Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

Our Lady of the Cenacle in Armenian Iconography

After his brilliant latest essays on Julien Green, and on Saints Benedict and Philip Neri, Mr Rick Yoder, only recently graduated from The University of Virginia, offers this one on Our Lady of the Cenacle in Armenian Iconography. Do read the whole essay at The Amish Catholic.

Throughout the Latin Church, Saturday in the Ascension Octave is kept as the Feast of Our Lady of the Cenacle. On this holy day, we remember the Mother of God keeping vigil with the Apostles in the Upper Room, or “Cenacle.” The place is significant. Here, Christ gathered the Twelve on the night of his betrayal, Maundy Thursday. At that time, He instituted the priesthood and the Eucharist. Later, on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit will descend upon the congregation and truly constitute the Church as such, confirming its sacramental essence and mission in the world of time.

Mary’s position in this unique place at this unique time is captured in the title, “Our Lady of the Cenacle.” But that name conceals a much deeper mystery. What, precisely, was she doing in the Cenacle? Why was she there? And does her presence, never mentioned in the Bible, nevertheless retain important meaning for us today?

Our Lady of Fatima

Our Lady of Fatima by Sr Mary of the Compassion.jpgMy Immaculate Heart Will Triumph
Today’s feast of Our Lady of Fatima coincides with the thirty–sixth anniversary of the attempt on the life of Pope Saint  John Paul II in Saint Peter’s Square. Fifteen years ago Saint John Paul II declared a Year of the Rosary. In his Apostolic Letter on the Rosary, he called it “a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness.”

Mater Misericordiae
The Rosary is a presence of Mary, the Refuge of Sinners, saying to us in a still, small voice, “Child, never despair of God’s mercy.” She is Mater Misericordiae, the Mother of Mercy. Where Mary goes the mercy of God follows bringing forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, and peace. If you would know the mercy of God, seek to know the Mother of Mercy. She preserves sinners from the one sin that is greater than all other sins put together, that of despairing of the mercy of God.

Spes Nostra
By making “never to despair of God’s mercy” the last of the Instruments of Good Works in Chapter Four of the Holy Rule, Saint Benedict is saying to us, “Even if you fail in all else, even if you fall into grievous sin, hold fast to this and you will not be disappointed in your hope.” In the Salve Regina, Mary is called not only Mater misericordiae but also spes nostra. The Rosary is a childlike and humble way of putting our hand in the hand of the Mother of God lest we slip into discouragement, and from discouragement fall into the pit of despair.

The Face of Christ
The feast of Our Lady of Fatima compels us to ask ourselves if, with the passing years, Saint John Paul II’s Year of the Rosary has become, I fear, a distant memory, something vague and without bearing on us nine years later. The Rosary — a prolonged contemplation of the Face of Christ in the company of Mary — opens us to the mystery of Our Lord’s word on the night before suffered: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). If you would see Christ, pray the Rosary. If you would see the glory of the Father shining on the Face of the Son, pray the Rosary.

The Fragrance of the Knowledge of Christ
Do I persevere in the simple but sometimes difficult prayer of the Rosary, or I do I give in to discouragement, laziness, indifference, or routine? Where is the Rosary in my own moments of joy, light, sorrow, and glory? And where is my life in the context of the joys, lights, sorrows, and glories of Christ and of his holy Mother? Like his predecessor Pope Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI was not ashamed to unite himself to little ones the world over who, in simplicity of heart and poverty of spirit, love the Rosary and in praying it breathe in the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ (cf. 2 Cor 2:14).

Penitence
Our Lady of Fatima’s message was a call to prayer and to penitence. To prayer first, and then to penitence: this because prayer, especially the humble prayer of the Rosary softens even the most hardened heart, decapitates pride, and makes penitence possible. The grace of conversion of heart is given to those who pray for it, and for this there is no better prayer than the Rosary. One does not first change one’s way of life and then begin to pray. One prays first — and sometimes for a very long time — in order to be able to receive the grace of inner conversion for oneself or even for another.

