Category Archives: Silverstream Priory, County Meath

With Thérèse, Believe in Love

1001 Hands of Therese.jpgThe Saints Choose Their Friends
Many years ago, while reading the biography of Père Jean-Baptiste Muard, the founder of the Benedictine abbey of La-Pierre-Qui-Vire, I came upon a line that so struck me that I have never forgotten it. Père Muard said something like this: “It is not we who choose this saint or that to be our friend; it is, rather, the saints who choose those whom they wish to befriend. The saints choose us, and this, in the light of God’s wisdom and providence.”

The Object of Her Affection
We, poor, struggling sons of Saint Benedict, have not, then, to ask why we have chosen Saint Thérèse among our special friends in heaven. We have, instead, to ask why Saint Thérèse has, in fact, chosen us as the object of her attention and affection. The answer is written, I think, in the mysterious journal of God’s gracious Providence. There are, nonetheless, a few indications that lift a corner of the veil on God’s hidden designs, and they are worth pondering.

To Believe in Love
The first of these has to do with the fundamental grace of Saint Thérèse: it is a holy boldness. It is the audacity that comes from the absolute certainty of being loved. In us, just as we are, Thérèse sees men called to believe that we are loved. She sees men called to hope even in the face of things that threaten to drag us down into the pit of despair. The work of Saint Thérèse is precisely this: to help souls, especially those marked by some kind of suffering — Love’s signature — to believe that they are loved, and never to lose hope. “We know and believe the love God has for us” (1 Jn 4:16).

The Holy Face
Out of this faith in the Love of God grows an immense confidence, a boldness in the Holy Ghost that authorizes even the weakest and most miserable soul to see in the Child Jesus, a brother; and in the Holy Face of the suffering Jesus, the traits of a beloved friend, the gaze of the Divine Bridegroom. This identification with the Child Jesus and, even more, with the adorable Face of the Suffering Jesus, makes the friends of Thérèse bold and full of confidence in their relationship with the Father.

For us who are called to be Benedictine Adorers, the Face of Jesus, the Child and the Immolated Lamb, is hidden and, at the same time, revealed in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. It is by tarrying before Our Lord’s Eucharistic Face that we begin to see ourselves as the Father sees us. “Since you loved me so much,” says Thérèse in one of her prayers to the Father, “I beg you to look upon me only through the Face of Jesus.”

Priests
The second reason why Thérèse may have chosen us as the object of her affection and attention has to do with her zeal for the sanctification of priests. Thérèse had no illusions about the virtues of the clergy; as a fourteen year old girl on pilgrimage to Rome she witnessed firsthand the the weaknesses and compromises of the priests surrounding her without, however, becoming scandalized or jaded by them.
She writes in her autobiography:

Having never lived close to [priests], I was not able to understand the principal aim of the Reform of Carmel. To pray for sinners attracted me, but to pray for the souls of priests whom I believed to be as pure as crystal seemed puzzling to me.

I understood my vocation in Italy and that’s not going too far in search of such useful knowledge. I lived in the company of many saintly priests for a month and I learned that, though their dignity raises them above the angels, they are nevertheless weak and fragile men. If holy priests whom Jesus in His Gospel calls the “salt of the earth,” show in their conduct their extreme need for prayers, what is to be said of those who are tepid? Didn’t Jesus say too, “if the salt loses its savour, wherewith will it be salted?”

Later on, when, in the course of the examination before her profession, Thérèse was asked why she had come to Carmel, she said, “I came to save souls and especially to pray for priests.”

When Love Enters In
In us, dear sons, Thérèse sees men with great aspirations, men with hearts made to love, men with love to give in adoration and in reparation, men ready to father souls, with a special tenderness for priests caught in the webs of sin and vice. “The love of Christ impels us” (2 Cor 5:14). Thérèse, in her own way, says to each of us that our limitations—be they physical, psychological, or moral—are not an impediment to love, but a way to love. Every wound of ours, every chink in the armour of our self-styled virtue, is an opening to Love, a portal through which Divine Love penetrates into places within us that would, were we not so wounded, remain sealed off to Love.

Thérèse says that the calling we have received is to be love, love in the heart of the Church, a love that adores, a love that makes reparation, a love that keeps Love company in the Sacrament of Love. She tells us not to give in to discouragement. She invites us to be confident and to go forward, trusting that the Lord Himself, like a mighty warrior, is with us and has taken up our cause or, rather, made His cause our cause.

Thérèse Has Things in Hand
Six years ago, in October 2011, we made a novena to Saint Thérèse, asking her to find us a house and property suitable for the development of our monastic community. She led us to Silverstream, where still stands a little church (now redundant) built and dedicated to her in 1952. Saint Thérèse accompanied us and delivered us safely to the house the Lord had reserved for us. Saint Thérèse identifies with what we are doing here because it is a Work of Love and of reparation to Love, in the heart of the Church.

My Friendship With Thérèse
If I may speak personally for a moment, allow me to say that Thérèse has known me and followed me around for a very long time, for many years. There exists between us one of those life-long friendships capable of weathering every storm, of enduring long periods of silence, and of responding at a minute’s notice to a cry for help.

The Fire of Love
It seems to me that we are being invited to work with Saint Thérèse for the souls of priests. Our aim is to give back to priests the taste for Love, so that they will burn with Love and spread the fire of Love to those around them and to the whole Church.

Before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus
This a great Work, and not a little daunting, but our role in it is very simple. We are to adore for those who do not adore, and to represent our brother priests — especially the weakest among them, and those who have fallen from their priestly dignity — before the Eucharistic, the merciful, the compassionate Face of Jesus. Our Lord waits in His tabernacles for those with whom He chose to share the glory of His priesthood to return to Him, and to tarry in His presence.

