July 2013 Archives

Prayer of Saint Birgitta

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I have long taken comfort in this prayer of Saint Birgitta of Sweden. Saint Birgitta shares July 23rd with Saint John Cassian.

O Lord, make haste and illumine the night.
Say to my soul
that nothing happens without Thy permitting it,
and that nothing of what Thou permittest is without comfort.
O Jesus, Son of God,
Thou Who wast silent in the presence of Thy accusers,
restrain my tongue
until I find what should say and how to say it.
Show me the way and make me ready to follow it.
It is dangerous to delay, yet perilous to go forward.
Answer Thou my petition and show me the way.
As the wounded go to the doctor in search of aid,
so do I come unto Thee.
O Lord, give Thou peace to my heart.

The Woman Robed in Red

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Saint Mary Magdalen, the Apostle to the Apostles, is one of the patron saints chosen by Mother Mectilde for her Institute. For this reason, we Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration have a special devotion to Saint Mary Magdalen. The Responsory at Lauds is Tibi dixit cor meum: Quaesivi vultum tuum: "My heart has said to Thee: I have sought Thy Face" (Psalm 26, 8). Here is something I wrote eight years ago on this feast:

Woman of fire,
woman of desire,
woman of great passions
woman of the lavish gesture,
Mary of Magdala!

The icons show you robed in red,
covered in the blood of the Lamb,
a living flame, a soul set afire.
You are there at the foot of the Cross:
kneeling, bending low, crushed by sorrow,
your face in the dust.

You love,
but in that hour of darkness,
dare not look on the disfigured Face of Love.
It is enough that you are there,
brought low with Him,
Enough for you
the Blood dripping from His wounded feet,
Blood seeping into the earth
to mingle with your tears.

You seek Him on your bed at night,
Him whom your heart loves.
David's song is on your lips:
"Of You my heart has spoken: Seek his face.
It is Your face, O Lord, that I seek;
hide not Your face from me" (Ps 26:8-9).

His silence speaks.
His absence is a presence.
And so you rise to go about the city,
drawn out, drawn on by Love's lingering fragrance.
"Draw me, we will run after you, in the odour of your ointments" (Ct 1:3).

You seek Him by night
in the streets and broadways;
you seek Him whom your soul loves;
with nought but your heart's desire for compass.
You seek Him but do not find Him.

In this, Mary, you are friend to every seeker.
In this you are a sister to every lover.
In this you are close to us who walk in darkness
and wait in the shadows,
and ask of every watchman,
"Have you seen Him whom my soul loves?"

Guide us, Mary, to the garden of new beginnings.
Let us follow you in the night.
Wake our souls before the rising of the sun.
Weep that we may weep
and in weeping become penetrable to joy.

The Gardener waits,
the earth beneath His feet watered by your tears.
Turn, Mary, that with you we may turn
and, being converted,
behold His Face
and hear His voice
and, like you, be sent to say only this:
"I have seen the Lord" (Jn 20:18).

The Work of the Kitchen

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CHAPTER XXXV. Of the Weekly Servers in the Kitchen

13 Mar. 13 July. 12 Nov.
Let the brethren wait on one another in turn, so that none be excused from the work of the kitchen, except he be prevented by sickness or by some more necessary employment; for thus is gained a greater reward and an increase of charity. But let assistance be given to the weak, that they may not do their work with sadness; and let all have help according to the number of the community and the situation of the place. If the community be large, let the Cellarer be excused from work in the kitchen, and also those, as already mentioned, who are occupied in more urgent business. Let the rest serve each other in turn with all charity. Let him who endeth his week in the kitchen, make all things clean on Saturday, and wash the towels where with the brethren dry their hands and feet. Let both him who goeth out and him who is coming in wash the feet of all. Let him hand over to the Cellarer the vessels of his office, clean and whole; and let the Cellarer deliver the same to him who entereth, that he may know what he giveth and what he receiveth.

Servants One to Another

Saint Benedict's monks are servants one to another, and not just theoretically, but concretely in deeds and in toil. Much of the servanthood in a monastery revolves around the kitchen, the refectory, and the scullery. Men have to eat. The preparation of meals, the service of the refectory, and the wash-up are a necessary part of daily life. No one is excused from serving in the kitchen, apart from those weakened by illness or occupied in other important tasks. The fruit of work in the kitchen, says Saint Benedict, is an increase of charity. Charity dilates the heart, making one who is faithful in little things capable of self-sacrifice in greater things.

Banish Sadness

In the middle of this chapter Saint Benedict inserts another of the great over-arching principles of the Holy Rule: "Let assistance be given to the weak, that they may not do their work with sadness; and let all have help according to the number of the community and the situation of the place." Saint Benedict doesn't want his monks to be crushed by too great a labour or stressed by their inability to get everything done. Acknowledging that there are weaker brethren, he orders that they should be given help. And why? So that they may not do their work in sadness. If there is sadness in the kitchen of the monastery, the community will begin to taste it in the food! Sadness quickly degenerates into bitterness, and bitterness turns to hostility and resentment. Quite apart from affecting the charity and unity of the monastery, these things also adversely affect one's appetite and digestion.

Help As Needed

A cheerful atmosphere in the kitchen makes for appetising food, and appetising food makes for a happy community. When the preparation of meals becomes burdensome, a spirit of crankiness begins to prevail in the kitchen, and from there it spreads quickly throughout the monastery. If it is true that "too many cooks spoil the soup", it is equally true that "many hands make light work". The Abbot will, therefore, take care to provide the kitchen master and cooks with all the help necessary.

The Liturgy of Eating and Drinking

Eschewing the culture of fast foods and eating on the run, Saint Benedict's sons understand that the kitchen is to the refectory what the sacristy is to the Oratory. "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31) Benedictines honour the liturgy of eating and drinking in the refectory, and see the refectory as a kind of mirror of the Oratory. Even the disposition is same as in the choir: the tables facing each other; the Prior's table with the crucifix behind it; the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and the reader's desk. Twice daily the refectory resounds with the chanting of psalms and prayers. Like the Oratory, it is a place of silence.

The Mandatum

Saint Benedict organizes a weekly rota for the kitchen service. In small communities, such as our own, it is not possible to have more than one kitchen team. At least for the moment, the same brothers are affected to the wash-up every day. The Mandatum (or washing of the feet) no longer takes place weekly; instead it is done at the reception of novices and on Maundy Thursday. The Mandatum is a kind of sacrament of humble service and of charity. Although the liturgical rite is carried out less frequently now, the grace that it impresses on the soul and expresses outwardly is necessary at every moment if a community is to thrive in holiness.

Cleanliness in the Kitchen

Saint Benedict insists on the cleanliness of the kitchen: "Let him who endeth his week in the kitchen, make all things clean on Saturday, and wash the towels where with the brethren dry their hands and feet." A clean, orderly kitchen is a delight to work in. Monks must be as diligent about keeping the kitchen clean and in good order as they are about caring for the sacristy and the appurtenances of sacred worship. With Saint Benedict, all of life is steeped in the praise of God; there is no thing that cannot be ennobled and invested with sacredness. "For all things are yours . . . and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's" (I Corinthians 3:23).

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Thank You to Saint Vincent de Paul

A Supplica is a prayer of supplication composed according to a certain literary genre that remains popular in Italy to this day. The most famous of these prayers would be the Supplica to the Queen of the Holy Rosary of Pompei composed by Blessed Bartolo Longo. Nearly every parish or chapel in southern Italy has a Supplica to its patron saint recited by all the people in unison on the saint's feast.

On 19 July 2011 I was inspired to write a Supplica to Saint Vincent de Paul. I asked his intercession for my monastery, trusting that he would find us a suitable permanent home. He did. Thank you, Saint Vincent de Paul. Here, then, is the Supplica to Saint Vincent that I wrote and first prayed one year ago today.

O glorious Saint Vincent de Paul,
priest of Jesus Christ,
servant of the poor,
consoler of the sorrowful,
father of orphans,
providence of the homeless,
giver of alms to the destitute,
enlightened guide of souls,
compassionate visitor of the imprisoned,
attentive nurse of the sick,
comfort of the dying,
zealous teacher of the clergy,
who can describe the innumerable works of thy charity,
and who can measure the hospitality of thy heart?

The weak and the infirm,
the wounded and the needy,
the unloved and the shamed
all find a place in the folds of thy great protecting mantle.
Never did one of Christ's poor turn to thee in distress
without receiving from thee the alms of thy mercy
for soul and body.

O thou, Apostle of Charity,
O thou, Image of Jesus Christ,
thou in whom the Heart of Christ burns
with an inextinguishable fire,
look upon us in our present need.
Consider that we too are poor, weak, and without earthly resources.
We cast ourselves upon the infinite mercy of Divine Providence,
and place our trust in thy pleading on our behalf.
We know that thou wilt obtain for us
an answer to our prayer,
a solution to our pressing plight
and, above all else,
the grace of entire abandonment to the adorable Will of God,
outside of which we desire nothing.
Amen.

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When Saints Help Saints

I have long believed that saints, like the fruit of the vine, grow in clusters. The history of the saints in every age bears this out. Saint Vincent de Paul was no exception. He was in relation with a myriad of other holy souls of France's Grand Siècle, the age of what Henri Brémond called her "mystical invasion."

Saint Vincent de Paul

The ravages of The Thirty Years War in Mother Mectilde's native Lorraine stirred Saint Vincent de Paul to an active compassion. As soon as Monsieur Vincent was informed of the woes that we desolating the Lorraine, he moved quickly to collect offerings everywhere. He sent to this unfortunate country twelve of his missionaries to whom he joined some brothers of his Congregation, who had secrets to treat the plague and knew medicine and surgery.

Thus did Saint Vincent's Congregation of the Mission bring relief to those distressed by the war, those turned out of their homes and reduced to a miserable poverty.

Homeless Benedictines

In 1639 Mother Mectilde and her Benedictines were among the many refugees of the War in wandering from place to place in search of a home. One of Saint Vincent's priests, a certain Julien Guérin, sought to arrange for hospitality at the Abbey of Montmartre in Paris. The Lady Abbess of Montmartre refused to receive the homeless Benedictines professed to the same Rule as herself and the nuns of her great abbey; she argued that the admission of strangers into religious houses caused disorder, and that it was better to refuse the nuns hospitality than to have to turn them out later for unsuitable conduct.

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Pilgrimage to Benoîte-Vaux

Mother Mectilde was saddened but undaunted. Five leagues away from Saint-Mihiel, towards the city of Verdun, a little to the left of the course of the Meuse, there was valley made famous by the miraculous revelation of a statue of the Blessed Virgin to a group of lumberjacks, and by the manifestation of Angels singing Ave Maria. (Interesting detail: Had Mother Mectilde followed the Meuse north, she would have arrived in Tegelen in The Netherlands where her daughters have a monastery to this day.)

