Letter to a Novice Oblate (V)

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My very dear Novice Oblate,

The Rule Is Supple

I am taking a few moments out of a very busy day to write something about your way of life as an Oblate of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. In reading this series of letters, keep in mind that the great over-arching principle of application inscribed by Saint Benedict into the Holy Rule itself, is one of a flexible adaptation to your circumstances, your infirmities, your age, and your state in life.

For the Strong and the Weak

In the Prologue of the Holy Rule, Saint Benedict says, "We are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord. In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome." In Chapter 2 he says that the abbot, "must adjust and adapt himself to all in such a way that he may not only suffer no loss in the flock committed to his care, but may even rejoice in the increase of a good flock." In Chapter 64, again speaking of the abbot, Saint Benedict says, "Let him so temper all things that the strong may have something to strive after, and the weak may not fall back in dismay."

Rest for the Restless Heart

If you are becoming an Oblate, it is because your heart's deepest desire is to respond to the call of the Lord who "seeking his labourer in the multitude" (RB Pro: 14), has looked upon you and loved you. Through your contact with our Monastery, you have heard the universal call to union with God, that is, to holiness. You have felt the stirrings of an inner restlessness of soul, and you realize now that you will remain restless until your heart comes to rest in God. In Chapter 1 of his Confessions, Saint Augustine writes "Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee."

The Face of Christ

You are resolved to "seek God truly" (RB 57:7) by focusing the eyes of your heart on the Face of Christ in Sacred Scripture and in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Contemplation of the Face of Christ shining through every page of the Word of God, and mysteriously radiant in the Blessed Sacrament, will make you more and more capable of recognizing that same Holy Face in the people around you; in your family; in the sick, the aged, and the poor; and in those to whom you open your home.

Benedictines

We who live within the enclosure of the Monastery, and you, our extended family "outside the walls," are Benedictines because we look to the Rule of Saint Benedict to guide us (RB 3:7), to Saint Benedict himself as to our father, and to the whole Benedictine tradition as our "school in the service of the Lord." In the Benedictine tradition you will encounter an immense circle of friends: the countless saints in heaven who followed the Rule of Saint Benedict during their life on earth.

The Eucharistic Face of Jesus

We are called of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus because in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar we have recognized the Face of Jesus, hidden and yet wondrously radiant. We have heard Jesus' call to offer Him adoration, reparation, thanksgiving, and supplication in the Sacrament of His Love. This we do, in a special way, for the sanctification of all priests. As you tarry in the radiance of His Eucharistic Face, Our Lord will give you a heart like unto His own pierced Heart full of compassion for priests wounded in spiritual combat, or humiliated by weaknesses, or crushed beneath a burden of sin.

Obedience

Following the teaching of Saint Benedict, we monks in the enclosure, and you our extended family living in the midst of the world, seek to "return to God through the toil of obedience" (RB Pro: 2). Blessed John Paul II called obedience the listening to God that changes our lives. Obedience is a readiness to hear what God has to say and, then, by His grace, to adjust our attitudes and our actions to what we have heard.

Zeal for the Work of God

No less than monks living in the monastery, you, as an Oblate living in the world, are called to a serene and joyful zeal for the Sacred Liturgy and, in particular for the Divine Office, the Work of God (RB 58:7). You may recall what Pope Benedict XVI said at the conclusion of his General Weekly Audience on 16 November 2011:

Dear friends, in these recent catecheses I wanted to present to you certain Psalms, precious prayers that we find in the Bible and that reflect the various situations of life and the various states of mind that we may have with regard to God. I would then like to renew to you all the invitation to pray with the Psalms, even becoming accustomed to using the Liturgy of the Hours of the Church, Lauds in the morning, Vespers in the evening, and Compline before retiring.

Conversion of Manners

You will commit yourself to a real conversion of manners, that is, to a radical change in the way you view, and respond to, and care for people and things. Benedictine conversion of manners is a ratification of your baptismal consecration, a way of engaging heart and soul in the Baptismal Promises that you renew every year during the solemn Paschal Vigil. By entering Saint Benedict's "school of the Lord's service" (RB Pro: 45), you have chosen nurture the seed of new life planted deep within your soul at Baptism.

New Life in Christ

Mother Mectilde de Bar (1614-1698) says:

What happens is similar to the grain of wheat: having fallen into the earth, it dies, it is consumed. But, invisibly and deep down, there remains a kernel of life in the soul, and this, not by the soul's own strength or capacity, but by the pure mercy of God. This seed of life, this deposit of life, is Christ Jesus.

In Christ, the Life of the Soul, Blessed Abbot Columba Marmion (1858-1923) writes:

Holiness then, is a mystery of Divine life communicated and received: communicated in God, from the Father to the Son by an ineffable generation; communicated by the Son to humanity, which He personally unites to Himself in the Incarnation; then restored to souls by this humanity, and received by each of them in the measure of the gift of Christ, so that Christ is truly the life of the soul because He is the source and giver of life.

This is my prayer for you: that Christ may be the life of your soul, and that you may grow, through your communion with our Monastery, into being able to say with Saint Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20).

With my paternal affection and my blessing.
In lumine vultus Iesu,

Father Prior

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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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