Monastic: October 2009 Archives

An Oblate's Day

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Me on back deck Oct 24 09.JPG

Jon is the first postulant for the secular Oblature of our monastery. Married and the father of two sons, he lives in Pennsylvania. After reading my entry on the horarium we follow here in Tulsa, Jon was inspired to share something of his life as a son of Saint Benedict living in the world. He gave me permission to share his letter with the readers of Vultus Christi. My own comments are in italics. Jeff in Maryland, Tracy in Tulsa, the men in our diocesan diaconate program, and a number of other friends and readers will really enjoy this!

Dear Father Mark,

Thanks for sharing on Vultus Christi the horarium at Our Lady of the Cenacle. I was wondering myself what your precise schedule was. Not to cause jealousy, but being "back east," I could follow along an hour later and still be in-sync!

It made me think that you and the brothers might be curious as to what sort of schedule their one-foot-in-the-world oblate postulant follows. I also thought my experience might be useful for the future, when an inquirer might ask, "just how do you fit this stuff into your life?"

Yes, secular Oblates need to have a daily rule of prayer adapted to their state in life.

Well, first of all, as I've already shared, I've prayed the Office for many years, but like all oblates, I incorporate as much of the Rule into my daily life as possible. I pay especial attention to Chapter IV, The Instruments of Good Works, as a guide to my personal behavior, and considering the overall role of the abbot as it applies to my vocation of husband and father.

Isn't it wonderful to hear a man say: "I incorporate as much of the Rule into my daily life as possible"? Jon is spot on when he refers to Chapter IV of the Holy Rule (The Instruments of Good Works). And yes, Saint Benedict's presentation of the abbot and the virtues that must characterize his paternity can be wisely adapted to the vocation of the father of a family.

As a defining constitution, so to speak, I've adopted this short and sweet gem of Dom Gueranger's I found a while back.

On Sundays and Festivals they will attend, by preference, High Mass, in the churches where it is celebrated with the ecclesiastical chant and ritual.
Should they find inconvenience in communicating at a late hour, they will make their Communion previously, at an early Mass. They will attentively follow all the rites and ceremonies performed by the priests and attendants at the altar, will do their best by previous study and consideration to enter into their meaning, and thus meritoriously qualify themselves for the fuller reception of the grace implanted in them by the Holy Spirit. [Let them, so to speak, not be satisfied with merely inhaling the fragrance, but let them also gather the honey from these flowers of the garden of the Church.]
They will follow the ecclesiastical chant by the aid, if needful, of translations of the formularies, and they will avoid distracting their attention from the holy mysteries by other books of devotion, etc., which may be excellent, perhaps, at other times, but which at these moments would be harmful, by keeping them apart from the sacred Liturgy.
Attendance at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the act of piety to which, of all others, they will attach the highest importance. There, wherein is renewed the Sacred Passion of Our Lord, they will offer to God the Divine Victim, in union with the Church, for the four ends of Adoration, Thanksgiving, Propitiation, and Petition. On the days when they do not communicate they will make a spiritual Communion at the moment when the priest is making the Sacramental Communion, and for this they will prepare themselves by the act of contrition and offering of themselves to God.
Next to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, they will esteem nothing so much as the Divine office, by which the Church renders to God her continual homage in the canonical hours. On Sundays and festivals they will gladly be present at Vespers and Compline, and will endeavour, as far as it may be possible for them, to join with Holy Church in the chanting of her psalms and hymns. Let them be especially thankful to God if He should give them grace to take delight in the Psalter, remembering that, in the ages of faith, it was most frequently through the psalms that God was pleased to communicate with souls. They will prefer those churches in which the Divine Office is celebrated according to ecclesiastical rule, such as the cathedral or any other. Even in their private devotions they will take pleasure in using the prayers of the Church to express their needs and aspirations.
They will earnestly desire to unite themselves to God by mental prayer; and in this they will he powerfully assisted by their union with the Church in the sacred Liturgy. The different seasons of the Church's year will bring before them the mysteries which are the groundwork of piety and the source of the true spirit of prayer. They will often visit Our Lord in the holy Tabernacle, and will not fail to appreciate their happiness whenever they are able to be present at Benediction, to receive the blessing of the most holy Sacrament.

As for an horarium, of course being on medical leave until November 2nd, I'm able to do a little more, but given that I'm either working out of the house or traveling, I'm able to typically do the following:

This part of Jon's letter reminds me of certain pages in Dom Thomas Verner Moore's classic book: "The Life of Man With God."