The sanctuary built on the spot was a place of pilgrimage. Mother Mectilde, together with two other nuns, set out on foot for the sanctuary of Notre-Dame de Benoîte-Vaux on 1 August 1641. Upon arrival there, they entrusted their written petition to a Premonstratensian in attendance, who placed it on the altar. Prostrate at the feet of the Blessed Virgin, Mother Mectilde and her companions spent the whole night imploring her protection and assistance. They heard Holy Mass and received Holy Communion at 4:00 in the morning on the second day of August; it was the feast of Our Lady of the Angels. With all possible fervour they recommended their sorry plight again to the Mother of God.

To Paris

When they returned to Saint-Mihiel, it was obvious to all whom saw Mother Mectilde and her two companions that they had received extraordinary graces; they seemed transfigured. Much later, Mother Mectilde let slip a few words that intimated that, in the sanctuary of Benoîte-Vaux, Our Lady revealed to her God's designs on her life.

A few days later, a commissary of Monsieur Vincent, named Mathieu Renard, asked to see the prioress and, with no preliminaries, said, "I have come, Mother, to take two of your religious to Montmartre, I have orders to do this, and Madame the Duchess of Aiguillon has provided me with money for the journey."

What happened at Montmartre that caused the Abbess to have so complete a change of heart? On the very night that Mother Mectilde and her companions were praying at the sanctuary of Benoîte-Vaux, the Lady Abbess of Montmartre woke up all of a sudden and summoned the two religious her slept in her bedchamber to look after her in illness. The Abbess was in a dreadful state of fright. She said that it seemed to her that she saw the Most Holy Virgin and her Divine Son reproaching her for her lack of hospitality to the poor homeless Benedictines in the Lorraine; they threatened her with a rigourous judgment should they, through her fault, perish in their misery and need. The next day the Abbess convened her senior religious; all agreed that they had to execute the manifest will of God.

Paris, Saint Louise de Marillac and Saint Vincent de Paul

Mother Mectilde and Mother Louise were chosen to go to Montmartre. They began their journey on 21 August and arrived in Paris on August 28, 1642. Matthieu Renard led them to the home of Mademoiselle Legras (Saint Louise de Marillac) in the Faubourg Saint Martin. Saint Louise de Marillac received the homeless Benedictines with an exquisite charity. The next morning, Mother Mectilde and her companions were presented to Saint Vincent de Paul. The very same day the doors of the grand Abbey of Montmartre opened to welcome them. Once the Lady Abbess had met Mother Mectilde, she wanted nothing more than to keep her at the Abbey of Montmartre.

Towards a New Beginning

It was in uncertainty and poverty that Mother Mectilde de Bar arrived in Paris. After vicissitudes too many to be counted, it was in Paris that Mectilde de Bar laid the foundations of the Benedictines of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament.

Our Own Need

Three years ago, my own little Benedictine community was searching for a permanent home to allow our charism of Eucharistic adoration and intercession for priests to grow and flourish. We entrusted our need and our search to Saint Vincent de Paul. He who helped Mectilde de Bar was not indifferent to our plight. He guided us all the way to Silverstream in County Meath. For this, I want, today, to give public thanks to Saint Vincent.

Silverstream Priory

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Our monastery coat of arms was designed by Marco Foppoli.

The Motto

Around the coat of arms is the motto of our Priory, taken from the Book of the Prophet Daniel (ch. 9, v. 17): Illumina Faciem tuam super sanctuarium tuum, "Cause thy Face to shine upon thy Sanctuary": we beg the Lord Jesus, that he may cause the "deifying Light" (Prologue, Rule of St Benedict) of his Eucharistic Face to enlighten the entire Church, his Body, the Tabernacle of his Presence upon earth.

The Monstrance

The most prominent feature of our coat of arms is the golden Monstrance containing the Sacred Host, reflecting the special charism of our community: Benedictine life ordered toward Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The Host bears the word PAX ("Peace"), and is enclosed in a golden Crown of Thorns, a reference to the full motto of the Benedictine Order: Pax inter spinas ("Peace among thorns"). We can follow in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus towards the "peace which passes all understanding" (Philippians 4:7) only through participation in his Passion and Cross.

The Raven

At the foot of the Monstrance is a black Raven with a scrap of Bread in his mouth, a symbol of Divine Providence which features largely in St Gregory the Great's account of our blessed Father Benedict's early days as a hermit at Subiaco, and in the biblical story of the Prophet Elias (to whom Benedict is often compared). We believe strongly that Divine Providence brought us to Silverstream, and continues to feed us with both our "Daily Bread" and our "Supersubstantial Bread" (the Eucharist), just as he provided sustenance to the young Benedict and the Prophet.

The Silver Stream

The background (field) of the shield (escutcheon) is blue (azure), symbolizing the Irish Sea, which we can see from the Priory. A silver Stream (reflecting the name of the property to which God has brought us, "Silverstream" in Stamullen, Co. Meath) runs through the background. The name "Silverstream" has strong biblical and liturgical resonances, such as:

And he shewed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street thereof, and on both sides of the river, was the tree of life, bearing twelve fruits, yielding its fruits every month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no curse any more; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him. And they shall see his Face: and his name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more: and they shall not need the light of the lamp, nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall enlighten them, and they shall reign for ever and ever. (Apocalypse 22:1-5)

Our Lady

The colour blue, as well as the star in the left hand portion of the shield, also recall our blessed Lady, the Stella Maris ("Star of the Sea"), to whom our monastery is dedicated (under the title "Our Lady of the Cenacle"). The star is also eight pointed, the number eight being symbolic of the "Eighth Day" of the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come. The Mother of God is the Regina Caeli, the Queen of Heaven, and the Porta Caeli, that is, our gateway to heaven and eternal life.

Attend to the words

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A Remedy for Distractions

A priest whom I know well shared with me an experience that has brought him much peace after suffering for many years from the plague of distractions during Holy Mass. Father X. had very nearly abandoned all hope of being able to get through the Canon of the Mass without being assailed with a sandstorm of distractions. Then, quite unexpectedly, one day in the middle of the Canon of the Mass, he heard a voice saying to him inwardly, "Attend to the words." How simple. How utterly obvious. Instantly, he began attending to the sacred words of the Canon, giving himself to each word with a gentle application of his mind and heart.

The Words of the Missal

As a result of his obedience to this mysterious inspiration, Father X. now celebrates Holy Mass in peace of mind. His soul, in some way, enters the words of the Missal, and the words of the Missal enter his soul. So impressed was I by his experience that I thought it worth sharing with the readers of Vultus Christi, especially with my brother priests.

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CHAPTER XXXIV. Whether All Ought Alike to Receive What is Needful

12 Mar. 12 July. 11 Nov.
As it is written: "Distribution was made to every man, according as he had need." Herein we do not say that there should be respecting of persons - God forbid - but consideration for infirmities. Let him, therefore, that hath need of less give thanks to God, and not be grieved; and let him who requireth more be humbled for his infirmity, and not made proud by the kindness shewn to him: and so all the members of the family shall be at peace. Above all, let not the evil of murmuring shew itself by the slightest word or sign on any account whatsoever. If anyone be found guilty herein, let him be subjected to severe punishment.

All Originals

Just as in a family, no two children are alike, so too in a monastery, no two monks are alike. Saint Benedict would have his monks be treated as individuals. In Benedictine life there is no stultifying regimentation, no attempt to squeeze every man into the same mould, no requirement that all be satisfied with the same things, in the same quantity, at the same time.

Infirmities

Saint Benedict makes consideration for infirmities a grand principle of the Rule. Infirmities constitute a claim on the charity and forbearance of the Abbot and the brethren, and on the all-sufficient grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In this, Saint Benedict resonates with what the Apostle writes:

There was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me. For which thing thrice I besought the Lord, that it might depart from me. And he said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee; for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. For which cause I please myself in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ. For when I am weak, then am I powerful. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Fewer Needs

The monk who can get on with less -- with less of anything -- must not become self-sufficient and inflated with pride. Rather, he must give thanks humbly to the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ who as so provided with health, or energy, or physical strength, or intellectual acumen, or with any other gift. The strong are to be humble.

Greater Needs

The monk who needs more of anything -- more food, drink, rest, affection, quiet, conversation, affirmation, work, or time -- must, for this reason, be very humble, and recognize that he is the object of a special solicitude. Thus, will he be, always and everywhere, grateful. The weak are to be grateful.

Humility and Gratitude

Humility, then, and gratitude; thus does Saint Benedict say, "and so all the members of the family shall be at peace." A monastery where the strong are humble and the weak grateful will be the abode of charity. There will be unity among the brethren, reverence for one another, and a great interior freedom of spirit.

Murmuring

The one thing that will trouble a peaceful cloister is murmuring. Murmuring is toxic. It poisons the minds both of those who indulge in it and those who listen to it. Murmuring is not only verbal. One can complain, tear down, diminish, and sow the seeds of discouragement, suspicion, and disobedience not only by words, but also by attitudes, so-called body language, and non-verbal inferences. The murmurer is a troubler of the pax benedictina. "God," says Saint Paul, "is not the God of dissension, but of peace: as also I teach in all the churches of the saints" (1 Corinthians 14:33)

All things, even sin

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"Job says that "the life of man upon earth is a warfare and his days are like the days of a hireling." But upon His servants the Lord bestows His grace; although as Saint Paul says, "to them that love God all things work together unto good," to the very end. All things -- graces, natural qualities, contradictions, sickness, and, as Saint Augustine says, even sin. For God permits sin in the lives of His servants, as He permitted Peter's denial, that He may lead them to a deeper humility and thereby to a purer love."

Père Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

Ausculta

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Dom Benedict told me today that, after an interruption due to his other work, he has resumed posting my homilies here. If you are not familiar with our Silverstream Priory Podcasts, you might want to listen to one or another of them.

Stay my heart upon Thee

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O my beloved Jesus,
do Thou multiply us
and provide for us
that, by day and by night,
we may be able to adore Thee
and to console Thee
in the Most Holy Sacrament
of the Altar,
where Thou abidest hidden,
lowly, and silent,
for love of us.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
stay my heart upon Thee in the Sacrament of Thy Love.
Hide me in Thy hiddenness.
Illumine me in Thy radiance.
Quiet me in Thy silence.
Humble me in Thy lowliness.
Sanctify me in Thy holiness.
Offer me in Thy oblation.
Immolate me in Thy sacrifice.
O Divine Host!
O Saving Victim!
O Son of Mary!

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Why are we here?
To abide in Thy presence, O Jesus, and to adore Thee.
The column is a sign of our resolve to abide before Thee permanently.
It marks the place that Thou hast prepared for us,
and to which Thou callest us
at every hour of the day and night.