For me, what I find most beautiful about the Rosary is that sinners are comfortable praying it. It is a chain that, with each “Hail Mary,” binds the heart more strongly to its treasure (cf. Mt 6:21). One need not be perfect to pray the Rosary; one need only be capable of saying again and again, “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”

The Poor Man’s Rosary
The Rosary is, I said, a simple prayer. That does not mean that it is always easy. At certain times in life, one must be content with what I call “the poor man’s Rosary.” This may mean that when you are weary, discouraged, and unable to focus, you content yourself with saying a little phrase on each bead instead of the whole prescribed prayer: just “Hail, Mary, full of grace,” or just “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus,” or just, “Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” Do you think that Our Lady is less pleased with the humble, incomplete stammerings of a little child than with the perfect recitation of one who, by the grace of God, can do more? Many a sleepless night has been filled with the murmurings of the “poor man’s Rosary” and in that humble prayer the Mother of God finds an immense joy.

A Path to Contemplation
The Rosary is the simplest and most accessible of prayers. It is, at the same time, a sure path to contemplation, leading ever more deeply, almost imperceptibly, into the stillness of the Most Holy Trinity. The Rosary is a way of abiding with Mary in the radiance of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus. It is a way into the ceaseless prayer of the heart that is an evangelical precept addressed to all: “Jesus told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Lk 18:1). Do that and you will be “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Ac 13:52). Our Lady of Fatima promises it.

Sr Mary Compassion OP.jpgThe lovely image of Our Lady of Fatima appearing to the three children is the work of Sister Mary of the Compassion, O.P. Born Constance Mary Rowe on March 17, 1908, she was baptized at the famous Brompton Oratory. Constance Mary Rowe won an international art award, the Prix de Rome, in 1932. In 1935 she left England for New York City, where she had accepted a number of commissions; among them was a drawing of the Dominican Saint Martin de Porres. Constance Mary Rowe was never to return to her beloved England. In 1937 she made profession as a Cloistered Dominican Sister of the Perpetual Rosary at the “Blue Chapel” in Union City, New Jersey. Although I had seen her work and read about her in Jubilee magazine, I had the privilege of meeting Sister Mary of the Compassion only shortly before her death in 1977. The “Blue Chapel” Monastery is now closed.

An Oblate of Silverstream on Fatima and the Desert Fathers

Marco da Vinha and his wife, Isa, are Oblate novices of Silverstream Priory. Marco and Isa are the parents of Helena and Cristóvão. They make their home in the U.K., while remaining deeply rooted in Portugal, Mary’s Land, la Terra de Maria.

Fátima and the Desert Fathers
by Marco Gregory da Vinha, Obl.O.S.B.

I find myself writing today about a topic which I never thought I would – Fátima; specifically, the message of Fátima (or, at least, how I have come to understand it). Caveat: for those that came here expecting some comment on “the Consecration of Russia”, you can forget about that. That is a topic I’m not at all interested in touching. Let’s just say that I believe that that request was very time-specific, and is not necessarily what the “message” was all about, though it seems to me that to many it carries an almost messianic weight.

Love it or hate it, every Portuguese knows Fátima and has probably been there at least once in their life. In the minds of not a few, Fátima is something quite apart from the Church. How many times did I not hear from people (who even made regular pilgrimages there): “I don’t believe in the Church, but I have a lot of faith in Fátima.” I never understood what that was supposed to mean. What do those who profess such a belief understand Fátima to be? Does it mean you believe in some “miraculous” event, some “force” you keep a mercenary relationship with? Or does it mean that you believe in the message? If so, then you must necessarily believe in the Church. Our Lady cannot be understood apart of the Church; she is a type of the Church. If you believe in her, and not the Church, then there is something seriously flawed with your belief.

