Letter to a Novice Oblate (VII)

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My very dear Novice Oblate,

From Ireland

This is my first letter to you from Ireland, although not yet from Silverstream Priory. I am still the guest of Father John Hogan in Rathkenny Parochial House, while waiting for a few rooms of the monastery to be made suitable for occupancy. There are any number of things that I could tell you about the good progress of the work here and, in particular, about the dedicated labour of J.B. Kelly, and our Irish friends Frank Brennan and Pat Cullen. I shall not, however, focus on these things this evening.

Passiontide

With First Vespers we crossed the threshold of Passiontide, one of the most grace-laden seasons of the liturgical year. What strikes me more than anything else is that, with Passiontide, we are invited to enter into Our Lord's relationship with His Father. The liturgy will be dispensing Saint John's Gospel to us, day after day. Rightly has Saint John's been called the Gospel of the Father. On every page of the Gospel according to Saint John we see, and hear, and touch the Son. The eyes, and ears, and heart, and soul of the Son are turned toward the Father. Anyone who follows Jesus, and seeks to live in communion with Him, will also live turned toward the Father. Let this Passiontide, then, be for you a time of intimacy with the Father.

Christ in His Mysteries

If you have Blessed Columba Marmion's Christ in His Mysteries at hand, read the chapter that corresponds to Passiontide. I open Christ in His Mysteries year after year; I have never closed it without receiving from it substantial food for my soul.

Dom Gozier's Book and Its Problems

This reminds me to say something about a Lenten book that some of you are reading on my recommendation: Dom Gozier's book, Fifteen Days of Prayer With Saint Benedict. Dom Gozier is a Benedictine of the Congregation of Solesmes and a monk of the Abbey of Sainte Marie de la Source in Paris. Certain pages (or paragraphs) in his book are disconcerting to me. I find that Dom Gozier veers dangerously close to a syncretism that I can, in no way, approve or recommend. That being said, Dom Gozier also offers an introduction to Saint Benedict and to the Holy Rule that is accessible to folks having had little or no exposure to Benedictine monasticism. He does it well and in a manner consonant with orthodox Catholic and Benedictine tradition. I have no idea why Dom Gozier found it necessary to pass from a thoroughly acceptable presentation of Saint Benedict and of the Holy Rule to dodgy comparIsons with false world religions and with non-Christian monasticism.

Weeds in the Field

My advice is this: do not set fire to the entire field because of the patches of weeds that crop up in it. Take the good grain and put it to use. After you have harvested what is good and useful, leave the rest to the birds of the air and to the natural process of decay. Learn to read critically, taking what is good, and leaving what is questionable.

Read Critically

I could, of course, have proposed another book for Lent, one that would have presented fewer problems of the sort that crop up in Dom Gozier's book. In fact, I had one in mind: Dom Germain Morin's incomparable classic, The Ideal of the Monastic Life Found in the Apostolic Age. I was, however, conscious of the fact that our Oblate community is made up of folks with varying degrees of familiarity with the Benedictine tradition. While Dom Gozier's book is not the last word, for some it may be a good introductory word, provided, of course, that one reads critically and intelligently, pushing to the edge of one's plate, as it were, the bits that one might not safely digest.

Union with Jesus in His Prayer to the Father

It is late here in Ireland, and daylight saving time begins tonight. I bless you with affection, and keep you in my prayer, asking Our Lord to unite you to His prayer to the Father, and to lift you into the lifegiving mystery of His Cross.

In lumine vultus Iesu,
Father Prior

3 Comments

Thank you for your commentary on Dom Gozier's book--I was perplexed by his repeated references to Eastern religions, which weren't necessary. When he speaks specifically of the Benedictine life and traditions, though, he is very helpful.

Perhaps I can get Blessed Columba's book quickly and finish Lent with him. Blessings and prayers in your transition!

Thank you, Father Mark!
I very much like your kind review of the book.
Myself, I'm usually not so patient and charitable with the books that offend my "sense of theological (or aesthetic) rightness".
Agnieszka

Thank you for commenting on Dom Gozier's book, Father. I found the references in question distracting and ignored them, but found the rest helpful.
Pax in Lumine,
F.R.M.

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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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