Monday, January 19, 2009

Looking up Latin. A Benedictine oblate blog

I read a sentence containing the Latin word “suspiria.” (See footnote). Because I frequently come across texts with Latin words, I bought a couple of basic ecclesiastical (church) Latin books to try to help me.

When I read “suspiria” I had my first opportunity to look up a word in my new books. Some of my new books are about Latin phrases, or the Latin Mass — so the fact that those books did not have “suspiria” was not too surprising. The other book, the “Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin” by Leo F. Stelten had an entry for:

“suspiro — are: (first conjugation); sigh, draw a deep breath, desire, long for.”

My lack of Latin knowledge prevented me from knowing whether “suspiro” was the same as “suspiria.” So, I searched for “suspiria” on the Internet and finally found the Latin Lexicon web site which confirmed that the entry in the book was for the same root word — it does mean “a sigh.” And confirming the meaning of the word helped clarify the passage in the footnote in this blog and I knew what Jean Leclercq was talking about.

These are new monastic thoughts for me. It is passages like the one in the footnote that give me a better glimpse into monastic culture — a manner of living much different from the society and culture I see in the world — but one I can visit for short periods of time while listening and looking up.


From “The Love of Learning and The Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture” by Jean Leclercq, page 58-59. The book is a series of lectures given to monks at the Institute of Monastic Studies at Sant’ Anselmo in Rome, Italy, in 1955.)


“Finally, [in discussing several elements of monastic culture — including ASCENT INTO HEAVEN and the FELLOWSHIP OF THE ANGELS] desire for Heaven inspires many texts on tears. The tears of desire, born of the compunction of love, are a gift from Our Lord; they are asked for and their meaning is interpreted. In a chapter On the Grace of Tears, Smaragdus has gathered together references taken from Holy Scripture, from the Lives of the Fathers, and from St. Gregory. Others have developed the theme in a more original manner. Such a one was, in particular, John of Fecamp whose works were to have great influence on all later spiritual literature. These "tears of charity," these "suave tears," engendered by the perception of God's sweetness, by the desire to enjoy it eternally, are accompanied by sighs, which are not signs of sadness, but of hopeful desire. In the Middle Ages, monasticism has a whole literature of suspiria.

Blog Note:

Smaragdus was "A ninth-century monk of Saint Mihiel near Verdun, Smaragdus composed his Commentary after the 816 Council of Aachen imposed the Rule of Saint Benedict on all monasteries in the vast Carolingian Empire. His deep devotion to Christ and great reverence for Saint Benedict led him to encourage monastics to update the observance of the Rule to meet the needs of a society, period of history, and monks very different from those Benedict had known. He reminds readers today as well as then that monastic life is organized for the goal of attaining union with God by following Christ."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Three Basic Reference Books. A Benedictine oblate blog

One of three basic reference books on the Rule

[Click picture to enlarge]

In my two years as an oblate, I have bought several books about the Rule and Benedictine practices. The Oblate Spring web site gives my recommendation for the first book you might consider reading about Benedictine oblates, as you start to explore.

But after my introduction into being an oblate, I also wanted to do more in-depth reading about the Rule of St. Benedict. Three books became my basic reference books when I have a question about the Rule. You know, books with lots of footnotes and scholarly references.

My three basic reference books on the Rule of St. Benedict are:

1. RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict Timothy Fry, O.S.B., Editor, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1981 (627 Pages).
A number of Benedictine scholars produced a new English translation to honor the 1500th anniversary of the birth of St. Benedict and included “scholarly helps that could lead to a deepened understanding of what Benedict taught.”

2. “Perspectives on the Rule of Saint Benedict,” Expanding Our Hearts in Christ, by Aquinata Böckmann, O.S.B. Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 2005 (250 Pages).
“Aquinata Böckmann, OSB, PhD, is a member of the Benedictine Missionary Sisters of Tutzing, Germany. She has taught in Rome since 1973 at the Pontifical Institute for Spirituality and Moral Theology Regina Mundi and as the first woman professor at Sant’ Anselmo. She was the formation director of her congregation’s novitiate in Rome and a board member of the Alliance for International Monasticism.”

3. "Benedict’s Rule" by Terrence Kardong, O.S.B., Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1996 (641 Pages).
Terrence Kardong, OSB, is a monk of Assumption Abbey in Richardton, North Dakota. He is editor of American Benedictine Review and author of Benedict’s Rule and Day by Day with Saint Benedict, both published by Liturgical Press.

With the start of the new calendar year, I started reading the Rule from the beginning (many versions of the Rule are divided into daily readings so you read through the Rule three times in a year and you start with St. Benedict’s famous Prologue on January 1, May 2, and September 1).

So, on January 1, I began with the word that St. Benedict used to begin his Rule — “Listen.” The first sentence of the Rule’s prologue is:

“Listen carefully, my child,
to your master's precepts,
and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20).”

