Monday, April 28, 2008

An Ascetic Life

I just finished reading "The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers," by
Benedicta Ward, SLG. Available from Publisher. The small book is a series of 238 paragraph-size accounts of what the desert fathers did and said — each paragraph leading to a lesson about the Christian way of living.
Sometimes it took a little thought to understand the point trying to be made by the account, but most often they were clear.

Benedicta Ward also gives some background information on the range of ascetic practices which is one of the best summaries of the early monastic life:

"In the fourth century, Egypt, Syria and Palestine were the scenes of intensive asceticism virtually new in the Christian world. Every form of monastic life was tried, and reshaped according to the content of the Gospel. By AD 400 Egypt could be described as a land of hermits, a source of exasperation to the civil authorities, who preferred men to work, fight and pay taxes and a focus for enthusiastic, if at times misguided, admiration from Christians in the East and soon also in the West.

"Three main types of monastic experiment in Egypt correspond roughly to three geographical locations. In Lower Egypt St Antony the Great lived as a hermit and drew disciples to him who followed his way of life in solitude. In Upper Egypt there evolved a different form of the radical break with society in groups who lived in large communities under the inspiration of Saint Pachomius. Between these two extremes of eremitic and cenobitic life there emerged the lavra or skete, small groups living near a spiritual father and probably near a church where they could meet at weekends for the liturgy; these groups were found most of all in Nitria ..... In Palestine, Syria and Asia Minor there were also Christians who were involved in the ascetic life in its monastic forms, and some stories and sayings from these areas are occasionally found among the Egyptian sources, but it was Egypt that most attracted attention and produced written records which were to influence the monastic world continually."

End of quote from the "The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers," by
Benedicta Ward, SLG.


The following article written by Sue Carlton appeared in the January 4, 2008 edition of the St. Petersburg Times, it is about a lady who lived in Tampa:

"Mary who lived in the stairwell
"By Sue Carlton
"Published by the St. Petersburg Times January 4, 2008:

"When a real estate appraisal business was about to move into a new office in Tampa a few years back, the new owner was told of the building's quirks: There was a bit of a problem with bees, and there was Mary who lived in the stairwell.

"That was what they called her, Mary, though some who saw the 60-something woman on her daily forays around busy Cypress Street, to the 7-Eleven or the dry cleaner where they let her spruce up, knew her as Speedy. Or Linda. Or Sarah. Or the Homeless Lady.

"But at the BayOne building, she was Mary. She stowed her things in a wide utility storage space with a door under the stairs and at night she slept there, or just outside if the weather was right. She made herself building watchman, kept things tidy, reported burned-out bulbs and suspicious cars. The owner got so he'd check the weather forecast before he left at night. Mary would want to know.

"She wore lipstick sometimes, kept herself neat, liked healthy food. It took her awhile to trust you, months even, but then she was friendly and happy to see you. She said there was a fiance in Texas, or a husband she hoped would come get her. She said there was a daughter she didn't see but loved very much.

"People tried to help. Mary had a code; she would not accept gifts of things brand new or take more than $20. Bunny Garcia, who works in the building, gave her a bag of goodies to eat and a bottle of perfume one Christmas. Mary thanked her but gave back the perfume without opening the wrap to see what it was.

"Once, she said her name wasn't really Mary, but she wouldn't say any more. Now and then Garcia would find her crying. "Mary, are you okay?" she would ask, and Mary always said, "fine, fine, just one of those days."

"The man who came to clean the parking lot found her on the Saturday before Christmas. The Medical Examiner's Office later said it was natural causes. Even after that, someone left a bag of peaches, baby powder, raisins and Gatorade in the stairwell for her, not knowing she was already gone.

"When the florist called to make sure the memorial wreath was really supposed to be delivered to an office instead of a funeral home, he heard the story and sent one twice as elaborate. Mary could get you doing things like that.

"They put up a note at the 7-Eleven about a memorial service, and people kept coming, the woman who checked on her at night and brought her grandbaby to meet her, people who gave her the yogurt bars she liked, a man who kept her in batteries so she could listen to her favorite religious radio station. A young man who lived nearby talked about how Mary encouraged him about school. He left his high school graduation cap there in the stairwell with the flowers.

"They stood in a circle and told stories about how they knew her and cried some and wondered about her life, 35 people in all, some who might never have had reason to talk to each other otherwise. They tried to help her and somehow she helped them.

