Pauline Year: July 2008 Archives


Reading Saint Paul

This morning in my lectio continua of Saint Paul, I read Romans 7:14-25. I'm using the splendid translation of Monsignor Ronald A. Knox. It renders the text with a striking clarity. Just listen to this. (I say listen, because it is best read aloud.)

I am a thing of flesh and blood, sold into the slavery of sin.
My own actions bewilder me;
what I do is not what I wish to do, but something which I hate.
Why then, if what I do is something I have no wish to do,
I thereby admit that the law is worthy of all honour;
meanwhile my action does not come from me,
but from the sinful principle that dwells in me.
Of this I am certain, that no principle of good dwells in me, that is, in my natural self:
praiseworthy intentions are always ready to hand,
but I cannot find my way to the performance of them;
it is not the good my will prefers,
but the evil my will disapproves that I find myself doing.
And if what I do is something I have not the will to do,
it cannot be I that bring it about,
it must be the sinful principle that dwells in me.
This then is what I find about the law, that evil is close at my side,
when my will is to do what is praiseworthy.
Inwardly, I applaud God's disposition,
but I observe another disposition in my lower self,
which raises war against the disposition of my conscience,
and so I am handed over as a captive to that disposition towards sin
which my lower self contains.
Pitiable creature that I am, who is to set me free from a nature thus doomed to death?
Nothing else than the grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
If I am left to myself, my conscience is at God's disposition,
but my natural powers are at the disposition of sin.

Fellowship of the Inconsistent

"My own actions bewilder me" (Rom 7:15). Paul's bewilderment is strangely comforting to me. Paul takes his place among the fellowship of the inconsistent, the weak, and the flawed. The Apostle asks the question for me: "Pitiable creature that I am, who is to set me free from a nature thus doomed to death?" (Rom 7:24). And straightaway he answers it: "Nothing else than the grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 7:15).

The Ministra Gratiae

Given that today is a Saturday Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I related this text of the Apostle to Our Lady's role in the economy of grace. I am set free by "the grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 7:15), who "took birth from a woman" (Gal 4:5) "full of grace" (Lk 1:28). The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of "the only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:15) opens her hands over all of us who are inconsistent, weak, and flawed. She is the ministra gratiae, the dispenser of the all-sufficient grace of Christ. To the inconsistent she communicates reliance on the grace of her Son. The Blessed Virgin Mary strengthens the weak. She reshapes the flawed.

Yes, "my own actions bewilder me" (Rom 7:15) -- but the gracious interventions of the Mother of God, Mediatrix of All Graces, fill me with gratitude and wonder.

Nihil Amori Christi Praeponere

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Saints Benedict and Paul

This Solemnity of Our Father Saint Benedict, falling in the Pauline Year, invites us — I want to say, compels us — to reflect on the relationship between the Apostle of the Nations and the Patriarch of Monks. Saint Benedict was imbued with the Epistles of Saint Paul; he quotes the Apostle 23 times in the Holy Rule.

Saint Benedict’s choice of Pauline texts reveals a knowledge of the Apostle that could only have come from years of assiduous lectio divina: the words of the Apostle heard, repeated, prayed, and held in the heart. One finds a similar knowledge of Saint Paul in the writings of Blessed Columba Marmion. The author of Christ the Life of the Soul, Christ in His Mysteries, Christ the Ideal of the Monk, and Christ the Ideal of the Priest was steeped in the writings of the Apostle.

This Year’s Lectio Continua

The Pauline Year offers each of us a unique opportunity to become, like Saint Benedict, imbued with the message of the Apostle Paul. This is the year to let Saint Paul make a difference in your life. This is the year to hear his message with the ear of the heart as if for the first time. This is the year to undertake a lectio continua of his thirteen Epistles, adding for good measure the Letter to the Hebrews, which by an ancient ecclesiastical and liturgical tradition, was also attributed to the Apostle.

Begin with the Letter to the Romans and make your way through the Apostle’s writings. It is better to read several short passages a day, and one before falling asleep. You may want to read a passage before or after each of the Hours of the Divine Office. Find the system that works best for you, but do not let this Pauline Year pass you by without receiving the grace it offers you.

Saint Paul in the Rule of Saint Benedict


1. Romans 13:11 And that knowing the season; that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. 12 The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light.

2. 1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God, I am what I am; and his grace in me hath not been void, but I have laboured more abundantly than all they: yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

3. 2 Corinthians 10:17 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

4. Romans 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and patience, and longsuffering? Knowest thou not, that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance?

Chapter 2: What Kind of Man the Abbot Should Be

5. Romans 8:15 For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father).

6. Romans 2:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

7. 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine.

Chapter 4: The Tools of Good Works

8. 1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written: That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.

Chapter 5: Obedience

9. 2 Corinthians 9:7 Every one as he hath determined in his heart, not with sadness, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

Chapter 7: Humility

10. Philippians 2:8 He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.

11. Romans 8:36 As it is written: For thy sake we are put to death all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

12. 1 Corinthians 4:12 And we labour, working with our own hands: we are reviled, and we bless; we are persecuted, and we suffer it.

Chapter 25: Very Serious Faults

13. 1 Corinthians 5:5 To deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Chapter 27: The Concern the Abbot Must Have for the Excommunicated

14. 2 Corinthians 2:7 So that on the contrary, you should rather forgive him and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.

