Thursday, December 25, 2008

Gold Frankincense Myrrh

Gold Frankincense Myrrh

[Click picture to enlarge]

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I am Pro Antiphon. A Benedictine oblate blog

I have been thinking about the parts of the divine office. The antiphons, psalms, hymns, canticles, readings, Benedictus, Magnificat, responsory, Nunc Dimittis, litanies, prayers — and there may be some elements of the divine office that I have overlooked.

While I enjoy the entire divine office, I especially enjoy the antiphons and the longer readings in Vigils when the readings are from an early church father or later saint. And if pressed to give my favorite part of the divine office, it would be the antiphons because they are packed with so much of why I enjoy all of the divine office in the first place. Antiphons are like compact divine offices — full of deep spirituality and poetic imagery while also conveying the most profound truths about God.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I like Advent. A Benedictine oblate blog

I have enjoyed every day of Advent. I understand Christmas better because I participated in Advent — Reading, study, following the Advent sections in Benedictine Daily Prayer, a book for praying the divine office.

My focus on Advent helped me avoid spending time on distractions that often fill my time before Christmas. Advent served as a shield. I knew what I would be doing with much of my free time — using the time in Advent to prepare and wait.

Advent has allowed me to see the essential parts of Christmas, the Biblical accounts and our praise for God’s love. It’s a decluttered Christmas that I approach.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Monastic Christmases. A Benedictine oblate blog

I have been thinking about monks/nuns/sisters (Religious) and how they spend their Christmases. I have no first-hand knowledge. My imagination tells me that if I wanted to enjoy a historic Christmas, I should visit a monastery during Christmas time.

I searched some of the blogs by Religious that are linked on the right sidebar of this blog. I searched for blogs that gave a glimpse of what happens in the life of a Religious during Advent/Christmas time that may be different from other times of the year. I found four such blogs, two by monks, one by a novice sister, and one by a nun.

In summary, their Christmases seem exactly like the Christmases many Christians talk about: relevant, noncommercial, focused on Christ and his coming — who could have guessed?

The monastic life is an ancient form of Christian living that withstood countless barbarian invasions in centuries past. Monasteries helped rebuild Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Today monasteries quietly offer a much different form of Christmas than is popular in today’s commercial culture.

The Pope said, above all else monasteries are places of spiritual power — and with good reason. If you want to see the spiritual power that can withstand the dark ages, attend a Christmas-Eve Midnight Mass at a monastery. Thank them for tending the flame.

Here is an excerpt from a blog by a monk at Subiaco Abbey in the state of Arkansas, USA:

During Advent “music is markedly both more somber and melodious than during other periods. In contrast to the jubilation of Easter or the penitence of Lent, the music of Advent inspires a feeling of being called to meditate on the Miracle of Christ’s birth.”

Here is an excerpt from a 2007 blog by a monk at Conception Abbey in the state of Missouri, USA:

“Yesterday we had first vespers of Christmas at 4:45 PM. Then at 6:00 PM we had our Christmas dinner, a banquet. At 7:45 PM we had Vigils and then at midnight we had Mass. I myself did not attend the midnight Mass here as I went to Clyde Monastery and had Mass for the Benedictine Sisters at 9:00 PM. That is when they have their Christmas Mass. When I got back it was about 11:00 PM so I went to bed. This morning we had Lauds at 9:00 AM and then most of the monks went to the infirmary as the monks who live there opened their gifts. At 11:00 AM we had a second Christmas Mass. This afternoon at 5:00 PM we have vespers and then at 7:00 PM Compline or night prayer.”

Here is an excerpt from a 2007 blog of a novice sister at Colwich Abbey in England:

“On Christmas day we came to breakfast and found a large scented candle at each of our places - a gift from a friend of the community, Chris - and a bag of goodies given by our Oblate Edna and friend Audrey. We have lit the candles at our evening meal each day and the bags which were full of individually wrapped things such as gardening gloves, hand cream and socks gave us lots of enjoyment. Later in the day we came together for festive recreation with tea, cakes and crackers.”

