Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

Veni, pater pauperum (IV:2)

19 Jan. 20 May. 19 Sept.
22. Not to give way to anger.
23.  Not to harbour a desire of revenge.
24. Not to foster guile in one’s heart.
25. Not to make a feigned peace.
26. Not to forsake charity.
27. Not to swear, lest perchance one forswear oneself.
28. To utter truth from heart and mouth.
29. Not to render evil for evil.
30. To do no wrong to anyone yea, to bear patiently wrong done to oneself.
31. To love one’s enemies.
32. Not to render cursing for cursing, but rather blessing.
33. To bear persecution for justice’s sake.
34. Not to be proud.
35. Not given to wine.
36. Not a glutton.
37. Not drowsy.
38. Not slothful.
39. Not a murmurer.
40. Not a detractor.
41. To put one’s hope in God.
42. To attribute any good that one sees in oneself to God, and not to oneself.
43. But to recognise and always impute to oneself the evil that one doth.

I thank Father Subprior for replacing me this past week in Chapter. His teaching introduced you, once again, to Chapter IV, The Instruments of Good Works. All seventy–two Instruments are evidence of the presence and operations of the Holy Ghost in the life of a monk. Apart from the first two — to love the Lord God with all one’s heart, all one’s soul, and all one’s strength, then one’s neighbour as oneself — and the very last — never to despair of God’s mercy — it may not be given to any one of us to excel in plying all seventy–two Instruments continuously and at the same time.

All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. A time to kill, and a time to heal. A time to destroy, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh. A time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather. A time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces. A time to get, and a time to lose. A time to keep, and a time to cast away. A time to rend, and a time to sew. A time to keep silence, and a time to speak. (Ecclesiastes 3:1–7)

So often as the Holy Ghost breaks into the life of a monk, He sets in motion one or another of the Instruments of Good Works in such wise that the whole community grows in harmony, with the labour of one brother preparing, or accompanying, or completing that of another. When 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”, he is, in effect, telling us that the spiritual craft engages the whole community day and night. Each member labours using the instrument given him.

But all these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members; and all the members of the body, whereas they are many, yet are one body, so also is Christ. For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free; and in one Spirit we have all been made to drink. For the body also is not one member, but many. (1 Corinthians 12:11–14)

So often as a brother takes up any one of the Instruments of Good Works, he labours for all. Every evil thought dashed against the rock who is Christ (50), and every tear and sigh to God (58) avails the whole body. We need one another; this is why we are cenobites, learning, as Saint Benedict says in Chapter I, “by the help and experience of many”. Every time a brother prefers the love of Christ to a lesser love (21), or shows that he loves chastity (63), or prays for his enemies in the love of Christ (70) he is strengthening charity in the whole body and supporting the brother oppressed by temptation or doing battle with his thoughts.

And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it; or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members of member. (1 Corinthians 12:26–27)

On this Pentecost morning, I should like to say something about the 41st InstrumentSpem suam Deo committere, “To put one’s hope in God”. Wheresoever the Holy Ghost is present, there will be hope. The Holy Ghost inspires hope. There will be seasons and hours in the life of every monk when he is tempted against hope. I have often noticed that when the devil drags, or pushes, or entices a man into some coarse and particularly humiliating sin, he is, in fact, seeking to reduce that man to such a state of discouragement, or disgust, or weariness that he can more easily be brought to sin against hope. Hell is a hopeless place, and the devil wants nothing more than to make this life an anticipation of hell by deceiving a man into believing that he is hopeless. Whenever such despairing thoughts enter your mind, send them quickly back to hell whence they came.

The Holy Ghost, in contrast, infuses hope into situations that we, left to ourselves, are quick to declare hopeless. Hope comes from heaven and leads to heaven. It is a great pity that Pope Benedict XVI’s Encyclical Spe Salvi held the attention of the Church for so short a time. Its message of hope strikes me as becoming more timely with each passing day. Using very simple words, Pope Benedict says:

A first essential setting for learning hope is prayer. When no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me. (Spe Salvi, 32)

Does a man stop praying because he has lost hope? Or does he lose hope because he has stopped praying? From everything I have observed, I must say that a man loses hope because he stops praying. Then, having lost hope, he uses that most distressing and painful of states to explain to himself why he can no longer pray, setting in motion a downward spiral into despair. The man brought low by suffering, or failure, or loss, or even by his own sin, remains capable of saying the one–word prayer that the liturgy of Pentecost puts on our lips again and again: Veni, Come!