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The column is the symbol of monastic stability,
by which we are anchored in the presence of the Lord.
The column is to adoration
what the choir-stall is to the Divine Office;
the Benedictine Monk of Perpetual Adoration is his best self,
his truest self, his finest self
in his choir-stall and at the column.

In his choir-stall he is the singer of the praise of God,
doing in the Church on earth what the angels do in heaven;
and at the column he is a victim offered to the Divine Majesty
in reparation for sins
and in the willing sacrifice of himself as a fragrant holocaust to God;
fragrant because his oblation is united to that of the Lamb,
and because it mingles with the sweet odour of Christ Jesus
rising from the tabernacles of the world
to glorify the Father.

Oblation on July 11th

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On July 11th, the feast of our glorious father Saint Benedict, Robin Grace Immaculata Pudewa made her Oblation here, becoming the third professed Oblate of Silverstream Priory. Married to Andrew, and the mother of seven children, Robin lives near Hulbert, Oklahoma, not far from the Abbey of Clear Creek. Her Oblate name, Immaculata, was given her in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes to whom she has a particular devotion. The photo shows the little Silverstream family surrounding our new Oblate: from left to right: Hilda Benilda, Dom Benedict, Mikkel (Denmark), Father Prior, Brother Alex, Robin Grace Immaculata Pudewa, Don Pierre, Michaël (The Netherlands). Brother James (Ireland) took the photo.

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The Gatehouse, our priory bookshop, has become a quite a centre of devotion to Jesus, King of Love. Numerous people, visiting our bookshop, have also come to know of Mother Yvonne-Aimée de Jésus and have experienced her intercession.

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Spending time with us this summer are The Two Michaels: Michaël Peters from The Netherlands, and Mikkel Pedersen from Denmark.

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And here, above, is our little family at the moment, this time including postulant Brother James, a native of County Meath.

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Father Prior and our new Oblate.

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On 113th anniversary of the birth of Yvonne Beauvais (16 July 1901), the future Mother Yvonne-Aimée de Jésus, I want, once again, to recommend to the readers of Vultus Christi the little invocation that Our Lord revealed to her at Malestroit in 1922.

The picture to the right is her own work. Some judge it sentimental and too sweet. It has been, nonetheless, an invitation to confidence and hope for the little and the childlike. Our Lord Himself told Yvonne-Aimée to depict him as a little Child, a King of Love whom no one would fear to approach. A crown of lilies rests upon His Head, for He is the King of Virgins and the Restorer of innocence to those who give Him the burden of their sins. In His right hand He holds the olive branch that signifies healing and peace, and with His other hand, He points to His Sacred Heart, all aglow with merciful love.

As for the little invocation, for countless souls it is a healing balm, a fountain of living water in the heart, a inextinguishable flame in the darkness. Pray it today: O Jesus, King of Love, I put my trust in Thy loving mercy.

Those who know me
have a boundless confidence in my mercy,
and trust me to resolve even the most difficult situations
with a love that is at once tender and mighty.

Pray to me with confidence then,
for I am the King of Love, and I want to be recognized as such.
I rule in souls, not by coercion, but by my most sweet love.
I rule as a Child King,
with gentleness and with an affection that is wholly divine.
I am not a tyrant, nor will I force my rule upon anyone.

I am the Child King who comes in the guise of a beggar,
seeking the hospitality of one heart after another.
To those who welcome my rule,
I impart warmth and light,
food and drink,
a glorious raiment,
and a share in my kingdom forever.

Make me known as the King of Love,
as the little poor One who waits to be admitted into your company,
and welcomed into the midst of you,
there to rule, not by might, but humbly and with an infinite compassion.

If souls knew my kingship for what it is,
they would submit to me in an instant,
and I, in response, would fill them with happiness in my presence.
Love me, then,
and allow me to love you with my Royal Heart.
It is a great thing to be loved by the Heart of a King,
and I am the King of all that is, that was, and that will be.
My Heart is yours.
Give me your heart in return.
Thus will our friendship be sealed in heaven and on earth.

From In Sinu Iesu, the Journal of a Priest

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The Anniversary of a Heavenly Friend

July 16th is the 112th birthday of one of my dearest heavenly friends: Mother Yvonne-Aimée de Jésus (Yvonne Beauvais), Augustinian Canoness, Hospitaller of the Mercy of Jesus, of the Monastery of Malestroit in Brittany, France. Born on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in 1901, Mother Yvonne-Aimée died at 49 years of age on 3 February 1951.

Beloved of Jesus

Mother Yvonne-Aimée's life was indescribably rich . . . in the most bitter sufferings and in an avalanche of the most astonishing charisms. From the time of her girlhood she knew of Our Lord's tender love for her. She believed in it. She trusted it, and she staked her life upon it. She was, in the truest sense of her name in religion, Aimée de Jésus, the Beloved of Jesus.

An Intercessor

Mother Yvonne-Aimée's intercession is powerful. From her place in heaven she is, like Saint Thérèse, her own special friend, attentive to all the prayers addressed to her. She responds graciously, willingly, generously, and promptly to those who ask her for help. In a word, she is in heaven as she was on earth: a dispenser of the Divine Hospitality, of tenderness, mercy, healing, and joy.

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A Victim of Violence

It is all to the credit of her spiritual son, Father Paul Labutte, that, after more than fifty years of silence, he chose to reveal one of the most painful secrets of her life. On 10 August 1925, three men ambushed Yvonne Beauvais, then twenty-four years old, in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt. The three men beat Yvonne, and tortured her. One of the three, a depraved priest, whom she had previously tried to help by addressing to him a warning from Our Lord, violated her. Yvonne lived for some time thereafter in anguish. The reprobate priest later repented of his crime and was converted.

Father Labutte chose to write of this episode in the life of Yvonne-Aimée, believing that victims of similar crimes would take comfort in seeking the intercession of one with a personal experience of their suffering.

Her Care for Priests

Beginning in her early twenties, Mother Yvonne-Aimée had a particular mission to priests. Ever respectful and discreet, she was sensitive to priests in moral distress and in temptation. She readily took on herself the temptations and sufferings of priests. She calmed many a troubled conscience, dispensed wise motherly advice, and communicated joy and hope to priests haunted by depression and tempted to despair. Many times she was sent by Our Lord to deliver a message to priests in the throes of temptation or spiritual combat.

To my brother priests and, in particular to those among them enduring emotional or spiritual sufferings, as well as to those struggling with depression and weariness, I recommend recourse to the intercession of Mother Yvonne-Aimée.

Father Paul Labutte, borrowing a line from the famous French literary critic, Charles du Bos, said of Mother Yvonne-Aimée, with all due proportion, what Du Bos said of Our Lady: "There will never be but one way to come to know her; it is by addressing her. No sooner does one call upon her than she reveals herself by answering." Personally, I can attest that this is true.

Gaston Courtois and Other Priests

Among the many priests who sought her out was the Abbé Gaston Courtois, Fils de la Charité. The Abbé Courtois exercised a profound influence over the French clergy between 1930 and 1950. It was said of him that he was priestly "to the very last fibre of his soul." Mother Yvonne-Aimée referred priests in difficulty to the Abbé Courtois. He, in turn, entrusted priests, especially those in need of a real conversion of life, to her. The Abbé Courtois wrote of Mother Yvonne-Aimée:

Only those who were very close to her know to what point she suffered, in a great spirit of Redemption, most especially for priests.

The Impressions of Two Great Abbots

Dom Marie-Gabriel Sortais (1902-1963), Abbot General of the Trappist Order (O.C.S.O.) considered Mother Yvonne-Aimée a great Superior who built all her work on the rock of faith. Dom Sortais remarked Mother Yvonne-Aimée's gift for pacifying and opening up souls. Until his death in 1963, Dom Sortais kept her photograph on his desk; it was the only photograph of a woman, apart from one of his own mother, that he allowed himself to keep.

The Abbot of Solesmes, Dom Germain Cozien (1921-1959), personally helped while hospitalized at Malestroit, by conversations with Mother Yvonne-Aimée, observed that she was marked by "the sense of prayer, of liturgical beauty, of praising God, in the school of the Church." And he added: "All the life of Mother Yvonne-Aimée was under the influence of God." Yvonne-Aimée was not afraid of expressing her friendship. To Dom Cozien she wrote in 1939:

I say it to you simply: I miss your presence. It is so when the Lord permits and seems to want a bond between souls. My prayer, then, will join yours in your dear abbey, which I loved, and love even more now. Did you not feel that also, my Very Reverend Father? May the Most Sweet Lord Jesus be thanked for having sown this joy of heart and soul on my path. Say to Him in the morning when He is all yours, when you hold Him in your hands (how fortunate you are!) even at the risk of prolonging the elevation a little bit, oh, say to Him, Give her, O Lord, Your light, Your strength, and Your mercy." I have such need of light to know what I must do; of strength, to follow through generously; and of mercy to repair the mistakes that I make.

My Own Experience

Almost thirty years ago, after having tried for a very long time, as most monks do, to practice the ceaseless prayer of the heart, providentially I came upon an out-of-print French biography of Mother Yvonne-Aimée, and learned of her Little Invocation, "O Jesus, King of Love, I put my trust in thy merciful goodness." One day, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament without trying to think of anything in particular, I realized, to my surprise, that Mother Yvonne-Aimée's prayer was repeating itself ceaselessly and effortlessly in my heart. I found myself praying the Little Invocation at every waking moment and even during the night, in a way similar to the practice of the "Jesus Prayer" by monks of the Eastern Church. Over the years, the grace of ceaseless prayer by means of the Little Invocation has not abated. It is always there: a gentle murmur of confidence bubbling up deep inside.

As a newly-ordained priest, I often gave the Little Invocation as penance to those who came to me for Confession. Individuals from all walks of life began attesting to the graces received: graces of inner healing, of victory over persistent and deeply rooted habits of sin, of trust in the mercy of Christ, and of a ceaseless prayer of the heart.

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The Little Invocation

O Jésus, Roi d'Amour,
j'ai confiance en ta miséricordieuse bonté.

O Jesus, King of Love,
I put my trust in thy loving mercy.

Mother Yvonne-Aimée received the inspiration of the Little Invocation in 1922. The invocation began to spread almost immediately, first within her own Order and among patients in their hospitals, and then, especially during World War II, on a world-wide scale. Before long, persons praying the Little Invocation began witnessing to the graces and favours they received. In 1932 the Bishop of Vannes, France, approved the prayer for his diocese. The following year, Pope Pius XI indulgenced it for the Augustinian Canonesses of the Mercy of Jesus, for their sick and for all those hospitalized in their health care facilities. Pope Pius XII renewed the favour, and on December 6, 1958, Pope John XXIII extended it to the universal Church.