Here is an excerpt from a blog of a cloistered Passionist Nun in the state of Kentucky, USA:

“Happy Advent to all of you! Advent is always an adventure for our new members who are used to Christmas decorations going up shortly after Thanksgiving Day (or even before!). Here in the monastery we are grateful that we are protected from the immense commercialism of this time of the year. Instead, we try to spend more time in prayer and Scripture reading, thinking of our Lady and how she prepared for the Light of the World about to be born.

“Currently, they are joyfully anticipating Christmas Eve Midnight Mass where they will help to welcome the Divine Infant by offering him their musical talent through their arrangements of organ and violin. If you live nearby [Passionist Nuns, 8564 Crisp Road, Whitesville, KY 42378] we invite you to join us on that Holy Night as we worship and give thanks to the Eternal Father for the gift of Christ his Son. The Carols begin at 11:30 p.m.”

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nothing’s new except seeking the old. A Benedictine oblate blog

I try to read a few pages in a monastic book each day, but I neglect this practice more often than I enjoy it.

After the morning office a few days ago I got my current monastic book(1) and opened it to where I stopped reading, but I got called away and it was not until late at night that I saw the book again, still there, opened and unread.

Happily, yesterday and today I was able to read several pages. The book is now summarizing the role of monasticism and particular monks in the Carolingian renaissance (about 790 AD to about 900 AD). That renaissance was brought about by Charlemagne’s efforts to bring order to the West.

Charlemagne “attacked disorder in every domain: doctrine, morality, worship, and monastic observance.”

In terms of the liturgy, Charlemagne wanted to restore the older liturgical practices and to accomplish that, “it was thought closer contact with Roman liturgy had to be renewed.” And to bring about such renewal, Charlemagne encouraged the study and learning of Latin. It was thought that if priests did not know Latin, they could not properly understand the “Sacred Scriptures.”

Monks served as major teachers of these renewing activities. Their works led to more learning, reading, and the spread of Latin.

The desire for renewal by the use of Latin in the liturgy is a discussion topic today (both pro and con) as a result of Pope Benedict XVI’s actions, but the 21st century is the not the first time a similar work has been started, it also happened in the 800s AD during the Carolingian renaissance and was moved ahead by monks who also took the Benedictine name.

These early works by Benedictine monks further solidified the monastic tradition in the West on its three pillars: sacred reading, liturgy, and work.



The Love of Learning and The Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture, by Jean Leclercq

Friday, December 19, 2008

Demanding what’s lacking. A Benedictine oblate blog

One of my favorite commentaries on Benedictine monasticism is the little book, "The Benedictines," by Dom David Knowles(1). St. Benedict’s Rule for monks written in about 530 AD has wisdom to impart to today’s world and writers like David Knowles do a good service in showing that truth.

A family is used in "The Benedictines" to illustrate how monks live together in harmony, because family-type relations are often spoken of in the Rule.

During Christmas time when some of us may have more family visits, the following quote from "The Benedictines" may help explain how to have a Benedictine relationship with all family members. This is a commentary on monks, but we can see every family here too:

“As a member of a family the Benedictine comes to realize that charity is often better than zeal and sacrifice; that it is ill quarreling in a small boat on a long voyage; that he must accept from his brothers what they have and not demand from them what they lack; that many things are healed by time. As a superior, he may have realized that here too he cannot escape from the limitations of his medium; that it is in and with and for his family that he must work; that neither hand nor head could exist without the body; that he is the head or the hand of this definite body and cannot leave it behind or tear it in pieces or transmute it into something rich and strange.”



