Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Rule along the Way. A Benedictine oblate blog

What prayer does to raise the mind and heart to God, the Rule of St. Benedict does for the life on its journey to dwell with God.
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Footnotes:

Picture is 08080012.jpg by lb6364 and is used subject to license.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Advent & Christmas set in time. A Benedictine oblate blog

Night Sky

[Click picture to enlarge]


What is the setting of Advent and Christmas in a monastery? Virtually every element in the way loving and joyous Christians celebrate Advent and Christmas in the wider community can be found in a monastery — the music, decorations, gifts, guests, and special food, for example. But the setting and context of the Advent and Christmas seasons are different when I visit a monastery. So, I am not talking about the individual elements of these two seasons, but their backdrop — the background scene on which those elements are projected and revealed.

Advent and Christmas in a monastery feel like they are set in time. These first parts of the new liturgical year move across a background of time. Like stars at night, Advent and Christmas stand out vividly — moving with sense of fixed, ancient precision.

Few things draw the human spirit into the search for what’s beyond ourselves like watching the night sky. A visit to a monastery during Advent and the Christmas season is a way of looking up.
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying:
Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.” Luke 2:13-14
Merry Christmas.

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Footnotes:

Picture is The big Sky by the Ocean by spatulated and is used subject to license.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Monasticism's limited relevance to my spiritual needs. A Benedictine oblate blog

The Carthusian Monastery d'Scala-Dei - Ladder of God

[Click picture to enlarge]


I could never see myself as a monk. Who would? Monks and nuns are shut away from the real world. How is that relevant today?

No, I could never be a monk except for the parts of monasticism about:
Seeking a deeper spiritual life
Seeking God in everything I do
Praying without ceasing
Silence
Meditation
Mysticism
Contemplation
Lectio divina (divine reading)
The divine office
Living a simple life free of the world's fads and clatter
Making my life the "journey to dwell with God"
Being refreshed from the wells of ancient Christian spirituality and the early desert and church fathers.
So I guess I can see that some parts of monasticism might apply to the spirituality I seek. But that’s all. No more.

Let monks and nuns keep everything else about monastic life that does not apply to me — you know, those parts about learning how to live in harmony in a monastic community and how to get along with the people we live with and share life with. That's not relevant to me, I am married with a family.

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Footnotes:

Picture is The Carthusian Monastery d'Scala-Dei by art_es_anna and is used subject to license. The link to the picture contains information by the photographer about this first Carthusian monastery in the Iberian Peninsula. Here is another summary about the Ladder of God monastery.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Catholic Prayer Bible: Lectio Divina Edition. A Benedictine oblate blog



Paulist Press’s web site announced the February 2010 publication of The Catholic Prayer Bible: Lectio Divina Edition. I think it’s my next book purchase.

Lectio divina is Latin for divine reading.

While I follow a slightly different method of lectio divina (described here), than the four-step process described by Paulist Press, The Catholic Prayer Bible: Lectio Divina Edition seems structured to help the reader be “led to prayer through meditation on [the Biblical] passage” which is the essence of lectio divina regardless of how it is further explained when people are told "how to do lectio divina."

Being led in prayer and meditation by God while reading the Bible distinguishes lectio divina from the more analytical methods of reading — which are other ways Christians should study the Bible, and, which of course, should also be based in prayer.

I could not find a place on the Paulist Press's web site to order the book now, an alert reader may be able to find one, and I will try to post ordering information as soon as it is available. However, here is Paulist Press's Home Page so you can order it from them when available. It can be pre-ordered at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and Autom.

Paulist Press has these other lectio divina books. There is renewed interest in the ancient monastic practice of lectio divina:


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Footnotes:

Pictures are from the Paulist Press

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Abbey Christmas music. A Benedictine oblate blog


My wife and I went to St. Leo Abbey, Florida, USA, (map & directions) for a Christmas music program. Like flowers in a vase, Christmas music filled the historic abbey church.

A generous donor gave the abbey a beautiful organ a couple of years ago. The donor also plays very well and he comes to the abbey occasionally to present musical programs — like he did tonight.

The monks sang Christmas songs at the beginning and end, but the rest of the program was the organ music.

We had arrived early at the abbey tonight so we could spend time in silence before the music program started. I sat and watched the crucifix.

The St. Leo Abbey Church is known for its 11-ton marble crucifix modeled after the Shroud of Turin. Tonight’s music about the birth of Jesus did not seem out of place while I thought about the crucifix — Jesus’ death. A church is where Jesus’ life from birth to resurrection is proclaimed. The crucifix amplifies the Christmas music about Jesus’ birth. Come close all who seek a new life.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Silence as the first half of the Rule. A Benedictine oblate blog


Silence is the first step to hear God and the first word God speaks when he calls our heart.

We might say that the Rule of St. Benedict is divided into two halves — its first word (Listen - Obsculta)(1) as the first half and all of the remaining text as the second half.

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Footnotes:

Picture is cohdranknchildatzoo.JPG by cohdra and is used subject to license


(1) From the Prologue of the The Rule of Benedict:

"LISTEN carefully, my son,
to your master's precepts,
and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20).
Receive willingly and carry out effectively
your loving father's advice,
that by the labor of obedience
you may return to Him
from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.

To you, therefore, my words are now addressed,
whoever you may be,
who are renouncing your own will
to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King,
and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.

And first of all,
whatever good work you begin to do,
beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect it,
that He who has now deigned to count us among His children
may not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds.
For we must always so serve Him
with the good things He has given us,
that He will never as an angry Father disinherit His children,
nor ever as a dread Lord, provoked by our evil actions,
deliver us to everlasting punishment
as wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory.

Let us arise, then, at last,
for the Scripture stirs us up, saying,
"Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep" (Rom. 13:11).

Let us open our eyes to the deifying light,
let us hear with attentive ears
the warning which the divine voice cries daily to us,
"Today if you hear His voice,
harden not your hearts" (Ps. 94[95]:8).

And again,
"Whoever has ears to hear,
hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Matt. 11-15; Apoc. 2:7).
And what does He say?
"Come, My children, listen to Me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord" (Ps. 33[34]:12).
"Run while you have the light of life,
lest the darkness of death overtake you" (John 12:35).

And the Lord, seeking his laborer
in the multitude to whom He thus cries out,
says again,
"Who is the one who will have life,
and desires to see good days" (Ps. 33[34]:13)?
And if, hearing Him, you answer,
"I am the one,"
God says to you,
"If you will have true and everlasting life,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips that they speak no guile.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek after peace and pursue it" (Ps. 33[34]:14-15).

And when you have done these things,
My eyes shall be upon you
and My ears open to your prayers;
and before you call upon Me,
I will say to you,
'Behold, here I am'" (Ps. 33[34]:16; Is. 65:24; 58:9)"

Monday, December 7, 2009

Oblate Christmas Party. A Benedictine oblate blog


We recently went to the St. Leo Abbey oblate Christmas party. Oblates buy a small gift for a monk and we have deserts and a social hour instead of the usual discussion session on Benedictine spirituality.