Nothing to Fear
If we remain faithful to this mission of ours, we will have nothing to fear. We have only to go forward in the certainty that we are immensely loved and that nothing will be able to snatch us away from the Love that possesses us, and that has marked us with Love’s Seal.

Love: Our Beginning and Our End
Saint Benedict says, in Chapter Seven of the Holy Rule, that at the summit — or the bottom — of the twelve steps of the ladder of humility we will arrive at that love of God, which, being perfect, drives out all fear. The summit of Benedictine life is a holy freedom in love; it is the security of the child who knows, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that he is unconditionally loved; that if he falls, Love will pick him up again; that if he hurts himself, Love will heal his bruises and bind up his wounds; that if he is obstinate and slow to understand, Love will wait for Him with an inexhaustible patience; and that if he trusts his life to Love, he will not be disappointed in his hope. To all of this, to the entire teaching of Saint Benedict’s Little Rule for Beginners, Saint Thérèse says a heartfelt “Amen,” for in it she recognizes her own Little Way. Let us follow it without fear, for it begins in Love and leads to Love. Amen.

Priest Oblates

Oblation of the Reverend Father John McKeever
and the Reverend Father Paul Murphy
Priests of the Archdiocese of Armagh
17 August 2017

Reverend Fathers John and Paul, my very dear sons, true brothers of this monastic family, the day and the hour of your Oblation is enveloped in a kind of golden radiance. It is the unfading brightness of the Assumption of the Mother of God. It is the light that shone so brightly amidst the rain that fell on the night of August 21st, 1879 in the village of Knock. Not by coincidence, then, do we celebrate this evening the Mass of the Assumption. Surely this is pleasing to the heart of the Blessed Virgin, since she elected to appear in Knock on the very last night of the Octave of the Assumption. One sees in this something of the exquisite liturgical sensibility of the Immaculate Mother of God that, so often, marks her miraculous interventions throughout history. “She is more beautiful than the sun, and above all the order of the stars: being compared with the light, she is found before it” (Wisdom 7:29).

The apparition of Knock is a living icon. Its imagery can be read, as one would read the Sacred Scriptures, searching out the hidden meaning of what the eye beholds, and tasting the sweetness contained therein. One must begin with the humble and glorious Saint Joseph; he stands meekly, with bowed head and folded hands, full of respect for his Virgin Bride, the august Queen of Heaven. Knock presents you with an image of your life as priest Oblates of Saint Benedict.

Looking closely at Saint Joseph, what do you see? I, for my part, see the Prologue of the Holy Rule, the pressing invitation to listen, to obey, and to become the workman chosen by the Lord.

Hearken, O my son, to the precepts of thy Master, and incline the ear of thine heart; willingly receive and faithfully fulfil the admonition of thy loving Father, that thou mayest return by the labour of obedience to Him from Whom thou hadst departed through the sloth of disobedience. To thee, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever thou art that, renouncing thine own will, dost take up the strong and bright weapons of obedience, in order to fight for the Lord Christ, our true king.

And the Lord, seeking His own workman in the multitude of the people to whom He thus crieth out, saith again: “Who is the man that will have life, and desireth to see good days. And if thou, hearing Him, answer, “I am he,” God saith to thee: “If thou wilt have true and everlasting life, keep thy tongue from evil and thy lips that they speak no guile. Turn from evil, and do good: seek peace and pursue it. And when you have done these things, My eyes will be upon you, and My ears will be open to your prayers; and before you call upon Me, I will say unto you, “Behold, I am here.” What can be sweeter to us, dearest brethren, than this voice of the Lord inviting us? Behold in His loving-kindness the Lord sheweth unto us the way of life. (Holy Rule, Prologue)

To Saint Joseph, as to every priest, God entrusted nothing less than the precious Body of Christ. You, like Saint Joseph, are guardians of the Body of Christ: the sacramental Body confected upon the altar, and the mystical Body born of water and of the Holy Ghost in Baptism. But there is more, Chapter II tells you “What Sort of Man the Abbot Ought to Be”; it is a pattern for your priestly labours in the vineyard of the Lord, a pastoral rule of life of proven wisdom, a description of your own call to be father, teacher, and shepherd.

The Abbot ought always to remember what he is, and what he is called, and to know that to whom more is committed, from him more is required; and he must consider how difficult and arduous a task he hath undertaken, of ruling souls and adapting himself to many dispositions. Let him so accommodate and suit himself to the character and intelligence of each, winning some by kindness, others by reproof, others by persuasion, that he may not only suffer no loss in the flock committed to him, but may even rejoice in their virtuous increase. (Holy Rule, Chapter II)

The image of Saint Joseph casts its glow over this chapter of the Holy Rule, for Joseph is the abba chosen by the Father, the earthly shadow of the fatherhood of God. In Chapter IV, “What are the Instruments of Good Works”, you step into the Saint Joseph’s workshop and there discover the tools by which you will exercise your priesthood and build up the Body of Christ, that is the Church. In your priesthood “prefer nothing to the love of Christ” (Chapter VII:21) and, should you be assailed by temptation, or brought low by weakness, “never despair of God’s mercy” (Chapter VII:72).

If you would see the perfection Chapters V, VI, and VII — Obedience, Silence, and Humility — contemplate Saint Joseph of Knock. All that Saint Benedict teaches in these chapters of the Holy Rule, the very pillars of Benedictine life, you will discover in Saint Joseph.