(1) "The Benedictines," A Digest for Moderns
By Dom David Knowles
Monk of Downside Abbey
Introduction by Marion R. Bowman, O.S.B.
Abbot of Saint Leo Abbey
The Abbey Press
Saint Leo, Florida
Here is an incomplete, online version of this classic work.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Icon Workshop

Icon Workshop

[Click picture to enlarge]

St. Leo Abbey, Florida, USA, Monday, February 9, 2009 to Sunday, February 15, 2009, will be the site for an Icon Workshop with Master Iconographer Philip Zimmerman.

I have a growing understanding of icons and that has led to a much deeper appreciation of their place in my life.

I received the flyer for the workshop at the last oblates' meeting at St. Leo Abbey — I have no association with the workshop in any way — and am just passing it along to those on the Internet who might not have heard about this workshop.

The sheet gives these contacts for more information:

Web site:


Philip Zimmerman


Virginia Crippen

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Vatican on Monasticism. A Benedictine oblate blog

The Oblate Spring web site is the companion to this blog. Today I revised the page containing links to "Vatican Documents on Monasticism." Some of the Vatican's statements have been extracted and added as quotes below the links.

A summary of the documents linked on the "Vatican Documents on Monasticism" page might be the following from Pope John Paul II in 1996:

"In the heart of the Church and the world, monasteries have been and continue to be eloquent signs of communion, welcoming abodes for those seeking God and the things of the spirit, schools of faith and true places of study, dialogue and culture for the building up of the life of the Church and of the earthly city itself, in expectation of the heavenly city."

I especially think the following from Pope John Paul II in 1995 helped me understand the total call of being part of the faithful baptized. What is sometimes thought of as being “monastic” can also be sought by all:

"Moreover, in the East, monasticism was not seen merely as a separate condition, proper to a precise category of Christians, but rather as a reference point for all the baptized, according to the gifts offered to each by the Lord; it was presented as a symbolic synthesis of Christianity.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hoping 911 does not arrive. A Benedictine oblate blog

This happened tonight as I was arriving at the monastery for compline so it’s fair commentary under the topic of My Oblate Life.

In the five years I have had my cell phone I have been very careful not to let the battery run low. But I have been noticing that the battery has less charge so I had a good idea that on a day of especially heavy cell phone use (today I talked for 2.5 hours) I might have a call interrupted because a dead battery. Well, it happened tonight at the monastery.

Compline is at 8:00 pm and I arrived at the abbey about 7:40 pm. I had talked on the phone during the 45 minute trip to the abbey. The phone was on the passenger’s seat.

Now, I also need to tell you a bit about excellent Pasco County, Florida, where the monastery is located. It is rapidly growing, but around the abbey it is still somewhat rural — plus the abbey has been there for 119 years — everyone knows about and cares about this great local institution.

So, as I am getting out of the car at the abbey, I pick up the phone from the passenger-side seat, remove the keys and start to get out of the car. I hear the cell phone dialing in my earpiece.

Hmm, I think, the phone should be locked, oh, but wait. I look at the phone, sure enough “Dialing Emergency Number” is on the screen. Ooops. I quickly click on cancel the call and after about 2 or 3 rings, the call is cancelled — I hope.

Ten seconds later, as I am walking to the abbey, the phone rings, it’s a number I don’t recognize. I wonder if it could be 911 calling back.

If you use a cell phone “they” are able to tell where you are located, who you have been calling, maybe even what version of the Rule of St. Benedict you prefer — all I know is that they know a lot from cells phones.

I decide to let the call go to voice mail and then listen to the voice mail to see if it’s from 911. I reason that if the voice message is from 911 and they say something like — “we know you’re at the abbey so we’ll be sending the police and an emergency medical team right over” I will just call back and apologize for calling them and let them know that everyone is OK.

Yep, in just about the length of time it would take for 911 to leave the “we’re-heading-on-over-to-the-abbey” voice mail, I see the little voice-mail icon on the cell phone screen.

I replay the voice mail.

Yes, it was the 911 operator who left the voice mail message. His voice is professional, direct, concerned: “This is the 911 operator, we just received a hang-up call from this number and ........”

