Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

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 prayer of disarming power

There is no problem or difficulty that cannot be solved or resolved by faithful persevering recourse to My Mother’s most holy Rosary. The Rosary is My Mother’s gift to the poor and to the simple, to the little ones who alone are capable of hearing the Gospel in all its purity and of responding to it with a generous heart. It is to such as these—the childlike and the weak, the poor and the trusting—that the Rosary is given. It is to such as these that the Rosary belongs.

There are no sufferings that cannot be borne peacefully, so long as a soul is praying the Rosary. Through the Rosary, all the grace and power of My mysteries passes through My Mother’s Immaculate Heart into the hearts of the little ones who invoke her, repeating the angel’s “Ave” over and over again. There are illnesses that can be cured through the Rosary. There are clouds of darkness and confusion that only the Rosary can disperse, and this because it is My Mother’s favourite prayer, a prayer that originated in the heights of heaven and was carried to earth by My Archangel, a prayer echoed and amplified in the Church through the ages, a prayer loved by all My saints, a prayer of disarming power and of immense depth.

There are those who find the Rosary difficult. The difficulty lies not in the Rosary but in the complexity of those who struggle to enter into its simplicity. Invite souls to the prayer of the Rosary; through it I will heal the sick of mind and body, through it I will give peace where there is conflict, through it I will make great saints out of great sinners, through it I will sanctify My priests, give joy to My consecrated ones, and raise up new vocations in abundance.

Listen, then, to My Mother’s plea in so many places.178 Listen to her, take her plea to heart, pray her Rosary and, for you, as for her, My Father will do wondrous things.

(From In Sinu Jesu, the Journal of a Priest)

The rosary wrapped round our human frailty

o-l-fatima-bust2Mary’s Joy
Holy Mass begins today on a note of irrepressible joy:

Gaudeámus omnes in Dómino, diem festum celebrántes sub honóre beátæ Maríæ Vírginis: de cuius sollemnitáte gaudent Angeli et colláudant Fílium Dei. V. Eructávit cor meum verbum bonum: dico ego ópera mea Regi (Ps 44:2).

The Introit, originally composed for the feast of Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr, and later adapted for use on many other feasts, echoes the words of Saint Paul to the Philippians: «Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice» or, in Monsignor Knox’s translation, «Joy to you in the Lord at all times; once again I wish you joy» (Philippians 4:4).

Lovelier Words Never Spoken
Saint Paul’s words to the Philippians, in turn, send us back to the Angelic Salutation, repeated 150 times in Our Lady’s Psalter: «Hail, thou who art full of grace; the Lord is with thee» (Luke 1:28). The Greek gives, «χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη, ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ». Lovelier words were never spoken, not since the dawn of time: joy, and grace, and beauty, and loveliness upon thee, O thou who art full of joy and grace, and beauty, and loveliness!

Take Up the Beads
If the Rosary were no more than this, the Angelic Salutation, repeated as many times are there are psalms in David’s Psalter, it would be sufficient to infuse rivers of heavenly joy into souls weighed down by earthly sorrows; to send the vigour of grace into souls laid low by the disgrace of sin; to beautify souls disfigured by disobedience; to make lovable again souls fallen into every unlovely distortion of love.  All of this the Rosary has done, and still does, and will always do for souls who are humble enough to take up the beads and begin the circle of repetition by which the mothering embrace of the Virgin wraps itself round our human frailty.

Decapitates Spiritual Pride
The Rosary confounds complexity and decapitates spiritual pride. There is no problem or difficulty that cannot be solved or resolved by faithful persevering recourse to Mary’s Psalter. The Rosary is the gift of the Mother of God to the poor and the powerless, who alone are capable of hearing the Gospel in all its purity, and of responding to it with a generous heart. It is to such as these — the childlike and the weak, the poor and the trusting — that the Rosary is given. It is to such as these that the Rosary belongs.

Over and Over Again
There are no sufferings that cannot be borne peacefully so long as a soul is praying the Rosary. Through the Rosary all the grace and power of the mysteries passes through Mary’s Immaculate Heart into the hearts of the little ones who invoke her, repeating the Angel’s « Ave » over and over again.

Simplicity
There are illnesses that can be cured through the Rosary. There are clouds of darkness and confusion that only the Rosary can disperse. Why? Simply because it is the favourite prayer of the Mother of God, a prayer that originated in the heights of heaven and was carried to earth by an Archangel, a prayer echoed and amplified in the Church through the ages, a prayer loved by the saints, a prayer of disarming power and of immense depth. There are those who find the Rosary difficult; the difficulty lies not in the Rosary but in the complexity of those who struggle to enter into its simplicity.

