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
The Benedictine Oblates of St. Scholastica Monastery will gather on Sunday, May 17 at 1pm at the Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota.
Dear Oblates, Oblate Candidates and Inquirers, Visiting Oblates and Friends –
I am looking forward to our last meeting before the summer, at 1pm on Sunday, May 17, in Lake Superior Lounge. Our topic is an important one: “Living Your Oblation.”
Unfortunately, this is not a day that the Sisters can invite the Oblates to brunch. Sister Melanie is celebrating her 90th birthday that day at Eucharist; her large family will join her and the Sisters for dinner at noon; there will not be a brunch.
The monastery has been busy recently. We kept our usual horarium of prayer and work, of course. We Sisters also welcomed new leaders from Essentia Health and the Benedictine Health System. Transcultural nurse Najah Bazzy stayed with us for a few days; former associate Sharon Strand returned to Duluth and staffed the reception desk while living here until she found a permanent place. We hosted the annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner and enjoyed Oblate Meredith Schifsky’s flowing harp music, including many of my favorite Celtic tunes, throughout the meal. A week ago, we celebrated Sister Estelle Charron’s active and vibrant life of service as we laid her to rest in Gethsemane Cemetery. We participated in the Baccalaureate Mass and College Commencement. In my little corner of the academic world, this is the grading season: a river of papers and exams waiting for attention. Our monastery experiences a constant flow of guests, meetings of various groups in the monastery, visits with the older sisters: the small business of everyday life in a monastery. Each of you has your own litany of life events, obligations, joys and trials: each of you with a unique rhythm of life.
A student Peer Minister asked, “Which ones of the things you do count as living by the Benedictine Rule?” Her student focus on what counts and what doesn’t is obvious. But so is the 21st century image of life as a series of compartments, each distinguishable and separate from the rest. An outsider might think we are “being Benedictine” when we keep our horarium of prayer, or gather at the common table, or carry out ministries of hospitality, sponsorship and spirituality – but not when we teach statistics, keep the books, maintain the buildings, or work in any of the tasks of daily life.
Saint Benedict did not share that view. He tells us that “the Divine Presence is everywhere” in Chapter 19, although does add, “especially when we assist at the Work of God” (communal prayer). Unlike the apostolic religious orders that were founded to do a particular type of good work (care of the sick or poor; preaching; scholarship and education; missionary work), the Benedictine way puts the focus on “fidelity to the monastic way of life” in its vows, rather than those good works.
Please read the reflection Living with a Rule, Support vs Suppression by Sister Lenora Black and bring your own ideas to share. We will gather at 1PM for Midday Prayer, followed by a conference, refreshments, and time for discussion.
Please join us in praying for guidance in the election of the next Prioress by adding the prayer on the back of this page to your prayers. The Discernment and Election days begin on June 2.
Sister Estelle Charron passed away early Saturday morning, April 25, at home in the monastery. She was 86, and in her 44th year as a Benedictine Sister.
Her obituary describes the many roles that she held, boards on which she served and the like. I remember her best for her attention to the art of conversation – an art she feared was being lost. She could tell a good story, but was even more expert at somehow – through questions and comments – making someone else’s story even more fun.
Among her many unusual skills, Sister Estelle carved – no, embellished – walking sticks. Friends brought her the particular type of wood that she liked, gathered on their own hikes in the forest. After stripping and preparing the stick, she would carve or use a wood burner to create images that she thought would delight the person receiving the stick – a favorite saying, woodland creatures, a few butterflies. They were works of art.
The Sisters will celebrate the life of Sister Estelle on Monday, May 4 in Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel. The Wake Service is at 9:30am followed at 11 a.m. by the Mass of Christian Burial. Oblates are warmly invited.
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.