“And...” what? The 911 operator’s call back to my phone suddenly stops in midsentence. What comes after “AND.....” The police are rolling? The medical helicopter has been summoned from the regional medical center? The SWAT Team has been called? I need to remember to stop at Publix and buy some tea on the way home?

I look at the phone, the battery is dead, but the little hourglass rebooting icon is showing on an otherwise blank screen. I try to turn the cell phone off, it won’t turn off.

I take out the battery while I am standing at the steps of the abbey ready to go in for compline’s peace and prayer. I put the battery back in — same thing — the spinning hourglass.

I do it again, this time leaving the battery out longer. Same thing happens again. I listen for the sounds of approaching sirens, nothing yet.

Then I take out the battery and the SIM card. When I replace them, the hourglass is still spinning on a blank screen and I still cannot turn the phone off.

I wonder if I should wait to see if the phone will reset or just go on into compline.

Oh, yes, I picture it in my mind, the monks are beginning their Gregorian chant and the heavy doors of the abbey burst open as the fire fighters and Emergency Medical Personnel rush into the abbey church and point to me: “There is the guy who called, what’s your emergency?”

I decide to go into compline and take my chances. If you have read the Rule of St. Benedict you might recall the punishments under the Rule. What do you suppose the punishment was for “False 911 call during compline”? I didn’t want to think about it either.

I walked up the church stairs, looking back to see if I could see any blue or red lights off in the distance. I went in to a quiet, very dark church.

Fortunately, all I heard during compline were the 8:00 pm church bells and the blessed singing of the monks.

When compline was finished, I checked my phone and it had reset itself. I checked the voice message when I got back home to listen to the rest of the message. The end of the message was, “and if you have an emergency, please call back.” Whew!

Pope Benedict said in 2007 “A monastery is above all this: a place of spiritual power. ...Take advantage of these springs of God’s closeness in your country; treasure the religious communities,... and make use of the spiritual service that consecrated persons are willing to offer you!” Well spoken Pope, but you should add my own tip about visiting an abbey — don’t call 911 just before you enter compline.


Photo credit: All Health Care

Source of Pope quote:



Sunday, 9 September 2007


Monday, December 15, 2008

Silence. A Benedictine oblate blog

I have been thinking about spirituality. And I think that many people from different backgrounds seek a more spiritual life. But where to start, what can mark the way, and where to end up?

For me the best single piece of advice was to pursue silence daily, even minute by minute as best as my situation in life will allow.

The silence that marks my way is not like going into a sound-proof booth, instead I seek silence I can enter — like seeing trees in a quiet park, or at night when ancient stars speak, in prayers with the mountains, in feeling a symphony by the sea, or in the beauty of the desert. Or my favorite, a dark monastery before compline(1). In all those places silence is given its voice.

Everyone is different — is at a different place. Regardless of those differences some people may find that an additional manner or connection with silence is on their way into a deeper spirituality.



(1) Compline is part of a series of daily prayers and readings known as the divine office.

Picture Credit:

National Park Service Digital Image Archives
Dry Tortugas
National Park
I think the picture is part of Fort Jefferson. Construction on the fort began in 1846. "Fort Jefferson remains one of the largest masonry structures in the Western Hemisphere. Taking up the entire 16-acre Garden Key, one of seven islands constituting the Dry Tortugas." Source.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A single ray continues, monastically. A Benedictine oblate blog

The last two blog posts were about St. Benedict and the shepherds who both saw the bright glory of the Lord in the night sky.

In addition to seeing the glory shine all around, St. Benedict also had a very monastic vision at the same time. He saw the entire world represented in a single ray of light. This event may have helped guide or confirm St. Benedict’s vision in the Rule of St. Benedict(1) of a Christian life that combines the material and spiritual into one life devoted to seeking God.

