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An Irish Priest for Priests

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August 16th, 1917: The Anniversary of Father Willam Doyle, S.J.

When Father Willie Doyle entered my life, something happened. It was the beginning of one of those heavenly friendships that make a difference. The anniversary of his death compels me to seek his intercession with confidence. I recommend his friendship and his intercession to all the readers of Vultus Christi.

The marvelous blog, Remembering Father Willlie Doyle, gives the following information on the death of the soldier priest:

It is worth noting that there is some dispute about the exact date of Fr Doyle's death. The earliest sources seem to agree that it was the 16th. Recent references suggest that he died on the 17th while some veterans of the war came forward in the 1940's to state that Fr Doyle was killed on the 15th. Given the horrendous conditions in the war, it is not surprising that such confusion exists.

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Pope Benedict XVI to the Church in Ireland

Reading the Holy Father's message to the Church in Ireland, I cannot but relate it to the sufferings, prayers, and holiness of Father William Doyle.

As you take up the challenges of this hour, I ask you to remember "the rock from which you were hewn" (Is 51:1). Reflect upon the generous, often heroic, contributions made by past generations of Irish men and women to the Church and to humanity as a whole, and let this provide the impetus for honest self-examination and a committed programme of ecclesial and individual renewal. It is my prayer that, assisted by the intercession of her many saints and purified through penance, the Church in Ireland will overcome the present crisis and become once more a convincing witness to the truth and the goodness of Almighty God, made manifest in his Son Jesus Christ.

Serving with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 16th Irish Division

Father Doyle, serving with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 16th Irish Division, fell in the Battle of Langemarck doing his duty to God and the many soldiers, of all armies, who also died in the Third Battle of Ypres. Although I have written of Father Willie Doyle elsewhere on Vultus Christi, I want, once again, to make these pages from Alfred O'Rahilly's splendid biography of Father Doyle (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1920) available to the Spiritual Mothers of Priests and to all my readers.

Priestly Sanctity and Reparation

Fr. Doyle had a very high ideal of the sacerdotal vocation. This he showed not only by his efforts to procure labourers for the great harvest, but especially in his own life. His daily Mass, for instance, was celebrated with a fervour which was apparent even to strangers. Phrases, such as Kyrie Eleison, Sursum Corda, Dominus Vobiscum, which by their very iteration tend to become mechanical utterances, seemed on his lips to be always full of freshness and meaning.

The Office: Every Word A Precious Coin

Similarly he always strove to prevent the recitation of the Office from becoming mere routine; he regarded it as a minting of merit, every word a precious coin. He so valued the Sacrament of Penance that he resolved to go daily to Confession. This lofty priestly ideal is made abundantly evident by his growing preoccupation with the work of promoting priestly sanctity and his increasing realisation that, like the great High Priest, he should be "a propitiation for the sins of the people." (Hebr. 2. 17.)

Priest and Victim

We see this idea in the following note: Sacerdos et victima -- Priest and Victim: After the words, Accipe protestatem offere sacrificium Dei*, the ordaining bishop adds, Imitamini quod tractatis. Jesus is a Victim, the priest must be one also. Christ has charged His priest to renew daily the sacrifice of the Cross; the altar is a perpetual Calvary ; the matter of the sacrifice, the victim, is Himself, His own Body, and He is the sacrificer. 'Receive, O Eternal Father, this unspotted Victim.' Can a priest worthy of the name stand by and watch this tremendous act, this heroic sacrifice, without desiring to suffer and to be immolated also? 'With Christ I am nailed to the Cross.' (Gal. 2. 20.) . . . Would that I could say a pure holy spotless victim. Let Jesus take me in His hands, as I take Him in mine, to do as He wills with me."
This idea is quite scriptural. "I beseech you," writes S. Paul, "that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God." "Be you also," says S. Peter (I. 2, 5), "as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

Priesthood of the Lay Faithful

This association of priesthood and sacrifice applies also to those who are not priests, to all the faithful, who constitute "a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people." (I Peter 2. 9.) "Pray, Brothers," says the priest at Mass, "that the sacrifice which is mine and yours may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty" And all through the Canon of the Mass the words emphasize the intimate union between celebrant and people in the great mystery which is being enacted. The assistants join not only in offering up the Divine Victim but also, as a water-drop in wine, in offering themselves as 'a living sacrifice.'

Extending and Supplementing the Sacerdotal Work

Thus the Sacrifice of the Mass is the living source from which our reparation derives its efficacy and inspiration. Co-operation in the great mystery of the Redemption, says Blessed Marie-Thérèse Dubouché, the foundress of the Congrégation de l'Adoration Réparatrice, is "the act of the Sacrifice of the Mass continued by the members of the Saviour at every moment of the day and night." And this ideal of co-sacrifice with Christ leads naturally from an appreciation of the sublime function of the priesthood to the idea of a spiritual crusade, extending and supplementing the sacerdotal work and atoning for the inevitable negligences and even scandals which occur in its performance.

Prayer for Priests

This is the devotion which, during the last three years of his life, strongly took hold of Fr. Doyle, namely, prayer for priests to aid them in their ministry and reparation in atonement for the negligences and infidelities of those whose calling is so high. We have already seen how earnestly he besought prayers for his own work. Saint Teresa of Avila exhorts her nuns to this apostolate of prayer. "Try to be such," she says, 3 "that we may be worthy to obtain these two favours from God: (1) that among the numerous learned and religious (priests) whom we have, there may be many who possess the requisite abilities . . . and that our Lord would improve those that are not so well prepared, since one perfect man can do more than many imperfect ones; (2) that our Lord may protect them in their great warfare, so that they may escape the many dangers of the world." She considered that her Carmelites, enjoying the seclusion and immunity of the cloister, owed this duty to the Church Militant.

Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny

This ideal is still more conspicuously enshrined in some recent religious institutes, particularly in the Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus founded by Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny. These sisters are "to ask by fervent prayers, by sufferings and even by their lives, if necessary, for the outpouring of grace on the Church, on the Catholic priesthood and on religious orders." In his Brief to Mgr. van den Berghe, 14th March, 1872, Pius IX welcomed the new foundation. "It is not without consolation of heart," said the Pope, "that we have heard of your plan to arouse and spread in your country that admirable spirit of sacrifice which God apparently wishes to oppose to the ever increasing impiety of our time. We see with pleasure that a great number of persons are everywhere devoting themselves entirely to God, offering Him even their life in ardent prayer, to obtain the deliverance and happy preservation of His Vicar and the triumph of the Church, to make reparation for the outrages committed against the divine Majesty, and especially to atone for the profanations of those who, though the salt of the earth, lead a life which is not in conformity with their dignity."

Reparation: Horizons Opened Up for the Weak

The seal of the Church has therefore been set on this apostolate of prayer and reparation. There is, needless to say, no question of pride or presumption, no attempting to judge others. It is merely the just principle that those who are specially shielded and privileged should aid those active religious - priests, brothers and sisters - who have great responsibilities and a difficult mission, and should by their faithfulness atone for the shortcomings of those who are exposed to greater temptations. "More than ever," says Cardinal Mermillod, "is it necessary to console the wounded Heart of Jesus, to pray for the priesthood, and by immolation and adoration, without measure or truce to give our Saviour testimony of affection and fidelity." "There is much which needs reparation," writes Mgr. d'Hulst, "even in the sanctuary and the cloisters, and indeed especially there. Our Lord expects compensation from souls who have not abused special graces." "How grievous are these scandals!" he exclaims in another letter. "Only the thought of reparation can soften the bitterness of them. To take expiation on oneself is to be like Him of whom it is said: Vere languores nostros ipse tulit et dolores nostros ipse portavit, "Surely He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows." (Isaias 53, 4) If this thought had thoroughly entered into us, without running after great penances, should we not give quite another reception than we usually do to sufferings, vexations, and the dulness and bitterness of our poor lives? And then the thought of reparation is so beneficial to poor souls like ours! It is a great mistake to think it is the privilege of the perfect. On the contrary, it pleases our Lord to open up these horizons to the weak, to give them courage by turning their attention away from their own wretchedness. If I am incapable of satisfying God in myself, I will try to make up to Him for others. If I cannot lament my own ingratitude sufficiently, I will learn to do so by lamenting for others."

Secret Apostolate of Victim Souls for Priests

These consoling words will help to convince those whose ideal of holiness is unconsciously individualistic and self-centred, that the ideal of reparation by no means implies the possession or the delusion of perfection. Of course in all this there may creep in some spirit of censorious self-sufficiency, though indeed there is not much danger of it in the hidden humble lives of those victim-souls who are devoted to the secret apostolate of prayer for God s ministers and reparation for those scandals and infidelities which occur from time to time in the Church. It has, therefore, seemed right to show briefly here, by way of preface to Fr. Doyle's private notes, how explicitly this work of priestly sanctification and reparation has been recognised by the Church and adopted by saints and mystics.

To Obtain Grace for Other Priests

This ideal appealed greatly to Fr. Doyle. On 28th July, 1914, the anniversary of his Ordination, he wrote: "At Exposition Jesus spoke clearly in my soul, 'Do the hard thing for My sake because it is hard.' I also felt urged to perform all my priestly duties with great fervour to obtain grace for other priests to do the same, e.g. the Office, that priests may say theirs well." On the Feast of St. Teresa, October, 1914, there is this simple but eloquent record: "Last night I rose at one a.m. and walked two miles barefooted in reparation for the sins of priests to the chapel at Murrough (Co. Clare), where I made the Holy Hour. God made me realise the merit of each step, and I understood better how much I gain by not reading the paper; each picture, each sentence sacrificed means additional merit. I felt a greater longing for self-inflicted suffering and a determination to do more little things.'"

Chosen by God for Priests

During his 1914 retreat this ideal came home to him as a special mission. "The great light of this retreat, clear and persistent," he writes on 1st December, "has been that God has chosen me, in His great love and through compassion for my weakness and misery, to be a victim of reparation for the sins of priests especially; that hence my life must be different in the matter of penance, self-denial and prayer, from the lives of others not given this special grace they may meritoriously do what I cannot; that unless I constantly live up to the life of a willing victim, I shall not please our Lord nor ever become a saint - it is the price of my sanctification; that Jesus asks this from me always and in every lawful thing, so that I can sum up my life 'sacrifice always in all things.'"

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League of Priestly Sanctity

On the following Christmas Day (1914) Fr. Doyle records a further step. "During midnight Mass at Dalkey Convent I made the oblation of myself as a member of the League of Priestly Sanctity.* During my preparation beforehand a sudden strong conviction took possession of me that by doing so, I was about to begin the 'work' which - had spoken of. Our Lord gave me great graces during the Mass and urged me more strongly than ever to throw myself into the work of my sanctification, that so I may draw many other priests to Him. He wants the greatest possible fervour and exactness in all priestly duties."

* The League of Priestly Sanctity, to which reference is here made, was founded in the North of France in the year 1901, under the direction of Père Feyerstein, S.J. (+ 1911). Fr. Doyle became Director-General for Ireland and strove to spread the League among Irish priests. In an explanatory leaflet which he issued, it is described as "an association of priests, both secular and regular, who, in response to the desire of the Sacred Heart, strive to help each other to become holy and thus render themselves worthy of their sublime calling and raise the standard of sacerdotal sanctity." Two special objects are enumerated: "(1) The assistance of priests, and especially those of the League, in living a life worthy of their high calling. (2) The atonement for outrages to the Sacred Heart in the Sacrament of His love. This Sacrament, needless to say, is committed to priests in a special manner; and there ought to be a priestly expiation for irreverence, negligence, and particularly sacrilegious Masses, which the Divine Heart has to endure from the very ministers of His altar.

Fr. Doyle had this League very much at heart and had prepared several schemes for its spread and improvement when his appointment as military chaplain interrupted the work. But while engaged in this novel sphere of activity, the ideal of a life of reparation remained uppermost in his mind and once more the special form which it took was expiation for the negligences and sins of God's anointed. He recorded this resolution on 26th July, 1916: "During a visit our Lord seemed to urge me not to wait till the end of the war, but to begin my life of reparation at once, in some things at least. I have begun to keep a book of acts done with this intention. He asked me for these sacrifices, (1) To rise at night in reparation for priests who lie in bed instead of saying Mass. (2) At all costs to make the 50,000 aspirations. (3) To give up illustrated papers. (4) To kiss floor of churches. (5) Breviary always kneeling. (6) Mass with intense devotion. The Blessed Curé d'Ars used to kneel without support while saying the Office. Could not I?"

Reparation and Penance for the Sins of Priests

"This is my vocation," he notes on 8th February, 1917, "reparation and penance for the sins of priests; hence the constant urging of our Lord to generosity." Appropriately enough the last entry in his diary was made on 28th July, 1917, the tenth anniversary of his ordination. Fr. Doyle's last recorded thought was about his sacrificial ideal of priestly immolation.

All That Happens, Sent by Jesus

"The reading of La vie réparatrice (Canon Leroux de Bretagne, Desclée 1909) has made me long more to take up this life in earnest. I have again offered myself to Jesus as His Victim to do with me absolutely as He pleases. I will try to take all that happens, no matter from whom it comes, as sent to me by Jesus and will bear suffering, heat, cold, etc., with joy as part of my immolation, in reparation for the sins of priests. From this day I shall try bravely to bear all 'little pains' in this spirit. A strong urging to this."

Saint Peter Julian Eymard

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A Priest-Adorer

When Blessed John XXIII canonized Peter Julian Eymard on December 9, 1962, at the close of the First Session of the Second Vatican Council, he was, I think, acting prophetically. He directed the eyes of the universal Church to the image of a priest-adorer impassioned by the Most Holy Eucharist. During the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, marked by the abundant graces of the Year of the Eucharist, Saint Peter Julian Eymard's particular expression of sacerdotal holiness came into focus more clearly for me.

A Priest for Priests

Saint Peter Julian was a priest for priests. In every brother priest he recognized a living image of Jesus Christ. He was known even to leave his prie-dieu before the Blessed Sacrament during his designated hour of adoration in order to receive a priest in need.

Sanctuaries of Adoration

Père Eymard ardently desired to do still more. In the first place, he resolved to number among the chief Apostolic Works of the Society of the Blessed Sacrament that of receiving into its Sanctuaries of adoration all priests who might desire to spend some days at the foot of the holy tabernacle.

I Want to Get the Priests

"Sanctify the priests by the Eucharist," he wrote. "That embraces everything. With the priests, we have the parishes, the whole country." Some months before his death, he exclaimed, "Now listen! I want to get the priests. That is our principal apostolate."

"To labour for priests," he used to say, "is to labour for multipliers. Let the Holy Eucharist become the centre of their thoughts, the end of their labours, and they will have at their disposal the most efficient means for the conversion and sanctification of their people. Let them find in Jesus of the tabernacle a Friend in their loneliness, insurmountable strength in their struggles, constantly renewed vigour in their weariness, for He is the Source of grace, which produces abundant fruits."

Priest-Adorers

Saint Peter Julian entertained the idea of founding a society of diocesan priest-adorers, not unlike the Oblates associated with monasteries: "I want to form . . . secular priests, to bind them together by prayer, by determinate statutes, and to sanctify them by the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. This work is ours, but I do not want to undertake now on a large scale. Oh, when will the time come! Priests sharing in the life of the Blessed Sacrament, should live according to the Eucharistic life of Jesus, which consists above all in self-abnegation and the love of sacrifice. . . . They should perform all their duties under the protection of the Blessed Virgin, the Adoratrice of the Cenacle, for through that sweet Mother we more easily approach Jesus. Their studies, their energy, and their piety they should direct to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. They should bear in mind that adoration is their chief duty: Nos autem orationi instantes erimus -- But we will give ourselves continually to prayer" (Acts 6, 4).

Preaching Energized by Adoration

For Saint Peter Julian Eymard, Eucharistic adoration was the soul of the ministry of holy preaching. "Like Moses," he wrote, "full of zeal to announce the teaching of the Divine Master when he came down from Mount Sinai, like the Apostles coming from the Cenacle, so should the priests [of this Society] go from the church straight to the people to announce to them the Word of God: Et ministerio verbi -- to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6, 4).

Drawing Souls to the Eucharist

A priest who seeks first the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, and has learned to linger close to His Eucharistic Heart, will be given all other things besides. His ministry will be prodigiously fruitful, even if, in this present life, its fruitfulness remains hidden. The priest is the friend of the Bridegroom, pointing souls to the tabernacle and, even more, inviting them to follow him into the radiance of His Eucharistic Face and the warmth of His Open Heart. Saint Peter Julian says it this way: "They should bind themselves to defend always and under all circumstances the interests and the honour of Jesus Christ, and by every possible means to multiply visits to the Blessed Sacrament as well as frequent and daily Communion. In a word, in all their actions, they should unite with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, the Eternal High Priest, the Model of the grace of the priesthood."

In Cenaculi Solitudine

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Our Lady of the Cenacle

Many years ago and long before I had any idea that I would one day play a role in establishing a monastery under the patronage of Our Lady of the Cenacle, I was searching out the treasures of my missal, and discovered, among the Masses for Certain Places, the Mass of Our Lady of the Cenacle for the Saturday within the Octave of the Ascension. The Proper texts of the Mass stirred my heart. This Mass was composed and approved in 1886 at the request of Mother Marie-Aimée Lautier, Superior General of the Congregation of the Cenacle. The humble foundress of the Society of Our Lady of the Cenacle, Saint Thérèse Couderc, died in 1885.

(It is a pity that, with Ascension Thursday being observed in so many places on the following Sunday, both the Pentecost Novena and the feast of Our Lady of the Cenacle are adversely affected.)

This particular Mass was not retained in the Collection of Masses in Honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Religious of the Cenacle, for whom these texts were composed, no longer use them.

The orations are, like so many composed in the 19th century, addressed to Our Lord Jesus Christ, rather than to the Father. They contain some wonderfully evocative phrases in the original Latin.

Collect

Deus, qui beatam Mariam semper Virginem matrem tuam
in Cenaculi solitudine cum discipulis orantem
Sancti Spiritus donis cumulasti:
fac nos, quaesumus, cordis recessum diligere;
ut sic rectius orantes
Spiritus Sancti gratiis repleri mereamur.

O God, who, in the solitude of the Cenacle, didst fill with the gifts of the Holy Ghost
Blessed Mary ever Virgin, Thy mother, united in prayer with Thy disciples;
grant that we may so withdraw into the secret places of the heart
that by praying aright,
we may be made worthy to be filled with these graces in abundance.
Who with God the Father livest and reignest
in the unity of the same Holy Ghost,
one God, world without end.

Secret or Prayer Over the Oblations

Haec sacra, Domine, tibi in honorem beatae Mariae Virginis Matris tuae litantes.
humiliter petimus,
ut sicut ipsa verba tua sancta in corde suo sollicite servavit,
nobis quoque ejus intercessione concedas,
ita in lege tua assidue meditari,
ut fidelius opere implere eam valeamus.

Offering Thee, O Lord,
these sacred gifts in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary Thy mother,
we humbly ask that,
by the example and intercession of her
who carefully kept Thy holy words in her heart,
we too may meditate Thy law assiduously,
so as to put it into practice more faithfully.

Postcommunion

Deus, qui fideles tuos in Cenaculi recessu cum Maria Matre tua sacratissima
perseverantes et unanimes in oratione effecisti:
praesta, quaesumus;
ut his quoque donis ornati et a saeculi strepitu segregati,
tibi soli in caritate perfecta vivamus.

O God, who to thy faithful withdrawn in the Cenacle,
didst grant perseverance in prayer in oneness of heart
with Mary, Thy most holy Mother,
grant, we beseech Thee, that we also,
graced with the same gift
and separated from the noise of the world,
may live for Thee alone in perfect charity.

Eucharistic Novena: January 6-14

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The image depicts two good friends, Saint Jean-Marie Vianney and Saint Peter Julian Eymard. Saints flourish in relationship with each other. One might say that there are constellations of saints set in the firmament of history's darkest nights by the provident hand of God.

Saint Peter Julian Eymard

Saint Peter Julian Eymard is one of the principal patrons of the work of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. On the feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1857 Saint Peter Julian Eymard inaugurated the solemn exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament by which the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament came to life. Again this year, I propose the following novena for those who care to make it with me from January 6-14. It would be grand if those making the novena would leave a word in the comment box letting me know it!

Some readers of Vultus Christi may recall that on October 26, 2007 I wrote:

The desire of the Heart of Jesus is that there should be priest adorers and reparators: priests who will adore for those who do not adore, priests who will make reparation for those who do not. Our Lord asks me -- and will ask other priests as well -- to remain in adoration before His Eucharistic Face, offering all the priests of the Church to His Open Heart present in the Sacrament of His Love.

This inspiration was confirmed by the splendid letter of Cardinal Hummes, published on December 7, 2007, inviting to adoration and reparation for priests.

A Daunting Proposition

The Church is blessed with any number of communities of fervent Benedictines, who glorify Our Lord according to the gifts imparted to them, but nowhere does Our Lord find a house of priest-adorers to keep Him company in the Sacrament of His Love, and to offer themselves for their brother priests. The establishment of a new monastery is a daunting proposition, but I trust in Our Lord's assurance that the measure of one's weakness is the measure of the deployment of His grace.

The Gospel tells us: God is the highest priority. If anything in our life deserves haste without delay, then, it is God's work alone. The Rule of Saint Benedict contains this teaching: "Place nothing at all before the work of God (i.e. the divine office)". For monks, the Liturgy is the first priority. Everything else comes later. In its essence, though, this saying applies to everyone. (Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas 2009)

Work for Priests

The traditional Benedictine framework and the commitment to the choral liturgy safeguards the life of adoration and the work for priests: the interior work of self-oblation in all things, and the exterior works of hospitality, spiritual counsel, and availability to priests in their times of weariness and need.

