Monastic Weeks (1973 – 2016), counselling/rulings of male and female monastic prefects (1972 – 2016) in Croatia, and, at the end, the Monastic Days (1998 – 2016) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This chapter analyses liturgical and prayer life of the community, ascetic practice, daily schedule, local council, the vow of chastity and affective maturity, the vow of poverty, authority and animation of a monastic community, dialogue and pluralism of thinking, and, at the end, spirituality of communion. All these topics have been analysed in the context of monastic communion. The analysis in the third chapter has confirmed the fact
that the monastic communion was important for monastic communities in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is especially evident through these topics and a large number of participants at the aforementioned gatherings of male and female monks. On the other hand, it is much easier to discern the reality of monastic communities from the first twenty years of gatherings than from the last twenty years. However, when one takes into account that throughout the years the number of days and the number of lectures at the Monastic Days in Croatia have decreased, that collections of papers from the Monastic Weeks have ceased to be published, that some lectures from the Monastic Days in Bosnia and Herzegovina have not been preserved or published and that there were no records of papers delivered in individual sessions of the Monastic Weeks from the tenth Monastic Week onwards, one can only conclude that enthusiasm and openness for critical and clear reflection on monastic life in general and the monastic communion in particular has decreased over the years. The fourth chapter, entitled Challenges of and Difficulties with the Communion in Monastic Communities, specifies, on the basis of the first three chapters, seven challenges of and difficulties with the monastic communion that monastic communities in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina faced since the Second Vatican Council until 2016. The chapter begins with an analysis of the problem of individualism and the influence of electronic media on the monastic communion. This is followed by the topics of life in small and big monastic communities, inter-generational relations, and the relation between the community and an individual. The chapter analyses difficulties of the monastic communion of female monastic communities that live and work in parishes and problems of monks-priests who are also parish priests in parishes. This chapter has confirmed that male and female monks are not spared of the problem of individualism, the influence of electronic media, and intergenerational conflicts. A positive shift has been discerned in the relation between the community and an individual. Each difficulty presents a challenge and a chance to rethink and renew the monastic communion. The fifth chapter, entitled Contemporary Challenges to the Quality of the Monastic Communion – an Empirical Study gathers and analyses results of a quality empirical study and deepens the topic of monastic communion while showing how male and female monks in Croatian and Bosnian-Herzegovinian monastic communities see and experience the value of monastic communion and what kind of meaning they ascribe to it. This chapter starts with a description of basic methodological data. It introduces and interprets the organisation and conduction of focus groups and individual interviews, provides methodological notes, explains the research question, and poses hypotheses. Methodological notes are followed by an exhaustive analysis of five study areas. Firstly, the issue of leisure time, secondly, new media, thirdly, interpersonal relations, fourthly, loneliness and addiction, fifthly, ascetic practice. At the end the author presents proposals of male and female monks on how to increase the quality of monastic communion. The first area of study, focused on the theme of leisure time and related common recreational activities, has shown that male and female monks, taking into account smaller or bigger discrepancies and in relation to the quantity of leisure time and the manner of its usage, do have leisure time after all. The common recreational activities are quite important and needed, but in terms of its existence and the manner of its conduction there are significant discrepancies from one community to another. In some communities the common recreational activities are often and regular, in some occasional, and in some other it has been reduced to watching TV together or does not exist at all. The second area, focused on the topic of new media, the internet, and smart phones, has shown that each monastic community has its own web site and that participants in the study use new media extensively. The purpose of this usage is, however, manifold. New media are used for various forms of communication, but also as a means of various kinds of pastoral work. The need for culture of using new media and education for media is quite pronounced. The third area of study focused on dynamics of interpersonal relations in a monastic community and it revealed aspects of interpersonal relations that are important to participants, as well as those that could be improved within communities. Among important aspects, acceptance, respect, trust, sincerity, communication, and forgiveness stand out. The area of interpersonal relations has also shown five ways of resolving conflicts in monastic communities of the participants. The most common way of resolving conflicts is through talking. However, there were also participants who are trying to avoid every conflict in their monastic life. There is a strong and close link between interpersonal relations and the apostolate of a community. The fourth area of study focused on the topic of loneliness and the problem of addictions. Male and female monks also suffer from the feeling of loneliness. There are various reasons for, kinds, and frequency of this feeling among the participants. The topic of addictions is still more or less a taboo within monastic communities. It is much easier to talk about an addiction of a monastic brother/sister than about one´s own addiction. The study has shown that male and female monks are not immune to addictions