Mother Yvonne-Aimée cherished the Little Invocation to Jesus, King of Love; she wanted to make it known and see it spread because such was Our Lord's own desire. In a letter requesting that Pope Pius XI indulgence the prayer, she wrote:

It is so sweet, so strong, so rich, this little invocation . . . This invocation is appreciated by the sick; it consoles them. They love this prayer because it appeals to the Kingship of Christ Jesus, to His Love, His Mercy, His Goodness; in some way, it compels us to trust. It condenses our familiar invocations to the Sacred Heart and sums them.

In 1927, Mother Yvonne-Aimée had little cards printed in order to spread the prayer. In 1940, during World War II, in order to make the prayer even better known and loved, she had a medal struck. She drew an image of the Child Jesus, King of Love, which has since been distributed around the globe. Her drawing is naive and sweet; let the art critics say what they will, it appeals to the little and the poor, to the weak and the fearful, and has a way of touching their hearts.

Mother Yvonne-Aimée had but one aim: to draw souls to trust in the Heart of the Child King, to hope in His merciful goodness, and to abandon to Him all their worries, their fears, their cares, and even their sins.

More information on Mother Yvonne-Aimée de Jésus and on the invocation, as well as images, statues, and medals of Jesus, King of Love, may be obtained from Silverstream Priory's Confraternity of Jesus, King of Love.

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My own translation of an entry in the journal of Julien Green:

"There was no woman among the Apostles chosen by Christ. There will not, therefore, be women priests in the Catholic Church, as the Holy Father has decided, with no discussion possible. I have nothing to say. I obey. To make my confession to a woman would seem strange to me, except in a case of mortal danger when only a woman would have been able to come to my assistance. For the moment, I don't foresee it happening. Upon reflection, however, I would have been able to make my confession to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux because of her solid Norman good sense, and her very big heart. Equally to Mother Yvonne-Aimée de Jésus because of her immense knowledge of beings, of the good and the evil, which are in all of us, and of the strange ways of the demon. To Saint Teresa of Avila, specialist in the ironies of destiny, lucid, but quick to smile. Here, then, are quite some women."

Julien Green
Pourquoi suis-je moi
Journal 1993-1996,
p. 173

Benedictine Poverty

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CHAPTER XXXIII. Whether Monks Ought to Have Anything of Their Own

11 Mar. 11 July. 10 Nov.
The vice of private ownership is above all to be cut off from the Monastery by the roots. Let none presume to give or receive anything without leave of the Abbot, nor to keep anything as their own, either book or writing-tablet or pen, or anything whatsoever; since they are permitted to have neither body nor will in their own power. But all that is necessary they may hope to receive from the father of the Monastery: nor are they allowed to keep anything which the Abbot has not given, or at least permitted them to have. Let all things be common to all, as it is written: "Neither did anyone say that aught which he possessed was his own." But if any one shall be found to indulge in this most baneful vice, and after one or two admonitions do not amend, let him be subjected to correction.

The Vice of Proprietorship

The drive to acquire things, to possess and claim them as one's own is a vice to be cut out of the monastery by the roots. What is a vice? A vice is a sinful disposition reinforced by the repetition of concrete actions to the point of becoming habitual and pervasive. The inclination to stand over something and call it "mine" is incompatible with the monastic way of life.

Our Constitutions say this:

"The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests: but the son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20).
136. The poverty of the Son of God on earth that Saint Matthew describes in so few words, exemplifies religious poverty. Our holy patriarch honours this poverty by enjoining his sons to claim personal ownership of nothing. Freedom from personal possessions cannot but please one whose life is a sacrificial oblation, and who must live in this world as one already dead to it, constrained by necessity to make use of things with detachment, and in a holy indifference with regard to ownership. The monk who embraces this precious poverty will find himself filled with riches, knowing that the emptiness of creatures makes for a plenitude of God.

Radical Disappropriation

To the vice of a proprietary spirit Saint Benedict opposes the virtue of a radical disappropriation: "Let none presume to give or receive anything without leave of the Abbot, nor to keep anything as their own, either book or writing-tablet or pen, or anything whatsoever; since they are permitted to have neither body nor will in their own power." The monk renounces ownership even over his own body and his own will. This is the profound meaning of the Suscipe (Psalm 118:116) that, with hands raised towards heaven, and standing before the altar, the monk sings on the day of his profession:

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Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum , et vivam;
et non confundas me ab expectatione mea.

Take me up, even unto Thyself, O Lord, according to thy word, and I shall live:
and let me not be ashamed of my hope.

Sacrificial Victimhood

For Saint Benedict, the monk is a man offered, an oblation, a victim made over to God in sacrifice. By monastic profession, a man places himself upon the altar together with the oblations of bread and wine. Doing this, he becomes, according to the teaching of Saint Augustine a sacrificium.

A true sacrifice is every work which is done that we may be united to God in holy fellowship, and which has a reference to that supreme good and end in which alone we can be truly blessed. And therefore even the mercy we show to men, if it is not shown for God's sake, is not a sacrifice. For, though made or offered by man, sacrifice is a divine thing, as those who called it sacrifice meant to indicate. Thus man himself, consecrated in the name of God, and vowed to God, is a sacrifice in so far as he dies to the world that he may live to God. For this is a part of that mercy which each man shows to himself; as it is written, "Have mercy on your soul by pleasing God." (Sirach 30:24) Our body, too, as a sacrifice when we chasten it by temperance, if we do so as we ought, for God's sake, that we may not yield our members instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but instruments of righteousness unto God. (Romans 6:13) Exhorting to this sacrifice, the apostle says, "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." (Romans 12:1) If, then, the body, which, being inferior, the soul uses as a servant or instrument, is a sacrifice when it is used rightly, and with reference to God, how much more does the soul itself become a sacrifice when it offers itself to God, in order that, being inflamed by the fire of His love, it may receive of His beauty and become pleasing to Him, losing the shape of earthly desire, and being remoulded in the image of permanent loveliness? (The City of God, Book X, Chapter VI)

Configured to the Lamb

The highest expression of Benedictine disappropriation (poverty) is found, then, in that sacrificial victimhood by which a monk is mystically (that is really, but in a hidden way) configured to Christ, the Lamb of God, "the pure victim, the holy victim, the immaculate victim" (Roman Canon)

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CHAPTER XXXII. Of the Iron Tools and Property of the Monastery

10 Mar. 10 July. 9 Nov.
Let the Abbot appoint brethren, on whose manner of life and character he can rely, to the charge of the iron tools, clothes, and other property of the Monastery; and let him consign to their care, as he shall think fit, the things to be kept and collected after use. Of these let the Abbot keep a list, so that as the brethren in turn succeed to different employments, he may know what he giveth and receiveth back. If any one treat the property of the Monastery in a slovenly or negligent manner, let him be corrected; and if he do not amend, let him be subjected to the discipline of the Rule.

The Tranquility of Order

Saint Benedict sees the real value of tools and of other equipment. He eschews the dreamy-eyed, romantic notion that monks can get by without working. For Saint Benedict, things are important. Monks require clothing, shoes, and bedding. Work requires tools. Study requires books. Whenever men begin to live together, they need tools, clothes, and other property. The care and good order of these things becomes a task of primary importance. When everyone is assumed to be responsible for the care and good order of things, in the end, no one is responsible. Then disorder sets in, and things become misplaced, broken, and neglected.

A Place for Everything

The old domestic adage, "A place for every thing, and every thing in its place," sums up an indispensable principle of life together. This principle applies to every thing in the monastery, beginning in each monk's cell and work space, and extending to the kitchen, refectory, library, sacristy, storage rooms, linen closets, guesthouse, bookshop, laundry, and toilets. This of course is an ideal that one cannot achieve overnight in a newly founded monastery such as ours.

Patience

The organisation of a new monastery will take time and much patience. Organisation is, in itself, a gift not given to all. For this reason the Abbot shall appoint brethren "on whose manner of life and character he can rely, to the charge of the iron tools, clothes, and other property of the monastery."

Precepts

The observance of six practical precepts can, however, facilitate the achievement of good order, efficiency, and responsible stewardship:

1. If you borrow something, return it.
2. If you open something, close it.
3. If you take something, put it back.
4. If you soil something, clean it.
5. If you break or lose something, own up to it.
6. If you need something, ask for it, in the proper way and at the suitable time.

All of this being said, good organisation begins in one's own cell and work area. It is good to sort through one's things regularly and eliminate all that is superfluous: weekly, monthly, and in a major way at the Embertides.

In Our Constitutions

The Constitutions of Silverstream Priory contain the following declarations on Chapter XXXII of the Holy Rule:

131. The monastery and all it possesses and contains is the patrimony of Jesus Christ, by which He sustains those who have left all things to follow Him, and to pour out their lives, in adoration before Him, like an ointment of great price.
132. Every member of the community, therefore, is responsible before God and his brethren for the respect and care of the fabric of the monastery; of its land, forest, streams, and other natural resources; and of its furnishings, machinery, and tools.
133. Each monk will cultivate a personal sense of responsibility for the cleanliness, good order, and beauty of the natural and material environment of the monastery.
134. The rapid development of new technologies obliges even monks to participate to some degree in the larger digital world. It is necessary, then, that, from the time of their initial monastic formation, they learn how to use these technologies in a competent and appropriate way, shaped by the unchanging ascetical principles of separation from the world, silence, and the love of truth.

Every age and understanding

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Photo: Abbazia di Praglia


CHAPTER XXX. How the Younger Boys Are to Be Corrected

7 Mar. 7 July. 6 Nov.
Every age and understanding should have its proper measure of discipline. As often, therefore, as boys or others under age, or unable to understand the greatness of the penalty of excommunication, commit faults, let them be punished by severe fasting or sharp stripes, in order that they may be cured.

Proper Measure of Discipline

Monasteries no longer have little oblates: boy-monks offered to God by their parents and thus enrolled in the school of the Lord's service. This chapter cannot however, for this reason, be discounted. It contains two important principles. The first principle is that, "every age and understanding should have its proper measure of discipline." Men come to the monastery with various degrees of emotional maturity and experience. Not all can grasp the value and significance of the whole observance immediately. It takes time -- a lifetime -- to make a monk. In Benedictine life there is a readiness to adjust objective standards of discipline to the age and understanding of individuals. It is not a question of one size fitting all.

That They May Have Life

The second principle is that any disciplinary measures are taken for the sake of a monk's inner healing: in order that they may be cured. Monastic discipline is curative and, in the noblest sense of the word, therapeutic. It is not merely punitive. It is at the service of life, and of life in abundance. "I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).