Oblates pick a monk for gift giving by drawing his name at random from a basket. When my wife and I drew the same monk’s name two years in a row, we were pleased. And when the selection process changed this year to allow us to select any monk rather than drawing a name out of the basket, we knew we had to purposely select the same monk that chance had given us for the two prior years.

When we drew our monk’s name two years ago the little sheet of paper with his name also had some gift ideas. We got the listed gift card. Last year the sheet just had his name, without any gift suggestions, but we still got him the same type of gift card in the same amount from the same store. This year when we got to select the monk without having to draw from a basket, we still got the same monk a gift card in the same amount from the same store.

I wonder if that poor monk did not write any gift ideas on the slip of paper a year ago in hopes that whoever drew his name (and what are the chances it would be us) would get another gift. And when he ended up with my wife and I buying him the same gift from the year before, I can just imagine this monk joking with the abbey office this year: “no more baskets, somehow I get picked by the same people who keep getting we the same thing, let’s have a select-a-monk system so they can get someone else and I won’t keep getting the same thing.”

In many ways it is difficult to buy for a monk. Sometimes it’s difficult to buy for that person who has everything. But it’s really difficult to buy for someone who is supposed to have nothing or next to nothing of his own — well, of course, except for his life in the “school for the service to the Lord.”(1) Maybe what I should do is give thanks again that there are such men who live in monasteries. The oblate Christmas party is when I get a tangible Benedictine lesson that the real gifts always seem to flow out of a monastery.

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Footnotes:

Picture is cohdranknxmasrbbn7.JPG by cohdra and is used subject to license.

(1) Rule of St. Benedict, the end of the Prologue:

“And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord. In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But if a certain strictness results from the dictates of equity for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, do not be at once dismayed and fly from the way of salvation, whose entrance cannot but be narrow (Matt. 7:14). For as we advance in the religious life and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God's commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love. Thus, never departing from His school, but persevering in the monastery according to His teaching until death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13) and deserve to have a share also in His kingdom.”

Friday, November 6, 2009

Catholic Prayer Bible, lectio divina edition. A Benedictine oblate blog


The Catholic Prayer Bible, lectio divina edition, is expected to be published in March 2010 by Paulist Press. Thanks to the Catholic Bibles blog, I learned about the publication and called Paulist Press to inquire about the publication date.

I could not find a page about the new Bible on the Paulist Press web site, but the Catholic Bibles blog has a brief description of this new Bible which includes the comment that this is:

“An ideal Bible for anyone who desires to reflect on the individual stories and chapters of just one, or even all, of the biblical books, while being led to prayer through meditation on that biblical passage.”
Interestingly, the description of the Bible also refers to a quote from Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 that the practice of lectio divina will bring about a “new spiritual springtime.”(1) The Pope’s reference to the new spiritual springtime was the primary inspiration I used in the naming of the Oblate Spring web site.

I like reading from several Bibles and may buy this one when it is published.

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Footnotes:

Picture is 100_6182.JPG by cohdra and is subject to license.

(1) From the 40th Anniversary of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation "Dei Verbum," 16 September 2005. Also see my About Page on the Oblate Spring web site.

Lectio divina described here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Four reasons to have a spiritual retreat. A Benedictine oblate blog


My wife and I went on a spiritual retreat recently with a group of other Benedictine oblates at St. Leo Abbey in Florida,. Location and directions. The Friday to Sunday retreat was the best one we have had, but each one has been better than the last, no doubt a function of how we prepare and being more receptive while there.

If you have not been on a spiritual retreat, here are four reason to go:

A. Structured spiritual instruction from a wise teacher. Virtually all group spiritual retreats will offer a program of classes. Sometimes all classes will be about one theme. Sometimes the classes cover different topics. At the monastery we visit, the oblate retreats are led by the abbot whose classes of about 90 minutes each (called conferences) are all about a central topic . This gives a good immersion into the ideas and insights. But even when we are on a private retreat by ourselves without any group, my wife and I have picked our own topics and do our own studying.

B. Divine Office. Participating in the divine office with a monastic community on their schedule is something that cannot be experienced anywhere except in a monastery.

We can study on our own and talk with other oblates, but having the entire day structured in community is available only in a monastic community.

We were on our recent retreat when the USA changed its clocks from daylight saving time to standard time. However the biggest change in time zones was the change we made when we arrived on Friday in the afternoon. That’s when we went on “Monastic Standard Time.” The sense of time in relation to prayer is different at a monastery. This unique relation of life to time found at a monastery is the best reason to visit a monastery even for day trips when you can’t spend the night. Spending a good part of a day on monastic time is a unique experience.

C. Rest. Everyone can instantly see the benefit in this. Many people go on retreat and just want to sleep. Most everyone takes at least one nap between sessions. Not being engaged in your full work life for a few days is the third good reason to start planning your next retreat.

D. Other Oblates. Listening to the comments and questions from the other oblates is a special benefit of the retreat. Talking with other people who have similar spiritual interests is always an encouragement. Learn about a good book. Be encouraged by their enthusiasm.

Here’s where to find a location for your next retreat. Find a retreat location. Get ready to change your watch.

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Footnotes:

Picture is cohdranknduckcolortrail2.jpg by cohdra and is used subject to license.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pilgrims and oblates. A Benedictine oblate blog


My wife and I are back from a Benedictine oblate retreat over the weekend — Friday through Sunday evening.

Like the Mediaeval pilgrims who were told “one’s pilgrimage does not end in Santiago — it begins there”(1) we came home feeling that our spiritual retreat did not end on Sunday evening — now it begins.

We are fortunate that the conferences during the retreat were led by the abbot — the youngest abbot in the American-Cassinese Congregation of Benedictine monasteries.

When the matter is the care of souls, Benedictine abbots are a good choice. He gave much of his weekend to us and we were happy he did.

The abbot’s conferences were packed with insights from his studies on seeking and drawing closer to God, one of my favorites is from Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972):

Awareness of the ineffable is where the search begins.
Mediaeval pilgrims and Benedictine oblates learn the same truth.

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Footnotes:

(1) For more information on this great pilgrim way -- even today, see my blog giving an overview: Santiago de Compostela -- The Roads that unified Europe

Friday, October 30, 2009

New Monastic Blog. A Benedictine oblate blog


Monastic Ponderings is new blog I enjoy reading and... well.. pondering. Here are several of the most recent blog titles:

In the Garden of the Soul
The Journey
Inner Spirit
The truth about Community life
Penthos
Every one is a clear view into the life of seeking God.

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Footnotes:

Picture is cohdranknstrmysnstjul8yr09pic24.JPG by cohdra and is subject to license.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

St. Benedict’s favorite psalms? A Benedictine oblate blog


St. Benedict wrote a Rule for monks which is also used today by Benedictine oblates.

