Saturday, June 26, 2010

Benedictine home gatherings -- interview with Julia Smead. A Benedictine oblate blog

Compline at Home

I interviewed Julia Smead about having a Benedictine Gathering at home or at a church. Here is the interview with Julia Smead.

A big public Thank You to Julia Smead for her time in being interviewed online -- that means a lot of typing for her -- and for the pictures she e-mailed about the group. She also e-mailed many examples of the excellent materials she prepares for the group sessions. Those materials are also linked in the interview.

The picture at the top of this blog is provided by Julia Smead. It shows Compline at her home.

At the end of Compline they turn out the lights, and with the candles, they have several minutes of silent meditation. Silence is sometimes the biggest adjustment for those not familiar with Benedictine practices. Julia Smead said:

"The one thing that is very difficult for people to assimilate to is the silence. It's also the thing that keeps them coming back. When I hear folks share with others about our group, the silence is what they talk about. We have two blocks of time when we're silent: following Vespers/while we're eating dinner; and after Compline as we enter the Great Silence."

After you read the interview, take the poll in the right sidebar of this blog.

Friday, June 25, 2010

From the monastic well. A Benedictine oblate blog

Picture by cohdra

[Click picture to enlarge]

My wife and I are reading and discussing Cassian's "Conferences". Here is my first blog on our Cassian reading 1.

Cassian's classic book made me want to go to the old well of Eastern monasticism. I want to understand the ascetic life as Cassian, St. Anthony of Egypt, and the other early writers understood it.

My wife and I are amazed at the concise presentation of the monastic way in Cassian's "Conferences." All extraneous ideas are omitted.

The abbots who present the conferences portray the monastic process in an orderly manner — no fluff or fog. They describe the goal and the path to attain it.

Although details matter, the "Conferences" are not intellectually complex. Hey, that's for me. It is a way of beginning as St. Benedict says in Chapter 73 of the Rule 2.

Abbot Moses is the main speaker in the following excerpt from "Conferences" #1:
Wherefore, said he, answer and tell me what is the goal and end, which incite you to endure all these things so cheerfully.

AND when he insisted on eliciting an opinion from us on this question, we [Cassian and Germanus] replied that we endured all this for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

TO which he [Abbot Moses] replied: Good, you have spoken cleverly of the (ultimate) end. But what should be our (immediate) goal or mark, by constantly sticking close to which we can gain our end, you ought first to know.

And when we frankly confessed our ignorance, he proceeded:

The first thing, as I said, in all the arts and sciences is to have some goal, i.e., a mark for the mind, and constant mental purpose, for unless a man keeps this before him with all diligence and persistence, he will never succeed in arriving at the ultimate aim and the gain which he desires.

For, as I said, the farmer who has for his aim to live free from care and with plenty, while his crops are springing has this as his immediate object and goal; viz., to keep his field clear from all brambles, and weeds, and does not fancy that he can otherwise ensure wealth and a peaceful end, unless he first secures by some plan of work and hope that which he is anxious to obtain.

The business man too does not lay aside the desire of procuring wares, by means of which he may more profitably amass riches, because he would desire gain to no purpose, unless he chose the road which leads to it.

And those men who are anxious to be decorated with the honours of this world, first make up their minds to what duties and conditions they must devote themselves, that in the regular course of hope they may succeed in gaining the honours they desire.

And so the end of our way of life is indeed the kingdom of God. But what is the (immediate) goal you must earnestly ask, for if it is not in the same way discovered by us, we shall strive and wear ourselves out to no purpose, because a man who is travelling in a wrong direction, has all the trouble and gets none of the good of his journey.

And when we stood gaping at this remark, the old man proceeded:

The end of our profession indeed, as I said, is the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven: but the immediate aim or goal, is purity of heart, without which no one can gain that end: fixing our gaze then steadily on this goal as if on a definite mark, let us direct our course as straight towards it as possible, and if our thoughts wander somewhat from this, let us revert to our gaze upon it, and check them accurately as by a sure standard, which will always bring back all our efforts to this one mark, and will show at once if our mind has wandered ever so little from the direction marked out for it.
Christian monasticism has at least an 1,800-year track record. That history goes a long way to validate both the principles and the practices given by desert abbots and writers of monastic rules: Here is a way to dwell in the tent of God, begin here.



Picture is Copy_of_100_2640cpy.jpg by cohdra and is used subject to license.