Grace Did More Abound
Through the Rosary, Mary, Health of the Sick, heals the sick of mind and body. Through the Rosary, Mary, Queen of Peace, gives peace where there is conflict. Through the Rosary, Mary, Refuge of Sinners, makes saints out of poor sinners, for through Mary full of grace, «where sin abounded, grace did more abound» (Romans 5:20). Through the Rosary, Mary, Queen of the Cenacle, illumines priests in darkness, gives joy to struggling monks, and everywhere raises up vocations in abundance.

The Works of the King
Listen, then, to the plea of the Mother of God in so many places. What did Mary sing in the Psalm Verse of the Introit? Eructávit cor meum verbum bonum: dico ego ópera mea Regi (Ps 44:2). «Joyful the thoughts that well up from my heart, mine it is to speak of the works of the King». If we pray the Rosary, the thoughts of Mary’s Immaculate Heart, thoughts of joy, will become the thoughts of our hearts. If we pray the Rosary, ours it will be to speak of the works of the King, for with the Mother of God we shall begin to see and to say: «He whose name is holy, has wrought for me His wonders» (Luke 1:49).

Blessed Bartolo Longo

1005 Beato Bartolo-Longo.jpgBlessed Bartolo Longo
There is a marvelous figure of holiness inscribed on the calendar today: Blessed Bartolo Longo, the great Apostle of the Rosary and the founder of the shrine of the Madonna of the Rosary at Pompei in Italy. Born in 1841, Blessed Longo died in 1926. He was a contemporary of Saint Faustina. Pope John Paul II beatified him in 1980. Several times in his pontificate, Saint John Paul II called our attention to the example of this holy layman, calling him “l’uomo della Madonna,” Our Lady’s man.

Divine Mercy Displayed
Blessed Bartolo Longo’s story is a dramatic illustration of Divine Mercy. The mystery of Mercy announced by Saint Faustina played itself out in the life of Blessed Longo. As a young man, following studies in Law, Bartolo Longo abandoned his faith and allowed himself to be drawn into paths of great spiritual darkness. He practiced spiritism, found himself entrenched in the occult, and became a practicing Satanist. Longo went so far as to have himself ordained a priest of Satan. He very nearly lost his sanity, becoming a mere shadow of himself.

Spiritually Sick
In one particular séance Longo was distressed to see the face of the deceased king of Naples and the Two Sicilies: Ferdinand II. That same night he saw the soul of his mother circling his bed, begging him to return to the Catholic faith. His practice of the occult had so affected him that he was barely recognizable to those who once knew him as a handsome young man, full of vitality and promise. A Catholic friend, seeing him in such a pitiful spiritual, psychological, and physical state, begged him to at least meet with Father Radente, a wise Dominican priest. After some time, Longo made a thorough confession and, under the direction of this priest, began the reform of his life. He entered the Third Order of Saint Dominic, receiving the name, Brother Rosario.

Conversion and Healing
Bartolo’s Dominican spiritual father told him that the Mother of God promised that anyone who promoted her Rosary would assuredly be saved. The rest of Blessed Bartolo’s life was dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary. The Rosary was his lifeline. The Rosary was the anchor of his salvation. The Rosary was the means by which the Holy Mother of God brought him back from hell. It was through the prayer of the Rosary that the Blessed Virgin healed his soul, restored him to health, and entrusted him with a mission. Later Blessed Bartolo wrote, “What is my vocation? To write about Mary, to have Mary praised, to have Mary loved.”

Rosary Apostolate
Blessed Longo reached out to the desperately poor, ignorant, and needy people of the town of Pompei. He taught them to pray the Rosary. The Rosary did for that entire town what it had done for him in his personal life; it brought healing, refreshment, holiness, joy, and peace. With the help of the Countess Mariana de Fusco whom he later married on the advice of Pope Leo XIII, while preserving with her his vow of chastity, Bartolo Longo undertook the construction of the church of the Madonna of the Rosary of Pompei. The city that grew up around it became the City of the Rosary.

He founded a congregation of Dominican Sisters to care for the poor. He established a school for boys. He wrote tirelessly in the service of the Madonna and of her Rosary. His beautiful supplication to the Madonna of the Rosary has been translated into countless languages. Pope John Paul II prayed it when, on October 7, 2003, he visited Pompei to conclude the Year of the Rosary. In Italy, every year on the first Sunday of October, everything comes to a halt at noon while people, young and old, poor and rich, healthy and sick, pause to pray Blessed Longo’s supplication to the Virgin of the Rosary.

Divine Mercy Available to All
Saint Faustina made known the mystery of Divine Mercy. Blessed Bartolo Longo experienced Divine Mercy in a dramatic and deeply personal way. The same Divine Mercy is available to us: the mercy that brings back from hell, the mercy that raises the soul from spiritual death, the mercy that heals, restores, forgives, and repairs the past.

