Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Rule along the Way. A Benedictine oblate blog

What prayer does to raise the mind and heart to God, the Rule of St. Benedict does for the life on its journey to dwell with God.


Picture is 08080012.jpg by lb6364 and is used subject to license.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Advent & Christmas set in time. A Benedictine oblate blog

Night Sky

[Click picture to enlarge]

What is the setting of Advent and Christmas in a monastery? Virtually every element in the way loving and joyous Christians celebrate Advent and Christmas in the wider community can be found in a monastery — the music, decorations, gifts, guests, and special food, for example. But the setting and context of the Advent and Christmas seasons are different when I visit a monastery. So, I am not talking about the individual elements of these two seasons, but their backdrop — the background scene on which those elements are projected and revealed.

Advent and Christmas in a monastery feel like they are set in time. These first parts of the new liturgical year move across a background of time. Like stars at night, Advent and Christmas stand out vividly — moving with sense of fixed, ancient precision.

Few things draw the human spirit into the search for what’s beyond ourselves like watching the night sky. A visit to a monastery during Advent and the Christmas season is a way of looking up.
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying:
Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.” Luke 2:13-14
Merry Christmas.



Picture is The big Sky by the Ocean by spatulated and is used subject to license.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Monasticism's limited relevance to my spiritual needs. A Benedictine oblate blog

The Carthusian Monastery d'Scala-Dei - Ladder of God

[Click picture to enlarge]

I could never see myself as a monk. Who would? Monks and nuns are shut away from the real world. How is that relevant today?

No, I could never be a monk except for the parts of monasticism about:
Seeking a deeper spiritual life
Seeking God in everything I do
Praying without ceasing
Lectio divina (divine reading)
The divine office
Living a simple life free of the world's fads and clatter
Making my life the "journey to dwell with God"
Being refreshed from the wells of ancient Christian spirituality and the early desert and church fathers.
So I guess I can see that some parts of monasticism might apply to the spirituality I seek. But that’s all. No more.

Let monks and nuns keep everything else about monastic life that does not apply to me — you know, those parts about learning how to live in harmony in a monastic community and how to get along with the people we live with and share life with. That's not relevant to me, I am married with a family.



Picture is The Carthusian Monastery d'Scala-Dei by art_es_anna and is used subject to license. The link to the picture contains information by the photographer about this first Carthusian monastery in the Iberian Peninsula. Here is another summary about the Ladder of God monastery.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Catholic Prayer Bible: Lectio Divina Edition. A Benedictine oblate blog

Paulist Press’s web site announced the February 2010 publication of The Catholic Prayer Bible: Lectio Divina Edition. I think it’s my next book purchase.

Lectio divina is Latin for divine reading.

While I follow a slightly different method of lectio divina (described here), than the four-step process described by Paulist Press, The Catholic Prayer Bible: Lectio Divina Edition seems structured to help the reader be “led to prayer through meditation on [the Biblical] passage” which is the essence of lectio divina regardless of how it is further explained when people are told "how to do lectio divina."

Being led in prayer and meditation by God while reading the Bible distinguishes lectio divina from the more analytical methods of reading — which are other ways Christians should study the Bible, and, which of course, should also be based in prayer.

I could not find a place on the Paulist Press's web site to order the book now, an alert reader may be able to find one, and I will try to post ordering information as soon as it is available. However, here is Paulist Press's Home Page so you can order it from them when available. It can be pre-ordered at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and Autom.

Paulist Press has these other lectio divina books. There is renewed interest in the ancient monastic practice of lectio divina:



Pictures are from the Paulist Press

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Abbey Christmas music. A Benedictine oblate blog

My wife and I went to St. Leo Abbey, Florida, USA, (map & directions) for a Christmas music program. Like flowers in a vase, Christmas music filled the historic abbey church.

A generous donor gave the abbey a beautiful organ a couple of years ago. The donor also plays very well and he comes to the abbey occasionally to present musical programs — like he did tonight.

The monks sang Christmas songs at the beginning and end, but the rest of the program was the organ music.

We had arrived early at the abbey tonight so we could spend time in silence before the music program started. I sat and watched the crucifix.

The St. Leo Abbey Church is known for its 11-ton marble crucifix modeled after the Shroud of Turin. Tonight’s music about the birth of Jesus did not seem out of place while I thought about the crucifix — Jesus’ death. A church is where Jesus’ life from birth to resurrection is proclaimed. The crucifix amplifies the Christmas music about Jesus’ birth. Come close all who seek a new life.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Silence as the first half of the Rule. A Benedictine oblate blog

Silence is the first step to hear God and the first word God speaks when he calls our heart.

