Recently in Oblates Category

Oblation on July 11th

| | Comments (1)

Feast of Saint Benedict, 11 July 2013.jpg

On July 11th, the feast of our glorious father Saint Benedict, Robin Grace Immaculata Pudewa made her Oblation here, becoming the third professed Oblate of Silverstream Priory. Married to Andrew, and the mother of seven children, Robin lives near Hulbert, Oklahoma, not far from the Abbey of Clear Creek. Her Oblate name, Immaculata, was given her in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes to whom she has a particular devotion. The photo shows the little Silverstream family surrounding our new Oblate: from left to right: Hilda Benilda, Dom Benedict, Mikkel (Denmark), Father Prior, Brother Alex, Robin Grace Immaculata Pudewa, Don Pierre, Michaël (The Netherlands). Brother James (Ireland) took the photo.

D. Prior and Robin Pudewa 12-07-2013.jpg

The Gatehouse, our priory bookshop, has become a quite a centre of devotion to Jesus, King of Love. Numerous people, visiting our bookshop, have also come to know of Mother Yvonne-Aimée de Jésus and have experienced her intercession.

The Two Michaels.jpg

Spending time with us this summer are The Two Michaels: Michaël Peters from The Netherlands, and Mikkel Pedersen from Denmark.

Summer 2013.jpg

And here, above, is our little family at the moment, this time including postulant Brother James, a native of County Meath.

Father Prior and RGI Pudewa, 11 July 2013.jpg

Father Prior and our new Oblate.

Our Oblates: One Year Later

| | Comments (0)

s1benedi.jpg

One year ago today, on the the feast of Saints Maurus and Placid, I received three men and four women into the year of noviceship that has prepared them to become Oblates of our monastery. I also received two other men and one other woman in February. Investiture in the black Benedictine scapular and the imposition of a new name, placing the novice under the protection of a particular saint, marked the beginning of the noviceship. Following the lesson from Ecclesiasticus 2:1-21, I addressed them in these words, which I am happy to share again with the readers of Vultus Christi, one year later:

Newness of Life

My dear sons and daughters, a novice is one who is embarking on newness of life. My first word to you today, then, is an invitation to throw yourselves into the embrace of the One who says, "Behold, I make all things new" (Ap 21:5), our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Likeness of the Son

One comes to the monastic life, be it as a monk or as an Oblate living in the world, in order to be refashioned in the likeness of the Beloved Son in whose image we were created. "But we all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor 3:18).

Spiritual Childhood

One comes to the monastic life, be it as a monk or as an Oblate living in the world, to be made new again in the newness of the grace of Baptism; one comes to recover the innocence lost by sin, and to take one's first steps in the path of spiritual childhood, mindful of the word of the Lord: "Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 18:3).

Leaving Former Things Behind

One comes to the monastic life, be it as a monk or as an Oblate living in the world, desiring to leave behind those former things that made our lives burdensome to ourselves and to others, the things that clouded our spiritual vision, stopped up the ears of our hearts, and so congested our spiritual nostrils that we could barely, if at all, catch a whiff of what Saint Paul calls "the good fragrance of Christ unto God" (1 Cor 2:15).

A New Heart and a New Spirit

One comes to the monastic life, be it as a monk or as an Oblate living in the world, because one has grown weary of what is old, and stale, and lifeless, and because one believes in the promise of Him who says, through the mouth of His prophet, "And I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh" (Ex 36:26).

The Sweet Yoke of Christ

One comes to the monastic life, be it as a monk or as an Oblate living the world, because one has heard the invitation of the Heart of Jesus, "Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light" (Mt 11:28-30).

Christ's Oblation to the Father

One comes to the monastic life, be it as a monk or as an Oblate living the world, because Jesus has drawn one's soul into the upward movement of His oblation to the Father. "And I," says Our Lord, "if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself" (Jn 12:32). Magnetized by the Cross and by the altar, one is compelled by the Holy Ghost to enter into the immolation of the Lamb. "Christ our Pasch is sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the feast" (1 Cor 5:6-7) by presenting "our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, our reasonable service" (Rom 12:1), that is, our mystic liturgy patterned after what God has revealed through His Word, our "adoration in spirit and in truth" (Jn 4:23).

In All of Life

The immolation of the Benedictine monk or Oblate, his participation in the victimhood of the Lamb, begins at the altar and returns to the altar, but it is played out in the most ordinary circumstances of daily life. For a monk, this encompasses his relationship to the Father of the monastery and to his brethren. For an Oblate, it encompasses one's relationship to one's spouse, one's children, one's grandchildren, and one's neighbours. It encompasses one's relationship to the guest who arrives announced or unannounced; one's relationship to the sick, the weak, and those in need of consolation, to little children to the elderly, the lonely and the poor. Finally, it encompasses the context of one's profession, employment, or state of life.

Never Despairing of the Mercy of God

There is nothing that cannot be brought to the altar. There is nothing that cannot be united to Christ's oblation. There are no circumstances in which we, monks and Oblates, are dispensed from owning our weaknesses, being humbled by our frailty, and uniting our wounds to the wounds, the weakness, and the frailty of the immolated Lamb -- and all of this, while never despairing of the mercy of God. This goes to the heart of what it means to be a Benedictine Oblate.

To be sure, one will also want to pray, insofar as possible, some parts of the Divine Office, the Opus Dei in communion with the choral prayer of the monks. One will want to open the ear of one's heart to the Word of God in lectio divina. One will want to adore the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, concealed and revealed in the Sacrament of His Love. One will want to cultivate a knowledge and holy enthusiasm for the Sacred Liturgy of the Church, for her Chant, her rites, her feasts, her fasts, and her seasons. In a word, one will want to submit to gentle yoke of the Rule of Saint Benedict, by receiving its wisdom, and by allowing it to shape the way one journeys through life, seeking God.

024.JPG

Left to right: Reverend Deacon Greg Stice, received as Br Stephen (St Stephen, Protomartyr); Dee Schneider, received as Sr Francesca (St Francesca of Rome); Neal Harton, received as Br Michael (St Michael the Archangel); Father Prior; Muffie Harton, received as Sr Joanna (St John Evangelist); Marion Williams, received as Sr Gertrud (St Gertrude the Great); Glenna Craig, received as Sr Placida (St Placid, Disciple of St Benedict).

A Plan for the Noviceship

With all of this in mind, I am proposing a plan of study, reflection, and prayer in twelve points that will guide you through this year of your noviceship, and prepare you, by God's grace, for your Oblation in a year's time. Each of the twelve points corresponds to a month of your noviceship.

1. Listening With the Ear of the Heart

The first point has to do with learning to listen to the voice of God, to the gentle murmurings of the Holy Ghost, with the ear of your heart. Read and meditate the Prologue of the Holy Rule. In Luke 1:26-38 contemplate the Blessed Virgin Mary, the model of all fruitful listening. So well did Our Lady listen to the Word of God, that she conceived the Word in her virginal womb, and offered Him to the Father, and to us.

2. Obedience

The second point has to do with the practice of obedience, with learning to say "Yes" to God in all the circumstances of life, and with learning to say "No" to those things that pollute our minds, chill our hearts, and turn us aside from the royal way of the Cross, taken by Jesus before us. Read and meditate Philippians 2:5-15 and Chapter 5 of the Holy Rule.

3. Silence

The third point has to do with cultivating in us and around us the spirit of silence. It has to do with fasting from every form of speech that is self-serving, insincere, unkind, untrue, or lacking in mercy. It has to do with knowing how to abide in silence for God's sake, content to listen, to say nothing, to seek Him in faith, to desire Him with an irrepressible hope, and to cleave to Him in love. It has to do with moderation in the use of the tools of social communication, lest one become dependent on sounds and sights that distract us from The One Thing Necessary. For this you will want to meditate on Luke 10:38-42 and Chapter 6 of the Holy Rule.

4. Humility

The fourth point has to do with the practice of humility, with acknowledging and owning one's weaknesses, one's failures, and one's sins. It has to do with a willingness to learn from others who are wiser than ourselves, especially from the teachings of the Church, the writings of the saints, and from the whole monastic tradition. For this you will want to meditate Ecclesiasticus 2, Hebrews 11 and Chapter 7 of the Holy Rule.

5. The Divine Office

The fifth point has to do with the Divine Office and the Sacred Liturgy as a whole. You will apply yourself, before all else, to a sapiential knowledge of the Psalms. You will learn to find in them the very prayer inspired by the Holy Ghost and entrusted to Israel in view of the day when it would become the prayer of Jesus to the Father, the prayer that He bequeathed to His Bride, the Church. You will want meditate Christ in the Psalms by Father Patrick Reardon (Conciliar Press), The Spirit of the Liturgy by Pope Benedict XVI, and Chapters 19 and 20 of the Holy Rule.

6. Discipline and Penitence

The sixth point has to do with understanding the value of discipline and penitence, not as ends in themselves, still less as punitive practices, but as a means of growing in freedom of heart, and as the application of tried and tested spiritual remedies to the sin-sick soul. For this you will want to read the Seven Penitential Psalms (6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129 and 142) and Chapters 23 through 30 of the Holy Rule.

7. Created Things

The seventh point has to do the practice of a responsible stewardship of material things. It has to so also with reverence for the good things created by God, seeing in all things matter with Eucharistic potential, matter to be lifted up and returned to the Father of lights from all good gifts descend. For this you will want to meditate Chapters 31 through 34 of the Holy Rule.

8. Hospitality

The eighth point has to do with gentleness, compassion and mercy, and with the recognition of the Face of Christ in the sick, in the old, in children, and in guests. It has to do also with the Benedictine tradition of hospitality by which all guests are welcomed as Christ Himself. For this you will want to meditate Chapters 36, 37, and 53 of the Holy Rule.

9. The Communion of the Saints

The ninth point has to do with the friendship of the saints who surround us like "a great cloud of witnesses over our head" (Heb 12:1), and who intercede for us in the glory of heaven. Consider Chapter 14 of the Holy Rule. Acquaint yourselves with the lives of Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, Saint Henry the Emperor and Saint Francesca of Rome, Saint Gertrude, Mother Mectilde de Bar, Blessed Columba Marmion, your patron saints as Oblates, and the other saints of our Benedictine family.

10. The Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar

The tenth point has to do with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, for this is the distinctive charism of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. It has to do with the quality and generosity of your response to Our Lord who waits for you in the Sacrament of His Love, who offers you His friendship, and who invites you to make reparation for those who do not believe in Him, do not hope in Him, do not love Him, and for those who have grown cold and indifferent to the mystery of His real presence in the tabernacles of our churches. For this you will want to meditate the teachings of Blessed John Paul II in Ecclesia de Eucharistia and in Mane Nobiscum Domine, the translated texts of Mother Mectilde de Bar, my own conference on Eucharistic Adoration given at Adoratio 2011 in Rome, and Chapter 52 of the Holy Rule.

11. The Instruments of Good Works

The eleventh point will be a summary of all the rest. You will meditate Chapter 4 of the Holy Rule, the Instruments of Good Works, dwelling on the most important one of all: Never to despair of God's Mercy.

12. A Benedictine Ethos in All of Life

The twelfth and last point will be the ethos of Benedictine life that you, as Oblates, will want to bring into every area of your lives. For this you will want to meditate Chapters 72 and 73 of the Holy Rule.

The Bond of the Oblation

I have spoken to you today, my dear sons and daughters, as a father who loves you in Christ and who desires, above all else, that you may, as Saint Benedict says, "run, with expanded hearts in the way of God's commandments, with an unspeakable sweetness of love." The bond that your Oblation will establish between yourselves and us will be, I am certain, a consolation here on earth, and a cause of thanksgiving and praise forever in heaven.

Advent Letter to Our Oblates

| | Comments (2)

MonuStgoSgdaFamilia.jpg

I began writing this on Saturday morning, but found time to complete it only this morning. Although this Advent letter is addressed to my own little community and to our beloved Oblates, readers of Vultus Christi may find in it something helpful for their own entry into the mystery of Advent.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

My dear sons and daughters,

With the holy season of Advent only hours away, I want to share with each one of you a way to enter deeply into its mystery and its grace this year. As I prayed last night before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, it seemed to me that He was inviting me -- and us -- to receive three particular graces this Advent: adoration, peace, and silence. If I use the Latin words to describe these graces -- adoratio, pax, and taciturnitas -- the first letters of the three words form an acrostic: APT. The word apt was understood in ages past to mean ready or prepared. You see, then, that the word has a special significance for this time of Advent.

Our institute will be under the singular protection of the Holy Family, especially of the great Saint Joseph, who, after the Blessed Virgin Mary, was the first adorer of the Son of God on earth; we consider him as the first and principal protector of our institute and as the one who directs and guides it. (Catherine-Mectilde de Bar,1614-1698)

With the Holy Family

I would further associate each of these three graces with one of the persons of the Holy Family. Adoration relates to Jesus; peace to Mary; and silence to Joseph. Spend this Advent in the company of the Holy Family, asking them to make us holy families and, all of us together, one holy family of monks and oblates, a family apt to receive the Lord and welcome Him in His threefold advent.

The Three Advents

The first advent is His descent into the Virgin's womb and His birth at Bethlehem. The second advent is His descent upon the altar in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, His descent into our hearts by Holy Communion, and His presence in the tabernacle where He abides under the lowly appearance of bread: hidden, humble, and silent. The third advent is His return in glory at the end of time, when He will judge the world, and summon all the living members of His Mystical Body into everlasting glory with Himself.

Adoratio: Jesus

Adoration is the homage of love that belongs to God alone. In the old dispensation the one adoring remained at an infinite distance from the thrice-holy God. What a tremendous and fearful thing it was, to adore the Divine Majesty with nothing and no one to bridge the infinite chasm separating the creature from the Creator!

The Bridge of the Incarnation

When the Word, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, His adorable flesh and blood became a two-way bridge linking God to man, and man to God. Thus did God draw near to man, so that man might draw near to God. Even more, God passed over into the family of men so that men might pass over into the family of God, that is, the Most Holy Trinity.