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.

Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum,
veni, lumen cordium.

Come, thou Holy Spirit, come,
and from thy celestial home
shed a ray of light divine!

Come, thou Father of the poor!
Come, thou Source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.

The man who, moved by grace, even in the depths of dejection or when crippled by anxiety, utters this simplest and most powerful one–word prayer, “Come!”, opens himself to hope. And the Apostle says:

And hope confoundeth not: because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us. (Romans 5:5)

Every infusion of hope is an operation of the Holy Ghost through the Blessed Virgin Mary. So true is this that in the Salve Regina we call Our Lady, spes nostra, our hope. In whatever situation the Holy Ghost breathes hope into a soul, the Blessed Virgin Mary is also present: she is present by the effect of her maternal intercession; present by her interventions; and present by the graces that, ceaselessly, she dispenses to poor sinners. The liturgy places these words on the lips of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. (Ecclesiasticus 24:24)

The dejected, fearful, despondent man who appeals to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Holy Hope, will find her at his side: advocata nostra, “our advocate“. Have you not noticed that Our Lady and the Holy Ghost are often called by the same names: Advocate, Cause of our joy, and Comfort of the afflicted? Where Mary goes the Holy Ghost goes also. So often as Mary’s name is pronounced, the Holy Ghost hears it as a summons addressed to Him. The rosary is a prayer especially suited to souls tempted against hope. The rosary is a prayer of holy obstinacy; the repetition of the Aves opens the soul to an infusion of hope in a way that no other prayer does. This, at least, is my own experience. The simple act of telling one’s beads is an effective use of the 41st Instrument of Good Works: Spem suam Deo committere, “To put one’s hope in God”.

Some of you know that I have been reading all this past week the biography of Dom Gérard, the founder of the abbey of Le Barroux. Among the many passages of the book that struck me, there are two that are, I think, directly related to a monk’s practice of the 41st Instrument. Dom Gérard used to say to his novices: “When something is not going well in your spiritual life, look to see where you stand with regard to your devotion to Mary”. I would say to you, “When you begin to feel hopeless, look to see where you stand with regard to your devotion to Mary”.  As soon as a man opens his heart to Mary, she enters in, and with her enters the Holy Ghost with a great infusion of hope. When Dom Gérard was himself a Benedictine novice at Tournay, he wrote to his brother:

We have an altogether simple method for giving ourselves over to contemplation. I recite two or three rosaries a day and sometimes more. I had never understood the beauty and richness of Marian contemplation. It is the summing up of what is most beautiful in all that God has done.

The rosary uncomplicates contemplation. The rosary puts contemplation within the reach of ordinary, poor sinners, and contemplation is but the heightened exercise of the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. I can promise you this: that if you are faithful to telling your beads, you will never fall deep into despair. If ever — from which I pray Our Lady to preserve you — you are tempted to despair, pick up the beads and start telling them, even if, at first, your Aves feel forced and mechanical. Stay at it. There is a reason why the rosary counts 150 Aves. It is the poor man’s psalter and a powerful exorcism of the spirit of hopelessness. The rosary will be your lifeline. Put your hope in God, one bead at a time. You will be surprised by the hope that will rise in your heart, a hope that does not disappoint.

Ergo aequalis sit ab eo omnibus caritas (II:4)

12 Jan. 13 May. 12 Sept.
Let him make no distinction of persons in the monastery. Let not one be loved more than another, unless he be found to excel in good works or in obedience. Let not one of noble birth be put before him that was formerly a slave, unless some other reasonable cause exist for it. But if upon just consideration it should so seem good to the Abbot, let him arrange as he please concerning the place of any one whomsoever; but, otherwise, let them keep their own places; because, whether bond or free, we are all one in Christ, and bear an equal rank in the service of one Lord, “For with God there is no respecting of persons.” Only for one reason are we preferred in His sight, if we be found to surpass others in good works and in humility. Let the Abbot, then, shew equal love to all, and let the same discipline be imposed upon all according to their deserts.

We find in today’s portion of Chapter II both the word amare  and the word caritas. Saint Benedict begins by enjoining the abbot to make no distinction of persons in the monastery by following the penchants of his heart. The word amare refers to having instinctual feelings of fondness, affection, kindness, and benevolence towards another. It also refers to the ready approval one gives to the man who knows how to be winsome.

