The wave of monastic renewal in the 1940s and 1950s kindled in Brother Leo a desire to recapture the original vision of Benedict, in a manner appropriate to our time and place. This entailed a certain departure from prevailing monastic experience.
For Benedict, the monastic family was simply a community of the baptized, a movement of mostly lay Christians, who joined their lives to one another, in order that, together, they might become a living parable of the Gospel in a hungry, violent world.
Jesus & disciples, woodcut
In a society deeply divided between the poor and the rich, and in a church institution increasingly stratified into the "clergy" and the "laity," the monastic communities sought to live as a church of equals, with all members sharing both the dignity and the responsibility of their baptismal commitment.
Yet, in the course of history, monastic communities, too, gradually replicated the class divisions of both church and society, and so lost much of the evangelical power of their original witness.
Recapturing the gospel and monastic experience of equality was integral to Brother Leo's founding vision.
This original seed has flowered in the brothers' desire to relate with one another in more personal, mutual, and life-giving ways, and this has proven to be a major impetus in shaping the community's self-understanding.
The election of Brother John, who served as prior from 1964 - 1997, initiated a transition to an experience of monastic leadership as a non-hierarchical service for unity (rather than as a fatherly solicitude for sons).
This was accompanied by the deepening sense of mutual responsibility of all brothers for all decisions in creating a common life.
The process of becoming free, co-responsible persons -- who make self-gift the center from which they live -- has deepened the brothers' faith and their commitment to one another, while opening them to the needs and aspirations of the wider world.
Thus, the original monastic vision of a Gospel community of equals, embraced by Brother Leo in founding the priory, was developed and extended in Brother John's service of leadership.