When a monk runs away

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CHAPTER XXIX. Whether the Brethren who Leave the Monastery Are to Be Received Again

6 Mar. 6 July. 5 Nov.
If any brother who through his own fault departeth or is cast out of the Monastery, be willing to return, let him first undertake to amend entirely the fault for which he went away; and then let him be received back into the lowest place, that thus his humility may be tried. Should he again depart, let him be taken back until the third time: knowing that after this all return will be denied to him.

That His Humility May Be Tried

It sometimes happens that monks "run away from home." It is the old story, so often recounted by the Desert Fathers, of the monk who misses his old haunts amidst the lights and glamour and action of The Big City, or of the monk who thinks that the solution to his melancholy and distaste for prayer (class symptoms of accedia) is elsewhere, anywhere, but in his monastery. More often than not, the monk who runs away from the monastery -- after coming to his senses in the world -- wants to run back to it. Saint Benedict is patient and wise. The monk, humbled and chastened by his rash behaviour and instability, is to be received back into the community, and this up to three times.

A Gentle Mercy

Outwardly, there is no killing of the fatted calf, no fine new clothes or shoes for his feet, nor sounds of high merriment; but there will be the gentle mercy of the Abbot manifested with a quiet, manly restraint, and there will be the charity of the brethren who recognize in their wayward brother the runaway in themselves, and are moved to compassion for him. The returning brother is welcomed into the lowest place in order to try his humility. Has he really learned something about himself and about God from this unfortunate escapade? Will it become for him an occasion of grace and of compunction?

Separation

After three episodes like this, however, Saint Benedict would have the Abbot help the runaway brother to understand that his comings and goings are not helpful to himself, nor are they good for the community. He will need to make a final choice and if that choice is for life in the world and separation from the monastery, the Abbot will ratify his choice; the necessary canonical procedure will be followed; and a new chapter will begin in the man's life. There will always men who love the idea of monastic life but who, for one reason or another, cannot adjust to living it day in and day out. Such men can go on to live holy and fruitful lives in the world but they must keep in mind that the nostalgia for certain aspects of monastic life does not constitute a vocation to it.

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Yvonne-Aimée Makes Herself Known

It was July 9, 1956. Someone entered the life of Julian Green (1900-1998) in a most unforeseeable way. Green's sister Anne, who had remained in Paris and was to join him in Mareil (Seine-et-Oise) a few days later, arrived in Mareil, bringing with her an article by Colonel Rémy that she had torn out of a magazine picked up in her hairdresser's. The article was about the Augustinian of Malestroit, Mother Yvonne-Aimée de Jésus (1901-1951). Mother Yvonne-Aimée had died only a few years earlier in 1951 after a lifetime of extraordinary love: Jesus' love for her, and hers for Him. Her life was marked as well by charismatic manifestations of all sorts, including the stigmata and, alas, by frightful persecutions and assaults from below.

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A Connection

What most fascinated Julian Green about Mother Yvonne-Aimée was that, for twenty years, she was directed by the Jesuit Father Crété, the same priest who prepared him for reception into the Catholic Church at the age of fifteen, and wanted to see him become a Benedictine monk in the Isle of Wight. Green never really got over the bitter disappointment he caused Father Crété by not leaving the world for the cloister.

Discovering the close bond between Father Crété and Mother Yvonne-Aimée, and the prodigies and signs wrought by God through her, Julian Green had an inner certitude that Father Crété had asked the holy nun of Malestroit to pray very specially for him.

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When a Saint Takes an Interest in a Soul

The fact that Mother Yvonne-Aimée, of whom he knew nothing previously, entered his life, in this way, only days after the decisive confession of his "second conversion", and at a time when he was experiencing an compelling spiritual tension in his life, convinced Julian Green of the grace of her intercession for him. Yvonne-Aimée pursued him into his desert. She made herself known to him in order to help him break free of the bonds of sin that, for so long, had held him enslaved in a moral torment. Julian Green began to pray to her, and in his absolute break with a sinful past, recognized the proof of her action.

Chastity and Charity

Julian Green always secretly longed for holiness. He knew, all the same, that "one is not necessarily holy because one is chaste." He recalled the line of the old poet William Langland that, "chastity without charity is enchained in the very pit of hell." For Green, charity was everything. "God," he said, "has given us but one heart only to love him and to love men." Julian Green desired chastity because, almost without being able to articulate it, he wanted to be a saint. And he wanted to love as God would have him love.

Lumen Fidei

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How extraordinary! An encyclical largely written by one Pope and signed and promulgated by another. I have already begun to study it. The following section from Chapter Three leaped off the page and into my heart:

The Church, Mother of our Faith
37. Those who have opened their hearts to God's love, heard his voice and received his light, cannot keep this gift to themselves. Since faith is hearing and seeing, it is also handed on as word and light. Addressing the Corinthians, Saint Paul used these two very images. On the one hand he says: "But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture -- 'I believed, and so I spoke' -- we also believe, and so we speak" (2 Cor 4:13). The word, once accepted, becomes a response, a confession of faith, which spreads to others and invites them to believe.
Paul also uses the image of light: "All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image" (2 Cor 3:18). It is a light reflected from one face to another, even as Moses himself bore a reflection of God's glory after having spoken with him: "God... has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Cor 4:6).
The light of Christ shines, as in a mirror, upon the face of Christians; as it spreads, it comes down to us, so that we too can share in that vision and reflect that light to others, in the same way that, in the Easter liturgy, the light of the paschal candle lights countless other candles. Faith is passed on, we might say, by contact, from one person to another, just as one candle is lighted from another. Christians, in their poverty, plant a seed so rich that it becomes a great tree, capable of filling the world with its fruit.

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Spiritual Cleansing

Something truly extraordinary happened in the gardens of Vatican City State this morning. Pope Francis, in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI, consecrated Vatican City to Saint Michael the Archangel and to Saint Joseph, whom the Church Universal venerates as her patron and invokes as the Terror of Demons. The Holy Father, Pope Francis said, "On consecrating Vatican City State to Saint Michael the Archangel, we ask him to defend us from the Evil One and to cast him outside." Is this not an implicit prayer of exorcism? The housecleaning of Vatican City is no mere figure of speech. The Pope released a mighty archangelic power of cleansing this morning.

Consecration

It is also worthy of note that Pope Francis used the term "to consecrate" rather than the softer "to entrust" that was in favour some years ago. This would, I think, indicate a certain theological shift that may not be pleasing to everyone in the Curial offices. My dear friend, Monsignor Arthur Calkins, is an expert on the question and vocabulary of consecration. I should be very eager to hear him on this point.

Here is a translation (courtesy of Zenit) of the brief address Francis gave this morning at the inauguration of a monument to Michael the Archangel in Vatican City State. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI joined Francis for the ceremony. Subtitles are my own.

Holiness,
Lord Cardinals, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies!
Initiative Planned by Pope Benedict XVI
We have gathered here in the Vatican Gardens to inaugurate a monument to Saint Michael the Archangel, patron of Vatican City State. It is an initiative planned some time ago, with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI, to whom always go our affection and gratitude and to whom we wish to express our great joy to have him present here in our midst today. My heartfelt thank you!
I am grateful to the Presidency of the Governorate, in particular to Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, for his cordial words, to the offices and workmen involved in bringing this about. I also thank Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, President Emeritus of the Governorate, for his presentation to us of the works carried out and the results attained. A word of appreciation goes to the sculptor, Mr. Giuseppe Antonio Lomuscio, and to the benefactor, Mr. Claudio Chiais, who are present here. Thank you!
Michael: The Champion of God's Primacy
There are several artistic works in the Vatican Gardens; however, this one, which is added today, assumes a place of particular importance, be it for its location, be it for the meaning it expresses. In fact, it's not only a celebratory work, but an invitation to reflection and prayer, which is well inserted in the Year of Faith. Michael - which means: "Who is like unto God?" - is the champion of God's primacy, of His transcendence and power. Michael fights to re-establish divine justice; he defends the People of God from its enemies and above all of the enemy par excellence, the devil. And Saint Michael triumphs because it is God who acts in him. This sculpture, then, reminds us that evil has been vanquished, the accuser is unmasked, his head is crushed, because salvation was accomplished once and for all in the Blood of Christ.
To Cast the Evil One Outside Vatican City State
Even if the devil always tries to scratch the Archangel's face and man's face, God is stronger; the victory is His and His salvation is offered to every man. We are not alone in life's journey and trials; we are accompanied and sustained by the Angels of God who offer, so to speak, their wings to help us surmount so many dangers, to be able to fly high in regard to those realities that can weigh down our life or drag us down. On consecrating Vatican City State to Saint Michael the Archangel, we ask him to defend us from the Evil One and to cast him outside.
Saint Joseph
Dear brothers and sisters, we consecrate Vatican City State also to Saint Joseph, the custodian of Jesus, the custodian of the Holy Family. May his presence make us stronger and more courageous in making space for God in our life to overcome evil always with good. We ask him to guard us, to take care of us, so that the life of grace will grow every day more in each of us.

The Cure of the Sick Brother

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Icon of the Prodigal Son courtesy of Patheos.


CHAPTER XXVIII. Of Those Who, Being Often Corrected, Do Not Amend

5 Mar. 5 July. 4 Nov.
If any brother who has been frequently corrected for some fault, or even excommunicated, do not amend let a more severe chastisement be applied: that is, let the punishment of stripes be administered to him. But if even then he do not correct himself, or perchance (which God forbid), puffed up with pride, even wish to defend his deeds: then let the Abbot act like a wise physician. If he hath applied fomentations and the unction of his admonitions, the medicine of the Holy Scriptures, and the last remedy of excommunication or corporal chastisement, and if he see that his labours are of no avail, let him add what is still more powerful - his own prayers and those of all the brethren for him, that God, Who is all-powerful, may work the cure of the sick brother. But if he be not healed even by this means, then at length let the Abbot use the sword of separation, as the Apostle saith: "Put away the evil one from you." And again: "If the faithless one depart, let him depart," lest one diseased sheep should taint the whole flock.

Affection for Sin

It is clear from the tone of this chapter that our father Saint Benedict had a firsthand experience of the things he describes. There have always been Christians, even within the cloister, who resist the grace of conversion. One can easily develop an affection for one's sin. One convinces oneself that a particular indulgence makes life with all its hardships less unbearable. One talks oneself into believing that one cannot change when, in truth, one no longer wants to change. How easy it is to grow old in one's sins the way one grows used to wearing a comfortable pair of slippers.

Rationalisation

God forbid that, in the monastic life, patterns of sin should become so routine as to blind a monk to the point of not seeing that his habitual offenses are alienating him from God and will precipitate his descent into hell. The offender, deluded by pride, can even begin to rationalise his attachment to sin. The Abbot, therefore, is obliged to intervene before occasional faults metastasize into the systemic faults (vices) that are much more difficult to excise from one's life, and from the life of the community.