There will be in every monastery some brothers who have the misfortune of being social porcupines. Such men bristle their needles whenever another approaches them. They are wary, suspicious, and defensive. They seem always to be bracing themselves against some kind of attack. The abbot must not discount the social porcupines of the monastery, just because they are less approachable than others. When such men enter sincerely into a life of zeal for the Divine Office, eagerness for obedience, and the ready acceptance of humiliations, they can become excellent monks, and even saints. All of this without being attractive, or winning, or in any way charming. Saint Benedict will say in Chapter LXXII: “Let them most patiently endure one another’s infirmities, whether of body or of mind”. I have, for the past thirty–five years, often returned to an essay written in 1950 by Père Louis Beirnaert on the holiness of those marked by illness, infirmities, and even psychological anomalies:

There are saints with unattractive and difficult psychological profiles: the troop of the anguished, aggressive, and flesh–bound, driven by the unbearable weight of their compulsions. There are “born failures” whose heart will never be anything but a nest of vipers, unfortunate persons with an unattractive face, boys who could never identify with their father. There are saints who will never charm the birds or caress the wolf of Gubbio. There are those who fall and who will fall again and again. There are those who will shed tears right up to the end, not because they slammed a door a little too energetically, but because they are still committing a sordid unavowable fault. There is the immense crowd of those whose sanctity here below will never glow with mental health, and who will have to wait for the last day to shine in perpetuas aeternitates. These are saints without having the name.

The abbot will reserve a special solicitude for any brother who, for natural reasons, might find himself excluded from the easy companionship of others. The social porcupine, the brother with an unpleasant approach, the man who manages always to say or do the wrong thing, or not quite the right thing, may, in fact, be very close to God and, in the humiliations of what appear to be flaws of character, may be drawing down showers of graces for the whole community. The abbot will entrust such a brother to the maternal Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, begging her to work in his mind, his heart, and all his life.

Saint Benedict warns the abbot against being emotionally manipulated. He admits that the abbot may find himself more inclined to show sentiments of approval and affection to one more than to another. There is a certain manly austerity in Saint Benedict’s prohibition of such displays of fondness, readily given to some and withheld from others. Nothing so troubles a monastery as the abbot having first this favourite son and then another. Such favouritism foments division, jealousy, rancour, and enmity. If the abbot shows a special fondness to some above others, let it not be to the brother who happens to share the abbot’s interests, or his ethnic or social background, or who, for one reason or another, seems to make himself more lovable; let the abbot rather keep any special fondness for the brother found to excel in good works or in obedience.

What are the good works by which a brother is deserving of the abbot’s attention? Saint Benedict names them the “tools of the spiritual craft” and, in Chapter IV, identifies seventy–two of them. He concludes:

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.

The brother who is plying the tools of the spiritual craft benefits the whole community. He is a blessing to the abbot and to all his brethren, and so deserves to be encouraged, and supported with words and signs of approval. The benevolence shown to such a brother redounds in blessings for everyone. Saint Gregory shows us that Saint Benedict himself had a kind of predilection for his young disciple, Saint Maurus. He also makes of point of saying that Saint Maurus was outstanding for one thing in particular: his obedience. Such was the obedience of Saint Maurus that he ran over the waters to rescue little Saint Placid who risked drowning. The obedient brother makes life good and pleasant for everyone.

At the end of this section of Chapter II, Saint Benedict moves from speaks not of loving in the sense of amare, but rather of caritas.

Ergo aequalis sit ab eo omnibus caritas, una praebeatur in omnibus secundum merita disciplina.
Let the Abbot, then, shew equal charity to all, and let the same discipline be imposed upon all according to their merits.

Caritas is the love that flows out from God, that is, the charity of which Saint John is the herald and doctor:

Dearly beloved, let us love one another, for charity is of God. And every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God: for God is charity. By this hath the charity of God appeared towards us, because God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by him. In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because he hath first loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins. My dearest, if God hath so loved us; we also ought to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abideth in us, and his charity is perfected in us. (1 John 4:7–12)
The abbot cannot produce charity in himself. He can only beg for it in persevering, humble prayer. He can approach the Heart of Jesus, the fornax ardens caritatis, the blazing furnace of charity, and expose himself to its divine sparks. And always, the abbot can go with filial confidence to the Blessed Virgin Mary, mater pulchræ dilectionis, the mother of fair love, trusting her to supply his sons with whatever may be deficient or inadequate in his own charity towards them.