The Friendship of God

To Moses God deigned to grant a mysterious and special friendship. God spoke to Moses face to face as a man is wont to speak to his friend (Exodus 33:11) . God's intimate friendship with Moses was a figure of the divine friendship that, in Jesus Christ, would be offered, and is offered, to all men and women.

Adorers in Spirit and in Truth

God, befriending man in Jesus Christ, remains all-holy, all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere present. The Divine Majesty veiled in human flesh remains ineffable, infinite, and incomprehensible. The glory of God reflected on the face of Jesus Christ remains the uncreated light from which the sun, the moon, and the stars receive their pale created brightness. One cannot approach Jesus Christ without adoring Him, and one cannot adore Him without being drawn into the radiance of His Face and the fire of His Heart. Those who adore Jesus Christ become the friends of God; and those who are the friends of Jesus Christ become the adorers whom the Father seeks, adorers in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

1annunc3.jpg

The very same Jesus Christ who was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost; who remained hidden for nine months in the enclosure of the Virgin's womb; who was born of her at Bethlehem; who was suckled at her breast; who found refuge in Egypt; labored in Nazareth; preached in Galilee; suffered bitterly, died nailed to the wood of the cross, and rose from the dead in Jerusalem; ascended from the Mount of Olives; and will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead -- this same Jesus Christ -- is present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Jesus Christ, true God, infinitely worthy of our adoration, offers His friendship to those who adore Him, and reveals the glory of His divinity to those who become His friends.

Jesus Waits

Practically speaking, Advent is a time to enter resolutely, generously, and deeply into adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Hidden in the tabernacle or exposed in the monstrance, Jesus waits for the arrival of His adorers and of His friends. To those who throw themselves into the embrace of His humanity, He communicates the fire of His divinity; and to those who cast themselves into the fire of His divinity, He opens the embrace of His humanity.

Pax: Mary

There was never moment when the soul of the Blessed Virgin Mary was not established in peace. Her Immaculate Heart is a haven of peace for poor sinners, a refuge from the attacks of the enemy who seeks to destroy all peace in our souls and on the face of the earth. In the Vespers hymn for feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Ave Maris Stella, we ask Our Blessed Lady to establish us in peace: funda nos in pace. The closer we are to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the closer we are to peace, that is, the absence of sin.

Sin Destroys Peace

Sin is what disturbs true peace; sin is what destroys peace. If you would have peace, avoid sin, and should you fall into sin, confess it without delay, so that peace may be restored to your soul. Mary, being sinless from the first instant of her conception, is, of all creatures, the most peaceful. She is utterly tranquil and perfectly serene.

cuoreimmacolato2.jpg

The Sanctuary of Our Lady's Heart

God created the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be the single most peaceful place in the universe. Mary is the living temple prepared by God for God; her Heart is a sanctuary untouched by the violence and wickedness of a world seduced by Satan. Even when, as a mother full of pity for her wayward children, Mary presses sinners to her Heart, nothing of sin's contagion taints her. The Immaculate is not soiled by the filth of her fallen children, even as she stoops to lift us out of the mire of our miseries.

If you would be apt for the advent of the Lord, seek peace where it is to be found: in the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God. The closer you are to Mary, the more will you experience a peace that the world cannot give. Mary will teach you to discern the things that make for peace and avoid those that threaten to destroy it.

The peace of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is not diminished by suffering; it flourishes in the midst of thorns. The old Benedictine motif depicting the word PAX surrounded by a crown of thorns -- pax inter spinas -- is a kind of monogram of the Heart of the Mother of God. Did she not appear at Fatima with her Immaculate Heart surrounded by thorns?

The inviolable peace of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was purchased at a great price, that is, with the Precious Blood of her Son, the immolated Lamb. If, in making our way to the sanctuary of the maternal Heart of Mary, we must pass through the thorns that encircle it, it is so that we might be associated with the redeeming Passion of her Son, and so that a few drops of our blood might be mingled with the torrent of that flood so copiously from His head, His hands, His feet, and His side.

The Rosary

Those of you who have come to love the rosary know that it produces peace in the soul of one who perseveres in praying it. The rosary leads one directly into the refuge of Mary's sinless heart, into a sanctuary of peace that cannot be threatened, troubled, or assailed by powers visible or invisible. Peace, being the absence of sin, is rightly in the giving of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. If you pray her rosary, she will give you her peace.

St Joseph with Child.jpeg

Taciturnitas: Joseph

It is unfortunate that the English word taciturn is associated with brooding, moody characters. In the Rule of Saint Benedict, taciturnity -- the habit of using words sparingly and of cherishing silence -- is a sign of maturity, humility, and wisdom. These are the very traits that made Saint Joseph so suitable a spouse for the Virgin Mary.

Joseph the Listener

Saint Joseph, being a man of few words, was a great listener. He listened to the sounds around him; he listened intently to those whom he loved. Above all, he listened to God: to the God who spoke to him in the reading of the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, but also to the God who spoke to him in events, in circumstances, in dreams, and in the apparent contradictions of life. The ear of Saint Joseph's heart was ever attentive to the gentle whisper of God, who, as the prophet Elijah learned, comes to us not in the earthquake, and not in the fire, but in the whistling of a gentle air.

And [the Angel of the Lord] said to him: Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord: and behold the Lord passeth, and a great and strong wind before the Lord over throwing the mountains, and breaking the rocks in pieces: the Lord is not in the wind, and after the wind an earthquake: the Lord is not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire: the Lord is not in the fire, and after the fire a whistling of a gentle air. (3 Kings 19:11-12)

Conversation

Silence makes listening possible. Without silence one risks missing the humble, quiet, and unobtrusive passage of God. How, then, does one arrive at such a silence as to be able to hear the voice of God in all of life? We must begin by eliminating from our conversations all that is strident, critical, and negative. The amount of bitter criticism and negative haranguing that one can hear in pious circles is extraordinary. Such conversation causes the Holy Ghost to fall silent and grieves our Guardian Angels, who know, all too well, the nefarious consequences of it.

The quality of Benedictine taciturnitas is not only the absence of speech; it is the quality of what is spoken. Let our words, then, be unfailingly kind, measured, gentle, and encouraging. In conversation, seek to build up rather than to tear down or, as Saint Paul says:

For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline, think on these things. The things which you have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, these do ye, and the God of peace shall be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Adoration, Peace, and Silence

These, then, are the good things that we are to seek and to practice during this Advent 2012. If we adore Jesus present in the Sacrament of His Love; if we seek peace in the company of the Virgin Mother, by remaining close to her Heart; if, with Saint Joseph, we practice the virtue of a wholesome and holy silence, we will be apt to welcome the Lord at His coming.

To each one of you, I send my blessing. We are one monastic family or, if you will, a union of families persevering in prayer with the Virgin Mother of Jesus, illumined by the Face of her Son, and warmed by the fire of His Heart.

Father Prior

Christ in the Psalms

| | Comments (1)

Christ in the Psalms.JPG

Christ in the Psalms, by Patrick Henry Reardon

Sheila and Charles Michie, (Oblate Sister and Brother Thérèse and Paul), our monastery's beloved senior Oblates in Tulsa, recently wrote me and asked if I might say something about two books that I recommended to our Novice Oblates as part of their formative reading. Although it has taken me more than a fortnight to get to my desk to do this, I am very happy to do so. The two books in question belong on every Oblate's bookshelf. Today, I will present the first of the two.

The Psalter: A Benedictine's Daily Bread

The Psalter is a Benedictine's daily bread. The Psalter accompanies a monk -- and by extension, an Oblate -- through all of life, day by day, and hour by hour. The 150 Psalms of David were inspired by the Holy Ghost and entrusted to the children of Israel in view of the day when the Word made flesh would stand in need of a human language of prayer in order to express in words -- with rhythm, and inner music, and accent, and poetry -- the mystery of His ineffable dialogue with the Father from all eternity.

Prayer of Christ and of the Church

These same Psalms, that Jesus learned from Saint Joseph, from His Virgin Mother, and in the village synagogue, accompanied Him throughout His earthly life until, from the altar of the Cross, He used them as the final expression of His filial and priestly prayer to the Father. The Church, being Christ's bride and the mother of God's children by adoption, took up the Psalter, and made it her own. By means of the sacred liturgy, she teaches it to her children, from generation to generation, thus transmitting to souls, as if by a sacrament, the prayer of Christ to the Father, uttered in the Holy Ghost.

The Face of Christ in the Psalms

Behold he standeth behind our wall, looking through the windows, looking through the lattices. Behold my beloved speaketh to me: Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. (Canticle 2:9-10)

In what ways is the Psalter a kind of sacrament of Christ? First of all, the prophetic character of the psalms allows us to catch glimpses of the adorable Face of Christ in His mysteries. One cannot pray the psalms without seeing, at least from time to time, the Face of Jesus appearing, all radiant, through the lattice-work of the text.

The Voice of Christ in the Psalms

The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee. (Psalm 2:7)

Secondly, the Psalms allow us to hear the voice of Christ as He pours out His Sacred Heart to the Father in prayer. Like the Our Father, the Psalter is Our Lord's answer to the request of His disciples, "Lord, teach us how to pray."

Christ in His Mysteries

They have dug my hands and feet. They have numbered all my bones. And they have looked and stared upon me. [19] They parted my garments amongst them; and upon my vesture they cast lots. (Psalm 21:18-19)
I rose up and am still with thee. (Psalm 138:18)
God is ascended with jubilee, and the Lord with the sound of trumpet. (Psalm 46:6)

Thirdly, the Psalms reveal Christ in His mysteries. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the choice of the Psalms that the Church makes in the celebration of the seasons and festivals of the liturgical year.

The Psalms: Communion with the Prayer of Christ

Finally, the Psalms are the species under which those who pray them receive a real holy communion with Our Lord in the mystery of His prayer to the Father. To pray the psalms, especially in the Divine Office, is to receive the prayer of Christ. The holy communion o the Psalms sustains one all through life. The Psalter is, in its own way, a manna given to sustain us in the exodus of our passage from this world to the Father. At the hour of death, the same Psalms will, God willing, accompany us out of time and into eternity.

A Book to Keep Close at Hand

For all of these reasons, and for many others besides, Father Patrick Henry Reardon's book, Christ in the Psalms, is a resource for all who make the Psalms their prayer, and find their prayer in the Psalms.

Father Reardon's approach is simple, practical, and profound. He takes each of the 150 Psalms in turn, and shows us Christ in it. In one Psalm after another, he helps us recognize the features of the Face of Christ, hear His voice, and enter into His prayer.

Christ in the Psalms is not a book that one reads once and then relegates to an out of the way shelf to collect dust. It is a tool to be used daily. Monks and Oblates will refer to it again and again to deepen their participation in the prayer of the Church. Priests and deacons will find it especially helpful in the preparation of homilies. I regret that, for copyright reasons, I am unable to reproduce a sampling of the book here. Father Reardon's book is a worthwhile investment. You will want to keep it close at hand, alongside your breviary, your missal, and your Bible.

Letter to a Novice Oblate X

| | Comments (2)

Millais-christ-in-the-house-of-his-parents.jpg

Painting by John Everett Millais


On the Call to Perpetual Adoration

My dear sons and daughters,

I think that you will find the following page from In Sinu Iesu, The Journal of a Priest, helpful. I know how much each one of you long to spend time with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and I know that this desire of yours often appears to conflict with your duties at home, in the family, and at work. In the words below, Our Lord assures us that in order to adore Him perpetually it is not necessary to be, at every minute, kneeling before the altar. The essence of perpetual adoration is perpetual adhesion to the Will of God in the real circumstances of your life, and this, as an expression of love.

Cling to the Will of God

Even here in the monastery it is not possible to dedicate to actual adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament all the time that I would want to give to it. We are, in reality, living in a construction site. There are a hundred different things soliciting my attention and clamouring for my presence. I take comfort in knowing that my desire to adore Our Lord is as good as the act of abiding before His Real Presence, provided that I am clinging to His Will, and in all things, trying to respond to His Love with love.

To Adore Is to Adhere

Mother Mectilde de Bar used to say that to adore always is to adhere always to the Will of the Father. This, my dear Novice Oblates, can be done anywhere: in the kitchen, on the ranch, in the laundry, or in the classroom. There is no place that cannot become a sanctuary of perpetual adoration, provided that we remain united by faith, hope, and love to the Most Holy Trinity present in the secret of our souls.

With my loving blessing,
Father Prior

--------------------------------------------

You are always in My presence,
and when your heart is directed towards My Heart,
there is no distance between us.
My Sacramental Presence, though unique, substantial, and real,
is not the only form of My presence.
It is not possible for you to remain at every moment of the day
close to me in the Sacrament of My Love and before my altar,
but it is possible for you to adore Me at every moment
in the inner sanctuary of your soul
where I am also present
together with My Father and with the Holy Spirit.

Adhere to My will at every moment,
and you will be adoring Me at every moment.
I understand the complexities and circumstances of your life.
Be with Me by desiring to be with Me.
The desire never to leave My Sacramental Presence is,
in effect, as precious in my sight
as if you were physically before Me,
adoring Me, loving Me, listening to Me, speaking to Me.

Learn . . . how to adore Me perpetually
without forsaking the things that require your attention.
I am present intimately and in the secret sanctuary of the soul
to all who desire to be with Me,
to all who seek My Face
and all who desire to rest upon My Heart.

Give me your inability to carry out all that you propose to do,
and I will receive your incapacity
and change it, by My love,
into an offering more pleasing than the successful accomplishment
of what you propose to do.

Trust Me with your weaknesses.
Give Me your inability to do even what I have inspired you to do.
Your poverty, your infirmity, even your inconstancy
is no obstacle to My work in your soul,
provided that you abandon all to Me
with complete confidence in My merciful love.

Do what you can do reasonably,
and what you cannot do, give Me as well.
I am pleased with the offering of the one
as much as I am pleased by the offering of the other.

Let these words comfort you.
Know that I am not a taskmaster, but a friend,
and the most loving and welcoming of friends.
What friend would greet the one he loves with a reproach
rather than with a tender welcome.

