Stability in the Pierced Heart of Jesus

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This lengthy entry is not entirely new, but it does contain some new autobiographical elements. I decided to share with you, dear readers, the development of my call to live under the Rule of Saint Benedict, in Eucharistic adoration, while offering spiritual support to my brother priests and deacons here in the Diocese of Tulsa.

A continuity with the earliest glimmers of my Benedictine vocation is evident to those who have learned to read events -- even when they are marked by suffering, twists, and uncertainties -- with the eyes of the heart. There is much here that I would have preferred to keep as "the secret of the King," but there are also details that may well redound to His glory and, at the same time, respond to the queries and (not always accurate) speculations of those who want to know the details of my mission as it unfolds.

The Beginning of a Friendship

How did I first come to know Marie-Adèle Garnier? (See the previous entry for details about her life.) I was introduced to her by Blessed Columba Marmion! In order to reconstruct the genesis of our “friendship” -- for one can have a friendship with the saints in heaven -- I must return to my first exposure to monastic life in 1969.

Young Men and the Books They Read

I discovered Abbot Columba Marmion’s writings when I was fifteen years old. I was visiting Saint Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. Father Marius Granato, O.C.S.O., charged at that time with helping young men -- even very young men -- seek God, put Christ, the Ideal of the Monk into my hands. He even let me take the precious green-covered volume home with me. With all the ardour of my fifteen years I devoured it. No book had ever spoken to my heart in quite the same way.

My Spiritual Father

I read and re-read Christ, the Ideal of the Monk. At fifteen one is profoundly marked by what one reads. The impressions made on a soul at that age determine the course of one’s life. As I pursued my desire to seek God, I relied on Dom Marmion. I chose him not only as my monastic patron, but also as my spiritual father, my intercessor, and my guide.

Dom Denis Huerre, O.S.B., in his biography of Père Muard, the founder of the Abbey of La-Pierre-Qui-Vire, discusses Père Muard's extraordinary spiritual kinship with Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. (She is, in fact, the secondary patron of La-Pierre-Qui-Vire.) Dom Denis concludes that it is not we who choose the particular saints with whom we desire to cultivate a special friendship; it is, rather, these particular saints who choose us. This, I am convinced is part of God's plan for the holiness of each one.

Spiritual Affinities

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I became an avid reader of everything written by or about Abbot Marmion. In one of these books I encountered Marie-Adèle Garnier, Mother Mary of St. Peter, the foundress of the Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Tyburn, O.S.B. The little bit I read about her was very compelling: her focus on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and on adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist, her love of the Mass and the Divine Office, and her profound attachment to the Church. We were, without any doubt, united by a certain spiritual affinity.

Dom Marmion's Letters

Blessed Marmion's Letters of Spiritual Direction, edited by Dom Raymond Thibaut under the title Union With God, contain several pages of the Abbot's correspondance with Mother Mary of St. Peter. Among other things, Dom Marmion wrote:

"The very real imperfections which you confess to me do not make me doubt the reality of the grace you receive. God is the Supreme Master, and He leaves you these weaknesses in order that you may see that these great graces do not come from you, and are not granted to you on account of your virtues, but on account of your misery. You are a member of Jesus Christ, and the Father truly gives to His Son what He gives to His weak and miserable member. Do not be astonished, do not be discouraged when you fall into a fault, but draw from the Heart of your Spouse -- for all His riches are yours -- the grace and virtue that are wanting to you."

Saint Luke Kirby and Mother St. Thomas More Wakerley

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In 1972, during my frightfully precocious initial experience of traditional Benedictine life, I wrote to the Tyburn Benedictines for the first time. (In photos from that period I am a very thin bespectacled 20 year old, looking rather like a young Pius XII in a Benedictine habit!) My purpose in writing to Tyburn was to learn more about Mother Mary of St. Peter, and also to request information on Saint Luke Kirby, one of the Tyburn martyrs whose surname I bear. I received a lovely reply written in what appeared to be a frail and trembling hand: a letter from Mother M. St. Thomas More Wakerley. Mother St. Thomas More sent me the information I had requested on Saint Luke Kirby as well as the red-covered biography of Mother Mary of St. Peter by Dom Bede Camm, O.S.B. The book was re-edited in 2006 by Saint Michael's Abbey Press.