When anyone receiveth the name of abbot (II:3)

11 Jan. 12 May. 11 Sept.
Therefore, when anyone receiveth the name of Abbot, he ought to govern his disciples by a two-fold teaching: that is, he should shew forth all goodness and holiness by his deeds rather than his words: declaring to the intelligent among his disciples the commandments of the Lord by words: but to the hard-hearted and the simple minded setting forth the divine precepts by the example of his deeds. And let him shew by his own actions that those things ought not to be done which he has taught his disciples to be against the law of God; lest, while preaching to others, he should himself become a castaway, and God should say to him in his sin: “Why dost thou declare My justice, and take My covenant in thy mouth? Thou hast hated discipline, and hast cast My words behind thee.” And again: “Thou who sawest the mote in thy brother’s eye, didst thou not see the beam in thine own?”

Saint Benedict says that the name of abbot is received; it is not taken. The abbot is named so by his sons who, in faith, see Christ in him. The reverence shown in naming the abbot and the signs of respect paid him go to Christ. Such things foster a profound spirit of faith in the abbot and in the brethren. The authentic monastic spirit is endangered when, the abbot and brethren, fall into a superficial way of seeing, acting, and relating. The authentic monastic spirit, however, thrives when the abbot and brethren see all in the light of faith, and when their way of acting and relating to one another is ordered by the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost.

A monastery is not a merely human institution, nor is it an enterprise built up and operated according to the criteria of the world. A monastery is a manifestation of the living Body of Christ; it is a Eucharistic organism, vivified by the Holy Ghost, in which we, who partake daily of the one Body of the Lord, are joined to one another, member to member, and to Christ our Head, becoming with Him one single oblation to the Father. The Apostle says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members of member”. Vos autem estis corpus Christi, et membra de membro (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Blessed Schuster often speaks of the courtesy and refinement of manners that ought to characterize a Benedictine monk; these qualities are an expression of reverence for the Body of Christ. If Saint Benedict says that even the vessels and goods of the Monastery are to be treated as the consecrated vessels of the altar (Chapter XXXI), with how much greater reverence ought we treat one another, who are temples of the Holy Ghost?

Or know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own? For you are bought with a great price. Glorify and bear God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

The abbot, true to the name given him, does not govern the monastery as a kind of executive administrator; Christ is the beginning and end of all that he teaches and does. The more an abbot is called upon to teach, the more must he make time and space in his life for silence before the Face of Christ. The more he is called upon to act, the more must he go humbly before Our Lord and, there, wait to be acted upon. The more he is obliged to meet with his sons and listen to their thoughts, the more must he go, like Moses to the Tent of Meeting. Herein lies the secret of a wise and fruitful government.

And when Moses went forth to the tabernacle, all the people rose up, and every one stood in the door of his pavilion, and they beheld the back of Moses, till he went into the tabernacle. And when he was gone into the tabernacle of the covenant, the pillar of the cloud came down, and stood at the door, and he spoke with Moses. And all saw that the pillar of the cloud stood at the door of the tabernacle. And they stood, and worshipped at the doors of their tents. And the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man is wont to speak to his friend. (Exodus 33:8–11)

It is a good thing when the community sees the back of the abbot, that is, when they see him going to Our Lord, as Moses went into the tabernacle, to speak to Him on their behalf. I am learning, more and more, that the surest way to go to Our Lord is to direct my steps to His Immaculate Mother, the Tabernacle of the Most High. The hymn of the Acathist makes us sing: “Hail! tabernacle of God and the Word. Hail! holy beyond all holy ones. Hail! ark gilded by the Holy Ghost. Hail! unfailing treasure-house of life”. The abbot who has given himself, his monastery, and each of his sons to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and who exercises his office in filial dependence on her, will find that problems are more easily solved; that troubles are more quickly calmed; and that things thought impossible become possible.

The authentic monastic spirit is safeguarded by eschewing all that is worldly. The abbot is the first guardian of the enclosure of the monastery. He is the shepherd who must, at all times, be watchful lest wolves enter the enclosure, and wreak devastation upon his flock. What are these wolves? It is necessary that the abbot appoint a trusted Father to watch over the books and reviews made available in the library. The abbot, while trusting his monks, ought nonetheless to be aware of their correspondence and use of the internet. Mindful of the word of the Psalmist — “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth: and a door round about my lips” (Psalm 140:3) — he needs to be attentive to any contacts of his monks with the world.