Yes, I have called you to a life of adoration and of reparation,
but I call you also to humility,
to the little way of spiritual childhood,
and to a boundless trust in My mercy.
Adore Me, then, in the Sacrament of My Love as much as you can,
and when you are unable to do this,
adore Me in the meeting place with Me
that is your infirmity, your weakness, and the needs of the present moment.

To love Me is to adore Me,
and to adore Me is to love Me.
Love Me at every moment and you will adore Me at every moment.
Adore Me ceaselessly in the sanctuary of your soul
and know that your adoration there glorifies Me in the Sacrament of My Love
and in the glory of heaven,
where, one day, I will unite Myself to you forever.

From In Sinu Iesu, The Journal of a Priest

Letter to a Novice Oblate IX

| | Comments (0)

StVincent.jpg

My very dear Novice Oblate,

To Relieve the Poor

This morning at Matins as I read an excerpt from the writings of Saint Vincent de Paul, I was thinking of all of you, and especially of those of you who are mothers caring for children, and fathers bearing the responsibility of work and the heat of the day. In this text, Saint Vincent speaks of the service of the poor, something to which Saint Benedict calls us in Chapter Four of the Holy Rule, The Instruments of Good Works where he enjoins us to relieve the poor.

Who is Poor?

I would caution you against having too narrow an idea of who is poor. There are poverties of the heart and of the soul. There are poverties known to God alone. The poor come to us in many guises and disguises. There are "poor" in our own families, and living in our own homes. There are "poor" among our friends. There are "poor" among those whom the world judges to be comfortable, secure, and independent.

Listen to Saint Vincent

Here is what Saint Vincent de Paul says; the translation from the original French is my own:

God loves the poor and, for this reason, He loves those who love the poor, for when one really loves someone, one has affection for his friends and household.
There must be no delay in what pertains to the service of the poor. If at the hour of your prayer in the morning, you must bring medicine to someone, go about it in peace; offer your action to God, unite your intention to the prayer that is being offered at home, or elsewhere, and go forward without worrying.
If, when you return, it is convenient for you to devote a little time to prayer or to spiritual reading, so much the better! But you must not worry, nor think that you have failed when you lose your time of prayer, for it is not lost when it is given up for a legitimate duty. And if ever there was a legitimate duty, it is the service of the poor.
In no way do you leave God if you are leaving God to go to God, that is to say leaving one work of God in order to do another that is of a weightier obligation, or of greater merit. If you put aside your reading, or lose your silence in order to serve a poor person, know that in doing that, you are serving God. You must see that charity is above all rules, and all rules must be related back to charity. Charity is a great lady; one must do what she commands.

dorothy-day.jpg

It is Thy Face, O Lord, that I Seek

I am sometimes concerned that you feel less a Benedictine Oblate when your family duties take you away from saying an Hour of the Divine Office, or doing a bit of lectio divina, or praying your rosary. The true Benedictine Oblate is one who seeks God in all things, and recognizes the Face of Christ in the hundreds of faces seen at home, at work, or on the street. Benedictine Oblates have always been devoted servants of the poor. I am thinking particularly of the patroness of Oblates, Saint Francesca of Rome, wife and mother, and of Dorothy Day, foundress of The Catholic Worker.

Unlike the monk living in his cloister, who can consult his abbot to know what must be done in a given situation, the Oblate must discern the right thing to do, relying on the Gospel; the teachings of the Church; the Holy Rule; the example of the saints; written instructions by the father of your monastery, such as this one; and the unfailing light of the Holy Ghost.

In Freedom of Spirit

Above all else, I want you to avoid the torment of scrupulosity. Once you have discerned, in good faith, that a particular course of action is right, hold fast to it in freedom of spirit, offering it to God.

You are in my prayer at the altar each day. Remember your monastery before the Lord because we too are numbered among the poor. For this, we count ourselves blessed. Only when we are poor can we reflect the radiance of the Face of Jesus.

In lumine vultus Iesu,
Father Prior

rublev-angels-at-mamre-trinity.jpg

On May 2, 1995, Blessed John Paul II gave the Church what is, to my mind, one of the most beautiful Apostolic Letters of his long pontificate: Orientale Lumen. Tomorrow, my beloved Oblate community in Tulsa will be meeting to reflect on the meaning and value of silence in their lives. I am posting the following extract from Orientale Lumen, confident that it will enrich their reflection and nourish their prayer.

The Most Holy Trinity: A Community of Love

The Most Holy Trinity appears to us . . . as a community of love: to know such a God means to feel the urgent need for him to speak to the world, to communicate himself; and the history of salvation is nothing but the history of God's love for the creature he has loved and chosen, wanting it to be "according to the icon of the Icon" - as the insight of the Eastern Fathers expresses it(34) - that is, molded in the image of the Image, which is the Son, brought to perfect communion by the Sanctifier, the Spirit of love. Even when man sins, this God seeks him and loves him, so that the relationship may not be broken off and love may continue to flow. And God loves man in the mystery of the Son, who let himself be put to death on the Cross by a world that did not recognize him, but has been raised up again by the Father as an eternal guarantee that no one can destroy love, for anyone who shares in it is touched by God's glory: it is this man transformed by love whom the disciples contemplated on Tabor, the man whom we are all called to be.

A Mystery Enveloped in Silence

Nevertheless this mystery is continuously veiled, enveloped in silence,(35) lest an idol be created in place of God. Only in a progressive purification of the knowledge of communion, will man and God meet and recognize in an eternal embrace their unending connaturality of love.

Let Yourself Be Taught An Adoring Silence

Thus is born what is called the apophatism of the Christian East: the more man grows in the knowledge of God, the more he perceives him as an inaccessible mystery, whose essence cannot be grasped. This should not be confused with an obscure mysticism in which man loses himself in enigmatic, impersonal realities. On the contrary, the Christians of the East turn to God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, living persons tenderly present, to whom they utter a solemn and humble, majestic and simple liturgical doxology. But they perceive that one draws close to this presence above all by letting oneself be taught an adoring silence, for at the culmination of the knowledge and experience of God is his absolute transcendence. This is reached through the prayerful assimilation of scripture and the liturgy more than by systematic meditation.

Man, the Creature, Before the Triune God

In the humble acceptance of the creature's limits before the infinite transcendence of a God who never ceases to reveal himself as God - Love, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in the joy of the Holy Spirit, I see expressed the attitude of prayer and the theological method which the East prefers and continues to offer all believers in Christ.

This Is What Man Needs Today

We must confess that we all have need of this silence, filled with the presence of him who is adored: in theology, so as to exploit fully its own sapiential and spiritual soul; in prayer, so that we may never forget that seeing God means coming down the mountain with a face so radiant that we are obliged to cover it with a veil (cf. Ex 34:33), and that our gatherings may make room for God's presence and avoid self - celebration; in preaching, so as not to delude ourselves that it is enough to heap word upon word to attract people to the experience of God; in commitment, so that we will refuse to be locked in a struggle without love and forgiveness. This is what man needs today; he is often unable to be silent for fear of meeting himself, of feeling the emptiness that asks itself about meaning; man who deafens himself with noise. All, believers and non - believers alike, need to learn a silence that allows the Other to speak when and how he wishes, and allows us to understand his words.

Letter to Our Oblates

| | Comments (0)

san bruno silenzio.jpg

My very dear Oblates,

You will be meeting in Tulsa tomorrow, Sunday, 10 June 2012, to reflect on silence in the Benedictine tradition. When I prepared your course of study for the Oblate Novitiate Year, I wrote the following to guide you in your reflection on this third point of study:

The third point has to do with cultivating in us and around us the spirit of silence. It has to do with fasting from every form of speech that is self-serving, insincere, unkind, untrue, or lacking in mercy. It has to do with knowing how to abide in silence for God's sake, content to listen, to say nothing, to seek Him in faith, to desire Him with an irrepressible hope, and to cleave to Him in love. It has to do with moderation in the use of the tools of social communication, lest one become dependent on sounds and sight that distract us from The One Thing Necessary. For this you will want to meditate on Luke 10:38-42 and Chapter 6 of the Holy Rule.

I further invite you to read and ponder the Holy Father's Message for the 26th World Communications Day. Here is the text; the subtitles are my own.

With my loving blessing,
Father Prior

Message of His Holiness
Pope Benedict XVI
for the 46th World Communications Day
[Sunday 20 May 2012]

Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Two Aspects of Communication

As we draw near to World Communications Day 2012, I would like to share with you some reflections concerning an aspect of the human process of communication which, despite its importance, is often overlooked and which, at the present time, it would seem especially necessary to recall. It concerns the relationship between silence and word: two aspects of communication which need to be kept in balance, to alternate and to be integrated with one another if authentic dialogue and deep closeness between people are to be achieved. When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning.

Allowing the Other to Speak

Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested. In this way, space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible.

Silence: Communication in Love

It is often in silence, for example, that we observe the most authentic communication taking place between people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other. Joy, anxiety, and suffering can all be communicated in silence - indeed it provides them with a particularly powerful mode of expression.

Capacity to Listen

Silence, then, gives rise to even more active communication, requiring sensitivity and a capacity to listen that often makes manifest the true measure and nature of the relationships involved. When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary. Deeper reflection helps us to discover the links between events that at first sight seem unconnected, to make evaluations, to analyze messages; this makes it possible to share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge. For this to happen, it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of 'eco-system' that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.

The Search Engine Culture

The process of communication nowadays is largely fueled by questions in search of answers. Search engines and social networks have become the starting point of communication for many people who are seeking advice, ideas, information and answers. In our time, the internet is becoming ever more a forum for questions and answers - indeed, people today are frequently bombarded with answers to questions they have never asked and to needs of which they were unaware.

The Ultimate Questions

If we are to recognize and focus upon the truly important questions, then silence is a precious commodity that enables us to exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data that we receive. Amid the complexity and diversity of the world of communications, however, many people find themselves confronted with the ultimate questions of human existence: Who am I? What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope? It is important to affirm those who ask these questions, and to open up the possibility of a profound dialogue, by means of words and interchange, but also through the call to silent reflection, something that is often more eloquent than a hasty answer and permits seekers to reach into the depths of their being and open themselves to the path towards knowledge that God has inscribed in human hearts.

The Restlessness of Human Beings

Ultimately, this constant flow of questions demonstrates the restlessness of human beings, ceaselessly searching for truths, of greater or lesser import, that can offer meaning and hope to their lives. Men and women cannot rest content with a superficial and unquestioning exchange of skeptical opinions and experiences of life - all of us are in search of truth and we share this profound yearning today more than ever: "When people exchange information, they are already sharing themselves, their view of the world, their hopes, their ideals" (Message for the 2011 World Day of Communications).

Silence on the Internet

Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God. In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives.

Solitude and Silence

It is hardly surprising that different religious traditions consider solitude and silence as privileged states which help people to rediscover themselves and that Truth which gives meaning to all things. The God of biblical revelation speaks also without words: "As the Cross of Christ demonstrates, God also speaks by his silence. The silence of God, the experience of the distance of the almighty Father, is a decisive stage in the earthly journey of the Son of God, the incarnate Word .... God's silence prolongs his earlier words. In these moments of darkness, he speaks through the mystery of his silence" (Verbum Domini, 21).

The Silence of the Cross

The eloquence of God's love, lived to the point of the supreme gift, speaks in the silence of the Cross. After Christ's death there is a great silence over the earth, and on Holy Saturday, when "the King sleeps and God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages" (cf. Office of Readings, Holy Saturday), God's voice resounds, filled with love for humanity.

Silence and Contemplation

If God speaks to us even in silence, we in turn discover in silence the possibility of speaking with God and about God. "We need that silence which becomes contemplation, which introduces us into God's silence and brings us to the point where the Word, the redeeming Word, is born" (Homily, Eucharistic Celebration with Members of the International Theological Commission, 6 October 2006). In speaking of God's grandeur, our language will always prove inadequate and must make space for silent contemplation. Out of such contemplation springs forth, with all its inner power, the urgent sense of mission, the compelling obligation "to communicate that which we have seen and heard" so that all may be in communion with God (1 Jn 1:3). Silent contemplation immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbours so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love.

Jesus, the Mediator of Revelation

In silent contemplation, then, the eternal Word, through whom the world was created, becomes ever more powerfully present and we become aware of the plan of salvation that God is accomplishing throughout our history by word and deed. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, Divine Revelation is fulfilled by "deeds and words having an inner unity: the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them" (Dei Verbum, 2). This plan of salvation culminates in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the mediator and the fullness of all revelation. He has made known to us the true face of God the Father and by his Cross and Resurrection has brought us from the slavery of sin and death to the freedom of the children of God.

Peace to the Restless Human Heart

The fundamental question of the meaning of human existence finds in the mystery of Christ an answer capable of bringing peace to the restless human heart. The Church's mission springs from this mystery; and it is this mystery which impels Christians to become heralds of hope and salvation, witnesses of that love which promotes human dignity and builds justice and peace.

Our Lady's Silence

Word and silence: learning to communicate is learning to listen and contemplate as well as speak. This is especially important for those engaged in the task of evangelization: both silence and word are essential elements, integral to the Church's work of communication for the sake of a renewed proclamation of Christ in today's world. To Mary, whose silence "listens to the Word and causes it to blossom" (Private Prayer at the Holy House, Loreto, 1 September 2007), I entrust all the work of evangelization which the Church undertakes through the means of social communication.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2012, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales.

BENEDICTUS XVI

Prime Time

| | Comments (1)

ms039.jpg

Prime

Back in the late 1940s and 50s, when, in synergy with the Liturgical and Biblical renewals, the Benedictine Oblateship was enjoying something of a springtime, it was not uncommon for Oblates to pray the Hours of Prime and Compline each day, leaving the Great Hours of Matins, Lauds, and Vespers, and the other Little Hours of Tierce, Sext, and None to their brethren in the cloister. Prime and Compline were often promoted as the ideal Hours for working folk.

