An Oblate's Day

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Me on back deck Oct 24 09.JPG

Jon is the first postulant for the secular Oblature of our monastery. Married and the father of two sons, he lives in Pennsylvania. After reading my entry on the horarium we follow here in Tulsa, Jon was inspired to share something of his life as a son of Saint Benedict living in the world. He gave me permission to share his letter with the readers of Vultus Christi. My own comments are in italics. Jeff in Maryland, Tracy in Tulsa, the men in our diocesan diaconate program, and a number of other friends and readers will really enjoy this!

Dear Father Mark,

Thanks for sharing on Vultus Christi the horarium at Our Lady of the Cenacle. I was wondering myself what your precise schedule was. Not to cause jealousy, but being "back east," I could follow along an hour later and still be in-sync!

It made me think that you and the brothers might be curious as to what sort of schedule their one-foot-in-the-world oblate postulant follows. I also thought my experience might be useful for the future, when an inquirer might ask, "just how do you fit this stuff into your life?"

Yes, secular Oblates need to have a daily rule of prayer adapted to their state in life.

Well, first of all, as I've already shared, I've prayed the Office for many years, but like all oblates, I incorporate as much of the Rule into my daily life as possible. I pay especial attention to Chapter IV, The Instruments of Good Works, as a guide to my personal behavior, and considering the overall role of the abbot as it applies to my vocation of husband and father.

Isn't it wonderful to hear a man say: "I incorporate as much of the Rule into my daily life as possible"? Jon is spot on when he refers to Chapter IV of the Holy Rule (The Instruments of Good Works). And yes, Saint Benedict's presentation of the abbot and the virtues that must characterize his paternity can be wisely adapted to the vocation of the father of a family.

As a defining constitution, so to speak, I've adopted this short and sweet gem of Dom Gueranger's I found a while back.

On Sundays and Festivals they will attend, by preference, High Mass, in the churches where it is celebrated with the ecclesiastical chant and ritual.
Should they find inconvenience in communicating at a late hour, they will make their Communion previously, at an early Mass. They will attentively follow all the rites and ceremonies performed by the priests and attendants at the altar, will do their best by previous study and consideration to enter into their meaning, and thus meritoriously qualify themselves for the fuller reception of the grace implanted in them by the Holy Spirit. [Let them, so to speak, not be satisfied with merely inhaling the fragrance, but let them also gather the honey from these flowers of the garden of the Church.]
They will follow the ecclesiastical chant by the aid, if needful, of translations of the formularies, and they will avoid distracting their attention from the holy mysteries by other books of devotion, etc., which may be excellent, perhaps, at other times, but which at these moments would be harmful, by keeping them apart from the sacred Liturgy.
Attendance at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the act of piety to which, of all others, they will attach the highest importance. There, wherein is renewed the Sacred Passion of Our Lord, they will offer to God the Divine Victim, in union with the Church, for the four ends of Adoration, Thanksgiving, Propitiation, and Petition. On the days when they do not communicate they will make a spiritual Communion at the moment when the priest is making the Sacramental Communion, and for this they will prepare themselves by the act of contrition and offering of themselves to God.
Next to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, they will esteem nothing so much as the Divine office, by which the Church renders to God her continual homage in the canonical hours. On Sundays and festivals they will gladly be present at Vespers and Compline, and will endeavour, as far as it may be possible for them, to join with Holy Church in the chanting of her psalms and hymns. Let them be especially thankful to God if He should give them grace to take delight in the Psalter, remembering that, in the ages of faith, it was most frequently through the psalms that God was pleased to communicate with souls. They will prefer those churches in which the Divine Office is celebrated according to ecclesiastical rule, such as the cathedral or any other. Even in their private devotions they will take pleasure in using the prayers of the Church to express their needs and aspirations.
They will earnestly desire to unite themselves to God by mental prayer; and in this they will he powerfully assisted by their union with the Church in the sacred Liturgy. The different seasons of the Church's year will bring before them the mysteries which are the groundwork of piety and the source of the true spirit of prayer. They will often visit Our Lord in the holy Tabernacle, and will not fail to appreciate their happiness whenever they are able to be present at Benediction, to receive the blessing of the most holy Sacrament.