And, then, to the right of Saint Joseph, stands the Immaculate Mother of God, crowned by a starry diadem and clothed in the whiteness of an altogether heavenly light. “And I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Apocalypse 21:2). Although few recognise her as such, it was as the Queen Assumed into Heaven that Our Lady appeared at Knock. With uplifted hands, even in her silence, she seems to say to all who make their way, heavily burdened, through this valley of tears, Sursum corda! Hearts on high! Our Lady of Knock is the Virgo Orans, the Virgin–in–Prayer. She is the spotless mirror of the filial and priestly prayer of her Divine Son. She is the icon of the Ecclesia Orans, the Church–in–Prayer. The Venerable Dom Guéranger, in his instruction addressed to secular priests belonging to the Order of Saint Benedict, says that the Church can no more dispense with the sacrificium laudis, the Divine Office, than she can dispense with the sacrificium altaris, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. As priest Oblates of Saint Benedict, you are called to cultivate the worthy, attentive, and devout celebration of both the Divine Office and the Holy Sacrifice. Digne, atténte ac devóte. Regular returns to your monastery home will encourage you in this, and the souls in your care will reap the benefits of the distinctively Benedictine imprint that will mark your priestly dedication to the liturgy of the Church.

The Virgo Orans of Knock, “the brightness of eternal light, and the unspotted mirror of God’s majesty, and the image of his goodness” (Wisdom 7:26) is the perfection of all that Saint Benedict seeks to express in Chapters VIII through XX, the liturgical directory of his Rule. Your love for the Divine Office, a defining characteristic of every true son of Saint Benedict, will grow in proportion to your consideration of Our Lady as she appeared at Knock: utterly absorbed in the liturgy of heaven.

Moving now to the priestly figure of Saint John the Beloved, you can contemplate your particular calling as priest Oblates of Silverstream Priory: priests altogether enamoured of the Word of God and priests magnetised by the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Saint John appears holding the book of the Sacred Scriptures and, at the same time, vested for the Holy Sacrifice. Again, with Saint John, learn what it is to rest your weary heads — heads often filled with the tiresome din of a multitude of worries, and solicitations, and anxieties — upon the Heart of Jesus. Take your repose before the Most Blessed Sacrament, resting, like the beloved disciple, in sinu Iesu. Learn to be silent before you preach, and to preach only those things that you will have first received in an adoring silence. Saint John represents and exemplifies the fidelity to lectio divina and to adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar that will distinguish your piety as priest Oblates of our monastery.

And, finally, we come to the very image and revelation of your oblation: to the shining epiphany of the Altar, the Lamb, and the Cross. To be an “oblate” — the very word signifies one offered in sacrifice — is to become wholly identified with the Lamb of God. When Saint Benedict, in Chapter LIX of the Holy Rule, explains the rite by which boys are made oblates, he directs that their hands be wrapped in the very corporal of the altar upon which will rest the immolated Body of Christ. By this, Saint Benedict, signifies that even in these “child oblates” the priestly prayer of Christ is mysteriously fulfilled: “that they also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17:19).  You, dear brothers, as priests, stand each day before the altar of the Holy Sacrifice; now, as professed oblates of the Order of Saint Benedict, you will also rest upon the altar, as victims made over and consecrated to the Father, one with “the pure victim, the holy victim, the spotless victim” whom you hold in your hands each day. Enter now, more deeply, by means of your oblation, into the offering of Christ the Eternal Priest, and into a lasting bond with this your Benedictine family.

 

 

An Irish Priest for Priests

willie_doyle_sj-21-thumb-300x465-2771August 16th, 1917: The Anniversary of Father William Doyle, S.J.
When Father Willie Doyle entered my life, something happened. It was the beginning of one of those heavenly friendships that make a difference. The anniversary of his death compels me to seek his intercession with confidence. I recommend his friendship and his intercession to all the readers of Vultus Christi. The marvelous blog, Remembering Father Willlie Doyle, gives the following information on the death of the soldier priest:

It is worth noting that there is some dispute about the exact date of Fr Doyle’s death. The earliest sources seem to agree that it was the 16th. Recent references suggest that he died on the 17th while some veterans of the war came forward in the 1940’s to state that Fr Doyle was killed on the 15th. Given the horrendous conditions in the war, it is not surprising that such confusion exists.

Pope Benedict XVI to the Church in Ireland
Re–reading Pope Benedict XVI’s message to the Church in Ireland, I cannot but relate it to the sufferings, prayers, and holiness of Father William Doyle.

As you take up the challenges of this hour, I ask you to remember “the rock from which you were hewn” (Is 51:1). Reflect upon the generous, often heroic, contributions made by past generations of Irish men and women to the Church and to humanity as a whole, and let this provide the impetus for honest self-examination and a committed programme of ecclesial and individual renewal. It is my prayer that, assisted by the intercession of her many saints and purified through penance, the Church in Ireland will overcome the present crisis and become once more a convincing witness to the truth and the goodness of Almighty God, made manifest in his Son Jesus Christ.

Serving with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 16th Irish Division
Father Doyle, serving with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 16th Irish Division, fell in the Battle of Langemarck doing his duty to God and the many soldiers, of all armies, who also died in the Third Battle of Ypres. Although I have written of Father Willie Doyle elsewhere on Vultus Christi, I want, once again, to make these pages from Alfred O’Rahilly’s splendid biography of Father Doyle (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1920) available to the readers of Vultus Christi.