But I digress…

Fátima (Cova da Iria) is about an hour and fifteen minutes drive on the motorway from my home city. Now that I stop to think about it, I (providentially?) made my official return to the Church there 10 years ago. For almost two years I drove down every Sunday so as to be able to experience the vetus ordo of the Roman rite (and occasionally the Divine Liturgy at the local Ukrainian Greek Catholic chapel at Domus Pacis). When people found out that I would go to Fátima every Sunday they would say “Wow, you must have a lot of faith in Fátima.”, but it had never crossed my mind, in all those trips, that I was going there because of Fatima; if anything, in my mind, Fátima was accidental: the vetus ordo just happened to be celebrated there. As time went on, I began to have a bit more of a “sacramental” understanding of the place, and so the shrine (or at least the area of the chapel of the apparitions) became a kind of holy ground. The Deipara, the Dei genetrix, had appeared there; she had hallowed the ground (or at least the oak tree) by her contact. In my mind, that made the immediate vicinity a kind of contact relic, and so I would always stop by, even if just for 5 minutes, to say “hello” and entrust to her care my vocation, whichever it might be. Several years later, Sr. Maria do Rosário and I were received as novice Benedictine oblates at Fátima.

During these many years I had struggled to understand just what exactly was the “message of Fátima” or why “the world needs Fátima“. Searching for answers on the internet only served to further the confusion. I had never stopped to read any proper literature on the apparitions; I only got bits and pieces of the story from time to time from speaking with people who had purposely moved to Fátima from abroad, as well as from someone who had known Sr. Lucia for many years and served as an interpreter of sorts for her. However, it was only after Father Prior had spoken with the postulator for Bl. Francisco’s cause that things suddenly start to click in my head. To quote Father Prior’s own words:

I put the question to Dr Coelho. She explained that while little Jacinta was an extrovert, easily engaging with others and concerned in reaching out to all, especially to poor sinners, Francisco was a very interior soul, focused on God alone or, as he himself put it, on consoling the Hidden Jesus. In this way, the personalities and graces of Francisco and Jacinta are complementary. Jacinta is emblematic of the missionary impulse of the Church, while Francisco illustrates the call to the hidden life and total dedication to the “One Thing Necessary” (Luke 10:42). Francisco, explained Dr Coelho, was, from the very beginning of the apparitions, singled out as a contemplative soul.

The Postulator explained that had Our Lady said that Francisco was to become a “contemplative soul”, the meaning of her words would have completely escaped Francisco’s understanding. His was the simple vocabulary of a child, of a boy accustomed to the concrete realities of nature. Our Lady’s words that Francisco would “need to say many rosaries” before going to heaven was, in effect, her way of saying that Francisco was to become an entirely contemplative soul before going to heaven, and this by means of many rosaries. Understand by this that, for Francisco and for most ordinary people, many rosaries are the most simple and efficacious way to union with God.

For some time I had begun to see the message of “penance and prayer for the conversion of sinners” as synonymous with the Gospel, which made me wonder what was so unique about the apparition(s) and its message. Suddenly, with the postulator’s comment about Our Lady adapting her language to her interlocutors/audience, it made sense.

What was Our Lady trying to tell us? What had we forgotten?

Penance – mortifications; prayer for the conversion of sinners – intercession; pray the Rosary – the layman’s office par excellence in the West. Our Lady was reminding a simple people, a people of simple faith, of what it means to be Christian. I don’t mean simple in a pejorative sense; I mean simple in childlike, unable(?) to understand complex theological ideas, but faithful enough to intuit them, with a lively sensus fidelium. In very simple terms, she was reminding them of their baptismal priesthood. Sons in the Son, they could unite their sufferings, their mortifications, to Christ’s, to “make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (cf. Col 1:24). As Our Lord had offered Himself up on the Cross for sinners, so they were to become icons of all mankind, offering in themselves all to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, especially for those who did not believe. The daily rosary was an injunction to “pray without ceasing”. For a long time the rosary had been an alternative to the Office for those who were unable to read. The Office, especially through the Psalms, shows us the vultus Christi; praying the Psalms helps one to acquire the mind of Christ. Being unable to do that, one turns to Mary, and in contemplating her, one can see in her face the face of her Son shining through.

