Living Benedictine: Topics for 2014-2015
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Vocation: Benedictine Perspectives
Benedictine Family Life
Benedictines & Other Monastics
Celebration of Oblations
Jan 11 (2015)
Benedictines & Leadership
Benedictines Around the World
Apr 18 (Sat)
Retreat: Benedictine for the Long Haul
Living Your Oblation
O God, when we hear of children and adults
deceived and taken to unknown places for
purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labor, and
organ ‘harvesting’ our hearts are saddened and
our spirits angry that their dignity and rights are
ignored through threats, lies, and force.
We cry out against the evil practice of this modern
slavery, and pray with St. Bakhita for it to end.
Give us wisdom and courage to reach out and
stand with those whose bodies, hearts and spirits
have been so wounded, so that together we may
make real your promises to fill these sisters and
brothers with a love that is tender and good.
Send the exploiters away empty-handed to be
converted from this wickedness, and help us all to
claim the freedom that is your gift to your
It was a devastating disappointment.
After a winter-long battle against a proposed 4-story hotel on our city’s waterfront, the city council voted to approve the necessary rezoning and did so without discussion, with poker faces, and with “no comment” remarks after the meeting.
Emotions ran high among those who had fought the fight. Anger simmered below the surface–erupting here and there in loud, angry shouts. Eventually, we went home and prepared to deal with it.
I knew I had to deal with it as a Catholic and as a Benedictine Oblate, which means my dealing would look different from that of others. I was soon to became grateful, once again, for the Liturgy of the Hours.
Starting the day with Morning Prayer has more than once given me a necessary refocus when dealing with the distractions of the world. My challenge on this morning, I knew, was to respond both outwardly and inwardly with the love, compassion, patience and generosity God expects of me as a disciple of Christ.
And so, when I started the prayers, I asked God to keep the previous night’s events from intruding–but they intruded anyway. I asked God to tell me what to do with what was simmering inside, and he did.
On this morning, I chose to use the Magnificat book for my prayer, and morning psalm was 143:
“In the morning let me know your love
for I put my trust in you.
Make me know the way I should walk;
to you I lift up my soul.
“Rescue me, Lord, from my enemies;
I have fled to you for refuge.
Teach me to do your will
for you, O Lord, are my God.
Let your good spirit guide me
in ways that are level and smooth.
“For your name’s sake, Lord, save my life;
in your justice save my soul from distress.”
The words seeped into my soul like balm and I knew that what I was praying for, I was also receiving. I knew, too, that God is and was always in the midst of even this worldly situation, and that I could help make his will be done by responding as he would want me to. By my actions and words, I could help make his presence felt.
And then, as I might have known would happen, I found more direction when I moved into the readings from today’s Mass, the 12th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Hebrews:
“Endure your trials as ‘discipline’…for what son is there whom his father does not discipline…So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed…Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become defiled.”
As if that wasn’t enough, the day’s commentary from Living Faith spoke of those very verses and advised, “When things don’t go our way, when times are tough, when we struggle and it feels like no end is in sight: these are trials…Like a good parent, God is more concerned with our character than our comfort. He wants us to experience our lessons and grow from them…”
Morning Prayer today gave me solace, and it gave me my marching orders. I would have received neither if I hadn’t lit my candle, opened my book, and spent that hour with God. I thank God for the prayer discipline I’ve learned from my life as a Benedictine Oblate.
Dear Oblates, Candidates, Visitors and Inquirers –
This letter comes to you at a time when the Catholic Church is celebrating the last outpost of Christmas, with the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and also marking three special days. The World Day of the Sick has long been celebrated on February 11, and Consecrated Life on February 2. The first-ever International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking will be marked on February 8, the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese slave who eventually was freed and became a Canossian nun – a day to be marked with prayer and reflection; the prayer written for the occasion will post on our Oblate blog on Sunday February 8.