Friends of the Sacred Heart

I read and re-read the book, finding that Marie-Adèle Garnier and I moved, so to speak, within the same constellation of mysteries: the Heart of Jesus, the Eucharist, the Sacred Liturgy, the Priesthood, and the Church. Blessed Abbot Marmion’s writings continued to nourish me, as did those of Saint Gertrude the Great and other Benedictine and Cistercian friends of the Sacred Heart. Dom Ursmer de Berlière’s book (in the “Pax” Collection) on the Sacred Heart within the monastic tradition added kindling to the fire. At about the same time, I read the life of other Benedictine mystics of the Sacred Heart: among them were Père Jean-Baptiste Muard, founder of La-Pierre-Qui-Vire, Mère Jeanne Deleloë, and Blessed Giovanna Bonomo.

Stability in the Heart of Jesus

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In 1975, having wisely taken time out from the cloister, I made a pilgrimage to the cradle of Benedictine life at Subiaco. There I met a wise old monk who had been Master of Novices at La-Pierre-Qui-Vire. When I asked him for counsel concerning my monastic journey, he said to me, “Frère, tu dois faire ta stabilité dans le Coeur de Jésus -- Brother, you must make your stability in the Heart of Jesus.” These words were to sustain me in the years ahead. I know that Marie-Adèle Garnier would have understood them perfectly.

The Open Heart of Jesus Crucified

On August 4, 1979, together with Father Jacob, now a Dominican, and another brother, now a Franciscan, I went on pilgrimage to Montmartre in Paris. There, in the crypt of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, at the altar of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and trusting in her intercession, we consecrated ourselves to the Heart of Jesus and to His designs on our life. Within me the desire was growing for a simple Benedictine life, characterized by the worthy celebration of the Divine Office and by adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist. The wounded Side of Our Lord exercised a supernatural power of attraction over me. The text of our Act of Consecration was printed on a leaflet with a drawing depicting a monk being drawn to the open Heart of Jesus Crucified. The attraction to the pierced Heart of Jesus and to His Holy Face was constant and undeniable.

Life Together

For several years I lived with Father Jacob and others in a small monastic community where, every evening after Vespers, we had adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In the end it was decided that we should be absorbed by the monastery that was sponsoring and guiding us: the Cistercian Abbey of Notre Dame de Nazareth in Rougemont, Québec. It was a painful detachment for all concerned. Again, Mother Mary of St. Peter would have understood.

Monastic Consecration and Ordination to the Priesthood

Having made solemn profession and received the monastic consecration in that Cistercian Abbey, I was ordained a priest on November 16, 1986, the feast of Saint Gertrude the Great, mystic of the liturgy and of the Sacred Heart. I was happy to serve my community at Rougemont first as choirmaster, then as Master of Novices, and finally as prior. These were years of growth and of phenomenal productivity. Encouraged by my abbot and by Dom Adrien Nocent, O.S.B., I worked assiduously at composing modal chant melodies for the French texts of the monastic Divine Office. These are still sung today, more than twenty-five years later, not only at Rougemont, but in other French-speaking monasteries as well.

Humble Thy Heart

A series of health problems, culminating four years ago in a diagnosis of systemic sclerosis and pulmonary fibrosis, obliged me to adjust my monastic ideal to the humble reality of my own limitations. I suffered repeated "burn-outs." This led to a prolonged absence from the abbey of my profession and, eventually, to my attachment to the Abbey of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome. These were "desert years," full of uncertainties and trials.

I was able nonetheless to complete my S.T.L. in Liturgical Studies and, a few years later, a Ph.D. in Liturgical Theology. Although I loved teaching in a small seminary in New England, I knew deep in my heart, that Our Lord was calling me not to an academic career, but to fidelity to my "first love," to the monastic vocation that continued to grow in spite of difficulties and contradictions of all sorts. My Cistercian superiors authorized me to serve as chaplain to the nuns of the Monastery of the Glorious Cross in Branford, Connecticut, a community with whom I had a long relationship. Seven years in this service were punctuated by returns to the Abbey of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome, the community that kept me anchored in the Order of Cîteaux. While in Connecticut I was blessed with the loving support of my parents and of close friends.

