By Charlotta Smeds
As the Church celebrated the feast of Saint Bernard of Clairveux on Friday, Bishop Erik Varden's new website was launched (www.coramfratribus.com).
The bishop hopes to use the site to offer thoughts and a possibility to promote dialogue within the Church in northern Norway and people in the diaspora.
“The idea of a website came immediately in connection with my appointment," says Bishop Varden. “The Internet makes it possible to reach far. The pandemic has shown the limitations of the Internet, but also its power as a way to spread knowledge.”
Why ‘Coram Fratribus’?
The website's name "Coram Fratribus" comes from his episcopal motto: Coram Fratribus Intellexi, which is a line from a sermon on Ezekiel by Pope St. Gregory the Great. Bishop Varden read that sermon on the same day he learned that the Pope had appointed him a bishop.
St. Gregory reflects on how it is sometimes difficult to understand the meaning of the Bible when he reads it on his own, but that when he hears the same passage read out in church, 'coram fratribus meis positus, intellexi'. That is to say: "face to face with my brothers, I have understood".
Bishop Varden wants both in his choice of motto and with the website to emphasize how God's living Word is addressed to us together, and that we need each other to receive it, understand it correctly and follow it as faithfully as possible.
"My mission as a bishop is to preach the gospel, so the goal for the website is to act as a channel in this," says the bishop. "I feel that there is a thirst for homilies."
Four categories of content
The content of the website is mainly in English and Norwegian, and is divided into four categories: Word on the Word, Notebook, Life Illuminated, and Archives.
The ‘Word on the Word’ section contains the bishop's sermons published in the languages in which he held them.
Under ‘Notebook’ the netizen can find reflections similar to those one writes in the margins of a book while reading. In other words, they are insights that come during the day, collected in a notebook, not only about books but also music, art, film and human encounters.
‘Life Illuminated’ highlights the bishop’s desire to share his experience of giving chapter talks during his life as a monk, while letting faith illuminate life.
In the ‘Archive’, one finds articles, texts, interviews, book reviews, and audio files. Among the audio one finds readings of the Gospels in original language, an ongoing project launched together with the website. Bishop Varden’s advice is to read one chapter of the Gospel per day, and the website’s audio section will offer the possibility to listen to his reading. He is planning to undertake reading the Bible in Norwegian next.
Near the bottom of the website there is an opportunity to apply for updates via email each time something new is published.
Monk and bishop
Bishop Erik Varden, OCSO is a Trappist monk, as well as a bishop.
He was born in Norway in 1974. In 1993, he was welcoming into the Catholic Church. After ten years at the University of Cambridge, in 2002, he entered the English Trappist monastery of Mount Saint Bernard in Charnwood Forest.
After his priest ordination in 2011, he taught Syrian and Christian anthropology at the Papal University of Sant’Anselmo in Rome. Back in his monastery, he was elected abbot in 2015. As abbot, he founded a Trappist beer brewery in the monastery, Tynt Meadow.
In 2019, Pope Francis appointed Erik Varden as the Bishop of Trondheim, a diocese that had been without a bishop for a long time. His episcopal consecration took place in the medieval Cathedral in Trondheim on 3 October 2020.