Priestly Sanctity and Reparation

Fr. Doyle had a very high ideal of the sacerdotal vocation. This he showed not only by his efforts to procure labourers for the great harvest, but especially in his own life. His daily Mass, for instance, was celebrated with a fervour which was apparent even to strangers. Phrases, such as Kyrie Eleison, Sursum Corda, Dominus Vobiscum, which by their very iteration tend to become mechanical utterances, seemed on his lips to be always full of freshness and meaning.

The Office: Every Word A Precious Coin

Similarly he always strove to prevent the recitation of the Office from becoming mere routine; he regarded it as a minting of merit, every word a precious coin. He so valued the Sacrament of Penance that he resolved to go daily to Confession. This lofty priestly ideal is made abundantly evident by his growing preoccupation with the work of promoting priestly sanctity and his increasing realisation that, like the great High Priest, he should be “a propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebr. 2. 17.)

Priest and Victim

We see this idea in the following note: Sacerdos et victimaPriest and Victim: After the words, Accipe protestatem offere sacrificium Dei*, the ordaining bishop adds, Imitamini quod tractatis. Jesus is a Victim, the priest must be one also. Christ has charged His priest to renew daily the sacrifice of the Cross; the altar is a perpetual Calvary ; the matter of the sacrifice, the victim, is Himself, His own Body, and He is the sacrificer. ‘Receive, O Eternal Father, this unspotted Victim.’ Can a priest worthy of the name stand by and watch this tremendous act, this heroic sacrifice, without desiring to suffer and to be immolated also? ‘With Christ I am nailed to the Cross.’ (Gal. 2. 20.) . . . Would that I could say a pure holy spotless victim. Let Jesus take me in His hands, as I take Him in mine, to do as He wills with me.”

This idea is quite scriptural. “I beseech you,” writes S. Paul, “that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God.” “Be you also,” says S. Peter (I. 2, 5), “as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

Priesthood of the Lay Faithful

This association of priesthood and sacrifice applies also to those who are not priests, to all the faithful, who constitute “a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people.” (I Peter 2. 9.) “Pray, Brothers,” says the priest at Mass, “that the sacrifice which is mine and yours may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty” And all through the Canon of the Mass the words emphasize the intimate union between celebrant and people in the great mystery which is being enacted. The assistants join not only in offering up the Divine Victim but also, as a water-drop in wine, in offering themselves as ‘a living sacrifice.’

Extending and Supplementing the Sacerdotal Work

Thus the Sacrifice of the Mass is the living source from which our reparation derives its efficacy and inspiration. Co-operation in the great mystery of the Redemption, says Blessed Marie-Thérèse Dubouché, the foundress of the Congrégation de l’Adoration Réparatrice, is “the act of the Sacrifice of the Mass continued by the members of the Saviour at every moment of the day and night.” And this ideal of co-sacrifice with Christ leads naturally from an appreciation of the sublime function of the priesthood to the idea of a spiritual crusade, extending and supplementing the sacerdotal work and atoning for the inevitable negligences and even scandals which occur in its performance.

Prayer for Priests

This is the devotion which, during the last three years of his life, strongly took hold of Fr. Doyle, namely, prayer for priests to aid them in their ministry and reparation in atonement for the negligences and infidelities of those whose calling is so high. We have already seen how earnestly he besought prayers for his own work. Saint Teresa of Avila exhorts her nuns to this apostolate of prayer. “Try to be such,” she says, 3 “that we may be worthy to obtain these two favours from God: (1) that among the numerous learned and religious (priests) whom we have, there may be many who possess the requisite abilities . . . and that our Lord would improve those that are not so well prepared, since one perfect man can do more than many imperfect ones; (2) that our Lord may protect them in their great warfare, so that they may escape the many dangers of the world.” She considered that her Carmelites, enjoying the seclusion and immunity of the cloister, owed this duty to the Church Militant.

Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny

This ideal is still more conspicuously enshrined in some recent religious institutes, particularly in the Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus founded by Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny. These sisters are “to ask by fervent prayers, by sufferings and even by their lives, if necessary, for the outpouring of grace on the Church, on the Catholic priesthood and on religious orders.” In his Brief to Mgr. van den Berghe, 14th March, 1872, Pius IX welcomed the new foundation. “It is not without consolation of heart,” said the Pope, “that we have heard of your plan to arouse and spread in your country that admirable spirit of sacrifice which God apparently wishes to oppose to the ever increasing impiety of our time. We see with pleasure that a great number of persons are everywhere devoting themselves entirely to God, offering Him even their life in ardent prayer, to obtain the deliverance and happy preservation of His Vicar and the triumph of the Church, to make reparation for the outrages committed against the divine Majesty, and especially to atone for the profanations of those who, though the salt of the earth, lead a life which is not in conformity with their dignity.”

Reparation: Horizons Opened Up for the Weak

The seal of the Church has therefore been set on this apostolate of prayer and reparation. There is, needless to say, no question of pride or presumption, no attempting to judge others. It is merely the just principle that those who are specially shielded and privileged should aid those active religious – priests, brothers and sisters – who have great responsibilities and a difficult mission, and should by their faithfulness atone for the shortcomings of those who are exposed to greater temptations. “More than ever,” says Cardinal Mermillod, “is it necessary to console the wounded Heart of Jesus, to pray for the priesthood, and by immolation and adoration, without measure or truce to give our Saviour testimony of affection and fidelity.” “There is much which needs reparation,” writes Mgr. d’Hulst, “even in the sanctuary and the cloisters, and indeed especially there. Our Lord expects compensation from souls who have not abused special graces.” “How grievous are these scandals!” he exclaims in another letter. “Only the thought of reparation can soften the bitterness of them. To take expiation on oneself is to be like Him of whom it is said: Vere languores nostros ipse tulit et dolores nostros ipse portavit, “Surely He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows.” (Isaias 53, 4) If this thought had thoroughly entered into us, without running after great penances, should we not give quite another reception than we usually do to sufferings, vexations, and the dulness and bitterness of our poor lives? And then the thought of reparation is so beneficial to poor souls like ours! It is a great mistake to think it is the privilege of the perfect. On the contrary, it pleases our Lord to open up these horizons to the weak, to give them courage by turning their attention away from their own wretchedness. If I am incapable of satisfying God in myself, I will try to make up to Him for others. If I cannot lament my own ingratitude sufficiently, I will learn to do so by lamenting for others.”