"Fingerprints revealed Mary's real name was Johnnie Ree Barlow. She turned 69 in October. She spent some time in Jackson, Miss. For now, that's what they know.

"Authorities will keep her ashes for four months. If they don't find her next of kin, those ashes will be spread somewhere over water. But even if no one comes, there is family off busy Cypress Street who will remember Mary."

Link to the article

End of the article.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

In the Garden of Time

In the morning before I pray Vigils, I look at the Universalis 2008 calendar that I printed in January, its about 15 pages, and I keep it with the book I use, Benedictine Daily Prayer to pray the Divine Office, (Here is an example of the Divine Office).

I read the Universalis calendar to see who is the Saint for the day, whether it is a feast day, and to remind myself of the Psalm week I am in and the section of the year I am in, like now it is the 5th week of Eastertide (Saturday, April 26, 2008).

While sitting in our meditation room, I spend several minutes looking at the Universalis calendar before I start with “O Lord, open my lips. And my mouth shall proclaim your praise.”

This morning, I realized I like the Catholic church calendar because there are layers and recurring sequences in the calendar — cycles within larger cycles.

When I talked with my wife about how the Catholic calendar is structured differently than a regular calendar, she said that the Catholic calendar is like a large garden. Each part of a garden and the calendar has a focal point as you move through it. Each part of the calendar tells a story as does a well-designed garden.

I enter into a garden and I have that same sense about the Catholic calendar — I am inside the calendar, seeing and directly experiencing the treasures of each part.

A regular calendar is like being on a highway. There may be mile markers, but I am still on the highway rather than in that garden I was fortunate to spot along the way.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Translations of the Rule of St. Benedict

I like Leonard J. Doyle's 1948 translation of the Rule. I do not know Latin and cannot comment on the technical merits of the various translations. Doyle's translation comes in many less expensive bindings, but if you want Doyle's translation in one of its most beautiful and practical versions, I can do no better than pass along what was recommended to me as the "one to get": The book is titled: The Rule of Saint Benedict

However, applying a principle I heard from people who do know how to translate similar documents, I think there are several excellent translations of the Rule which each have their own strengths.

It is a good to become familiar with all of such translations and use each translation depending on the purpose.

And lastly, recognizing that there are many excellent translations I may use at different times, I may decide that there is one translation of the Rule that I carry around when I need to have the Rule handy.

When I speak about my favorite translation or the best translation, it is to describe the translation of the Rule I am carrying most often.

And, the reason I most often have Doyle's translation with me is based on my high admiration of Doyle's first line — it is filled with a grace that fills the entire Rule from its first line to the end.

The inclined ear toward God seems to be heart of monastic life in my view. But to others, Doyle will sound odd.

Here are examples of several translations of the Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict:


"Listen, my son, to your master's precepts,
and incline the ear of your heart."

Patrick Barry, OSB:

"Listen, child of God, to the guidance of your teacher. Attend to the
message you hear and make sure that it pierces to your heart ...."

Terrence G. Kardong:

"Listen, O my son, to the teachings of your master, and turn to them
with the ear of your heart."

RB 1980:

"Listen carefully, my son, to the master's instructions, and attend
to them with the ear of your heart."

Joan Chittister, O.S.B.:

Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them
with the ear of your heart."

Anthony C. Meisel and M.L. del Mastro:

"Listen, my son, and with your heart hear the principles of your

Everyone may use many translations and benefit from them all and still have that personal favorite we take along to read at the park on Saturday afternoon — and then go to the ice cream parlor and wonder with a friend about why strawberry isn't everyone's favorite flavor. :)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Number of Benedictine Oblates in the World

Here is a list of the numbers of oblates in the world 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%


By Region, the numbers are as follows:

Central America [159]
Oceania [590]
Africa [826]
South America [1181]
Asia [1428]
Europe [9379]
North America [11918]

The information is from the Vatican web site

Friday, April 18, 2008

Liturgy Testimony of a Benedictine Oblate

In the the haligweorc blog on liturgy, we are encouraged: “We must share its riches. Specifically, this means we must testify to its power and capability to transform.”

I was a life-long atheist until nearly 40 years old. For the next 18 years, sound evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition grounded me in Biblical teaching. Recently, a Catholic Benedictine abbey was where the Holy Spirit deepened my ability to understand this ancient language. Like the two people on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:13, my heart burns within me as the scriptures are being opened during the Liturgy of the Hours and the Mass.