Assent to the Divine Friendship

At the heart of this special vocation is the assent to Our Lord's Divine Friendship, the "Yes" to His merciful love uttered on behalf of all priests through a prolonged daily presence in adoration before His Eucharistic Face.

Our Lord desires with an immense desire to purify, and heal, and sanctify His priests. This He does, and will do, by drawing them into the radiance of His Eucharistic Face and the warmth of His Eucharistic Heart. We priests all too easily forget that Our Lord Jesus Christ is present in the Sacrament of His Love to offer us all the good things that come from friendship: companionship, conversation, joy, comfort, hospitality, strength and, above all, love.

Friends of His Heart

Our Lord is hidden in the Blessed Sacrament; His Face is veiled by the sacramental species and His Heart, too, is hidden. He is, nonetheless, really present as True God and True Man, alive, seeing all, knowing all, and burning with desire that all should come to His tabernacles but, first of all, the priests whom He has chosen to be His intimate friends, the friends of His Heart.

A priest who, in adoration, assents to the friendship of Christ, will want for nothing and will make great strides along the path of holiness. Virtue is not difficult for one who abides in the friendship of Christ. The friendship of Jesus for His priests needs to become the subject of conversations, of reflection, of study, and of preaching; more than anything else it needs to become the lived experience of every priest.

Our Lady and Saint John

A priest who abides in the friendship of Christ will accomplish great and wonderful works for souls. This is the secret of a fruitful priesthood. From her place in heaven, Our Blessed Lady is entirely devoted to keeping priests faithful to the Divine Friendship. Saint John, the Beloved Disciple, also intercedes for priests, that they might persevere in the way of friendship with Our Lord and find their joy in the love of His Heart.

The Remedy

Priests who come to adore the Eucharistic Face of Jesus will quickly discover His Heart and, in His Heart they will discover the friendship for which He created them and to which He calls them. The single greatest deficiency of the clergy is that so many priests are ignorant of the tenderness and strength and fidelity of Our Lord's friendship for them. How can this deficiency be remedied? By adoration before the Eucharistic Face of Christ. This has been, for the past four years, the raison d'être of my work in the Diocese of Tulsa. Pray, then, that the radiance of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus will reach an ever greater number of priests, until, in all the Church, the Priesthood of Christ shines with all the splendour of His own holiness.

Epiphany Novena in Honour of Saint Peter Julian Eymard
January 6 -- 14, 2012

Recited after Lauds

Antiphon: And when they were come into the house,
they found the Child with Mary His Mother,
and fell down and adored Him.

V. Arise, shine, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come.
R. And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

Let us pray.

O God, who by the leading of a star,
didst manifest Thine Only-Begotten Son to the Gentiles,
mercifully grant that we,
having been led unto Him by the light of faith,
may, with grateful hearts,
ceaselessly adore Him present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar,
Who is our Mighty King, our Great High Priest, and our Immaculate Victim,
and Who liveth and reigneth with Thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.
Amen.

Recited after Vespers:

Antiphon: The Priests shall be holy;
for the offerings of the Lord made by fire,
and the bread of their God, they do offer,
therefore they shall be holy.

V. Pray for us, Saint Peter Julian.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

O God, Who through the preaching and example of Saint Peter Julian Eymard,
didst renew the priesthood of Thy Church in holiness
and inflame many souls with zeal
for the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar;
we beseech Thee, through his intercession,
to gather priests of one mind and one heart,
from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof,
to keep watch in adoration before the Eucharistic Face
of Thine Only-Begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ
and to abide before His Open Heart,
in reparation for those who forsake Him, hidden in the tabernacles of the world,
and in thanksgiving for the mercies that ever stream
from the Sacred Mysteries of His Body and Blood.
Who liveth and reigneth with Thee
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.
Amen.

VOCATIONS

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Vocational inquiries are not uncommon. I receive telephone calls, letters, and emails asking for information about our way of life. It occurred to me today that I ought to write something more than what is found on the sidebar of Vultus Christi. I decided to write this "something more" in the form of a personal letter. A few photos accompany it. Tell me what you think.

Dear Friend,

If you have come to this "Vocations" page, it is because in your heart you are searching for something more. For a monk, that something more is, more precisely, SOMEONE who is ALL: Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the pearl of great price, He is the treasure hidden in the field, for which one is ready to renounce all else.

Truly Seeking God

When Saint Benedict, in his Rule for Monasteries, reviews the qualities needed in a man who comes to be a monk, he would have us examine, before all else, whether the candidate is truly seeking God (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 58). While this may seem self-evident, it needs to be said clearly and unambiguously. One comes to be a monk because God alone has become, or is becoming, the one and only desire of one's heart.

The Face of Christ

For a Benedictine, this search for God focuses on the adorable Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ or, if you will, on His Face, for Jesus Christ is the Human Face of God.

Philip saith to him: Lord, shew us the Father, and it is enough for us. Jesus saith to him: Have I been so long a time with you; and have you not known me? Philip, he that seeth me seeth the Father also. How sayest thou, shew us the Father? Do you not believe, that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? (John 14:8-10)

For a Benedictine Adorer of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, this same search leads to the altar, where, concealed in the tabernacle or exposed to our gaze in the monstrance, the Face of Christ, hidden beneath the sacramental veil, is turned toward him, revealing the infinite mercy and loving friendship of His Sacred Heart.

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In the Here and Now

Our little monastery is still in its embryonic stage. Should you come to visit us, you will find nothing of what one would expect to find in an established monastery with a numerous community. The beginnings of a monastery require, not only that a man truly seek God, but also that he be willing to seek Him in the midst of something that is still being built, in the midst of uncertainties, surprises, challenges, and seemingly endless opportunities for self-sacrifice.

In the very near future our little monastery will be relocating to a more suitable setting. This transition will require a readiness to let go of much that is familiar, comfortable, and settled. Benedictine stability is, more often than not, purchased at the price of a certain initial mobility. Even Saint Benedict relocated more than once!

Men with a romantic vision of what monastic life ought to be, need not apply. Our search for God unfolds in the humble reality of what is here and now. While we do not lose sight of what may develop later on, in God's good time, we cannot indulge in idealistic daydreaming. God comes to meet us in the real, not in the cherished ideals that we have nurtured of ourselves and by ourselves.

A Family

We do not aspire to become a grand abbey. Our aim is to grow to the size of a large family, that is between fifteen and twenty-five members. A diversity of talents and aptitudes are needed: manual, intellectual, artistic, and technological. If you come to us, be prepared to stretch and be stretched. My own life experience has taught me that monastic obedience often allows a man to discover and develop gifts that he never knew he had.

Flexibility

There are days when our life seems like a series of interruptions. There are always people at the door; Saint Benedict says that they must be welcomed as Christ Himself (cf. Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 53). Things go wrong. Technology fails. In a small community, the horarium (daily time-table) must be adapted and re-adapted to accommodate the human weaknesses of fatigue, illness, and unforeseen demands on time and energy.

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This readiness to adapt is integral to the Benedictine vision of things. Saint Benedict would have the Abbot be "discrete and moderate . . . so tempering all things that the strong may have something to strive after, and the weak may not fall back in dismay" (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 64).

Confidence in the Love of Christ

In a community still at its beginnings, the monastic journey does not always flow smoothly. There are bumps in our road. There are spiritual potholes. There are detours and wrong turns. For all of this, I can still say with complete confidence, "that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39).

Where Do You Fit In?

Experience has shown that after one's mid to late thirties, it is difficult to adapt to monastic life, to submit to the process by which one yields to the demands of life "under a Rule and an Abbot" (Rule of Saint Benedict 1:13). Similarly, men with a previous experience of religious life, find it hard to enter into a new experience with the freshness, sense of wonderment, and discovery that should characterize those taking their first steps in a monastery.

If a man brings with him a cheerful, flexible disposition and the ability to adapt to changes in routine, he will do well with us. If, on the other hand, he is rigid, legalistic, all bound up in personal patterns of piety, and incapable of adapting himself to the exigencies of a new foundation, he will not thrive with us. It goes without saying that anyone with a disposition that is chronically critical, judgmental, or arrogant is unfit for monastic life.

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Guests and Friends

There are other things that you should know. While we cherish our silence and enclosure (separation from the outside world) we are welcoming towards all sorts of people, including families; sometimes families have noisy little children. Saint Benedict says that, "guests, who are never lacking in a monastery, [sometimes] arrive at irregular hours" (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 53). Apart from the courtesy and reverence incumbent upon all people of good will in the House of God, we do not expect our guests to conform to our monastic disciplines.

We have a very gentle dog named Hilda, for Saint Hilda of Whitby. If you are not dog-friendly or are easily shocked when a dog acts in a very doggy fashion, you will not be happy among us. My experience is that a dog can help monks to be more human. One of the Desert Fathers said, "Even a dog is better than I, for a dog loves and does not judge."

And Now?

I have no desire to lead anyone on by presenting a picture of our way of life that does not correspond to its reality. You can read about some of the characteristic elements of our particular monastic charism below. If, after reading, you want to get to know us first hand, call or email me. My contact information is at the bottom of this page. If you have read this far, you will probably want to continue!

In lumine vultus Iesu,

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, O.S.B., Prior

In the Sight of Angels and of Men

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A Momentous Event

This morning, on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the humble Oratory of our monastery was the setting of a momentous event. His Excellency, Bishop Edward J. Slattery was with us for the the canonical establishment of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel's Hope as a Public Association of the Faithful, in view of their becoming an Institute of Consecrated Life.

Rosalind Moss Becomes Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God

Foundress, Rosalind Moss, in religion Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God received the traditional Benedictine habit, given that the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel's Hope have begun to follow the age-old Rule of Saint Benedict.

Here is the text of Bishop Slattery's Decree of Erection:

In every age and place, the Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life, is at work in the Body of Christ to regenerate and extend the various forms of consecrated life by which the Church is enriched and made present in the world.

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Beginning with the vocation of Saint Antony of Egypt, the Father of every form of consecrated life in East and West, and continuing through the charisms of Saint Pachomius, Saint Basil, Saint Augustine, and Saint Benedict, and of the myriads of holy founders and foundresses in every century the Church has never been without new and varied expressions of the call to follow the poor and virginal Christ, obedient unto death, even death on a Cross.
Moreover, from Apostolic times, unmarried women and widows have sought to imitate the Daughter of Sion, the Blessed Virgin Mary in her unconditional surrender to the will of the Father and the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. Having said her "Yes" in response to the message of the Archangel Gabriel, the Virgin of Nazareth became blessed above all women, the Joy of Israel, and the Glory of Jerusalem.
Among the women who seek to imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary and aspire to share in her spiritual motherhood today, are the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel's Hope. The mystery of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is the luminous pattern of their ecclesial mission to all peoples: Jew and Gentile, young and old, rich and poor.
Contemplating that mystery, they rejoice that the Light of the World has come, and receive the Child Jesus, Israel's Hope and Consolation, from the arms of His Blessed Mother as did Simeon; their mission is to teach others to do likewise, and so find hope in this valley of tears.
They listen to Simeon's prophetic utterance and recognize in his arms the Promised One, who from the altar of the Cross will offer Himself to the Father as the Atoning Lamb. Thus are they compelled to undertake works of catechesis so that all peoples may find in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass the wellspring of salvation, life, and resurrection.
They observe Anna, the Daughter of Phanuel, who gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all who were looking for the redemption of Israel; strengthened by holy Anna's courage and zeal, they will devote themselves to a missionary outreach to "those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death," to apostolic works of evangelization, to the consolidation of family life, and to the promotion of a Catholic culture of goodness, beauty, truth, and life.
New foundations of consecrated life are fragile undertakings; they must welcome the wisdom of past generations with humility and gratitude, learning from the teaching and example of the saints who never grow old. It is by a sure and praiseworthy instinct, then, that the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel's Hope, have chosen to graft their tender shoot onto the age-old tree of the Benedictine tradition.
From the time of Saint Lioba, one of the evangelizers of Northern Europe in the eighth century, Benedictine missionary women have brought the love of learning and the desire for God to peoples in bondage to ignorance and idolatry. In the fifteenth century Saint Frances of Rome found in the Rule of Saint Benedict a powerful stimulus for her service of the poor, the sick, and the lonely. Since that time, a number of flourishing missionary Institutes of Sisters, dedicated to the active works of the apostolate, have found in the Rule of Saint Benedict the strong support needed by those who would labor as humble servants in the vineyard of the Lord.
For this reason, it pleases me to confirm and approve the Rule of Saint Benedict as the fundamental pattern of the life of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel's Hope. Their life will be further governed by the Constitutions here appended, which I hereby approve and promulgate.
Therefore, with these noble ends in mind, and for the greater joy of the Church of Tulsa that is entrusted to my care, by this Decree, I hereby erect and establish the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel's Hope as a Public Association of the Faithful in accordance with Canon 312, in view of being established later as a religious Institute of Diocesan Right.
In accord with the aforementioned Constitutions, I appoint Rosalind Moss, in religion, Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God, prioress of the Community, and authorize the opening of their residence in the Diocese of Tulsa as the Priory of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Given in Tulsa, in the Year of Our Lord 2011, on this 8th day of September, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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Sister Rosalind Moss before receiving the Benedictine habit and becoming Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God.

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Sister Rosalind Moss makes her petition to Bishop Edward J. Slattery:

Most Reverend Father, entrusting my weakness to the mercy of Christ, my ignorance to His wisdom, and my future to His providence, I am resolved to dedicate myself, heart and soul, to the form of consecrated life described in the Decree.
I ask you, therefore, Most Reverend Father, to clothe me in the vesture of those who hold nothing dearer than Christ, that I may appear outwardly, in the sight of Angels and of men, as an image of the Church, Virgin, Spouse, and Mother, and as one whose heart belongs to the Lamb alone in a covenant of bridal love.

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Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum, et vivam.
Et non confundas me ab expectatione mea.

Mother Miriam, standing with arms outstretched, sings these words thrice:
Receive me, O Lord, according to Your word, and I shall live;
Then kneeling with her arms crossed over her breast, she continues:
let me not be disappointed in my hope.

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Mother Miriam receives Holy Communion from the hands of Bishop Slattery.

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Bishop Slattery and Father Timothy Davison, Pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Tulsa, join in chanting the Nunc Dimittis at the conclusion of the celebration. The new Priory of Our Lady of Guadalupe is located within Saints Peter and Paul Parish.

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Left to right: Father Prior, Dom Mark Daniel Kirby; Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God; Bishop Edward J. Slattery

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Mother Miriam together with the monks of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle and His Excellency, Bishop Slattery of Tulsa

Benedictines and Adorers

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On the occasion of his visit to the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz on 9 September 2007, Pope Benedict XVI said:

In a monastery of Benedictine spirit, the praise of God, which the monks sing as a solemn choral prayer, always has priority. Monks are certainly - thank God! - not the only people who pray; others also pray: children, the young and the old, men and women, the married and the single - all Christians pray, or at least, they should!
In the life of monks, however, prayer takes on a particular importance: it is the heart of their calling. Their vocation is to be men of prayer. In the patristic period the monastic life was likened to the life of the angels. It was considered the essential mark of the angels that they are adorers. Their very life is adoration. This should hold true also for monks.
Monks pray first and foremost not for any specific intention, but simply because God is worthy of being praised. "Confitemini Domino, quoniam bonus! - Praise the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy is eternal!": so we are urged by a number of Psalms (e.g. Ps 106:1). Such prayer for its own sake, intended as pure divine service, is rightly called officium. It is "service" par excellence, the "sacred service" of monks. It is offered to the triune God who, above all else, is worthy "to receive glory, honour and power" (Rev 4:11), because he wondrously created the world and even more wondrously renewed it.

Monastic Cult and Monastic Culture

An attentive look at monastic history through the ages reveals that dedication to the primacy of the Divine Office has variously waxed and waned. Where it has waxed, the monastic grace has wonderfully flourished; where it has waned, every other dimension of monastic culture has suffered in consequence. Cult (from the Latin cultus for worship) is, in fact, the matrix of culture.

Eucharistic Adoration

What about those monasteries in which, in addition to the daily Conventual Mass and choral celebration of the Divine Office, there were various expressions of Eucharistic adoration? Looking at history, one notes that while monastic houses of women adorers abounded after the thirteenth century, especially in the Low Countries, few houses of men militating under the Rule of Saint Benedict were inspired to make a similar corporate commitment to adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Undoubtedly, there was a lurking and not altogether unfounded fear, that Eucharistic adoration, perpetual or otherwise prolonged, assumed in addition to the daily round of the Opus Dei, would lead to a loss of the characteristically Benedictine value of balance and moderation.

The Monks of Corpus Christi

The first monks under the Rule of Saint Benedict to adopt Eucharistic adoration as an identifying characteristic belonged to the Umbrian Congregation of Corpus Christi, founded by the Blessed Andrea di Paolo in 1328. The Monks of Corpus Christi, or Corpocristiani were aggregated to the Benedictine Congregation of Monte Oliveto by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. The last Corpus Christi Benedictine, Tommaso di Bastiano di Sterpete, of Foligno, died in 1640.

The Picpus Fathers

The Picpus Fathers, so called from the street of their first house in Paris, were founded under the Rule of Saint Benedict in 1800 by Father Pierre Coudrin and Mother Henriette Aymer de la Chevalerie. The full title of this religious family is a very long one but it expresses completely their founding grace: "The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar." Although members of the Congregation would identify themselves as missionary rather than classically Benedictine, the Rule of Saint Benedict remains for them a reference, and Eucharistic adoration is integral to their charism.

The most famous member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts is Saint Damien of Molokai. Father Damien's compassionate devotion to those suffering from leprosy was the fruit of the intimate knowledge of the pierced Side of Christ that came to him in long hours of adoration before the tabernacle. It is a little known fact that Father Damien laboured to establish perpetual adoration of the Eucharist among his dear lepers. In this there is something astonishingly beautiful; the sight of lepers adoring day and night the Suffering Servant who, disfigured in his Passion, became, "as one from whom men screen their faces" (Is 53:3), the "Lord of Glory" (1 Cor 2:8) whose face is "all the beauty of holy souls" (Litany of the Holy Face).

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To the best of my knowledge, the next foundation of monks identified by Eucharistic adoration emerged only in 1892 when Dom Marie-Bernard Maréchal, a former Priest of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament and disciple of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, established the Abbey of Pont-Colbert near Versailles, France, for the Cistercian Adorers of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Father Paul Maréchal, later Dom Marie-Bernard, left the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament after the death of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, when his proposal to have the Blessed Sacrament Fathers adopt the Rule of Saint Benedict was rejected at a General Chapter of the Institute. In the wake of persecutions by the anticlerical French government at the beginning of the last century, the Cistercian Adorers of the Most Blessed Sacrament migrated to Marienkroon in Holland. Marienkroon, in turn, founded in 1929 the now defunct monastery of Val d'Espoir in the Canadian Gaspé peninsula, and brought its influence to bear upon the Abbey of Our Lady of Spring Bank in Sparta, Wisconsin.

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Abbot Celestino Maria Colombo, O.S.B. (1874-1935)

The Olivetan Benedictine, Dom Celestino Maria Colombo, was appointed abbot of the Sanctuary of La Madonna del Pilastrello at Lendinara (Rovigo) by motu proprio of Pope Benedict XV on 15 December 1920. Abbot Celestino Maria was a devoted and tireless spiritual father to the Benedictine Nuns of the Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Monastery of Ghiffa. Later, he exercised the same role monasteries aggregated to Ghiffa in central and southern Italy, including that of Piedimonte Matese, which monastery I have known for thirty-five years.

The Annals of the Monastery of Ghiffa relate:

After having studied in depth the Constitutions and books of the Institute, after having practiced the spirit of them to an heroic degree, after having grounded the community in this same spirit, with a patient, enlightened, and prudent zeal, he asked for the grace of possessing our holy habit, of practicing our holy Constitutions, of being a true member of the Institute, a true victim of the Most Holy Sacrament.
The religious, in a unanimous joy, received the eucharistic vow of the Reverend Father. Since that day uninterrupted requests and prayers have been raised to heaven so that the Institute will have, at last, its complement to the glory of the Eucharist and so that the last breath of our great father Benedict will generate sons of the Host to the Host, Benedictine Adorers, the priestly victims to sustain and save the Church in the difficult last times. And so may it be.

The location of a little sanctuary dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity near the monastery of Ronco di Ghiffa, revived in Dom Celestino a desire that had never gone away: the birth of a Benedictine community of men dedicated to adoration and reparation of the Eucharist. One reads in the same Annals, that coming down, one day from the Sanctuary of the Most Holy Trinity to the monastery, he expressed "the wish that Eucharistic Benedictine Fathers would come one day to the Sanctuary of the Most Holy Trinity."

It is probable that this lively aspiration was never erased from the heart of Dom Celestino, enamoured as he was of the Eucharistic ideal proposed by Mother de Bar, and lived so well by the nuns of the monastery of Ghiffa. He had absorbed and appropriated for himself the spirit of the Benedictine Institute of Perpetual Adoration, to the point of living it faithfully and fostering its growth in every possible way until his saintly death on 24 September 1935.

Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle

The Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, came to birth in the diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma in the context of the Year of the Priesthood. The monastery is a response to the letter of Claudio Cardinal Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, dated December 8, 2007. In that letter, HIs Eminence said:

We are asking, therefore, all diocesan Ordinaries who apprehend in a particular way the specificity and irreplaceability of the ordained ministry in the life of the Church, together with the urgency of a common action in support of the ministerial priesthood, to take an active role and promote--in the different portions of the People of God entrusted to them--true and proper cenacles in which clerics, religious and lay people --united among themselves in the spirit of true communion--may devote themselves to prayer, in the form of continuous Eucharistic adoration in a spirit of genuine and authentic reparation and purification.