On Waking:

I always try to make my first thought and prayer, " Laudetur Iesus Christus, in aeternum. Amen."

From there I make my coffee, and depending on my upcoming schedule, usually then sit in my home office and pray Lauds from the Monastic Diurnal. If I have a busy morning coming up, or if I get started late for whatever reason, I pray Prime. Although especially for a working man, I find Prime very meaningful and suited to my station, I try to pray Lauds whenever I can. Also, if I pray Prime, I'll read from the Roman Martyrology (I haven't been able to find the Benedictine one on the web) for the day. If I pray Lauds, I'll take my copies Roman Breviary, and read the Lesson from Matins.

I have long been of the opinion that Prime and Compline are the working man's Hours of the Divine Office. Brief and, for the most part, invariable, they correspond to the natural rhythm of the working man's day and family life. My dear and venerable friend, artist Adé de Béthune, another Benedictine Oblate, used to pray Prime and Compline, as did many Catholic layfolk prior to the Second Vatican Council. The push to make Lauds and Vespers the daily prayer of ordinary people in the world was, I think, the idea of an elite who had never asked the folks in question what really worked for them. Jon's solution is the best one: Prime and Compline on workdays and Lauds and Vespers on Sundays and when one has the leisure to devote to them.

To fulfill my task of praying for priests, after either Lauds or Prime, I pray the Fraternity's "Confraternity Prayer," which works very nicely. I have it on a little card I carry in my diurnal.

V. Remember, O Lord, Thy congregation.
R. Which Thou hast possessed from the beginning.
Let us pray. O Lord Jesus, born to give testimony to the Truth, Thou who lovest unto the end those whom Thou hadst chosen, kindly hear our prayers for our pastors. Thou who knowest all things, knowest that they love Thee and can do all things in Thee who strengthen them. Sanctify them in Truth. Pour into them, we beseech Thee, the Spirit whom Thou didst give to Thy apostles, who would make them, in all things, like unto Thee. Receive the homage of love which they offer up to Thee, who hast graciously received the threefold confession of Peter. And so that a pure oblation may everywhere be offered without ceasing unto the Most Holy Trinity, graciously enrich their number and keep them in Thy love, who art one with the Father and the Holy Ghost, to whom be glory and honour forever. Amen.

Intercession for priests is integral to the special vocation of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle; it must therefore occupy an important place in the prayer of our Oblates.

At noon I stop for a minute and pray the Angelus.

The Angelus is a really a little Votive Office of the Incarnation. Its very structure is liturgical. Easily memorized, it can become the "Little Office" of every Catholic man, woman, and child.

In the evening I'll pray Vespers when I have a few moments anytime between 3 o'clock and supper.

This is great: Jon gives himself enough time to pray Vespers, and he does so earlier in the afternoon rather than later in the evening. Many of the classic spiritual authors recommend praying Vespers early in the afternoon, and with good reason. Folks who have to prepare and serve the evening meal, or who have other suppertime obligations, will want to follow's Jon's very sensible approach to praying Vespers.

Before turning in I pray Compline, either with one of my two boys (12 and 15), or I pray it while lying in bed. Sometimes my wife and I will pray Compline together, but when we do, we use the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, as she's more familiar with it. I fall asleep praying the Rosary, and ask my guardian angel to finish the job.

Now that is beautiful: a Dad who prays Compline with his sons! The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin is a liturgical prayer that fits life in the world. The fact that it is basically the same, day after day, allows one to become comfortable with it, and to deepen its rich biblical content.

There was a reason why many active (apostolic) Congregations of religious chose the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin as their prayer. Moreover, in Sacrosanctum Concilium, article 98, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wisely state: "They too perform the public prayer of the Church who, in virtue of their constitutions, recite any short office, provided this is drawn up after the pattern of the divine office and is duly approved."

When both boys were small, I prayed Compline together with both of them every night. They always got excited at "the devil, like a roaring lion, goes about seeking someone to devour." Memorable image for little boys, that. This lasted until high school and homework intruded. I'd say four out of seven nights though I still pray it with at least one of them.

What small boy wouldn't thrill to that vivid image of the Short Lesson at Compline? A roaring lion seeking someone to devour!