Because I have been stuck in “Silence” since at least the beginning of Advent, the word “Listen” had a strong pull on my Benedictine spirit.

I wanted to do more in-depth study on “Listen” and I began reading in the three reference books listed above. These authors are carrying on the long Benedictine traditions of rich scholarship and bringing Benedictine monastic truth to a wider world — to more people who know this is a time to listen.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Keeping Tabs. A Benedictine oblate blog

I use the book Benedictine Daily Prayer (BDP) to pray the divine office.

But BDP requires a lot of flipping from one section to another during the day and even during any particular office depending on the season or feast day.

Homemade cardstock dividers, some with text that will be used in a divine office, help avoid the flipping problems.

Some time ago I blogged about when I replaced all of my old dividers with new ones, and today I did some minor revisions and updates.

Today I added a new divider for the short little final blessing:

“May the Lord bless us,
keep away all evil,
and lead us to eternal life, Amen.

“Let us bless the Lord
Thanks be to God.”

I also added the Lord’s prayer to one of the existing dividers.

But the major change I worked on today was to redo all of the tabs on the dividers so I could change the color of the tabs.

In the past I used different colors rather arbitrarily — thinking that I needed each tab to be as different as possible from its neighbors. But I did not like that and in fact it only confused me!

So, I now have a three-color scheme based on where the dividers/tabs are in the book.

White is the color of the tabs for the dividers in the front of the BDP book, for such things as the daily Readings, Compline, the Little Hours, and a different translation for Psalm 23 for Sunday Lauds than the Psalm 23 used in BDP.

Red is the color (the red looks orange in some pictures) of the tabs for the current divine office. These tabs move in a group in the middle of the BDP book.

Black is the color of the tabs for the saints, feasts and special days which are in the back of the book.

The cardstock dividers with tabs often move through the day or the year. I also have permanent tabs on some of the pages, for the various Common for Feasts and Proper of Seasons. But I still have cardstock dividers for the Commons and Propers that I keep in the very back of the book until I need them on a particular day.

The last divine office housekeeping I did today was to print out the liturgical calendar from Universalis. While there are many web sites that have liturgical calendars, Universalis is the only one I found that has the Psalm week listed right on the calendar. Very handy. I keep the printed Universalis calendar with my stack of books I use for reading and study.

The books shown above are the ones that I am reading for the divine office and monastic study:

Benedictine Daily Prayer This book has sold for $49.95 for several years but is now on sale:
Sale Price: $34.97. Wow.

The Rule of Saint Benedict translated by Leonard Doyle

Benedictine Monachism, Dom Cuthbert Butler, 1924. Classic work of Benedictine spirituality and monasticism from the Rule of St. Benedict. Butler traces modern practices back to their origins and explains the elements of Benedictine practices.

The Love of Learning and The Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture by Jean Leclercq. The book is a series of lectures given to monks at the Institute of Monastic Studies at Sant’ Anselmo in Rome, Italy, in 1955.

OK, now I am ready to start the new liturgical year that began back in November!

Monday, January 12, 2009

I’m Back. A Benedictine oblate blog

The Christmas season began with first Vespers on December 24, 2008 and ended 18 days later after the completion of second Vespers on Sunday, January 11, 2009, which was part of the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. What a great 18 days!

I had both an active and contemplative Christmas season. The active part involved the traditional activities with family. But those active days also saw us helping family members who were ill (now all better) and I got ill (now all better). So part of the reasons for no blogs has been illness.

The silent contemplative part of the Christmas season also kept my attention on the season just ended.

The Christmas season is astounding. Very short yet packed with spiritual power: Nearly every free hour of mine was spent in monastic reading and the divine office, but mostly silence as I listened:

1. Birth of Jesus — Thursday 12/25,

2. Feast of St. Stephen who is honored as the first martyr on the day after Christmas — Friday 12/26,

3. John the Apostle — Saturday 12/27,

4. The Holy Family (Jesus, Mary, Joseph) — Sunday 12/28,

5. Mary Mother of God — Thursday 1/1,

6. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops, Doctors of the Church (Memorial) — Friday 1/2,

7. Epiphany (the “showing” “appearing” or “manifestation” of Jesus to the Magi) — Sunday 1/4,

8. Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist — Sunday 1/11

And there is more structure in the Christmas season I have not studied — for instance: the octaves and the various traditions where some of the feasts are transferred to another day during the season.

The scope of the Christmas season really overwhelmed me as I understood its broad content for the first time. I had a sense that I was being carried along far too fast without being able to stop and take in the sights.

So, the first two parts of the liturgical year (Advent and Christmas) have filled me with spiritual direction, I come out of those two seasons more convinced that silence is where to meet God this year.