In the Explanatory Note accompanying the same letter, His Eminence asks that:

Each diocese appoint a priest who will devote himself full time - as far as possible - to the specific ministry of promoting Eucharistic adoration and coordinating this important service in the diocese. Dedicating himself generously to this ministry, this priest will be able to live this particular dimension of liturgical, theological, spiritual and pastoral life, possibly in a place specifically set aside for this purpose by the bishop himself, where the faithful will benefit from perpetual Eucharistic adoration.

Why More Monks?

In his Decree of Erection of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, Bishop Edward J. Slattery, exposes the rationale behind this new foundation in a diocese already abundantly blessed by the Benedictine Monastery of Our Lady of the Annunciation at Clear Creek. His Excellency writes:

With these concerns and exhortations in mind, and with the good of the priests and indeed all the faithful of the Diocese of Tulsa close to my heart, it is my intention to respond to these timely suggestions of the Holy See to the best of my ability.
Reflecting upon our particular needs, and upon the current resources with which we are blessed, it seems that such an endeavor might best be accomplished by a new monastic community under the Rule of Saint Benedict. Rather than have only a single priest dedicated to Eucharistic adoration for the sanctification of the clergy, I deem it advantageous to enrich our local Church with a monastic community to whom I give this particular mandate. Professing the vows of stability, conversatio morum, and obedience according to the Rule of Saint Benedict and the Constitutions of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, the Benedictine Monks, Adorers of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus will be characterized by the particular charism of (a) Eucharistic adoration for the sanctification of priests and the spiritual renewal of the clergy in the whole Church; (b) reparation for the sins that disfigure the Face of Christ the Priest; and (c) the sacramental and spiritual support of the clergy by means of monastic hospitality, spiritual direction, and retreats.

Your Prayerful Support

For my part, I can only recommend myself and men who have joined me, to the fervent prayers of all my readers. Our initiative springs, not from any personal ambition, but from the very heart of the Church: Ecclesia de Eucharistia.


Become like a consuming fire

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Yesterday, on the Friday of Passion Week and the Commemoration of Our Lady of Sorrows, I gave the monastic habit to Nicholas von Tersch, newly become Brother Seraphim Maria. I invite all the readers of Vultus Christi to pray for Brother Seraphim as he begins his monastic journey. Pray also for this little monastery that it may be all that Our Lord would have it be, nothing more and nothing less. Here is the exhortation I gave at the Clothing Ceremony:

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EXHORTATION BY FATHER PRIOR

Dearly beloved son in Christ,
you have, over the past months and weeks,
listened to your Master's precepts
and inclined the ear of your heart.
You have fixed your gaze upon the Eucharistic Face of Christ
and lingered in His company.
You have experienced, to a certain degree, the uncertainties and trials
of a monastery still in its infancy.
You have left parents, friends, and home
and, compelled by the love of Christ,
you have set about following the Son of Man
who has nowhere to lay His head.

Today, you are asking to enter the school of the Lord's service established Saint Benedict.
In his school, while there is nothing harsh or burdensome;
there is a certain strictness of discipline
that the strong may still have something to long after,
and the weak may not draw back in alarm.

During this year of testing
you will listen to the reading of the Holy Rule
and to the teaching that I will seek to transmit to you.
If, after twelve months,
you are still resolved to be formed and transformed by this same Rule
by living in stability, conversion of life, and obedience,
according to the usages of this monastery,
you will enter upon an additional twelve months
in preparation for monastic profession
for a period of three years.

You know, dear Nicholas,
that His Excellency, Bishop Slattery authorized the foundation
of this new monastic family in the Diocese of Tulsa
in response to pressing needs of the Church and of her priests.

By seeking admission into this particular monastery,
you are embracing an ecclesial mission of
Eucharistic adoration for the sanctification of priests
and the spiritual renewal of the clergy in the whole Church;
of reparation for the sins that disfigure the Face of Christ the Priest;
and of the sacramental and spiritual support of the clergy
by means of monastic hospitality, spiritual direction, and retreats.

Live this first phase of your novitiate, then,
hidden like a leaven of holiness in the Church.
Keep burning continually the sweet-smelling incense of prayer.
Take up the sword of the Spirit.
Let your heart be an altar and, with full confidence in God,
present yourself as a victim for sacrifice.

In a few moments, I will wash your feet,
in imitation of the humble charity of the Servant Christ.
Thus, with your pilgrim feet cleansed and refreshed,
you will be able to walk in the footsteps of the Lamb
and follow Him wheresoever He goes.

You will receive the monastic tunic,
a sign of the holiness that is the vesture of all who have put on Christ.

You will be girt with a cincture of leather,
for the mortification of fleshly desires
and attachment to Him who, henceforth,
will draw you with leading-strings of love.

You will take upon your shoulders
the scapular that represents the sweet yoke of Christ.
Learn from Him, for He is gentle and humble of heart,
and you will find rest for your soul.

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Finally, dear son, I will place you under the patronage
of the glorious Angelic Choir of the Seraphim:
incandescent beings, all of spiritual fire,
who burn like so many living flames of love
The prophet Isaiah described the Seraphim in a prophetic vision:

I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne,
with the train of his garment filling the temple.
Seraphim were stationed above;
each of them had six wings:
with two they veiled their faces, with two they veiled their feet,
and with two they hovered aloft.
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!"
they cried one to the other.
"All his earth is filled with his glory!"
At the sound of the cry, the frame of the door shook
and the house was filled with smoke (Isaiah 6:2).

Isaiah reveals that the Seraphim are closest to the throne of God:
how fitting then is their patronage
for one who will burn in adoration, day after day,
before the throne of the Son of God
exposed to our gaze in the Sacrament of His Love.

The Seraphim contemplate God
in the richest way possible for a created being.
Their intellect is luminous and penetrating.
Their will is quick and strong.
Their love is a pure spiritual flame
rising bright in the presence of the Most High.
The Seraphim's only task
is to worship God in perpetual adoration.
The Seraphim are all ablaze with an intense ardor of charity.
It is said that the charity of the Seraphim renders them incandescent.
There is, of course, a long tradition by which Saint Michael himself,
while an Archangel by virtue of his ministry,
belongs to the choir of the Seraphim by virtue of his being .

Remember always what Abba Joseph said to Abba Lot:
"You cannot be a monk unless you become like a consuming fire."

I place you today, not only under the protection of the Seraphim,
but also under that of two soon to be "Blesseds"
and one saint of the Eastern Church.

On May 28th the Venerable Maria Serafina of the Sacred Heart,
foundress of the Sisters of the Angels, Adorers of the Most Holy Trinity,
who was born on September 11, 1849 and died on March 24, 1911,
will be beatified in Faicchio, Italy.
Mother Serafina's life was marked by several beginnings,
and by a long search that took her, like a pilgrim, from place to place,
until at last the hand of the Father guided her
into the place He had prepared for her.

On June 26th, the Venerable Serafino Morrazone, priest,
who was born on February 1, 1747 and died on April 13, 1822,
will be beatified in Milan, Italy.

Don Serafino was another Curé of Ars.
As such, he is a model of priestly holiness
and a fitting patron for one called to represent all priests
before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus.
His Cause was introduced by the illustrious Benedictine,
Blessed Ildefonso Schuster.

Finally, I place you under the protection
of the venerable and God-loving Saint Seraphim of Sarov,
a monk-priest of the Russian Orthodox Church,
who was born on July 19, 1754.
He was 27 when he took his monastic vows in 1786,
receiving the name Seraphim, which, as you now know,
means "fiery" or "burning."
He died while kneeling before an icon of the Mother of God
on January 14, 1833.
Known for his tender devotion to the Mother of God,
and to an Orthodox form of Our Lady's Rosary,
Saint Seraphim said:
"Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved."

To the name of Seraphim,
following the monastic tradition,
I add the Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary
in its beautiful Latin form
that the Sacred Liturgy so often places upon our lips: Maria.
The Name of Mary will be a seal upon your heart.
It will be your consolation in times of trial,
sweetness in moments of bitterness,
strength in the hour of temptation.

The Holy Name of Mary is, in effect, a summary
of what it means to be a monk.
Maria, regula monachorum, said our Fathers.
In other words, if you would know what it means to be a monk,
you have only to contemplate Mary.
The names of Seraphim and Maria come together
in the mystery of the Cenacle:
there, on Pentecost morning,
the Holy Spirit descended in the form of tongues of fire
resting upon the heads of the Mother of God and the Apostles.
Thus was the Church set ablaze
to fill the world with Divine Fire and Light.

As you progress in the monastic life and in faith,
dear Brother Seraphim Maria,
your heart shall be enlarged,
and you shall run with unspeakable sweetness of love
in the way of God's commandments.
In proportion to your surrender to Divine Love,
you will become seraphic,
that is to say, all ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Dear son, may you persevere,
under the protection of the Immaculate Mother of God,
of the Angelic Choir of the Seraphim,
and of your patron saints,
in this first period of instruction and trial,
sharing by patience, obedience, and humility,
in the blessed Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and so, at length, deserve to be a partaker also of His kingdom. Amen.

For My Oblates . . . and Others

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Saint Benedict the Practical

When it comes to the observance of Lent, Saint Benedict is very practical, very concrete. He doesn't spend a lot of time telling us what we ought to think. He doesn't tell us what to say. Thoughts about penitence are not penitence. Talking about penitence is not doing it. The patterns of our life are changed, in the end, by what we do. Thoughts are necessary, it is true; but a thought of penitence never translated into action is perfectly useless. Words are helpful -- sometimes -- but words that come out of our mouths to float in the air and disappear do nothing to advance our conversion. Deeds change our lives; deeds re-orient our hearts. They need not be big deeds. Very little ones are surprisingly effective, especially when one little deed follows another and another and another, creating a pattern of conversion.

The Moses of Monks

Saint Benedict, our law-giver, the "Moses of monks" as the tradition calls him, shows us how to carry out the choice for life that Moses, the law-giver of Israel, presents in Deuteronomy. "Choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice,and cleaving to him" (Dt 30:19-20). Holy Father Benedict's presentation of Lenten observance can be summed up in two little words: more and less.

More

More: "At this season let us increase in some way the normal standard of our service, as for example, by special prayers, or by a diminution in food and drink." He insists on our doing something. More prayer. Thinking about doing more prayer is not more prayer. Get up five minutes early to make more time for prayer and you are doing something. Give up five minutes of looking at the newspaper and give it to God in prayer. That is doing something.

Lectio Divina

In Chapter 48 Saint Benedict is explicit about more lectio divina. He even rearranges the daily schedule in order to provide more time for reading during Lent. Do you see how very concrete he is? It is not enough to think about doing more lectio, not enough to talk about doing more lectio. He goes about it very concretely by changing the order of the day. He commissions one or two seniors to go about the monastery to see that the brethren are not wasting the time aside for more lectio by engaging in more of what they should be doing less: talking, wasting time, and distracting others.

Less

Less: less food, less drink, less sleep, less talkativeness, less looseness in speech (cf. RB 49:7). Many folks are put off by Saint Benedict's proposals, but that may be because they read them without taking them in reflectively. He says "less"; he doesn't say how much less. This is where Holy Father Benedict meets Saint Thérèse, the Doctor of the "Little Way." The "less" of Saint Benedict is the very little thing of Thérèse: the word saved for recreation, the second or third cup of coffee, the unkind judgment nipped in the bud.

Do Something

The choice for life remains, all too easily, something that floats in the mist of pious aspirations without taking shape in deeds. Moses teaches that the choice for life comes down to three things: "love the Lord your God, heed his voice, and cling to him" (Dt 30:20). Even these three things risk being formless and vague. Translate, "love the Lord your God," into one concrete act of love -- today. Don't think about loving God, do something to make it real. Translate, "heed his voice," into one concrete act of obedience, of silence -- today. Translate, "cling to him," into a choice for prayer that will cut into your routine and affect your management of time -- today. It need not be long. Pure prayer is often brief.

A Eucharistic Oblation

For Saint Benedict all of these little deeds have immense Eucharistic potential. In speaking of our Lenten deeds of "more" and "less," he uses terms that evoke the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: " . . . cum gaudio Sancti Spiritus offerat Deo" (RB 49:6)" -- "let each one make offering to God in the joy of the Holy Spirit." The "shapes and forms" of Lenten deeds are joined to the "shapes and forms" of the bread and wine placed on the altar.

An Offertory Procession

Lest there be in our offering any impurity of pride, presumption, or vainglory, Saint Benedict would have both our "more" and our "less" submitted to the Abbot for blessing and approval. The line of monks going to the office of the Abbot, each one asking for blessing and approval of his Lenten "more" and "less," is the offertory procession of Lent, making each deed worthy of oblation in the joy of the Holy Spirit. Lent is just this: a procession to the altar, a movement into the mystery of the Cross. How could it be anything but joy?

On this glorious feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist and on their own 31st Wedding Anniversary, Charles and Sheila Michie of Tulsa, Oklahoma renewed their Oblation, transferring it from the Osage Monastery in Sandsprings, Oklahoma to the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. The rite took place at Holy Mass, after the Gospel. Here are some texts and and photos of the rite:

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Father Prior's Exhortation

Dear Charles and Sheila, some years ago God led you to the Monastery of Sand Springs, and there you began your journey as Benedictine Oblates. The same God who led you there has brought you to this new diocesan Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, still in the embryonic stage of its life.

This is a monastery in gestation, but as parents, you are familiar with the stages of life and with the joys, and pains, and challenges of growth. Like all organisms in the early stages of life, our monastery is fragile, dependent, and vulnerable. Our weakness, however, and even the foolishness of undertaking the foundation of a new monastery is the very reason for our hope, for the grace of Christ is deployed in weakness, and the wisdom of Christ in foolishness.

Our Lord has caused the light of His Eucharistic Face to shine in our hearts, giving us every reason to hope in Him, and to pursue the path that Saint Benedict traces for us in the Holy Rule. You have decided to renew your Oblation in relationship to this community and at the altar of this monastery. You are not daunted by our smallness, nor by our poverty, nor by our fraility. Your trust is in the mercy of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, just as He has kept you faithful in love throughout your years of holy marriage, will keep you faithful as Benedictine Oblates in your desire to seek His Face, and in your resolve to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of His Oblation to the Father from the altar of the Cross and in the adorable Sacrament of His Love.

Then Father Prior continued:

Charles and Sheila, are you resolved to renew your free act of self-offering to God, patterned after the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim, from the altar of the Cross and in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar?

R. I am.

Are you resolved to take the Rule of Saint Benedict as your guide in "truly seeking God" (cf. RB 58:7), in "preferring nothing to the love of Christ" (RB 4: 21), and in "sharing in the sufferings of Christ through patience, so as to share also in his kingdom" (RB Pro: 50)?

R. I am.

Are you resolved to enter into the ecclesial mandate of this Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle by interceding for the sanctification of priests and by "persevering with one mind in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus" (Acts 1. 14) and in adoration and reparation before the Eucharistic Face of Christ?
R. I am.

Father Prior: I invite you then, to renew your Act of Oblation.

Reading of the Chart of Oblation

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+
PAX
In the presence of Almighty God,
of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
of Our Father Saint Benedict,
and of all the saints,
I, -- Charles -- Paul -- Michie,
make the oblation of myself to Almighty God
before the altar of this Monastery
of Our Lady of the Cenacle.
I promise perseverance in the conversion of my life
according to the Rule of Saint Benedict
and the Statutes of the Oblates
and, relying on the prayer
of this my monastic family,
I humbly resolve to reflect in my state of life
the light that ever shines
from the Eucharistic Face of Jesus Christ,
Priest and victim
in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar.

+
PAX
In the presence of Almighty God,
of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
of Our Father Saint Benedict,
and of all the saints,
I, -- Sheila -- Thérese-- Michie,
make the oblation of myself to Almighty God
before the altar of this Monastery
of Our Lady of the Cenacle.
I promise perseverance in the conversion of my life
according to the Rule of Saint Benedict
and the Statutes of the Oblates
and, relying on the prayer
of this my monastic family,
I humbly resolve to reflect in my state of life
the light that ever shines
from the Eucharistic Face of Jesus Christ,
Priest and victim
in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar.

Signing the Charts

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Charles and Sheila then signed their charts of Oblation on the altar and gave them to Father Prior who placed them under the corporal to signify their union with the Oblation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Suscipe

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Then, with raised hands, following the ancient Benedictine tradition, Charles and Sheila said the Suscipe three times:

Receive me, O Lord, according to your word,
and I shall live;
let me not be put to shame in my hope (Ps 118:116).


A Time of Blessings

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Photos by Paula Cole

Writing from Connecticut

I'm writing from my parents' dining room table in Connecticut! Today is the first full day of my annual eight day home visit. Connecticut is greener and cooler than Oklahoma: a welcome relief. And my mother and father are flourishing, thank God.

Monsignor Arthur Calkins

Last week was extraordinarily busy and blessed at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. Among our illustrious visitors were the Right Reverend Monsignor Arthur B. Calkins, a well-known Mariologist, who has laboured in the service of the Holy See at the Ecclesia Dei Commission in Rome for over twenty years. Monsignor Calkins celebrated Holy Mass and preached on the feast of Our Lady's Assumption and, on the same day, addressed our Oblates, at their monthly meeting, on Marian Co-redemption and Consecration to Our Lady in the teachings of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Monsignor shared fully in our life, joining his voice to ours at Holy Mass and the Hours, and enlivening our recreations.

Deacon Sean Davidson

On Thursday last, we welcomed the Reverend Deacon Sean Davidson (see photos), a fine Irishman from County Sligo, and a member of the recently founded community of the MIssionnaires du Très-Saint-Sacrement (known in English as Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist) of the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon in France. The Missionaries are dedicated to the promotion of perpetual Eucharistic adoration in parishes. They draw their inspiration from the Eucharistic charism of Saint Peter Julian Eymard.

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A Eucharistic Evening

Deacon Sean addressed some of the Oblates and friends of our monastery last Thursday evening on Eucharistic adoration according to the teachings of Saint Peter Julian Eymard. Sean shared his own spiritual journey, his "Eucharistic" conversion, the challenges of seminary life in Ireland and Rome and, finally, his decision to join the Missionaries of the Most Holy Eucharist in southern France. He communicated to all of us something of his own ardent love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We began the evening with Eucharistic adoration and Vespers, and ended it with veneration of the relic of Saint Peter Julian Eymard.

Irish Connections

Together with Vultus Christi reader Ailish Melia (Keshcarrigan, Cty. Leitrim), Deacon Sean had occasion to visit, for the first time, one of Ireland's Eucharistic holy places, the Franciscan Convent of Perpetual Adoration in Drumshanbo, County Leitrim, shortly before coming to the United States. Drumshanbo is well known to some of the Irish readers of Vultus Christi. For over 140 years, the convent bell has rung out every hour on the hour as adorers succeed one another at the prie-dieu before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus. Drumshanbo continues to be a hearth of Eucharistic adoration, spreading abroad the light and warmth of Our Divine Lord's presence in the Sacrament of His Love.

Our Lady of Knock

We completed our novena to Our Lady of Knock for her liturgical feast on 22 August, the vigil of the Octave Day of the Assumption. The entire octave, during which we called on Our Lady of Knock every evening after Compline, was a time of abundant blessings. Thank you, Monsignor Calkins, and Deacon Sean, for allowing yourselves to be numbered among those blessings.

Will you pray with us?

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Novena to Our Lady of Knock
August 13 -- 21, 2010


Immaculate Virgin Mary,
Our Lady of Knock,
Queen of the Cenacle,
and Mother of all who unite themselves
to your Immaculate Heart
in a prayer that is persevering and full of confidence,
look graciously upon the beginnings of this monastery
dedicated to you,
and set apart for the adoration of your Divine Son,
hidden in the Sacrament of His Love.

Intercede for those whom you have chosen
to live in the radiance of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus,
and to abide close to His Open Heart
together with you and with Saint John the Beloved Disciple.
Let nothing discourage them
as, day by day, they seek the Face of your Son,
and through Him offer themselves to the Father,
by the grace of the Holy Spirit,
for the healing and sanctification of priests.

Keep them humble and joyful in fidelity to the wisdom of Saint Benedict
and to the teachings of his Holy Rule.
Fill their dwelling with the sweet fragrance of your virginizing presence
so that all who enter there
may experience the happiness of the pure in heart
and the joy of those whose sins have been blotted out
in the Blood of the Lamb.

Be to them a Mother of Perpetual Help,
ready at every moment to assist them in their needs,
both spiritual and material,
so that with you,
we may magnify the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
Whose mercy is from age to age on those who fear Him,
and Who, even in our day, does wonders for His lowly servants. Amen.

Three Hail Marys.

Our Lady of Knock, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Cenacle, pray for us.
Mediatrix of all graces, pray for us.

Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Blessed Columba Marmion, pray for us.

Vultum tuum, Domine, requiram

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"La Trasfigurazione" by Marco Pino, 1578

Among the many days in the liturgical calendar that direct our gaze to the holy and glorious Face of Jesus, the feast of the Transfiguration is the one I love most. Holy Mass will open today with the sublime Third Mode Introit, Tibi dixit:

Tibi dixit cor meum, quaesivi vultum tuum,
My heart has said to Thee, I have sought Thy Face,
vultum tuum, Domine, requiram:
Thy Face, O Lord, will I seek,
ne avertas faciem tuam a me.
Turn not Thy Face from me.