1 The first blog on our reading of Cassian's "Conferences" is titled, "Cassian – Our Summer Reading." I wish I had titled it "Cassian – Our Reading for the weeks after Pentecost." I feel this is the time of the Holy Spirit.

2. The translation of the Rule of St. Benedict (short or long in PDF biography of St. Benedict) linked in this blog says the Rule is "a beginning:"
Thou, therefore, who hastenest to the heavenly home, with the help of Christ fulfil this least rule written for a beginning; and then thou shalt with God's help attain at last to the greater heights of knowledge and virtue which we have mentioned above.
Instead of "a beginning," many English translations have that the Rule is for "beginners."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Divine Office: always different. A Benedictine oblate blog

Rainbow by cohdra

I have been visiting St. Leo Abbey and praying the divine office for some time now. People who do not pray the divine office may think that it would be boringly repetitious. But each divine office prayed with the monks and each private prayer of the divine office I do at home is different from all others.

Some divine office elements change each day and I could point to the differences in content. Much of the difficulty I have in flipping around in The Monastic Diurnal (MD) and Benedictine Daily Prayer (BDP) stems from the changing content. The variable content means many offices are different.

But the newness of each divine office comes mostly from how God's mercy is new each day and for each office even the little hours and compline. The Lord's hourly care for the soul is the blessing for those who pray the divine office. Those monks knew the path.



Picture is PIC1079491066.jpg by cohdra and is used subject to license.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Secluded monks are excellent communicators. A Benedictine oblate blog

Picture: by cohdra

[Click picture to enlarge]

Before I started visiting St. Leo Abbey, Florida, USA, I thought secluded monks had excluded themselves from most human interaction and therefore were irrelevant because they had no communication with the rest of the world -- where I lived.

I came to see that such an idea was misleading. For example, a large amount of written materials about the earliest Christian monks comes from the sayings/wisdom of the Egyptian desert fathers. This material generally comes from a collection of documents called the Apophthegmata Patrum which is from the Greek: apo, from; phtheggomai, to cry out; pater, father.

Even the name of this collection tends to erode the idea of complete exclusion — the name refers to what they passed on to their spiritual children. There is a large amount of such material -- the monks really had much to say and expected people to hear it.

Monks may have been secluded, but they kept the means and lines of communications open for the information they thought was most important. The early monks were like 50,000-watt radio stations in the desert, broadcasting on a clear channel. We can still tune in today.



Picture is cohdranknalchmy19.JPG by cohdra and is used subject to license.

Monday, June 21, 2010

English GILOH. A Benedictine oblate blog

Old English Sheepdog

Recently, I found that the Liturgy Office of England and Wales (The Bishops of England and Wales) has an English translation of the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours (GILOH). The file is in PDF. The English-English translation is excellent. I rely on it more than the American-English version offered by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Another advantage of the English-English version is that the footnotes are at the bottom of the page rather than at the back as is the case with the EWTN online version of the USCCB version. And the English-English version uses less abbreviations in the footnotes so it is easier for a LOH novice like me to understand the reference without referring to the list of abbreviations.

For those who prefer the style of American-English, the USCCB GILOH is available online courtesy of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), or by purchase from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), or in the 4-Volume "Liturgy of the Hours." I do not know whether the GILOH is available in other books such as "Christian Prayer - Liturgy of the Hours."

If you are studying the GILOH, compare the two English translations versions, you might also have a preference or just want to use both for a fuller sense of each section of the GILOH.



Picture is dewollewei from, the community of "Old English Sheepdog Lovers".

Sunday, June 20, 2010

To understand, I read pre-Vatican II. A Benedictine oblate blog

Picture: by cohdra

[Click picture to enlarge]

I am new to the Catholic faith and new to being a Benedictine oblate. And coming from a completely non-Catholic background means there is so much I do not know. My biggest problem is finding Catholic sources that thoroughly explain topics systematically.

Having come from the Calvinist — Reformed Tradition of Protestant Christianity, I became used to vast amounts of well-organized materials that are remarkably effective in teaching every tiny part as well as the big picture to people who knew nothing about a particular subject.

As I began to look for quality Catholic reference materials I discovered that many modern Catholic materials — at least to me — are more confusing and less complete than materials written before Vatican II. Of course, there are excellent, high quality modern materials. The Catechism and Compendium come easily to mind in that category.

A 1920 book is a great example of a wonderful pre-Vatican II resource that helped me understand the history of the Breviary [pronounced BRE-vuh-re] and the structure of the divine office (the Oblate Spring web site has an example of the divine office). The book is the 1920 "The Divine Office -- A Study of the Roman Breviary," by By Rev. E.J. Quigley.