The Process

Saint Benedict orders the interventions of the Abbot in five incremental steps. These five steps are:

1) Fomentations and Admonitions. These are remedies that any wise physician would employ. A fomentation (or poultice) is the application of a hot compress, with or without some medicinal herb, to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. It is not uncommon that certain vices are merely an attempt to treat an underlying emotional pain. Repeated sin causes spiritual inflammation. What sort of fomentations would the Abbot use? Kind words capable of opening the heart, words of light and of hope, strong words to quick the will and spur it in the right direction. Very often a few honest, heart-to-heart conversations are sufficient to bring about an opening to grace and a fresh beginning.

2) The medicine of the Holy Scriptures. The Word of God is a powerful cleansing agent, a mighty disinfectant, a healing balm. The Abbot will direct the wayward brother to certain passages of Sacred Scripture --especially to those given in the Holy Mass and the Divine Office-- enjoining him to read them, to repeat them, to pray them until, at length, they effect an inward conversion. Certain patterns of sin can be traced back to the neglect and, then, abandonment of lectio divina.

3) Excommunication. By excommunication a brother is excluded from the choir and from the common table. He is given time out, time to think, time to be alone with himself. Excommunication is an opportunity to enter into the desert. "Therefore, behold I will allure her, and will lead her into the wilderness: and I will speak to her heart" (Osee 2:14). Time apart can be a salutary thing.

4) Corporal Punishment. Saint Benedict does not shrink from the use of corporal punishment; he knows that man is a composite of body and soul. One will remember that "caning" was practiced in many schools right up into the 1960s and, in some places, even later. While there is no question of reviving such practices today, the underlying principle is that the physical may be engaged in the process of conversion, so as to dispose one hardened in sin to yield to the gentle and powerful action of divine grace. While beatings are no longer administered to this end, some form of corporal participation in the labour of conversion remains salutary. This may be as simple as depriving a brother of his portion of wine (a classic remedy, especially in Italy!), or of sending him to weed an overgrown patch of garden.

5) The Prayer of the Abbot and of All the Brethren. It may surprise some to find that Saint Benedict puts this remedy last. He is referring here, not merely to a private supplication on behalf of the erring brother, but to a full-scale mobilisation of the entire community's intercessory prayer that God, Who is all-powerful, may work the cure of the sick brother. In Saint Benedict's day this may very well have taken on a public quasi-liturgical character. Today, an Abbot may direct his community to join him in making a novena for a brother in dire spiritual straits, or he may gather his community around him in a confident prayer of intercession, trusting in Our Lord's words: "Again I say to you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning any thing whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven. For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:19-20).

Separation

When all of these remedies have been brought to bear upon a sick brother, the Abbot may be obliged to act in the best interest of the monastic family, by using the sword, or scalpel, of separation. It is clear that, for Saint Benedict, this is a last resort. The monk hardened in sin remains a son of the monastic household; it is a wrenching and terrible thing to have to send him away, analogous to sending away one's own troubled adolescent in order to protect the younger siblings of the family. In our day, an Abbot cannot proceed with separation from the community without following strictly the procedure required by Canon Law.

The Cross and the Lily

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A Date to Remember

It was 5 July, 1922. Twenty-one year old Yvonne Beauvais was on holiday in a centuries-old backwater monastery in Brittany, far from the glamour and febrile excitement of Paris. She had been sent there to rest, and to recover her compromised health. The "mother" in charge of hospitality assigned Yvonne to Room Number 3. It would soon become well known as a place of tremendous graces and frightful spiritual combats.

On this particular 5 July, Yvonne had withdrawn to her room and been in bed for about ten minutes. She recounts what happened then.

I distinctly heard my name: --Yvonne! I turned my head towards the fireplace, whence the voice seemed to have come. There was no one. Thinking that I was mistaken, I lay down again and tried to sleep.
A second time I heard: --Yvonne! I became afraid, very afraid. I put my head under the covers and began to recite the Our Father aloud. Having come to the words, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," the voice made itself heard again: --Yvonne!

The Cross

I knelt on my bed and, from the side of the fireplace, I saw a brightness . . . nothing natural was causing it. Then a cross appeared, while a voice of extreme gentleness said: --Do you want to carry it? --Oh, yes, Lord, I replied. The voice continued: --Be an abandoned soul. Accept the trials that I shall send you like the greatest graces and the greatest favours and graces given to the souls I love. Accept them without complaining, without examining the nature of them or how long they last, without making much of them. Pay no attention to what will mortify you or humiliate you. Look at me, I love you. Is that not enough for your heart? -- Ah, yes, Lord, I answered, --I love you.

Yvonne did not, all the same, want to be taken in by a delusion. She was wary of spiritual pitfalls and things out of the ordinary.

--Is it really you who deign to speak to me and to be concerned with your little creature? Tell me, Jesus, is it really you?

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The Lily

She received a sign to confirm that what was happening was no dream.

Then I saw a hand draw near to the cross, pick the flower of a lily and give it to me. At that moment I experienced a transport of joy and of love that nearly made me faint. It seemed to be very brief, only my soul was filled with peace.

On 12 July, following the advice given her, Yvonne went to Vannes to see Father Crété, an austere Jesuit known for his holiness and discernment. In her journal she writes only this:

I went to Vannes to see Father Crété. I am very happy that I opened myself up to him. Ah, thank you, Jesus! I am happy to offer my sufferings for priests. My lily is still on the fireplace.

Astonishingly, without having been placed in water, the lily remained fresh and resplendent in Yvonne's room. On 13 July, a voice said:

--I am taking back my lily to pour forth love into other souls.

When Jesus Asks for Love

Yvonne, grasping the significance of these mysterious events, wrote to Father Crété:

Oh, what inexhaustible tenderness, what tireless goodness Jesus has for his little creature. [ . . .] His divine love penetrates me to transform me altogether. I want to work at this without stopping. I want to be what Jesus asks me to be: an abandoned soul.
One might say say that to each suffering, to each little act of love, Jesus responds to me with more love, with more of his largesses. Jesus is not waiting for me to enter eternity to fill me full. One might say that he is in a hurry to come and take his weak little creature for himself. It seems that he has need of her love, as if he felt himself all alone, isolated.
Yes, my Father, I want to delight Jesus, to love him tenderly. I want that he should know delight, to fix his divine gaze in my eyes, to hear my heart beat close to his, to take me in his arms and hear me call him by the sweetest and tenderest names. I want to wipe his tears if he is sad, and cause him, by my caresses, to forget the hurt that is caused him.

For Priests

One might be inclined to dismiss Yvonne's words as nothing more than the sentimental gush of a twenty-one year old girl who had, in fact, less than a year earlier, broken off her engagement to be married. It would, however, be a mistake to read Yvonne in a romantic or sensual register. Her tenderness for the Lord Jesus cannot be separated from her readiness to walk the path of littleness, humility, and suffering. She does not separate the cross from the lily. Her suffering and her love go out from herself to become fruitful in the souls of others, notably in the souls of priests. She further writes to Father Crété:

I am all weakness, he will be my strength. I am not afraid of the cross he has presented me. I will suffer with all my heart for the intention you recommended to me: for priests!

Among the many souls called to pray and suffer for priests, Yvonne-Aimée emerges as one in whom Our Lord displayed, in the highest degree, his readiness to enter into relations of an ineffable intimacy and tenderness with souls to abandon themselves to His cross and to His love.

The Charge of Weakly Souls

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CHAPTER XXVII. How Solicitous the Abbot Should Be of the Excommunicate

4 Mar. 4 July. 3 Nov.
Let the Abbot exercise all diligence in his care for erring brethen, for they that are in health need not a physician, but they that are sick. He ought, therefore, as a wise physician, to use every remedy in his power. Let him send senpectae, that is old and prudent brethren, who may as it were secretly comfort the troubled brother, inducing him to make humble satisfaction and consoling him, lest he be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Let charity be strengthened towards him, and let everyone pray for him.
For the Abbot is bound to use the greatest care, and to exercise all prudence and diligence, so that he may not lose any of the sheep entrusted to him. Let him know that what he has undertaken is the charge of weakly souls, and not a tyranny over the strong; and let him fear the threat of the prophet, wherein God saith: What you saw to be fat, that ye took to yourselves: and what was feeble, ye cast away. And let him imitate the merciful example of the Good Shepherd, who left the ninety and nine sheep in the mountains and went after the one sheep that had strayed; and had so great pity on its weakness, that he deigned to place it on his own sacred shoulders and so bring it back to the flock.

To See as God Sees

Rarely does God call men of dazzling qualities, spotless integrity, and perfect health to the monastic life. A monastery is not a stadium for ascetical performances; it is an infirmary for souls in various stages of spiritual convalescence and recovery. Saint Benedict confirms this in Chapter LXXII, where he says, "Let them most patiently endure one another's infirmities, whether of body or of mind." And in today's Chapter, Saint Benedict says, "Let him [the Abbot] know that what he has undertaken is the charge of weakly souls." God does not see as men see. Where men read failure, crisis, and instability, God reads scope for the deployment of His mercy, His power, and His faithfulness.

Salvaging from the Scrap Heap of Unsuitables

"Jesus saith to them: Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? By the Lord this has been done; and it is wonderful in our eyes" (Matthew 21:42). The master-plan of the Father by which the Son, rejected by the builders of this age, became the head of the corner in the building of the Kingdom of God, is continued through the ages in the saints, known and unknown, in the lives of those canonized by the Church and in the obscurity of lives totally unknown to men. It pleases God to make use of those whom the wise and clever reject. God is forever salvaging men from the scrap-heap of unsuitables to which the world (and the worldly in the Church) have consigned them.

Saint Peter

On the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, I reflected much on Our Lord's choice of these two men as the very foundations and pillars of His Church. When Our Lord called Simon Peter, He knew in advance that Peter would prove to be a cracked and unreliable element in the foundation of His Church. He knew that Peter would deny Him. He knew that Peter would show more cowardice than courage in the face of suffering. He also knew that, after the Resurrection, a fallen Peter would make this splendid confession of confidence and of love, this perfect act of reparation: "Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee" (John 21:17).

Saint Paul

When Our Lord called Saul of Tarsus, He saw a man marked by pride, spiritually arrogant, excessive in word and in deed, sunk deep in self-righteousness, and tormented by an inward unrest. He also saw Paul the Apostle, profoundly humble, with entrails of mercy for sinners and compassion for the weakest among men, capable of great heroism in the service of the Gospel, totally abandoned to His all-sufficient grace, and capable of radiating the peace of the Holy Ghost.