St. Benedict’s Rule gives a schedule for chanting all 150 Psalms during a week. But in that schedule St. Benedict actually had his monks reciting certain Psalms more than once each week.

I call these repeated Psalms St. Benedict’s favorite Psalms because while he borrowed the Psalm patterns used in other monastic rules and in the Church practices (the Lauds (meaning praise) Psalms are a good example), he also modified those lists to fit his own plan.

In a freedom common with St. Benedict’s famous Rule he adds at the end of his detailed Psalm schedule that if anyone does not like his Psalm arrangement, they should rearrange the Psalms as they see fit, provided that all 150 Psalms are chanted every week.

What are the Psalms that St. Benedict’s Rule has his monks chanting more than once a week? I like to think they were his favorites and perhaps because they were also the favorites throughout the Church and monastic communities since antiquity.

St. Benedict’s 19 “Favorite” Psalms


Psalm 3 at Vigils each day(1)
Psalm 94(95) at Vigils each day(1)

Psalm 66(67) at Lauds each day
Psalm 50(51)at Lauds each day
Psalm 148 at Lauds each day
Psalm 149 at Lauds each day
Psalm 150 at Lauds each day

Psalm 119(120) at Terce Tuesday through Saturday
Psalm 120(121) at Terce Tuesday through Saturday
Psalm 121(122) at Terce Tuesday through Saturday

Psalm 122(123) at Sext Tuesday through Saturday
Psalm 123(124) at Sext Tuesday through Saturday
Psalm 124(125) at Sext Tuesday through Saturday

Psalm 125(126) at None Tuesday through Saturday
Psalm 126(127) at None Tuesday through Saturday
Psalm 127(128) at None Tuesday through Saturday

Psalm 4 at Compline each day
Psalm 90(91) at Compline each day
Psalm 133(134) at Compline each day
BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

St. Benedict of Nursia, Italy. Born at Nursia, c. 480 AD; died at Monte Cassino, Italy, 543 AD is the father of western monasticism and one of the several copatron saints of Europe.

We know about St. Benedict primarily from his famous Rule which is a set of principles and regulations for how monks should live in a monastery under the spiritual guidance of an abbot.

A major part of Benedictine monastic spirituality is praying, reading, or singing the divine office which is psalms, hymns, Bible verses, and prayers said at fixed times throughout the day.

The central part of each daily office is the psalms recited for that office. The virtually universal monastic practice in the early Christian church was to recite all 150 psalms during each week. St. Benedict continued this practice of praying the 150 Psalms when he complied his Rule for monks which became the most widely used Rule in Western Christianity and still is today.

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Footnotes:

(1) Chanting these Psalms also on Sundays is inferred from the weekday plan.

Picture is cohdra_100_4397.JPG by cohdra and is used subject to license

If I made any errors in the list, please post a comment with the correct information. Also any other observations about how St. Benedict arranged the Psalms would also be welcomed. I used Benedict Saint, RB 1980 the rule of St. Benedict in Latin and English with notes (Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 1981) 390

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monastic deserts are uninhabited not uninhabitable. A Benedictine oblate blog


CityDesert — “Desert Spirituality for the City” — is a new-to-me blog that is well worth reading.

The “desert” homes of the early desert fathers may have been more like uninhabited remote areas that were actually fit for the support of life and not the completely barren wastelands that I sometimes pictured in my mind and wondered about.

The always helpful New Advent Encyclopedia has an insightful article on the “desert” or wilderness in the Old Testament. The article can also give a better idea of the term in later monastic writings.

From the first part of the New Advent article:


“The Hebrew words translated in the Douay Version of the Bible by "desert" or "wilderness", and usually rendered by the Vulgate desertum, "solitude", or occasionally eremus, have not the same shade of meaning as the English word desert. The word wilderness, which is more frequently used than desert of the region of the Exodus, more nearly approaches the meaning of the Hebrew, though not quite expressing it. When we speak of the desert our thoughts are naturally borne to such places as the Sahara, a great sandy waste, incapable of vegetation, impossible as a dwelling-place for men, and where no human being is found except when hurrying through as quickly as he can. No such ideas are attached to the Hebrew words for desert. Four words are chiefly used in Hebrew to express the idea.”
The article then continues to explain and give examples of the four Hebrew words.

“A place apart” is how I think of where the monastic fathers lived — the core concept is living in a place outside the scope of where others live. And to further narrow the distinctions, this is not like being barred from all other human contact.

The European Benedictine monks who are the spiritual grandsons of John Cassian(1) illustrate this idea of living apart, but not being cut off from the wider community.

Monasteries were often where towns grew up, where local roads and bridges were maintained, where large surrounding populations saw the monastery as a cultural and economic leader of the community, and where schools helped local neighbors.

The CityDesert blog proclaims that for contemporary Christians we can find desert spirituality in the city. Although mostly uninhabited today the desert city has a long history of being a good land, a land of milk and honey — where the most exquisite flowers grow.

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Footnotes:

(1) I wrote this blog about Cassian’s role in the development of Western monasticism from Eastern principles.

The Plan of St. Gall portrays a planned community hub rather than an isolation chamber. I blogged about the Plan of St. Gall at the end of this blog. See also the Plan of St. Gall itself and a section on the Horn & Born book about the Plan and monastic life during the Middle Ages.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Monastic Musings Too. A Benedictine oblate blog


Until this morning, I had missed that Monastic Musings blog, — one of the blogs listed on the right sidebar under the “Spiritual & Religious Blogs” section — had moved in August and changed its name slightly. It is now Monastic Musings Too.

I corrected the name and links on the right sidebar and also over on the Oblate Spring web site’s page listing all the blogs in alphabetical order.

Monastic Musings Too’s first new blog mentions that the previous blog was attached by malware and the blog was shut down and she has not yet been able to retrieve any of her 1000 previous posts yet from Google.

In her new blog format she is also going to have some dedicated pages on Monastic Musings Too for oblate resources. Very good and I wish Monastic Musings Too much success as an important resource for oblates.

Monastic Musings Too is written by Sister Edith, a Benedictine sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She is also an Associate Professor of Sociology at the College of St. Scholastica, a college sponsored by her monastery and housed on the same grounds.

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Footnotes:

Picture is Reference Books by Barbara L. Slavin as is subject to the creative commons license.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lectio divina in the Catechism. A Benedictine oblate blog


According to the Catechism, the practice of lectio divina (prior blog) is rooted in the divine office (liturgy of the hours).

I found two references to lectio divina in the Catechism, but no uses of the term in the 2005 Compendium.

Here are the two passages:

1177 The hymns and litanies of the Liturgy of the Hours integrate the prayer of the psalms into the age of the Church, expressing the symbolism of the time of day, the liturgical season, or the feast being celebrated. Moreover, the reading from the Word of God at each Hour (with the subsequent responses or troparia) and readings from the Fathers and spiritual masters at certain Hours, reveal more deeply the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, assist in understanding the psalms, and prepare for silent prayer. The lectio divina, where the Word of God is so read and meditated that it becomes prayer, is thus rooted in the liturgical celebration.