Secret Apostolate of Victim Souls for Priests

These consoling words will help to convince those whose ideal of holiness is unconsciously individualistic and self-centred, that the ideal of reparation by no means implies the possession or the delusion of perfection. Of course in all this there may creep in some spirit of censorious self-sufficiency, though indeed there is not much danger of it in the hidden humble lives of those victim-souls who are devoted to the secret apostolate of prayer for God s ministers and reparation for those scandals and infidelities which occur from time to time in the Church. It has, therefore, seemed right to show briefly here, by way of preface to Fr. Doyle’s private notes, how explicitly this work of priestly sanctification and reparation has been recognised by the Church and adopted by saints and mystics.

To Obtain Grace for Other Priests

This ideal appealed greatly to Fr. Doyle. On 28th July, 1914, the anniversary of his Ordination, he wrote: “At Exposition Jesus spoke clearly in my soul, ‘Do the hard thing for My sake because it is hard.’ I also felt urged to perform all my priestly duties with great fervour to obtain grace for other priests to do the same, e.g. the Office, that priests may say theirs well.” On the Feast of St. Teresa, October, 1914, there is this simple but eloquent record: “Last night I rose at one a.m. and walked two miles barefooted in reparation for the sins of priests to the chapel at Murrough (Co. Clare), where I made the Holy Hour. God made me realise the merit of each step, and I understood better how much I gain by not reading the paper; each picture, each sentence sacrificed means additional merit. I felt a greater longing for self-inflicted suffering and a determination to do more little things.'”

Chosen by God for Priests

During his 1914 retreat this ideal came home to him as a special mission. “The great light of this retreat, clear and persistent,” he writes on 1st December, “has been that God has chosen me, in His great love and through compassion for my weakness and misery, to be a victim of reparation for the sins of priests especially; that hence my life must be different in the matter of penance, self-denial and prayer, from the lives of others not given this special grace they may meritoriously do what I cannot; that unless I constantly live up to the life of a willing victim, I shall not please our Lord nor ever become a saint – it is the price of my sanctification; that Jesus asks this from me always and in every lawful thing, so that I can sum up my life ‘sacrifice always in all things.'”

Dalkey Convent.jpg
League of Priestly Sanctity

On the following Christmas Day (1914) Fr. Doyle records a further step. “During midnight Mass at Dalkey Convent I made the oblation of myself as a member of the League of Priestly Sanctity.* During my preparation beforehand a sudden strong conviction took possession of me that by doing so, I was about to begin the ‘work’ which – had spoken of. Our Lord gave me great graces during the Mass and urged me more strongly than ever to throw myself into the work of my sanctification, that so I may draw many other priests to Him. He wants the greatest possible fervour and exactness in all priestly duties.”

* The League of Priestly Sanctity, to which reference is here made, was founded in the North of France in the year 1901, under the direction of Père Feyerstein, S.J. (+ 1911). Fr. Doyle became Director-General for Ireland and strove to spread the League among Irish priests. In an explanatory leaflet which he issued, it is described as “an association of priests, both secular and regular, who, in response to the desire of the Sacred Heart, strive to help each other to become holy and thus render themselves worthy of their sublime calling and raise the standard of sacerdotal sanctity.” Two special objects are enumerated: “(1) The assistance of priests, and especially those of the League, in living a life worthy of their high calling. (2) The atonement for outrages to the Sacred Heart in the Sacrament of His love. This Sacrament, needless to say, is committed to priests in a special manner; and there ought to be a priestly expiation for irreverence, negligence, and particularly sacrilegious Masses, which the Divine Heart has to endure from the very ministers of His altar.

Fr. Doyle had this League very much at heart and had prepared several schemes for its spread and improvement when his appointment as military chaplain interrupted the work. But while engaged in this novel sphere of activity, the ideal of a life of reparation remained uppermost in his mind and once more the special form which it took was expiation for the negligences and sins of God’s anointed. He recorded this resolution on 26th July, 1916: “During a visit our Lord seemed to urge me not to wait till the end of the war, but to begin my life of reparation at once, in some things at least. I have begun to keep a book of acts done with this intention. He asked me for these sacrifices, (1) To rise at night in reparation for priests who lie in bed instead of saying Mass. (2) At all costs to make the 50,000 aspirations. (3) To give up illustrated papers. (4) To kiss floor of churches. (5) Breviary always kneeling. (6) Mass with intense devotion. The Blessed Curé d’Ars used to kneel without support while saying the Office. Could not I?”

Reparation and Penance for the Sins of Priests

“This is my vocation,” he notes on 8th February, 1917, “reparation and penance for the sins of priests; hence the constant urging of our Lord to generosity.” Appropriately enough the last entry in his diary was made on 28th July, 1917, the tenth anniversary of his ordination. Fr. Doyle’s last recorded thought was about his sacrificial ideal of priestly immolation.