and that there are various kinds of addictions in Croatian and Bosnian-Herzegovinian monastic communities. There is awareness that this problem is present as well as openness for finding solutions to it. he fifth area of study focused on the importance of ascetic practice in the life of participants and confirmed that it exists and that participants engage in it in their personal lives and as a community. There was an attempt to link ascetic practice to careerism in monastic communities, which led to the conclusion that participants have different views on what constitutes career and careerism. For some participants these have nothing in common with ascetic practices and monastic communities, while some participants honestly admitted that male and female monks are not immune to the negative syndrome of careerism. Nevertheless, the majority agreed that careerism is more present in male than female monastic communities. The results of the doctoral thesis, both those of the theoretical as well as the empirical part of the study, confirmed the importance of the value of monastic communion and demonstrated both positive and negative shifts. They also revealed important themes that need to be addressed in the interest of growth in quality of monastic communion and opened up issues that were not discussed until now in Croatian and Bosnian-Herzegovinian monastic communities. The shifts towards positive were manifested through the selection of topics for monastic weeks, days, and counselling of male and female monks. Especially in their first years, these gatherings emanated clarity, concreteness, and good theological background. Values such as dialogue, participation, and co-responsibility were ever more present in the everyday monastic life. Throughout the years the sensibility for initial and permanent formation also grew, especially when it comes to affective maturity of an individual. One can also discern a major positive shift towards respect for each individual person and his/her gifts within a community. Despite the increased tempo of life, male and female monks manage to find time for personal and communal leisure activities. They use media for communication and pastoral work, but they are well aware of dangers associated with these. One can also notice a positive shift in the continuous desire and struggle of male and female monks for building up good interpersonal relations, which also testifies in favour of the selection of good personal ways of conflict resolution. It is also encouraging to see that male and female monks are not afraid to admit that they feel lonely, that they are open to finding solutions for the problem of addictions within their communities, and that they largely engage in personal and communal ascetic practices. Shifts towards the negative are manifested through the phenomenon of ever more present individualism within communities, to which new media and the crisis of authority largely contribute. Although many monastic communities engage in common recreational activities, there are communities in which these have all but disappeared, while their place has been taken up by new media, especially the internet and smart phones. There are communities in which new media even disturb common meals. Negativity is also manifested through views on the problem of addictions that is still a taboo topic in most monastic communities, while finding a solution for individual cases of addictions is still expected from the head of a community and not from a community as a whole. The following topics have proved to be of extreme importance for the future of monastic communities in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and it would be advisable to discuss them during upcoming gatherings of monks: interpersonal and inter-generational relations, new media, the problem of addictions and finding solutions to it, the issue of monastic communion of monks-parish priests. A possible way of dealing with the aforementioned negative shifts, as well as a signpost for further reflections and work in communities, can be discerned from individual proposals of male and female monks that they shared at the end of the empirical study. In this sense, the return to the Word of God, as well as personal and communal prayer, is of utmost importance. The encounter with the Word of God can also lead to good and quality interpersonal relations. There is also a need to return to the original charisma of a given monastic community. The initial and permanent formation are extremely important, especially the formation for good interpersonal relations and communion. More regular common encounters on the level of a community could also contribute to the quality of monastic communion. In conclusion, this doctoral thesis is a contribution to the overall reflection of male and female monks during all gatherings that they organised. For the first time, the thesis has gathered and analysed everything that has to do with the value of monastic communion in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina within the time span of 44 years (1972 – 2016). In both its theoretical part as well as in its empirical part, this doctoral thesis is a positive and valuable result of the risk of entering into a large number of Croatian and BosnianHerzegovinian monastic communities. Through their openness and complaisance, these communities have showed that they are not perfect, but that they are, nevertheless, willing to face the great challenges of contemporary monastic life. This doctoral thesis is, therefore, also a sign of gratitude to these monastic communities for their efforts in building up the Kingdom of God within the ecclesial life and in their relation to society in which they live and work. The monastic communion is an incomplete reality. This reality consists of many threads and small details of everyday life. It is always an opportunity for personal growth and formation. For each male and female monk it is what the examination of conscience at the end of each day ought to consist of. This doctoral thesis shows that challenges and difficulties of monastic communion ought to be discussed even more, while its contents and results offer
scientifically-based starting point for further research and concrete application within monastic communities.