“Fátima”, in my understanding of it, is nothing “new”. The message is the Gospel. It is the life that finds echo in the life of the Desert Fathers. The Desert Father’s lived a(-n extreme) life of penance, of mortification; one needs only to read their sayings to see how indispensable it was to them, how essential it was to cultivate humility. It was not something negative; rather it was liberating. See, for example, this saying of Abba Poemon:

A brother questioned Abba Poemen saying, ‘I have committed a great sin and I want to do penance for three years.’ The old man said to him, ‘That is a lot.’ The brother said, ‘For one year?’ The old man said again, ‘That is a lot.’ Those who were present said, ‘For forty days?’ He said again, ‘That is a lot.’ He added, ‘I myself say that if a man repents with his whole heart and does not intend to commit the sin any more, God will accept him after only three days.’

Even on their deathbed penance was still (or should that be especially?) on their minds:

It was said of Abba Sisoes that when he was at the point of death, while the Fathers were sitting beside him, his face shone like the sun. He said to them, ‘Look, Abba Anthony is coming.’ A little later he said, ‘Look, the choir of prophets is coming.’ Again his countenance shone with brightness and he said, Look, the choir of apostles is coming,’ His countenance increased in brightness and lo, he spoke with someone. Then the old men asked him, ‘With whom are you speaking, Father?’ He said, ‘Look, the angels are coming to fetch me, and I am begging them to let me do a little penance.’ The old man said to him, ‘You have no need to do penance, Father.’ But the old man said to them, ‘Truly, I do not think I have even made a beginning yet.’

Continual prayer was also a theme on the minds of the Desert Fathers. They knew, through their experience, that it required a great effort to become a habit, especially if one was to pray without ceasing, which in a goal of all Christians, which they will one day do perfectly united to Christ, the Eternal High Priest. The Psalms were their school of prayer.

Abba Agathon said, “Prayer is hard work and a great struggle to one’s last breath”.

Having withdrawn to the solitary life he made the same prayer again and he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Arsenius, flee, be silent, pray always, for these are the source of sinlessness.’

The brethren also asked him, ‘Amongst all good works, which is the virtue which requires the greatest effort?’ He answered, ‘Forgive me, but I think there is no labour greater than that of prayer to God. For every time a man wants to pray, his enemies, the demons, want to prevent him, for they know that it is only by turning him from prayer that they can hinder his journey. What ever good work a man undertakes, if he perseveres in it, he will attain rest. But prayer is warfare to the last breath.’

We find as well stories of the Fathers’ intercession for sinners:

One day Abba Serapion passed through an Egyptian village and there he saw a courtesan who stayed in her own cell. The old man said to her, ‘Expect me this evening, for I should like to come and spend the night with you.’ She replied, ‘Very well, abba.’ She got ready and made the bed. When evening came, the old man came to see her and entered her cell and said to her, ‘Have you got the bed ready?’ She said, ‘Yes, abba.’ Then he closed the door and said to her, ‘Wait a bit, for we have a rule of prayer and I must fulfill that first.’ So the old man began his prayers. He took the psalter and at each psalm he said a prayer for the courtesan, begging God that she might be converted and saved, and God heard him. The woman stood trembling and praying beside the old man. When he had completed the whole psalter the woman fell to the ground. Then the old man, beginning the Epistle, read a great deal from the apostle and completed his prayers. The woman was filled with compunction and understood that he had not come to see her to commit sin but to save her soul and she fell at his feet, saying, ‘Abba, do me this kindness and take we where I can please God.’ So the old man took her to a monastery of virgins and entrusted her to the amma and he said, ‘Take this sister and do not put any yoke or commandment on her as on the other sisters, but if she wants something, give it her and allow her to walk as she wishes.’ After some days the courtesan said, ‘I am a sinner; I wish to eat every second day.’ A little later she said, ‘I have committed many sins and I wish to eat every fourth day.’ A few days later she besought the amma saying, ‘Since I have grieved God greatly by my sins, do me the kindness of putting me in a cell and shutting it completely and giving me a little bread and some work through the window.’ The amma did so and the woman pleased God all the rest of her life.