All That Happens, Sent by Jesus

“The reading of La vie réparatrice (Canon Leroux de Bretagne, Desclée 1909) has made me long more to take up this life in earnest. I have again offered myself to Jesus as His Victim to do with me absolutely as He pleases. I will try to take all that happens, no matter from whom it comes, as sent to me by Jesus and will bear suffering, heat, cold, etc., with joy as part of my immolation, in reparation for the sins of priests. From this day I shall try bravely to bear all ‘little pains’ in this spirit. A strong urging to this.”

Vestition of Joseph Gryniewicz and Nathan Hart

On Sunday morning, July 9, 2017, Mr Joseph Gryniewicz and Mr Nathan Hart received the Benedictine habit from the hands of Father Prior, and so began their monastic journey as novices of Silverstream Priory, bringing the total number of novices to six. The ceremony of vestition took place in the Chapter Room of Silverstream Priory.

Joseph Gryniewicz, a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, is the son of Tom and Ellen Gryniewicz. Joseph graduated from the Franciscan University of Steubenville  in 2008, and completed his Master’s Degree in Philosophy at the same University in 2013. Until his entrance at Silverstream, Joseph taught Latin in a high school in Ann Arbor. As a Benedictine, Joseph will be known as Brother Chrysostom, having as his patron the 4th century Archbishop of Constantinople, Saint John Chrysostom, the “Doctor of the Eucharist”.

Nathan Hart, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, is the son of John and Suzanne Hart. Nathan graduated with a degree in Psychology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville  on May 13, 2017. Nathan also has a background in vocal performance. As a Benedictine, Nathan will be known as Brother Irenaeus, having as his patron the 2nd century Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons.

In addition to the monastic family, several guests were present, including the Most Reverend Monsignor Karel Kasteel, and the Reverend Mother M. Paola Gosta, O.S.B. Father Prior delivered the following sermon:

My dear sons, Joseph and Nathan, the date originally chosen for your vestition was July 10th, the eve of the feast of our father Saint Benedict. The presence of our dear and honoured guests, Monsignor Kasteel and Madre Paola, and a number of other practical considerations, compelled me to advance the ceremony by one day. The liturgical providence of God was at work fortiter ac suaviter; the liturgy of this 5th Sunday After Pentecost is astonishingly suited to what we are about to do. The man who asks to be numbered among the sons of Saint Benedict is, first of all, by holy Baptism, numbered among the children of Mother Church. Filii tui sicut novellæ olivarum in circuitu mensæ tuæ (Psalm 127:3). It is through the sacred liturgy that Mother Church nourishes, instructs, comforts, and even corrects her children. The son of Saint Benedict will, for this reason, seek in the sacred liturgy, and find there, hour by hour and day by day, all that he needs to go forward in our life and in faith, as Saint Benedict says, «with hearts enlarged and unspeakable sweetness of love» (Prologue).

You have both come to the monastery because the Holy Ghost, by mysterious operations perfectly adapted to your heredity, your history, and even to the most secret yearnings of your soul, has awakened you to «such good things as eye hath not seen, the things that God has prepared for those who love Him» (1 Corinthians 2:9). The Collect of the day expresses this and, then, makes us ask: «Pour into our hearts such love for Thee, that loving Thee above all things, we may obtain Thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire». I pray that in the days and years that lie ahead of you, dear Joseph and Nathan, you will return often to this Collect of the 5th Sunday After Pentecost. In it, you will find, perfectly formulated, a prayer for all that is needed for a happy monastic life: the desire for heaven, the infusion of divine charity; the readiness to receive from the hand of God good things exceeding all that you can desire.

Joseph, some time ago you wrote me: « I trust that God has not led me this far in vain. Whatever the sacred agony of testing and whatever the crosses of this way of life, I hope that God will permit me the grace of persevering and winning whatever crown He has prepared for me, together with my brothers and fathers». Continue to trust, dear Joseph, that God has not led you this far in vain. Make of every step forward an act of abandonment to the the designs of Our Lord on your life. Do this even when, in hours of obscurity and uncertainty, you find yourself incapable of nought but very small steps.

Do not be afraid of your weakness, dear Joseph. It is precisely your weakness that acts as a lodestone upon the all–sufficient grace of Christ. The words of Christ to the Apostle are also addressed to you: «My grace is enough for thee; my strength finds its full scope in thy weakness» (2 Corinthians 12:9). Learn to sing with the same Apostle: «Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me» (2 Corinthians 12:9).

And you, dear Nathan, wrote me last year to say that you were praying to have ears always attentive to the words of Saint Benedict. Saint Benedict still speaks to those who approach him with open ears. The grace of Saint Benedict’s paternity over souls is in a constant state of expansion. He welcomes you today with no less solicitude and tenderness than he showed to the young Maurus and Placid over fifteen centuries ago. Saint Benedict says to you and to Joseph today, even as he says still to me and to each of your brethren here: «Hearken, O my son, to the precepts of thy Master, and incline the ear of thine heart; willingly receive and faithfully fulfil the admonition of thy loving Father, that thou mayest return by the labour of obedience to Him from Whom thou hadst departed through the sloth of disobedience» (Prologue).