See your vocation, brethren, that there are not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble: But the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the strong. And the base things of the world, and the things that are contemptible, hath God chosen, and things that are not, that he might bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his sight. But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and justice, and sanctification, and redemption: That, as it is written: He that glorieth, may glory in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

The Flawed and the Broken

An Abbot must accept the family of flawed and broken men that God has entrusted to him, fearing the threat of the prophet, wherein God saith: What you saw to be fat, that ye took to yourselves: and what was feeble, ye cast away. This is not to say that all comers are to be taken in. Vocations must be carefully discerned; some men will have to be sent away as being unsuited to the claustral life. Belief in the power of grace and reliance on the healing work of the Holy Ghost do not dispense one from exercising common sense, prudence, and due diligence.

Utterly Dysfunctional by Any Human Standards

This being said, once a man has been adopted into the monastic family by profession, he is to treated as a son of the household. By the vow of stability a monk binds himself to a particular monastic family, to its father, and to his brothers. After simple profession, the new relationship is recognized and affirmed; and the decision to go forward is made public. With solemn profession, the adoption is complete.

A monastery is not a business in which employees can be fired on grounds of unsuitable performance. It is not a university from which those who prove to be dullards can be dismissed. It is not an exclusive club denying full membership to those lacking the desirable prerequisites. A monastery is a family, utterly dysfunctional by any human standards and, at the same time, functioning by grace as a living organism of the Body of Christ.

What It Takes

Other religious Orders can reject, and rightly, men lacking in the qualities and talents needed for their specialized or characteristic apostolates. A Jesuit needs a quick brain, a readiness for abnegation, and the ability to move comfortably in the world without becoming worldly. A Dominican has to be able to preach and to demonstrate the splendour of the truth, praising God all the while. A Franciscan has to be able to live on very little, in the total renunciation of ownership, and in a joyful and carefree abandonment to Providence. A Redemptorist has to be able to evangelise the poor in the remotest places, using a language that is simple and capable of touching the heart.

Simply Monks

We Benedictines have no distinctive apostolate, no specialized ministry, no specific goal except ceaseless prayer and purity of heart. In Chapter LVIII of the Holy Rule, Saint Benedict requires but three things of a man seeking admission to the monastery: 1) that he truly be seeking God; 2) that he be zealous for the Opus Dei (the Divine Office); 3) that he embrace obedience and humiliations readily. In men having these three requisites, an abbot will find sons ready for adoption into the monastic family. If any one of the three requisites are missing, a man cannot be said to have a Benedictine vocation.

While it is true that monasteries may undertake certain works, those works do not define the monastic life. When the works undertaken by Benedictines fail, or go bankrupt, or are suppressed by a hostile government, nothing of the essence of Benedictine life is affected. Monks are not about making jellies, or cheese, or fruitcakes, or beer, though they may do all of these things, and do them very well. Monks are not about designing vestments and sewing them, or about writing icons, or about writing learned treatises, or about running excellent schools, though they may do all these things and make a success of them. Monks are not even about singing Gregorian Chant, although one might dare hope they do, and do it well!

Physician, Father, Shepherd

All of this is by way of background to Chapter XXVII. It is, to my mind, one of the most beautiful Chapters of the Rule; it reveals Saint Benedict's paternal heart. The Abbot is a physician dedicated to the care of sin-sick souls; he is a father concerned lest any one of his sons fall into too great a sadness; he is a Good Shepherd, ready to pursue the one sheep gone astray, to take pity on its weakness, and to carry it on his own shoulders over terrains that are rough and treacherous The duty of the Abbot is to keep his family together, holding as strongly and as tenderly to the feeble and fragile as to the healthy and strong.

Saint Oliver Plunkett

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Brother Alex and Saint Oliver

Today, we are keeping the feast of Saint Oliver Plunkett, grateful for the presence of our energetic and cheerful postulant, Brother Alex After beginning his monastic journey with us as an Oblate in Tulsa under the patronage of Saint Oliver Plunkett, Brother Alex crossed the Atlantic and began his postulancy here after several months as an aspirant.

Elsewhere Saint Oliver is kept on 1 July; as the feast of the Most Precious Blood occurs on the same day in our calendar, Saint Oliver is moved to 4 July. Saint Oliver was received as a Confrater or Oblate of Saint Benedict when the English Benedictine, Dom J. Corker, clothed him in his scapular. Saint Oliver Plunkett's head is venerated just down the road from us in Saint Peter's Church, Drogheda; his body rests at Downside Abbey in England.

Saint Oliver Plunkett (1 November 1625 - 1 July 1681) was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. He cared for the Church in Ireland in the face of English persecution. living in poverty, lowliness, and ceaseless apostolic labours. Betrayed by two disgruntled and libelous Franciscan Friars, John MacMoyer and Hugh Duffy, who had been nurturing a resentment against him, Dr Plunkett was eventually arrested and tried for treason in London.

Saint Oliver readily forgave his betrayers and, wearing a Benedictine scapular, the sign of his spiritual union with his friends, the sons of Saint Benedict, went to his death with serenity and good cheer, professing his loyalty to the Catholic Faith and to the Holy See until the end. On 1 July 1681 he was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, and became the last Roman Catholic martyr to die in England. Oliver Plunkett was beatified in 1920 and canonised in 1975, the first new Irish saint for almost seven hundred years.

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The Benedictine, Dom J. Corker, writes of his friend, Saint Oliver Plunkett:

In Prison

I cannot as yet pretend to give you, as you desire, a description of the virtues of the glorious archbishop and martyr, Dr Oliver Plunkett. After his transportation hither, he was, as you know, closely confined and secluded from all conversation, save that of his keepers, until his arraignment, so that I can only inform you of what I learned, as it were, by chance, from the mouths of the said keepers, that is, that he spent his time in almost continual prayer; that he fasted usually three or four days a week with nothing but bread; that he appeared to them always modestly cheerful, without any anguish or concern at his danger or strict confinement.; but that by his sweet and pious demeanour he attracted an esteem and reverence from the few that came near him.

His Countenance

The trial being ended, we had free intercourse by letters with each other. And now it was that I clearly perceived the Spirit of God in him and those lovely fruits of the Holy Ghost, charity, joy, peace, etc., transparent in his soul. And not only I, but many other Catholics who came to receive his blessing and were eye-witnesses, can testify, there appeared in his words, in his actions, in his countenance, something so divinely elevated, such a composed mixture of cheerfulness, constancy, love, sweetness, and candour, as manifestly denoted the divine goodness had made him fit for a victim, and destined him for heaven.

The Benefits of His Company

None saw or came near him but received new comfort, new fervour, new desires to please, serve, and suffer for Jesus Christ by his very presence. His love had extinguished in him all fear of death. Hence the joy of our holy martyr seemed still to increase with his danger, and was fully accomplished by an assurance of death.

He Divested Himself of Himself

After he certainly knew God Almighty had chosen him to the crown and dignity of martyrdom, he continually studied how to divest himself of himself, and become more and more an entirely pleasing and perfect holocaust; to which end he gave up his soul, with all its faculties, to the conduct of God; so, for God's sake, he resigned the care and disposal of his body to unworthy me.

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For today's feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I translated this text of Mother Mectilde de Bar:

I would not know how to incite you enough to the love and to the confidence that you ought to have in the most holy Heart of the Mother of God. There is no reason to fear not being received well, since she refuses no one. Love and confidence must grow in us, considering that our Institute came forth from her holy Heart.

You will say to me, "But I don't have the capacity to love her, nor do I have all the devotion necessary to draw her benevolence and protection down upon me!"

We read in Scripture that she loves those who love her, but I will tell you something more: she loves even those who do not love her, inasmuch as she loves sinners. Affection and tenderness towards the holy Mother of God is a particular grace and a sign of predestination. Ask her to obtain this for you from her divine Son. However incapable you may be, you can always formulate desires: desire to love her, to exalt her, to honour her, each one of you individually, as much as and more than all the saints together.

When you begin to love her, she will teach you to know her divine Son and to love Him. Only through her is it possible to know our Lord Jesus Christ; it was she herself who revealed Him to me.

"No one knows the Son if not the Mother, and no one knows the Mother if not the Son." This is why all that we can think and say on her account is very far from the reality.

Mother Mectilde de Bar
Conference on the Most Holy Heart of Mary
7 February 1695

The Weekly Psalter

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CHAPTER XVIII. In What Order the Psalms Are to Be Said

24 Feb. ( if it be leap-year; if not it is added to the preceding day). 25 June. 25 Oct.
The order of psalmody for the Day-Hours being now arranged, let all the remaining 25 Psalms be equally distributed among the seven Night Offices, dividing the longer Psalms among them, and assigning twelve to each night. Above all, we recommend that if this arrangement of the Psalms be displeasing to anyone, he should, if he think fit, order it otherwise; taking care in any case that the whole Psalter of a hundred and fifty Psalms be recited every week, and always begun afresh at the Night Office on Sunday. For those monks would shew themselves very slothful in the divine service who said in the course of a week less than the entire Psalter, with the usual canticles; since we read that our holy fathers resolutely performed in a single day what I pray we tepid monks may achieve in a whole week.

One Non-Negotiable

With this section of Chapter XVIII, our father Saint Benedict completes his distribution of the 150 psalms over the course of the week. This being done, he shows his humility and reasonableness by allowing for a different arrangement of the psalms, but under one condition: that the whole Psalter of a hundred and fifty Psalms be recited every week, and always begun afresh at the Night Office on Sunday. So clear is Saint Benedict on this particular point, that one cannot depart from the principle of the recitation of the whole Psalter of a hundred and fifty psalms over the week, without stepping outside the margins of the Holy Rule. The distribution of the Psalter over one week is one of the very few non-negotiables laid down by Saint Benedict.

We Tepid Monks

Why is Saint Benedict so insistent on this principle? He explains: "Those monks would shew themselves very slothful in the divine service who said in the course of a week less than the entire Psalter, with the usual canticles; since we read that our holy fathers resolutely performed in a single day what I pray we tepid monks may achieve in a whole week." It is clear, then, that Benedictines are bound to pray the Psalter in its entirety weekly.

Benefits

Wonderful benefits accrue from the weekly repetition of the Psalter: the psalms become familiar, sometimes to the point of being memorised; the taste of them lingers for a long time on the palate of the soul; they become the ground of an authentic Christian contemplation, for by them, the prayer of Christ passes into us, and we pass into His prayer to the Father.

The Example of the Maurists

Given that Saint Benedict does allow for other distributions of the Psalter, the Benedictines of the Congregation of Saint-Maur, In the 17th century, produced a masterful one week cursus of the psalms for their own Maurist Breviary. The one week distribution of the psalms that we use at Silverstream Priory is based on the Maurist template.