2708 Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him.
I had not considered lectio divina as being rooted in the public worship practices (ie liturgy) of the Church. The significance of this — to someone who has come to the Catholic Church from the Protestant world — is that once again I see how liturgy in all of its fruits produce gifts of the full Christian life.

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Footnotes:

Picture is Candles and Cross by millicent_bystander.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lectio divina: 10 articles for your link library


Origen (182-254 AD) was the first to use the term lectio divina.(1) He used the term in a letter describing the importance of reading divine Scriptures by faith and prayer. Origen says that Christ will open the Word’s hidden meaning.(2)

In the short time since the third century AD, the practice of lectio divina is becoming more widely known in a world seeking deeper spirituality.

Pope Benedict XVI said in October 2008:

The Bible “must be read in the same Spirit in which it was composed.”(3)
Here are ten articles on lectio divina for your link library(4):

1. Lectio Divina (explained) is slow, contemplative Bible reading in which God speaks to our heart and the Word fills our soul.

2. By the Orlando Roman Catholic Examiner
Lectio Divina, with a video describing the four-step and single-step methods.

3. At a Jesuit's web site
Lectio Divina

4. By the Carmelites
Lectio Divina

5. By Pluscarden Abbey, Scotland
Lectio Divina

6. By a Franciscan at his blog
Lectio Divina

7. At Fish Eaters
Lectio Divina

8. At QVDAYS
Lectio Divina in PDF -- The description of the "contemplation" phase of lectio is excellent and gives the essence of the goal of lectio divina.

9. By the Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius (restoring the sacred in the Church)
Lectio Divina

10. At the Vatican's Official web site by an Auxiliary Bishop
Lectio Divina

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Footnotes:

The picture is A Vogue on a Flower by Thomas Hawk

(1) Lectio divina is pronounced:
Lex-ee-oh Dih-vee-nuh.

(2) From a Pope Benedict XVI General Audience address May 2, 2007

(3) From a Pope Benedict XVI Angelus October 26, 2008

(4) This list of links to lectio divina resources is taken from my Oblate Spring web site. When I find a new link on lectio divina, I won't revise this blog entry, I will add any new links to the list lectio divina resources here. Check that page for the additions.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Benedictine Monastic Spirituality Examiner. A Benedictine oblate blog

[The Examiner.com logo is a trademark of Clarity Digital Group LLC d/b/a Examiner.com. All Rights reserved]
I am also a new Benedictine Monastic Spirituality Examiner on Examiner.com. I became interested in the Examiner model when Examiner articles kept showing up in my Internet searches on spiritual, church, and other topics.

After I decided to try to become an Examiner, I was impressed by their professional operation. So, I will see how it goes.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Links to oblate resources. A Benedictine oblate blog


The "Links to oblate resources" page has been revised. The page is on the companion web site to this blog. "Links to oblate resources" was reformatted and the content was slightly revised. Both changes should make it easier to locate information.

Instead of one page, there are now two pages so the pages should load faster. Page 4 of "Links to oblate resources" contains a wide range of topics while new page 4.1 contains information about Benedictine books.

Links on both pages have been reorganized to make it easier to scan the information.
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Footnotes:

Picture is Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire, Wales, 6 October 2005 by PhillipC

Monday, September 7, 2009

Oblate Sunday August. A Benedictine oblate blog


The oblate Sunday in August followed the regular schedule of:

— Mass
— Oblate novice class led by a monk
— Midday Prayer with the monks
— Lunch with the monks
— Oblate class led by the abbot
We start at 10:00 am and finish about 2:00 pm.

In the oblate novice class we are going through the Rule of St. Benedict.

In the August session we read and discussed chapter 5 of the Rule of St. Benedict on obedience and chapter 6 of the Rule on the spirit of silence.

Later in the oblate class I wrote in my notes that wisdom is for the community’s benefit and that lectio divina is for the community’s benefit.

The relation of lectio divina to the theme of silence in chapter 6 of the Rule of St. Benedict and to community benefit is apparent, but wisdom’s link to obedience and hence community benefit took some thought to click in my understanding.

It is easy for the modern mind to link wisdom to personal achievement, I appreciate the Benedictines for helping me to see wisdom’s wider and perhaps older place in a community of God’s servants.

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Footnotes:

The picture is To Beseech Thee by The Wandering Angel.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Internet-wise nuns. A Benedictine oblate blog

Click Here to Zoom Map


The Benedictine nuns of Holy Trinity Monastery in East Hendred, Wantage, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom were established in 2004 — an Internet-generation monastery for sure. They have an excellent and constantly expanding Internet presence or should I say Internet cloister.

The Holy Trinity Monastery nuns are cloistered which means the nuns live enclosed or shut away (Latin: clausura) from the world. But their enclosure is a physical one, certainly not a spiritual one. We might even say that their physical separation strengthens their spiritual work for God in the world.

The Internet supports the nuns’ cloistered life while making their works of words, pictures, audios, and videos instantly available to everyone in the world. Cloistered monasteries often have a room with a lattice-work screen or grating separating themselves from the parlor where guests may come to talk with the nuns. Today, that screen is often a computer screen for thousands of visitors to these nuns in England.

Some of my favorite pages on their web site are:
1. FAQs on becoming a nun. Fascinating description of this monastery’s heart and soul.

2. A way to shop online in England that generates income for the nuns

3. Two videos of Bible teaching

4. Trinity Audio Lectures 2009. These three talks were the subject of my previous blog.

5. A pretty Digital Book of poems about Mary. When the book opens adjust its location on the screen with your mouse and then freeze the dimensions by clicking on the Eye-looking icon in the Navigation Bar at the top of the book, then click on DRAG. Otherwise the default view will constantly move about the page.

6. Message Board (Online Interactive Forum) for Benedictine oblates.
I believe that “it is important, too, that people at all levels of the Church use the Internet creatively to meet their responsibilities and help fulfill the Church's mission. Hanging back timidly from fear of technology or for some other reason is not acceptable, in view of the very many positive possibilities of the Internet.” The quote is from the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications, 2002.

The Holy Trinity Monastery nuns are not hanging back nor are they timid. Way to go nuns!

__________________________

Footnotes:

Picture is Copyrighted by Google, See Terms of Use

Monday, August 31, 2009

Cistercian History Audio. A Benedictine oblate blog


The Benedictine nuns of Holy Trinity Monastery in England posted the audio of three talks, called their Trinity Lectures 2009. All three 40-minute talks are excellent, but if you listen to only one, you might like the talk on "The Cistercians" by James France.

“The Cistercians” audio gives the history of this successful reform monastic movements that developed in the late 1000s AD.
The Cistercian talk is packed with interesting information all along James France’s survey of Cistercian history and development. For example, I learned that the Chapter House/Room in Benedictine monasteries got its name because that is where the chapters of the Rule of the St. Benedict were read each day to the monks. France also has a good sense of dry English humor which made the talk one of my favorites.

