Church of the Holy Cross
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"The love of God is all that matters." Those words ended the homily by an elderly monk priest Saturday, June 5, 2010 at St. Leo Abbey, Florida, USA. My wife and I were on a weekend retreat there having arrived Friday afternoon before Vespers (divine office explained). Saturday's 7:00 am Lauds and 7:30 am Mass pulled us quickly into the pace of monastic time.
The elderly priest's voice was quiet and trembled a little during all but his concluding words. The concluding words of his homily were just as soft, but were spoken with astonishing authority — they stayed forefront in my mind throughout the rest of the retreat. And even now, when I thought about all that I might say in a blog after my long Lent preparation, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and Octave of Pentecost absence, it was those words, "The love of God is all that matters," that first came to mind as a fitting oblate blog topic.
The love of God is all that matters. Those words began our first full day at the abbey.
We had a wonderful time during the rest of our stay.
Those early morning Masses at the abbey are much shorter than the Mass on Sundays when the abbey's Church of the Holy Cross is nearly always overflowing. But for the non-Sunday Mass, usually there are only a handful of people — typically people like us on retreat and a few local women who faithfully come every day. The morning also means the abbey church is especially cool, quiet, and filled with a much softer light than later in the day.
At Lauds (morning prayer — part of the Benedictine Divine Office) before Mass, the monks all arrive hooded and in silence that began the night before at Compline (the night prayer — part of the Benedictine Divine Office). At Compline the monks had left the abbey church with their monastic hoods over their heads. The monks do not speak until the next morning at the start of Lauds when they remove their hoods in unison and begin from Psalm 51:15, "Lord, open my lips. And my mouth shall proclaim your praise."
After Lauds there is a short break before Mass. And the short homily last Saturday ended with the monk's great wisdom for the start of our retreat and for these weeks after Pentecost — "The love of God is all that matters."