That is my testimony.

Is it OK to just read an Internet message board? -- Yes

How can an oblate use Internet message boards, mailing lists, and discussion forums? Do you have to post to participate? No!

Any form of involvement that fits your circumstances is OK and fulfills the purpose of virtually all Internet message boards you’ll find. When you read a book, you do not feel guilty if you do not jot off a note to the author.

I used the words "form of involvement" because when I use the words "level of involvement" it is too easy for me to slip into the rust, bronze, silver, gold, platinum, and plutonium rankings of almost everything in the world and that can cause me to think that the higher the level of involvement, the better the involvement. The benefits of Internet message boards and mailing lists don't work that way.

A huge majority of people seldom if every post, but the information they receive and think and pray about can be "priceless" to them. I have such a membership on several lists which I have treasured for years. In fact, in a couple, I think I was allowed in because I promised only to “lurk” (reading a message board without posting). And that is just what I wanted to do.

If you read message boards only when you are able or want to, and post a message only on Christmas and Easter, I doubt anyone will kick you out.

Not only are there individual life circumstances and workings of the Holy Spirit that shape a monastic interest in one person that is different from your Internet neighbor's, fortunately all those different interests can find a home in the long history of monasticism and in monastic web site across the Internet.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Monastic Garden for a Benedictine Oblate

We have a small garden with a sitting area. I enjoy the garden mostly through our windows, but I always place sitting outside as a "to-do" item high on my list of things to remember in the spring and fall.

It is so hard for me (maybe everyone with a garden) to take the time to just sit. When I do go outside to sit, it is always easier to see that extra work that should be done rather than feel the quiet rest for which the garden was made.

The words in the picture are true, but I struggle to apply them in my own garden.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

More on Blogging from Bok by Benedictine Oblate

In the previous blog, I told you a little of the silence I experienced today at Historic Bok Sanctuary and how that silence leads me to a deeper closeness with God. My wife also meditated at Bok Tower today. We followed our usual habit of enjoying lunch from the Blue Palmetto Café on the quiet outdoor patio before splitting up to head off to our favorite quiet spots. Today for her it was in the gardens, but a good distance from the Tower. She said that there were others there too doing the same — meditating and soaking in the beauty.

I brought the Benedictine Daily Prayer which is a book used for praying the Divine Office. I was carryied the computer and “Sacred Reading,” by Michael Casey which is our current reading assignment given by the abbot. And I had my fanny pack, hat and a light jacket because after lunch the temperature was still in the 60s and it was a little windy up on the Ridge. All my bags were getting heavy by the time I arrived at my favorite spot on the Trail with a grand view for miles stretching off to the east. Orange groves are at the base of the little hill on which the Sanctuary’s property sits and I could smell the scent of orange blossoms.

So I sat down on the bench and after a while sat on the ground and used the bench as a handy table for the computer. Although I was in the middle of the state with the Atlantic ocean about 60 miles to the east and the Gulf of Mexico about 60 miles to the west, I knew there were people enjoying the beaches on both sides of Florida. But where I was sitting — high on the ridge in the center of the state — was also a beach, actually part of the most ancient beaches in Florida. Millions of years ago, only this Ridge was above sea level, an island in a larger sea.

The silence today helped me hear God. Ancient places amplify that silence for some people — I am one. Antiquity helps separate me from distractions. And this is the most ancient land in Florida.

So, I enjoyed the beach with all my fellow Floridians today — except the beach I went to was really really old!

How old is it? It is so old that the ridge’s scrub vegetation and wildlife ecosystem is found no where else in the world. The Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge was the first refuge created for endangered and threatened plants, though wildlife and plants are not the only ones finding refuge here.

In silence and on that ancient beach, I prayed using the Benedictine Daily Prayer, wrote the previous blog, took some pictures, and listened to the soft sounds that came from the Bok Carillon Tower. Edward Bok once said, “Not only must the carillon be in tune, the hearers must be in tune with the carillon.” It felt that way today.

Blogging from Bok by Benedictine Oblate

I am writing this from Historic Bok Sanctuary in Lake Wales, Florida, USA.

The name aptly describes this beautiful combination of God’s beauty and human art. It was completed in 1929 and presented as a gift to the American people by Edward Bok. Before he left his native Netherlands to come to the United States, his wise grandmother had encouraged him: “Make you the world a bit more beautiful and better because you have been in it.”