Today, Cistercians come in two flavors of both monks and nuns:

“Cistercians of the Common Observance,” [O. Cist.] and perhaps the better known and more numerous:
"Cistercians of the Strict Observance," [O.C.S.O] who are also called the Trappists.

The other two excellent talks in the Trinity Lectures 2009 are:
Henrietta Leyser
"Christina of Markyate" and

Pauline Matarasso
"Wulfric of Haselbury"
Read by Sarah Newton for Pauline Matarasso.)

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Footnotes:

The picture is by Jule Berlin.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

An Island Library. A Benedictine oblate blog


I saw a question about which two books everyone should read. I think I know what most Christians’ first book would be, but what about the second book?

This question reminds me of the time G.K. Chesterton was asked what book he would want to have if he were stranded on a desert island. Chesterton answered: “Thomas’s Guide to Practical Shipbuilding.”

I think Christians should read the Rule of St. Benedict. Other than the Bible, the Rule has been called the most important book in the development of Western civilization.

For this former atheist and former evangelical Protestant who finally realized where I was, the Rule offers the same benefits as “Thomas’s Guide to Practical Shipbuilding.”

__________________________

Footnotes:

Picture is BikiniAtoll2005-0101 by rjdiver

Friday, August 14, 2009

Silence & Light. A Benedictine oblate blog



Lectio divina links silence and light. Lectio divina silences the world and brings us into God’s light.

__________________________

Footnotes:

The picture is God by rgvmonster

Thanks Plain Catholic In the Mountains for posting about Lectio Divina.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

An Ancient Spirit Lives. A Benedictine oblate blog


“People sense almost instinctively that the monastery is a home for the world.”

The quote is from a monastery of cloistered nuns — in fact, from their video of the life in the monastery that was broadcast around the world by EWTN.(1)

If your heart wants to visit a monastery, you are sensing an ancient truth. Monasteries are places of spiritual power for the world.(2)
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Footnotes:

[Note: Under the label “An Ancient Spirit Lives” are blogs, web sites, and now videos speaking directly about the most ancient monastic principles. These are truths I hope I never forget and ones that directly shape my understanding of monastic life.]

(1) From the 2003 video, "POOR CLARE NUNS: A LIFE FOR GOD," produced by the Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy, Belleville, Illinois, U.S.A. The quote in this blog is in the third video segment, “Prayer and Meditation” on the nuns' web site.

The video is 20-minutes on what the Poor Clares do all day and their spiritual life. The video was shown on EWTN (TV Schedule of Eternal Word Television Network).

As of today, I could not find that the video will be rebroadcast in August, 2009, but the Poor Clare’s web site has the video in 4 segments of about 5 minutes long. I had to download the newest RealPlayer to see the video.

(2) VISIT TO HEILIGENKREUZ ABBEY, ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI, Sunday, 9 September 2007.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Interesting Benedictine Thing of the Day. A Benedictine oblate blog


Here is a list of the nations and their numbers of oblates (defined) according to the Vatican's web site for International Benedictine Oblates.

As of January 1, 2008, there were 25,481 oblates 50 countries.

1 Chile [1]
2 Lietuvos [1]
3 Balgarija [3]
4 Martinique [4]
5 Sverige [11]
6 Isra'il [14]
7 New Zealand [15]
8 Danmark [15]
9 Côte d'Ivoire [15]
10 Hrvatska [17]
11 Malta [22]
12 Suid-Afrika [25]
13 Bangladesh [27]
14 Czechia [28]
15 Senegal [30]
16 Viet Nam [31]
17 Éire [32]
18 Ghana [32]
19 Taiwan [32]
20 Burkina Faso [32]
21 Colombia [37]
22 Bharat Juktarashtra [38]
23 Uganda [40]
24 Luxemburg [70]
25 Guatemala [75]
26 Trinidad Tobago [80]
27 Togo [82]
28 Polska [96]
29 Magyarország [100]
30 Tanzania [100]
31 Nihon [146]
32 Nederland [179]
33 Argentina [190]
34 Schweiz [222]
35 Portugal [300]
36 España [317]
37 Österreich [368]
38 México [375]
39 België [376]
40 Nigeria [470]
41 Pilipinas [527]
42 Australia [575]
43 Daehan Minkuk [613]
44 Canada [654]
45 Brasil [953]
46 Deutschland [1420]
47 Italia [1615]
48 United Kingdom [1850]
49 France [2337] — 9.1 %
50 USA [10889] — 42%
TOTAL 25,481 OBLATES

By Region, the numbers are as follows:
Central America [159]
Oceania [590]
Africa [826]
South America [1181]
Asia [1428]
Europe [9379]
North America [11918]
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Footnotes:

The picture is a Wordle of all the nations in the world where oblates live.

The information is from the Vatican web site

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Becoming an oblate — Six Tips for the Spiritual Seeker. A Benedictine oblate blog


Benedictine oblates are “Christian men and women admitted into spiritual union and affiliation with a Benedictine community of monks, nuns, or sisters so that they may share in the spiritual life, prayers, and good works of the community [monastery].”(1)

Note the words used in the above quote describing how an oblate is related to a monastery:

Spiritual union, affiliation, community, sharing, spiritual life, prayers, and good works
I am constantly aware of the deep yearning for an authentic spiritual life many people express online. Frequently when people identify their interests, spirituality rather than religion is listed in personal profiles.

Part of the purpose of this blog is to help the spiritual seeker know about the ancient practices and deep spirituality of the Benedictines — certainly this life is not for everyone, but it may be for you.

How would a person decide to become a Benedictine oblate? Follow the steps you follow in selecting a career or a group to join — what fits best with your spirit?

But to get you started, here are six tips:

1. Read and Study.
This will often mean you will learn as much as you can about a particular monastery, read materials written by the nuns or monks, read every page of the monastery’s web site.
2. Visit a Monastery.
Pray with a monastic community on a retreat. Visit and experience the monastery often while being guided by prayer and the Holy Spirit. Need to find a monastery to visit? Here’s a searchable database of Order of St. Benedict Confederation monasteries worldwide.

Not interested in Benedictine Order, but like the monastic spirit? Try a more general list here.
3. Meet an Oblate.
Get to know other oblates in person and through e-mail communications, talk with the oblate director at a monastery.
4. Do you like the Oblate Program?
Review the schedule of yearly oblate activities, visit the bookstore if the monastery has one, talk with the people who run the bookstore and other bookstore shoppers.
5. Attend an Oblate Sunday.
Attend oblate novice sessions (usually on the weekends).
6. Follow the Holy Spirit.
You might find that you get a “feeling” about a particular monastery very quickly during a weekend retreat where you can join in the prayers of the community and talk with other guests.
A contemplative spiritual life of a Benedictine oblate may be in your future.

My wife and I knew we had found our spiritual home the day we walked on the St. Leo Abbey grounds for the first time — before we had talked to anyone — in fact, before we even knew anything about Benedictine monks or oblates.