V. Dominus illuminatio mea et salus mea:
The Lord is my light and my salvation:
quem timebo?
whom shall I fear?

No other chant better expresses the Benedictine vocation, for what Saint Benedict requires, before all else, of one who would become a monk, is that one truly seek God. And where is the God-seeking soul to direct his gaze, if not toward the Face of Jesus? "The light of the knowledge of the glory of God," says the Apostle, is "in the Face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 4:6). Rightly, then, did we sing this morning at Matins:

R. God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness,
hath shined in our hearts,
* To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God,
in the Face of Jesus Christ.
V. Unto the godly there ariseth up light in the darkness;
he is merciful, loving, and righteous.
* To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the Face of Jesus Christ.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
* To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the Face of Jesus Christ.

On the afternoon of Saturday, 10 July, the vigil of the feast of Our Holy Father Saint Benedict, the Loper family -- Dr. Tracy (an Oblate of the monastery), his wife Rebecca, and their sons Antonio, and Nicholas -- arrived at the monastery to present us with a gift. You can imagine our astonishment and our joy when they asked us to go into the oratory, and Antonio unveiled a magnificent icon of Saint Benedict. The Loper family commissioned this icon for our monastery. It now hangs on the Epistle side of the sanctuary.

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We gathered around the new icon and sang an antiphon from the Office Saint Benedict:

O thou pattern of life celestial,
our Teacher, and Leader Benedict,
whose spirit now rejoices with Christ in the heavens:
preserve thy flock, kindly Shepherd;
strengthen them by thy holy prayer;
and on a way made clear by thee their guide,
make them enter heaven.
(Antiphon on Magnificat at Second Vespers)

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From right to left: Fr. Prior, Nicholas Loper, Br. Thomas, Antonio Loper, Dr. Tracy Loper, Br. Ansgar (Mt. Angel Abbey). Photo by Rebecca Loper.

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A Little Chronicle

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Brother Thomas' Onomastico

Yesterday, the feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle, was Brother Thomas Mary's onomastico or nameday. Brother Thomas is under the double patronage of the Apostle and of the Angelic Doctor, Saint Thomas Aquinas. There was a huge paonazzo-coloured hibscus at his place in the refectory. Lisa Stice, who stopped by with Greg and the children, told us that this particular flower is called a "dinner plate hibiscus" because of its size. (See the photo below.) Our English friend and expert gardener in France, Jane Fulthorpe, would know more about this, I'm sure.

Ice Cream and R.H. Benson

The meal was extra special. For dessert we had vanilla ice cream with a slice of Key Lime Cake, providentially dropped off by our friend (and tabernacle veil seamstress) Ellie Peyton. Mention of the meal reminds me that we started a new book in refectory: The (2 volume) Life of Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson by the incomparable C.C. Martindale, S.J.

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Arrival of Dom Ansgar

This chronicle will go backwards. The second day of July was Dom Ansgar's first full day at our monastery. He arrived on the evening of July 1st. Dom Ansgar, O.S.B. is a monk of Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon. He has been teaching at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska. He will be spending two months with us. His presence in choir and all around the house is a welcome addition.

Feasts in Red

The feasts of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29th) and of the Most Precious Blood (July 1) were upon us almost as soon as we returned from the Sacred Music Colloquium XX in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The chants of both feasts gave us ample opportunity to use our well-exercised voices (after a week of singing, singing, and more singing) in the praise of God.

The Sacred Music Colloquium

The Colloquium, sponsored by the CMAA (Church Music Association of America), was glorious. Not only did we have the joy of daily Holy Mass, Lauds, and Compline in unity of mind and voice with 250 other musicians -- we also rejoiced in the beginning of a number of friendships. This backwards chronicle will have to be written in odd moments. To be continued.

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Guests Not Lacking

We are living days of grace here at the Monastery of Our Lady of Cenacle. Our guest accommodations are filled to capacity. Priests from Washington, DC.; Richmond, Virginia; Denver, Colorado; and seminarians from Tulsa, OK; Lafayette, LA; and Austin, TX are among those whom we are privileged to receive as Christ. On Saturday morning, we will be at Holy Family Cathedral for the ordination of Kerry John Wakulich to the priesthood, and of Jorge Alfonso Gómez Alvarado to the diaconate.

The Inner Monk of the Diocesan Priest

One of the emerging characteristics of our little community is the inclusion of clerical guests in the monastic rhythm of prayer, Eucharistic adoration, and even in the daily chapter, a conference on the Rule of Saint Benedict that follows Lauds each morning. A number of men have come to discover what Father Andrew Wadsworth so aptly calls "the monastic heart of the diocesan priest." The etymology of the word "monk" has to do with being single, alone, and singlehearted. In every diocesan priest there is an "inner monk" waiting to be strengthened, consoled, and built up for the sake of the whole Body of Christ and in view of the pressing demands of the sacred ministry in the parochial context. By the grace of God, this spiritual care for every priest's "inner monk" is something that we,
who are called to be both "inner" and "outward" monks, can offer the Church.

And for those of you who have not had a moment to read and meditate it, here is the Holy Father's magnificent address at last Wednesday's audience:

Dear brothers and sisters,

Called to Govern and to Guide

The Year for Priests is coming to an end; that is why in the last catecheses I began to speak about the essential tasks of the priest, namely: to teach, to sanctify and to govern. I have already given two catecheses, one on the ministry of sanctification, above all the sacraments, and one on teaching. Hence, it remains for me today to speak about the mission of the priest to govern, to guide -- with the authority of Christ, not his own -- the portion of the people that God has entrusted to him.

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Authority

In contemporary culture, how can such a dimension be understood, involving as it does the concept of authority and with its origin in the Lord's own mandate to feed his flock? What is authority really for us Christians? The cultural, political and historical experiences of the recent past, above all the dictatorships in Eastern and Western Europe in the 20th century, made contemporary man suspicious in addressing this concept. A suspicion that, not rarely, is expressed in upholding as necessary an abandonment of all authority that does not come exclusively from men and is subject to them, controlled by them. But precisely a glance at the regimes that in the past century sowed terror and death, reminds us forcefully that authority, in every realm, if it is exercised without reference to the Transcendent, if it does away with the supreme Authority, which is God, ends inevitably by turning against man.

For the Good of the Person

Hence, it is important to recognize that human authority is never an end, but always and only a means and that, necessarily and in every age, the end is always the person, created by God with his own intangible dignity and called to relationship with the Creator himself, in the earthly journey of existence and in eternal life. It is an authority exercised in responsibility before God, before the Creator. An authority thus understood, which has as its only objective to serve the true good of persons and to lucidity to the only Supreme Good that is God, not only is not foreign to men but, on the contrary, is a precious help in the journey toward full realization in Christ, toward salvation.

In the Name of Jesus

The Church is called and is committed to exercise this type of authority that is service, and she exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ, who received from the Father all power in heaven and on earth (cf. Matthew 28:18). In fact, Christ feeds his flock through the pastors of the Church: It is he who guides it, protects it, corrects it, because he loves it profoundly.

To Guide, Animate, and Sustain

But the Lord Jesus, Supreme Shepherd of our souls, willed that the Apostolic College, today the bishops in communion with the Successor of Peter, and priests, their most valuable collaborators, should participate in his mission to take care of the People of God, to be educators in the faith, guiding, animating and sustaining the Christian community or, as the Council says, seeing to it that the "faithful are led individually in the Holy Spirit to a development of their own vocation according to the Gospel, to a sincere and practical charity, and to that freedom with which Christ has made us free" (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6).

Gentle With the Weakest

Hence, every pastor is the means through which Christ himself loves men: It is through our ministry -- dear priests -- it is through us that the Lord gathers souls, instructs them, protects them, and guides them. In his commentary to the Gospel of St. John, St. Augustine says: "may it be, therefore, a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord" (123,5); this is the supreme norm of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, such as that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, open to all, attentive to neighbors and solicitous toward those far away (cf. St. Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle with the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. Id. Letter 95, 1).

Living Friendship With Christ

If such a pastoral task is founded on the sacrament, nevertheless its efficacy is not independent of the personal existence of the presbyter. To be a pastor according to the heart of God (cf. Jeremiah 3:15) there must be a profound rootedness in living friendship with Christ, not only of the intelligence, but also of liberty and of the will, a clear awareness of the identity received in priestly ordination, an unconditional willingness to guide the entrusted flock where the Lord wishes and not in the direction that, apparently, seems more suitable and easy. That requires, first of all, the continuous and progressive willingness to let Christ himself govern the priestly existence of the presbyters. In fact, no one is really capable of feeding Christ's flock if he does not live a profound and real obedience to Christ and to the Church, and the docility itself of the people to their priests depends on the docility of priests to Christ; because of this, at the base of pastoral ministry is always the personal and constant encounter with the Lord, profound knowledge of him, conforming one's will to the will of Christ.

Hierarchy: Sacred Origin

In the last decades, the adjective "pastoral" has often been used almost in opposition to the concept of "hierarchical," exactly as the idea "communion" has also been interpreted in the very same opposition. This is perhaps the point where a brief observation might be useful on the word "hierarchy," which is the traditional designation of the structure of sacramental authority in the Church, ordered according to the three levels of the sacrament of holy orders: episcopate, presbyterate, diaconate. Prevailing in public opinion, for this reality of "hierarchy," is the element of subordination and the juridical element; because of this for many the idea of hierarchy appears in contrast to the flexibility and the vitality of the pastoral sense and even contrary to the humility of the Gospel. But this is a badly understood sense of hierarchy, caused also historically by abuses of authority and careerism, which are in fact abuses and do not stem from the very being of the reality of "hierarchy."

The common opinion is that "hierarchy" is always something linked to domination and thus does not correspond to the true sense of the Church, of unity in the love of Christ. But, as I have said, this is a mistaken interpretation, which has its origin in abuses of history, but does not correspond to the true meaning of what the hierarchy is.

Let us begin with the word. Generally, it is said that the meaning of the world hierarchy is "sacred dominion," but the real meaning is not this, it is "sacra origine," that is: This authority does not come from man himself, but has its origin in the sacred, in the sacrament; hence it subjects the person to the vocation, to the mystery of Christ; it makes of the individual a servant of Christ and only insofar as he is a servant of Christ can he govern, guide for Christ and with Christ. Because of this, whoever enters in the sacred order of the sacrament, the "hierarchy," is not an autocrat, but enters in a new bond of obedience to Christ: he is tied to him in communion with the other members of the sacred order, of the priesthood. And even the Pope -- point of reference for all the other pastors and for the communion of the Church -- cannot do what he wants; on the contrary, the Pope is custodian of the obedience to Christ, to his word taken up again in the "regula fidei," in the Creed of the Church, and must proceed in obedience to Christ and to his Church. Hence, hierarchy implies a triple bond: first of all, the one with Christ and the order given by the Lord to his Church; then the bond with the other pastors in the one communion of the Church; and, finally, the bond with the faithful entrusted to the individual, in the order of the Church.

Hierarchical Communion

Hence, it is understood that communion and hierarchy are not contrary to one another, but condition each other. Together they are only one thing (hierarchical communion). Hence, the pastor is pastor precisely when guiding and protecting the flock and at times impeding its dispersal. Outside a clearly and explicitly supernatural vision, the task of governing proper to priests is not comprehensible. But, sustained by true love for the salvation of each member of the faithful, it is particularly precious and necessary also in our time. If the goal is to take the proclamation of Christ and lead men to the salvific encounter with him so that they will have life, the task of guiding is configured as a service lived in total donation for the upbuilding of the flock in truth and in sanctity, often going against the current and remembering that the one who is the greatest must be made the smallest, and one who governs, must be as one who serves (cf. Lumen Gentium, 27).

The Humble Kingship of the Cross

Where can a priest today get the strength for such exercise of his ministry, in full fidelity to Christ and to the Church, with a total dedication to the flock? There is only one answer: in Christ the Lord. Jesus' way of governing is not that of domination, but it is the humble and loving service of the washing of the feet, and Christ's kingship over the universe is not an earthly triumph, but finds its culmination on the wood of the cross, which becomes judgment for the world and point of reference for the exercise of authority that is the true expression of pastoral charity. The saints, and among them St. John Mary Vianney, exercised with love and dedication the task of caring for the portion of the People of God entrusted to them, showing also that they were strong and determined men, with the sole objective of promoting the true good of souls, able to pay in person, to the point of martyrdom, to remain faithful to the truth and to the justice of the Gospel.

Give the Hope that God Is Near

Dear priests, "tend the flock of God in your midst, (overseeing) not by constraint but willingly, [...] be examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:2). Hence, do not be afraid to lead to Christ each of the brothers that he has entrusted to you, certain that every word and every attitude, if stemming from obedience to the will of God, will bear fruit; know how to live appreciating the merits and acknowledging the limits of the culture in which we find ourselves, with the firm certainty that the proclamation of the Gospel is the greatest service that can be done to man. In fact, there is no greater good in this earthly life, than to lead men to God, reawaken faith, raise man from inertia and despair, to give the hope that God is near and guides personal history and that of the world.

In Labor Until Christ Be Formed in You

This, in sum, is the profound and ultimate meaning of the task of governing that the Lord has entrusted to us. It is about forming Christ in believers, through that process of sanctification that is conversion of criteria, of the scale of values, of attitudes, to let Christ live in every faithful. St. Paul thus summarizes his pastoral action: "My children, for whom I am again in labor until Christ be formed in you!" (Galatians 4:19).

Pray for Me, the Successor of Peter

Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to invite you to pray for me, the Successor of Peter who has a specific task in governing the Church of Christ, as well as for all your bishops and priests. Pray that we will be able to take care of all the sheep of the flock entrusted to us, also those who are lost. To you, dear priests, I address a cordial invitation to the closing celebrations of the Year for Priests, next June 9, 10 and 11, here in Rome: we will meditate on conversion and mission, on the priestly gift, sustained by all the People of God. Thank you!

Ascension Thursday 2010

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As promised, here are more photos taken on Ascension Thursday, the day of Brother Thomas Mary's reception of the monastic habit. Readers of Vultus Christi will recognize His Excellency, Bishop Slattery.

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1 Ant. I have a new commandment to give you, says the Lord, that you are to love one another; that your love for one another is to be like the love that I have borne you. V. Blessed are they who pass through life's journey unstained, who follow the law of the Lord. Ant.

2 Ant. Lord, is it for thee to wash my feet? Jesus answered him: If
I do not wash thee, it means thou hast no companionship with me Blessed are they who pass through life's journey unstained, who follow the law of the Lord. Ant.

3 Ant. The mark by which all men will know you for my disciples will be the love you bear one another. V. Jesus said to His disciples: Ant.

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Thomas removes his outer clothing, while His Excellency says:
Bishop Slattery: May the Lord strip you of the old man and His deeds.

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Then the Bishop clothes Him in the tunic, saying:
May Our Lord Jesus Christ so clothe you with His grace,
that you may share by patience in His sufferings,
and bear inwardly the image of His Face. R. Amen.

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Then, he girds Him with the cincture, saying:
May Our Lord Jesus Christ gird you
with the cincture of a perfect chastity
in honor of His Immaculate Mother,
of Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse,
and of Saint John, His beloved virgin disciple,
that you may follow the Lamb wheresoever He goes.
R. Amen.

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Then, he clothes Him in the scapular, saying:
Brother Thomas Mary,
receive the yoke of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for He is meek and humble of heart.
Thus will you find rest for your soul,
for His yoke is easy and His burden light. R. Amen.

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In front of the monastery with our dear friend and Oblate, Dr. Tracy Loper.

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Thursday, 13 May 2010 was a day of great rejoicing at the Diocesan Benedictine Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Apart from being the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, and Saint Peter Julian Eymard's feast of Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament, it was the day chosen for the Entrance into the Novitiate and Clothing of Thomas A. Vonderfecht.

Thomas, 22 years old, is a native of Omaha, Nebraska and a 2009 graduate of the University of Tulsa. Last month he built some fine raised beds for our gardens and is presently well occupied in tending our vegetables, flowers, and herbs. When he is not in choir, at adoration, or in the garden, Thomas is studying Latin with Magister Erik Ellis, applying himself to the subtleties of Gregorian Chant, or working in the kitchen.

Brother Thomas Mary received the Benedictine habit from the hands of our Bishop, The Most Reverend Edward J. Slattery. The ceremony took place in the oratory of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. A number of priests, Oblates, and friends of the monastery attended the ceremony. More photos will follow. Here is the exhortation pronounced by His Excellency, Bishop Slattery:

Dearly beloved son in Christ,
you have, over the past few months, listened to your Master's precepts
and inclined the ear of your heart.
You have fixed your gaze upon the Eucharistic Face of Christ
and lingered in His company.
You have experienced the uncertainties and trials
of a monastery still in its infancy.

You have left parents, friends, and home
and, compelled by the love of Christ,
you have set about following the Son of Man
who has nowhere to lay His head.

Today, you are asking to enter the school of the Lord's service
established Saint Benedict.
In his school, while there is nothing harsh or burdensome;
there is a certain strictness of discipline
so tempered by the father of the monastery
that the strong may still have something to long after,
and the weak may not draw back in alarm.

During this year of testing
you will read the Holy Rule no less than three times.
If, after twelve months,
you are ready to observe this same Rule
by living in stability, conversion of life, and obedience,
according to the usages of this monastery,
you may ask to make monastic profession
for a period of three years.

You know, Thomas,
that I authorized the foundation of this new monastic family in the Diocese of Tulsa
in response to pressing needs of the Church and of her priests.
By seeking admission into this particular monastery,
you are embracing an ecclesial mission of
Eucharistic adoration for the sanctification of priests
and the spiritual renewal of the clergy in the whole Church;
of reparation for the sins that disfigure the Face of Christ the Priest;
and of the sacramental and spiritual support of the clergy
by means of monastic hospitality, spiritual direction, and retreats.

Live this year of novitiate, then, hidden like a leaven of holiness in the Church.
Keep burning continually the sweet-smelling incense of prayer.
Take up the sword of the Spirit.
Let your heart be an altar and, with full confidence in God,
present yourself as a victim for sacrifice.

In a few moments, Father Prior will wash your feet,
in imitation of the humble charity of the Servant Christ.
Thus, with your pilgrim feet cleansed and refreshed,
you will be able to walk in the footsteps of the Lamb
and follow Him wheresoever He goes.

You will receive the monastic tunic,
a sign of the holiness that is the vesture of all who have put on Christ.
You will be girt with a cincture of leather,
for the mortification of fleshly desires
and attachment to Him who, henceforth,
will draw you with leading-strings of love.
You will take upon your shoulders
the scapular that represents the sweet yoke of Christ.
Learn from Him, for He is gentle and humble of heart,
and you will find rest for your soul.

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Finally, dear son, I will place you under the twofold patronage
of Saint Thomas the Apostle and of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor.

It was in response to the question of the Apostle Thomas,
"Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?"
that Our Lord said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father but by me."
Again, it was the Apostle Thomas whom Jesus invited
to stretch out his hand and place it in His pierced side,
and it was the Apostle Thomas who first uttered the sublime act of faith
by which, for centuries, Catholics have professed their faith
in the adorable mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist: "My Lord and my God!"

Under the patronage of Saint Thomas Aquinas,
use your intellect to search out the mysteries of God,
bend your heart to the Hidden Godhead of the Sacrament of the Altar,
and use your tongue to sing the praises of the adorable mysteries
of Christ's Body and Blood.

Following the example of so many holy fathers, you will also bear the name of Mary.
Live in her company, day by day,
in imitation of Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse,
and of Saint John, the virgin disciple of the Lord.

As you progress in the monastic life and in faith,
your heart shall be enlarged,
and you shall run with unspeakable sweetness of love
in the way of God's commandments.
Dear son, may you persevere in this year of trial,
sharing by patience in the passion of Christ,
and, at length, deserve to be a partaker also of His kingdom. Amen.

Why the Cenacle?

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I took this essay from Our Lady of the Cenacle by The Reverend Father Felix , S.J., published by the Lafayette Press (New York) in 1896. I edited the text (a translation from the French) slightly and tried to make it more intelligible. Father Felix explains masterfully the significance of the dedication of our little monastery.

The Place of Divine Grace

The Cenacle was pre-eminently the place of Divine Grace, called therein by the prayer of the apostles and disciples, and especially by the all-powerful prayer of Our Lady, Mother of Grace and Queen of the Apostles.

The Cenacle and the Most Holy Eucharist

Men of God, worthy of attention by reason of their religious virtues and their theological and ascetic science have, to explain the uniquely graced atmosphere of the Cenacle, had recourse to pious suppositions, which, without being of the value of a demonstration, possess with a certain probability a value of edification. We content ourselves here with recalling them without pretending either to repudiate them or to approve them entirely. Among these suppositions, one of the most likely and the best authorized by tradition, one that is even admitted to be almost certain by serious theologians, is that the Apostles in the Cenacle consecrated the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, conformably to His divine recommendation: "Do this for a commemoration of me," and that all the disciples present, with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, there participated in the holy mysteries. However more or less well founded may be this supposition, we have in no wise need of it to establish in a certain and incontestable manner what we have just affirmed, namely: that the primitive Cenacle was pre-eminently the place of Divine Grace.

It was in the Cenacle that our Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, or of the life of God communicated to men in a permanent manner by our High Priest and Divine Mediator. Consequently, the Cenacle was the first place on earth honored and consecrated by the presence of the Eucharistic God, that is to say by the very source of Divine Grace, our Lord Jesus Christ. This same mystery of the Cenacle was, is, and will be perpetuated in the Church even to the consummation of the ages.