And that he did. Historic Bok Sanctuary is a Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr-designed garden and 205-foot Gothic and art deco Carillon Tower — one of the best loved places for a spiritual renewal in Florida.

The land is ancient, the gardens are from a by-gone era and it has earned its name as a Florida Higher Place.

The silence quickly fills my soul while sitting or walking through the Bok Sanctuary. After a day at the Sanctuary, it feels as if I have been away a week. The age and beauty of this place has a lot to do with that I think.

While the gardens are super, it is the time sitting on a wooden bench along the Pine Ridge Trail — a nearly desert-looking untouched area of the Lake Wales Ridge in the Sanctuary that brings me closest to the silence and to God.

It may seem odd to have cactus in Florida, but the ecosystem has plenty and they were in bloom today. As is God’s peace..

Benedict likes Benedict in the future of Europe

There are many monastic gems in the Pope's writings about St. Benedict. In the following article, you can pick out your own. One of my favorites is, "St. Benedict's work and his Rule led to "a true spiritual ferment which over the course of the centuries - well beyond the confines of his homeland and his time - changed the face of Europe and created, with the collapse of political unity, a new spiritual and cultural unity, that of the Christian faith shared by the people of the continent""

The increasing number of oblates is the result of a similar spiritual ferment which can be seen moving through the world now.

All of the following is a quote from the Vatican Information Service (VIS):

VATICAN CITY, 9 APR 2008 (VIS) - Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis during this morning's general audience to St. Benedict of Nursia, "the father of western monasticism, who with his life and work exercised a fundamental influence on the development of European civilisation and culture". The audience, held in St. Peter's Square, was attended by 20,000 people.

The most important source for the life of the saint, the Pope explained, is the second book of "Dialogues" written by St. Gregory the Great, in which Benedict features as the "shining star" who shows the way out of the "dark night of history", in other words, the crisis of values and institutions caused by the fall of the Roman empire.

St. Benedict's work and his Rule led to "a true spiritual ferment which over the course of the centuries - well beyond the confines of his homeland and his time - changed the face of Europe and created, with the collapse of political unity, a new spiritual and cultural unity, that of the Christian faith shared by the people of the continent".

St. Benedict was born to a wealthy family around the year 480. He went to school in Rome but before completing his studies retired to a monastic community in Enfide. Subsequently he spent three years in a cave at Subiaco where he "underwent the three fundamental temptations that all human beings face: self-affirmation and the desire to place oneself at the centre, ... sensuality, ... and anger and revenge". This, said the Holy Father, was because "St. Benedict was convinced that only by overcoming these temptations would he be able find the right words to give others in their situations of need".

In the year 529 the founder of the Benedictine Order moved to Monte Cassino, "a height that dominates the surrounding plains and is visible from a distance". This was a symbolic decision on the saint's part, said the Pope, because "monastic life has its raison d'etre in withdrawal and concealment, but a monastery also has a public role in the life of the Church and of society".

Throughout his life St. Benedict "was immersed in an atmosphere of prayer, the main foundation of his existence. Without prayer there is no experience of God, but Benedict's spirituality was not an interior life divorced from reality. In the disquiet and confusion of his time, he lived under the gaze of God and with his own gaze fixed upon God, though without losing sight of his daily duties and the concrete needs of mankind".

St. Benedict died in 547. His famous Rule "provides useful advice not only to monks but to everyone seeking guidance on their journey to God. For its precision, its humanity, and its sober discernment between what is essential and what is secondary in spiritual life, the Rule has maintained its illuminating power up to today".

In 1964, Paul VI named Benedict as patron saint of Europe. "Having just emerged from a century profoundly marked by two world wars and following the collapse of the great ideologies, ... Europe today is searching for its own identity", remarked Pope Benedict.

"In order to create a new and lasting unity", the Pope concluded, "political, economic and juridical measures are necessary, but it is also necessary to generate an ethical and spiritual renewal which draws on the continent's Christian roots. Without this vital lifeblood, man remains exposed to the danger of succumbing to the ancient temptation of seeking redemption alone, a utopia which in 20th century Europe ... caused a retrocession without precedent in human history".
AG/ST. BENEDICT /...VIS 080409 (610)

Benedictine Monks and Oblates on the Internet

The Pope is right on the mark historically and as a call to monks today when he explained a few days ago that, “A monastic life of isolation has it's place, but a monastery also has a public aim in the life of the Church and society as a whole. It must serve to make faith visible as a force of life.”