It was later over the course of about 18 months that we learned about St. Benedict, the Rule of St. Benedict, and that there are people called oblates who were not flattened spheroids. The Spirit gave us direction in the first hours of our first visit.

“When I first walked on these grounds, I knew this was the place” is a frequent comment I hear from other oblates at the abbey where we are oblates.

7. An Extra Tip for Free.
You can begin praying the divine office, practicing lectio divina, seeking God in all daily activities, and attending oblate sessions long before you become an oblate. You may find that as you begin living the spiritual life of an oblate-to-be you will find the place for you. In other words, let your own spiritual life in living like an oblate lead you to your spiritual life of seeking God and praying without ceasing.
I know you will find your spiritual home and that it will change your life, making it fuller and closer to God who will bless your path.
______________________

Footnote:

Picture is Plombé ! - Leaden ! by Oh mon héros !

(1) From the 1972 “Guidelines for Oblates of St. Benedict

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tabs & Guide to Using Benedictine Daily Prayer. A Benedictine oblate blog

[Click picture to enlarge]


I use "Benedictine Daily Prayer" (BDP) for praying the divine office.

Recently, I made a set of dividers using a new format for printing the text on the card-stock and that made it easier to add some additional notes on the dividers. Yesterday, I blogged about a simple guide for using Benedictine Daily Prayer and explained how I added text to the dividers. Divider tabs are good to help avoid flipping back and forth in the book and for using other translations for parts of the divine office when I prefer another translation.

There is a new section to the Oblate Spring web site (the companion site to this blog) showing the divider tabs, explaining how they are used, and listing the materials used to make the dividers:
Benedictine Daily Prayer (BDP) — Tabs & Guide: How to use this popular book for praying the Benedictine divine office.

Materials for making tabs

Basic tabs and guide for using BDP
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Footnotes:

Earlier this year and last year I blogged here, here, and here about using card-stock divider tabs. These earlier blogs give the background of earlier tab versions.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tabbed Guide Sheet For Benedictine Daily Prayer. A Benedictine oblate blog


Recently I made a set of tabbed card-stock dividers for another oblate who prays with the book "Benedictine Daily Prayer (BDP)." One of the dividers was a short page-by-page list of how to pray the divine office on a Sunday that is not a special day when you would also want to include texts from other sections in the back parts of BDP.

The picture at the top of this blog is of that basic guide for to how to use "Benedictine Daily Prayer."

Making this set of tabs was a good opportunity for me to improve the way I make the dividers. Here is how I make the dividers:

With all margins reduced to the minimum, I created three text boxes across the top part of page in my word processor. The two outer text boxes are 3.70" wide and 5.70" high. The middle box is .220" wide.

In the middle text box, faint orange lines (borders) were placed on the left and the right of that middle text box.

At 5.9" from the top edge of the sheet a faint orange horizontal line was added. Here is a PDF of a typical sheet used to make the dividers showing an example of the three text boxes and the faint orange lines.

To print the dividers, first I printed one side, then turned the printed sheet over and printed on the back side. Then I cut along the faint orange lines. This method makes two dividers (I only need one, but if you are making a set for a friend, you will have another set, and of course, if you are making them for other people, you can make two sets with one card-stock sheet.) The dividers are the same size as the pages in BDP and I put the dividers in BDP where they are most helpful. Some dividers stay at a particular page, others move with the day and hour to be prayed.

My oblate friend asked for the Litany(1) of Loreto(2) on a series of dividers to keep with BDP. This illustrates one of the best reasons for having the dividers (in addition to having an easy way to find the right place in BDP where you should be praying).

The dividers allow me to put the text I want on the dividers for easy reference while praying with BDP. If you prefer another translation to any part of BDP, the dividers allow you to have your favorite translation handy. For example, I prefer another translation to the Nunc Dimittis rather than the one used by BDP — see below.



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Footnotes:

(1) A litany is a form of responsive petition used in public liturgy and private devotions. A litany finds its model in Psalm 136 where a series of lines are each ended with the repeated phrase, “for His love endures for ever.” This is another example of how the Jewish Old Testament has influenced our liturgical practices today.

(2) The Litany of Loreto (good summary of its history and thematic structures) was spread throughout Europe in the 1500s AD by pilgrims who visited the Holy House of Loreto in Italy and returned home with this litany in their hearts.

Loreto is the home of Mary’s House that had been in Nazareth, in the Holy Land. The Holy House is one of the most hallowed shrines because of how it came to reside in Loreto. The House was miraculously transported by angels to Dalmatia, Croatia, in 1291, and then in 1294 the house was again moved by angelic flight to Loreto, Italy. It continues to be a sacred destination.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Why Monasteries are Important. A Benedictine oblate blog

An Oasis


St. Leo Abbey is a Catholic Benedictine monastery for men in Florida, USA. (Location map & directions) My wife and I are oblates there.

In this month’s oblate newsletter from St. Leo Abbey the abbot asks us to answer the following question,
“Why is the Benedictine presence here in Florida important?
The abbot also asked that we send him our answers.

So, yes in a sense, this is a Help-with-Homework Blog!

I have been thinking about a response for a few days. My answer to the abbot’s question will be centered on why the monastery is important to me.

My view of this monastery’s importance grew from the transformation of my perception of whether it was the surrounding culture or the monastery that creates a spiritual place of rest in the desert.

I am still working on my answer that I will e-mail to the abbot, but I welcome any ideas. I learn a lot from comments and now you can even help with my oblate homework.

__________________________

Footnotes:
The picture is "An Oasis" by madpai.

Personal note: This past month is when our daughter had twins. A girl (5 lbs. 9 oz) and boy (5 lbs. 11 oz) — mother, dad, and babies are home now and doing fine (their first children). However, the boy spent 10 days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after he was born. For the first couple of days we did not know what was wrong, but then the doctors said it was Pulmonary Hypertension in Newborns a relatively common and treatable condition that responds well to about a week of ICU care and monitoring. There should be no lingering effects, but the poor little guy had tubes and needles all over him and we could tell he was struggling. We spent the time at the hospital and have also been helping at our daughter and son-in-law’s home so the parents could sleep. Things are almost back to normal. But every additional moment this past month was, as you might have seen, not used for blogging.

Friday, July 3, 2009

For many and for one. A Benedictine oblate blog


Saint Benedict founded the abbey of Monte Cassino in about 529 AD. At Monte Cassino St. Benedict wrote his famous Rule.

And after a little while what had been the 6th century became the 20th century.

In 1964 upon the rebuilding of Monte Cassino abbey after its destruction in WWII by bombing, Pope Paul VI proclaimed St. Benedict “patron of Europe.”(1)

Near the beginning of the 21st century, new Pope Benedict XVI explained that he chose the Benedict name in part because of his admiration of how St. Benedict influenced an entire continent — helping to create European civilization after the destruction of the Roman Empire.