You also wrote me, dear Nathan, that Saint Benedict had begun to teach you that peace is not the absence of the Cross, and that the true pax benedictina would always be found inter spinas. Saint Benedict enjoins me to set before you «all the hard and rugged paths by which we walk towards God» (Chapter 58). I will not, therefore, hide from you, Nathan, and from Joseph, that the monastic way is a spiritual combat, a daily struggle, «for our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places» (Ephesians 6:12). Take to heart, then, what Saint Athanasius relates concerning the spiritual combat of our father, Saint Antony of the Desert: «The Lord was working with Antony — the Lord who for our sake took flesh and gave the body victory over the devil — so that all who truly fight can say, ‹yet not I, but the grace of God with me›» (Life of Saint Antony; 1 Corinthians 15:10).

Among the many beautiful things that Madre Paola said to us was that she prayed for fifteen years to obtain a burning love of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, and that, having received this love from Love, she lives now in complete security and without fear. Madre Paola further said that we, of ourselves and by ourselves, can neither solve our problems, nor calm the storms that rage within us and about us. We can do but one thing: go before Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar and remain at His feet. There, almost imperceptibly, without the formulation of fine phrases or the thinking of lofty thoughts, we will discover that the obstacles we thought immovable and insurmountable melt away. The Madre’s teaching is that of Saint Benedict himself: «Not for our much speaking, but for our purity of heart and tears of compunction shall we be heard» (Chapter 20).

You have, dear sons, the immense privilege and joy of living under the same roof as Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of His Love. «Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found: call upon him, while he is near» (Isaias 55:6). There is no difficulty so great that it cannot be solved and resolved at the feet of Gesù sacramentato.

In all these things we overcome, because of him that hath loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.(Romans 8: 37–39).

Never grow accustomed to the miracle of the real presence in this house of the hidden Jesus. Understand, dear sons, in relation to the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, the comforting words of Our Lord that Saint Benedict enshrines in his Prologue: «And when you have done these things, My eyes will be upon you, and My ears will be open to your prayers; and before you call upon Me, I will say unto you, Behold, I am here». I pray today, dear sons, that you will never be without the singular grace that Saint John Paul II called lo stupore eucaristico, Eucharistic amazement. Thus will you go forward in your new Benedictine life, day after day, «laying aside all earthly care, so as to welcome the King of Kings who comes escorted invisibly by angelic hosts» (Cherubic Hymn, Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom).

And, finally, dear sons, know that the monastic journey you begin today will be made sweet at every hour by the presence of the Woman given us by Jesus in the very hour of His immolation. Ecce mater tua (John 19:27). Imitate the beloved disciple who took the Mother of God in sua, that is, into all that was his, allowing the fragrance of her virginal presence to penetrate every part of his life, and even the most secret corners of his heart. The Mother of God, the Queen of the Cenacle, is our heavenly abbess; go to Mary so often as you need the consolation of her presence. Her maternal heart will never be closed to you. And should you ever come to lack the joy of the Holy Ghost, she will turn to her Son and say with an irresistible confidence, Vinum non habent, «They have no wine» (John 2:3). Her concern is, even as Saint Benedict says concerning the cellarer of the monastery, «that no one may be troubled nor grieved in the house of God» (Chapter 31).

Correspondence on the Monastic Vocation 11

1024px-Portrait_of_an_Olivetan_Monk_-_Battista_Franco_(attributed)

Disclaimer: The series of letters entitled “Correspondence on the Monastic Vocation”, while based on the real questions of a number of men in various places and states of life, is entirely fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, institutions, or places is purely coincidental.

Letter 11: Anthony

Dear Father,

Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions. I especially appreciated what you wrote me concerning the place of the Blessed Virgin Mary in your Benedictine life. Somehow, I had never made the connection between Our Lady and the Rule of Saint Benedict. You gave me an entirely new insight into the role of Mary in the monastic life. Up until now, I understood devotion to Our Lady in terms of saying the rosary, wearing the scapular or the miraculous medal, and going on pilgrimage to Knock and to Lourdes. I am familiar with the total consecration to Mary as Saint Louis de Montfort taught it and, at different moments in my own journey, I have tried to make it.

What strikes me, about in what you wrote about devotion to Mary in the monastic life, is that you see it, not merely in terms of certain outward practices and prayers, but as something really essential. As you wrote, Mary is the pattern of monks. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that a monk does exactly what Mary is described as doing in Saint Luke’s Gospel: “But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart”. I shall continue to pray about this. I feel that new horizons are opening before me.

Now, Father, may I ask you to explain further the place of Eucharistic adoration in your life? My sense is that “perpetual adoration” at Silverstream is not exactly what comes to mind when I think of “perpetual adoration”. I also heard from friends who visited Silverstream that you do not, as a rule, have exposition of the Blessed Sacrament every day. I find this confusing. I always thought that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament required exposition. In my parish, for example, there is exposition every day in an “adoration chapel”. An extraordinary minister (or the sacristan) opens the tabernacle and places the Host in the monstrance. This is all I have ever known and I assumed that adoration and exposition always go together. Why is this not the case at Silverstream Priory? Sorry, Father, for assailing you with questions, but I really do want to understand better what you monks are about.

I hope to visit Silverstream soon. Things are busy in my life and it is not easy for me to get away for a few days, but the more I learn about you the more I want to visit. I will try to get out to Silverstream before the end of the year.

Anthony

Dear Anthony,

You do persevere in seeking answers to your questions! I shall try to respond to your questions concerning adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament as we practice it at Silverstream. We Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration see in the Sacred Host the radiant divine icon of what we are called to become. A man becomes what he contemplates. So it is with us: the more we contemplate the Sacred Host, the more do we begin to resemble what we contemplate. Saint Paul says, “We all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The hidden Christ, the silent Christ, the humble Christ of the Tabernacle models the virtues of the Rule of Saint Benedict in the most astonishing way, and communicates those same virtues to those who linger in His company. Far from being a baroque adornment detracting from some mythical primitive Benedictine sobriety, Eucharistic adoration is the wellspring of the holiness that Saint Benedict describes in his Rule.