Forward-looking monasteries today are those who know that monks were leaders and innovators in mass communication in times of crumbling civilization and warrior raids and should be today too. What would the world look like today if monks during the Benedictine Centuries (550 to 1150 AD) had the Internet instead of a quill?

Oblates have a similar opportunity.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Benedictine Oblate Sunday at the Abbey

I am a new oblate at St. Leo Abbey in Florida, USA.

Oblates attend monthly meetings which are a combination of group discussions/talks led by the abbot, (there are two sessions — one with a novice focus and one with a more general focus — and everyone may attend both sessions), midday prayer with the monks, lunch for fellowship, and usually shopping at the gift/bookstore or plant station. We often have reading assignments between meetings or questions to answer. There will often be guests who hear about the program and come to check it out. They are welcomed as Christ -- part of the Benedictine hospitality.

We have a yearly picnic and an annual weekend retreat which are sources of spiritual renewal.

Some oblates spend the night at the Abbey guest house on the weekends of the monthly meetings — thus giving themselves a mini private retreat.

There seems to be a wide variety of practice among the oblates at home — depending on their circumstances and interests.

So, if you are wondering what might happen at an oblate meeting at a monastery near you, you might expect some form of weekly and/or monthly programs and get-togethers which provide teaching and group discussions, at least one major yearly spiritual retreat, other than that -- the remainder of the time (which is most of you time), how you spend your time is up to you, your life-circumstances, and your internal monk.

“Everyone is different” is my new, first rule of monasticism! ;)

3,000-year-old history - parts of the Divine Office

This IS one of my favorite topics — the Divine Office (or Liturgy of the Hours, or Opus Dei (Work of God)) in general and its ancient roots in particular.

The 2500-3000-year-old history of daily praying the Songs (Psalms) of God’s people is perhaps the world’s oldest, daily religious practice. I even chuckle a bit at thinking that we might have been given a hint in the fact that largest book in the Bible and the book that occupies the center of the Bible just happens to be Psalms.

Anyway, that last part was just my own rambling, how far back does the Liturgy of the Hours go? Here is the reference I like it because it points to the growing practice of praying the LOH among lay people, which I believe will be a key force, central to the renewal of the Church that is talked about by the Popes:

The following is a quote from the Abbey of the Genesee Cistercian monks in Piffard, New York.

“The official prayer of the Roman Catholic Church is known variously as Liturgy of the Hours, Divine Office, Opus Dei (Work of God). The roots of this prayer go all the way back to Jewish practices before the time of our Lord. This form of prayer was prayed by Jesus and his disciples. As such, it was carried over into the devotion of the early Christian Church and continues in an unbroken tradition down to our own day.

“In both the Jewish and Christian traditions, this work of God was the prayer of all the people, clergy and laity. Due to various circumstances however, in the Christian Church it soon became the particular prayer of clergy and monks for many centuries. One of the blessings flowing from the liturgical reforms of Vatican II is the resurgence of the Divine Office among the laity. For our purposes we will refer to this form of prayer as the Work of God since that is the traditional Benedictine term.”

Why does the Divine Office hold a special place in monastic hearts?

If you like a deeper spirituality, the Divine Office (or Liturgy of the Hours (LOH)), or Opus Dei (Work of God) is often what draws people.

I think there is a mystery or something special that makes the Psalms a flowing spring for the Holy Spirit’s power.

From the Human Ancestors of Jesus. The personal accounts of the struggles and unbending faith of those in the human lineage of Jesus (the Jewish authors of the Psalms) makes it easier for us to feel a comforting kinship with these most ancient songs to God.

Jesus Christ came in fulfillment of the prayers and songs of the people who wrote and sang the Psalms, and they were the human ancestors of Jesus. These are the Songs that Paul tells us to sing. These were the songs Jesus loved. Jesus’s IPod had all 150 Psalms!

Before the Divisions. The use of the Psalms in daily song and prayer has continued in an unbroken chain of tradition from the days of antiquity before any division between Jews and Christians. Catholics, of course, but also Protestants can quickly feel an affinity with the various forms of the LOH (St. Benedict's, for example) that were developed about 1,000 years prior to Martin Luther’s publication of his Ninety-five Theses in 1517 which led to the Reformation and a split in Christianity.