In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI visited Monte Cassino Abbey and spoke about the Pope’s desire that Europe live by its “Christian principles and ideals that constitutes an immense cultural and spiritual wealth:”

“This is possible but only if one accepts the constant teaching of St Benedict, that is the "quaerere Deum", the quest for God, as man's fundamental commitment. Human beings cannot completely fulfil themselves, they cannot be truly happy without God. It is your task in particular, dear monks, to be living examples of this inner and profound relationship with him, implementing without compromise the programme that your Founder summed up in the "nihil amori Christi praeponere", "prefer nothing to the love of Christ" (Rule 4: 21).”
This also applies to my own life, I want to live by the ancient endowment (patrimony) of “Christian principles and ideals that constitutes an immense cultural and spiritual wealth.” And it is true that in my life, the greatest change in my manner of living came when I began following, as best as I could, the Benedictine way of organizing the day and praying the divine office.

A Rule that helped create an entire civilization certainly has had sufficient guidance for one oblate and my manner of daily living.

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Footnotes:

Picture is Reading by ThunderChild5.

(1) Women for Faith & Family is also the source of this quote:

"In 1964 Pope Paul VI proclaimed Benedict “patron of Europe”, because of his influence in the formation of Christendom in the Middle Ages. The Pope’s letter, Pacis Nuntius (Messenger of Peace), issued October 24, 1964 during the re-consecration of the rebuilt monastery of Monte Cassino. Pacis Nuntius declares:
“Messenger of peace, creator of unity, master of civilization and above all, herald of the religion of Christ and founder of monastic life in the West: these are the proper titles with which to acclaim St Benedict Abbott. On the fall of the Roman Empire, by then exhausted, Europe seemed to fall into darkness ... bereft of civilization and spiritual values”.
I cannot say that prior to becoming a Benedictine oblate I was in darkness, but between then and now, I can say that my world is closer to the source of the light. It is a new way of life, a new personal culture.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Rule in 2 words. A Benedictine oblate blog

CSIRO Parkes radio telescope


In some ways, the Rule of St. Benedict might be thought of as springing from two concepts, listening and stability. If asked to summarize the Rule in two words, I would use “Listening and Stability.”

Listening is theological and vertical in the sense of the relation to God. Stability is practical and horizontal in the sense of the relation of monks and nuns to their community -- their family.

From the basic principle of “listening” flows the Rule’s chapters on the divine office, 8 to 19; shortness of prayers, 20; and lectio divina, 48; for example (1) — all part of “seeking God” (quaerere Deum (2)).

We might say that the monastic life begins with listening — not asking God to hear us, not wondering how and under what conditions God will “answer our prayers.” The first word of the Rule places its readers in the mode of listening to the divine call.

When one moves from speaking to listening, we are seeking a new world — we seek monastic stillness — we turn down the volume of the world — we want to declutter our lives so we are free to devote all attention to listening. The contemplative life comes from listening.

From the basic principle of “stability” flows the Rule’s chapters on how to live in a monastery under the authority of an abbot. The monastic enclosure marking the boundary between the monk’s life and the world serves to ground stability to a particular place. The Rule’s guidance on living in harmony and without the poison of murmuring tracks back to the idea of monastic stability.

Stability is the first of the Benedictine vows from chapter 58 of the Rule. Monks and nuns make a vow of stability, conversatio morum (fidelity to monastic life) and obedience. It is sometimes said that this is a single constellation of one monastic vow (as distinguished from three separate vows). But you will often hear monks speak about three Benedictine vows.

In summary, do listening and stability operate in different dimensions as the vertical and horizontal descriptions suggest? No, not at all. Such distinctions may even make some Benedictines cringe -- and rightfully so. Listening and stability are not separate concepts. They are linked and assist each other. That's the Benedictine way.

Listening gives direction and substance to how to be stable in a community and why it is important in the first place. Stability leads to the quiet life of conversatio morum — the necessary fidelity to a monastic life centered on listening to God.

For lay people like an oblate following the Rule of St. Benedict much of the power found in listening and stability is readily applicable to life in a family, in a home, outside the walls of a monastery. Many lay people pray the divine office and practice lectio divina. In addition to being Lord and savior, Christ is a fine abbot for any family.

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Footnotes:

Picture is CSIRO Parkes radio telescope in Parkes, Australia. The telescope was made more famous in the movie, "The Dish" which is one of my favorites.

From the Parkes' web site: "The CSIRO's Parkes Observatory is celebrating the International Year of Astronomy and the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. On 21 July 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin became the first people to set foot on the surface of the Moon. This remarkable achievement was the realisation of a long held dream of mankind. The television pictures of this historic event were received by the CSIRO Parkes telescope and relayed to 600 million people or 1/5th of mankind at the time."

(1) For explanations of these terms see divine office, reading, and lectio divina.

(2) From MEETING WITH REPRESENTATIVES FROM THE WORLD OF CULTURE ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI Collège des Bernardins, Paris, Friday, 12 September 2008

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Monastics: Back is Forward. A Benedictine oblate blog


In the monastic journal “Word and Spirit 17: Monastic On-Going Formation” I am now on page 11 and came across this comment:

“A promising sign in some formation programs has been a
rediscovery of the importance of monastic practices. Many
communities that had too impulsively jettisoned revered monastic customs in the renewal period, began to recognize the importance of these practices in providing for the ongoing formation of community. This has also coincided with a deepened awareness and retrieval of symbol and ritual. What some once considered esoteric or elitist were now deemed as distinctive shapers of monastic identity.”
For the lay person wanting to live a more spiritual and monastic life, I think the same truths apply. Going back to the sources and original ways of living in the ways that became known as the “monastic life” is a good way to move forward in my own spiritual development as a Benedictine oblate.

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Footnotes:

Picture is “Gernhardt on Robot Arm” by NASA.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Activism without listening/seeking God. A Benedictine oblate blog


On June 21, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI made an interesting comment on the relationship between prayer and good works. I thought the Pope’s comment helped clarify how prayer empowers working in the world. In my extension of the Pope’s idea, I can see how the Pope’s words could also mean that the contemplative life does not create an “either/or” separation with an active life of service.

Listening to Jesus Christ and seeking God are the best fuel for work.

Pope Benedict XVI made his comments in the homily for the Mass celebrated in front of the church of St. Pio of Pietrelcina(1) in Italy.

The Pope spoke about St. Pio's work to relieve suffering of the sick:

"In the first place came prayer. ... His days were a living Rosary, a continuous meditation upon, and assimilation of, the mysteries of Christ, in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary. This explains the unique simultaneous presence in him of supernatural gifts and of concrete human qualities. And the culmination of everything came in the celebration of Mass. ... From prayer, as from an endless font, arose charity. The love he carried in his heart and transmitted to others was full of tenderness, ever attentive to the real situations in which individuals and families lived. Towards the sick and suffering he nourished the predilection of the Heart of Christ, and it was from here that the idea for a great social project dedicated to the 'relief of suffering' was born and took shape. We cannot adequately interpret or understand this institution if we separate it from the source that inspired it: evangelical charity animated ... by prayer.