Is Fátima still “relevant”? I think it is particularly poignant a century later because it obliges us to ask “What have we forgotten?” It seems to me to be quite providential that our Blessed Mother should remind us of this supernatural aspect of the faith on the eve of a revolution of the “anti-Gospel”, of a materialistic “gospel” that promised an immanenitized eschaton. And yet, 100 years later, on the cusp of the anniversary of the apparitions, if one listens to the majority of the “testimonies” about the meaning of Fatima on this website (which is backed by the Sanctuary and a Catholic radio station), one will find that we have forgotten much. The majority of those testimonies of what Fátima means to those individuals is focused to much on me, on vague concepts of love and peace and feeling good with one’s self, a form of spiritual hygiene. God does not figure into the picture. The faith is primarily about the world here below, a convenient ethical system, but little beyond that.

We have forgotten the Cross. It is the Cross, the dulce lignum, that best encapsulates the Faith. In trying to make it more appealing, in applying so much cosmetic to sweeten the pill, we have gone so far as to forget what it is all about.

What is Fátima to me? Fátima is the unbroken tradition of the Church; Fátima is the life of monks and religious and clerics and lay alike; Fátima is the faith of the Desert Fathers –  Fátima is the Christian life in broad strokes, so simple enough even a child could understand it. And it is a reminder to make every day a beginning.

A Letter to Alessandro

0815assunta est .jpg
A young man asked if I might reflect with him on the practice of Total Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, following the doctrine of Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. I remembered having written this little reflection in the form of a letter for Alessandro — who has since become a monk! — and thought that I would post it again. I trust that the young seeker will also find it helpful.

14 August 2009
Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, priest and martyr
Vigil of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Dear Alessandro,

With your characteristic candor and enthusiasm, you asked me a few days ago about the various ways of consecrating oneself to the Blessed Virgin Mary. You referred, in particular, to Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort’s plan for total consecration to Mary, and to the Act of Consecration composed by today’s Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe. I prayed this morning about your question and found myself reflecting on the meaning of consecration. You know, of course, that Pope John Paul II proposed the word affidamento, which one might translate as entrustment. (Read Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins’ book: Totus Tuus: John Paul II’s Program of Marian Consecration & Entrustment.) Personally, I think that, at least in English, entrustment rather weakens the notion of consecration, especially when one approaches it through the lens of Saint John’s Gospel and through Saint Paul’s Epistles.

Marie Reine Immaculée.jpgConsecration can mean two things: it can refer to the action by which one hands oneself over to God in imitation of Christ:

The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal 2:20).

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph 5:2).

Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her that He might sanctify her (Eph 5:25).

You can see that “handing oneself over” “giving oneself up” is intrinsically linked to the idea of sacrifice, which, in turn, is related to sanctification or consecration.

And for their sake I consecrate Myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth (Jn 17:19).

JP II Czestochowa.jpgThe meaning of “to consecrate” in this context is “to sacrifice.” One might render the above verse correctly as:

And for their sake I sacrifice Myself, that they also may be sacrificed in truth (Jn 17:19).

You may find the equivalence of to consecrate and to sacrifice a little frightening. I understand your apprehension. To sacrifice comes from two Latin roots: sacer (sacred) and facio (to do or make). In Book Ten of the The City of God, Saint Augustine explains that anything or anyone placed upon the altar becomes sacrificium; it or he becomes consecrated, that is, radically and irreversibly made over/given up/handed over to God. This is what Saint Paul says:

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

There are two moments in every sacrificium or consecration. The first moment corresponds to the Offertory of the Mass. One hands oneself over, offering to God one’s body and soul, one’s past, present, and future. Here the action is human; it engages one’s free will and, normally, finds expression in the formulation of an “act of consecration.”