Benedictine monasticism for monks, nuns, and sisters is well known for its ordered, humane, yet deeply spiritual ways.

Ora et labora (prayer and work) — although the specific term is not used in the Rule of St. Benedict — is often used as the guiding principle of those living by the Rule — particularly oblates.

I hope I see all my ora et labora — all my world — in that single ray of light — that would be very Benedictine during this Advent.



(1) St. Benedict’s Rule became the foundation of Western monasticism and that monasticism preserved and then was a major cause of the development of Europe. It has been said that other than the Bible, the Rule of St. Benedict has been the most important book for the development of Western civilization.

St. Benedict who saw the whole world during the dark nights of the collapse of the Roman Empire might be the perfect person to help rebuild and redevelop Europe in the light of Christ that combined prayer and work.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

St. Benedict & the Shepherds. A Benedictine oblate blog

When Jesus was born shepherds living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flocks saw the glory of the Lord. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone all around.

About 500 years later, the mighty empire that crucified that glory was dying and could not keep a candle lit in Rome, while Jesus continued to give new birth in everlasting light.

St. Benedict was born into the darkness of the collapsing Roman Empire, but like the earlier shepherds, he too saw the glory of the Lord one night - the light filled the entire sky like the day. Then immediately, St. Benedict also saw the whole world represented in a single ray of light.

The earlier shepherds were afraid when they first saw the glory of the Lord, St. Benedict was not. St. Benedict wrote in Chapter 7 of the Rule on the illumination of love:

"Having climbed all these steps of humility,
therefore, the monk will presently come to that
perfect love of God which casts out fear."

In lectio divina and silence my wife and I prepare to celebrate Christ's light during this Advent. We pray to see the world only by Christ's singular light and to praise his glory with all our love.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The world in a ray of Light. A Benedictine oblate blog

The Rule of St. Benedict does not mention Advent, but the Life of St. Benedict, by St. Gregory the Great gives this account of St. Benedict when he saw the whole world in a single ray of light:

"How the whole world was represented before his eyes:

"Another time, Servandus, Deacon and Abbot of that Monastery which was built by Liberius, sometime a senator, in the Campania, used often to visit him, for being also illuminated with grace and heavenly doctrine, he repaired divers times to the Monastery that they might mutually communicate one to another, and, at least with sighs and longing desires, taste of that sweet food of the celestial country whose perfect fruition they were not as yet permitted to enjoy. When it was time to go to rest, venerable Benedict went up to the top of the tower in the lower part of which servandus the Deacon had his lodging, and from which there was an open passage to ascend to the higher. Over against the said tower was a large building in which the disciples of both reposed. While as yet the Monks were at rest, the man of God, Benedict, being diligent in watching, rose up before the night office and stood at the window making his prayer to Almighty God about midnight, when suddenly, looking forth, he was a light glancing from above, so bright and resplendent that it not only dispersed the darkness of the night, but shined more clear than the day itself. Upon this sight a marvelous strange thing followed, for, as he afterwards related, the whole world, compacted as it were together, was represented to his eyes in one ray of light."


Picture Credit:

APOTD, May 1, 2003
The Energetic Jet from Centaurus A
Credit: M. J. Hardcastle (Univ. Bristol), et al.
X-ray; Chandra Observatory, NASA / Radio; NRAO, VLA

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Long praying, short prayer. A Benedictine oblate blog

I went to St. Leo Abbey (near our home) for 8:00 pm Compline which is part of the divine office. The monastery’s Romanesque (massive with rounded arches) Church of the Holy Cross was very dark, but the crucifix was illuminated from high above so that all of its details could be seen.

The church’s crucifix is a large sculpture of Jesus. The face of Jesus is a replica of the Shroud of Turin — it is a focal point of the church even during the day when the church is well lit.

As I walked into the church for Compline, I could not see anyone, but I could hear some monks praying the rosary. There is a statue of Mary in a small side chapel.

