Letter to a Novice Oblate (VI)

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On this day before the feast of Saint Scholastica, I thought it appropriate to post this detail of an altarpiece painting of Saint Scholastica in prayer together with her brother, Saint Benedict. It is the work of one Lorenzo Monaco (+1423 or 1424), and can be found in The National Gallery, London.

My very dear Novice Oblate,

A Cycle of Prayer

Benedictine life is a marked by a daily, weekly, and yearly cycle of prayer. Saint Benedict urges that we "give ourselves frequently to prayer" (RB 4:56). He calls the corporate prayer of the monks "the Work of God" (Opus Dei), to which "nothing is to be preferred" (RB 43:3). A primary reason for becoming a Benedictine Oblate is the desire to deepen, strengthen and intensify a life of liturgical prayer.

Enter, then, wholeheartedly into the Liturgical Year, allowing your daily life to be colored by the Church's ceaseless round of sacred seasons, fasts and festivals. Learn to esteem the Church's sacramentals and manifold blessings.


Saint Benedict urges his monks to "keep the days of Lent with a special purity of life and also at this holy season to make reparation for the failings of other times" (RB 49: 2-3). "Reading, compunction of heart, and abstinence" (RB 49:4) will prepare you to enter through the Cross of Christ into the joy of His resurrection. Spontaneously in the joy of the Holy Spirit, you will offer God during Lent some "reduction of food and drink for the body, or of sleep, or of talkativeness or looseness in speech, and so with the joy of spiritual desire look forward to holy Pascha" (RB 49:6-7).

The Paschal Triduum

The heart of the Liturgical Year pulsates in the Three Days that commemorate Our Lord's death, burial, and rising from the dead: Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Holy Pascha, the Sunday of the Lord's Resurrection. Make every effort to participate in the liturgical celebrations of the Paschal Triduum in your parish church or, when opportune, in a Benedictine monastery where the liturgy is carried out with fitting solemnity and with a beauty worthy of the holy mysteries.

Thursday: A Weekly Corpus Christi

Each Thursday, renew the mystery of the first Holy Thursday of the Supper of the Lord, and of the feast of Corpus Christi; enter into the Cenacle where Our Lord instituted the Sacraments of the Priesthood and of His Body and Blood. Read and meditate the discourse He pronounced in the Cenacle: John 13:1-17: 26.

Take time, in particular, to linger over Our Lord's High Priestly Prayer, John 17:1-26; it is an inexhaustible source of charity, light, and unity. You will find it especially helpful, in this regard, to study the Holy Father's discourse at the General Audience of Wednesday, 25 January 2012. You will find it here.

Keeping Festival

Celebrate with special joy the solemnities of Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, and of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the Friday that falls eight days after it. The octave of Corpus Christi is, for our monastic family, a prolonged festival of more intense and generous Eucharistic adoration. During these blessed days, you will want to spend as much time before the Most Blessed Sacrament as your state in life allows.

Our Blessed Lady

Enter into the graces that come with each of the feasts of the Holy Mother of God; prepare for them and "keep in your heart" the liturgical texts proper to her feasts. The feast of Our Lady of the Cenacle is kept on the Saturday after Ascension Thursday. Throughout the year, every Saturday is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, becoming a privileged occasion for drawing closer to her Maternal Heart.

The Saints

The solemnity of Our Father Saint Benedict on July 11th, the feast of his Transitus (Holy Death) on March 21st, the feasts of Saint Scholastica on February 10th, Saint Francesca of Rome (patroness of Oblates) on March 9th, Saint Henry (patron of Oblates) on July 13th, Blessed Columba Marmion on October 3rd, Saint Gertrude the Great on November 16th, as well as the other feasts of the Benedictine calendar will be for you an opportunity to learn from the example of "so great a cloud of witnesses" (Hb 12:1) and to seek their intercession.

Nourished from the Wellspring

Nourish your prayer from the wellspring opened for you by the Church: the Word of God, the Sacred Liturgy and the sacraments. In assiduous lectio divina and Eucharistic adoration, seek the adorable Face of Christ. In frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Penance, receive the forgiveness of your sins and experience the healing power of the Most Precious Blood.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the sun that illumines and warms the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, even as it illumines and warms the whole Church "gathered together from the ends of the earth" (Didache, Chapter 9). In the Ordinary (unchanging parts) and Proper (changing parts) of the Mass you will find the primary and indispensable source of your meditation (meditatio) and prayer (oratio). Become familiar with the Roman Missal and with the lectionary (Lessons, Epistles, and Gospels) of the Mass. Whenever you are able to do so, attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion during the week, especially on the more important feastdays. If, however, your duties are such that they preclude attendance at Holy Mass during the week, try, at least, to read the Gospel of the day, and make a Spiritual Communion.

In Truth, An Oblate

Through your full, conscious, and inward adhesion to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, you will become, in all truth, an Oblate, that is to say, one offered with Jesus and by Jesus to the Father, in the Holy Spirit. Your frequent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will prolong the mystery of Holy Mass and infuse your life with a supernatural fecundity that will benefit the whole Body of Christ, His Church.

With my affection and my blessing.
In lumine vultus Iesu,

Father Prior


Thank you, Father Mark, for these "Letters to Oblate Novices." Although my own oblate "novitiate" was many years ago, I am following your recommendations as on a spiritual pilgrimage. Your insights have given me much spiritual food for thought.
Gratefully, F.R. Maich, obl. osb

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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