From the human perspective, this is the active mode of consecration. One must hold fast, nonethless, to the truth that every good action is a free response, made possible by grace, to a divine solicitation of the heart. One consecrates oneself at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and in the grace of obedience to that inner prompting. I consecrate myself.

The second moment corresponds to the consecration of the Mass. One is acted upon by the Holy Spirit sent by the Father at the invocation of the Son. Here the action is divine, not human. The agent is God Himself, the work of sanctification/consecration being fittingly attributed to the Holy Spirit. I am consecrated.

Why would one risk an act of consecration, knowing full well that it will bring upon the one making it a configuration to Christ Jesus in the mystery of His sacrifice? One dares to consecrate oneself because it is the only response worthy of the love of God.

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? (Rom 8:32)

To be consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to be abandoned or given over to His love are, in effect the same thing. By consecrating oneself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is to hand oneself over to His merciful love. This action on our part allows Our Lord to act upon us freely in view of the glory of His Father, the fruitfulness of His Church, and our own sanctification. Our Lord seeks souls who will hand themselves over to His love, just as He handed himself over to His Father’s love upon the altar of the Cross. This is where Marian consecration comes in. The most effective way of handing oneself over to Jesus is through Mary. The consecration of oneself, made in her virginal hands, is immediately “handed over” to Jesus, the Eternal High Priest, who, in turn, unites it to His own perfect oblation to the Father.
Smiling St MM Kolbe1.gif
There are many ways of making this act of consecration to Our Lady. This past year I renewed my own Marian consecration by using the prayer of Saint Ildephonsus of Toledo. The beautiful prayer of consecration of Père Croset has marked my own life profoundly. You will find it here.

The act of consecration should not be done lightly. One should take counsel of one’s spiritual father and prepare for the act of consecration over a certain period of time. I recommend that the act of consecration coincide with one of Our Blessed Lady’s liturgical feasts. An act of consecration should be renewed frequently and need not always be renewed using the same formula. The best way of demonstrating what an act of consecration might look like is by sharing with you the one that I wrote this morning during my prayer. Here it is:

O Immaculate Virgin Mary,
beloved Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Mother of the Church and Mediatrix of All Graces,
I want to “hand myself over” to thee,
just as thy servant Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe “handed himself over” to thee
in an inspired act of consecration.
Thou art my Mother;
I am not afraid of trusting thee with my life
Thou art my Advocate;
I am confident that thou wilt plead for me
until I am safely with thee in heaven.
Thou art my Queen;
all power in heaven and on earth
hath been given thee by thy Divine Son,
Creator, Redeemer, and King of the Universe.
Thou art the Coredemptrix participating fully in the sacrifice of thy Son;
all that is made over to thee, thou handest over to Him
to be taken up into His oblation
for the glory of the Father and the salvation of souls.
There is no more effective way of entering into the Work of Redemption
than by consecrating myself to thee.
I am confident that thy Immaculate Heart will so order all things
that by giving myself to thee,
I will be handed over to thy Son, Priest and Victim,
to pass over, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, with Him into the glory of the Father
where thou waitest for the homecoming
of all thy sons and daughters.
O clement! O loving! O sweet Virgin Mary!

I hope that this letter responds, in some way, to your questions about Marian consecration. I bless you and keep you in my prayer.

Father

The Great Feast of Vocation

St DominicCall and Response
Not a week goes by when I do not meet or correspond with young men who are considering monastic life at Silverstream Priory. Today I find myself thinking of all of them, because the Annunciation is the great feast of vocation. Every vocation is a mystery of call and response. With the call comes the grace to respond. The greeting of the Angel Gabriel communicates what it signifies: Χαῖρε κεχαριτωμένη!  One could exhaust oneself in attempting to express all that the angelic salutation contains: Grace upon thee whom God hath filled full of grace! Joy upon thee who art become the joy of Him who has filled thee with joy! Loveliness upon thee who art lovely in the eyes of Him who has made thee so lovely!