The Cenacle and the Blessed Virgin Mary

It was in the Cenacle also, in the Cenacle especially, that Divine Grace was exhaled from all the souls there assembled, and especially from the soul of the most Holy Virgin, well called full of grace. There the breath of all those souls in contact and in communication with one another, formed necessarily in that blessed place, as it were, a supernatural atmosphere that permeated every recess of their being and influenced them in every possible way.

The Cenacle and the Holy Ghost

Finally, it was in the Cenacle that, on the morning of Pentecost at the Third Hours, Divine Grace made its most solemn manifestation and its most brilliant apparition in a great wind and in tongues of fire. Thus did the Holy Ghost enter into the souls of the Apostles so as afterwards to spread Himself abroad in the city of Jerusalem and from there throughout the universe.

The First of All Our Temples

Thus looked upon, the Cenacle is indeed what we have named it, the privileged place of Divine Grace. However modest it may have been by it's dimensions and by its architecture, no place has ever equaled it in importance, and no Christian temple, however sacred, has ever been so filled with Divine Grace as was that first of all our temples.

The Prayer of the Cenacle

But by what mysterious power was Divine Grace attracted to the Cenacle? What was it that caused it to descend in all and in each one with that plenitude the Holy Scripture expresses by these prodigious words: "They were all filled with the Holy Ghost; repleti sunt omnes Spiritu Sancto ?" The Scripture in the same Book of the Acts of the Apostles answers this question and explains to us this mystery : "All these were persevering with one mind in prayer with the women and Mary, the Mother of Jesus; Hi omnes erant perseverantes unanimiter in oratione cum mulieribus, et Maria matre Jesu. (Acts 1:14)

It is true that already, as we have just said, the Cenacle had, by the single fact of the institution of the Eucharistic Mystery, become the sacred dwelling of Divine Grace. But it may be remarked that the Saviour preceded and accompanied the consecration of His Body and Blood by His own prayer, as though He wished himself to prelude by prayer what may be called the installation of Divine Grace in the Cenacle.

What caused Divine Grace and divine life to descend and enter the Cenacle abundantly and super-abundantly was prayer. And what kind of prayer?

Universal prayer; for all prayed; all without exception.
Unanimous and fraternal prayer; for all prayed with one same mind and heart: unanimiter.
Persevering prayer: erant perseverantes in oratione.
Prayer confident of the promise of the Divine Master.
Omnipotent prayer: yes, omnipotent in Divine Grace and divine order by reason of its union with the prayer of Mary.

The Prayer of Our Blessed Lady

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, prayed in the Cenacle with the apostles, the disciples, and the holy women. She was there as the uniting centre of that collective prayer that mounted from the hearts of all, and especially from her maternal heart to the Heart of her Divine Son. She was there, an all-powerful suppliant; omnipotentia supplex, giving to that universal, unanimous, and persevering prayer the force to draw upon the Cenacle and upon all those abiding therein, with the coming of the Holy Ghost, Divine Grace in essence.

And the Holy Ghost, called down by that victorious prayer, came with the resplendent signs which the Scripture relates; He came bringing the very substance of the supernatural and the plenitude of the gifts it contains.

Sober Drunkenness in the Holy Ghost

Never had anything similar been accomplished in humanity. Those men, but now so subject to all human weaknesses and such slaves of all the miseries of nature, are suddenly so filled, so penetrated, so truly inebriated with the supernatural and the divine, that the Jewish people, witnesses of this incomprehensible phenomenon, judge it to be a natural and material inebriation, the only one they then had any knowledge of; for nothing had ever resembled either closely or remotely this phenomenon, absolutely unique in the history of our human race.

Christ in Us

Behold in its mysterious reality the Apostolic Cenacle having in its centre Mary, Mother of Jesus and Queen of the Apostles. The Cenacle is the type and abridgment of the great mystery of Christianity. What is Christianity considered in its principle and in its intimate life if not the life of Jesus Christ dilating and expanding itself throughout space and time in proportion as the baptized of all nations are incorporated with it? And what is Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, if not the life of God manifesting itself under the form of our humanity and by God and with God coming to dwell in us. By Him and in Him, truly, we have all that is supernatural and divine; omnia per ipsum et cum ipso. It is in this sense that Saint Paul could say with all truth: "Christ is all my life; mihi vivere Christus est; He is all the life with which I live as a Christian, that is all my divine and supernatural life."

Prayer

In a word, our Christianity is, in essence and in its most intimate principle, Divine Grace, because real Christianity is the life of Jesus Christ living in us, and Jesus Christ is Divine Grace, living and personified in Himself. The Cenacle is the image and the living abridgment of true Christianity, in that the intimate core of Christianity is manifested in its visible form, the organization of the liturgical life and of ceaseless prayer. In each and in all, and in the whole universe, Divine Grace is born, grows, develops and fructifies by prayer. As Jesus Christ in His mortal life prayed and prayed again, so Christianity, which is Jesus Christ Himself dilated throughout the universe, prays. The whole of Christianity is an immense prayer; it is a ceaseless rhythm of prayer rising from all the parts of the universe where Christianity reigns.

As in the Cenacle, the prayer of the Church is persevering and permanent prayer, for the clock of time strikes not an hour when prayer does not spring forth from the hearts of millions and millions of Christians. Literally, that voice of prayer in the bosom of Christianity is not hushed day or night. As in the Cenacle, the Church's universal and permanent prayer is magnificently unanimous, and, it may be added, divinely harmonious.

The Sacred Liturgy

Nothing in humanity equals the grandeur and the beauty of the Catholic liturgy, that is of the immense concert of organized prayer in the circle of Christianity, resounding everywhere: the voice of Christ the Head and of His Mystical Body, the Church. The Church prays at one same time in all parts of the world by those members whom she has hierarchically and officially charged with her prayer. From the rising of the sun to its setting, ascends that permanent, universal and harmonious prayer that is like a continuous aspiration by which the great Mystical Body of Jesus Christ draws to itself, develops and increases incessantly, the life of Divine Grace, the life of God in us.

The Ecclesia Orans

Such is the Church, living like the Cenacle by Divine Grace as by its own element, and inhaling Divine Grace by the power of prayer. The more a Christian institution, under whatever form, would represent and express in a more perfect manner the life of the Church and the life of the Cenacle, the more it should, like Christianity in the universe and like the Apostles in the Cenacle, immerse itself in Divine Grace and drawing Divine Grace to itself, by the enactment of the Sacred Liturgy and by ceaseless prayer.

Therefore all the religious institutions that from age to age have sprung from the ever fruitful womb of the Catholic Church, have in this respect been formed to the image of the Ecclesia Orans, the praying Church, as the praying Church herself was formed to the image of the Cenacle.

Benedictine Oblates

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Oratory of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle

Our First Meeting

On Sunday afternoon a group of four men and three women participated in the first meeting of the Benedictine Oblates of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. Two other men living in the far off states of Pennsylvania and Colorado were unable to be present. (I was also mindful of Jane in France and of Vincent in Texas.) I gave an historical overview of the Benedictine oblateship, directing my remarks principally to Chapters 58 and 59 of the Rule of Saint Benedict. I then presented Article I of the Statutes of the Oblates and offered a modest commentary on the text.

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CHAPTER I: THE OBLATE

1. The Benedictine tradition sees Oblation as an act intimately tied to the altar of the monastery and to the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist (cf. RB 58:20-21; 59: 1-2). Oblation is a free act of self-offering to God, patterned after the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim, from the altar of the Cross.

Fundamentally the call to oblation springs from the injunctions of Saint Paul: "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Rom 12:1); and again, "Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath delivered Himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness" (Eph 5:2).

The Benedictine Oblate, drawn to the altar of Christ's Sacrifice by the Holy Spirit, lives from the altar, in communion with a particular monastic community, for the glory of the Father and for the sake of the whole Body of Christ, that is the Church.

The Church recognizes Oblation as a special bond expressing communion between individual Christians and a particular monastery (cf. CCL, can. 303; can. 677 §2).

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A Eucharistic Vocation

The Eucharistic character of the oblateship is grounded in Saint Benedict's rite of monastic profession (RB 58) and in the analogous rite that he prescribes for the offering of a boy, by his parents, to God in the monastery (RB 59). The adult monk making profession and the young lad being offered to God by his parents are identified with the Eucharistic oblation. Symbolically, they are placed alongside the bread and wine (oblata) on the altar, becoming part of the Holy Sacrifice.

The adult monk places the handwritten petition of his offering on the altar, while the hand of the little oblate is wrapped in the altar linen together with the petition drawn up by his parents.

United to Christ, Priest and Victim

By offering himself in the context of the Holy Sacrifice, the monk participates in the eternal priesthood and victimhood of Our Lord Jesus Christ; like Jesus Crucified, he is both the offerer and the offering. Similarly, in the time of Saint Benedict he child oblate, offered by his parents, who exercised a certain natural priesthood over him, became with Christ a single offering to the Father.

Abbot Delatte, in his Commentary on the Holy Rule, speaks of the newly-professed monk as, "a living victim, 'a pure, holy, and unspotted victim,' reunited to the victim on the altar, offered and accepted with that victim, and enwrapped by the deacon in the fragrance of the same incense."

Interior Priesthood

Mother Mary of Saint Peter (Adèle Garnier, 1838-1924), the foundress of the Benedictine Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Tyburn, was graced with stunning insights into the interior grace of a priestly and victimal life. She writes:

He made me understand that there is an intimate and universal priesthood, absolutely and necessarily united to His, which should be the portion of all souls, but which is so of only very few. This priesthood is wholly interior, and is only granted to a soul who consents to it, who has desired it, and who to obtain it wills to immolate itself at all times with Jesus; that even so, in reality it is not the soul who immolates itself but Jesus who immolates it with Himself. But as the soul wills to be immolated and abandons itself for that purpose, Jesus makes it participate in His state of victim and priesthood at one and the same time. He consecrates it and ordains it to an interior priesthood which conforms it to His Eucharistic life more than any other gift it has received. . . . This grace of interior priesthood does not imprint on the soul an indelible character, for the soul can lose it by infidelity. But if it is constantly faithful to this grace of choice, it will receive through all eternity the reflection of the sacerdotal glory emanating from the Heart of Jesus and spreading over all souls who are priests and victims with Him.

The Altar

The Benedictine Oblate, like the monk, consummates his mystical offering on the altar of the oratory of the monastery. Oblation communicates to one's whole life the character and virtue of a holocaust; it makes of one's life a perpetual sacrifice. All who are offered from the same altar constitute a single priestly and victimal body: one monastic family. A monastery, then, is born at the altar, and lives from the altar.

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The vocation of the Benedictine Oblate is, then, profoundly Eucharistic. Blessed Dom Marmion says:

Let us unite our sacrifice with that of Christ Jesus. Let us offer ourselves with Him "in the spirit of humility, and with a contrite heart that our sacrifice may be pleasing in the sight of the Lord."
O Eternal Father, receive not only Thy Divine Son, but ourselves with Him of Whom say that He is " a pure Victim, a holy Victim, an immaculate Victim." Of ourselves, we are only poor creatures, but, miserable as we are, Thou wilt not reject us, for the sake of Thy Son Jesus Who is our Propitiation, and to Whom we would be united, so that through Him, and with Him, and in Him, all honour and glory be to Thee, O Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Ghost." (Christ, the Ideal of the Monk, p. 119)

Ut sanentur

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End of the Penal Code

This morning at Chapter we concluded the eight chapters of the Holy Rule (XXII-XXX) that comprise Saint Benedict's so-called "penal code." The Holy Patriarch reserves the last of these chapters for his treatment of how boys are to be corrected. It was not unusual in Saint Benedict's time for parents to entrust their sons to the monks for a period of intellectual and spiritual education. The lads in question probably ranged in age from five to sixteen. Some of these, but not all, would have been destined for monastic profession. One can only imagine the challenges presented by a troop of boisterous youngsters in the cloister.

Readers of the Holy Rule are sometimes shocked to discover that, where reason fails to bring a brother to mend his ways, Saint Benedict recommends corporal punishment. He even mentions severe fasts (to bed without pudding?) and sharp stripes (a judicious application of the rod).

Adaptability

I am, however, far more impressed by the brilliant first and last sentences of Chapter XXX. "Every age and understanding," says Saint Benedict, "should have its appropriate measure of discipline." What a wise principle! Saint Benedict fosters adaptability, reflection, and due consideration of a brother's age and of his intellectual, emotional, and spiritual development. There is in the Rule of Saint Benedict nothing of the rigid "one size fits all" approach that one sometimes finds in other ascetical systems.

Healing

The last sentence of Chapter XXX sums up the inspiration and justification for all the precedes it in the "penal code": ut sanentur, "that they may be healed." The monastery is, in the end, an infirmary for weak and wounded souls, a place of healing, of purification, and of transformation. Weaknesses, be they physical or moral, are not shocking in a monastic community. They are expected, diagnosed, and, by the all-sufficient grace of Christ, changed into strengths. The Apostles says, "He (Christ) told me, My grace is enough for you; my strength finds its full scope in your weakness. More than ever, then, I delight to boast of the weaknesses that humiliate me . . . when I am weakest, then I am strongest of all."

An Abbot's Prayer

Saint Aelred's splendid Pastoral Prayer might even have been inspired by elements in Saint Benedict's "penal code." I have always loved this particular section of it:

See me, sweet Lord, see me.
My hope, most Merciful, is in your loving kindness;
for you will see me, either as a good physician sees, intent upon my healing,
or else as a kind master, anxious to correct,
or a forbearing father, longing to forgive.

This, then, is what I ask, O font of pity,
trusting in your mighty mercy and merciful might:
I ask you, by the power of your most sweet name,
and by your holy manhood's mystery,
to put away my sins and heal the languors of my soul,
mindful only of your goodness, not of my ingratitude.

Further, against the vices and evil passuions which still assault my soul,
(whether they come from past bad habit, or from my immeasurable daily negligence,
whether their source is in the weakness of my corrupt and vitiated nature,
or in the secret tempting of malignant spirits)
against these vices, Lord, may your sweet grace afford me strength and courage;
that I may not consent thereto, nor let them reign in this my mortal body,
nor yield my members to be instruments of wickedness.

And as I thus resist,
do you all the while heal all my weakness perfectly,
cure all my wounds, and put back into shape all my deformities.

Saint Aelred (1110-1167), the Bernard of the North, was abbot of Rievaulx in England from 1146 until his death. His Pastoral Prayer reveals how profoundly the Rule of Saint Benedict had shaped his ideal and led him to prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

Confirmetur in eo caritas

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Chapter

This morning at Chapter (a daily reflection on a chapter of the Rule of Saint Benedict) we read one of my favourite passages: "That the Abbot Be Solicitous for the Excommunicated" (Chapter XXVII).

Let the Abbot show all care and concern towards erring brethren because "they that are in health need not a physician, but they that are sick" (Mt 9:12). Therefore, like a wise physician he ought to use every opportunity to send consolers, namely, wise elderly brethren, to comfort the troubled brother, as it were, in secret, and induce him to make humble satisfaction; and let them console him "lest he be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow" (2 Cor 2:7); but, as the same Apostle saith, "let your charity towards him be strengthened" (2 Cor 2:8); and let everyone pray for him.

The Excommunicated Brother

First of all, what does Saint Benedict mean by "an excommunicated brother"? Saint Benedict so cherishes life together that he can think of no better corrective measure than depriving a brother, in whole or in part, of participation in the daily round of community activities and, in particular, of meals and of the solemn choral prayer. One might think of it as an adult version of the very effective "time out" that my brother, the father of three, uses with his sometimes obstreperous children.

Toward Repentance and Healing

Saint Benedict is not so much concerned with punishing offences as he is with bringing the offending brother to repentance and to healing. The measures prescribed in the so called "penal code" of the Holy Rule are medicinal and therapeutic, not punitive. Saint Benedict presents them as remedies for the variety of spiritual infirmities that can and do affect even the most fervent monastic communities.

Sapiens Medicus

The brothers in question are not iniquitous criminals; they are weak men who have fallen short of the ideal, frail sinners who keep on missing the mark, even after repeated admonitions and interventions. The first biblical passage that Saint Benedict quotes in this chapter is Matthew 9:12: "They that are in health need not a physician, but they that are ill." He describes the abbot (the father of the monastery) as a sapiens medicus, wise physician. He would have him use "every remedy in his power" to restore an ailing brother to spiritual health.

Salutary Intervention

In my own long experience of religious life, I have, more than once, witnessed situations in which a brother gave clear signs of delinquency; in which there was evidence of patterns of unhealthy and perhaps sinful behaviour; in which a brother by "acting out" was, in fact, crying out for help. Also, more than once, I have witnessed superiors turn a blind eye to the problem, refusing to intervene, even in cases where a wise and compassionate intervention could have brought about a real conversion of life and avoided scandal.

I know of one instance in which a student brother residing in a community other than his own was giving unmistakable signs of moral distress, unhealthy personal choices, and depression. The brother in question kept strange hours, failed to participate in community prayer and meals, and avoided the companionship of the religious residing in the same house. Although the superior of the host community had no canonical authority over this brother (who belonged to another religious Order), he certainly had an evangelical obligation to offer him the ministrations of mercy and of healing. Instead, like the priest and the levite of the parable of the Good Samaritan, the superior passed the brother by; he never sought out the brother for a personal conversation, and never attempted to intervene in a situation that had become a question to many. At the very least, he could have approached the brother in difficulty as a priest to a brother priest and said, "I sense -- or I know -- that you are in difficulty, brother. How can I help?"

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Over a decade later, this same superior, denounced the brother whom he had virtually ignored in the throes of a grave spiritual and emotional crisis. He destroyed the brother's reputation, causing untold anguish and grief. All of this happened long after the brother had recognized the error of his ways, sincerely repented, and begun to strive for holiness of life and emotional health. The superior, although a son of the Seraphic Father Saint Francis, would have done well to take a lesson from the Rule of Saint Benedict.

Consolers

Even when Saint Benedict is obliged to separate a wayward monk from the rest of the community to give him time to reflect, and also to prevent the spread of his spiritual malady to others, the wise abbot sends trustworthy elders to "secretly comfort the troubled brother, to induce him to make humble satisfaction, and to console him lest he be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow." Here one sees the magnanimity and resourcefulness of Saint Benedict; the abbot shares the duties of his spiritual paternity with chosen elders in the community. They are, as it were, the envoys of his mercy and paternal tenderness.

Charity and Prayer

When a brother shows signs of spiritual distress by disobedience, possessiveness, disregard for the Rule, or aggressive behaviour, that brother should not be judged, condemned, and forsaken. "Let charity be strengthened toward him," says Saint Benedict. The remedy is more love, not less. And, he adds, "let everyone pray for him." Charity and prayer can melt even the most hardened hearts, provided that those loving and praying, persevere and not lose heart.

The Care of Weakly Souls

The next section of Chapter XXVII reveals the Heart of Jesus living in the heart of Saint Benedict:

For the Abbot is bound to use the greatest solicitude, and to strive with all prudence and diligence, that none of the flock entrusted to him perish. For the Abbot must know that he has taken upon himself the care of weakly souls, not a tyranny over the strong; and let him fear the threat of the Prophet wherein God saith: "What ye saw to be fat, that ye took to yourselves, and what was diseased you threw away" (Ezek 34:3-4). And let him follow the tender example of the Good Shepherd, who, leaving the ninety-nine sheep on the mountains, went to seek the one that had gone astray, on whose weakness He had such pity, that He was pleased to place it on His sacred shoulders and thus carry it back to the fold (cf Lk 15:5).

Paternal Solicitude

In dealing with the wayward sheep of his flock, the abbot is to manifest the greatest solicitude, that is, an almost maternal devotedness. For an abbot after the heart of Saint Benedict there can be no greater tragedy than the loss of a brother. I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Saint Paul: "I speak the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great sadness, and continual sorrow in my heart. For I wished myself to be anathema from Christ, for my brethren. . . ." (Rom 9:1-2).

Father and Physician of Souls

The abbot is above all a father and a physician of souls. He is entrusted with the care of those bearing the burden of moral infirmities, and of weaknesses of soul and body. The abbot is not a tyrant driving the strong with threats and inspiring fear; he is a shepherd tending the flock with love and inspiring confidence. Saint Benedict warns the abbot of the sin of preferring "the fat" -- the gifted, the charming, the virtuous, the intelligent, and the comely -- and of throwing away "the diseased" -- the not-so-gifted, the trying, those caught in webs of vice, the unintelligent, and the unattractive.

The Lost Sheep

Saint Benedict enjoins the abbot to follow the tender example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who leaves the ninety-nine well-behaved and observant sheep, so as to search for the one who, deceived by the world, the flesh, and the devil, has lost his way in the mists of temptation. If that one sheep cannot walk, the abbot is bound to carry him on his shoulders and, perhaps, to keep him by his side until, at length, he recovers health and begins to give signs of newness of life.

Not Just for Monks

In reflecting on this chapter of the Holy Rule, it occurred to me that it could just as well apply to bishops and to their priests as to abbots and their monks. It might even apply to fathers and to their children. At the end of Chapter every morning I pray, "Stir Thou up, O Lord, in our hearts, the Spirit to whom our holy father Saint Benedict was obedient, that filled with tht same Spirit, we might love what he loved and put into practice what he taught. Through Christ our Lord." Would that all priests had a share in the spirit of the Holy Patriarch of Monks: self-sacrificing love, mercy, wisdom, patience, and zeal for souls.


Domus mea domus orationis vocabitur

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A Resolution

I apologize to you, dear readers, for my absence from Vultus Christi over the past few weeks. The task of settling into the new house and the duties of hospitality that, almost immediately, presented themselves, made it difficult to find time to write daily. One of my Lenten resolutions is to be more faithful to writing on Vultus Christi and this in obedience, not only to the Holy Father's desire that priests make good use of the apostolic opportunities offered by the internet, but also in obedience to my own bishop, who believes it important that I continue writing daily.