The well organized and highly effective Canons Regular of St. John Cantius in Chicago, Illinois, USA, have the book in a beautifully formatted online version.

The fine folks over at Project Gutenberg also have the book online in one file so I will use the Project Gutenberg version for text searches. The book is also available at Amazon.

Here is an excerpt from the 1920 "The Divine Office -- A Study of the Roman Breviary":




Etymology. — The word, Breviary, comes from an old Latin word, Breviarium, an abridgment, a compendium. The name was given to the Divine Office, because it is an abridgment or abstract made from holy scripture, the writings of the Fathers, the lives of the Saints. The word had various meanings assigned to it by early Christian writers, but the title, Breviary, as it is employed to-day—that is, a book containing the entire canonical office—appears to date from the eleventh century. Probably it was first used in this sense to denote the abridgment made by Pope Saint Gregory VII. (1013-1085), about the year 1080.

Definition. — The Breviary may be defined as "the collection of vocal prayers established by the Church, which must be recited daily by persons deputed for that purpose."

Explanation of the Definition. — "Prayers," this word includes not only the prayers properly so called, but also, the whole matter of the divine office. "Vocal," the Church orders the vocal recitation, the pronunciation of each word. "Established by the Church," to distinguish the official prayers of obligation from those which the faithful may choose according to their taste. "Which must be recited," for the recitation is strictly obligatory. "Daily," the Church has fixed these prayers for every day of the year, and even for certain hours of the day. "By persons deputed for that purpose," therefore, persons in holy orders recite these prayers not in their own name, but as representatives of the universal Church.

Different Names for the Breviary. — This book which is, with us, commonly called the Breviary, has borne and still bears different names, amongst both Latins and Greeks.

Amongst the Latins, the recitation of the Breviary was called the Office (officium), that is, the duty, the function, the office; because it is, par excellence, the duty, function and office of persons consecrated to God. This is the oldest and most universal name for the Breviary and its recitation. It was called, too, the Divine Office (officium divinum), because it has God for its principal object and is recited by persons consecrated to God. It is called the ecclesiastical office (officium ecclesiasticum), because it was instituted by the Church. Other names were, Opus Dei; Agenda; Pensum servitutis; Horae; Horae Canonicae.

Which books were employed in olden times in reciting the Office?

Before the eleventh century the prayers of the Divine Office were not all contained in one book, as they are now in the Breviary, which is an abridgment or compendium of several books. The recitation of the Office required the Psaltery, the Lectionary, the Book of Homilies, the Legendary, the Antiphonarium, the Hymnal, the Book of Collects, the Martyrology, the Rubrics. The Psaltery contained the psalms; the Lectionary (thirteenth century) contained the lessons of the first and second nocturn; the Book of Homilies, the homilies of the Fathers; the Legendary (before the thirteenth century), the lives of the saints read on their feast days. The Hymnal contained hymns; the Book of Collects, prayers, collects and chapters; the Martyrology contained the names with brief lives of the martyrs; the Rubrics, the rules to be followed in the recitation of the Office. To-day, we have traces of this ancient custom in our different choir books, the Psalter, the Gradual, the Antiphonarium. There were not standard editions of these old books, and great diversities of use and text were in existence.

Divisions of the Divine Office. — How is the daily Office divided? The Office is divided into the night Office and the day Office. The night Office is so called because it was originally recited at night. It embraces three nocturns and Lauds. The day Office embraces Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline.

Parts or Hours of the Office. — How many parts or hours go to make up the Office? Rome counts seven, and seven only; and this is the number commonly counted by liturgists and theologians. They reckon Matins and Lauds as one hour.[1]

The old writers on liturgy ask the question: "Why has the Church reckoned seven hours only?" Their replies are summarised well by Newman: "In subsequent times the hours of prayer were gradually developed from the three or (with midnight) the four seasons above enumerated to seven, viz.:–by the addition of Prime (the first hour), Vespers (the evening), and Compline (bedtime) according to the words of the Psalm—'Seven times a day do I praise thee, because of thy righteous judgments.' Other pious and instructive reasons existed, or have since been perceived, for this number. It was a memorial of the seven days of creation; it was an honour done to the seven petitions given us by our Lord in His prayer; it was a mode of pleading for the influence of that Spirit, who is revealed to us as sevenfold; on the other hand, it was a preservative against those seven evil spirits which are apt to return to the exorcised soul, more wicked than he who has been driven out of it; and it was a fit remedy of those successive falls which, scripture says, happen to the 'just man' daily." (Tracts for the Times, No. 75. "On the Roman Breviary.")