Dixit Dominus Domino meo

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CHAPTER XVIII. In What Order the Psalms Are to Be Said

23 Feb. 24 June. 24 Oct.
Vespers are to be sung every day with four Psalms. And let these begin from the hundred and ninth, and go on to the hundred and forty-seventh, omitting those of their number that are set apart for other Hours - that is, from the hundred and seventeenth to the hundred and twenty-seventh, the hundred and thirty-third, and the hundred and forty-second. All the rest are to be said at Vespers. And as there are three Psalms wanting, let those of the aforesaid number which are somewhat long be divided, namely the hundred and thirty-eighth, the hundred and forty-third, and the hundred and forty-fourth. But let the hundred and sixteenth, as it is short, be joined to the hundred and fifteenth. The order of the Psalms at Vespers being thus disposed, let the rest, that is, the lessons, responses, hymns, verses and canticles, be said as already laid down. At Compline the same Psalms are to be repeated every day: namely the fourth, ninetieth, and hundred and thirty-third.

Christ, Priest and King

Saint Benedict begins the weekly cycle of psalms at Vespers with Psalm 109 on Sunday evening. Psalm 109, a mysterious revelation of Christ as Priest and KIng, holds a place of choice in our traditional Benedictine cursus of the Psalter.

When Our Lord Jesus Christ looked into the psalms He saw His own face as in a mirror. So too, does His Spouse, the Church see the Face of Christ, her Bridegroom, her King, and her Priest in the psalms. Jesus quotes Psalm 109, saying, "David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declared, 'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet.' David himself calls him Lord; so how is he his son?" (Mark 12:36). An allusion to the same Psalm 109 recurs at the very end of Saint Mark's gospel: "So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God" (Mark 16:19).

Both Lord and Christ

On the morning of Pentecost, Saint Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, preaches the mystery of the risen and ascended Christ saying, "David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, 'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet.' Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified" (Acts 2:34-36). Psalm 109 is the ground of some of the most important Christological doctrines of the New Testament. Saint Paul alludes to it in Romans (8:34), Ephesians (1:20), and Colossians (3:1). We discover Psalm 109 four times in the Letter to the Hebrews.

Sit on My Right

From the time of the Apostles, Psalm 109 has been a mirror wherein the Church contemplates the mystery of Christ in His suffering and triumph. The use of Psalm 109 in the sacred liturgy continues in the Church Jesus' own understanding of it passed on to the Apostles. Deep in her collective memory the Church cherishes the incomparable seventh mode antiphon that, for centuries, has opened the evening sacrifice of praise on Sunday: Dixit Dominus Domino meo: Dede a dextris meis (Psalm 109:1). She hears the voice of Christ repeating for her what the Father said to Him on the day of resurrection: "Sit at my right" (Psalm 109:1).

Psalm Titles

The medieval monastic Psalters place a Christological title at the beginning of each psalm. These old titles of the psalms -- there are many series of them -- say, in some way, "Here is the mystery of Christ in this psalm. Contemplate His Face as in a mirror, and hear in this psalm the sound of His voice." One ancient series of psalm titles has this for Psalm 109: "Of the divinity, the humanity, the kingship, and the priesthood of Christ."

The Whole Mystery of Christ

Going through the psalm, verse by verse, we see in verse 1 Christ enthroned at the right hand of the Father, an image that recurs in the Gloria of the Mass and in the Te Deum. In verse 3 we hear the voice of the Father saying, "From the womb before the daystar I begot thee" (Psalm 109:3). Verse 4 is the declaration of Christ's eternal priesthood: "Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech" (Psalm 109:4). Verses 5 and 6 describe the triumph of Christ over the powers of death. In the last verse of the psalm the whole mystery of Christ's passion, death, and resurrection is summed up: "He shall drink of the torrent in the way -- the torrent of His bitter sufferings -- therefore He shall lift up his head -- in the glory of the resurrection and ascension" (Psalm 109:7).

Drinking of the Torrent

How does all of this relate to our life? When we begin to see the Face of Christ in the psalms as in a mirror, we can begin to relate them to our own monastic journey as well. We are all of us called, in some way, to "drink of the torrent [of humiliation and suffering] in the way" (Psalm 109:7). At the same time, our indefectible hope is that, like Christ and with him, we too shall "lift up our heads." All that is said to Christ by the Father is spoken to us. All that was accomplished in Christ our Head must fulfilled in his Body and in each of his members. And so so we sing the psalms of David, the psalms of Christ, as we advance day after day and week after week.

Little Hours

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CHAPTER XVIII. In What Order the Psalms Are to Be Said

22 Feb. 23 June. 23 Oct.
At Tierce, Sext and None on Monday are to be said the nine remaining parts of the hundred and eighteenth Psalm, three parts at each Hour. This Psalm having thus been said through in two days, that is, Sunday and Monday, let the nine Psalms from the hundred and nineteenth to the hundred and twenty-seventh be said on Tuesday at Tierce, Sext and None - three at each Hour. And these Psalms are to be repeated at the same Hours every day until Sunday; the arrangement, moreover, of hymns, lessons and versicles remaining the same throughout, so as always to begin on Sunday from the hundred and eighteenth Psalm.

Condensed Moments of Prayer

The so-called Little Hours are intense and condensed moments of prayer occurring more or less every three hours throughout the day. Each of the Little Hours is associated with a mystery in the Passion of Our Lord, and with an even in in the life of the early Church related in the Acts of the Apostles. In recalling these mystery-events, the Church experiences anew the grace that they signify, and this, day after day.

At Silverstream Priory we hold to the four Little Hours: Prime, Tierce, Sext, and None, as I explained in a previous commentary. They constitute the rhythmic pulsation of a prayer that, in obedience to the word of the Lord in the Gospel (Luke 18:1) and the teaching of the Apostle (1 Thessalonians 5:17), we endeavour to make ceaseless.

Before and After

The post-Conciliar reform of the Divine Office (the Liturgia Horarum) effectively discouraged the prayer of the Little Hours by making two out of three of them optional on any given day, and by presenting them in a confusing manner. Paradoxically, before the post-Conciliar renewal there was, even among lay Catholics, a certain enthusiasm for the Little Hours, due in large part, to the beautiful pastoral presentation of them in the Collegeville editions of the Roman Breviary and the Short Breviary, with explanatory notes by Dr. Pius Parsch.

A healthy liturgical piety, based on the Missal and the Breviary, flourished -- especially among thriving lay movements such as the Legion of Mary, the Catholic Worker, Madonna House, and the Grail -- in the years between the Second World War and the Second Vatican Council; only after the Second Vatican Council did this liturgical piety begin to wane and, in some places, shrivel up and disappear. Private devotions, revelations, and extraneous pious practices, some of a charismatic stamp, soon swelled to fill the void left by a shrinking Liturgical Movement. But all of that is matter for another discussion on another day.

Tierce: The First Station in a Daily Via Crucis

The Hour of Tierce recalls Jesus being charged with the wood of the Cross. It is the beginning of the Church's daily liturgical via crucis condensed into three stations.

And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him who for murder and sedition, had been cast into prison, whom they had desired; but Jesus he delivered up to their will. And as they led him away, they laid hold of one Simon of Cyrene, coming from the country; and they laid the cross on him to carry after Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of people, and of women, who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them, said: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over me; but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For behold, the days shall come, wherein they will say: Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that have not borne, and the paps that have not given suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains: Fall upon us; and to the hills: Cover us. For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry? And there were also two other malefactors led with him to be put to death. (Luke 23:24-32)

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We ought to pray to and invoke the Holy Spirit, for each one of us greatly needs His protection and His help. The more a man is deficient in wisdom, weak in strength, borne down with trouble, prone to sin, so ought he the more to fly to Him who is the never-ceasing fount of light, strength, consolation, and holiness. (Pope Leo XIII, Divinum Illud Munus, 9 May 1897)


The Third Hour Pentecost

The Hour of Tierce also recalls, as I have explained in a previous commentary, the mystery of Pentecost. Each morning, at the Hour of Tierce the Church invokes the Holy Ghost. Those who would argue that traditional Catholic piety gives scant attention to the Holy Ghost have little knowledge or experience of the daily liturgical Pentecost, that is the Hour of Tierce. It is sufficient to meditate the hymn of Tierce, given here in Blessed John Henry Newman's translation, to grasp something of the Church's intense traditional "devotion" to the Holy Ghost.

Come, Holy Ghost, who ever One
Art with the Father and the Son;
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls possess
With thy full flood of holiness.

In will and deed, by heart and tongue,
With all our powers, thy praise be sung;
And love light up our mortal frame,
Till others catch the living flame.

When the Church, in her liturgy, evokes a particular mystery of Christ, that mystery is rendered present in an efficacious and penetrating way. It is, in some way, renewed in the souls of the those who, surrendering to the prayer of the Church, allow the liturgy to possess them and carry them, like feathers on the wind, ad Patrem, towards the Father, with the Son, in the Holy Ghost.

And when the days of the Pentecost were accomplished, they were all together in one place: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak. (Acts 2:1-4)

Sext: Christ Lifted Up from the Earth

The Hour of Sext, the second station in the Church's daily via crucis, recalls the crucifixion of Jesus. Nailed to the wood of the Cross, He is fixed in a position of offering to the Father as the Redeemer of Men. "Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself. Now this he said, signifying what death he should die."

For the Salvation of All Nations

At the same time, the Hour of Sext recalls the revelation to Saint Peter that the salvation wrought by Christ upon the Cross is open to every nation on earth. "And Peter opening his mouth, said: In very deed I perceive, that God is not a respecter of persons. But in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh justice, is acceptable to him." (Acts 12:34-35)

None: The Blood and the Water

The Hour of None recalls the saving death of Jesus upon the Cross; it recalls His sacred side opened by the soldier's lance, and the blood and water that flowed out from His pierced Heart. By celebrating the Hour of None, the Church has always kept the memorial of what modern devotions, building upon a tender medieval piety, rightly present as The Hour of Mercy.

Source of Healing

At the same time, the Hour of None recalls the healing of the crippled man by the Apostles Peter and John, that Saint Luke relates in the Acts of the Apostles:

Now Peter and John went up into the temple at the ninth hour of prayer. And a certain man who was lame from his mother' s womb, was carried: whom they laid every day at the gate of the temple, which is called Beautiful, that he might ask alms of them that went into the temple. He, when he had seen Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked to receive an alms. But Peter with John fastening his eyes upon him, said: Look upon us. But he looked earnestly upon them, hoping that he should receive something of them. But Peter said: Silver and gold I have none; but what I have, I give thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise, and walk. And taking him by the right hand, he lifted him up, and forthwith his feet and soles received strength. And he leaping up, stood, and walked, and went in with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God. And they knew him, that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened to him" (Acts 3:1-10).

Immense in Their Implications

The so-called Little Hours are immense in their implications for a truly Catholic piety. One who prays them daily, whether within the cloister, or amidst the noise and chaos of the world, will experience the healing effects of the Passion of Christ and the operations of the Holy Ghost who is, at every hour, active and working in the Church.

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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