I also spend a few minutes in lectio divina, taking ten to fifteen minutes sometime in the day when I have a chance. Usually it's while I eat my lunch, whether in my office, a hotel room, or even a restaurant. But it can also be sometime in the evening - whatever works.

Jon knows that one can live the Rule of Saint BenedIct without a commitment to lectio divina. He finds the time that works for him, and he does it.

On Friday nights or a feast of Our Lady, as often as possible we'll say the Rosary together before an icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (very popular here in PA, land of St. John Neumann and the Redemptorists) that hangs in our front room.

It is significant that the icon of Our Lady here in the oratory of the monastery should also be Our Mother of Perpetual Help. She is Our Lady Abbess, our Mother ready to help us at every moment. The family Rosary brings wonderful blessings to those who pray it. Our little monastic family also prays the Rosary together daily, immediately after the Hour of Sext.

I don't press family devotions more than that, as both of my sons enthusiastically serve the Traditional Mass on Sundays usually twice a month, and on Saturday mornings once a month as well. They also serve during the week on holy days, too, if need be. And there's Grace said before every meal - whether at home or in public. I try to keep things balanced, and want them to remember their childhood Faith experience with joy, and not as an oppressive duty. That way my wife and I hope the watered seed will grow.

And that too is eminently Benedictine: "I try to keep things balanced." Jon is very wise in his desire to communicate the faith to his children with joy, eschewing the burden of a duty that oppresses.

As for parish life, I sing in the schola, and am a member of the Holy Name Society. Oh, and I do whatever Father drafts me to do. My wife takes care of organizing the religious ed/sacrament training classes for the parish.

And parish life. Yes. The Benedictine Oblate cannot remain aloof from the parish at the heart of which stands the altar of Christ's Sacrifice.

That might seem like a lot, but it isn't. I found I used to spend even more time than that plunked in front of the television. Also, none of this binds under sin, and I don't let it bother me if other duties or affairs intrude. I do what I can. Some days, like snow days, or if I'm ill, I can do more. During the Octave of Christmas and the Easter Triduum, I make it an effort to pray Matins and the Little Hours.

Wisdom! Be attentive. There's the key: I do what I can.

There you have it, the exciting life of your humble oblate postulant.

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity. Like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron...


Pope Benedict on Saint Bernard

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Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us.

This morning the Holy Father presented another great monastic figure: Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, the Last of the Fathers. Pope Benedict XVI's love for the monastic vocation shines through this and many of his other discourses and writings. It is an immense grace to be involved in the foundation of a Benedictine monastery during this pontificate.

The Last of the Fathers

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to speak about St. Bernard of Clairvaux, called "the last father" of the Church, because in the 12th century he renewed once again and rendered present the great theology of the Fathers. We do not know details about the years of his boyhood. We know, nevertheless, that he was born in 1090 in Fontaines, France, in a numerous, moderately comfortable family. As a youth, he spent himself in the study of the so-called liberal arts -- especially grammar, rhetoric and dialectics -- at the school of the canons of the church of St. Vorles, in Chatillon-sur-Seine, and he slowly matured his decision to enter the religious life.

S Bernardo all Terme.jpg

Cîteaux and Clairvaux

When he was about 20, he entered Citeaux, a new monastic foundation, more flexible than the old and venerable monasteries of the time and, at the same time, more rigorous in the practice of the evangelical counsels. A few years later, in 1115, Bernard was invited by St. Stephen Harding, third abbot of Citeaux, to found the monastery of Clairvaux. Here the young abbot -- who was only 25 years old -- was able to refine his concept of monastic life, and to be determined to put it into practice. Looking at the discipline of other monasteries, Bernard decidedly reclaimed the need for a sober and measured life, at table as well as in dress and in the monastic buildings, recommending the support and care of the poor. In the meantime, the community of Clairvaux became ever more numerous and multiplied its foundations.

Friend and Writer

In those same years, before 1130, Bernard maintained a vast correspondence with many persons, whether of important or modest social conditions. To the many letters of this period must be added numerous sermons, as well as sentences and treatises. Striking at this time was Bernard's friendship with William, abbot of St. Thierry, and with William of Champeaux, among the most important figures of the 12th century.

From 1130 onward, he began to be concerned with not a few grave questions of the Holy See and of the Church. For this reason, he had to go out of his monastery ever more often, and sometimes outside of France. He also founded some women's convents, and was protagonist of a lively correspondence with Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny, about whom I spoke last Wednesday.