We might say that the Rule of St. Benedict is divided into two halves — its first word (Listen - Obsculta)(1) as the first half and all of the remaining text as the second half.



Picture is cohdranknchildatzoo.JPG by cohdra and is used subject to license

(1) From the Prologue of the The Rule of Benedict:

"LISTEN carefully, my son,
to your master's precepts,
and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20).
Receive willingly and carry out effectively
your loving father's advice,
that by the labor of obedience
you may return to Him
from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.

To you, therefore, my words are now addressed,
whoever you may be,
who are renouncing your own will
to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King,
and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.

And first of all,
whatever good work you begin to do,
beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect it,
that He who has now deigned to count us among His children
may not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds.
For we must always so serve Him
with the good things He has given us,
that He will never as an angry Father disinherit His children,
nor ever as a dread Lord, provoked by our evil actions,
deliver us to everlasting punishment
as wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory.

Let us arise, then, at last,
for the Scripture stirs us up, saying,
"Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep" (Rom. 13:11).

Let us open our eyes to the deifying light,
let us hear with attentive ears
the warning which the divine voice cries daily to us,
"Today if you hear His voice,
harden not your hearts" (Ps. 94[95]:8).

And again,
"Whoever has ears to hear,
hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Matt. 11-15; Apoc. 2:7).
And what does He say?
"Come, My children, listen to Me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord" (Ps. 33[34]:12).
"Run while you have the light of life,
lest the darkness of death overtake you" (John 12:35).

And the Lord, seeking his laborer
in the multitude to whom He thus cries out,
says again,
"Who is the one who will have life,
and desires to see good days" (Ps. 33[34]:13)?
And if, hearing Him, you answer,
"I am the one,"
God says to you,
"If you will have true and everlasting life,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips that they speak no guile.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek after peace and pursue it" (Ps. 33[34]:14-15).

And when you have done these things,
My eyes shall be upon you
and My ears open to your prayers;
and before you call upon Me,
I will say to you,
'Behold, here I am'" (Ps. 33[34]:16; Is. 65:24; 58:9)"

Monday, December 7, 2009

Oblate Christmas Party. A Benedictine oblate blog

We recently went to the St. Leo Abbey oblate Christmas party. Oblates buy a small gift for a monk and we have deserts and a social hour instead of the usual discussion session on Benedictine spirituality.

Oblates pick a monk for gift giving by drawing his name at random from a basket. When my wife and I drew the same monk’s name two years in a row, we were pleased. And when the selection process changed this year to allow us to select any monk rather than drawing a name out of the basket, we knew we had to purposely select the same monk that chance had given us for the two prior years.

When we drew our monk’s name two years ago the little sheet of paper with his name also had some gift ideas. We got the listed gift card. Last year the sheet just had his name, without any gift suggestions, but we still got him the same type of gift card in the same amount from the same store. This year when we got to select the monk without having to draw from a basket, we still got the same monk a gift card in the same amount from the same store.

I wonder if that poor monk did not write any gift ideas on the slip of paper a year ago in hopes that whoever drew his name (and what are the chances it would be us) would get another gift. And when he ended up with my wife and I buying him the same gift from the year before, I can just imagine this monk joking with the abbey office this year: “no more baskets, somehow I get picked by the same people who keep getting we the same thing, let’s have a select-a-monk system so they can get someone else and I won’t keep getting the same thing.”

In many ways it is difficult to buy for a monk. Sometimes it’s difficult to buy for that person who has everything. But it’s really difficult to buy for someone who is supposed to have nothing or next to nothing of his own — well, of course, except for his life in the “school for the service to the Lord.”(1) Maybe what I should do is give thanks again that there are such men who live in monasteries. The oblate Christmas party is when I get a tangible Benedictine lesson that the real gifts always seem to flow out of a monastery.



Picture is cohdranknxmasrbbn7.JPG by cohdra and is used subject to license.

(1) Rule of St. Benedict, the end of the Prologue:

“And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord. In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But if a certain strictness results from the dictates of equity for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, do not be at once dismayed and fly from the way of salvation, whose entrance cannot but be narrow (Matt. 7:14). For as we advance in the religious life and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God's commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love. Thus, never departing from His school, but persevering in the monastery according to His teaching until death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13) and deserve to have a share also in His kingdom.”