Adé Prayed Prime and Compline

I remember my old friend and mentor Adé Béthune telling me, almost 40 years ago, that as a young Benedictine Oblate working as a lettercutter in the John Stevens Shop in Newport, Rhode Island, she and her friends would pause to pray Prime and Compline together. Adé's contemporaries, Dorothy Day of Catholic Worker fame, and Catherine de Hueck Doherty of Madonna House, would also have been devoted to Prime and Compline.

A Domestic Prayer

Prime is the Church's second morning prayer. It is to Lauds, what Compline is to Vespers. Unlike Lauds, which can be clothed in a certain liturgical solemnity, Prime has a homespun, domestic quality about it. Whereas Lauds is characterized by the great waves of praise that its very name signifies, Prime is a the humble prayer of one setting out for work. The motif that runs through Prime is one of preparation for the labours and inevitable temptations that the day will bring.

How Prime Unfolds

After the "Incline unto mine aid, O God" that begins all the Hours, a beautiful hymn invokes God's blessing and protection on the waking day.

I remember that in the Béthune household, after reciting Grace Before Meals, Bonne Maman, the indomitable Baroness de Béthune, would energetically invoke Saint Joseph. She referred to him as her "real estate man." The image is Adé's own Saint Joseph the Worker.

St Joseph Worker.jpg

The Hymn

Now doth the sun ascend the sky,
And wake creation with its ray,
Keep us from sin, O Lord most high,
Through all the actions of the day.

Curb thou for us the unruly tongue;
Teach us the way of peace to prize;
And close our eyes against the throng
Of earth's absorbing vanities.

Oh, may our hearts be pure within,
No cherish'd madness vex the soul;
May abstinence the flesh restrain,
And its rebellious pride control.

So when the evening stars appear,
And in their train the darkness bring;
May we, O Lord, with conscience clear,
Our praise to thy pure glory sing.

To God the Father, glory be,
And to his sole-begotten Son,
Glory, O Holy Ghost, to thee,
While everlasting ages run. Amen.

After the hymn comes the Psalmody, the very core of the Divine Office at each of the Hours. There follows a brief lesson from Scripture recited by heart, and a versicle, a vigorous plea to the Christ the King:

V. Arise, O Christ, and help us. (P.T. Alleluia.)
R. And deliver us for Thy Name's sake. (P.T. Alleluia.)

Then comes the customary little litany that closes all the Hours -- Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us -- and the Our Father, recited in silence while bowing profoundly.

The Collect of Prime sums up the spirit of the Hour:

Collect

O LORD God almighty,
who hast brought us to the beginning of this day:
defend us in the same by thy power;
that we may not fall this day into any sin,
but that all our thoughts, words and works
may be directed to the doing of what is just in Thy sight.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son:
Who liveth and reigneth with thee
in the unity of the Holy Ghost God:
world without end. Amen.

The Martyrology

In monasteries, once the first part of Prime has been chanted in choir, the monks repair to the Chapter Room to hear the reading of the Martyrology, a listing and short description of the saints of the day.

Work Assignments

Following the Martyrology, the abbot assigns the various works and chores that are a part of family life everywhere. In the Monastic Breviary there are special prayers for the blessing of the daily work, asking the Lord to "prosper the work of our hands."

The Holy Rule

Then follows a short reading from the Rule of Saint Benedict, completed by the abbot's explanation of the text. The daily public reading of the Holy Rule keeps it fresh in the hearts of the monastic family, and affords the abbot an opportunity to teach the souls entrusted to him by kneading into their minds, as into a mass of dough, the leaven of holiness.

The Faithful Departed

It some places it is customary to commemorate the faithful departed, especially those resting in the monastic cemetery, at this point. Psalm 129, the De Profundis, is chanted in supplication for the dead.

The Blessing

Finally the abbot imparts a blessing to all in the house. This paternal blessing is given twice in the Divine Office: at Prime in the morning, and at Compline, before going to bed.

A Strange Suppression

In 1964, the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, laconically decreed in article 89: "The hour of Prime is to be suppressed." As jilted soldiers in World War II used to say, "That's all she wrote."

The suppression of Prime affected only the Roman Breviary. In the monastic Office used by Benedictines, Cistercians, and Carthusians, the beleaguered Office remained -- or was to supposed to remain -- intact.

The suppression of Prime seems strange and illogical when one considers that its counterpart, Compline, was retained. The argument for the suppression of Prime was that it duplicated Lauds as a morning prayer; it was further argued that the distinctive element of Prime, the hallowing of the day's work, could be integrated into the Preces of Lauds. Others argued that Prime was monastic in origin, and therefore was not suitable for clergy and people living, working, and praying in the world. That argument too is specious: Compline is also monastic in origin, and no one contested its significance or suitability.

The framers of Sacrosanctum Concilium seemed to have entertained an illogical antipathy for Prime. Had they any real awareness of just how valuable Prime was to committed layfolk living and working in the real world, they would have not decreed its suppression. On the contrary, they would have taken the pulse of Catholic workers, and promoted it.

The same article 89 of Sacrosanctum Concilium mandates, concerning Compline, "Compline is to be drawn up so that it will be a suitable prayer for the end of the day." Could not, indeed, should not, the same principle have been applied to Prime? The length of the Psalmody, for example, could have been slightly reduced, or another choice of psalms made.

When it came to the Divine Office, the framers of Sacrosanctum Concilium suffered from a narrowly legalistic "all or nothing" vision of ecclesial prayer. There was no need to suppress Prime; it could have been included in a revision of the Divine Office as an Hour especially suited to layfolk having to dash out the door to work in the morning, or get the children breakfast.

AdeAtWorksm.jpg

For Oblates

My own experience in encouraging and helping Benedictine Oblates to pray ( these would be mothers at home with small children, fathers, husbands, wives, working people in a variety of trades and professions) obliges me to conclude that, in fact, Adé Béthune and her friends were right: Prime and Compline are, as a rule, the most suitable Hours of the Divine Office for layfolk.

Try Prime at Home

Why, some would ask, are Prime and Compline more suitable than the great "hinge Hours" of Lauds and Vespers? I can think of three cogent reasons: First, the structure of Prime and Compline is simple and, apart from the psalmody, invariable. Second, Prime and Compline are relatively brief and, therefore, manageable for working folk. Third, the texts of Prime and Compline speak to the universal experience of beginning and ending the day.

Even little children can be taught to sing the hymn of Prime to a simple chant melody. A psalm should follow, one that children can learn by heart: Psalm 8 (O Lord, our Lord, how glorious is Thy Name) perhaps, or Psalm 22 (The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want). Children can be encouraged to learn by heart and recite a sentence from Sacred Scripture. The versicle, response, little litany, Our Father, and Collect would bring this family Prime to a close. One can also, however, imitate the monastic practice and announce the saints of the day, assign chores, pray for the departed by name, and give a final blessing.


Our Lady of the Cenacle

| | Comments (1)

61-Madonna-del-Cenacolo.jpg

My dear Oblate family,

Praying Before Dawn

I arose very early this morning, before dawn while it was still dark , and made my way to our temporary Oratory (the future library) for Matins. These days, given the excessive amount of work during the day, it is not possible for all four of us -- two monks and two seekers -- to come to Matins. Consequently, I found myself alone in the presence of the Lord, with only the bird choirs to respond to my psalmody. There is an indescribable grace attached to prayer before dawn. Would this be because Our Lord Himself favoured this hour for His own prayer to the Father? The psalms, so often repeated as to be known almost by heart, have, at this hour, a freshness and an immediacy that I rarely experience later in the day.

Turn to Mary

The Invitatory for today's feast -- Our Lady of the Cenacle -- is drawn from the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles: Alleluia! Let us persevere in prayer * with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, alleluia. The presence of Mary makes perseverance in prayer possible. Without Mary, in our midst and at our side, we would grow weary and listless, and so lose the virile spirit of perseverance in prayer. So often prayer seems futile, or empty, or not worth the effort; at moments such as these we must turn to Mary, confident that she will pray in our stead and, gradually, almost imperceptibly, draw us into her own prayer until, as if by surprise, we find that we have persevered in praying after all.

Faith and Hope

Resolve never to pray apart from Mary. Her presence in the Cenacle was a living flame of love, a hearth of fire and of light in the midst of a community bewildered by the mysterious Ascension of the Lord. Absent, but present, and present, but absent, the Lord was, already, in these days before Pentecost, schooling His Church in the prayer of faith, a persevering prayer, that goes on hoping even when the object of her hope seems far removed from her.

Present in the Cenacle

Just how was Our Lord present in the Cenacle after His Ascension? He was present, first of all, in faithfulness to His promise that where two or three gather in His Name, there would He be, in the midst of them. He was present too in His words, repeated, remembered, and held in the heart. He was present in Peter, who in spite of all his weaknesses and failings, remained the rock chosen by Christ. He was present in John, the Beloved Disciple in whose heart burned an inextinguishable fire of love, the one enkindled at the Last Supper when, for the first time, Jesus fed Him with the mysteries of His Body and Blood. He was present in the silence, in the face, and in the voice of His Virgin Mother. She is the pillar of faith against whom every lie, every temptation, and every heresy is smashed to pieces. Finally, He was present in the bread become His Body, and in the chalice of wine mixed with water become His Blood.

The Lamb, the Altar, and the Holy of Holies

What must Our Lady have felt when, in the Cenacle, she beheld, lying before her on the table, the very Flesh of her her own flesh and the very Blood of her own blood? Her Maternal Heart leapt in recognition of the Lamb. The table had become her altar. The Cenacle itself had become her Holy of Holies.

Here was her Son, the very fruit of her womb: the Jesus whom she had carried, nourished, washed, clothed, and kissed. Here, veiled, was the Face that disappeared from her sight on the Mount of Olives, when He ascended. Here, beating with a passionate love His Bride, the Church, was the very Heart that she saw pierced by the soldier's lance on Calvary.

Perseverance in Prayer

There is but one way to persevere in prayer, and that is by remaining close to Mary. Distance from Mary is distance from the Church, and distance from the Church is distance from Christ. Moreover, where Mary is, there too is the Holy Ghost. To abide with Mary is to abide under the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost. To withdraw from Mary's presence and to withdraw from beneath the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost. It is to choose sterility over fecundity, self-assertion over obedience, and fleeting things over the imperishable treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven.

You Will Find Her in the Cenacle

More than anything else, my prayer for you today, asks that you may never depart from Mary. You will find her today in the Cenacle, all silent and absorbed in adoration. Approach her as closely as you can, and if you are too weak to make your way to her, ask her to make her way to you. This she will do, for hers is a Maternal Heart, and no weakness of our repels her. On the contrary, she has for the weakest and most unstable of her children, a tenderness that must be experienced in order to be understood. Blessed feast, then, of Our Lady of the Cenacle, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.

With my loving blessing to each one,
Father Prior

Our%20Lady%20of%20the%20Eucharist.jpg

My very dear Novice Oblate,

This is only my second letter to you from Ireland. I am sure that you understand that it has been difficult for me to "put fingers to keyboard" and write you from what is, essentially, an ongoing construction site here in Stamullen. This time I am writing from Silverstream Priory, the name given here in Ireland to our monastery, which remains, of course, under the patronage of Our Lady of the Cenacle.

Ascension Thursday announces that it is time for us to enter the Upper Room, the Cenacle, with the Apostles and with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in order to persevere with them in prayer, and to wait for the Promised Gift from on high: the Consoler, the Advocate, the Comforter.

On the Advent of the Holy Spirit

Consider, for a moment, this image of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament. She is also Our Lady of the Cenacle; her hand are raised in ceaseless prayer and in readiness for the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. You will notice two things. (1) The Infant Christ within His Most Pure Mother represents the nascent Church, the Church enclosed within the Immaculate and Maternal Heart of Mary during the days of retreat in the Cenacle. (2) The holy oblations depicted in this icon remind us that the Church, already in the Cenacle, was nourished and sustained by the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Enclosed in One Place

Beginning this evening with Second Vespers of the Ascension of the Lord, the Church prays intensely, urgently, insistently for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Obedient to the command of Our Lord, "not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father" (Ac 1:4), we remain quiet and still, enclosed in one place. We have entered upon a kind of Advent of the Holy Spirit.

Concrete Gestures

This Advent of the Holy Spirit renews us in the desire for silence and separation from the world. The Mother of Jesus and the Apostles sequestered themselves in the Cenacle. They withdrew to a place apart. Each of us is called, according to his state in life, to separation from the world. It is up to each one of you to discover how, given your family life and other obligations, you can withdraw during these nine days from the business and noise that threatens to drown out the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost who would prepare you for His coming.

No two of you will do this in exactly the same way. During these days preceding Pentecost, one must, in some way, find concrete gestures to make the retreat of the Cenacle real. It is useless to speak in vague and idealistic terms of silence and separation from the world, if our actions and choices belie our pious discourse. For one it will be a resolute "no" to the television, to videos, and to an inordinate use of the internet. For another it will be abstinence from reading those things in newspapers and magazines that excite curiosity and leave troubling impressions on the soul. For yet another it will be a more generous application to that costly outward silence that is the price of inward silence. Mothers at home with children may want to invite the little ones to a few moments of silence each day, and introduce them to prayer for the coming of the Holy Ghost by praying with them.

O Rex Gloriae

We are in the Advent of the Holy Spirit, the Advent of the Cenacle. It is no mere coincidence that the second mode melody of the Ascension Magnificat Antiphon, O Rex Gloriae is the very one used for the Great O Antiphons of Advent. The same climate of irrepressible and joyful expectation pervades the Church. "O King of glory, Thou Lord of Sabaoth, who on this day didst ascend with exceeding triumph far above all heavens: we pray Thee leave us not comfortless, but send on us the Promise of the Father, the Spirit of Truth, alleluia" (Magnificat Antiphon, Second Vespers of the Ascension).

The Springtime Advent

Last December, during our winter Advent, we cried out for the coming of Christ, the first Paraclete, the Advocate who is to us Wisdom, Adonai, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Dayspring from on high, King of Nations, and Emmanuel. "I will pray the Father," He said, "and He will give you another Paraclete to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; you know Him for he dwells with you, and will be in you" (Jn 14:16 17). In this springtime Advent of the Holy Spirit, made bold by the prayer of the risen and ascended Christ on our behalf, we cry out for the other Paraclete, the Comforter sent by the Father to plead our cause.

