International day of monks

A monk’s life is mysterious to us; withdrawing from the world, a life devoted to the Lord. Still, the demand for this life style appeared before the birth of Christianity, for recluse is the most ancient form of monasticism. In our selection, we commemorate both their community and members, who created abiding things in other walks of life as well.

Religious orders can be grouped in many ways; beyond the most common grouping of men and women, there are mendicant orders: the Franciscan, the Dominican, the Carmelite; there are monastic orders like the Benedictine, the Camaldolese and the Premonstratensian. You can also find eremitical orders like the Carthusian or the Pauline; equestrian- and hospitaller orders like the Knights Templar and the Teutonic Order.

Where silence lives – The more words get rare, the more truth gets thicker

05555.jpgThe Hungarian history of the Camaldolese order living in Majk started in the 1730s and is interconnected to the life of the family Esterházy. The baroque monument complex that consists of a cloister, seventeen cell-houses and a church tower is unique indeed. Saint Romuald established the order around 980 in Italy. The Hungarian foundation of the order is related to József Esterházy, who was the owner of Majkpuszta back then. Due to their white habit, they are also called white friars and their main vow is silence. The monks who took a vow could not communicate with the external world, not even one another. They could talk only twice a year for 3-3 days. Their mission is to pray for everybody in the world, even for those who never turn to God.

The monks could stay there for only fifty years, because the Secularization Decree of Joseph II dismissed the order in 1782. Afterwards, friars left Majk; their cell-houses were occupied by workers. The Second World War brought changes in the region, when the cell number 13 got a rather illustrious inhabitant. The family Esterházy living in Majk was deported in 1951 to Hort in Heves County; only the grandmother Margit Károlyi – who might be familiar from Harmonia Cælestis – could stay in Majk. Due to an administrative error, she was not registered as a citizen of Budapest, thus she lived in the cell-house with her sibling in a small way. The “peasant countess”, as she called herself ironically, could not cook, but could write and read in four languages, wore a trench coat and her whole figure was surrounded by a special atmosphere. In summers, her grandchildren – including Péter Esterházy – came to see her to this small cell-house.

In the wake of Franciscans of Gyöngyös – martyrdom of Szaléz Kiss

The order that was founded by Saint Francis of Assisi was already operating in Hungary in 1224. According to the tradition, the family Báthory settled the friars in Gyöngyös in the 1500s. Despite many difficulties, the community flourished in the settlement until the Second World War.

The Soviet troops occupied the town on 18 November in 1944, and then they converted the monastery into a hospital. In the beginning, there were no atrocities against the friars. A bit later, clerical magister Szaléz Kiss organised the Christian Democratic Youth Association in 1945, which might be a thorn in the flesh of the developing regime. During this period, there were negotiations between the episcopate and the state on the existence of religious orders. Obviously, Mátyás Rákosi wanted to exert his influence on this process.

As they regarded the association as a rival, they arrested father Szaléz on 28 April 1946. He was accused of participating in killing Soviet soldiers and organizing an armed plot. According to the judicial minutes, father Szaléz promised the students in advance to absolve them if they commit the murder. According to reminiscences, he was beaten until unrecognizable, but he did not reveal confessional secrets. The trial was led by Soviet soldiers, who did not speak Hungarian, without interpretation. Based on the verdict of the Soviet court-martial, he was executed in Sopronkőhida on 10 December 1946. Since his death, he has been respected as a martyr of the confessional secret.

Besides the spirituality of special individuals, the library has also remained in Gyöngyös. Friars walled in about 302 cubic metres of books and 302 old printed papers before the socialization. If not all, but some of the exhibited volumes can be seen on our virtual walk.

Professor Öveges, everybody’s physics teacher

F685110_ellap.jpgIn Hungary, Piarists excelled with their scientific and pedagogic work, for they functioned as a teaching order principally. Even in the 19th century, they had an important role in spreading national culture and sciences. It is not surprising that only three orders were allowed to work after 1945: the Benedictine, the Piarist and the Franciscan.

The most famous Piarist József Öveges devoted his whole life to showing the beauties of his beloved subject; he wanted to make physics lovable. After the WW I, he attended the Theological College and the maths-physics major of Pázmány Péter University simultaneously. He joined the Piarist Order in 1912 and he was ordained priest in 1920. He was an immensely modest and puritanical man, but loved performing. His television programmes also prove this; he introduced his experiments with a provincial Hungarian accent on television as of 1957 for twelve years.

Img__12.jpgAccording to recollections, Professor Öveges was afraid of illnesses very much. His students had to open the doors in order that he did not have to touch the handle, allegedly. He did not like loud speaking either. If somebody answered too loudly, he said “Softer, my dear son, softer – you are not an anti-aircraft gun!”
When the number of religious orders was limited, he had to move out of the friary on Mikszáth Square and was forced to live a semi-civilian life, but he used to return there to have lunch until his death. His follower and monographer Mihály Kovács – also a Piarist monk – was the first Hungarian cybernetics teacher. In 2016, the Hungarian Province of the Piarist Order and the John von Neumann Computer Society honoured the memory of József Öveges “the teacher of the country” and Mihály Kovács “the first IT teacher of Hungary” with a joint exhibition.

We honour the memory of all of them!

Translated by Zita Aknai


Istennek szentelt életek - A szerzetesek világnapja alkalmából -

Esterházy Péter:  Harmonia Cælestis, Bp., Magvető Kft, 2017.

Fáy Zoltán: Ferencesek Gyöngyösön:

Kovács Mihály: Öveges József -
In: a Pázmány Péter Elektronikus Könyvtár (PPEK) – a magyarnyelvű keresztény irodalom tárháza – állományában

A 13-as cella grófnője, Oroszlányi Televízió dokumentumfilmje - Forum Hungaricum Nonprofit Kft.





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