The 17th century Maurist Benedictine, Dom Jean Mabillon (1632–1707), travelled throughout Europe, to Flanders, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy, in search of medieval manuscripts. This scholarly wanderlust was not without dangers. In today’s digital culture, one can travel abroad without leaving one’s desk. All that is worldly, things both good and evil, can enter the cloister with a click of the keyboard. The abbot has a grave obligation to be vigilant with regard to the electronic media through which invisible wolves can so easily slip into the sheepfold, make victims of the flock, and carry them off. By his teaching and by his own actions, the abbot must inculcate a love of that separation from the world that guarantees the solitude and silence without which no man can hear the Word of God and hold it in his heart. The abbot is responsible for what, in Chapter LXVII, Saint Benedict calls “the enclosure of the monastery”

The Monastery, however, ought if possible to be so constituted that all things necessary, such as water, a mill, and a garden, and the various crafts may be contained within it; so that there may be no need for the monks to wander abroad, for this is by no means expedient for their souls. And we wish this rule to be frequently read in the community, that none of the brethren may excuse himself on the plea of ignorance. (Chapter LXVII)

In Chapter IV Saint Benedict tells us that we are to make ourselves strangers to the ways of the world. Saeculi actibus se facere alienum. Saint John tells us what is worldly:

What does the world offer? Only gratification of corrupt nature, gratification of the eye, the empty pomp of living; these things take their being from the world, not from the Father. (1 John 2:16)

Saint Bernard, that abbot who shines among all abbots, describes the water of wisdom of which the abbot himself must drink deeply, and daily offer to his sons:

The water of wisdom is rightly called wholesome, for the wisdom of the flesh is death, and the wisdom of the world is the enemy of God. The only wholesome wisdom is the wisdom that is from God, and which, according to Saint James’s definition, is first chaste, then peaceable. The wisdom of the flesh is sensual, not chaste. The wisdom of the world is turbulent, not peaceable. But the wisdom that is of God is first chaste, not seeking the things that are her own, but those that are Jesus Christ’s. (Sermon I on the Nativity of Our Lord, The Fountains of Our Saviour)

A monastery through which courses the chaste and peaceable water of wisdom will be a wholesome and joyful place, like the city of God that the Psalmist describes:

The stream of the river maketh the city of God joyful: the most High hath sanctified his own tabernacle. God is in the midst thereof, it shall not be moved: God will help it in the morning early. (Psalm 45:5–6)

The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Most Holy Eucharist, and the Cenacle

On this first day of the Great Pentecost Novena, I find  it helpful to reflect on the Blessed Virgin Mary’s participation in the Most Holy Eucharist. It is inconceivable that the Apostles, gathered in the Cenacle around Mary, the Mother of Jesus, would not have obeyed the commandment of Our Lord given in the same Cenacle on the night before He suffered: Do this for a commemoration of me” (Luke 22:19). Père Réginald–Marie Garrigou–Lagrange, O.P. treats of  this in his book, The Mother of the Saviour.

Mary, Model of Devotion to the Eucharist
It is most becoming to insist here a little on what Holy Mass and Holy Communion, received from the hands of St. John, must have meant for Our Blessed Lady. Why had Mary been committed to St. John on Calvary rather than to the holy women who were also at the foot of the Cross? The reason was that St. John was a priest and had a treasure which they could not give her, the treasure of the Eucharist.

Why among the Apostles was John chosen rather than Peter? One reason is that John alone remained at the Cross, drawn and held there by a strong sweet grace. Another is that he is, as St. Augustine remarks, the model of the contemplative life, of the interior and hidden life which had always been that of Mary and which would be hers till death. Mary’s life will be cast in a very different mould from that of Peter, for she will have no share in ruling the Church. Her vocation will be to contemplate and to love Our Saviour in His sacramental presence, and to obtain by her unceasing prayer the spread of the faith and the salvation of souls. She will be thus in a very real sense the heart of the infant Church, for none other will enter as she into the depths and the strength of the love of Jesus.

Let us consider her in this hidden life, especially at the hour when John celebrated Holy Mass in her presence. Mary has not the priestly character; she cannot perform the priestly functions. But she has received, in the words of M. Olier, “the plenitude of the priestly spirit,” which is the spirit of Christ the Redeemer. Thus she is able to penetrate deeper than St. John himself into the meaning of the mysteries he celebrates. Besides, her dignity of Mother of God is greater than that of ordained priest; she has given us both the Priest and the Victim of the sacrifice of the Cross and she has offered herself with Him.