Visitors from Florida

The petite chronique of the last two months includes the visit of Father Jordi, Lourdes, and Tessie from Miami, Florida, as well as that of Mary from Iowa. Father Jordi and Lourdes, founders of the Community of Love Crucified in Miami, met with the Spiritual Mothers of Priests of the Diocese of Tulsa and also addressed priests of the diocese of Tulsa on January 14th. Tessie and Mary offered support in prayer. Father Jordi stayed here at the monastery, while Tulsa's Spiritual Mothers of Priests, Sheila and Kate, offered hospitality to the ladies. Heartfelt thanks to all.

January Day of Recollection for Priests

The January Day of Recollection for the Priests of the Diocese of Tulsa was abundantly blessed. Father Jordi's message, and the challenging conference given by Lourdes, touched many priestly hearts.

Retreatants

Shortly thereafter, Father Rick Jones of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri arrived to spend several days in prayer, and on February 2nd, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, a young Nebraskan, who graduated in 2009 from the University of Tulsa, began an extended period of observership in order to discern a vocation to this particular expression of Benedictine-Eucharistic life.

NAC Seminarian Sean Donovan, currently serving a pastoral year at Tulsa's Church of the Madalene, shared our life for a full week of retreat. Immediately after Sean's retreat, Father Gerard Dewan of the Diocese of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan arrived from Canada to begin his retreat.

February Day of Recollection for Priests

Last, but by no means least, we welcomed Father Basil Cole, O.P., of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., to address the priests of the Diocese of Tulsa for their monthly Day of Recollection on February 18th. Father Basil is the author of The Hidden Enemies of the Priesthood, The Contributions of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Father's stay was all too brief. Apart from his brilliant conferences, I especially enjoyed his contributions in choir, at table, and at recreation.

Et Haec Tua Dona

During all this time of comings and goings, Spiritual Mothers of Priests of the Diocese of Tulsa supplied us with a splendid variety of tasty casseroles, breads, salads, and soups. Thank you to each one. May the King of glory make us all partakers of the heavenly table.

Lenten Horarium

Some readers and friends asked what the Lenten Horarium is at 1132 East 21st Street in Tulsa. Here it is. You are welcome to join us for prayer.

HORARIUM FOR LENT 2010

4:45 a.m. Rise
5:15 Matins, Angelus

Lectio Divina

7:30 Lauds
Chapter

9:30 Tierce and Holy Mass
Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

12:30 p.m. Sext, Rosary, Angelus
1:00 Dinner / Kitchen duties
2:00 Rest

3:00 None

5:00 Vespers
Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

6:45 Supper / Kitchen duties
7:45 Compline Reading
8:00 Compline, Angelus


Between the porch and the altar

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The priests shall pray, with fasting and with weeping, and shall say: Spare, O Lord, spare Thy people, and give not Thine heritage to destruction. V. The priests shall weep between the porch and the altar, and shall say: Spare, O Lord, spare Thy people, and give not Thine heritage to destruction (Joel 2:17).

In the First Lesson at Mass on Ash Wednesday (Joel 2:12-18), as well as in one of the magnificent Lenten responsories at Matins, the Prophet Joel emphasizes the role of the priests who serve in the temple, the ministers of the Lord. Taking their place as mediators between the porch and the altar, they represent sinful men before the Face of the All-Holy God, and the Mercy of God before sinful men. Theirs is, in effect, a mediatorship of intercession and reparation.

The priestly mediatorship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the men with whom He shares His priesthood through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, fulfils and perfects the priestly mediatorship of the Old Dispensation. The Servant of God Pope Pius XII writes in Mediator Dei, his monumental 1947 encyclical on the Sacred Liturgy:

Mediator between God and men and High Priest who has gone before us into heaven, Jesus the Son of God quite clearly had one aim in view when He undertook the mission of mercy which was to endow mankind with the rich blessings of supernatural grace. Sin had disturbed the right relationship between man and his Creator; the Son of God would restore it. The children of Adam were wretched heirs to the infection of original sin; He would bring them back to their heavenly Father, the primal source and final destiny of all things. For this reason He was not content, while He dwelt with us on earth, merely to give notice that redemption had begun, and to proclaim the long-awaited Kingdom of God, but gave Himself besides in prayer and sacrifice to the task of saving souls, even to the point of offering Himself, as He hung from the cross, a Victim unspotted unto God, to purify our conscience of dead works, to serve the living God.[3] Thus happily were all men summoned back from the byways leading them down to ruin and disaster, to be set squarely once again upon the path that leads to God. Thanks to the shedding of the blood of the Immaculate Lamb, now each might set about the personal task of achieving his own sanctification, so rendering to God the glory due to Him.

In the life of adoration and reparation that is beginning in the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, there is a compelling awareness of the call to participate in Our Lord's priestly mediation by abiding "between the porch and the altar," that is, between those of our brother priests on mission to the world; those whom circumstances have, in some way or another, separated from the altar; and those who, being alienated from the altar, have lost sight of the wellspring and summit of their priestly service.

The word "altar" represents not only the place of sacrifice, but also the one offered upon it, and the fire from heaven that ratifies and consumes the oblation. Pope Pius XII writes, "The Church prolongs the priestly mission of Jesus Christ mainly by means of the sacred liturgy. She does this in the first place at the altar, where constantly the sacrifice of the cross is represented and with a single difference in the manner of its offering, renewed." As Adorers of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, living within the enclosure of the monastery, or living as Oblates in the world, we are called to place our own bodies in the breach and, in some way, by the oblation of ourselves, to close the gap between "the porch and the altar."

Listen again to Pope Pius XII:

The divine Redeemer has so willed it that the priestly life begun with the supplication and sacrifice of His mortal body should continue without intermission down the ages in His Mystical Body which is the Church. That is why He established a visible priesthood to offer everywhere the clean oblation[4] which would enable men from East to West, freed from the shackles of sin, to offer God that unconstrained and voluntary homage which their conscience dictates.

The priestly life of the Redeemer -- one of supplication and of sacrifice, or victimhood -- is prolonged not only in the priesthood of the ordained, but also in the oblation of the layfaithful who take to heart the exhortation of the Apostle:

I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service (Rom 12:1).

One of the singular graces of this Lent will be, it seems to me, a more profound awareness of what it means to abide in a state of adoration and victimal oblation "between the porch and the altar," before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, for the sake His beloved priests, and of His Spouse, the Church.

In Exitu: Moving Day!

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Moving to A More Suitable House

Dear readers, please bear with me during the next few days. I will be about my Father's business: that is to say that I will be moving the Cenacle to a new house that we will be leasing here in Tulsa. The new house is spacious and very suitable to an "embryonic" monastic life and to a more generous monastic hospitality. There is a large light-filled room on the first floor that will serve as the oratory. Another room will serve as a parlour for spiritual direction. The kitchen is roomy, as is the future refectory. There are four bedrooms that will become monastic cells, and a lovely big room that will serve as our library and chapter. In addition, there are two long sunlit rooms that will become the office and sacristy.

For the Glory of the Father and the Sanctification of Priests

Stalwart helpers are arriving today with trucks to move all the larger pieces of furniture and to transfer the oratory and all its sacred contents to the new house. I ask for your prayers, that this relocation may serve to magnify the glory of the Father that shines on the Eucharistic Face of Christ, and foster the growth of our calling to work for the sanctification of priests.

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For the Year of the Priest: a painting of Saint John Mary Vianney with his friend, Saint Peter Julian Eymard

Saint Peter Julian Eymard is one of the principal patrons of the work of the Cenacle here in Tulsa. On the feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1857 Saint Peter Julian Eymard inaugurated the solemn exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament by which the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament came to life. This week's move to a leased house in Tulsa better suited to a life of prayer and hospitality, and the need for funds to build the new Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, dedicated to Eucharistic adoration for the sanctification of priests, compel me once again to propose the following novena for those who care to make it with me from January 6-14. It would be grand if those making the novena would leave a word in the comment box letting me know it!

Some readers of Vultus Christi may recall that on October 26, 2007 I wrote:

The desire of the Heart of Jesus is that there should be priest adorers and reparators: priests who will adore for those who do not adore, priests who will make reparation for those who do not. Our Lord asks me -- and will ask other priests as well -- to remain in adoration before His Eucharistic Face, offering all the priests of the Church to His Open Heart present in the Sacrament of His Love.

This inspiration was confirmed by the splendid letter of Cardinal Hummes, published on December 7, 2007, inviting to adoration and reparation for priests.

A Daunting Proposition

The Church is blessed with any number of communities of fervent Benedictines, who glorify Our Lord according to the gifts imparted to them, but nowhere does Our Lord find a house of priest-adorers to keep Him company in the Sacrament of His Love, and to offer themselves for their brother priests. The establishment of a new monastery is a daunting proposition. I might be tempted to lose heart, were it not for Our Lord's assurance that the measure of one's weakness is the measure of the deployment of His grace.

The Gospel tells us: God is the highest priority. If anything in our life deserves haste without delay, then, it is God's work alone. The Rule of Saint Benedict contains this teaching: "Place nothing at all before the work of God (i.e. the divine office)". For monks, the Liturgy is the first priority. Everything else comes later. In its essence, though, this saying applies to everyone. (Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas 2009)

Work for Priests

The traditional Benedictine framework and the commitment to the choral liturgy will protect the life of adoration and the work for priests: the interior work of self-oblation in all things, and the exterior works of hospitality, spiritual counsel, and availability to priests in their times of need and inner darkness.

Assent to the Divine Friendship

At the heart of this special vocation is the assent to Our Lord's Divine Friendship, the "yes" to His merciful love uttered on behalf of all priests through a prolonged daily presence in adoration before His Eucharistic Face.

Our Lord desires with an immense desire to purify, and heal, and sanctify His priests. This He does, and will do, by drawing them into the radiance of His Eucharistic Face and the warmth of His Eucharistic Heart. We priests all too easily forget that Our Lord Jesus Christ is present in the Sacrament of His Love to offer us all the good things that come from friendship: companionship, conversation, joy, comfort, hospitality, strength and, above all, love.

Friends of His Heart

Our Lord is hidden in the Blessed Sacrament; His Face is veiled by the sacramental species and His Heart, too, is hidden. He is, nonetheless, really present as True God and True Man, alive, seeing all, knowing all, and burning with desire that all should come to His tabernacles but, first of all, the priests whom He has chosen to be His intimate friends, the friends of His Heart.

A priest who, in adoration, assents to the friendship of Christ, will want for nothing and will make great strides along the path of holiness. Virtue is not difficult for one who abides in the friendship of Christ. The friendship of Jesus for His priests needs to become the subject of conversations, of reflection, of study, and of preaching; more than anything else it needs to become the lived experience of every priest.

Our Lady and Saint John

A priest who abides in the friendship of Christ will accomplish great and wonderful works for souls. This is the secret of a fruitful priesthood. From her place in heaven, Our Blessed Lady is entirely devoted to keeping priests faithful to the Divine Friendship. Saint John, the Beloved Disciple, also intercedes for priests, that they might persevere in the way of friendship with Our Lord and find their joy in the love of His Heart.

The Remedy

Priests who come to adore the Eucharistic Face of Jesus will quickly discover His Heart and, in His Heart they will discover the friendship for which He created them and to which He calls them. The single greatest deficiency of the clergy is that so many priests are ignorant of the tenderness and strength and fidelity of Our Lord's friendship for them. How can this deficiency be remedied? By adoration before the Eucharistic Face of Christ. This is the raison d'être of my work in the Diocese of Tulsa. Pray, then, that the radiance of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus will reach an ever greater number of priests, until, in all the Church, the Priesthood of Christ shines with all the splendour of His own holiness.

Epiphany Novena in Honour of Saint Peter Julian Eymard
January 6 -- 14, 2010

Recited after Lauds:

Antiphon: And when they were come into the house,
they found the Child with Mary His Mother,
and fell down and adored Him.

V. Arise, shine, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come.
R. And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

Let us pray.

O God, who by the leading of a star,
didst manifest Thine Only-Begotten Son to the Gentiles,
mercifully grant that we,
having been led unto Him by the light of faith,
may, with grateful hearts,
ceaselessly adore Him present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar,
Who is our Mighty King, our Great High Priest, and our Immaculate Victim,
and Who liveth and reigneth with Thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.
Amen.

Recited after Vespers:

Antiphon: The Priests shall be holy;
for the offerings of the Lord made by fire,
and the bread of their God, they do offer,
therefore they shall be holy.

V. Pray for us, Saint Peter Julian.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

O God, Who through the preaching and example of Saint Peter Julian Eymard,
didst renew the priesthood of Thy Church in holiness
and inflame many souls with zeal
for the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar;
we beseech Thee, through his intercession,
to gather priests of one mind and one heart,
from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof,
to keep watch in adoration before the Eucharistic Face
of Thine Only-Begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ
and to abide before His Open Heart,
in reparation for those who forsake Him, hidden in the tabernacles of the world,
and in thanksgiving for the mercies that ever stream
from the Sacred Mysteries of His Body and Blood.
Who liveth and reigneth with Thee
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.
Amen.

The Heart of Monasticism is Adoration

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This photograph of the church of the Abbazia di San Giovanni dell'Argentella in Italy inspires us to perservere in working toward the construction of our own monastery and church in Tulsa.


Eucharistic Adoration

"The heart of monasticism is adoration." This affirmation of Pope Benedict XVI (on the occasion of his visit to the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz on 9 September 2007) reinforces our conviction that a special dedication to Eucharistic adoration harmonizes itself perfectly with life according to the Rule of Saint Benedict. The daily celebration of Holy Mass compels us to abide in adoration and sustains in us the desire to respond to love with love. One who adores the Most Blessed Sacrament consents to savour inwardly the sweetness of the Lord. Adoring silence allows the soul to receive the mystery in its immensity. It fosters a heart-to-heart dialogue with the Lord, and effects a gradual but real configuration to His divine sonship, to His priesthood, and to His perpetual state of oblation or victimhood.

In addition to the hour of Eucharistic adoration that follows Vespers, our forma vitae provides each monk with an hour of personal adoration daily. As our numbers grow, this will allow us, God willing, to keep a continuous vigil of adoration before Our Lord's Eucharistic Face.

Victimhood

Prolonged, and eventually perpetual, adoration confesses and glorifies the mystery of Our Lord's real presence in the Sacrament of His Love. It is, at the same time, a mode of participation in the victimhood of Christ. The monk-adorer allows the Holy Spirit to unite him to the oblation of Christ, Priest and Victim, for the same intentions that burned in His Heart on the altar of the Cross: the glory of the Father and the salvation of souls. The victimhood of the monk is nothing more than the logical consequence of monastic profession. Saint Benedict mandates that the monk making profession should sign the charter of his vows upon the altar, the place of the Sacrifice of Calvary sacramentally renewed. Then, with hands raised in the form of the Cross, the newly-professed sings his Suscipe, imploring the Father to receive him as a living oblation as Christ himself was received from the altar of the Cross.

The Mass of Life

All of monastic life is, in effect, a Mass: a Mass in which every step, every movement, every word has a precious value, a redeeming worth in the sight of the Father. In the Mass that is daily life, we are called not to a great fidelity to the rubrics, but to a great fidelity to every manifestation of the will of the Father and to every indication of His good pleasure.

The Dilated Heart

This fidelity to the little things in the Mass of daily life implies a constant attention to the Holy Spirit, who unites us to the sacrifice and to the intentions of Jesus Christ, Eternal High Priest and Spotless Victim. "I came down from heaven," He says, "not to do my own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. Now this is the will of Him who sent Me: that of all that He hath given Me, I should lose nothing." (Jn 6:38-39). A monk who allows the Holy Spirit to dilate his heart to the catholic and ecclesial dimensions of the priestly Heart of Jesus and of His Vicar on earth, the Holy Father, will also understand that he is called to participate actively in the victimhood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This he will do by placing himself, day after day, in the wounded hands of Christ, the Eternal High Priest, to be offered with Him to the Father.

Dom Delatte

Lest one think that this Eucharistic hermeneutic of the rites of profession somehow falls outside the mainstream of Benedictine life, consider these compelling insights of Dom Paul Delatte, Abbot of Solesmes, in his commentary on the Holy Rule. Dom Delatte is explaining the significance of the prostration of the newly professed monk before the altar after singing the Suscipe. The abbot writes:

There lies there . . . a living victim, a "pure, holy, and unspotted victim," reunited to the Victim on the altar, offered and accepted with that Victim, and enwrapped by the deacon in the fragrance of the same incense. Then the Mass continues. Motionless and silent, like the Lamb of God, the newly-professed suffers himself to be immolated and consumed mystically by the Eternal High Priest. How sweet that Mass and that Communion! Our whole monastic life should resemble this profession Mass. (Commentary on the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict)

Before His Face

The particular "vocation within a vocation," that His Excellency, Bishop Slattery has entrusted to the little embryo of a monastery that we are at present, is one of Eucharistic adoration in a spirit of self-oblation and intercession for priests, for all the priests of the Church, for the priests of the Diocese of Tulsa, and especially for those priests who are most wounded in their souls, exposed to the powers of darkness, or locked in the exhausting struggles of a spiritual combat. We believe that we can best fulfill this mission by remaining faithful to keeping watch before Our Lord's Eucharistic Face, and this within the balanced rhythm of traditional Benedictine life.


Brother Juan Diego: From Pop Rock to Gregorian Chant

On Monday, 7 December, following First Vespers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Diego Merizalde, in religion, Brother Juan Diego Maria de San Jose, received the monastic habit and so began his noviceship. Brother Juan Diego, 28 years old, is a native of Ecuador and lived, most recently, in Miami, Florida where he studied at the archdiocesan Seminary of Saint John Vianney. Brother Juan Diego is a soccer enthusiast. Before pursuing his vocation, he performed as a Latino pop rock singer!

Brother Juan Diego heard the call to pursue Benedictine life as an Adorer of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus in the Diocese of Tulsa on the feast of Saint Sharbel, 24 July 2009. He humbly asks for the prayers of the readers of Vultus Christi as he engages on the monastic battlefield under the Rule of Saint Benedict.

Three priests of the diocese, the Reverend Fathers Timothy Davison, Michael Dodd, and Elkin Gonzalez chanted Vespers with us and witnessed Dom Mark's conferral of the habit on Brother Juan Diego.

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I do not trust in any strength of my own, for I have experienced my weakness. But, trusting in the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and confident in the mercy of God, I desire with all my heart to do battle under the Rule of Saint Benedict.

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May the Lord strip you of the old man and his deeds.

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The Tunic

May Our Lord Jesus Christ so clothe you with His grace, that you may share by patience in His sufferings, and bear inwardly the image of His Face. Amen.

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The Cincture

May Our Lord Jesus Christ gird you with the cincture of a perfect chastity in honour of His Immaculate Mother, of Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse, and of Saint John, His beloved virgin disciple, that you may follow the Lamb wheresoever He goes. Amen.

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The Scapular

Receive the yoke of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for He is meek and humble of heart. Thus will you find rest for your soul, for His yoke is easy and His burden light. Amen.

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"And you my child, will be known for a prophet of the Most High, going before the Lord, to clear His way before Him." (Lk 1:76)

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"This man will receive a blessing from the Lord and obtain mercy from God his Saviour, for he is of the generation of those who seek the Lord." (Ps 23: 5-6)

Letter to a Soon-to-be Novice

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Second Sunday of Advent

My dear son,

Listening to the Liturgy

You have often heard me say that the sacred liturgy is, first of all, God's word addressed to us. Through the liturgy, Our Lord Jesus Christ addresses His Bride and Body, the Church, and, through the liturgy He speaks to each of us individually. If we incline the ear of our hearts to Him, we will hear His voice and His words will become for us seeds of holiness sown in our souls, promising a harvest of good fruits.

Putting on Christ

Tomorrow evening, after First Vespers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, you will be clothed in the monastic habit that symbolizes your firm resolve to put on Christ and to walk in newness of life. You will be enrolled officially in the school of the Lord's service to learn the Rule of our blessed father Saint Benedict, and to put it into practice day by day.

Introit

It almost seems as if today's Mass was prepared just for you, in view of this next step in your monastic journey. You belong to the "people of Sion" addressed in the Introit. The Introit contains a wonderful promise, a promise that you must claim for yourself today: "The Lord shall make the glory of His voice to be heard, in the joy of your heart." Is this not why our father Saint Benedict begins his Holy Rule by saying, "Hearken, my son, to the precepts of the master and incline the ear of thy heart" (RB Pro)?

Collect

In the Collect, we ask the Father to "stir up our hearts to prepare the ways of His only-begotten Son, that through His advent, we may attain to serve the Father with purified minds." In this context, "to serve" -- servire -- means to worship, or to offer the sacrifice of praise. Today, this prayer is for you! Ask the Father to stir up your heart to prepare the ways of His Son, the Bridegroom of your soul -- your Redeemer, your Healer, and your King -- that by the grace of His advent, that is, His coming to you in Word and in Sacrament, you may be numbered among the "adorers in spirit and truth" (Jn 4:23) whom the Father desires.

Epistle

The Epistle invites you to be steadfast and patient in the practice of lectio divina. "What things soever were written, were written for our learning: that through patience and the consolation of the Scriptures, we might have hope" (Rom 15:4). The novitiate will be a time of trial calling you to a humble patience, a patience that rests upo your trust in God's merciful love. At the same time, you will have the consolation of the Scriptures hour after hour, day after day, and week after week. Learn to seek and to find your consolation in the Word of God. If you do that, you will always have hope.