For major parts of the LOH, the texts for the LOH are taken from times when those who acknowledged God’s sovereignty were in greatest unity.

The close human connection of the authors of the Psalms to Jesus the man and the core of the LOH being taken from sources treasured by Catholics, Protestants, and Jews as a common religious tradition fills the LOH with spiritual depth and power.

Or, stated differently, a source for drawing closer to God that has been used, treasured, tested, survived all attempts to stamp it out, and that comforted Jewish prophets, the 12 apostles, and heroes and saints of the Catholic church, and Jesus as he prayed alone at night to God, and whose core texts date back some 3,000 years, might still have some use today!

Monastic silence enters Episcopal Church

Here is part of an article from the Tampa Tribune,


Tribune correspondent
Published: April 11, 2008

CLEARWATER - They're a little bit rock 'n' roll, a little bit candlelight, a little bit absolute silence.

"Sundays at 5," the Sunday evening services at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension, offer worshippers a different way to connect with God.

Instead of a sermon, they get 10 minutes of quiet....." Full Article


People are seeking silence in church, but that is not surprising because that is where we meet God. The entering into silence is a seeking after God.

How to become a Benedictine Oblate

If you want to know the typical steps a monastery will request you to follow in first becoming an oblate novice and then -- after a year or two -- an oblate of the monastery, this page on the Oblate Spring web site provides a list of the stages. "How to become an oblate."

What do Benedictine Oblates Do?

This page on the Oblate Spring web site describes the basic practices and expectations of the monastery at which you make your oblation. "What do Oblates do?"

What is a Benedictine oblate?

Here is a link to the Oblate Spring web page on "What is an oblate?"

Plain Catholic Blog added as a Link

The blog of Plain Catholic in the Mountains, "Living our faith in plain and humble service to Jesus, Our Lord and Savior" ORA ET LABORA (Prayer and Work) has been added to the list of links of Blogs and Wed Sites for monastics

The Rule of St. Benedict -- Only one book has had a greater impact on the Western World

St. Benedict and his Rule of St. Benedict. Did we all miss something in our public education? Because of the power and effectiveness of his Rule for monks living in a community, St. Benedict is often called the father of Western monasticism, born at Nursia, Italy c. 480; died at the famous monastery he founded, Monte Cassino, Italy, 543 AD. It has been said other than the Bible, the Rule of St. Benedict has been the most important book for the development of Western civilization.

I heard recently on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) that virtually every ancient scroll that survived to the 700's has survived to today — thanks to the monks. Their contribution to the preservation of Western civilization is remarkable. And that is just one of the many things they did while sitting silently in their rooms behind monastery walls.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Benedictine Balance

Be gentle on yourself as you follow your own monastic path. You will learn of that Benedictine balance for your life, a freedom, a quiet rest in God's love.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Internet and 21st-century Benedictine oblate communities

Recently, three lay people who do not live near each other met at a monastery for what is called a mini conclave — a time to meet in person and pray. They had only met before on through the Internet. The mini conclave (one of the meanings of the word conclave “is a meeting especially of a group with shared or specialized interests.”) illustrates that the Internet is a new and important facilitator for oblate monasticism in the 21st century.

Monastics use the Internet because the Internet:

1. Finds Other Monastics. Interactions among monastics in Internet-based associations help identify common interests. This promotes cohesiveness in a diverse group of people.

2. Filters out Differences. The Internet tends to filter and lessen the differences that can divide people.

3. Avoids Intrusions. Use of the Internet for communication allows monastics to communicate only when he or she wants, interruptions are avoided. If monastics developed the standards for the perfect method of monastic communication, it would be the Internet.

4. Provides easy access to resources. The Liturgy of the Hours often prayed and sung by monastics traces its roots back 3,000 years to the Jewish Old Testament practices and much of the other foundational material is centuries old. Because so much of the material is not subject to copyright, Internet web sites can often provide the very best materials --from the ancient saints and doctors of the church.

The Internet has characteristics that aid all monastics. Internet communication fosters the monastic characteristics of silence, isolated contemplation, and reading. Communication with other people is faster, easier, less expensive, and comes into our life only at the times we choose. A home library suddenly has access to more books than contained in any physical library.

A growing number of monastics use the Internet in the 21-century for new forms of communication that were unknown in history, but whose result still produces the gathering of two or more in his name and the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours for his glory.