Holy Mass was for her, in a degree we can only suspect, the memorial and the continuation of the sacrifice of the Cross. A sword of sorrow had pierced her heart on Calvary, the strength and tenderness of her love for Jesus making her suffer a true martyrdom. She suffered so much that the memory of Calvary could never grow dim, and each Holy Mass was a fresh renewal of all she lived through there. Mary found the same Victim on the altar when John said Mass. She found the same Jesus, really present; not present in image only, but in the substance of His Body with His Soul and Divinity. True, there was no immolation in blood, but there was a sacramental immolation, realised through the separate consecration of the bread and the wine: Jesus’ blood is shed sacramentally on the altar. How expressive is that figure of His death for her who cannot forget, for her who bears always in the depths of her soul the image of her Son, outraged and wounded, for her who hears yet the insults and the blasphemies offered Him. St. John’s Mass, with Mary present at it, was the most striking memorial of the Cross as it is perpetuated in its substance on our altars.

Mary found in the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Point of Contact of the Cults of Heaven and Earth
It is the same Victim who is offered at Holy Mass and who, in Heaven, offers His glorious wounds to the Heavenly Father. The Body of Christ never ceases to be in Heaven, it is true. It does not come down from Heaven, in the strict sense of the terms, on to the altar. But, without being multiplied. It is made really present by the transubstantiation of the substance of the bread and the wine into Itself.

There is the same principal priest, or offerer, in Heaven and on earth also, “always living to make intercession for us.” (Heb. 7:25). The celebrant of the Mass is but a minister who speaks in Jesus’ name. When he says “This is my body” it is Jesus who speaks by him.

It is Jesus who, as God, gives to the words their power of transubstantiation. It is Jesus as Man who, by an act of His holy soul, transmits the divine power and who continues to offer Himself thus for us as principal priest. If the human minister ever happens to be slightly distracted, the principal Offerer is not distracted, and Jesus as Man, continuing to offer Himself sacramentally for us, sees all that we miss—sees all the spiritual influence exercised by each Mass on the faithful present and absent, and on the souls in Purgatory.

Jesus continues to offer Himself in each Mass, the actual offering being made through the hands of His minister. The soul of the sacrifice of our altars is the interior oblation which is always a living reality in His Sacred Heart; through that oblation He applies to us continually the merits and satisfaction of Calvary. The saints have sometimes seen Jesus in the priest’s place at the moment of consecration. Mary knew the full truth better than any of the saints. Better than any of them she knew that the soul of every Mass was the oblation that lived in her Son’s Heart. She understood too that when, this world having reached its term, the last Mass,would have been said, Jesus’ interior oblation would continue for ever, not now as supplication but as adoration and thanksgiving—as the eternal cult expressed even now at Mass by the Sanctus in honor of the thrice-holy God.

How did Mary unite herself to the oblation of Jesus, the principal priest She united herself to it, as we shall explain later, as universal Mediatrix and CoRedemptrix. She continued to unite herself to it as at the foot of the Cross—in a spirit of adoring reparation, in petition and thanksgiving.

Model of victim-souls, she offered up the anguish she suffered at those denials of the divinity of Jesus which prompted St. John to write his fourth Gospel. She offered thanks for the institution of the Blessed Eucharist and for all the benefits of which It is the source. She prayed for the conversion of sinners, for the progress of the good, for the help the Apostles needed in their work and their sufferings. In all that Mary is our model, teaching us how to become adorers in spirit and in truth.

What shall we say of Mary’s communions? The principal condition for a fervent communion is to hunger for the Eucharist. The saints hungered for It. When Holy Communion was denied St. Catherine of Siena, her desires obtained that a portion of the large Host broke off unknown to the celebrant and was carried miraculously to the saint. But Mary’s hunger for the Eucharist was incomparably greater and more intense than that of the saints. Let us contemplate reverently the strong loving desire which drew Mary to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Every soul is drawn towards God, for He is the Sovereign Good for whom we have been made. But the consequences of sin—original and actual—and of innumerable imperfections make God appear unattractive in our eyes and weaken our inborn desire for union with Him. Mary’s soul, however, knew nothing of the consequences of sins and imperfections; nothing ever checked the Godwards tendency of her wonderful charity. Forgetting herself, Mary turned firmly towards God, with a firmness that grew daily as did her merits. The Holy Ghost dwelling in her moved her to give herself to God and to be united to Him. Her love of God, like an intense thirst, was accompanied by a sweet suffering which ceased only when she died of love and entered on the union of eternity. Such was her desire of the Eucharist.