And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’ s name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.

The Monk’s Starting Point
To open one’s ear to the greeting of an Angel, to one who comes bearing the Word of God, is to open oneself to a life–changing grace. In Psalm 44 the royal prophet addresses the Daughter of Sion, the Virgin of Nazareth: ” Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thy ear: and forget thy people and thy father’ s house” (Psalm 44:11). Our Lady of the Annunciation is the Virgo audiens (the listening Virgin) whose portrait, I have always thought, shines through the text of the Prologue of the Holy Rule: “Hearken, O my son, to the precepts of thy Master, and incline the ear of thine heart” (Prologue 1). Every monastic vocation begins with listening to the Word of God. A certain silence and separation from the world are required of a man even before he crosses the threshold of the cloister. Saint John Paul II calls the Word of God the monk’s starting point.

The starting point for the monk is the Word of God, a Word who calls, who invites, who personally summons, as happened to the Apostles. When a person is touched by the Word obedience is born, that is, the listening which changes life. Every day the monk is nourished by the bread of the Word. Deprived of it, he is as though dead and has nothing left to communicate to his brothers and sisters because the Word is Christ, to whom the monk is called to be conformed. (Orientale Lumen, art. 10)

The Risk
Our Lady listened, and her life was forever changed. She listened, and the life of her people was forever changed. She listened, and all creation was forever changed.  The Virgin listened and, in the word addressed to her, she was offered all that would be necessary to respond to that word. In every vocation and, in particular, in every monastic vocation, there is an element of risk. A monastic vocation engages a man not only in a life marked by conversion of manners and obedience, but also in a life defined by stability and circumscribed by a real enclosure. One who enters a monastery risks living until death in one specific place and in the company of men who have already committed themselves to that one specific place. The risk is daunting, but the rewards of monastic life are well worth the risk.

Notre–Dame–du–RisqueThere is, over the portal of the abbey of Boquen in Brittany, a charming old statue of the Virgin Mary called Notre–Dame–du–Risque, Our Lady of the Risk. This title of the Mother of God has always fascinated me. The man who desires to risk his life listening to the Word of God must do so close to the Virgin Mary. One who lives with Mary will quickly come to understand the immense import of prophecy entrusted to Isaias:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts. And as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return no more thither, but soak the earth, and water it, and make it to spring, and give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be, which shall go forth from my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please, and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it. (Isaias 55:8–11)

In praying for the men who are considering monastic life at Silverstream Priory, I can only ask that they hearken to the Word of God and, with Our Lady of the Risk, incline the ear of their hearts to the call that is addressed to them. By the prayers of the Virgin Mary, the Word of God shall not return to Him void; it shall prosper in the things for which God sent it forth.

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Founded in 2012 in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland, and canonically erected in 2017, Silverstream Priory is a house of monks living under the Rule of Saint Benedict. The monastery is under the patronage of Our Lady of the Cenacle. The monks of Silverstream Priory holding to the use of Latin and Gregorian Chant, celebrate the “Opus Dei” (Work of God, the sacred Liturgy) in its traditional Benedictine form and Holy Mass in the “Usus Antiquior” (Extraordinary Form) of the Roman Rite. As Benedictines of Perpetual Adoration, they aspire to assure ceaseless prayer before the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation. Praying and working in the enclosure of the monastery, the monks of Silverstream offer their life for the sanctification of priests labouring in the vineyard of the Lord. They undertake various works compatible with their monastic vocation, notably hospitality to the clergy in need of a spiritual respite, and a publishing house, the Cenacle Press.

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Audio Homilies

Hundreds of audio homilies from Silverstream Priory may be found on our podcast site here.

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