Saint Paul also says, "Now the God of patience and comfort grant you to be of one mind one towards another, according to Jesus Christ; that with one mind and with one mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 15:5-6). We will be of one mind because we are learners in the same school, the "school of the Lord's service," and because the Rule of Saint Benedict will be the principal object of your study and reflection all throughout the year that lies ahead of you. A man who allows himself to be changed and shaped by the Rule of Saint Benedict becomes a human doxology, a man fully alive whose entire being expresses the praise of God's glory, through Christ Jesus, in the Holy Spirit.

The Epistle ends with a wish that is, in effect, a prayer: "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing: that you may abound in hope, and in the power of the Holy Ghost" (Rom 15:13). If anything is to characterize your noviceship, let it be this: "hope, and the power of the Holy Ghost."

Gradual and Alleluia

The Gradual contains this promise: "Out of Sion, the loveliness of His beauty, God shall come manifestly." The loveliness of the beauty of God that comes forth from Sion is, first of all the Immaculate Virgin Mary. She is the radiant image of the loveliness of the beauty of God. Contemplating Mary, we see already what God desires for the Church, the Bride of Christ, and for each soul. The humiliating struggles of the novice, his application to study, to prayer, to obedience, and to silence are the very things that allow the loveliness of the beauty of God to emerge in his soul. There is no more effective way to cooperate with this than by fixing your gaze upon Mary, the tota pulchra, the all-lovely, and by consecrating yourself to her. With Mary, you will learn to sing at every stage of your monastic pilgrimage: "I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: We shall go into the house of the Lord" (Ps 121:1).

Gospel

In the Gospel, Our Lord calls Saint John the Baptist the "angel sent before His Face to prepare His way before Him." In a way analogous to the mission of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mission of Saint John the Baptist will continue until the end of time. Wherever Christ is about to be manifested, John is present. He is charged with readying souls for the advent of the King. He does this by interceding for us from His place in heaven, and by obtaining for us the grace to gaze upon the Lamb of God, and to follow him. Saint John the Baptist is the patron of every novitiate.

Offertory

In the Offertory Antiphon, you will ask Our Lord to show you His mercy. He does this by turning toward you His Eucharistic Face. One who gazes upon the Face of Our Lord with the eyes of faith receives His mercy and experiences His salvation. There is healing in the radiance of His Face.

Secret

The Secret Prayer will remind you (and me too) that we have no merits to plead for us. We have nothing that might allow us to bargain with God. We have only our poverty, and when we go before Him it is with empty hands. God, however, finds empty hands irresistible. You can be confident of receiving His grace so long as your remain poor and humble and empty-handed before Him.

Communion Antiphon and Postcommunion

The Communion Antiphon invites you to arise and to stand in readiness for the joy that comes to you from God. "Arise, O Jerusalem, and stand on high, and behold the joy that cometh to thee from thy God" (Bar 5:4; 4:36). This is Our Lord's promise: "I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man shall take from you" (Jn 16:22). So long as you keep your gaze fixed on the Face of Our Lord, you will be able "to appraise rightly the things of earth and love those of heaven" (Postcommunion). Thus joy will have the last word. I want you to be a joyful novice, and for this reason, I exhort you to look, not at yourself, but at the Face of Our Lord and at the beauty of His Immaculate Mother, the Cause of Our Joy.

He Who Comes

Today and tomorrow you will have ample opportunity to behold the joy that comes to you from God. Be anxious about nothing. Be steadfast in hope. You will not be disappointed because He who comes is faithful.

In lumine vultus Iesu,
Father Prior

Clear Creek

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I am leaving this afternoon for the Monastery of Our Lady of the Annunciation at Clear Creek to preach the monastic community's annual retreat. I will be away from the computer and the telephone until the afternoon of November 21st, feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I humbly beg for the prayers of all the readers of Vultus Christi, that Our Lord may open fountains of living water in my own heart and in the hearts of those to whom I will be preaching.

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At no time and in no place does the particular vocation of our little monastery come into focus more clearly than on Thursdays when we succeed each other in adoration and reparation before Our Lord's Eucharistic Face, repeating at the beginning of our watch:

Lord Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim,
behold, I kneel before Thy Eucharistic Face
on behalf of all Thy priests:
(Fathers N. and N.)
and especially those priests of Thine,
who at this moment are most in need
of Thy grace.
For them and in their place,
allow me to remain,
adoring and full of confidence,
close to Thy Open Heart,
hidden in this, the Sacrament of Thy Love.

Through the Sorrowful and Immaculate
Heart of Mary,
our Advocate and the Mediatrix of All Graces,
pour forth upon all the priests of Thy Church
that torrent of mercy that ever flows
from Thy pierced side:
to purify and heal them,
to refresh and sanctify them,
and, at the hour of their death,
to make them worthy of joining Thee
before the Father in the heavenly sanctuary
beyond the veil (Hb 6:19)
where Thou art always living
to make intercession
for us (Hb 7:25). Amen.

An adorer of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus is happy to take his place before the altar. He makes his own the psalmist's inspired words:

My heart hath said to thee: My face hath sought thee:
thy face, O Lord, will I still seek.
Turn not away thy face from me.
(Psalm 26: 8-9)

Behold, O God our protector: and look on the face of thy Christ.
For better is one day in thy courts above thousands.
(Psalm 83:9-10)

I am always with thee.
Thou hast held me by my right hand;
and by thy will thou hast conducted me, and with thy glory thou hast received me.
For what have I in heaven? and besides thee what do I desire upon earth?
For thee my flesh and my heart hath fainted away:
thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion for ever.
For behold they that go far from thee shall perish:
thou hast destroyed all them that are disloyal to thee.
But it is good for me to adhere to my God, to put my hope in the Lord God:
That I may declare all thy praises, in the gates of the daughter of Sion.
(Psalm 72: 24-28)

An adorer of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus opens his inmost soul to the radiance of Our Lord's sacramental countenance. He exposes himself to the One who is exposed before his eyes, and asks to be wounded with the love of His Eucharistic Heart. Enboldened by the words of the Bridegroom in the Canticle, he dares to pray:

"Wound my heart with the love of the Eucharistic Heart.
Make me completely Thine.
Unite me to Thyself in the indestructible bond of Thy Divine Friendship.
Do for me, and in me, and through me,
all that Thou desirest to do for, and in, and through each one of Thy priests.
Let me offer myself to the Mercy which others refuse;
let me believe in the Love that others doubt;
let me accept the Friendship that others ignore
because I am a poor sinner amidst poor sinners,
and because I, even more than others,
have betrayed Thy Mercy, spurned Thy Love, and abused Thy Friendship.

My confidence is immense
because Thou art Love
and because Thou offerest the Friendship of Thy Heart
even to those sinners who have offended Thee most grievously.
Remove then from my soul every obstacle to Thy grace
and every resistance to Thy loving friendship,
until I am completely and forever Thine,
for Thy glory
and for the sake of Thy beloved priests.
Amen."

An adorer of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus prays as the Holy Spirit inspires him to pray: at times in an adoring silence, at times groaning and in tears, and at times in words as they are given him to utter.

Beloved Jesus,
Thou knowest all things and Thou searchest the hearts of men,
despising iniquity, and ready, at every moment,
to purify and heal tem
by a powerful and gentle infusion of Thy Mercy.

To all that Thou art and to all that Thou wouldst do in me,
I say "Yes."
I surrender entirely to the operations of Thy merciful Love
and to the action of the Holy Spirit.
I am all Thine,
and I abandon myself to Thy own burning desire to become my All.
Thou, O Jesus, art enough for me
for in Thee alone lies the happiness
for which Thou didst create me
and which Thou desirest to give me in this life
and in eternity. Amen."

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This magnificent Face of Christ is a detail of the 12th century ivory crucifix of Canosa di Puglia, Italy. Of Byzantine origin, the crucifix is masterpiece of extraordinary beauty and theological significance. It presents the Cross, not as the gibbet, but rather as the royal throne of Love Crucified. The kingship of Christ shines through the Face marked by suffering and, yet, radiant. The eyes are closed, but the effect is one of majesty. The hair and beard are depicted with great attention. The halo bears the sign of the Cross.

Our little Benedictine monastery has a special "vocation within a vocation" to keep watch before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus and to console His priestly Heart. Every Thursday calls us to the Cenacle where Jesus, Priest and Victim, offered Himself to the Father and consecrated His Apostles into the mystery of His own victimal priesthood. We prolong our hours of adoration of Thursday by replacing one another before the altar where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed in the monstrance.

O my beloved Jesus,
I adore Thee and confess Thee truly present here before my eyes
in this, the Sacrament of Thy Love.
Let me adore Thee for those of Thy priests who do not adore Thee.
Let me believe in Thy real presence for those whose faith has grown weak.
Let me love Thee for those priests of Thine whose hearts have grown cold towards Thee in this Sacrament.
And let me hope in Thee for those whose lives are dark with hopelessness.

Turn upon them all, O Jesus, the light of Thy Eucharistic Face.
Let not a single priest of Thine remain in the outer darkness
where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Send to them Thy holy Angels to guide their steps to Thy sanctuaries
and to lead them to the foot of Thy tabernacles,
where Thou waitest for them,
ready to heal them,
to cleanse them of their sins,
and to grace them with the sweetness of Thy Eucharistic Friendship.

Though we are few, beloved Jesus,
receive our hours of adoration for the sake of all Thy priests,
and by the prayers of Thy Most Holy Mother,
deign to make fruitful the time Thou givest us to spend before Thy Eucharistic Face,
close to Thy Open Heart.

Take the little we offer Thee, Lord Jesus,
and multiply its effects for the sanctification of Thy priests,
for the joy of Thy Church,
and for the glory of Thy Father. Amen.

An Oblate's Day

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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

Per singulos dies

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The mosaic depicts the North American Martyrs with the Crucified Jesus. It is in the Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament and the Canadian Martyrs in Rome.

Little by Little

Some readers of Vultus Christi have expressed an interest in knowing more about what we are doing here on a daily basis. A word about the horarium might be useful. Although I chant Matins at 5:15 a.m., I'm not allowing the postulants to come just yet. They will begin coming to Matins on the First Sunday of Advent.

Nothing good is gained by pushing men into the full observance all at once. The observance needs to be taken on gently, piece by piece, and progressively. Monastic life has a rhythm that is entirely different from that of life in the world. One has to adjust to the monastic rhythm slowly and prudently, lest by taking on too much too soon, one suffer the physical and emotional stress that can cause exhaustion and discouragement.

Lauds and Breakfast

The postulants rise, then, at 6:45 and come to Lauds at 7:15. Lauds is entirely in Latin, the psalmody being chanted recto tono and the rest of the Office (from the Capitulum) being sung from the 1934 Antiphonale Monasticum. After Lauds we have breakfast: coffee, bread, yogurt, butter, and jam. Plain bread on weekdays, raisin bread on Sundays and feasts! After breakfast there is a little time to set up for Mass and do a few household chores.

Prime and Chapter

We return to choir for Prime at 8:30. It is chanted recto tono (as are the other Little Hours) and is entirely in Latin. Going directly from choir to Chapter, we listen to the appointed section of the Rule of Saint Benedict for the day, and I give a brief commentary on the text. I'm a firm believer in the value of a daily commentary on the Holy Rule. In this way the entire Rule of Saint Benedict is read and explained three times a year in the context of day to day experience.

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Instruction

At 9:00 I give the brothers a 30 minute instruction. At the moment we are working our way through Dom Guéranger's classic "On the Religious Life." It is available here from Saint Michael's Abbey Press in Farnborough.

Study

The brothers continue studying on their own until Tierce at 10:15. Both men are reading Blessed Abbot Marmion's "Christ, the Ideal of the Monk", and "Discovering the Mass" by a Benedictine Monk.

Holy Mass

Holy Mass follows Tierce. For the time being we have a Low Mass with the brothers reciting the Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory, and Communion Antiphons. They also recite the Ordinary parts of the Mass with me and give the responses. The Epistle and Gospel are read in English. Slowly we will work our way up to a fully sung Mass from the Graduale Romanum.

After our thanksgiving there is a work period until 12:30. For the postulants this means study; for me it involves preparing dinner and also receiving clergy for spiritual direction. (Not at the same time!) Occasionally, a visiting priest will join us for Sext and Rosary at 12:30.

Dinner

Dinner is at 1:00. We chant the traditional monastic table prayers and, in spite of being only three, have reading through the meal. Benedictine Father Mark Gruber's lively account of a year among the Coptic Monks of Egypt is the book we are reading currently: "Journey Back to Eden: My Life and Times Among the Desert Fathers." Both Brothers Diego and Brendan read very well, making mealtime delightful.

None and Work

After dinner there is kitchen clean-up and dishes followed by a brisk walk together in the fresh air: our "recreation." A short rest ends in time for None at 3:00. The rest of the afternoon is for work.

Vespers and Adoration

Vespers, fully sung in Latin from the Antiphonale Monasticum, is at 5:30, after which the Most Blessed Sacrament is exposed in the monstrance for one hour of adoration. Given the specific dedication of our monastery, all our periods of adoration begin with this prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim,
behold, I kneel before Thy Eucharistic Face
on behalf of all Thy priests:
(Fathers N. and N.)
and especially those priests of Thine,
who at this moment are most in need
of Thy grace.
For them and in their place,
allow me to remain,
adoring and full of confidence,
close to Thy Open Heart,
hidden in this, the Sacrament of Thy Love.

Through the Sorrowful and Immaculate
Heart of Mary,
our Advocate and the Mediatrix of All Graces,
pour forth upon all the priests of Thy Church
that torrent of mercy that ever flows
from Thy pierced side:
to purify and heal them,
to refresh and sanctify them,
and, at the hour of their death,
to make them worthy of joining Thee
before the Father in the heavenly sanctuary
beyond the veil (Hb 6:19)
where Thou art always living
to make intercession
for us (Hb 7:25). Amen.

We end with the threefold invocation:

Eucharistic Face of Jesus, sanctify Thy priests!

On Thursdays and Sundays, we have prolonged adoration, beginning in the morning after Holy Mass, and then resumed after None until Vespers. Also on Thursdays and Sundays we have Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at the end of exposition. We will expand our hours of adoration as God gives us growth.

Supper and Compline

Supper is a simple affair: soup with bread and cheese, or oatmeal, or a salad with bread and cheese. Most evenings there is a steaming pot of herbal tea . . . what the French call une infusion, but on Sundays and feasts there is a glass of wine. After kitchen clean-up and dishes, we have a short recreation, and then Compline so as to be in our cells for the night by 9:00. Compline is sung in Latin as given in the Antiphonale Monasticum.

The days are full and we are in peace. Per singulos dies benedicimus te; et laudamus nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi. Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire.

If the way of life I've described appeals to you or corresponds to an inner call, write to us:

Benedictine Monks
Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle
c/o 1744 South Xanthus Avenue
Tulsa, OK 74104


Ut sanaret filium ejus

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Passing On the Tradition

One of the best things about being a very small monastic household is the freedom to make use of the opportunities for passing on the tradition that present themselves in the course of our prayer and our work. This morning, for example, I was able to say a few words about the significance of today's Benedictus Antiphon, right after we sang it at Lauds. Given that we have daily Mass in the Extraordinary Form, today is the 20th Sunday After Pentecost, and the Gospel is John 4:46-53. The Benedictus Antiphon is drawn from it.

He came again therefore into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain ruler, whose son was sick at Capharnaum. He having heard that Jesus was come from Judea into Galilee, sent to him and prayed him to come down and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. Jesus therefore said to him: Unless you see signs and wonders, you believe not. The ruler saith to him: Lord, come down before that my son die. Jesus saith to him: Go thy way. Thy son liveth. The man believed the word which Jesus said to him and went his way. And as he was going down, his servants met him: and they brought word, saying, that his son lived. He asked therefore of them the hour wherein he grew better. And they said to him: Yesterday at the seventh hour, the fever left him. The father therefore knew that it was at the same hour that Jesus said to him: Thy son liveth. And himself believed, and his whole house.

Benedictus Antiphon

Antiphonale Monasticum, p. 611.

Erat quidam regulus
cuius filius infirmabatur Capharnaum.
Hic cum audisset, quod Iesus veniret in Galilaeam,
rogabat eum, ut sanaret filium ejus.

The Name of Jesus

The musical summit of the antiphon is over the Most Holy Name of Jesus: The Lord God saves, the Lord God heals, the Lord God makes whole. Everything, then, in the antiphon moves upward to the Name of Jesus or flows therefrom.

Place and Time

The words Capharnaum, and Galilaeam even more so, are given a rich musical treatment, suggesting the importance of place in the economy of the Incarnation. Jesus, our Saving God, is not indifferent to what some would dismiss as mere mundane considerations: place and time. The wonder of the Incarnation lies, precisely, in this: that our God comes to meet each of us in a given place, one that can be circumscribed geographically and pinpointed on a map; at a given moment in time. This given moment on the calendars and clocks of our chronos becomes the moment of the Divine Inbreaking, God's moment, His kairos.

The Magnificat Antiphon

Antiphonale Monasticum, p. 612.

The ruler intercedes with Jesus for his sick son: rogabat eum, ut sanaret filium eius. Only at the Magnificat Antiphon of Second Vespers do we hear the wondrous outcome of the ruler's supplication. "The father therefore knew that it was at the same hour that Jesus said to him: Thy son liveth. And himself believed, and his whole house." Again, the Name of Jesus is given a musical treatment that makes it the heart and centre of the whole antiphon.

The Sacramental Quality of Neums

I explained to my brothers this morning that every neum has a "sacramental" quality. It is, as Saint Gertrude the Great experienced, a vehicle of grace both for the one who sings it and the one who hears it. Inspired by the Holy Ghost, the Church clothes the Word of God in the sacred vesture of her chant. Like a garment that emphasizes and prolongs the movement of a dancer's body, so does the chant emphasize and prolong the movement of the Word in medio ecclesiae.

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In yesterday's general audience, our extraordinarily "Benedictine" Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, presented the figure of Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny. For the nascent Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, this teaching represents a foundational element. Pope Benedict XVI is, in a very real way, the father of our little monastery. The translation appeared on Zenit.

The characteristic theological piety of Peter and of the Cluniac Order: wholly set to the contemplation of the glorious face (gloriosa facies) of Christ, finding there the reasons for that ardent joy that marked his spirit and was radiated in the liturgy of the monastery.

The Beauty of the Liturgy

Dear brothers and sisters,

The figure of Peter the Venerable, which I wish to present in today's catechesis, takes us back to the famous abbey of Cluny, to its "decorum" (decor) and its "lucidity" (nitor), to use terms that recur in the Cluniac texts -- decorum and splendor-- which are admired above all in the beauty of the liturgy, the privileged path to reach God.

Holiness

Even more than these aspects, however, Peter's personality recalls the holiness of the great Cluniac abbots: At Cluny "there was not a single abbot who was not a saint," said Pope Gregory VII in 1080. Among these is Peter the Venerable, who to some degree gathers in himself all the virtues of his predecessors -- although already with him, Cluny, faced with new orders such as that of Citeaux, began to experience symptoms of crisis.

Peace

Born around 1094 in the French region of Auvergne, he entered as a child in the monastery of Sauxillanges, where he became a professed monk and then prior. He was elected abbot of Cluny in 1122, and remained in this office until his death, which occurred on Christmas Day, 1156, as he had wished. "Lover of peace," wrote his biographer, Rudolph, "he obtained peace in the glory of God on the day of peace" (Vita, I, 17; PL 189, 28).

The Habit of Forgiving

All those who knew him praised his elegant meekness, serene balance, self-control, correctness, loyalty, lucidity and special attitude in mediating. "It is in my very nature," he wrote, "to be somewhat led to indulgence; I am incited to this by my habit of forgiving. I am used to enduring and forgiving" (Ep. 192, in: "The Letters of Peter the Venerable," Harvard University Press, 1967, p. 446).

Happy With His Lot

He also said: "With those who hate peace we wish, possibly, to always be peaceful" (Ep. 100, 1.c., p. 261). And of himself, he wrote: "I am not one of those who is not happy with his lot ... whose spirit is always anxious and doubtful, and who laments that all the others are resting and he alone is working" (Ep. 182, p. 425).

Gracious and Affectionate

Of a sensitive and affectionate nature, he was able to combine love of the Lord with tenderness toward his family, particularly his mother, and his friends. He was a cultivator of friendship, especially in his meetings with his monks, who usually confided in him, certain of being received and understood. According to the testimony of his biographer, "he did not disregard or refuse anyone" (Vita, 1,3: PL 189,19); "he seemed gracious to all; in his innate goodness, he was open to all" (ibid., I,1: PL, 189, 17).

Tolerance

We could say that this holy abbot is an example also for the monks and Christians of our time, marked by a frenetic rhythm of life, where incidents of intolerance and lack of communication, division and conflicts are not rare. His witness invites us to be able to combine love of God with love of neighbor, and never tire of renewing relations of fraternity and reconciliation. In this way, in fact, Peter the Venerable behaved, finding himself guiding the monastery of Cluny in years that were not very tranquil for several external and internal reasons, succeeding in being simultaneously severe and gifted with profound humanity. He used to say: "You will be able to obtain more from a man by tolerating him, than by irritating him with complaints" (Ep. 172, 1.c., 409).