As for an horarium, of course being on medical leave until November 2nd, I'm able to do a little more, but given that I'm either working out of the house or traveling, I'm able to typically do the following:

This part of Jon's letter reminds me of certain pages in Dom Thomas Verner Moore's classic book: "The Life of Man With God."

On Waking:

I always try to make my first thought and prayer, " Laudetur Iesus Christus, in aeternum. Amen."

From there I make my coffee, and depending on my upcoming schedule, usually then sit in my home office and pray Lauds from the Monastic Diurnal. If I have a busy morning coming up, or if I get started late for whatever reason, I pray Prime. Although especially for a working man, I find Prime very meaningful and suited to my station, I try to pray Lauds whenever I can. Also, if I pray Prime, I'll read from the Roman Martyrology (I haven't been able to find the Benedictine one on the web) for the day. If I pray Lauds, I'll take my copies Roman Breviary, and read the Lesson from Matins.

I have long been of the opinion that Prime and Compline are the working man's Hours of the Divine Office. Brief and, for the most part, invariable, they correspond to the natural rhythm of the working man's day and family life. My dear and venerable friend, artist Adé de Béthune, another Benedictine Oblate, used to pray Prime and Compline, as did many Catholic layfolk prior to the Second Vatican Council. The push to make Lauds and Vespers the daily prayer of ordinary people in the world was, I think, the idea of an elite who had never asked the folks in question what really worked for them. Jon's solution is the best one: Prime and Compline on workdays and Lauds and Vespers on Sundays and when one has the leisure to devote to them.

To fulfill my task of praying for priests, after either Lauds or Prime, I pray the Fraternity's "Confraternity Prayer," which works very nicely. I have it on a little card I carry in my diurnal.

V. Remember, O Lord, Thy congregation.
R. Which Thou hast possessed from the beginning.
Let us pray. O Lord Jesus, born to give testimony to the Truth, Thou who lovest unto the end those whom Thou hadst chosen, kindly hear our prayers for our pastors. Thou who knowest all things, knowest that they love Thee and can do all things in Thee who strengthen them. Sanctify them in Truth. Pour into them, we beseech Thee, the Spirit whom Thou didst give to Thy apostles, who would make them, in all things, like unto Thee. Receive the homage of love which they offer up to Thee, who hast graciously received the threefold confession of Peter. And so that a pure oblation may everywhere be offered without ceasing unto the Most Holy Trinity, graciously enrich their number and keep them in Thy love, who art one with the Father and the Holy Ghost, to whom be glory and honour forever. Amen.

Intercession for priests is integral to the special vocation of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle; it must therefore occupy an important place in the prayer of our Oblates.

At noon I stop for a minute and pray the Angelus.

The Angelus is a really a little Votive Office of the Incarnation. Its very structure is liturgical. Easily memorized, it can become the "Little Office" of every Catholic man, woman, and child.

In the evening I'll pray Vespers when I have a few moments anytime between 3 o'clock and supper.

This is great: Jon gives himself enough time to pray Vespers, and he does so earlier in the afternoon rather than later in the evening. Many of the classic spiritual authors recommend praying Vespers early in the afternoon, and with good reason. Folks who have to prepare and serve the evening meal, or who have other suppertime obligations, will want to follow's Jon's very sensible approach to praying Vespers.

Before turning in I pray Compline, either with one of my two boys (12 and 15), or I pray it while lying in bed. Sometimes my wife and I will pray Compline together, but when we do, we use the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, as she's more familiar with it. I fall asleep praying the Rosary, and ask my guardian angel to finish the job.