Defender of the Jews

He addressed his controversial writings above all against Abelard, a great thinker who began a new way of making theology, introducing above all the dialectic-philosophical method in the construction of theological thought. Another front against which Bernard fought was the heresy of the Cathars, who held matter and the human body in contempt, consequently scorning the Creator. As well, he felt it his duty to take on the defense of the Jews, condemning the ever more diffuse resurgence of anti-Semitism. For this last aspect of his apostolic action, some 10 years later, Ephraim, rabbi of Bonn, addressed a vibrant tribute to Bernard. In that same period the holy abbot wrote his most famous works, such as the well-known Sermons on the Canticle of Canticles.

In the last years of his life -- his death occurred in 1153 -- Bernard had to limit his journeys, without however interrupting them altogether. He took advantage to review definitively the whole of the letters, sermons and treatises.

A Book for Popes

Worthy of being mentioned is a book that is quite singular, that he finished precisely in this period, in 1145, when one of his pupils, Bernard Pignatelli, was elected Pope, taking the name Eugene III. In this circumstance, Bernard, in the capacity of spiritual father, wrote to this spiritual son of his the text "De Consideratione," which contains teachings on how to be a good pope. In this book, which remains an appropriate book for popes of all times, Bernard does not only indicate what it is to be a good pope, but also expresses a profound vision of the mystery of the Church and of the mystery of Christ, which is resolved, in the end, in the contemplation of the mystery of the Triune and One God: "He must again continue the search of this God, who is not yet sufficiently sought," writes the holy abbot "but perhaps He can be sought better and found more easily with prayer than with discussion. We put an end here to the book, but not to the search" (XIV, 32: PL 182, 808), to being on the way to God.

Doctor Mellifluus

I would now like to reflect on two key aspects of Bernard's rich doctrine: they regard Jesus Christ and Mary Most Holy, his Mother. His solicitude for the intimate and vital participation of the Christian in the love of God in Jesus Christ does not offer new guidelines in the scientific status of theology. But, in a more than decisive way, the abbot of Clairvaux configures the theologian to the contemplative and the mystic. Only Jesus -- insists Bernard in face of the complex dialectical reasoning of his time -- only Jesus is "honey to the mouth, song to the ear, joy to the heart (mel in ore, in aure melos, in corde iubilum)." From here stems, in fact, the title attributed to him by tradition of Doctor Mellifluus: his praise of Jesus Christ, in fact, "runs like honey."

Only Jesus

In the extenuating battles between nominalists and realists -- two philosophical currents of the age -- the abbot of Clairvaux does not tire of repeating that only one name counts, that of Jesus the Nazarene. "Arid is all food of the soul," he confesses, "if it is not sprinkled with this oil; insipid, if it is not seasoned with this salt. What is written has no flavor for me, if I have not read Jesus." And he concludes: "When you discuss or speak, nothing has flavor for me, if I have not heard resound the name of Jesus" (Sermones in Cantica Canticorum XV, 6: PL 183,847).

The Friendship of Christ

For Bernard, in fact, true knowledge of God consists in a personal, profound experience of Jesus Christ and of his love. And this, dear brothers and sisters, is true for every Christian: Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us.


Mary's Participation in the Passion of Jesus

In another famous sermon on the Sunday Between the Octave of the Assumption, the holy abbot describes in impassioned terms the intimate participation of Mary in the redeeming sacrifice of the Son. "O holy Mother," he exclaims, "truly a sword has pierced your soul! ... To such a point the violence of pain has pierced your soul, that with reason we can call you more than martyr, because your participation in the Passion of the Son greatly exceeded in intensity the physical sufferings of martyrdom" (14: PL 183, 437-438).

To Jesus Through Mary

Bernard has no doubts: "per Mariam ad Iesum," through Mary we are led to Jesus. He attests clearly to Mary's subordination to Jesus, according to the principles of traditional Mariology. But the body of the sermon also documents the privileged place of the Virgin in the economy of salvation, in reference to the very singular participation of the Mother (compassio) in the sacrifice of the Son. It is no accident that, a century and a half after Bernard's death, Dante Alighieri, in the last canto of the Divine Comedy, puts on the lips of the "Mellifluous Doctor" the sublime prayer to Mary: "Virgin Mary, daughter of your Son,/ humble and higher than a creature,/ fixed end of eternal counsel, ..." (Paradiso 33, vv. 1ss.).

