Here is the allocution that I gave today at the First Profession of Brother Benedict Maria Andersen. Dom Benedict, a native of Denver, Colorado, is the first man to make profession for Silverstream Priory. I don’t yet have a photo of the newly-professed to post here, but this photo taken when we visited Fore Abbey (County West Meath) speaks eloquently of the tradition in which Dom Benedict will go forward as a monk.
An Historic Occasion
My dearly beloved son, on this historic occasion — I say historic because it is the first monastic profession under the Rule of Saint Benedict in this, our diocese of Meath, in over 473 years, that is, since the dissolution of the Benedictine Priory at Fore in West Meath by the King’s Commissioners in 1539. That is, I dare say, a very long time to wait for another Benedictine vocation in the Diocese of Meath. You, by the grace of Our Lord, received that vocation, and responded to it.
Moments of Grace
Allow me, if you will, to share with our guests some of the moments of grace that have marked your monastic journey thus far. I want to do this because, as the saints and mystics tell us, “a grace remembered is a grace renewed.” In 2010, from May 26 until June 5, while you were at your home in Denver, Colorado, discerning what direction your life would take, after your initial experiences with us in Tulsa, I was making a novena, in which I said to Our Lord:
O Eucharistic Heart of Jesus,
furnace of charity and wellspring of light,
we adore Thee and,
full of confidence in Thy merciful goodness,
entrust to Thee our brother Benjamin,
beseeching Thee . . . to illumine his mind
and warm his heart
We further ask Thee to open for him
the path to monastic life with us
if such be Thy gracious will for him
and for us.
Lord Jesus, we would have no desires
apart from Thine,
and no designs apart from those of Thy Heart.
We present these petitions of ours to Thee
through the immaculate
and maternal Heart of Mary,
our Advocate and the Mediatrix of All Graces.
There followed a series of invocations to Saint Joseph, Saint John the Beloved Disciple of the Lord, our Father Saint Benedict, Saint Pius X, Blessed Columba Marmion, and Blessed John Henry Newman. At the conclusion of that novena, you returned to Tulsa and asked to be admitted into the little embryonic monastery that was stirring into life on 21st Street.
Then, one year and three months ago, at the Sacro Speco of Subiaco in Italy, the very cradle of Benedictine life, following the ancient tradition for the reception of a novice, I knelt before you and washed your feet. Then, I clothed you in the habit of monastic conversion. Thus did you begin your noviceship. On that day, June 19, 2011, you listened to the words of Ecclesiasticus, that were addressed to you:
Son, when thou comest to the service of God,
stand in justice and in fear,
and prepare thy soul for temptation.
Humble thy heart, and endure:
incline thy ear, and receive the words of understanding:
and make not haste in the time of clouds.
Wait on God with patience:
join thyself to God, and endure,
that thy life may be increased in the latter end.
Take all that shall be brought upon thee:
and in thy sorrow endure,
and in thy humiliation keep patience.
For gold and silver are tried in the fire,
but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation. (Ecclesiasticus 2:1-5)
Things Hard and Arduous
These words were, in more than one way, prophetic. You began your novitiate on a pilgrimage to Subiaco in Italy and, quite unexpectedly, by the mysterious operations of Divine Providence, completed it here in County Meath, Ireland. Your year and three months of noviceship have been marked by sufferings, infirmities, struggles, and darkness. Nonethless, in the midst of what Saint Benedict calls “the hard and arduous things by which one goes to God”, there were moments of consolation, and flashes of light. And you had friends in heaven above and on earth below to comfort you, encourage you, and say, “keep on.”
Know, my dear son, that the word of the Lord spoken to the prophet Isaiah is, today, addressed to you;
Fear not, for I have redeemed thee,
and called thee by thy name: thou art mine.
When thou shalt pass through the waters, I will be with thee,
and the rivers shall not cover thee:
when thou shalt walk in the fire,
thou shalt not be burnt,
and the flames shall not burn in thee:
I have loved thee . . .