I could hear only a few of the words being prayed by the monks. They were praying quietly tucked away in the light of the Blessed Virgin Mary chapel.

Silent stillness is different from complete (sound-proof) silence. (Here is my blog when I discovered this.)

Silhouettes of the church’s architectural forms, its many arches, and windows added their own soft voices.

I think people need this glorious stillness. I just sat in silence for about 15 minutes. There was plenty of silent space in the church.

For a prayer, people might need just as much silence as praying. I learned this ancient monastic principle today in a blog I read.

Today I read the Subiaco Academy blog which gives one of the easiest to understand explanations of St. Benedict’s encouragement in Chapter 20 of the Rule of St. Benedict that prayer should be short and pure:

“In St. Benedict’s time, it would have been common for monks to spend four or more hours a day in communal prayer. We may wonder what St. Benedict is talking about when he says that “prayer should be short and pure.” Early Christians, particularly the Desert Fathers and monastics, made a distinction between saying prayers and the prayer itself. In many traditions there was a period of silence following the recitation of a prayer. This silence made room for spontaneous prayer from the heart—the short, pure prayer that Benedict recommends.”


December 12, 2008 Correction to this blog.

I went to St. Leo Abbey for Compline on December 11 (after the Compline visit described in this blog) and when I sat in the very dark church again, I looked around to see if my description of the Church of the Holy Cross that I had included in the above blog was, in fact, accurate! Well, it is not. The light on the crucifix is not from high above as I wrote. The light is from below, just like it was on night written about in this blog. I thought that it was interesting that the effect on my memory showed another aspect of the artist’s work in sculpting this beautiful crucifix. And I prefer good artist to poor memory!


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Good News, it’s really dark. A Benedictine oblate blog

November is the month in the liturgical year to remember the dead — to remember those whose life on earth is complete. November ends the liturgical year. Advent start the year. But Advent has increasing darkness until the light of Christ appears. It is Advent’s growing darkness that has occupied me recently.

Advent’s darkness is good because it further separates us from the former year, our former lives.

As that old life ends, and for those seeking to put off the old self in a new day, this is good news, a good night. Advent’s darkness moves us day by day away from the past year.

"As an Oblate" blog reminds us that: “Advent is a good time for those who have been away from the Church to return.” Even though they may have traveled through the night, they return just in time for the start of a new day, in a new light.

And the Monastic Skete blog reminds us that we can see farther in darkness than during the daytime. If we want to find the same destinations that occupied us in the old year, we can use the world’s light, but if we seek the most distant horizon, we will want to look farther in the darkest nights in December.

There is another aspect of this time of year. Advent’s darkness is a canvas of life — none of the light is from us. Our own light does not matter, and we are shown this during Advent. Our light slips away. It is against this backdrop that Christ’s light appears.

With Advent’s darkness also comes the cold. On a soul’s dark night and because we wear Advent’s heavy cloak, we come to know that only Christ’s love can warm us. The Abbey of the Arts blog also celebrates the source of our light.

The long nights of Advent are best for the night office of vigils prayed by all who pray the divine office, the liturgy of the hours. Stillness is best for lectio divina in the dead of night — a time that amplifies God’s quiet speaking.

While thinking about Advent’s darkness, I read Amy’s poem, “Illumination,” at A Square Peg Breaks Free blog. The poem elegantly describes our relation to darkness and light.

Amy’s poem ends (is completed) with Hope. Everyone has lived in nights of grief and dark hardships, Advent promises to complete those nights in Hope.

Hope is there from the first day of Advent. It may seem odd that the new liturgical year begins while the nights are still getting longer. The new liturgical year begins with Advent, not Christmas or January 1.

The new liturgical year does not avoid the growing darkness. The calendar does not pick a first day for Advent that has the long nights left behind in the old year. It is precisely by and in Advent’s darkness that we are carried to the new light. Counting the days of growing darkness is also counting the days getting closer to our eternal Hope.