The Science of the Saints

These reflections, characteristic of one in love with Jesus and Mary as St. Bernard was, rightly inflame again today not only theologians but all believers. At times an attempt is made to resolve the fundamental questions on God, on man and on the world with the sole force of reason. Instead, St. Bernard, solidly based on the Bible and on the Fathers of the Church, reminds us that without a profound faith in God, nourished by prayer and contemplation, by a profound relationship with the Lord, our reflections on the divine mysteries risk becoming a futile intellectual exercise, and lose their credibility. Theology takes us back to the "science of the saints," to their intuitions of the mysteries of the living God, to their wisdom, gift of the Holy Spirit, which become the point of reference for theological thought.

Together with Bernard of Clairvaux, we too must recognize that man seeks God better and finds him more easily "with prayer than with discussion." In the end, the truest figure of the theologian and of every evangelizer is that of the Apostle John, who leaned his head on the heart of the Master.

Think of Mary, Call on Mary

I would like to conclude these reflections on St. Bernard with the invocations to Mary that we read in one of his beautiful homilies. "In danger, in anguish, in uncertainty," he says, "think of Mary, call on Mary. May she never be far from your lips, from your heart; and thus you will be able to obtain the help of her prayer, never forget the example of her life. If you follow her, you cannot go astray; if you pray to her, you cannot despair; if you think of her, you cannot be mistaken. If she sustains you, you cannot fall; if she protects you, you have nothing to fear; if she guides you, do not tire; if she is propitious to you, you will reach the goal ..." (Hom. II super "Missus est," 17: PL 183, 70-71).

[Translation by ZENIT]


In yesterday's general audience, our extraordinarily "Benedictine" Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, presented the figure of Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny. For the nascent Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, this teaching represents a foundational element. Pope Benedict XVI is, in a very real way, the father of our little monastery. The translation appeared on Zenit.

The characteristic theological piety of Peter and of the Cluniac Order: wholly set to the contemplation of the glorious face (gloriosa facies) of Christ, finding there the reasons for that ardent joy that marked his spirit and was radiated in the liturgy of the monastery.

The Beauty of the Liturgy

Dear brothers and sisters,

The figure of Peter the Venerable, which I wish to present in today's catechesis, takes us back to the famous abbey of Cluny, to its "decorum" (decor) and its "lucidity" (nitor), to use terms that recur in the Cluniac texts -- decorum and splendor-- which are admired above all in the beauty of the liturgy, the privileged path to reach God.


Even more than these aspects, however, Peter's personality recalls the holiness of the great Cluniac abbots: At Cluny "there was not a single abbot who was not a saint," said Pope Gregory VII in 1080. Among these is Peter the Venerable, who to some degree gathers in himself all the virtues of his predecessors -- although already with him, Cluny, faced with new orders such as that of Citeaux, began to experience symptoms of crisis.


Born around 1094 in the French region of Auvergne, he entered as a child in the monastery of Sauxillanges, where he became a professed monk and then prior. He was elected abbot of Cluny in 1122, and remained in this office until his death, which occurred on Christmas Day, 1156, as he had wished. "Lover of peace," wrote his biographer, Rudolph, "he obtained peace in the glory of God on the day of peace" (Vita, I, 17; PL 189, 28).

The Habit of Forgiving

All those who knew him praised his elegant meekness, serene balance, self-control, correctness, loyalty, lucidity and special attitude in mediating. "It is in my very nature," he wrote, "to be somewhat led to indulgence; I am incited to this by my habit of forgiving. I am used to enduring and forgiving" (Ep. 192, in: "The Letters of Peter the Venerable," Harvard University Press, 1967, p. 446).

Happy With His Lot

He also said: "With those who hate peace we wish, possibly, to always be peaceful" (Ep. 100, 1.c., p. 261). And of himself, he wrote: "I am not one of those who is not happy with his lot ... whose spirit is always anxious and doubtful, and who laments that all the others are resting and he alone is working" (Ep. 182, p. 425).

Gracious and Affectionate

Of a sensitive and affectionate nature, he was able to combine love of the Lord with tenderness toward his family, particularly his mother, and his friends. He was a cultivator of friendship, especially in his meetings with his monks, who usually confided in him, certain of being received and understood. According to the testimony of his biographer, "he did not disregard or refuse anyone" (Vita, 1,3: PL 189,19); "he seemed gracious to all; in his innate goodness, he was open to all" (ibid., I,1: PL, 189, 17).


