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.)



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.”



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.



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)


[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.


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%

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 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.


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


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.



(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.


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.