Chapter 28: The Incorrigible

15. 1 Corinthians 5:13 Put away the evil one from among yourselves.

16. 1 Corinthians 7:15 But if the unbeliever depart, let him depart. For a brother or sister is not under servitude in such cases. But God hath called us in peace.

Chapter 31: What Kind of Man the Cellarer of the Monastery Should Be

17. 1 Timothy 3:13 For they that have ministered well, shall purchase to themselves a good degree, and much confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Chapter 40: The Measure of Drink

18. 1 Corinthians 7:7 For I would that all men were even as myself: but every one hath his proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that.

Chapter 49: The Observance of Lent

19. Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but justice, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Chapter 53: The Reception of Guests

20. Galatians 6:10 Therefore, whilst we have time, let us work good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

Chapter 63: The Order of the Community

21. Romans 12:10 Loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another.

Chapter 70: That No May Hit One Another

22. 1 Timothy 5:20 Them that sin reprove before all: that the rest also may have fear.

Chapter 72: On the Good Zeal Which Monks Ought to Have

23. Romans 12:10 Loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another.

The Experience of Being Loved by Christ

What exactly do Saint Paul and Saint Benedict have in common? A personal experience of the love of Jesus Christ. The Apostle himself could have counseled his spiritual children to “set nothing before the love of Christ” (RB 4:21). He could have instructed his disciples “to prefer nothing whatever to Christ” (RB 72:11). Saint Benedict, for his part, surely said with Paul, “I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

The apostolic vocation of Saint Paul and the monastic vocation of Saint Benedict spring from the same experience of the love of Christ. Allow me, then, to borrow from the Holy Father’s homily for the opening of the Pauline Year, modifying it to bring home my point:

“In the Letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul gives a very personal profession of faith in which he opens his heart to readers of all times and reveals what was the most intimate drive of his life. "I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2: 20). All Paul's actions and all Benedict’s begin from this centre. Their faith is the experience of being loved by Jesus Christ in a very personal way. It is awareness of the fact that Christ did not face death for something anonymous but rather for love of him - of Paul, and of Benedict - and that, as the Risen One, he still loves Paul and still loves Benedict; in other words, Christ gave himself for each of them. Paul's faith, Benedict’s faith is being struck by the love of Jesus Christ, a love that overwhelms them to their depths and transforms them. The faith of the Apostle, like the faith of our glorious Patriarch, is not a theory, an opinion about God and the world. Their faith is the impact of God's love in their hearts.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at Vespers for the Opening of the Pauline Year, Saturday, 28 June 2008)

The Most Holy Eucharist

Through the adorable Sacrament of Our Lord’s Most Holy Body and Blood, may it be given each of us to participate today in the experience of Saint Paul and of Saint Benedict. It is in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that Jesus Christ loves us still, and gives Himself anew, inviting us, inciting us to set nothing before His love.

For the Pauline Year

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I celebrated the beautiful Votive Mass of Saint Paul this morning. One of my resolutions for the Pauline Year is to offer the Votive Mass of Saint Paul once a week whenever the rubrics permit it. The Propers for this Mass are found in the Missale Romanum, Editio Typica Tertia, 2002, page 1185. I would be curious to know how many of my brother priests will also be celebrating the Votive Mass of Saint Paul during this special year of grace.


Scio cui credidi, et certus sum quia potens est
depositum meum servare in illum diem iustus iudex.

He, to whom I have given my confidence, is no stranger to me,
and I am fully persuaded that he has the means to keep my pledge safe,
until that day comes, the Lord, that Judge.
(2 Timothy 1, 12; 4, 8)


Domine Deus, qui beatum Paulum apostolum
ad praedicandum Evangelium mirabiliter designasti,
da fide mundum universum imbui,
quam ipse coram regibus gentibusque portavit
ut iugiter Ecclesia tua capiat augmentum.

Lord God, who, in a wonderful way, set apart the blessed Apostle Paul
for the preaching of the Gospel,
grant that the entire world may be imbued with the faith,
which he carried into the presence of kings and of peoples,
so that Your Church may ceaselessly increase.

Prayer Over the Oblations

Illo nos, quaesumus, Domine, divina tractantes,
fidei lumine Spiritus perfundat,
quo beatum Paulum apostolum
ad gloriae tuae propagationem collustravit.

As we handle these divine mysteries, O Lord,
we beseech You that the Holy Spirit may pour forth the light of faith
by which He illumined the blessed Apostle Paul
so as to spread Your glory.

Preface of the Apostles I

Communion Antiphon

In fide vivo Filii Dei, qui dilexit me,
et tradidit semetipsum pro me.

My real life is the faith I have in the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave Himself for me.
(Galatians 2, 20)


Corporis et Sanguinis Filii tui, Domine,
communione refectis,
concede, ut ipse Christus sit nobis vivere,
nihilque ab eius nos separet caritate
et, beato monente Apostolo,
in dilectione cum fratribus ambulemus.

Now that we are refreshed, O Lord,
by the communion of the Body and Blood of Your Son,
grant that our life may be Christ Himself,
that nothing may separate us from His charity,
and that, following the teaching of the Apostle,
we may walk with our brethren in love.

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

October 2008: Monthly Archives