Veni!

Cry out for the coming of the Father of the Poor, the Giver of Gifts, the Light of hearts, the best of all Consolers, the soul's sweet Guest and gentle refreshment (cf., Pentecost Sequence, Veni, Sancte Spiritus). The Veni Creator repeated every evening at Vespers from Ascension to Pentecost, swells with intensity as the Fiftieth Day, The Pentecost fulfilled, approaches. The whole prayer of the Church during this Advent of the Holy Spirit is, as it were, condensed in a single aspiration rising "out of the depths" (Ps 129:1), Veni!

In the Midst of Chaos

The struggle to find and preserve silence, amidst the invasive noise that threatens the soul's ability to listen, is a much of a challenge for us monks as it is for you, Oblates living in the world. Our little monastery -- Silverstream Priory -- is, at the moment, a construction site. Call it creative chaos. People come and go all day. Guests arrive, and must be welcomed as Christ Himself. (In Ireland that means the ever-ready cup of tea.) Everywhere I turn, I see dust and dirt, things unsorted, boxes yet to be emptied, and unfinished projects. There is the constant pressure of precarious finances and the urgency of finding funds. It would be easy, in the midst of all of this, to give in to a ceaseless mental buzz that foments anxiety and robs the soul of peace. Instead, I am trying, calmly and joyfully, to live in the present moment, and to give that present moment its value of silence, and of attention to The One Thing Necessary.

The Work of the Holy Ghost

During these days of preparation for Pentecost, I would invite you to recite (or sing!) and meditate each day the so-called Golden Sequence, the Veni Sancte Spiritus that precedes the Gospel in the Mass of Pentecost Day. The Holy Spirit comes to help us in our weakness (Rom 8:26). The Advent of the Holy Spirit is our rest in labour; it is coolness in the heat, and solace in our tears. The Holy Spirit comes to wash what is soiled within us, to irrigate what is arid, to heal what is sickly. The Holy Spirit comes to make supple all that is rigid and unbending. The Holy Spirit comes to warm what is cold, and to straighten what is crooked.

When He Comes

True prayer begins when we admit that "we do not know how to pray as we ought" (Rom 8:26), and so, all our prayer during these last days before the Pentecost is to remain enclosed in one place, in the Cenacle of the heart, waiting for the Promise of the Father (Ac 1:4). When the Holy Ghost comes, His power will overshadow us; then, filling the innermost secrets of the soul, he will intercede for us with sighs too deep for words (Rom 8:26). We will have begun -- anew -- to pray as we ought.

The Beginning of All Prayer

During this Advent of the Holy Spirit, make the Veni of the Church your own. Open your hearts to the urgency of the Church's prayer for the descent of the Holy Ghost. It is always urgent to pray for the coming of the Holy Ghost. Prayer for the advent of the Holy Spirit --invocation of the Holy Spirit, or epiclesis-- is always pressing, for the Advent of the Holy Spirit is the beginning of all prayer, and apart from the Holy Spirit, "we do not know how to pray as we ought" (Rom 8:26).

The Descent of Fire

If, during the coming nine days, we remain enclosed in the Cenacle with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, and the apostles, if we persevere in the humble prayer of waiting and of beseeching, we will not be disappointed in our hope. When we go to Holy Mass, it is for this: for the Advent of the Holy Spirit over humble gifts of bread and wine, and over ourselves. The consuming Fire descends invisibly over the altar. Holy Mass is the action of the Holy Ghost making us the Body of Christ, the Body in which the whole Mystery of the Head is renewed. Eucharistic adoration intensifies and prolongs the action of the Holy Ghost that is concentrated in the Mass.

Our Lady of the Cenacle

Of one thing I am certain: if I turn to Our Lady of the Cenacle and take refuge in her Maternal Heart, she will share with me the secret of a silence that loves, that listens, that adores, and that praises even in the midst of a hundred different things competing for my attention, my time, and my energy. I would invite you to do the same. Recourse to Our Lady is not complicated: it can be a glance, a movement of the heart, an aspiration in her direction. There is, I think, no better preparation for the outpouring of the Holy Ghost that will be renewed in the Church and in our souls on Pentecost.

In lumine vultus Iesu,
Father Prior

Letter to a Novice Oblate (VII)

| | Comments (3)

eccehomoc1650leinwand98.jpg

My very dear Novice Oblate,

From Ireland

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

Passiontide

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

Christ in His Mysteries

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

Dom Gozier's Book and Its Problems

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

Weeds in the Field

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

Read Critically

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

Union with Jesus in His Prayer to the Father

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

In lumine vultus Iesu,
Father Prior

Saint Benedict Baroque.jpg

Not a Pious Pastime

Saint Benedict treats of the daily Lenten reading in Chapter 48 of the Holy Rule, "On the Daily Manual Labour." For Saint Benedict, reading is a labour, not a pious pastime. It requires a resolute application of the mind and engagement of the heart. The word received in reading becomes the word repeated and savoured. The word repeated and savoured becomes the word sent back to God as the expression of one's prayer. God responds to that prayer, born of hearing and repetition, with the grace of a quiet and loving adhesion to His indwelling presence.

From Chapter 48 of the Holy Rule
During Lent, let them apply themselves to reading from morning until the end of the third hour, and then, until the end of the tenth, labour at whatever is enjoined them. And in these days of Lent let each one receive a book from the library, and read it all through in order. These books are to be given out at the beginning of Lent.
Above all, let one or two seniors be appointed to go round the Monastery, at the hours when the brethren are engaged in reading, and see that there be no slothful brother giving himself to idleness or to foolish talk, and not applying himself to his reading, so that he is thus not only useless to himself, but a distraction to others.

Lenten Book Recommendation for 2012

Given that we are in the midst of moving, and that I am writing quickly, and in a less than optimal environment --see packing boxes and stacks of unsorted things all about me -- I will recommend but a single book this year to our Oblates and the men in vocational discernment with our monastery.

Oblates and men in discernment with us, this is my Lenten recommendation for 2012. It is available either from the publisher, New City Press, or from Amazon.


15 Days of Prayer with Saint Benedict

by Dom André Gozier
New City Press, Hyde Park, New York, 2008

I should be very happy to receive from you echoes of your response to this excellent introduction to Saint Benedict and to his "school of the service of the Lord." I bless each one of you as you set about your Lenten reading, asking Our Lord to illumine your minds and warm your hearts with the light of His Face.

St Benedict in the Sacro Speco, Sodoma.jpg

Whoever, therefore, thou art that hasteneth to thy heavenly country, fulfil by the help of Christ this least of Rules which we have written for beginners; and then at length thou shalt arrive, under God's protection, at the lofty summits of doctrine and virtue of which we have spoken above. (Chapter 73, Rule of Saint Benedict)

In Pursuit of Holiness

My last two posts addressed the particular needs of Oblates who are married men and women, fathers and mothers. There are still other souls who find themselves drawn to the Oblateship; among these are widows; young single men and women; people living alone; retired people; the elderly; and those living with infirmities, or with a chronic illness. People in all these conditions and states of life can find in the Oblateship a stimulus and a support in the pursuit of the holiness that God wills for them.

Widows

The widow becomes an Oblate in order to embrace the hard and sweet grace of solitude. The Oblateship encourages and assists her to order her life according to a rhythm of prayer that will fill her days and her nights with the presence of Christ.

Young People

The young single man or woman becomes an Oblate in order to train his or her energies in the straight way of sacrificial love; in order to open his or her heart to the love of Christ and to the joy that comes from the Holy Ghost; and in order to discover the delights and the discipline of liturgical prayer.

Single Adults

One living alone becomes an Oblate because one longs to live at every moment in the company of Christ, seeking His Face and contemplating it; tending the ear of the heart to the sound of His voice, and hearing His Word.

Retired and Elderly Men and People

Retired and older people become Oblates because Benedictine life is the best practice on earth for what we will all do, please God, eternally in heaven. There we will bless God and praise Him; there we will love Him who first loved us. There we will enjoy the companionship of the saints and angels.

The Sick

People who suffer, especially those living with a chronic illness become Oblates because they want, through Saint Benedict's Twelve Steps of Humility, to arrive at the perfect charity that casts out fear; because they want to be identified with Christ, Priest and Victim, in offering themselves and in being offered, with the absolute assurance that not a drop of their suffering will be wasted, and not a single tear forgotten in the kingdom.

Schooling in the Christian Life

One becomes an Oblate because one recognizes in one's own life the need for a continuous schooling in the Christian life. Saint Benedict, in writing his "little Rule for beginners" intended to establish a school for the service of the Lord. The Rule is this school's text book.

Becoming Familiar with the Rule

One must learn, nonetheless, to read it, to ponder it, to search it out patiently, perseveringly, one little bit at a time. The Oblate who tries to read and take in the Rule all at once will suffer a very unbenedictine case of spiritual indigestion. The monastic tradition is to read a page of the Rule each day according to a calendar that allows the entire Rule to be read through three times in the course of one year.

The Rule does not reveal its secrets easily. One must learn to meditate the Rule, searching for the words, the phrases, or the expressions that light up the page. These are the great overarching principles of the Rule, and they are applicable in every state of life.

Santa Francesca Romana.jpg

This painting of Saint Francesca Romana dates from the 17th century, and is the work of Giovanni Antonio Galli, called lo Spadarino.

Wives and Mothers

There is much in the Rule of Saint Benedict that might motivate a wife and mother to become an Oblate. The patron saint of Benedictine Oblates, Saint Francesca of Rome, portrayed in the painting above, is a shining example of what can happen when a wife and mother offers herself to God in communion of mind and heart with a monastic community. Read what I wrote about her here. An Oblate's marriage and her family life are richly blessed, for the Rule of Saint Benedict is, from beginning to end, a pattern of family life according to the Gospel and a school of the service of the Lord.

Like the Cellarer of the Monastery

If I were to select one chapter from the Holy Rule that is particularly applicable to the life of the wife and mother, it would be Chapter 31, "On What Kind of Man the Cellarer of the Monastery Is to Be."

Let there be chosen out of the community, as Cellarer of the Monastery, a man wise and of mature character, temperate, not a great eater, not haughty, nor headstrong, nor arrogant, not slothful, nor wasteful, but a God-fearing man, who may be like a father to the whole community. Let him have the care of everything, but do nothing without leave of the Abbot. Let him take heed to what is commanded him, and not sadden his brethren. If a brother ask him for anything unreasonably, let him not treat him with contempt and so grieve him, but reasonably and with all humility refuse what he asks for amiss. Let him be watchful over his own soul, remembering always that saying of the Apostle, that "he that hath ministered well, purchaseth to himself a good degree." Let him have especial care of the sick, of the children, of guests and of the poor, knowing without doubt that he will have to render an account of all these on the Day of Judgment. Let him look upon all the vessels and goods of the Monastery as though they were the consecrated vessels of the altar. Let him not think that he may neglect anything: let him not be given to covetousness, nor wasteful, nor a squanderer of the goods of the Monastery; but do all things in proper measure, and according to the bidding of his Abbot.

The Rule for You

What might this same text look like, adapted for Oblates who are wives and mothers? Perhaps it might read like this:

The Oblate who is a wife and mother must be a wise woman, and of mature character, temperate, not a great eater, not haughty, nor headstrong, nor arrogant, not slothful, nor wasteful, but a God-fearing woman, who may be a mother not only to her own family but also to the wider community.

Let her have the care of everything, but do nothing without her husband's support. Let her take heed to what he expects of her, and not sadden the children. If one of her children asks her for anything unreasonably, let her not treat the child with contempt and so grieve him, but reasonably and with all humility refuse what he asks for amiss.

Let her be watchful over her own soul, remembering always that saying of the Apostle, that "he that hath ministered well, purchaseth to himself a good degree." Let her have especial care of the sick, of the children, of guests and of the poor, knowing without doubt that she will have to render an account of all these on the Day of Judgment.

Let her look upon all the vessels and goods of the household as though they were the consecrated vessels of the altar. Let her not think that she may neglect anything: let her not be given to covetousness, nor wasteful, nor a squanderer of the goods of the household; but do all things in proper measure, and in communion of mind and heart with her husband.

A Good Word, the Best Gift

Saint Benedict goes on to say:

Let him above all things have humility; and to him on whom he hath nothing else to bestow, let him give at least a kind answer, as it is written: "A good word is above the best gift." Let him have under his care all that the Abbot may enjoin him, and presume not to meddle with what is forbidden him. Let him distribute to the brethren their appointed allowance of food, without arrogance* or delay, that they be not scandalised: mindful of what the Word of God declareth him to deserve, who "shall scandalise one of these little ones" namely, "that a millstone be hanged about his neck and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea." If the community be large, let helpers be given to him, by whose aid he may with peace of mind discharge the office committed to him. Let such things as are necessary be given and asked for at befitting times, that no one may be troubled nor grieved in the house of God.

Again, adapted for the Oblate who is a wife and mother, the text might read like this:

Let her above all things have humility; and to anyone in the family on whom she hath nothing else to bestow, let her give at least a kind answer, as it is written: "A good word is above the best gift."

Let her have under her care all that her husband may enjoin her, and presume not to meddle with what is none of her concern. Let her distribute to the family their appointed allowance of food, without arrogance or delay, that they be not scandalised*: mindful of what the Word of God declareth him to deserve, who "shall scandalise one of these little ones" namely, "that a millstone be hanged about his neck and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea."

*Scandal here refers to a stumbling block place in another's path: something that it is difficult to "get over" or "overlook."

If the family be large, let helpers be given to her, by whose aid she may with peace of mind discharge the office committed to her. Let such things as are necessary be given and asked for at befitting times, that no one may be troubled nor grieved in the household of God.

All the Hard and Rugged Ways

| | Comments (0)

Luca_signorelli,_storie_di_san_benedetto_a_monteoliveto,_evangelizzazione_degli_abitanti_di_montecassino.jpg

This is the first part of the conference I gave yesterday, on Sexagesima Sunday, at the clothing of nine Novice Oblates in the Benedictine scapular. The rest of the conference will follow as I find time to sit at my desk and reconstruct it.

