Living Benedictine: Topics for 2014-2015
We're happy to hear from inquirers anytime!
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
It’s always hard to miss the oblate retreat. All those good thoughts to consider, prayers to pray together, camaraderie in the free time–the experience of Benedictine community.
The very reason I had to miss for the last six years is the very reason why the subject–Benedictine for the long haul–was so appealing to me: I’m too far to visit my community, and there isn’t another Benedictine community nearby.
So, for me, being Benedictine is a deliberate, determined choice I make day after day without the “luxury” of a community I can see face to face. I read the oblate newsletters, I read this oblate blog, I check out the monastery magazine very carefully and–yes, I confess–I look with envy sometimes at pictures of oblates doing things together that I once did.
Every morning I attach my oblate pin to whatever garment I’m wearing and I open my breviary to do the Liturgy of the Hours. I read a meditation on the Rule that comes in my email each day. I think about things like balance, hospitality, obedience, and the constant turning toward God that Benedict writes about.
If anything has helped my spiritual life, it’s been that faithfulness to the Liturgy of the Hours, a habit of prayer I cultivated because Benedict said I should. I’m conscious of Benedictine brother and sisters doing the same thing all over the world. And Benedict’s direction about living in a community that seeks God has impelled me to to encourage that same seeking in my own parish community. I think that living as a Benedictine apart from my Benedictine community has made me appreciate my parish and family community even more.
The words “long haul” sound like drudgery. For me, it’s a joy. It’s direction and focus, it’s challenge and goal. I’m a better Christian, I think, because I’m a Benedictine, and I know St. Benedict would have it no other way.
Many sports include both sprints and endurance vents – horse races, running and speed skating, for example. While the distinction isn’t quite as clear, many aspects of our life have that possibility. We can have a single event of stunning hospitality (birthday parties or anniversaries, for instance) and we can also live an open-door practice that creates invites strangers to engage with us regularly.
Our culture highlights the sprints: high-intensity events and deeds, finding the most direct and fastest road to success, building relationships (and sometimes abandoning them) with speed and efficiency. These often leave people – even those for whom they work well – asking “What next?” or even, “Is that all there is?”
The Benedictine Way is more like an ultra-marathon. Not that St. Benedict doesn’t promise his followers that there will be spiritual fruit along during the journey! But he presumes that the journey is a long one, and that the fullness of the spiritual life comes only to those who stick around “for the long haul.”
Our Oblate Retreat this year focuses on this time dynamic. What tools does our monastic tradition offer us for undertaking a long journey? What obstacles and trials can we expect to encounter?
This Retreat Day includes Conferences that draw on our history and on the Rule, times of silence for reflection and journaling/craft/arts, the chance to work together in silence, camaraderie with our meals, and a rhythm of prayer. Weather permitting, there will be time for a quiet walk on the grounds.
The day begins with Morning Prayer at 9am, and ends with a closing ritual at 3PM.
All Oblates are invited; please drop a line if you plan to attend. Guests who are familiar with the Benedictine charism and would like to attend can also contact the Oblate Director for information.
Happy feast day, oblates!
March 9 is the feast of St. Frances of Rome, one of the patrons of Benedictine oblates. Ladies, this one is for us. You fellows can learn a lot from Frances, too, of course, but you have Henry, whose feast day is July 13.
Both of them were married at one time, both of them felt the same call to a deeper prayer life through the Benedictine charism that all of us recognize in our own lives.
Frances was born in 1384, a few hundred years after Henry. Her family was noble, but her own life was a trial of finances, ill health and tragedies (through the early deaths of her children). According to one of her biographers, she remained submissive to God and always showed gratitude for his gifts, which she always put at the spiritual and material service of her neighbor.
As Benedictine oblates, we learn about living a life balanced among prayer, work, study and mission. Another of her biographers indicates that Francis was learning to do that even before she became officially connected to anything Benedictine.
“She learned how to offer the three always-interwoven threads of her life to God: first,
her family life, including her children, household duties and role as a wife; second, her civic life of healer, spiritual director, organizer of almsgiving and charity for the poor of Rome; and third, her spiritual life with its liturgical and mystical experiences,” says one of the Readings for the day in “Benedictine Daily Prayer.”
This same source says that Frances was approached by other women who also wanted to share their wealth, time and energy with the sick and poor, and asked her to give institutional expression to their way of life. They were attracted to the Benedictine order because they could live either in community or in their homes, so Frances drew up a constitution for them to go along with the Rule of Benedict. It gave these 14th-century oblates a stability that other women’s groups, like the beguines, did not have.
This same Rule continues to give stability to us oblates today, helping us blend life in our various communities with personal holiness. Francis, because she was wife, mother and daughter of God, models for us our way in the world as oblates. She’s been where most of us have been in way or another, so her example is one we can take to heart and learn from.
To read more about Francis and other oblates, you might like to read “Benedict in the World, Portraits of Monastic Oblates” by Linda Kulzer, OSB, and Roberta Bondi, published by Liturgical Press.
And in the meantime, celebrate his early oblate and her life lived under the guidance of the same Rule we try to follow day by day.
Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B. is offering a 3-week eCourse titled “Love, Forgiveness and Reconciliation” through the Monasteries of the Heart website. The course begins on March 9; it costs $30.00.
Here’s the description:
This three-week eCourse, “Love Forgiveness and Reconciliation: A Call to Full Humanity,” divides Joan Chittister’s highly-acclaimed 2014 webinar presentation into 6 separate sections complete with a study guide and activities. In a series of brief videos Sister Joan explores the difficult, but fundamental summons to forgiveness that can both soften our own hearts and transform the world community. Most of all, she guides us—step by step—through the meaning of true forgiveness, cautioning us to avoid premature or shallow forgiveness. Sister Joan also discusses the true nature of reconciliation and reminds us that it’s only when we have faced and forgiven ourselves that we can extend true compassion. Read more…
Dear Oblates, Oblate Candidates, Inquirers and Friends,
I hope that this Lent is offering you moments of insight and contemplation amidst the rush of everyday life. It has been a few weeks since we each chose our Opera Bona or Lent; it is not too late to decide on some extra practice of prayer, charity, reading, or good works. If you no longer have the Opera Bona for Lent 2015 sent with last month’s newsletter, the link lets you download a copy. Why not subscribe while you’re here, so you get the letter a few days earlier. Click the button in the upper right corner.
In his Rule, St. Benedict tells us to “keep death daily before your eyes.” As many of you know, our monastery has been doing this of necessity. Since the beginning of 2015, four of our Sisters have gone home to God. Each of them had a lived full Benedictine life, ministering in schools, colleges, healthcare, parishes and, of course, through prayer. Sister Madeleva and Sister Agatha went home to God after gradual declines, while Sister Ingrid and Sister Claudia were called home suddenly but peacefully. As we remembered their lives, mourned their departure, and rejoiced for them at the promises of eternal life, the wisdom of Saint Benedict’s Rule became apparent. At each wake and funeral, we heard stories about Read more…