Each of these days connect with the topic of our Oblate meeting this Sunday, February 8, which is Benedictine Works. “Works” – what things are fitting and good projects for a person living by the Benedictine charism to take up? What things are not so fitting? How do we live into the spirituality that calls us to place our particular skills and gifts under the guidance and direction of our community – be it family, work or church group, volunteer organization or other groups to whom we have made commitments? This is a challenging spirituality when our communities may perceive the common goal or our potential in ways quite different from our own.
Sponsoring. Another dimension is that of supporting works that are bigger than the individual, bigger than the Benedictine community itself. We sponsor many organizations – a college, hospitals and elder-care. Sponsorship goes beyond a legal or ecclesial relationship. We share our ministry and our charism with the lay people in those organizations, with a responsibility to help them share in our charism. Our community has been deepening its understanding of sponsorship as ministry, and exploring ways that we can exercise it well as our organizations grow in size and complexity. Sister Beverly Raway agreed to contribute to this meeting. She leads the monastery committee that is guiding our exploration. I am sure that you will find her portion of the Conference interesting and thought provoking.
I expected to be in Duluth for this meeting, and looked forward to it. But God had other plans: I was asked to fill in on a team performing an accreditation visit to another Catholic institution. Sister Paule Pierre agreed to lead the meeting and prepare the conference. I hope she’ll give me a recap!
For reading, I am sending you Pope Francis’ message to an ecumenical group of religious – Protestant and Catholic – who gathered at the end of the week of Christian Unity on January 25. While it doesn’t deal with “works” specifically, he inspires us with his vision of the place in the world of those who have promised to live by a Rule and to commit all to Christ. I hope you like it as much as I do.
Reading on the reverse: Address to Ecumenical Colloquium of Religious Men and Women
February 11 is the World Day of the Sick, first proclaimed more than 20 years ago by Pope John Paul II.
Pope Francis wrote a beautiful message for this day, considering a snippet from the book of Job: “I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame” from the perspective of sapientia cordis, the wisdom of the heart.
Saint Benedict called all to particular care of the sick; Pope Francis echoed that idea beautifully:
“Wisdom of the heart means going forth from ourselves towards our brothers and sisters. Occasionally our world forgets the special value of time spent at the bedside of the sick, since we are in such a rush; caught up as we are in a frenzy of doing, of producing, we forget about giving ourselves freely, taking care of others, being responsible for others. Behind this attitude there is often a lukewarm faith which has forgotten the Lord’s words: “You did it unto me’ (Mt 25:40).”
“For this reason, I would like once again to stress “the absolute priority of ‘going forth from ourselves toward our brothers and sisters’ as one of the two great commandments which ground every moral norm and as the clearest sign for discerning spiritual growth in response to God’s completely free gift” (Evangelii Gaudium, 179). The missionary nature of the Church is the wellspring of an “effective charity and a compassion which understands, assists and promotes” (ibid).”
Message for 23rd World Day of the Sock
Feast of the Presentation
I just had an aha-moment while reading the Gospel from today’s feast and came to the words of Simeon that are also used in Compline. Finally, I fully realize why they’re in Compline. And I’m embarrassed that it’s taken me so long.
“Now, Lord, you can let your servant go in peace…for my eyes have seen your salvation…” Simeon had been promised he wouldn’t see death until he had seen “the Christ of the Lord.” He did see him, and now he could let go.
Compline invites me never to go to sleep at night, that “little death,” without having looked back on the day to recognize–maybe for the first time–the times I encountered “the Christ of the Lord,” the times I saw his salvation right in my very life. There should be many.
When I’ve acknowledged them, taken lessons from them, thanked God for them and for his very self, then I can say, like Simeon, “Now I can let go of the day, go into the peace of the night, and look forward to the mysteries of the day to come.”
I should have been aware much sooner of this connection between day’s end examen and Simeon’s prayer, because the order for Compline starts with an examination of conscience. It calls for a closer look back at the day. I somehow missed that, rather than simply looking for sin, for failure (‘though still always being ready to seek forgiveness when needed), I need also to look for my encounters with Christ in the nitty-gritty details, and pray Simeon’s prayer with a new awareness.
Why did this take me so long to appreciate?