We could say that this holy abbot is an example also for the monks and Christians of our time, marked by a frenetic rhythm of life, where incidents of intolerance and lack of communication, division and conflicts are not rare. His witness invites us to be able to combine love of God with love of neighbor, and never tire of renewing relations of fraternity and reconciliation. In this way, in fact, Peter the Venerable behaved, finding himself guiding the monastery of Cluny in years that were not very tranquil for several external and internal reasons, succeeding in being simultaneously severe and gifted with profound humanity. He used to say: "You will be able to obtain more from a man by tolerating him, than by irritating him with complaints" (Ep. 172, 1.c., 409).

In the Midst of Many Cares

Because of his office, he had to make frequent trips to Italy, England, Germany and Spain. Forced abandonment of contemplative stillness weighed on him. He confessed: "I go from one place to another, I am anxious, disturbed, tormented, dragged here and there; my mind is turned now to my affairs, now to those of others, not without great agitation to my spirit" (Ep. 91, 1.c., p. 233). Although having to maneuver between the powers and lordships that surrounded Cluny, nevertheless, thanks to his sense of measure, his magnanimity and his realism, he succeeded in keeping his habitual tranquility. Among the personalities with whom he interacted was Bernard of Clairvaux, with whom he enjoyed a relationship of growing friendship, despite differences of temperament and perspectives. Bernard described him as an "important man, occupied in important affairs" and he greatly esteemed him (Ep. 147, ed. Scriptorium Claravallense, Milan, 1986, VI/1, pp. 658-660), whereas Peter the Venerable described Bernard as "lamp of the Church" (Ep. 164, p. 396), "strong and splendid column of the monastic order and of the whole Church" (Ep. 175, p. 418).

The Wounds of the Body of Christ

With a lively ecclesial sense, Peter the Venerable said that the affairs of Christian people should be felt in the "depth of the heart" of those who number themselves "among the members of the Body of Christ" (Ep. 164, 1.c., p. 397). And he added: "He is not nourished by Christ who does not feel the wounds of the Body of Christ," wherever these are produced (ibid.). Moreover, he showed care and solicitude even for those who were outside the Church, in particular for the Jews and Muslims: to foster knowledge of the latter he had the Quran translated. In this regard, a recent historian observed: "Amid the intransigence of the men of Medieval times, also among the greatest of them, we admire here a sublime example of the delicacy to which Christian charity leads" (J. Leclercq, Pietro il Venerabile, Jaca Book, 1991, p. 189).

Love of the Eucharist and of the Virgin Mary

Other aspects of Christian life dear to him were love of the Eucharist and devotion to the Virgin Mary. On the Most Holy Sacrament he has left us pages that are "one of the masterpieces of Eucharistic literature of all times" (ibid., p. 267), and on the Mother of God he wrote illuminating reflections, always contemplating her in close relationship with Jesus the Redeemer and his work of salvation. Suffice it to report this inspired elevation of his: "Hail, Blessed Virgin, who put malediction to flight. Hail, Mother of the Most High, spouse of the most meek Lamb. You conquered the serpent, you have crushed his head, when the God generated by you annihilated him ... Shining star of the East, who puts to flight the shadows of the West. Dawn that precedes the sun, day that ignores the night ... Pray to God born from you, so that he will absolve us from our sin and, after forgiveness, grant us grace and glory" (Carmina, Pl 189, 1018-1019).

The Radiant Face of Christ

Peter the Venerable also nourished a predilection for literary activity and he had the talent. He wrote down his reflections, persuaded of the importance of using the pen almost like a plough "to scatter on paper the seed of the Word" (Ep. 20, p. 38). Although he was not a systematic theologian, he was a great researcher of the mystery of God. His theology sinks its roots in prayer, especially the liturgy, and among the mysteries of Christ he favored the Transfiguration, in which the Resurrection is already prefigured. It was in fact he who introduced this feast at Cluny, composing a special office for it, in which is reflected the characteristic theological piety of Peter and of the Cluniac Order, wholly set to the contemplation of the glorious face (gloriosa facies) of Christ, finding there the reasons for that ardent joy that marked his spirit and was radiated in the liturgy of the monastery.