I often recalled the text from the second chapter of Ecclesiasticus read at a Mass celebrated when first I set out on my monastic journey:

Son, when thou comest to the service of God, stand in justice and in fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation.
Humble thy heart, and endure: incline thy ear, and receive the words of understanding: and make not haste in the time of clouds.
Wait on God with patience: join thyself to God, and endure, that thy life may be increased in the latter end.
Take all that shall be brought upon thee: and in thy sorrow endure, and in thy humiliation keep patience.
For gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.
Believe God, and he will recover thee: and direct thy way, and trust in him. Keep his fear, and grow old therein.
Ye that fear the Lord, wait for his mercy: and go not aside from him, lest ye fall.
Ye that fear the Lord, believe him: and your reward shall not be made void.
Ye that fear the Lord, hope in him: and mercy shall come to you for your delight.
Ye that fear the Lord, love him, and your hearts shall be enlightened.
My children behold the generations of men: and know ye that no one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded.
For who hath continued in his commandment, and hath been forsaken? or who hath called upon him, and he despised him?
For God is compassionate and merciful, and will forgive sins in the day of tribulation: and he is a protector to all that seek him in truth.
Woe to them that are of a double heart and to wicked lips, and to the hands that do evil, and to the sinner that goeth on the earth two ways.
Woe to them that are fainthearted, who believe not God: and therefore they shall not be protected by him.
Woe to them that have lost patience, and that have forsaken the right ways, and have gone aside into crooked ways.
And what will they do, when the Lord shall begin to examine?
They that fear the Lord, will not be incredulous to his word: and they that love him, will keep his way.
They that fear the Lord, will seek after the things that are well pleasing to him: and they that love him, shall be filled with his law.
They that fear the Lord, will prepare their hearts, and in his sight will sanctify their souls.
They that fear the Lord, keep his Commandments, and will have patience even until his visitation,
Saying: If we do not penance, we shall fall into the hands of the Lord, and not into the hands of men.
For according to his greatness, so also is his mercy with him.

The Journey Continues

My monastic journey continued in the light (and often in the mysterious obscurity) of the Eucharistic Face of Christ, and with the passing years I came to understand more and more that the only enduring stability of a monk is in the pierced Heart of Jesus.

Move to Tulsa, Oklahoma

In February 2008, Bishop Slattery invited me to Tulsa to live my monastic vocation in daily Eucharistic adoration and reparation, while offering spiritual support to my brother priests. On July 16, 2008, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a rescript from the Holy See arrived, allowing me to settle in the Diocese of Tulsa for this specific work; the rescript provided for my release from the Order of Cîteaux after a suitable time, my incardination into the Diocese of Tulsa, and the renewal of my monastic profession under the Rule of Saint Benedict in the hands Bishop Slattery, specifically to undertake a Benedictine life having Eucharistic adoration and the spiritual support of the clergy as defining characteristics.

A New Beginning

On April 2, 2009, the 4th anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II, in the 25th year of my monastic profession, having been released from the Order of Cîteaux and incardinated into the diocese of Tulsa, I made a new profession under the Rule of Saint Benedict in preparation for the foundation of a monastery of diocesan right, dedicated to Eucharistic adoration and to the spiritual care of the clergy: the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle.

The rite of monastic profession on April 2, 2009, in the presence of Bishop Slattery, Abbot Raphael, O.Cist. of Rougemont, distinguished representatives of the Benedictine Order, and of the diocesan clergy, expressed the essential elements of this mission called forth by the Church, for the Church

The Mass was that of Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent with the readings and chants proper to that day. The Rite of Monastic Profession took place after the Gospel.

I. REQUEST

The Bishop asks Father Mark:
What is your request?
He answers:
The mercy of God, and yours, Most Reverend Father.

II. ADMONITION

Our Lord Jesus Christ, 
because of His great love for sinners, emptied himself and taking flesh of the Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, entered this world as Priest and Victim. 
By offering Himself upon the Cross as a spotless oblation to the Father, He won for us forgiveness of sins, changing the wrath which we merited into mercy.
No one, therefore, 
however great may be the weight of his sin, 
should despair of receiving mercy: for even now He intercedes with the Father on behalf of those who place all their trust in Him.