Advent’s darkness allows us to starkly separate ourselves from the old self. Advent’s long nights allow us to see farther to a new point of light. Advent is the best backdrop for the new light of Christ. Advent’s cloak proves our need to be wrapped in Christ’s love. Advent begins with Hope. We arrive at the manger when the shepherds do, at night. That’s good.


Picture source:

APOTD July 7, 1999 M80: A Dense Globular Cluster
Credit: F. R. Ferraro (ESO /Bologna Obs.), M. Shara (STSci /AMNH) et al.,
& the Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/ STScI/ NASA)


December 10, 2008 to add link and comment about "As an Oblate" blog.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Oblate Christmas Party. A Benedictine oblate blog

My wife and I attended the oblate Christmas party Sunday at the monastery. At last month’s oblate meeting we drew a monk’s name so we could buy a gift for that monk and give it to him at the party. We drew the same name we drew last year — how about that?

One of the most enjoyable parts of getting the gift is that the gift for “our” monk is the first Christmas gift we buy, give, and see opened.

We wrapped his gift Saturday night — by itself — that small gift is on its own track through our house. Saturday night it was the time to wrap one gift for one monk and deliver it Sunday at the party.

We enjoy talking with the other oblates (oblate defined) at the Christmas party because we have much in common with them and those common interests are about the most important parts of our lives — seeking God in prayer. That creates a strong bond.

It was also good that all the gifts are for the monks. They do so much for us and the community in which they live — not the least of which is their daily prayers of the divine office they have been saying during each day, every day, for the past 119 years at this location and for about 1,500 years at other monasteries in the world. Their continuing gift to us is that they preserve an essential part of the Church — their monasteries and their conversatio morum (fidelity to the monastic life).

Pope Benedict XVI called monasteries “places of spiritual power.” We are most aware of that gift to us every time we visit. We were welcomed as Christ (from ch. 53 of the Rule). Thanks Benedictine monks.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Returning Catholics Blog — A new blog enters the Blogosphere

Jim is a Roman Catholic — returning to the Church. He writes in the Welcome post to his NEW blog, Returning Catholics:

“I grew up as a Roman Catholic and left the church when I was about 20 years old. I wandered through life searching for "THE ANSWER" to life. Eventually, I attended seminary and became a Protestant pastor.”

And he is becoming a Benedictine Oblate!

OK, let’s recap the author of this new blog by a Benedictine oblate:

Brought up Catholic.
Left Church and thought he could not return.
Attended seminary.
Became a Protestant pastor.
Still felt there was something else.
A friend invited him back to the Church.
He returned to the Church.
He is becoming an Benedictine oblate.

All of those items on the list are important parts of his life, but the friend who invited him back to the Church stands out to me.

Everyone should welcome Jim and go read the rest of Jim’s first blog entry, he has begun his interesting story of a Protestant pastor who made the journey home to the Catholic church.

But I am also saying a thanksgiving prayer for the friend too.

St. Basil: No wall of separation between Church and monastery.

And, there is a welcoming door between the community and the monastery.

St. Basil’s monasticism “was not closed to the community of the local Church but instead was open to it. His monks belonged to the particular Church; they were her life-giving nucleus and, going before the other faithful in the following of Christ and not only in faith, showed a strong attachment to him - love for him - especially through charitable acts. These monks, who ran schools and hospitals(1), were at the service of the poor and thus demonstrated the integrity of Christian life.”(2)

“In speaking of monasticism, the Servant of God John Paul II wrote: ‘For this reason many people think that the essential structure of the life of the Church, monasticism, was established, for all time, mainly by St Basil; or that, at least, it was not defined in its more specific nature without his decisive contribution.’"(3) (4) (5)

From the earliest days, monasticism was integrated into both the life of the Church and life of the community. When God gives a person to the monastic life, that person becomes a gift to both the Church and community, from a life centered in God.