In the Midst of Many Cares

Because of his office, he had to make frequent trips to Italy, England, Germany and Spain. Forced abandonment of contemplative stillness weighed on him. He confessed: "I go from one place to another, I am anxious, disturbed, tormented, dragged here and there; my mind is turned now to my affairs, now to those of others, not without great agitation to my spirit" (Ep. 91, 1.c., p. 233). Although having to maneuver between the powers and lordships that surrounded Cluny, nevertheless, thanks to his sense of measure, his magnanimity and his realism, he succeeded in keeping his habitual tranquility. Among the personalities with whom he interacted was Bernard of Clairvaux, with whom he enjoyed a relationship of growing friendship, despite differences of temperament and perspectives. Bernard described him as an "important man, occupied in important affairs" and he greatly esteemed him (Ep. 147, ed. Scriptorium Claravallense, Milan, 1986, VI/1, pp. 658-660), whereas Peter the Venerable described Bernard as "lamp of the Church" (Ep. 164, p. 396), "strong and splendid column of the monastic order and of the whole Church" (Ep. 175, p. 418).

The Wounds of the Body of Christ

With a lively ecclesial sense, Peter the Venerable said that the affairs of Christian people should be felt in the "depth of the heart" of those who number themselves "among the members of the Body of Christ" (Ep. 164, 1.c., p. 397). And he added: "He is not nourished by Christ who does not feel the wounds of the Body of Christ," wherever these are produced (ibid.). Moreover, he showed care and solicitude even for those who were outside the Church, in particular for the Jews and Muslims: to foster knowledge of the latter he had the Quran translated. In this regard, a recent historian observed: "Amid the intransigence of the men of Medieval times, also among the greatest of them, we admire here a sublime example of the delicacy to which Christian charity leads" (J. Leclercq, Pietro il Venerabile, Jaca Book, 1991, p. 189).

Love of the Eucharist and of the Virgin Mary

Other aspects of Christian life dear to him were love of the Eucharist and devotion to the Virgin Mary. On the Most Holy Sacrament he has left us pages that are "one of the masterpieces of Eucharistic literature of all times" (ibid., p. 267), and on the Mother of God he wrote illuminating reflections, always contemplating her in close relationship with Jesus the Redeemer and his work of salvation. Suffice it to report this inspired elevation of his: "Hail, Blessed Virgin, who put malediction to flight. Hail, Mother of the Most High, spouse of the most meek Lamb. You conquered the serpent, you have crushed his head, when the God generated by you annihilated him ... Shining star of the East, who puts to flight the shadows of the West. Dawn that precedes the sun, day that ignores the night ... Pray to God born from you, so that he will absolve us from our sin and, after forgiveness, grant us grace and glory" (Carmina, Pl 189, 1018-1019).

The Radiant Face of Christ

Peter the Venerable also nourished a predilection for literary activity and he had the talent. He wrote down his reflections, persuaded of the importance of using the pen almost like a plough "to scatter on paper the seed of the Word" (Ep. 20, p. 38). Although he was not a systematic theologian, he was a great researcher of the mystery of God. His theology sinks its roots in prayer, especially the liturgy, and among the mysteries of Christ he favored the Transfiguration, in which the Resurrection is already prefigured. It was in fact he who introduced this feast at Cluny, composing a special office for it, in which is reflected the characteristic theological piety of Peter and of the Cluniac Order, wholly set to the contemplation of the glorious face (gloriosa facies) of Christ, finding there the reasons for that ardent joy that marked his spirit and was radiated in the liturgy of the monastery.

Adhering Tenaciously to Christ

Dear brothers and sisters, this holy monk is certainly a great example of monastic sanctity, nourished at the sources of the Benedictine tradition. For him, the ideal of the monk consisted in "adhering tenaciously to Christ" (Ep. 53, 1.c., p. 161), in a cloistered life marked by "monastic humility" (ibid.) and industriousness (Ep. 77, 1.c., p. 211), as well as by a climate of silent contemplation and constant praise of God. According to Peter of Cluny, the first and most important occupation of a monk is the solemn celebration of the Divine Office --"heavenly work and of all the most useful" (Statuta, I, 1026) -- to be supported with reading, meditation, personal prayer and penance observed with discretion (cf. Ep. 20, 1.c., p. 40).

The Ideal of the Monk and of Every Christian

In this way the whole of life is pervaded by profound love of God and love of others, a love that is expressed in sincere openness to one's neighbor, in forgiveness and in the pursuit of peace. By way of conclusion, we could say that if this style of life joined to daily work is, for St. Benedict, the ideal of the monk, it also concerns all of us; it can be, to a great extent, the style of life of the Christian who wants to become a genuine disciple of Christ, characterized in fact by tenacious adherence to him, by humility, by industriousness and the capacity to forgive, and by peace.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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Progress Report

Our little community life, marked by the rhythm of the Hours, by Eucharistic adoration, work, and welcoming guests, is already that of the age-old observance of the Rule of Saint Benedict. It doesn't take much to live according to the Holy Rule: an all-consuming thirst for God, zeal for the Divine Office, readiness to embrace humiliations and obedience, and charity. "And over all these put on charity" (Col 3:14).

The Work of God

I am full of thanksgiving when I see the zeal of my young brothers for this vocation, and especially for their loving solicitude for priests. To hear them speak of their desire to "adore for priests who never linger before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus," and to offer themselves for the sanctification of priests, especially for the most wounded and broken among them, is, for me, an immense joy. To see them take their place before the Most Blessed Sacrament is an even greater joy. It is all God's Work: "The Work of God." Why would one want to put anything before the "Work of God," for "He does all things well" (Mk 7:37)?

This morning at Matins: a wonderful text of Saint Gregory Nazianzen. The translation is my own.

O Excessively Speedy Kindness

All you who thirst, come to the water -- thus does Isaias exhort you -- and you who have no money, come, buy your wine and drink it, without paying a cent. O excessively speedy kindness! O easy purchase! You can buy using nothing more than your will. God even holds your heart's desire in place of the enormous cost. He thirsts that we should thirst for Him. He makes Himself the beverage of those who wish to drink. He considers it a good thing that we should ask good things of Him. His munificence and liberality are well within your reach. He is gladder to give than are others to receive.

Let us take care lest we be condemned for the smallness of our cramped souls in asking only for things that are small and not at all worthy of the Divine munificence. Blessed the one of whom Christ asks a drink a water, like that well-known Samaritan; for He will give such a one a wellspring of water soaring up for eternal life.

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A Thursday of Adoration and Reparation

For the very first time, our embryonic monastery observed the Thursday of Adoration and Reparation for Priests. Being three, we were able to prolong our adoration before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus for the sake of our brothers, His beloved priests. Our tiny oratory has become a sanctuary of adoration, and this in response to the particular mandate given us by Bishop Slattery.

Saint John Leonardi

Also today, my Benedictine confrère, Father Samuel Weber, sent me the text of the Holy Father's General Audience for the 400th anniversary of the death of Saint John Leonardi, Founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God, and patron saint of pharmacists. The whole text is worth meditating, especially in the context of the Year of the Priesthood, but the following lines went straight to my heart:

The Splendor of the Holy Face of Jesus

Saint John Leonardi's existence was always enlightened by the splendor of the "Holy Face" of Jesus, kept and venerated in the Cathedral Church of Lucca, becoming the eloquent symbol and the indisputable synthesis of the faith that animated him. Conquered by Christ like the Apostle Paul, he pointed out to his disciples, and continues to point out to all of us, the Christocentric ideal for which "it is necessary to divest oneself of every self interest and only look to the service of God," having "before the mind's eye only the honor, service and glory of Christ Jesus Crucified."

And the Maternal Face of Mary

Along with the face of Christ, he fixed his gaze on the maternal face of Mary. She whom he chose patroness of his order, was for him teacher, sister and mother, and he felt her constant protection. May the example and intercession of this "fascinating man of God" be, particularly in this Year for Priests, a call and encouragement for priests and for all Christians to live their own vocations with passion and enthusiasm.

Preparations

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Today will be filled with the final preparations for the arrival of Diego and CJ tomorrow, and Brendan on the 12th. Thanks to the amazing generosity of the monastery's "friends of the first hour" last Saturday, both houses are almost completely organized for the inauguration of community life. A few indispensable things have not arrived yet: our monastic diurnals, for example! I'm confident that all will be in readiness when the new brothers arrive.

I ask the readers of Vultus Christi to beseech Our Lady of the Cenacle, Queen of the Rosary, to order today's efforts and tomorrow's welcome sweetly and wisely, as only she can.

From the Rule of Our Holy Father, Saint Benedict
Chapter LVIII.
Of the manner of receiving Brothers to Religion.

Let not an easy entrance be granted to one who cometh newly to the reformation of his life, but, as the Apostle saith: "Try the Spirits if they be of God."191191I Joan. iv. 1. If, therefore, the newcomer persevere knocking, and continue for four or five days patiently to endure both the injuries offered to him and the difficulty made about his entrance, and persist in his petition; leave to enter shall be granted him, and he shall be in the guest Hall for a few days. Afterwards he shall be in the Novitiate, where he shall meditate, and eat, and sleep.
Let a Senior who has the address of winning souls, be appointed to watch over him narrowly and carefully, to discover whether he truly seeks God, and is eager for the Work of God, for obedience and for humiliation. Let all the rigour and austerity by which we tend towards God be laid before him.

Breaking News: The diurnals arrived this afternoon! Deo gratias.

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Praying for my Postulants

As I chanted the responsories at Matins in the pre-dawn darkness, it became clear that they, in some way, were addressed to my young brothers and to me at the onset of this week of new beginnings. This so often happens: when the liturgic Word is received humbly, just as it is given us by Mother Church, it penetrates mightily into the very core of one's here and now. The liturgy, unchanging and objective, is ever new and is always a word for today. Hodie.

Responsory I

The Lord open your hearts in His laws and commandments, and send you peace in your days, * And give you salvation and redeem you from evil. V. The Lord hear your prayers and be at one with you, and never forsake you in time of trouble. And give.

This is my prayer for the first postulants of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. "The Lord open your hearts, and send you peace in your days, and give you salvation, and redeem you from evil, and hear your prayers, and be at one with you, and never forsake you in time of trouble." The liturgy is the complete prayer given us by the Holy Ghost who comes to help us in our infirmity, for we know not how to pray as we ought. See Romans 8:26.

Responsory II

The Lord hear your prayers and be at one with you, and never forsake you in time of trouble; * May the Lord our God be gracious unto you. V. And give you all a heart to serve Him and do His will with a good courage and a willing mind. May the Lord.

And this is what I pray for Diego, and CJ, and now Brendan: "May the Lord give you all a heart to serve Him and do His will with a good courage and a willing mind. Monastic life requires men of valour.

Responsory III

Our enemies are gathered together, and do boast in their strength; destroy their might, O Lord, and scatter them, * That they may know that there is none other that fighteth for us, but only Thou, O God. V. Scatter them abroad among the people, and put them down, O Lord, our defence. That they.

Finally, we mustn't think, even for a moment, that we will be spared the messiness of spiritual combat and struggles. "Our enemies are gathered together, and do boast in their strength." And yet, fear is useless; confidence in the triumphant love of Christ withstands every spiritual attack. "If God be for us, who is against us?" Rom 8:31). "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Monastic Workday A Grand Success

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Icon in the Refectory of the Provisional Monastery in Tulsa: left to right, Holy Father Saint Benedict, the Holy Mother of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Joseph. Photo by Reverend Father Jeffrey Keyes.

A Fruitful Day

Our first monastic workday was a grand success. It began at 9:00 a.m. with the Mass of the feast of Blessed Columba Marmion and ended late in the afternoon. The second house, called "Subiaco" to distinguish it from "The Cenacle," is now prepared to receive the first brothers for the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Heartfelt Thanks

My heartfelt thanks to: Dan and Sandy Pickett, Dee Schneider, Glenna Craig, Sheila Michie, Greg and Lisa Stice, Mariah Stice, Katie Stice, and Josh Stice. I ask Our Lord to reward them a hundredfold for their amazing generosity and hard work.

Be It Ever So Humble

As things stand now, the little provisional monastery is in two neighboring houses on South Xanthus Avenue. In "The Cenacle" you will find the chapel, parlor, refectory, kitchen, room for spiritual direction and Confessions, and one monastic cell. In "Subiaco" you will find a little study area, three monastic cells, and the laundry. All is ready, then, for a little family of four!

A New Day

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In The Declarations of the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict for the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, we read:

36. The Master of Novices will ensure that postulants and novices are given a thorough grounding in the Benedictine way of life, and receive an adequate intellectual, moral, and spiritual formation. Among the Benedictine authors presented and studied, the writings of Blessed Columba Marmion will hold a place of choice.

Declarations on the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict are to monastic families what Constitutions would be to modern congregations. They are simply a series of clarifications on how the Holy Rule is lived and applied in the concrete circumstances of a given monastic family.

Yes, Blessed Abbot Columba Marmion will become a friend and father to those who, "seeking God truly," will present themselves as postulants for Tulsa's new Benedictine monastery.

Today is our first "Work Day." Friends of the monastery, many of them Spiritual Mothers of Priests, will gather for Holy Mass at 9:00, followed by a concerted effort to get both little houses ready for the arrival of Diego and CJ on Tuesday.

Until the new monastery is constructed, we will be living in two little rented houses in a residential neighborhood in midtown Tulsa. Not the ideal monastic situation . . . but one that invites us to practice the little way of Saint Thérèse and the humble virtues of the hidden life of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Nazareth.

Beginning with Mary

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Novena to Our Lady of the Rosary and of the Cenacle
September 29 to October 7, 2009


I invite the kind readers of Vultus Christi to join me in praying this novena in preparation for the arrival of CJ and Diego who will present themselves as postulants for the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle on the eve of the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Immaculate Virgin Mary,
Our Lady of the Rosary,
Queen of the Cenacle,
and Mother of all who unite themselves
to your Immaculate Heart
in a prayer that is persevering and full of confidence,
look graciously upon the beginnings of this little monastery
dedicated to you,
and set apart for the adoration of your Divine Son,
hidden in the Sacrament of His Love.

Intercede for the men whom you have chosen
to live in the radiance of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus,
and to abide close to His Open Heart
together with you and with Saint John the Beloved Disciple.
Let nothing discourage them
as, day by day, they seek the Face of your Son,
and through Him offer themselves to the Father,
by the grace of the Holy Spirit,
for the healing and sanctification of priests.

Keep them humble and joyful in fidelity to the wisdom of Saint Benedict
and to the teachings of his Holy Rule.
Fill their dwelling with the sweet fragrance of your virginizing presence
so that all who enter there
may experience the happiness of the pure in heart
and the joy of those whose sins have been blotted out
in the Blood of the Lamb.

Be to them a Mother of Perpetual Help,
ready at every moment to assist them in their needs,
both spiritual and material,
so that with you, they may magnify the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
Whose mercy is from age to age on those who fear Him,
and Who, even in our day, does wonders for His lowly servants. Amen.

Three Hail Marys.

Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for them.
Our Lady of the Cenacle, pray for them.
Mediatrix of all graces, pray for them.

Saint Michael and all Angels, pray for them.
Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, pray for them.
Blessed Columba Marmion, pray for them.

Quaerite faciem eius semper

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Seek His Face Evermore

My plan was to write a little commentary on the splendid liturgical texts of this Ember Friday, but, as so often happens, the day was very full and I hadn't a minute to sit at my desk. Just a wee word then, at this late hour, about today's Introit, Laetetur cor.

Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord:
seek ye the Lord and be strengthened:
seek His Face evermore.
V. Give glory to the Lord, and call upon His Name:
declare His deeds among the Gentiles. (Ps 104: 3, 4, 1)

The Joy That Shines on the Face of Christ

One who, as Saint Benedict says, "seeks God truly," will know the joy that never grows old, the joy that never loses its savour, the joy that neither induces ennui nor dulls the spirit. One who seeks God truly -- even, no, especially, if that search begins by weeping over His feet and kissing them -- will be directed by the Holy Spirit to discover the joy that shines upon the Face of Christ. This is the joy of which He said on the before He suffered: "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled." (Jn 15:11).

From Virtue to Virtue

One who "seeks God truly" will grow stronger as the search intensifies. The search for God is not wearisome. It doesn't deplete the energies of the soul; it refreshes them and increases them. As the psalmist says, "they shall go from virtue to virtue" (Ps 83:8).

The last phrase of the Introit is unforgettable, especially when one sings it in its Second Mode chant melody, or hears it sung: quaerite faciem eius semper. This is the great imperative of the monastic journey.

The Monastic Vocation

Commenting on today's liturgy, Blessed Ildefonso Schuster writes:

Saint Benedict, in his Regula Monachorum, makes this searching after God the watchword of his foundation, the one condition by which is to be judged the vocation of aspirants to the religious life. He regards neither the birth nor the age, nor the acquirements of the novice; his is concerned only in discerning his spirit, as to whether he is, in reality, seeking after God, and if in so doing he is following the same road of humility and obedience as was marked out by Christ. There is no other true road but this one.

Postulants on the Horizon

In a fortnight I will be welcoming the first two postulants to the spiritual chantier (construction site) of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. They will not find anything in the way of majestic buildings with long silent cloisters. They will not find a well-practiced choir of seasoned monks. They will find poverty, littleness, weakness and, undoubtedly, struggles. But if they "seek God truly," they will find joy. That, I can guarantee.

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The foundation of the Benedictine Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle in the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma is a timely response to the Year of the Priesthood. The following notes present something of the vision for this new monastery under the Rule of Saint Benedict. Please address all inquiries to Father Prior at the address given below.

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR LIFE IN ABUNDANCE

"I came," says Our Lord Jesus, "that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)

-- A LIFE THAT IS MONASTIC

"One thing is needful." (Luke 10:42)

• under the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict and the guidance of the Father of the monastery.
• in the school of the service of the Lord.
• in obedience, the love of silence, and humility.
• in the joy of the Holy Spirit.

-- A LIFE THAT IS EUCHARISTIC AND SACERDOTAL

"I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." (Luke 22:15)
"And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth." (John 17:19)

• the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: the sun illuminating each day.
• daily prolonged adoration, on behalf of all priests, before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, close to His Open Heart.
• in reparation for offenses committed against the Most Blessed Sacrament, and for the indifference of those who forsake Him, Who waits for us in the tabernacles of the world.
• in thanksgiving for the mercies that ever flow from the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus.

-- A LIFE THAT IS OFFERED AND CONSECRATED

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." (Romans 12:1)

• for the sanctification of priests and the spiritual renewal of the clergy in the whole Church.
• in reparation for the sins that disfigure the Face of Christ the Priest.
• in the sacrificial love that is inseparable from the gift and mystery of the priesthood.

-- A LITURGICAL LIFE

"I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; in the presence of the angels I sing your praise." (Psalm 137:1)
"O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." (Psalm 28:2)
"Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God." (Hebrews 13:15)

• Holy Mass and the Divine Office celebrated in Gregorian Chant.
• bringing to the traditional forms of the sacred liturgy a diligence and beauty worthy of the Holy Mysteries.

-- A LIFE WITH OUR LADY, THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

"When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, 'Woman, behold your son!' Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home." (John 19:26-27)

• following in the footsteps of Saint John the Apostle who, obedient to the word of Jesus crucified, took Mary into his home and into the intimacy of his priestly heart.
• communitarian and personal consecration to the Virgin Mary.
• commemoration of the Mother of God at all the liturgical Hours.
• Holy Rosary daily.

-- A LIFE THAT IS ECCLESIAL AND APOSTOLIC

"In the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations." (Ephesians 3:21)

• heeding the Supreme Pontiff, our Holy Father, the Successor of Peter.
• in filial obedience to the Bishop of the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
• in generous service of the clergy by means of hospitality given to priests, deacons, and seminarians for days of silence and adoration, for retreats, and for spiritual direction.
• promoting Eucharistic adoration in the diocese of Tulsa.
• direction of the movement for spiritual motherhood benefiting priests.

-- A LIFE OF WORK

"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord, and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one." (1 Corinthians 11:4-7)

• hospitality to priests, deacons, and seminarians.
• spiritual care and support of the clergy.
• both manual and intellectual work, according to the abilities and gifts of each one.

-- A LIFE THAT INCORPORATES DIVERSE EXPRESSIONS WITHIN A SINGLE FAMILY

"If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.'" (1 Corinthians 11:19-21).

• choir monks dedicated to the integral service of the liturgy and, normally, destined for the priesthood.
• monks not destined for the priesthood who, imitating Saint Joseph, dedicate themselves to the ceaseless prayer of the heart in the daily tasks entrusted to them.

• diocesan priests, sacerdotal Oblates of the monastery, living its charism and sustained by the monastic community in the midst of their pastoral labors. The sacerdotal Oblates, while remaining incardinated in their respective dioceses, will live according to the Statutes approved by the Bishop of Tulsa.

• deacons and laymen, single and married: secular Oblates of the monastery.
• women Oblates dedicated as Spiritual Mothers for Priests, following the initiative of the letter of 7 December 2007 of His Eminence, Claudio Cardinal Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation Pro Clericis.
The monastery offers these women a suitable initial and ongoing spiritual formation.

-- ADORERS OF THE EUCHARISTIC FACE OF JESUS

"You have said, 'Seek my Face.' My heart says to You, 'Your Face, O Lord, do I seek.' Hide not your Face from me." (Psalm 26:8-9).
"It is the God who said, 'Let light shine out of the darkness,' who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the Face of Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6).

• all participate daily in adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament in the monastery, or for priest, deacon, and lay oblates, in their parishes

-- MONASTIC FORMATION

For Catholic men between the ages of 18 and 35.
Postulancy: 3-6 months
Novitiate: 2 years
Temporary Vows: 3 years
Monastic Consecration after 5 years

CONTACT:

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, O.S.B., Prior
1132 East 21st Street
Tulsa, OK 74114, U.S.A.

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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.

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.

Donations for Silverstream Priory

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