A senior shall be assigned to them who is skilled in winning souls, to watch over them with the utmost care. Let him examine whether the novice is truly seeking God, and whether he is zealous for the Work of God, for obedience and for humiliations. Let the novice be told of all the hard and rugged ways by which the journey to God is made. (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 58, On the Manner of Receiving Brethren)

The Journey to God

One becomes a Benedictine Oblate, not because one yearns to escape from the challenging demands of one's state in life, but because one desires to embrace them, knowing, as Saint Benedict says, that it is by all these "hard and rugged ways" that one makes the journey to God. Is this not the teaching of our Lord Jesus Himself? "And he said to all: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23).

A School for the Service of the Lord

Saint Benedict wrote his Rule for Monasteries in order to offer souls the opportunity to enroll for life in a school for the service of the Lord. In the Prologue he explains:

And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord. In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But if a certain strictness results from the dictates of equity for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, do not be at once dismayed and fly from the way of salvation, whose entrance cannot be but narrow. For as we advance in conversion and in faith, our hearts expanded and we run the way of God's commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love.
Thus, never departing from His school, but persevering in the monastery (the Oblateship) according to His teaching until death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ and deserve to have a share also in His kingdom.

Communion

Unlike the monk, who is bound by enclosure in the monastery, and whose life is so arranged that he leaves the enclosure as infrequently as possible, an Oblate, while remaining spiritually anchored to his monastery, lives outside its walls, sometimes at a great distance from the monastery to which he belongs. An Oblate is not dependent upon his monastery in the way a parishioner, for instance, would be upon his parish. Geographical proximity can be a great advantage, but it is not indispensable. There is a communion of mind and heart that, effectively, transcends distances and flourishes more in silence than in frequent verbal or written exchanges.

An Oblate is a true member of the extended monastic family: a family whose members can be scattered over the globe. Wherever an Oblate lives, he finds in the grace of his Oblation a stimulus to persevere in prayer, to learn humility, to love chastity, to obey, to practice works of mercy, and to prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

To Become a Saint

One's Oblation is a public decision -- expressed in the offering of oneself with Christ to the Father, and supported by a particular monastery -- to become a saint. There is but one tragedy in a human life, and that is, not to have become a saint. The Oblate subordinates everything else in his life to the pursuit of holiness. This pursuit gives meaning to ordinary daily life, and transforms it.

Husbands and Fathers

The husband and father becomes an Oblate in order to be a better husband and father. He will study the Rule of Saint Benedict with an eye to all that the Holy Patriarch says concerning the abbot of the monastery. The husband and father is the head of his household: the domestic abbot. Nearly everything that Saint Benedict says concerning the abbot can be applied to the father of a family.

Let him study rather to be loved than to be feared. Let him not be excitable and worried, nor exacting and headstrong, nor jealous and over-suspicious; for then he is never at rest. In his commands let him be prudent and considerate; and whether the work which he enjoins concerns God or the world, let him be discrete and moderate bearing in mind the discretion of holy Jacob, who said, "If I cause my flocks to be overdriven, they will all die in one day. Taking this, then, and other examples of discretion, the mother of virtues, let him so temper all things that the strong may have something to strive after, and the weak may not fall back in dismay. (Chapter 64, On Constituting an Abbot)

The father of a family needs to develop and practice the same manly virtues that Saint Benedict recommends to the abbot of the monastery. Chapters 2 and 64 of the Rule, as well as the chapters dealing with the correction of faults (23-30) are particularly suitable for fathers of families.

To be continued.

Newly Received Oblate Novices

| | Comments (3)

Novice Oblates 12-02-12.jpg

Sexagesima Sunday, 12 January 2012

Newly received Novice Oblates are (left to right): Katie Kane, received as Sister Columba (Blessed Abbot Columba Marmion); Alexander Carroll, received as Brother Oliver (Saint Oliver Plunkett); Laura Reilly, received as Sister Scholastica (Saint Scholastica); Paula Cole, received as Sister Lioba (Saint Lioba); Father Prior; Sandy Pickett, received as Sister Julian (Saint Peter Julian Eymard); Rosie Klassen, received as Sister Bethany (Saints Mary and Martha of Bethany); Dan Pickett, received as Brother Ephrem (Saint Ephrem the Syrian, Deacon); Joseph Klassen, received as Brother Moses (Saint Moses the Lawgiver); Peggy, received as Sister Luca (Saint Luke Evangelist), and in Sister Luca's arms, her grandson Raymond Klassen.

Letter to a Novice Oblate (VI)

| | Comments (1)

benedict+and+scholastica.JPG

On this day before the feast of Saint Scholastica, I thought it appropriate to post this detail of an altarpiece painting of Saint Scholastica in prayer together with her brother, Saint Benedict. It is the work of one Lorenzo Monaco (+1423 or 1424), and can be found in The National Gallery, London.

My very dear Novice Oblate,

A Cycle of Prayer

Benedictine life is a marked by a daily, weekly, and yearly cycle of prayer. Saint Benedict urges that we "give ourselves frequently to prayer" (RB 4:56). He calls the corporate prayer of the monks "the Work of God" (Opus Dei), to which "nothing is to be preferred" (RB 43:3). A primary reason for becoming a Benedictine Oblate is the desire to deepen, strengthen and intensify a life of liturgical prayer.

Enter, then, wholeheartedly into the Liturgical Year, allowing your daily life to be colored by the Church's ceaseless round of sacred seasons, fasts and festivals. Learn to esteem the Church's sacramentals and manifold blessings.

Lent

Saint Benedict urges his monks to "keep the days of Lent with a special purity of life and also at this holy season to make reparation for the failings of other times" (RB 49: 2-3). "Reading, compunction of heart, and abstinence" (RB 49:4) will prepare you to enter through the Cross of Christ into the joy of His resurrection. Spontaneously in the joy of the Holy Spirit, you will offer God during Lent some "reduction of food and drink for the body, or of sleep, or of talkativeness or looseness in speech, and so with the joy of spiritual desire look forward to holy Pascha" (RB 49:6-7).

The Paschal Triduum

The heart of the Liturgical Year pulsates in the Three Days that commemorate Our Lord's death, burial, and rising from the dead: Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Holy Pascha, the Sunday of the Lord's Resurrection. Make every effort to participate in the liturgical celebrations of the Paschal Triduum in your parish church or, when opportune, in a Benedictine monastery where the liturgy is carried out with fitting solemnity and with a beauty worthy of the holy mysteries.

Thursday: A Weekly Corpus Christi

Each Thursday, renew the mystery of the first Holy Thursday of the Supper of the Lord, and of the feast of Corpus Christi; enter into the Cenacle where Our Lord instituted the Sacraments of the Priesthood and of His Body and Blood. Read and meditate the discourse He pronounced in the Cenacle: John 13:1-17: 26.

Take time, in particular, to linger over Our Lord's High Priestly Prayer, John 17:1-26; it is an inexhaustible source of charity, light, and unity. You will find it especially helpful, in this regard, to study the Holy Father's discourse at the General Audience of Wednesday, 25 January 2012. You will find it here.

Keeping Festival

Celebrate with special joy the solemnities of Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, and of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the Friday that falls eight days after it. The octave of Corpus Christi is, for our monastic family, a prolonged festival of more intense and generous Eucharistic adoration. During these blessed days, you will want to spend as much time before the Most Blessed Sacrament as your state in life allows.

Our Blessed Lady

Enter into the graces that come with each of the feasts of the Holy Mother of God; prepare for them and "keep in your heart" the liturgical texts proper to her feasts. The feast of Our Lady of the Cenacle is kept on the Saturday after Ascension Thursday. Throughout the year, every Saturday is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, becoming a privileged occasion for drawing closer to her Maternal Heart.

The Saints

The solemnity of Our Father Saint Benedict on July 11th, the feast of his Transitus (Holy Death) on March 21st, the feasts of Saint Scholastica on February 10th, Saint Francesca of Rome (patroness of Oblates) on March 9th, Saint Henry (patron of Oblates) on July 13th, Blessed Columba Marmion on October 3rd, Saint Gertrude the Great on November 16th, as well as the other feasts of the Benedictine calendar will be for you an opportunity to learn from the example of "so great a cloud of witnesses" (Hb 12:1) and to seek their intercession.

Nourished from the Wellspring

Nourish your prayer from the wellspring opened for you by the Church: the Word of God, the Sacred Liturgy and the sacraments. In assiduous lectio divina and Eucharistic adoration, seek the adorable Face of Christ. In frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Penance, receive the forgiveness of your sins and experience the healing power of the Most Precious Blood.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the sun that illumines and warms the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, even as it illumines and warms the whole Church "gathered together from the ends of the earth" (Didache, Chapter 9). In the Ordinary (unchanging parts) and Proper (changing parts) of the Mass you will find the primary and indispensable source of your meditation (meditatio) and prayer (oratio). Become familiar with the Roman Missal and with the lectionary (Lessons, Epistles, and Gospels) of the Mass. Whenever you are able to do so, attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion during the week, especially on the more important feastdays. If, however, your duties are such that they preclude attendance at Holy Mass during the week, try, at least, to read the Gospel of the day, and make a Spiritual Communion.

In Truth, An Oblate

Through your full, conscious, and inward adhesion to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, you will become, in all truth, an Oblate, that is to say, one offered with Jesus and by Jesus to the Father, in the Holy Spirit. Your frequent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will prolong the mystery of Holy Mass and infuse your life with a supernatural fecundity that will benefit the whole Body of Christ, His Church.

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

Father Prior

Letter to a Novice Oblate (V)

| | Comments (0)

voltoNSGC.jpg

My very dear Novice Oblate,

The Rule Is Supple

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

For the Strong and the Weak

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

Rest for the Restless Heart

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

The Face of Christ

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

Benedictines

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

The Eucharistic Face of Jesus

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

Obedience

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

Zeal for the Work of God

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

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

Conversion of Manners

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

New Life in Christ

Mother Mectilde de Bar (1614-1698) says:

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

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

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

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

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

Father Prior

Letter to a Novice Oblate (IV)

| | Comments (1)

St Benedict receives the habit.jpg

This fresco in Monte Oliveto Maggiore depicts a youthful Saint Benedict receiving the monastic habit from the monk Romanus.

My very dear Novice Oblate,

Questions and Answers

I am writing to you again. You have a lot of questions, all of them interesting and good. I will do my best to provide you with satisfactory answers.

After Your Year of Noviceship

At the end of your year of noviceship, you may ask to be allowed to make your Oblation at the Monastery or, if this is not possible -- given the distance that may separate us -- in another church, during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I, as your Father Prior, or a priest whom I have delegated to represent me will preside at the Oblation.

The Rite of Oblation

The text for the rite and the form of Oblation is in the Ritual for Oblates that the Monastery will provide. The rite of Oblation mirrors that of monastic profession (RB 58:17). It takes place before the altar of the monastery, or of another church, and the relics of the saints (cf. RB 57:17-20). It includes a promise of conversion of manners according to the Rule of Saint Benedict and one's state of life, and, with uplifted hands, the moving chant of the Suscipe (Ps 118:116): "Receive me, O Lord, according to thy word and I shall live, let me not be disappointed in my hope." Beforehand, you will write out a Chart of Oblation and, then, sign it. Your Chart of Oblation will be preserved in the monastery's archive.

Some Conditions

In order to make a valid Oblation, one must be at least eighteen years old, and may not be a member of a Third Order nor of an ecclesial movement or other association whose spiritual thrust is not in harmony with the means proposed by the Rule of Saint Benedict and by the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle.

Light from the East

It is normally assumed that Oblates will be Roman Catholics who have received the sacrament of Confirmation. Nevertheless, at the discretion of the Father Prior, members of the venerable Eastern Orthodox Churches may also be received as Oblates; this, because monasticism is a treasure, originating in the East, that belongs to the Undivided Church.

In the Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen (2 May 1995) Blessed John Paul II wrote:

Monasticism has always been the very soul of the Eastern Churches: the first Christian monks were born in the East and the monastic life was an integral part of the Eastern lumen passed on to the West by the great Fathers of the undivided Church.
The strong common traits uniting the monastic experience of the East and the West make it a wonderful bridge of fellowship, where unity as it is lived shines even more brightly than may appear in the dialogue between the Churches.

Wholehearted and Firm

The act of Oblation is a wholehearted and firm promise to God, although it is not in the nature of a vow. It is not intended to be a burdensome obligation, but rather a stimulus and a help to the Oblate in "reaching that charity of God which, being perfect, drives out all fear" (RB 7:67).

Reciprocal Bonds

The act of Oblation establishes reciprocal bonds between the Oblate and the Monastery. For sufficiently grave reasons, an Oblate can sever these bonds by requesting in writing to withdraw from the Oblateship. Also, for sufficiently grave reasons, the Prior can dismiss one from the Oblateship, should an Oblate persistently, and in defiance of repeated invitations to conversion of heart, give evidence of having forsaken the inward spirit of Oblation and its outward obligations.

Sickness and Health

Should it happen that for reasons of health or other particular circumstances an Oblate becomes unable to carry out the practices and disciplines recommended for Oblates, so long as the desire for conversion of life and communion with the Monastery remains, the Oblation can still be fulfilled by "never despairing of the mercy of God" (RB 4:74).

Oblates suffering from chronic illness or another infirmity are truly offerings, worthy of being presented to the praise of the Father's glory, in the hands of Jesus Christ, our Eternal High Priest. The Oblate marked by suffering "makes up in his own flesh those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, for the sake of His Body, which is the Church" (Colossians 1:24).

The Oblate who accepts, and then offers his weakness, incapacities, or limitations for priests in need, can obtain many graces for them. By uniting his offering to that of Our Lord, renewed in every Mass, the Oblate can obtain strength for priests discouraged by their weaknesses; humility and courage for priests who are incapacitated; and an increase of charity and of zeal for priests grown lukewarm.