Jesus for His part desired most ardently to consummate Mary’s holiness, to communicate to her the overflowing riches of His Sacred Heart. If He could suffer in glory, He would suffer from the resistance we offer to the same desire He has in our regard. But He found no resistance in Mary. And so He was able to communicate Himself to her in the most intimate way possible for two lives to be fused into one on earth: Jesus’ union with Mary was a reflection of the sanctifying union of the Word with the Sacred Humanity, an image of the communion of the Three Divine Persons in the one infinite Truth and the one limitless Goodness.

Mary became again the pure living tabernacle of the Lord when she communicated—a tabernacle which knew and loved; one a thousand times more precious than any golden ciborium; a true tower of ivory, house of gold, and ark of the alliance.

What were the effects of Mary’s communion? They surpassed anything St. Teresa recounts of transforming union in the Seventh Mansion of the Interior Castle. Transforming union has been compared, in its power to transform the soul in some way into God by knowledge and love, to the union of fire with a piece of iron, or that of light with the air it illumines. Rays of supernatural warmth and light came forth from the soul of Jesus and communicated themselves to Mary’s intellect and will. Mary could not take the credit to herself for the sublime effects they produced in her. Rather did she give praise on their account to Him who was their principle and end: “He that eateth me, the same also shall live by me;” he who eats my flesh lives by me and for me, just as I live by my Father and for my Father.

Each of Mary’s communions surpassed the preceding one in fervour and, producing in her a great increase of charity, disposed her to receive her next communion with still greater fruit. Mary’s soul moved ever more swiftly Godwards the nearer she approached to God; that was her law of spiritual gravitation. She was, as it were, a mirror which reflected back on Jesus the light and warmth which she received from Him; concentrated them also, so as to direct them towards souls.

In everything she was the perfect model of Eucharistic devotion. If we turn to her she will teach us how to adore and to make reparation; she will teach us what should be our desire of the Blessed Eucharist. From here we can learn how to pray at Holy Mass for the great intentions of the Church, and how to thank God for the graces without number He has bestowed on us and on mankind.

I have not hidden Thy justice in my heart (II:2)

10 Jan. 11 May. 10 Sept.
Let the Abbot be ever mindful that at the dreadful judgment of God an account will have to be given both of his own teaching and of the obedience of his disciples. And let him know that to the fault of the shepherd shall be imputed any lack of profit which the father of the household may find in his sheep. Only then shall he be acquitted, if he shall have bestowed all pastoral diligence on his unquiet and disobedient flock, and employed all his care to amend their corrupt manner of life: then shall he be absolved in the judgment of the Lord, and may say to the Lord with the Prophet: “I have not hidden Thy justice in my heart, I have declared Thy truth and Thy salvation, but they contemned and despised me.” And then at length the punishment of death shall be inflicted on the disobedient sheep.

Today’s portion of Chapter II reminds the abbot that he will undergo the dreadful judgment of God on two matters. The abbot will be judged first on his teaching. You know, dear sons, that I believe absolutely in the value and importance of the daily chapter. The abbot’s daily chapter shapes the community’s observance and rejuvenates it constantly. For this reason, I will not dispense myself from the obligation of the daily chapter except for reasons of serious illness or unavoidable absence from the monastery. I am equally unwilling to dispense any brother from the daily chapter save for reasons of illness or matters of the most urgent necessity. A community rises and falls on the abbot’s commitment to provide his sons with a daily chapter that is enlightening, invigorating, and challenging. The abbot who is permanently impaired from giving the daily chapter is, I think, bound to give his place to another who can do it.

I must examine my own conscience frequently on my teaching. Do I dilute my message  because I seek approval and fear falling out of favour? Is my teaching deficient because I fail to prepare it in study and in prayer? Is my teaching remote and notional because I myself prefer ideas to the hard work of conversion of heart? Do I try every day to offer my sons something that will comfort the weak, challenge the strong, stabilize the wavering, correct the wayward, and promote an observance marked by good zeal and joy?