(1) St. Basil built hospital facilities that were a key step in the development of the modern hospital concept where people are admitted for medical treatment. A classic example of monastic activity — charitable, practical, innovative.

(2) Benedict XVI, General Audience, 4 July 2007, on Saint Basil.

(3) Apostolic Letter Patres Ecclesiae, n. 2, January 1980; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 25 February, p. 6).
Quoted in Footnote (2).

(4) St Basil died in 379 AD, 101 years before St. Benedict was born. St Basil lived in what is now modern-day Turkey — the East, and St. Benedict lived in Italy — the West. St. Benedict used many of St. Basil’s monastic principles when St. Benedict compiled the Rule of St. Benedict — the Rule that serves as the foundation for all Western monasticism.

(5) St. Basil was born into a family of saints, a Domestic Church, where he received the upbringing in the spirit of God, his older sister is St. Macrina. He studied in Athens and Constantinople. He became a priest and later a bishop of Caesarea—Cappadocia (Turkey). St. Basil is a Doctor of the Church. Long New Advent article on St. Basil the Great.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Life as Advent. A Benedictine oblate blog

[Click picture to enlarge]

My wife and I are new to the Catholic church and we are one-year-old oblates at a Benedictine monastery in Florida.

Advent is a new, important time for us. What exactly is happening with Advent? We are just beginning to understand its depth and scope.

But Advent did not take us by surprise this year because we were alert enough to grasp that in November we were coming to the end of the liturgical year (my blog on the subject) and the beginning of a new one (no more waiting for a dropping crystal ball).

When we were on our retreat last month at the abbey we bought a tall candle. We also bought a $1.00 little sheet giving suggested Bible readings during Advent. My wife suggested that we light the candle and read the story of Jesus’ birth, read the suggested verses from the little Advent sheet, and then have a meditation in silence.

Each day in the evening, we read the appropriate passages from the Bible after lighting our tall candle. My wife also reads a section or two from the Catechism. She discovered that the Catechism has a large amount of material on Advent — who knew?

After the readings are finished we pray and meditate in silence.

That’s our new Advent practice. We like it.

In my study times, I have been learning more about Advent. The most interesting thought I came across today is that we might see our whole lives on earth as an Advent to eternal life with Christ. The passing from our darkness into his light.

Maybe that idea had extra meaning to me because of this wonderful quote on Plain Catholic’s blog:

“Death is not extinguishing the light. It is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.” Tagore



From the APOTD, November 30, 2008 (also the start of Advent this year).

Apollo 15, launched July 26, 1971. David Scott looks at a large moon rock. The top of the 11,000-foot Mt. Hadley Delta is ahead of him.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Monastic life. A Benedictine oblate blog

Lay people living a monastic life: For many people it is the desire for a deeper spiritual life that causes them to follow this little-known and ancient part of the Catholic church.

Benedictine spirituality drew me and my wife to the Catholic Benedictine monastery near our home. We knew something was there for us the minute we walked on the abbey grounds.

Benedictine spirituality is peace, tranquility, and rest in God. For us, we had travelled many years on a spiritual path, and this was like coming to the headwaters of the stream.

Benedictine spirituality is not something added to our lives, it was the conversion of our ordinary lives into a life for God: an oblation.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Early Church Fathers Internet Radio. A Benedictine oblate blog.

“In the Orthodox Christian tradition, monasticism is often called the 'barometer of the spiritual life of the Church.' So great has the influence of and appreciation for this way of life been, that its existence and status have been equated with those of the Church as a whole. As flourishes the monastic life, so flourishes the Church.” is pleased to announce that, in partnership with Ancient Faith Radio, a new series of weekly internet broadcasts has been launched on 1st December 2008. Called A Word From the Holy Fathers, after the section of the web site of the same name, this weekly 'podcast' offers a reflection on a specific writing from the Fathers of the Church, with a brief summary of its history, meaning, and application for today.”

Well, how about that?