Adhering Tenaciously to Christ

Dear brothers and sisters, this holy monk is certainly a great example of monastic sanctity, nourished at the sources of the Benedictine tradition. For him, the ideal of the monk consisted in "adhering tenaciously to Christ" (Ep. 53, 1.c., p. 161), in a cloistered life marked by "monastic humility" (ibid.) and industriousness (Ep. 77, 1.c., p. 211), as well as by a climate of silent contemplation and constant praise of God. According to Peter of Cluny, the first and most important occupation of a monk is the solemn celebration of the Divine Office --"heavenly work and of all the most useful" (Statuta, I, 1026) -- to be supported with reading, meditation, personal prayer and penance observed with discretion (cf. Ep. 20, 1.c., p. 40).

The Ideal of the Monk and of Every Christian

In this way the whole of life is pervaded by profound love of God and love of others, a love that is expressed in sincere openness to one's neighbor, in forgiveness and in the pursuit of peace. By way of conclusion, we could say that if this style of life joined to daily work is, for St. Benedict, the ideal of the monk, it also concerns all of us; it can be, to a great extent, the style of life of the Christian who wants to become a genuine disciple of Christ, characterized in fact by tenacious adherence to him, by humility, by industriousness and the capacity to forgive, and by peace.

[Translation by ZENIT]


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Cenacle outside.jpg

Today will be filled with the final preparations for the arrival of Diego and CJ tomorrow, and Brendan on the 12th. Thanks to the amazing generosity of the monastery's "friends of the first hour" last Saturday, both houses are almost completely organized for the inauguration of community life. A few indispensable things have not arrived yet: our monastic diurnals, for example! I'm confident that all will be in readiness when the new brothers arrive.

I ask the readers of Vultus Christi to beseech Our Lady of the Cenacle, Queen of the Rosary, to order today's efforts and tomorrow's welcome sweetly and wisely, as only she can.

From the Rule of Our Holy Father, Saint Benedict
Chapter LVIII.
Of the manner of receiving Brothers to Religion.

Let not an easy entrance be granted to one who cometh newly to the reformation of his life, but, as the Apostle saith: "Try the Spirits if they be of God."191191I Joan. iv. 1. If, therefore, the newcomer persevere knocking, and continue for four or five days patiently to endure both the injuries offered to him and the difficulty made about his entrance, and persist in his petition; leave to enter shall be granted him, and he shall be in the guest Hall for a few days. Afterwards he shall be in the Novitiate, where he shall meditate, and eat, and sleep.
Let a Senior who has the address of winning souls, be appointed to watch over him narrowly and carefully, to discover whether he truly seeks God, and is eager for the Work of God, for obedience and for humiliation. Let all the rigour and austerity by which we tend towards God be laid before him.

Breaking News: The diurnals arrived this afternoon! Deo gratias.

PIC Bl Marmion-1.JPG

Would you have recognized him? This is none other than Blessed Abbot Columba Marmion, O.S.B. He was obliged to travel in disguise during World War I while searching for a refuge in Ireland for the monks of his abbey of Maredsous in Belgium.

"I owe more to Columba Marmion for initiating me into things spiritual than to any other spiritual writer."
Pope John Paul II

Abbot Columba Marmion, O.S.B. was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000. His liturgical memorial was fixed on October 3rd, the anniversary of his Abbatial Blessing in 1909. Blessed Abbot Marmion is best known for his trilogy: Christ, the Life of the Soul, Christ, the Ideal of the Monk, and Christ in His Mysteries. A fourth volume, Christ, the Ideal of the Priest was published posthumously in 1952.

Official Collect

Deus, Pater omnipotens,
qui ad monasticam conversationem,
beatum Columbam Abbatem, vocasti,
eique arcana mysteriorum Christi pandere voluisti,
concede propitius ut, eius intercessione,
adoptionis filiorum spiritu roborati,
Sapientiae tuae dignam fieri habitaculum mereamur.
Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum,
qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti,
Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.

My Translations

O God, Almighty Father,
who didst call the blessed abbot Columba to the monastic way of life
and open unto him the secrets of the mysteries of Christ,
mercifully grant that,
strengthened by his intercession,
in the spirit of our adoption as sons,
we may become a dwelling place worthy of thy Wisdom.
Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son,
who with Thee livest and reignest
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.

O God, Almighty Father,
who called the blessed abbot Columba to the monastic way of life
and opened to him the secrets of the mysteries of Christ,
mercifully grant that,
strengthened by his intercession,
in the spirit of our adoption as sons,
we may become a dwelling place worthy of your Wisdom.
Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.

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.

Donations for Silverstream Priory