“Yet ‘the risks of activism and secularization are ever present’, warned Benedict XVI. ‘Many of you, religious and lay people, are so absorbed by your many obligations in serving pilgrims or the sick in hospital, that you run the risk of neglecting what is truly important: listening to Christ and accomplishing the will of God. When you realize that you are close to running this risk look to Padre Pio, to his example, to his sufferings, and invoke his intercession that he may obtain from the Lord the light and strength you need to continue his mission, imbued with love for God and fraternal charity.’” emphasis supplied

From PV-ITALY/MASS/SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO VIS 090622 (630)
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Footnotes:

(1) From the Padre Pio web site: “Padre Pio, [born May 25, 1887 died September 23, 1968] a humble Capuchin priest from San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, was blessed by God in many wonderful and mysterious ways. The most dramatic was the stigmata. Padre Pio bore the wounds of Christ for fifty years. Among his other gifts were perfume, bilocation, prophecy, conversion, reading of souls, and miraculous cures. People are still being cured through his intercession in ways that cannot be explained by medicine or science.” Padre Pio was canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Short Monastic-Book Pilgrimages. A Benedictine oblate blog


After my blog about buying “Word & Spirit 17 Monastic On-going Formation” for $1.95, another oblate at St. Leo Abbey sent me a link to where someone is selling “Word & Spirit 7" (an earlier journal in the series) on E-Bay for $37.69 plus $3.50 shipping.

I am learning much from the book I bought. Every few pages I read a new-to-me idea about monastic formation (how men and women are trained/learn/develop as monks/nuns/sisters). Such insights cause me to stop reading and begin thinking. I am on page 11.

Here is what I am mulling over now from pages 10 and 11 (with footnote references omitted):

“Caught up in a wave of professionalization and compartmentalization, monastic communities are subject to losing sight of the importance of the "wisdom figures" and spiritual directors without portfolio who constitute such a vital reserve of sanctity and holiness in monastic life. The "educating of the heart," so essential to generations of monastic formation, did not always find a comfortable fit in the fonts of new programs that came into being under the rubric of monastic formation.

“There was also a form of damage control that was required
when some experimental programs of monastic formation became untracked. In the name of pluralism, ongoing formation became a Procrustean bed of centering prayer and Jungian psychoanalytic theory, Meyers-Briggs and the Enneagram, twelve-step therapies and Journaling. Helpful as some of these methods may have been for individual or community spiritual development, they often had the effect of slighting the components of mainline monastic spirituality that were expected in formation programs. The discipline of lectio divina and traditional ascetical practices seemed to be overlooked by many involved in formation, replaced by a set of individualized "career" specializations and even more basic "survival" skills for human development.”
I do not know what else “Word & Spirit 17 Monastic On-going Formation” may describe, but in relation to the lay person seeking a more ascetic/monastic manner of living in the world, the heart-centered daily conversion seems to be path for me.

Both “Word & Spirit 17" and a book I got last year, "The Love of Learning and the Desire for God," by Jean Leclercq, OSB. Fordham University Press, New York, 2001, were acquired during trips to the St. Leo Abbey bookstore when I was not looking for a book or expecting to buy one. But as soon as I looked at the cover of each book, I knew I would buy it — without knowing that each was a used book or that it was the only copy at the bookstore. And as I picked up each book I thought "this is why I came today."

Both of these books have special places in my small library, like old teachers they say, "First, you must know the question."
__________________________

Footnotes:

Picture is Santiago de Compostella by jamesdale10. My blog about this pilgrimage site is here.

Here is a prior blog on the book "The Love of Learning and the Desire for God."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Video of St. Leo Abbey. A Benedictine oblate blog



Tampa Tribune Religion Reporter Michelle Bearden prepared an excellent video about St. Leo Abbey.

St. Leo Abbey, Florida, USA, is where my wife and I are oblates. This short video might help put faces and places to what I blog about. The abbot gives all of our oblate programs and Brother Stanislaw gives the lessons for the oblate novice classes.

Michelle Bearden also wrote a Tampa Tribune article about St. Leo Abbey. My blog about the article is here.

Regardless of your denomination or faith, you are welcome to have an individual or group spiritual retreat at St. Leo Abbey -- you need not be a Catholic. Here is a map to St. Leo Abbey and my web page over on the Oblate Spring giving contact information about the abbey and the map.

I know you will enjoy visiting the abbey just for a day trip or to have a retreat. Even if you do not go there on a retreat you can pray with the monks. The divine office is chanted in the abbey church and there are books for guests. Don't worry if you have not prayed with the monks before -- they will show you what to do -- arrive about 15 minutes early and a monk will set out and explain the books. It is easy.

To also get more information you can visit the St. Leo Abbey web site. There is a retreat center and a guest house. When my wife and I visit for our own private retreats we stay in the guest house. Group retreats are mostly housed in the retreat center.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Monk Myths. A Benedictine oblate blog


As a former long-time atheist, when I became a Christian, I changed my mind on several fundamental subjects. Or perhaps more accurately, I should say I came to see that my old ways of thinking were wrong because they were built upon dim assumptions. After an encounter with God, my entire life changed. I was led to the foot of the cross and a new life in Christ. That was about 25 years ago.

With such a large lesson in “I was wrong about that” out of the way, now I actually look forward to the frequent opportunities to learn something that will adjust my thinking toward a closer understanding of God’s truth.

One correction to my assumptions in the past few years has been about monks. I had gathered a mental montage of religious life from the wider culture, TV, books, and all the other sources that shrink-wrap our thinking. I had never met a monk.

Now that I know a few monks at the St. Leo Abbey in Florida, I can say that virtually every one of my previous images of monks was wrong.

The most striking change in my view is that monks are normal and regular people. They are approachable and welcoming. Gone is the stereotyped image of a person living in a false, make-believe land removed from world.

However, the most subtle change in my view is that monks are living witnesses to their vows of stability, conversatio morum, and obedience. Those are the vows from Chapter 58 of the Rule of St. Benedict.

My corrected understanding of monks is that they are people like the rest of us AND (not “but”) they live following ancient monastic principles with roots in the earliest days of Christianity — from “follow me,”(1) and “sell your possessions and give to the poor,”(2) to “pray without ceasing.”(3)

Monks are both more typical of human kind than my previous views AND are also more admirable Christian witnesses. Like nearly every more-accurate understanding I achieve, truth’s light is far brighter just below the world’s dull laminations.
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Footnotes:

Picture is "Abbot Philip of Christ in the Desert Monastery" in New Mexico, USA, by Bellagooch.

Christ in the Desert's web site is packed with monastic information. I enjoy, for example, the Abbot's Notebook. This monastery was where the 2006 TV show "The Monastery" (the USA version) was filmed.

(1) Luke 9:23-26

“Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” NIV

(2) Luke 12:33-34

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. NIV

Above quotes from HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

(3) 1 Thess 5:17-18

“pray without ceasing.” NASB

Above "Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 Used by permission."