The Divine Mercy comes to us through the intercession of the Mother of God and, most efficaciously, through the humble prayer of the Rosary. It comes to us in the Sacrament of Penance: the mystery of the blood and the water from the side of Christ washing over the soul. And the Divine Mercy comes to us in the mystery of the Eucharist. The Mass is the real presence of Crucified Love. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is Divine Mercy flowing from the Heart of the Lamb, making saints out of sinners.

What Are the Instruments of Good Works (IV)

Notre–Dame–de–Bonne–Délivrance (Paris) before whom Saint Francis de Sales was delivered from the temptation to despair of the mercy of God.

21 Jan. 22 May. 21 Sept.
62. Daily to fulfil by one’s deeds the commandments of God.
63. To love chastity.
64. To hate no man.
65. Not to give way to jealousy and envy.
66. Not to love strife.
67. To fly from vainglory.
68. To reverence the Seniors.
69. To love the juniors.
70. To pray for one’s enemies in the love of Christ.
71. To make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun.
72. And never to despair of God’s mercy.

Behold, these are the tools of the spiritual craft, which, if they be constantly employed day and night, and duly given back on the day of judgment, will gain for us from the Lord that reward which He Himself hath promised – “which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard; nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive what God hath prepared for them that love Him.” And the workshop where we are to labour at all these things is the cloister of the monastery, and stability in the community.

• Chapter IV ends with ten commandments of God for life together in charity and in peace. Saint Benedict would have each of his monks fulfill by his deeds this closing series of commandments. Saint Benedict, who was no stranger to the temptations of the flesh, begins with the love of chastity. The man who loves chastity will, even if he must pass through the crucible of many temptations and humiliating reversals, enter into the joy of chastity. “Love chastity”, says Saint Benedict, knowing full well that the man who loves chastity will be a happy man, and that is good and pleasant to live in community with men who are happy. Vice, be it unchastity or any other vice, has never made a man happy. On the contrary, the signature of vice is unhappiness, sadness, and perpetual dissatisfaction. Saint Benedict enjoins his monks to love chastity because he wants them to be happy men, men capable of singing with the Psalmist: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 132:1).

• Hatred is toxic. Saint Benedict says, “Hate no man”. Satan seeks, by every means at his disposal, to sow the seeds of enmity among brethren. Hatred does not declare itself as such straightaway. It begins as a petty annoyance, as an insuperable antipathy. And it grows. It grows in the dark. And one day, there is hatred in one’s heart. One must react vigorously to the very first movements of antipathy, however subtle they may be, lest they grow into the kind of thing that foments discord, detraction, backbiting, and division.

• Saint Benedict recognises the dangers presented by jealousy and envy. Jealousy rears its ugly head when one feels that who one is, or what one has — one’s special gifts, one’s place in the community, the place one holds in the affection of another — is threatened by another. Envy occurs when one wants what another has: material things, physical or intellectual attributes, talents, and friendships. One in the grip of jealousy or envy begins to look upon one’s brother with a jaundiced eye. Jealousy and envy can so blur one’s vision that one’s entire perception of reality becomes distorted. Thoughts of jealousy and envy must be, as Saint Benedict says, dashed down on the Rock, that is Christ, the instant that they come into the heart, and laid open to one’s spiritual father. This latter point can be difficult and humiliating. Non one likes to admit feelings of jealousy and envy. All the same, exposing them to the light is their undoing.

• Saint Benedict says that his monks are not to love strife. You may have known individuals who love strife: such individuals thrive on conflict. They need to have an enemy at all times. They are not content unless they are discontent, and not at peace unless they are at odds with someone. The lover of strife thinks, “If I cannot get close to the one I hate, I can, at least, hate the one to whom I close”. We see this kind of thing played out in families and in the workplace. In the monastery, where emotions are easily magnified by the observances of silence and enclosure, the love of strife is particularly dangerous and can threaten the peace of the whole community.

• Saint Benedict would have his monks fly from vain–glory. Vain–glory is, some would say, an old–fashioned sort of word; few people today have any notion of what the word means. Vainglory comes from the Greek κενοδοξία, literally empty glory. It is a capital vice; that is, a vice that gives birth to other vices. The man in the grip of vainglory wants to be seen as excellent, superior, surpassing others in virtue, knowledge, ability, or physical attributes. Saint Thomas (Summa II:2, q. 132) says that the end of vainglory is the manifestation of one’s own excellence; he identifies the daughters of vainglory as follows: boasting, love of novelties, hypocrisy, obstinacy, discord, contention, and disobedience.