Adoration of the Sacred Host is the school of hiddenness,
— of silence,
— of solitude,
— of humility,
— of obedience,
— of servanthood,
— of an abiding love that calls no attention to itself,
— of ceaseless prayer to the Father,
— of the Work of God,
— of compassion for sinners,
— of burning love for souls,
— of gentleness towards the weak,
— of Divine Hospitality,
— of monastic perfection, that is, the passion for God alone.

All of these things are found in the text of the Holy Rule, and all of them are found in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, as in their very source. The Rule of Saint Benedict describes the fruits of grace in a monk; the Sacred Host shows forth and, even more,causes the same fruits of grace in a monk.

The word “Host” means sacrificial victim, it refers to “the Lamb, which was slain from the beginning of the world” (Apocalypse 13:8), the very Lamb who, at Knock here in Ireland, standing in front of the Cross, showed Himself surrounded by the Angels. Saint Thomas says, “This sacrament is called a “hostia” (victim) inasmuch as it contains Christ, Who is a “hostia suavitatis”, that is a sacrificial victim of sweetness, in reference to Ephesians 5:2: “Christ also hath loved us, and hath delivered himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness” (Summa III, q. 73, art. 4).

Abbot Celestino Maria Colombo (1874–1935), whose eightieth anniversary of death we celebrated on 24 September 2015, spoke of his desire to see monks who would be “sons of the Host for the Host”. Abbot Celestino prophesied the vocation of men in whom the influence and power of the Sacred Host — contemplated, adored, and received — is such that they are “ravished unto the love of things invisible” (Preface of the Mass of Christmas) and so become, with Christ, one single sacrificial offering to the Father.

Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament carries us along in the same direction as the Mass itself — toward the Kingdom: to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Ghost. Eucharistic adoration is essentially a prayer of desire, a prayer of hunger, of readiness, and of waiting. It is a response to the “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) of the Holy Ghost inviting us to the Son, and through the Son into the bosom of the Father, and into the glory of the Kingdom.

Like all Christian worship, adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament is a pass–over to the Father, with and through the Son, in the Holy Ghost. “No one comes to the Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6). The monk kneeling in adoration before the tabernacle, or before the Sacred Host exposed in the monstrance, is caught up into the great circular movement of the liturgy: from the Father, through his Son, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Ghost, to the Father.

Every good thing comes to us from the Father, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, by means of the presence in us of the Holy Ghost; and likewise, it is by means of the presence of the Holy Ghost, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, that everything returns to the Father.

Eucharistic adoration, Anthony,  is a prayer that desires, prepares, and hastens the advent of the Kingdom of God. The adorer grows in awareness of the dawning fulfillment of the prophecy in the psalm intoned by Jesus from the cross: “The poor shall eat and shall be filled, and they shall praise the Lord those who seek him. . . . All the ends of the earth shall remember, and shall be converted to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall adore in his sight” (Psalm 21:27-28). Made in this spirit, adoration of the Sacred Host delivers the soul from a narrow preoccupation with self and, stretching it to Catholic dimensions, inflames it with the apostolic zeal of the Heart of Christ. “I came”, says Our Lord, “to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled” (Luke 12:49).

“After this I looked, and lo, in heaven an open door! And the first voice, which I heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up hither’” (Apocalypse 4:1). Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament is, at once, the open door and the invitation. It is faith’s response to the promise made by Our Lord to the one who conquers: “I will grant to him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (cf. Apocalypse 3:21).

Praying before the Blessed Sacrament enclosed in the tabernacle or exposed in the monstrance, the adorer catches a glimpse of the glory that lies “beyond the veil” (Hebrews 6:19). The experience of the saints through the ages attests to this, Anthony. The Most Holy Eucharist is “ a pledge of future glory.” Adoration of the Sacred Host is a way of seeking and of discovering “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:6) in what Saint John Paul II called  “the Eucharistic face of Christ”.

At Silverstream, although we have prolonged periods of adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament each day, we reserve exposition of the Sacred Host in the monstrance to Thursdays, to the Octave of Corpus Christi, and to certain solemn festivals of the liturgical year.

Until the late 1970s, Anthony, exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance was always considered a particularly solemn and festive occasion, a kind of condensed expression of the jubilant feast of “Corpus Christi. Exposition called for an array of candles, flowers, incense, and sacred ministers. It was considered special — something out of the ordinary — and the occasion of a lavish outpouring of graces for those who would come to adore.

Perpetual adoration neither requires nor presupposes perpetual exposition. Historically, the first religious and monastic congregations vowed to perpetual adoration, practiced it before the Blessed Sacrament concealed in the tabernacle. Such was — and remains today in most monasteries — the custom of the Benedictines of the Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament, founded by Mother Mectilde de Bar in 1653.

Personally, Anthony, I fear that, in many places, a kind of minimalistic approach to exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament has rendered it altogether too banal. At Silverstream we treat exposition of the Sacred Host as an exceptional privilege, a “feast of faith” for the eyes, and a solemn homage to Our Lord calling for all that we can offer Him: candles, incense, flowers, and song.

This is a very long letter, dear Anthony. I have tried to answer your questions thoroughly. Do pray that we Benedictines of Silverstream may live faithfully the Eucharistic vocation that I have attempted to describe in writing to you.

With my blessing,
Father Prior

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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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