Now that is beautiful: a Dad who prays Compline with his sons! The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin is a liturgical prayer that fits life in the world. The fact that it is basically the same, day after day, allows one to become comfortable with it, and to deepen its rich biblical content.

There was a reason why many active (apostolic) Congregations of religious chose the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin as their prayer. Moreover, in Sacrosanctum Concilium, article 98, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wisely state: "They too perform the public prayer of the Church who, in virtue of their constitutions, recite any short office, provided this is drawn up after the pattern of the divine office and is duly approved."

When both boys were small, I prayed Compline together with both of them every night. They always got excited at "the devil, like a roaring lion, goes about seeking someone to devour." Memorable image for little boys, that. This lasted until high school and homework intruded. I'd say four out of seven nights though I still pray it with at least one of them.

What small boy wouldn't thrill to that vivid image of the Short Lesson at Compline? A roaring lion seeking someone to devour!

I also spend a few minutes in lectio divina, taking ten to fifteen minutes sometime in the day when I have a chance. Usually it's while I eat my lunch, whether in my office, a hotel room, or even a restaurant. But it can also be sometime in the evening - whatever works.

Jon knows that one can live the Rule of Saint BenedIct without a commitment to lectio divina. He finds the time that works for him, and he does it.

On Friday nights or a feast of Our Lady, as often as possible we'll say the Rosary together before an icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (very popular here in PA, land of St. John Neumann and the Redemptorists) that hangs in our front room.

It is significant that the icon of Our Lady here in the oratory of the monastery should also be Our Mother of Perpetual Help. She is Our Lady Abbess, our Mother ready to help us at every moment. The family Rosary brings wonderful blessings to those who pray it. Our little monastic family also prays the Rosary together daily, immediately after the Hour of Sext.

I don't press family devotions more than that, as both of my sons enthusiastically serve the Traditional Mass on Sundays usually twice a month, and on Saturday mornings once a month as well. They also serve during the week on holy days, too, if need be. And there's Grace said before every meal - whether at home or in public. I try to keep things balanced, and want them to remember their childhood Faith experience with joy, and not as an oppressive duty. That way my wife and I hope the watered seed will grow.

And that too is eminently Benedictine: "I try to keep things balanced." Jon is very wise in his desire to communicate the faith to his children with joy, eschewing the burden of a duty that oppresses.

As for parish life, I sing in the schola, and am a member of the Holy Name Society. Oh, and I do whatever Father drafts me to do. My wife takes care of organizing the religious ed/sacrament training classes for the parish.

And parish life. Yes. The Benedictine Oblate cannot remain aloof from the parish at the heart of which stands the altar of Christ's Sacrifice.

That might seem like a lot, but it isn't. I found I used to spend even more time than that plunked in front of the television. Also, none of this binds under sin, and I don't let it bother me if other duties or affairs intrude. I do what I can. Some days, like snow days, or if I'm ill, I can do more. During the Octave of Christmas and the Easter Triduum, I make it an effort to pray Matins and the Little Hours.

Wisdom! Be attentive. There's the key: I do what I can.

There you have it, the exciting life of your humble oblate postulant.

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity. Like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron...

Jon

9 Comments

Wonderful, thank you Jon for the letter and Fr. Mark for sharing. As a man struggling to find a rythym of Christian life this letter is truly an insight. I have the Liturgy of the Hours in the four volumes but either can't figure it out or can't find it, but where is the office of Prime? I am praying for all of you, please continue to pray for all of us.

Thanks for the detailed description of the day. Learning to stop during the day for the divine office is an important Benedictine activity!

I have found that a two-step process works for me. First is just to stop and rest for a couple of minutes, thinking that all I need to do is stop, nothing else. Second is to then pick up the divine office books for the prayers.

Jon, I thank you for this most inspiring testimony of your walk with our dear Lord.

