This Augustinian who is now the abbot of Saint Thomas' Abbey in Brno has faced many life challenges. This is true both personally and in his mission to lead a re-established Augustinian community and to acknowledge his predecessor who founded the science of genetics, Gregor Mendel O.S.A. The abbey lost historical materials - including some original papers handwritten by Mendel - when the German Army invaded the former Czechoslovakia in the year 1938, and in February 1945 a member of the abbey community, Alfons Zadral O.S.A. was executed on a charge of undertaking anti-German activities.
Further damag happened after the Augustinians were expelled from their abbey by the Czech Communist government in 1950, and parts of the building were ruined. Under his enthusiastic direction, the Mendel Museum that had been unimproved for 36 years has been greatly modernised and expanded. The previous experience of Lukas Martinec as a construction engineer has not gone to waste. Now the abbot, Lukas was becoming a civil engineer when he felt called to become a priest during the era of Communist domination in his country. And so in 1981, at the age of 22, he chose the difficult and dangerous step of studying theology "underground" at the feet of former instructors of theology whom the Communist government had banned from teaching. If detected he would have been sent to prison. In 1988 at the age of 29 years received priesthood from a bishop in Yugoslavia who had not been afraid to conduct the ceremony.
In a fortunate act of exquisite timing for Lukas Martinec, the "Velvet Revolution" in the land of his birth in 1989 meant that he was free to work publicly as a priest. He resigned his job as a construction engineer immediately and for eighteen months was the parish priest in a little Czech village with beautiful countryside near the mountains. Then he went to Rome and studied theology for four years to earn a doctorate in theology. He has humourously said that he is probably the only abbot with a certificate in Marxism-Leninism, which had been a compulsory subject when he studied civil engineering. With local and international help he is once again turning the abbey into a centre for genetic discovery and a place to praise the work of his predecessor, Gregor Mendel O.S.A.
The position of Augustinian Prior of Brno
As recognition of the solid religious life of the Augustinians in Brno, in 1612 the perpetual privilege was granted that Augustinian Prior be given episcopal consecration and insignia. To the present time, the Augustinian who is Prior of Brno is - like an abbot in the Benedictine tradition - elected for life and given episcopal consecration. This is unique within the Order of Saint Augustine.
Click on the words that follow for the Augnet pages on St Thomas' Monastery, Brno and Gregor Mendel O.S.A. For the Augnet photo gallery on the Czech Republic, click here.