Stability

Benedictines take a vow of stability or, if you will, of lifetime belonging to a particular monastic family. In the same spirit, the bond of Oblation anchors the Oblate spiritually to one particular monastery. If for good reason an Oblate wishes to transfer his Oblation to another Benedictine monastery, it is not necessary to make a new act of Oblation. With the consent of the Father Prior and the Abbot of the receiving monastery, the name of the Oblate can be removed from the register of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle and inscribed in that of another monastery.

Similarly, if for a good reason an Oblate attached to another Benedictine community wishes to transfer his Oblation to the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, this can be done with the consent of the Abbot of the Oblate's original community and of the Father Prior.

Oblation is made with the intention that it should be for life. Consequently, it is made once and for all. Nevertheless, Oblates can express their "perseverance in stability" (RB 58:9) by renewing their Oblation in their hearts, especially on the anniversary date of one's Oblation.

I will write again soon. In the meantime, I send you my affection and my blessing.

In lumine vultu Iesu,

Father Prior

Letter to a Novice Oblate (III)

| | Comments (1)

S Benedetto Monaci a tavola.jpg

Here, in a fresco at Monte Oliveto Maggiore, Giovanni Antonio Bazzi depicts Saint Benedict dining with his monks. I am fond of this particular fresco because it shows so well the humanity of Benedictine life, marked by moderation and discretion. Take note of the dog and the cat at the end of the table: happy little members of any Benedictine community.

My very dear Novice Oblate,

Getting to Know Your Monastery

Before beginning your noviceship as an Oblate, you will have spent some time getting to know your monastery, either through visits or through correspondence. Generally, it is during this period of coming to know the monastery and its particular charism, that one begins to sense inwardly a desire to pursue the path of Oblation.

Married Couples

I recommend that before asking to be received as a Novice Oblate, married men and women ask the blessing of their spouses. Sometimes it happens that both a husband and wife together will want to follow Our Lord more closely as Oblates. At other times, a husband alone, or a wife alone may discern Our Lord's call to follow Him in this way. In our present group of Oblates we have all three situations represented: couples, husbands alone, and wives alone. It is worth noting that the patroness of the Benedictine Oblateship, Saint Francesca of Rome (1384-1440) was an Oblate, while her cherished husband, Lorenzo Ponziani, was not.

Diocesan Priests

Similarly, I recommend that diocesan priests, who desire to become Oblates, ask the blessing of their Bishop before beginning the noviceship. The way of Oblation is, for many priests, a powerful incentive to pursue a singlehearted holiness while labouring in the vineyard of the Lord. Benedictine Oblate priests often develop an outstanding zeal for the beauty and dignity of the Sacred Liturgy. Being an Oblate supports a diocesan priest in holding to a personal discipline of life that, apart from an attentive celebration of the Divine Office, includes daily lectio divina, an hour of adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and the humble but powerful prayer of the Rosary.

Each Monastery: A Unique Family

The primary motive behind one's request to pursue the Oblate vocation in relationship to the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle will be a spiritual affinity with the particular way in which we seek to live out the Benedictine vocation in our monastic family. Normally, each Benedictine monastery is autonomous; it constitutes a unique family with its own characteristics, customs, and understanding of the Rule of the Saint Benedict. While most monasteries, today, have grouped themselves into federations or so-called "congregations," these groupings do not affect the principle of the autonomy of each house, which, among Benedictines, remains guarded as a fundamental principle. The Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle is not, at the moment, incorporated into any federation of monasteries, although we are actively pursuing such an incorporation, and hope to bring it to completion before very long.

The Benedictine Order

Unlike the Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, Jesuits, Passionists, Salesians, and nearly every other Order or Congregation in the Church, apart from the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, the Benedictines do not constitute a centrally administrated monolithic body, governed by a Superior General. When a man or woman becomes a Benedictine, he or she does not enter the "Benedictine Order" per se; he or she enters a particular monastery in which the order of life, or the particular way of going to God is determined by the Rule of Saint Benedict.

An Ordered Way of Life

The "Order of Saint Benedict" (O.S.B.), therefore, is not so much a world-wide organization with a governing bureaucracy; it is an order, that is, an ordered way of life, that the Rule of Saint Benedict transmits from generation to generation in the Church. Abbot Guéranger (1805-1875), the restorer of Solesmes and founder of the Benedictine Congregation of Solesmes, was a diocesan priest with no previous monastic experience. When his critics challenged him about his use of the designation "Benedictine," he replied, "It is by following the Rule of Saint Benedict, that we shall be Benedictines." Well said!

The Noviceship

Once I, acting as Prior, have accepted an individual's request to become an Oblate, there follows a full year of noviceship during which one applies oneself to seeking God under the guidance of the Rule (RB 58:12). The noviceship begins with a ceremony during which I (personally, or through a priest delegate) present the novice with a copy of the Rule of Saint Benedict, clothe him or her in the Benedictine scapular, and give him or her the name of a new patron saint.

Getting to Know the Rule of Saint Benedict

As a novice Oblate, endeavour to read a short portion -- even a few verses -- of the Rule of Saint Benedict daily. You need to become familiar with Saint Benedict's teachings if you are to apply them in your life (cf. RB Pro:1-2).

I recommend that novice Oblates raising young families obtain and read The Rule of Saint Benedict for Family Life Today by Dom Massimo Lapponi, O.S.B. (If you can't find it, I can send you a pdf of the text.) I also recommend Father Dwight Longenecker's two books: Listen My Son, Saint Benedict for Fathers, and Saint Benedict and Saint Thérèse, the Little Rule and the Little Way.

I am also writing these letters to you, and publishing them on Vultus Christi, so as to provide you with a kind of ongoing spiritual accompaniment, and with practical counsels for integrating the wisdom of the Rule of Saint Benedict into your state in life.

A Daily Rhythm of Prayer

Please think about some daily rhythm of prayer compatible with your state of life, and when you are ready, write a brief outline of it and send it to me. I will give it my attention, pray over it, and respond to you with my comments and with my blessing.

This daily rhythm of prayer, adapted to your circumstances, health, and state of life, will include some form of the Divine Office. This may be very simple and brief. In the cases of some Oblates, whose state of life precludes anything else, it may be no more than a few verses from a psalm, followed by an Our Father and a Hail Mary. Other Oblates may be able to follow the full round of the Divine Office as carried out in the monastery. Most Oblates, however, will do something falling somewhere in between. Eucharistic adoration, lectio divina, and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary will also find expression in your life as an Oblate. Concerning these things, be sure to read my last letter.

Looking Toward Oblation

Three months before the end of your noviceship, you will write to me, asking to make your Oblation. This will be the subject of one of my next letters to you. In the meantime, I send you my affection and my blessing.

In lumine vultu Iesu,

Father Prior

Letter to a Novice Oblate (II)

| | Comments (8)

09-Sleeping-Baby-BlackAndWhite.jpg

My dear daughter in Christ,

Praying at Home

Recently, you asked me how you, as wife and mother, with children to look after from morning 'til night seven days a week, can enter into our monastery's charism of adoration and reparation. It will be many years, I think, before you will have the freedom to spend any significant amount of time in adoration before the Tabernacle, or before the Most Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance.

Your Divine Office

Your duty now, and the expression of your love for God, is to be fully present to your family. Your "Divine Office" is to cook, and clean, and change dirty diapers, and run errands, and keep the littlest ones amused, and find time to listen to the older children, and to bandage cuts, and look after bruises, and welcome guests -- and every now and then -- to steal a moment or two alone with your husband. Is this incompatible with your desire as an Oblate of our monastery to offer yourself to Our Lord in adoration, in reparation, and in supplication for the holiness of priests?

Think of Me and I Will Think of You

Mother Mectilde de Bar gives a helpful teaching in a conference she pronounced in 1694 for the feast of the Epiphany. This is what the great Benedictine mystic says:

To adore continually it is not necessary to be saying, "My God, I adore You." It is enough to tend inwardly to God who is present, to maintain a profound respect out of reverence for His greatness, believing that He is in us, even as He truly is. In fact, the Most Holy Trinity abides in us. The Father acts and operates in us by His power, the Son by His wisdom; and the Holy Spirit by His goodness. It is therefore in the most intimate part of your soul, where this God of majesty resides, that you must adore Him continually.
Every now and again place your hand on your heart saying to yourself: --God is in me. And He is there, not only to sustain my physical life, as He does in irrational creatures, but He is there acting and operating, so as to raise me to the highest perfection, if I put no obstacle in the way of His grace.
Imagine that He is saying to you interiorly: -- I am always in you; you remain always in Me. Think of Me, and I will think of you, and I will take care of all the rest. Be wholly at My disposal, as I am at yours. Live not apart from Me. As Scripture says: "One who eats Me will live by Me; he will abide in Me, and I in him" (John 6:58; 6:57).

God Awaits Us in the Real

One does not become a perpetual adorer by forcing oneself to say certain prayers until one gets a headache trying to fit them all in, or by closing one's eyes on the world and pretending to be alone. God awaits us in the real, not in some unattainable ideal. He is always present in us, present to us, present for us. He is not in some remote place light years away. Make a habit of adoring the Three Divine Persons living in the secret sanctuary of your soul, and in the souls of your little ones. Many years ago, when my brother Terence (now the father of three children) was a tiny newly-baptized infant, I would steal into his room at odd moments, place my head on his little chest, and adore the Most Holy Trinity present in him, as truly as in heaven.

Shooting Arrow-Like Prayers

Another thing you can do, from time to time -- taking care not to force yourself or strain your mind -- is to lift your heart and mind to God in swift arrow-like prayers shot straight into the Heart of Jesus. "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, be to me a Jesus!" "My God and my all!" "To be near Thee, O God, is my happiness." "Jesus, King of Love, I place my trust in Thy merciful goodness." You will find that verses of the psalms will emerge from your memory bank: just the right word at the right time. "Save me, O God, for the waters have risen to my neck!" "My God, my mercy!"

Strings of Hail Marys

You can also, here and there, say strings of Hail Marys without keeping count, giving them to Our Blessed Mother to sort out and organize into something resembling a proper Rosary. This is a practice pleasing to her Maternal Heart.

The Hour of Adoration at Home and at Work

I would recommend another little practice as well. You may find that in the course of the day you do, in fact, have one or two minutes of quiet, sometimes at the same hour each day. It may be during the childrens' nap time or playtime. You can use these few minutes to set in motion a full hour of adoration and reparation that will not, in any way, distract you from your duties or keep you from attending to whatever surprises may come your way. This is, in fact, the method of the "Guard of Honour" that was promoted with great success in France during the first half of the last century. The "Guard of Honour" motivated ordinary people to consecrate one hour of their ordinary day to adoration of Our Lord in the Sacrament of His Love, without stopping what they were doing, and without going off to church.

A 40 Second Prayer

Here is a prayer that I wrote for this purpose. It takes exactly 40 seconds to say. Over time, it can be memorized. Use it to mark the beginning of your hour of adoration and reparation and, then, go about your business, trusting that Our Lord has heard your prayer and received it into His Heart.

Lord Jesus Christ, although I cannot, during this hour, approach Thee physically in the Sacrament of Thy Love, I would approach Thee by desire and by faith.
Transport me, I beseech Thee, by the lifting up of my mind and heart, to that tabernacle in the world where Thou art, at this hour, most forsaken, utterly forgotten, and without human company.
Let the radiance of Thy Eucharistic Face so penetrate my soul that by offering Thee adoration and reparation, even as I am busy doing ordinary things in an ordinary way, I may obtain from Thy Sacred Heart the return of at least one priest to the Tabernacle where Thou waitest for him today. Amen.

Pray Always and Never Lose Heart

I wrote this prayer for my Oblate sons and daughters, but anyone can say it at any time. I would be happy to see it spread to many Catholic homes, to places of work and business, to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, prisons, and waiting rooms.

This letter is, I fear, already too long. It presents you, nonetheless, with a few practices by which the spirit of our little monastery can find expression in your life just as it is. "Pray always," then, "and never lose heart" (Luke 18:1).

With my affection and my blessing,
In lumine vultu Iesu,

Father Prior

Letter to a Novice Oblate (I)

| | Comments (3)

This is the first of a series of letters that I will be writing to the Oblates of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. I decided to address myself in these letters to each Oblate individually as well as to the entire growing Oblate family. The aim of these letters is to answer various questions that have arisen, and to offer something in the way of ghostly counsel to those who have a right to expect it from me.


IMG_0881_-_Perugia_-_Cappella_di_San_Severo_(Raffaello)_-_Foto_G._Dall'Orto_-_5_ago_2006.jpg

In the Church of San Severo in Perugia: a fresco by Raffaello (1505) depicting the Most Holy Trinity with Saints Maurus, Placid, and Benedict. Sadly, over time, the image of the Eternal Father has disappeared from the fresco.

Oblatus est quia ipse voluit.
"He was offered because it was his own will." Isaiah 53:7


My very dear Novice Oblate,

Turning and Returning to God

As your father in Christ, I am bound to offer you something in the way of instruction and guidance as you undertake the Benedictine journey of return to God. I'm writing to you today on the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul: a feast of turning, and returning to God in Christ, that effectively sums up the vocation of the monk and of the Oblate.

Becoming an Oblate

I wish that I could write to each one of you individually. Please accept instead, from time to time, my reflections on what it means to become -- and to be -- an Oblate of our monastery. I will often allude to the text of the Holy Rule in these reflections. Take the time to open your copy of the Rule and to read the references that I will provide.

Your Oblation

The word Oblate means someone or something offered irrevocably to God. An Oblation is the solemn making-over to God of a person or thing, in such wise that the person or thing, once offered, belongs to God alone. By becoming an Oblation, such a person or thing has passed out of what is ephemeral and corruptible into the heavenly sanctuary beyond the veil "where the forerunner Jesus is entered for us, made a high priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech."(Hebrews 6:19)

A Little Hand on the Altar

When Roman parents would bring their sons to Saint Benedict, offering them to God, as the child Samuel was offered to the priest Heli for a life of Divine Service in the Temple (cf. 1 Kings3:1-10), they participated in a sacred rite of Oblation at the monastery. The rite took place during Holy Mass. Saint Benedict would wrap the hand of the child being offered in the altar cloth upon which the Body of Christ would rest, signifying the child's identification with Christ Jesus in His perpetual offering to the Father.