Jonathan, in the “Comments” section asked about the “Office of Prime.” Jonathan, since I don’t see a response to your question, I’ll take a stab at it. Prime or the “First Hour” was (is) a “little hour” of the Divine Office which was suppressed in the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. That is why it does not appear in the post-Conciliar Liturgy of the Hours. In my personal opinion, I wish that hadn’t happened. As Father Mark mentioned, Prime really is ideal for those living outside monastery walls. I also think that the Office of Readings is not an improvement to Matins. Admittedly, Matins is more difficult to pray for us lay folks due to the amount of Psalms – 9 in the version I use – 12 in others, while just three in the Liturgy of the Hours’ Office of Readings. But I feel that the Readings in the Office of Readings are too lengthy for proper meditation. In the pre-Conciliar Matins, the Readings are shorter, each with their own response, making it easier to digest. I suspect that Jon may feel the same way since I see that he reads the lessons from Matins.

Vatican II impressed upon me personally that holiness is not something for monks, religious and priests alone. God’s entire family is called to this greatness. And certainly Jon’s life is a response to that call. I read more and more these days of laypersons living monastic-type lives in the world, cities on hills that refuse to be hidden in the darkness of the world. And what better example, as John clearly grasps through his Rosaries, than the our Lady, the City of God, perched on the hill of Calvary telling her children to come to the Cross where He Who has been lifted up from the earth draws all men to Himself.

Using meals to feast on the word of God in lectio, how very monastic Jon! I really like the idea of taking ten to fifteen minutes. We certainly don’t want to gormandize the process and miss out on the fullness of the savory words of Sacred Scripture. Better to be a bon vivant with the Sacred Writ and enjoy the sweetness than a glutton and forget most of what was read.

“I don't let it bother me if other duties or affairs intrude. I do what I can.” This attestation of Jon immediately reminded me of something from Saint John Cassian: “What we gain from fasting does not compensate for what we lose through anger. Our profit from Scriptural reading in no way equals the damage we cause ourselves by showing contempt for a brother. We must always relate our fasting, vigils, withdrawal, and the meditation of Scripture and all these similar things, which are merely effects and consequences of our piety, to the principal end to which we must tend, that is, to this purity of heart which is nothing other than charity.”

Bravo Jon! Thanks for sharing your light with the world.

Deo gratias, Father! What you are doing in Tulsa is just wonderful; I often wish I lived in America; then I'd be sorely tempted to join you at the Cenacle!

Interesting to read Dom Guéranger saying to focus on the liturgy, leaving other devotions aside when necessary. It makes fine sense, if you ask me.

Great blog, Jon.
As a lay Carthusian, I had to smile while reading about your day, as it is somewhat similar to mine. I thought only I fell asleep during my evening rosary, but never thought to hand it over to my guardian angel. Thanks for the idea.
I'll remember you and your family during my daily time of solitude.
Pax,
Clayton

Thanks, fellas. Father Mark is the one who deserves the credit, though.

The great work he, Brendan, and Diego are undertaking is the inspiration. They're hefting the stone. I'm just slopping on the mortar of prayer - and grateful they've let me lend a hand.

Clayton,

And please don't credit me with the idea of handing my Rosary over to my guardian angel. I stole the idea from Mother Angelica!

Thank you, Jon and Father Mark, this is really helpful for us laymen and women.
With the changes mentioned above after Vatican II to the Liturgy of Hours and I think the Little Office of the BVM also, can anyone recommend best available versions of both? Thanks, Amber

This Little Office of the BVM works well for me. Seems to have a wonderful translation, nice graphics as you see on the front, and the paper doesn't fall apart. I believe it has some kind of "library binding". Not sure if I have the Large Print or not.
I can't imagine that there would be any better.

Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary [LARGE PRINT] (Library Binding)
http://www.amazon.com/Little-Office-Blessed-Virgin-Mary/dp/0899424503/

Has anyone checked out "Listen My Son" by Fr. Longenecker? It's perfect for relating the Rule of St. Benedict to family life.

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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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