An abbot can, without teaching positive error, become tolerant of laxity by glossing over the hard and rugged things of the Holy Rule, and by emphasizing only the things that are anodyne. The end effect of this is that the good zeal of the community slowly diminishes, the observance becomes slack, and the brethren descend into mediocrity, thereby incurring the reproach of the Lord addressed to the Church of Laodicea:

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth. (Apocalypse 3:15–16)

Harder to understand is Saint Benedict’s assertion that the abbot will also be held accountable for the obedience of his disciples. All sorts of ideas about personal freedom come to mind in an attempt to explain away what Saint Benedict sets forth. The abbot will, at the end of the day, be judged on the obedience of his disciples. This implies that the abbot will be judged also on their disobedience. Let us assume that all the brethren are obedient, and that their obedience is cheerful and prompt: such obedience comes about in a monastery because the abbot has “studied rather to be loved than feared” (Chapter LXIV). It is hard to obey an abbot who inspires more fear than affection, who is volatile, harsh, unjust, and distant. It is easy to obey an abbot who is warm and encouraging, who is even–tempered, meek, just, and present to the community. You begin to understand, I think, why Saint Benedict makes the abbot accountable for the obedience of his disciples.  The abbot must be the sort of man whom men are happy to obey, a man deserving of their trust, a pioneer who knows how to inspire generosity and valour. I have known such abbots: some personally, and others from having encountered them in the annals of monastic history.

The abbot has assumed a sacred duty to employ all pastoral diligence in caring for those of his flock who are unquiet and disobedient. He must do whatever he can and, relying on divine grace, even attempt what he thinks he cannot do, in order to save the brother who finds himself in a downward spiral. If the abbot is a man of experience, he will know that it sometimes happens that a brother is disobedient not because he wants to disobey, but because there is something in him that makes it very hard or nearly impossible to obey. The abbot must work with such a brother patiently and tirelessly until the hidden obstacle is identified, uncovered, and removed. This may take a long time. The abbot must repeat to the brother: “Even if you are tempted to despair in this struggle, I will never despair of the mercy of God for you, nor will I cease to believe that you can do all things in Christ who strengthens you”.

The abbot who is resolved to offer his sons each day a monastic doctrine that is sound and healthful, will draw that doctrine from the pure sources of the sacred liturgy, the tradition of the Fathers, the teachings of the Doctors, and the lives of the saints. This alone, however, is not enough. He must refine his own thoughts and all that he teaches in the fire of prayer. He must submit to the Blessed Virgin Mary, — the Seat of Wisdom, the heavenly abbess — all that he proposes to teach, confident that she will make fruitful “all that rings true, all that commands reverence, and all that makes for right; all that is pure, all that is lovely, all that is gracious in the telling” (Philippians 4:8)

With regard to the obedience of his sons, the abbot will ask the Blessed Virgin to make him the sort of abbot whom men find it easy to obey. This does not mean that such an abbot will never have to command hard things, or even enjoin things that a brother judges impossible. It does mean that he will command with courtesy, strength, and firmness, taking care always to fit his commands to the weaknesses and strengths of each one. When the abbot sees that a brother finds it hard to obey, he will first search his own heart to see if there is not in him something that is a stumbling block for the brother. The abbot will place himself unreservedly in the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking her to change in him whatever he has failed to correct, or purify, or amend in himself. And then he will present to the Blessed Virgin Mary the brother who finds it hard to obey, asking her to bend his will to obedience, and to reward even his smallest effort with a sign of her maternal solicitude and an increase of grace.

One of the prayers of Saint Anselm is especially suited to this portion of Chapter II:

You, God, have made an ignorant doctor, a blind leader,
an erring ruler:
teach the doctor you have established,
guide the leader you have appointed,
govern the ruler that you have approved.

I beg you,
teach me what I am to teach,
lead me in the way that I am to lead,
rule me so that I may rule others.
Or rather, teach them, and me through them,
lead them, and me with them,
rule them, and me among them.

Jesus, good shepherd, they are not mine but yours,
for I am not mine but yours.
I am yours, Lord, and they are yours,
because by your wisdom you have created
both them and me,
and by your death you have redeemed us.

So we are yours, good Lord, we are yours,
whom you have made with such wisdom
and bought so dearly.
Then if you commend them to me, Lord,
you do not therefore desert me or them.
You commend them to me:
I commend myself and them to you.
Yours is the flock, Lord, and yours is the shepherd.
Be shepherd of both your flock and shepherd.

(From The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm with the Proslogion, translated and with an introduction by Sister Benedicta Ward, S.L.G.)

Support the monks of Silverstream Priory:

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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