An Offering to the Father

In later centuries, when adult Christians began offering themselves to God in a similar way, by attaching themselves to the altar of a particular monastery, the underlying significance of the Oblation remained. Your vocation as an Oblate makes you -- and your entire life -- an offering to the Father in communion with the offering that rises daily from the altar of your monastery: that of Christ, and that of your monastic family.

Your Spiritual Worship

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, then, a free act of self-offering to God, patterned after the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim, from the altar of the Cross. One of the key texts for understanding your vocation as an Oblate is what Saint Paul wrote to the Romans: "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 Body of Christ, the Church

The Holy Ghost has, in some way -- through a series of events, personal encounters, and circumstances -- drawn you to the altar of our humble little monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle to make the offering of yourself with Christ. As an Oblate you will begin to live from the altar, in communion with those of us who remain within the monastic enclosure, not for yourself alone in any narrow way, but, rather, for the sake of the whole Body of Christ, that is the Church. "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you," says Saint Paul, "and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the Church " (Colossians 1:24).

Near and Far

The Church will recognize your Oblation as a special bond between you and our monastery (cf. CCL, can. 303; can. 677 §2). Being primarily spiritual, this bond is not dependent upon geographic proximity. Anyone who has discerned a spiritual affinity with the Rule of Saint Benedict and with our monastery's particular charism of Eucharistic adoration, reparation, and supplication for the sanctification of priests can ask to become an Oblate.

The Holy Rule

Begin looking to the Rule of Saint Benedict to guide you in "truly seeking God" (cf. RB 58:7). Saint Benedict will teach you, gently but firmly to "prefer nothing to the love of Christ" (RB 4: 21). He will encourage you to "take your part in the sufferings of Christ through patience, so as to share also in his kingdom" (RB Pro: 50).

From Every Walk of Life

Oblates come from every walk of life: single and married and widowed, young and old. Some are the mothers and fathers of large families of little ones and not-so-little ones. There are farmers and cattle ranchers, housekeepers and cooks, teachers, doctors, lawyers, artists nurses, and photographers. What do you all have in common? You desire, while continuing in your own unique own state in life, to enroll yourself in the "school of the Lord's service" (RB Pro: 45) established 1500 years ago by Saint Benedict, our father and teacher. You desire to "persevere with one mind in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus" (Acts 1:14). You are drawn to the adoration of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, shining more brightly than the sun from the tabernacles of the Church, in this world's dark night of faith.

Diocesan Priests

There will be diocesan priests, deacons, and seminarians among the Oblates of our monastery. Many priests have found in Saint Benedict's "little Rule written for beginners" (RB 73:8) and in our monastery's charism of Eucharistic adoration a strong support for living boldly in the midst of the world as "ministers of Christ and dispensers of the mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1).

Be Informed, Reformed, and Transformed

Seek to grow into the full stature of your Baptismal consecration by drawing all of the little things that make up daily life into the upward movement of your Oblation to the Father. Every little thing has Eucharistic potential. There is no thing that cannot be brought to the altar and given back to God. Go forward humbly but confidently, letting the Rule of Saint Benedict inform you, reform you, and transform you. The Holy Rule is a humble handbook to holy living, one that the Holy Ghost has used through the ages to form saints ablaze with the love of Christ.

In Spirit and in Truth

In the months that lie ahead I will encourage you to become familiar with some of these saints, and to walk in their company. In the final analysis, there is no saint who was not, in all truth, an Oblate, for an Oblate is one who longs to say with Saint Paul, "I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me. And the life that I live now in the flesh: I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20). Just as Christ Jesus gave Himself up to the Father for you, give yourself up to Him, that in His priestly hands you may become an Oblation "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23).

With my affection and my blessing,
In lumine vultu Iesu,

Father Prior

Reception of Oblate Novices

| | Comments (6)

s1benedi.jpg

Today, on the Second Sunday after Epiphany, and the feast of Saints Maurus and Placid, I received three men and four women into the year of noviceship that will prepare them to become Oblates of our monastery. Two other men and one other woman will also be received in February. Investiture in the black Benedictine scapular and the imposition of a new name, placing the novice under the protection of a particular saint, mark the beginning of the noviceship. Following the lesson from Ecclesiasticus 2:1-21, I addressed them in these words:

Newness of Life

My dear sons and daughters, a novice is one who is embarking on newness of life. My first word to you today, then, is an invitation to throw yourselves into the embrace of the One who says, "Behold, I make all things new" (Ap 21:5), our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Likeness of the Son

One comes to the monastic life, be it as a monk or as an Oblate living in the world, in order to be refashioned in the likeness of the Beloved Son in whose image we were created. "But we all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor 3:18).

Spiritual Childhood

One comes to the monastic life, be it as a monk or as an Oblate living in the world, to be made new again in the newness of the grace of Baptism; one comes to recover the innocence lost by sin, and to take one's first steps in the path of spiritual childhood, mindful of the word of the Lord: "Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 18:3).

Leaving Former Things Behind

One comes to the monastic life, be it as a monk or as an Oblate living in the world, desiring to leave behind those former things that made our lives burdensome to ourselves and to others, the things that clouded our spiritual vision, stopped up the ears of our hearts, and so congested our spiritual nostrils that we could barely, if at all, catch a whiff of what Saint Paul calls "the good fragrance of Christ unto God" (1 Cor 2:15).

A New Heart and a New Spirit

One comes to the monastic life, be it as a monk or as an Oblate living in the world, because one has grown weary of what is old, and stale, and lifeless, and because one believes in the promise of Him who says, through the mouth of His prophet, "And I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh" (Ex 36:26).

The Sweet Yoke of Christ

One comes to the monastic life, be it as a monk or as an Oblate living the world, because one has heard the invitation of the Heart of Jesus, "Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light" (Mt 11:28-30).

Christ's Oblation to the Father

One comes to the monastic life, be it as a monk or as an Oblate living the world, because Jesus has drawn one's soul into the upward movement of His oblation to the Father. "And I," says Our Lord, "if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself" (Jn 12:32). Magnetized by the Cross and by the altar, one is compelled by the Holy Ghost to enter into the immolation of the Lamb. "Christ our Pasch is sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the feast" (1 Cor 5:6-7) by presenting "our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, our reasonable service" (Rom 12:1), that is, our mystic liturgy patterned after what God has revealed through His Word, our "adoration in spirit and in truth" (Jn 4:23).

In All of Life

The immolation of the Benedictine monk or Oblate, his participation in the victimhood of the Lamb, begins at the altar and returns to the altar, but it is played out in the most ordinary circumstances of daily life. For a monk, this encompasses his relationship to the Father of the monastery and to his brethren. For an Oblate, it encompasses one's relationship to one's spouse, one's children, one's grandchildren, and one's neighbours. It encompasses one's relationship to the guest who arrives announced or unannounced; one's relationship to the sick, the weak, and those in need of consolation, to little children to the elderly, the lonely and the poor. Finally, it encompasses the context of one's profession, employment, or state of life.

Never Despairing of the Mercy of God

There is nothing that cannot be brought to the altar. There is nothing that cannot be united to Christ's oblation. There are no circumstances in which we, monks and Oblates, are dispensed from owning our weaknesses, being humbled by our frailty, and uniting our wounds to the wounds, the weakness, and the frailty of the immolated Lamb -- and all of this, while never despairing of the mercy of God. This goes to the heart of what it means to be a Benedictine Oblate.

To be sure, one will also want to pray, insofar as possible, some parts of the Divine Office, the Opus Dei in communion with the choral prayer of the monks. One will want to open the ear of one's heart to the Word of God in lectio divina. One will want to adore the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, concealed and revealed in the Sacrament of His Love. One will want to cultivate a knowledge and holy enthusiasm for the Sacred Liturgy of the Church, for her Chant, her rites, her feasts, her fasts, and her seasons. In a word, one will want to submit to gentle yoke of the Rule of Saint Benedict, by receiving its wisdom, and by allowing it to shape the way one journeys through life, seeking God.

024.JPG

Left to right: Reverend Deacon Greg Stice, received as Br Stephen (St Stephen, Protomartyr); Dee Schneider, received as Sr Francesca (St Francesca of Rome); Neal Harton, received as Br Michael (St Michael the Archangel); Father Prior; Muffie Harton, received as Sr Joanna (St John Evangelist); Marion Williams, received as Sr Gertrud (St Gertrude the Great); Glenna Craig, received as Sr Placida (St Placid, Disciple of St Benedict).


A Plan for the Noviceship

With all of this in mind, I am proposing a plan of study, reflection, and prayer in twelve points that will guide you through this year of your noviceship, and prepare you, by God's grace, for your Oblation in a year's time. Each of the twelve points corresponds to a month of your noviceship.

1. Listening With the Ear of the Heart

The first point has to do with learning to listen to the voice of God, to the gentle murmurings of the Holy Ghost, with the ear of your heart. Read and meditate the Prologue of the Holy Rule. In Luke 1:26-38 contemplate the Blessed Virgin Mary, the model of all fruitful listening. So well did Our Lady listen to the Word of God, that she conceived the Word in her virginal womb, and offered Him to the Father, and to us.

2. Obedience

The second point has to do with the practice of obedience, with learning to say "Yes" to God in all the circumstances of life, and with learning to say "No" to those things that pollute our minds, chill our hearts, and turn us aside from the royal way of the Cross, taken by Jesus before us. Read and meditate Philippians 2:5-15 and Chapter 5 of the Holy Rule.

3. Silence

The third point has to do with cultivating in us and around us the spirit of silence. It has to do with fasting from every form of speech that is self-serving, insincere, unkind, untrue, or lacking in mercy. It has to do with knowing how to abide in silence for God's sake, content to listen, to say nothing, to seek Him in faith, to desire Him with an irrepressible hope, and to cleave to Him in love. It has to do with moderation in the use of the tools of social communication, lest one become dependent on sounds and sights that distract us from The One Thing Necessary. For this you will want to meditate on Luke 10:38-42 and Chapter 6 of the Holy Rule.

4. Humility

The fourth point has to do with the practice of humility, with acknowledging and owning one's weaknesses, one's failures, and one's sins. It has to do with a willingness to learn from others who are wiser than ourselves, especially from the teachings of the Church, the writings of the saints, and from the whole monastic tradition. For this you will want to meditate Ecclesiasticus 2, Hebrews 11 and Chapter 7 of the Holy Rule.

5. The Divine Office

The fifth point has to do with the Divine Office and the Sacred Liturgy as a whole. You will apply yourself, before all else, to a sapiential knowledge of the Psalms. You will learn to find in them the very prayer inspired by the Holy Ghost and entrusted to Israel in view of the day when it would become the prayer of Jesus to the Father, the prayer that He bequeathed to His Bride, the Church. You will want meditate Christ in the Psalms by Father Patrick Reardon (Conciliar Press), The Spirit of the Liturgy by Pope Benedict XVI, and Chapters 19 and 20 of the Holy Rule.

6. Discipline and Penitence

The sixth point has to do with understanding the value of discipline and penitence, not as ends in themselves, still less as punitive practices, but as a means of growing in freedom of heart, and as the application of tried and tested spiritual remedies to the sin-sick soul. For this you will want to read the Seven Penitential Psalms (6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129 and 142) and Chapters 23 through 30 of the Holy Rule.

7. Created Things

The seventh point has to do the practice of a responsible stewardship of material things. It has to so also with reverence for the good things created by God, seeing in all things matter with Eucharistic potential, matter to be lifted up and returned to the Father of lights from all good gifts descend. For this you will want to meditate Chapters 31 through 34 of the Holy Rule.

8. Hospitality

The eighth point has to do with gentleness, compassion and mercy, and with the recognition of the Face of Christ in the sick, in the old, in children, and in guests. It has to do also with the Benedictine tradition of hospitality by which all guests are welcomed as Christ Himself. For this you will want to meditate Chapters 36, 37, and 53 of the Holy Rule.

9. The Communion of the Saints

The ninth point has to do with the friendship of the saints who surround us like "a great cloud of witnesses over our head" (Heb 12:1), and who intercede for us in the glory of heaven. Consider Chapter 14 of the Holy Rule. Acquaint yourselves with the lives of Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, Saint Henry the Emperor and Saint Francesca of Rome, Saint Gertrude, Mother Mectilde de Bar, Blessed Columba Marmion, your patron saints as Oblates, and the other saints of our Benedictine family.

10. The Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar

The tenth point has to do with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, for this is the distinctive charism of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. It has to do with the quality and generosity of your response to Our Lord who waits for you in the Sacrament of His Love, who offers you His friendship, and who invites you to make reparation for those who do not believe in Him, do not hope in Him, do not love Him, and for those who have grown cold and indifferent to the mystery of His real presence in the tabernacles of our churches. For this you will want to meditate the teachings of Blessed John Paul II in Ecclesia de Eucharistia and in Mane Nobiscum Domine, the translated texts of Mother Mectilde de Bar, my own conference on Eucharistic Adoration given at Adoratio 2011 in Rome, and Chapter 52 of the Holy Rule.

11. The Instruments of Good Works

The eleventh point will be a summary of all the rest. You will meditate Chapter 4 of the Holy Rule, the Instruments of Good Works, dwelling on the most important one of all: Never to despair of God's Mercy.

12. A Benedictine Ethos in All of Life

The twelfth and last point will be the ethos of Benedictine life that you, as Oblates, will want to bring into every area of your lives. For this you will want to meditate Chapters 72 and 73 of the Holy Rule.

The Bond of the Oblation

I have spoken to you today, my dear sons and daughters, as a father who loves you in Christ and who desires, above all else, that you may, as Saint Benedict says, "run, with expanded hearts in the way of God's commandments, with an unspeakable sweetness of love." The bond that your Oblation will establish between yourselves and us will be, I am certain, a consolation here on earth, and a cause of thanksgiving and praise forever in heaven.

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

Categories

Archives