An overview

‘Navajeevan’, is a Benedictine monastery belonging to the ‘Sylvestro-Benedictine Congregation’, one of the 22 Benedictine Congregations of Men in the Benedictine Order.

St. Sylvester Guzzolini (1177-1267) is the founder of the Sylvestrine Congregation. He was a nobleman’s son who hSt. Silvesterad all the possibilities for a stellar career in the world. His father Ghislerio, belonging to one of the most influential families of the Ghibelline city of Osimo, was so proud of his son and with an intransigent firmness of purpose wanted his son to pursue the study of law in Bologna. But his pride was wounded when Sylvester abandoned his study of legal science at the university of Bologna and opted for ‘the study of divine letters’, became a canon at the Cathedral of Osimo. Once while taking part in a funeral, he was curious to know the condition of his cousin who was already buried there a few days ago and looking into his coffin, he was struck by the gruesome spectacle of the decomposing body of this once handsome young man, and was stirred within: “What he was I am, and what he is I shall be”. Sylvester’s vocation to a life of complete solitude and abandon to God’s care and love was motivated by this eSt. Benedictvent. His soul, seeking higher things, yearned the divine beauty in the tradition of the spirituality of the forest dwellers, and for this betook himself to the solitary mountain slopes of Grottafucile and then of Montefano where he finally settled down in a rocky cave, fed on herbs and water and in company of wild beasts. Thus “He loved the freedom of the forest in contrast with the slavery of the ‘profane’ city life.” In the rigour of solitude and prayer, he soon scaled such eights of sanctity that diffused into the neighbourhoods and became a source of spiritual energy for many around. He became a very inspirational figure, attracting many followers and stabilized a life-style for them a life according to the Rule of St. Benedict.

He was a known preacher and truly a spiritual master for many young men and at the same time a rallying point for numerous people around the place. He built a monastery for those disciples who flocked to him which later on became the motherhouse of the Congregation with the name ‘St.Sylvester’s Monastery, Fabriano’ and had to found other monasteries in the provinces of Marche and Umbria in Italy owing to the influx of followers to his way of life and of the pastoral needs of the time. Already during his life-time, the Institute obtained the Pontifical recognition from Pope Innocent IV on 27 June 1248 with the Bull “Religiosam Vitam”. Intense prayer, lectio divina, manual labour, preaching ministry and hospitality for the guests were the founding characSt. Sylvester's Monastery, Fabriano, Italyteristics of the Silvestrine monasticism. It initially had 
a sudden spurt of growth so as to have to number about twenty monasteries by 1298.

For the most part of its history through 12th to 18th century, the Congregation was confined to Italy, surviving many vicissitudes. Moreover, in the 19th century, due to historical compulsions, the monks dared to step out into other continents and thus the Ceylon Mission was begun in 1845. 

Indeed, the Ceylon Mission begun about 150 years ago, was the first Benedictine foundation in the whole of Asia. The Sylvestrine charism took root in Sri Lanka, the erstwhile CeySt. Silvester's Monastery, Sri Lankalon, and many of its illustrious sons dot the history of the Sri Lankan Church. It soon grew with indigenous vocations and had among its membership not only local vocations but also some fifteen or so young men from India who later on, in the providence of God, were to become trail-blazers of Sylvestrine charism in that country, joined this monastery. An accident of history on the political scenario of Sri Lanka, made this dream come alive, when these Indian monks were asked to leave the country. It was these monks who occasioned the Sylvestrine charism to strike root in India, a land of great monastic and religious traditions.

Thus, in 1962, a monastery was founded in the northern part of the State of Kerala, the south-western strip of the Indian peninsula. Kerala is the cradle of Catholicism in India and Wayanad, the northern hill district, the land of aborigins and tribals, was at that time its most un-christianized region. Right from the beginning, this monastery attracted many young men and soon this young foundation began to flourish. TMonastero St. Joseph's Makkiyadhe spectacular growth in number of the new foundation paved the way for its constitutional recognition as a ‘Major Priory’ of the Congregation, according to the existing Constitutions with, of course, other limitations. Later on, in the re-organization of the Priories as a result of the Constitutional revision of 1983, it was raised to a ‘Conventual Priory’, equivalent to a Province of other Religious Institutes. This was called St. Joseph’s Priory of Makkiyad. In the course of years other dependent monasteries were started in order to take care of the formational needs and to meet the apostolic requirements of the country.