III. PROMISE

After this the Bishop poses the following questions to Father Mark:

Tell me, then:
Do you promise perpetually before God and his Saints stability in the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, effective upon its canonical erection in this Diocese of Tulsa, conversion of manners, and obedience according to the Rule of Saint Benedict and the Constitutions of the aforesaid monastery?
Father Mark replies: I do.

Do you promise to persevere, day after day, in adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, in a spirit of thanksgiving and intercession, so as to make reparation before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus for all your brothers in Holy Orders, but especially for those who do not adore, for those who are most wounded in their souls, and for those who are exposed to the powers of darkness?
Father Mark replies: I do.

For your brother priests and in their place, do you promise to abide before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, drawing near to His Open Heart, so that in the ever-flowing streams of Blood and Water all souls might be purified, healed, and sanctified, but first of all the souls of His priests.
Father Mark replies: I do.

Do you desire to be presented to Our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Priest and Lamb of Sacrifice, so that by the action of the Holy Spirit, you might live more closely united to him as priest and victim?
Father Mark replies: I do.

Do you believe 
that if you ever act otherwise you will be condemned by him whom you mock?
Father Mark replies: I do.


Although conscious of your weakness, are you resolved to live this charism in total dependence on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Advocate of Priests and Mediatrix of All Graces, and in communion with Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse, and Saint John, the Beloved Disciple who, in obedience to the word of Jesus crucified, took Our Lady into his keeping?
Father Mark replies: I am.

The Bishop adds: May God who has begun this good work in you, bring it to completion.
Father Mark replies: Amen.

IV. READING OF PROFESSION DOCUMENT

Father Mark reads the profession document he has written beforehand, signs it and places it on the altar.


In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I, Mark Daniel Kirby, priest, in religion, Father Mark Ioannes Maria a Corde Iesu, promise perpetually 
stability in the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, effective upon the canonical erection thereof in this Diocese of Tulsa, conversion of manners, 
and obedience 
according to the Rule of Saint Benedict 
and the Constitutions of the aforesaid monastery: 
this before God and his Saints, whose relics are here, 
and in the presence of the Most Reverend Edward J. Slattery, Bishop of this diocese of Tulsa. 
In witness thereof 
I have written this document with my own hand 
and signed it here in the oratory of the Episcopal Residence, 
in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma,
on this 2nd day of the month of April 
in the year of our Lord 2009. 


Why tell all this?

I decided to share these personal autobiographical details for two reasons: first, to clarify my vocation for those who have asked to know more about it, and second, to invite men called to this particular way of Benedictine life to communicate with me.

Over the years I prayed again and again to Marie-Adèle Garnier, saying, “Mother Mary of St. Peter, implore the Sacred Heart for me.” Our supernatural friendship -- not the only one with which I have been blessed! -- matured and deepened. Two years ago in Rome, by circumstances that only Divine Providence could have arranged, I had the joy of meeting some of her daughters, Adorers of the Sacred Heart. Blessed Abbot Marmion is surely pleased.

There the Lord Hath Commanded Blessing

I warmly invite the readers of Vultus Christi to seek Mother Mary of St. Peter’s intercession. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for friends of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to dwell together in unity. . . . for there the Lord hath commanded blessing, and life forevermore (cf. Ps 132:1, 3).

7 Comments

Thanks, Fr Mark for this personal sharing. The journey is quite interesting. Indeed, life in the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus is the best place to be. It is a grace I am asking for now, more than ever. Let's pray for each other.

Thank you for this very moving testiment to your spiritual journey. I find your blog a real help and inspiration. Thank you Father Mark. I will pray for you and your new monastery when I next visit Tyburn. Let us pray for the beatification of Mother Mary of St Peter.

Wonderful sharing of your vocation Father! You have followed in the Footsteps of the Master by opening your heart to us. I continue to pray for the mission in Tulsa.

A wonderful story. I am a diocesan priest and a Benedictine oblate. I find the two vocations work together quite well. Pax

Thank you for not going with your preference (which is one I understand!), and for writing this.

It was moving for me to learn more about your vocational pilgrimage. I was indeed privileged to share part of this journey with you and my hope is that now this good work that our Lord planted in your heart so many years ago will begin to bear even more fruit! God bless you!

Il mio e-mail, sono alla inbox di cenacle at sbcglobal.net. Ciao.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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