• Reverence for the seniors and love for the juniors is an expression of charity and the assurance of peace in a community. When seniors are set against juniors and juniors against seniors, as sometimes happens in monasteries, the community falls into sterility, vocations dry up, decadence enters in, and mortal decline accelerates. In our community, as we grow in number, we must do everything to put into practice these two instruments of good works. If each brother reverences the fathers senior to him and loves the brothers junior to him, our monastery will flourish, vocations will abound, observance will be good, and our life will be fruitful in accord with Our Lord’s word, “In this is my Father glorified; that you bring forth very much fruit” (John 15:8).

• To pray for one’s enemies in the love of Christ and to make peace with an adversary before the setting of the sun are two indispensable instruments. Praying for one’s enemies can bring about miracles of grace. The prayer of forgiveness and reparation that we distribute has changed lives and brought peace to hearts long troubled by the refusal to forgive. Making peace with one’s adversary (or with one perceived as an adversary) fosters humility, builds up charity, strengthens unity, and produces gladness. Holding on to enmity causes one to swell up with pride, increases antipathies, foments division, and lodges sadness in the cloister.

• And so we come to the 73rd and last instrument of good works: “And never to despair of God’s mercy”. Be alert to the tactics of the devil. He is forever trying to push souls, or drag them, or get them to throw themselves, into the pit of despair. He does this principally by whispering: “Look at yourself. You are a failure, a bad monk, a vice–ridden wretch and there is no hope for you, no grace, no mercy. Just accept this state of things and get on with your miserable existence. You might as well live a desperate little life because you are, in any case, going to die in despair”. As soon as you begin to hear such despicable diabolical insinuations, run— do not walk — run to the Mother of God and cast yourself at her feet. Blurt out to her all that you are feeling; hold nothing back; tell her the whole sorry tale. (Not for nothing do we have in our monastery a statue of Our Lady of Good Deliverance; it was at the feet of this statue that Saint Francis de Sales, in the throes of a crippling temptation to despair, stammered a Memorare, and found himself freed from despair and filled with trust in the love of God.) And, then, go to your spiritual father and ask him to help you send all such despicable diabolical insinuations back to hell whence they came in the first place. Even if a monk has failed to implement the 72 first instruments of good works, he can still lay hold of the 73rd, and by means of it, draw down the great strong arms of the mercy of God, who desires nothing more than to lift him out of his misery and press him against His Heart.

Saint Benedict says that “the workshop where we are to labour at all these things is the cloister of the monastery and stability in the community”. A monastery is, in a very real way, a “sheltered workshop”. We are, all of us, fragile men, souls at risk, travelers wearied and bruised along the way. Saint Aelred says that the “singular and supreme glory” of his abbey, Rievaulx, was that it taught “tolerance of the infirm and compassion with others in their necessities”. Among the most subtle and destructive temptations that can befall a monk are those against enclosure and stability. The monk who entertains the idea of leaving the sheltered workshop of the cloister, should he carry out his design, risks leaving behind him all 73 instruments of good works, including the last one. There are too many tragic stories of monks who, having been deceived by devil and seduced into leaving the monastery, found themselves washed up amidst the flotsam and jetsome of this world’s moral wreckage. It is an old story, as old as the drama of the first pages of Genesis and of the temptations of Our Lord Himself. Saint Benedict unmasks this last temptation and assures us that for the man who perseveres, there will be, at the end, and even in little glimpses and forestastes along the way, “things no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart conceived, the welcome God has prepared for those who love him” (2 Corinthians 2:9).

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Situated amidst pasture land and forest in the eastern reaches of County Meath, Silverstream Priory was founded in 2012 at the invitation of the Most Reverend Michael Smith, Bishop of Meath, and canonically erected as an autonomous monastery of diocesan right on 25 February 2017. The property belonged, from the early 15th century, to the Preston family, premier Viscounts of Ireland and Lords of Gormanston. In 1843 Thomas Preston (1817-1903), son of Jenico Preston, the 12th Viscount (1775-1860), built what today is Silverstream Priory.

Silverstream Priory is a providential realisation of the cherished project of Abbot Celestino Maria Colombo, O.S.B. (1874–1935), who, following the impetus given by Catherine–Mectilde de Bar in the 17th century, sought to establish a house of Benedictine monks committed to ceaseless prayer before the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation. The community of Silverstream Priory holding to the use of Latin and Gregorian Chant, celebrate the Divine Office in its traditional Benedictine form and Holy Mass in the “Usus Antiquior” of the Roman Rite. Praying and working in the enclosure of the monastery, the monks of Silverstream keep at heart the sanctification of priests labouring in the vineyard of the Lord. They undertake various works compatible with their monastic vocation, notably the development of the land and gardens, hospitality to the clergy in need of a spiritual respite, scholarly work, and publishing.

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