Fear not, for I am with thee. (Isaiah 43:2-5)
I say to you, today, in the words of the Apostle, that I am sure that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate you, Brother Benedict Maria, from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39). By the grace of Christ deployed in your weakness, you have persevered through this first year of your monastic probation, and so, today, you are ready to stand before the altar to pronounce the vows that will bind you more closely to the Lamb of the Holy Sacrifice.
In accordance with her wisdom and solicitous care for those who would vow themselves to God, our holy Mother the Church has established that these first vows be valid for only three years, and that from this day until the profession of perpetual vows a second period of probation and preparation should take place. Just as the mother of the seven Machabees nourished her heroic sons three years unto martyrdom (II Macch. 7:27), so too does our holy Mother the Church, being moved by the same love and solicitude, wish that you should undergo a preparation of three years for solemn consecration in the monastic life, which likewise, as you already know, is a true martyrdom.
The prophet Daniel, in like manner, together with his young companions, was nourished three years at the royal table, so as to stand fittingly in the sight of an earthly prince (Daniel 1:5). Certainly, no less a preparation should be had by one who intends to give eternal service to the heavenly King. Begin, therefore, this period of triennial vows and accomplish it with the same spiritual fervour which filled the Apostle of the Gentiles, who, after his conversion, withdrew for three years into the solitude of Arabia before going up into Jerusalem (Galatians1:17-18).
The Eucharistic Christ
During the coming three years, endeavour to advance, more and more, in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Allow yourself to be drawn fortiter ac suaviter into the light of His Eucharistic Face, and into the fire of His Eucharistic Heart. The Eucharistic Christ is the icon of your vocation here. Consider Him daily in the Holy Mysteries. He is the victim lying upon the altar, lifted up in offering to the Father, given as food and drink to those who hunger for holiness, for a love that never loses its sweetness, and for a life that never ends. Consider Him in the tabernacle, and consider Him and exposed to our gaze in the monstrance? There, the Word is wordless. There, in the Sacrament of His Love, He is silent, hidden, humble, and obedient. The life of the Eucharistic Christ is that of the Christus Passus: Christ in the very act of surrendering Himself as a sacrificial offering to the Father. What is this if not the immense, the infinite, the one perfect Yes of Love to Love? This is the pattern of your monastic life.
In a few moments you will enter into the upward movement of the Christus Passus, the Lamb offered the Father, first from the altar of the Cross, and now from the Cross of the Altar. You will raise your hands, as He did upon the Cross, and you will sing to the Father: Suscipe me. Father, take me up. Father, lift me up. Father, hold me fast in Thy embrace. Father, I am thine. Father! Do this, and that blessing will descend upon you, by which Jacob the Patriarch, on the day of his death, blessed the tribe of Joseph: “The God of thy father — that is, of Saint Benedict — shall be thy helper, and the Almighty shall bless thee with the blessings of heaven above; may they be upon the head of Joseph, and upon the crown of the Nazarite among his brethren.” (Genesis 49:25-26) Today, you are that Joseph; today, you are that Nazirite. My dear son, you have already sufficiently learned the Rule under which you wish to serve, not only by reading, but also by a whole year of practice and experience as a novice. You are therefore aware under what conditions you are about to be received into our monastery. Up to now you are free and may still freely withdraw yourself from the yoke of the Rule, and return to the world.
Invitation to Make Profession
If, then, you are ready and willing to observe the salutary teachings of our holy Father Benedict; if you, who so love and understand the liturgy of the Church, desire to live what you love, and love what you understand; if you are willing to risk a fully Eucharistic life, if you will allow the Holy Spirit to overshadow you, and make of you a hostia pura, hostia sancta, hostia immaculata, — a pure victim, a holy victim, a spotless victim –then, now, surrounded here by your friends in heaven and on earth, you may make your profession of triennial vows.