"Matutina ligat Christum qui crimina purgat, Prima replet sputis. Causam dat Tertia mortis. Sexta cruci nectit. Latus ejus Nona bipertit. Vespera deponit. Tumulo completa reponit. Haec sunt septenis propter quae psallimus horas."
"At Matins bound;
at Prime reviled;
Condemned to death at Tierce;
Nailed to the Cross at Sext;
at None His blessed Side they pierce.
They take him down at Vesper-tide;
In grave at Compline lay,
Who thenceforth bids His Church observe
The sevenfold hours alway."
(Gloss. Cap. I. De Missa)

Thus, this old author connects the seven hours with the scenes of the Passion. Another author finds in the hours a reminder and a warning that we should devote every stage of our lives to God. For the seven canonical hours, he writes, bear a striking resemblance to the seven ages of man.

Matins, the night office, typifies the pre-natal stage of life. Lauds, the office of dawn, seems to resemble the beginnings of childhood. Prime recalls to him youth. Terce, recited when the sun is high in the heavens shedding brilliant light, symbolises early manhood with its strength and glory. Sext typifies mature age. None, recited when the sun is declining, suggests man in his middle age. Vespers reminds all of decrepit age gliding gently down to the grave. Compline, night prayer said before sleep, should remind us of the great night, death.
End of Quote


Picture is cohdranknmath10.JPG by cohdra and is used subject to license.

[1] Note: St. Benedict's Rule in Chapter 16 counts the hours differently:
Chapter 16: How the Work of God Is to Be Performed During the Day

"Seven times in the day," says the Prophet, "I have rendered praise to You" (Ps. 118[119]:164).

Now that sacred number of seven will be fulfilled by us if we perform the Offices of our service at the time of the Morning Office, of Prime, of Terce, of Sext, of None, of Vespers and of Compline, since it was of these day Hours that he said, "Seven times in the day I have rendered praise to You" (Ps. 118[119]:164).

For as to the Night Office the same Prophet says, "In the middle of the night I arose to glorify You" (Ps. 118[119]:62). Let us therefore bring our tribute of praise to our Creator "for the judgments of His justice"
at these times: the Morning Office, Prime, Terce, Sext, None,
Vespers and Compline; and in the night let us arise to glorify Him (Ps. 118[119]:164,62).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cassian Clarity. A Benedictine oblate blog

Picture: Cristo Redentor

My wife and I are studying Cassian's Conferences. I blogged about our study a few days ago.

We study Cassian because we want to hear the monastic/ascetic message from those who were closest to its earliest desert blooms. Cassian wrote about 400 AD. St. Benedict's Rule recommends that monks read Cassian.

Hundreds of books have been written in the past 50 years about spirituality and knowing God. I do not know which books will still be on the must-read list in the year 3600 -- Cassian's will.

We like Cassian because of the substance, the depth, and the full presentation of the life seeking to dwell with God. But here is the interesting thing — clarity in our hearts comes from that substance and full presentation. Reading the ancient works is the best way for us to know what they saw while listening to God — the clarity of pure light.



Picture is Cristo Redentor by idman and is used subject to license.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Still on Easter Time. A Benedictine oblate blog

Picture: By cohdra

[Click picture to enlarge]

The New Advent Encyclopedia's Easter article has this quote about the effect of Easter on how we set liturgical time:
"Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year. The order of Sundays from Septuagesima to the last Sunday after Pentecost, the feast of the Ascension, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, and all other movable feasts, from that of the Prayer of Jesus in the Garden (Tuesday after Septuagesima) to the feast of the Sacred Heart (Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi), depend upon the Easter date."
The liturgical calendar was changed after Vatican II so some of the information in the above quote may be inapplicable to the current church calendar, but the main points about how Easter's date controls the movable feasts until the end of the liturgical calendar was a big light bulb in my liturgical mind.

I have always felt there is something different about using the liturgical calendar to establish my relation to time. The above quote has helped me start looking in the right place — I think.

As the quote from the Easter article shows, for much of the liturgical year, time is imprinted with the effects God's great power (the resurrection).

The liturgical calendar gets its substance from the central event in human history rather than from mere astronomical markings. This enables the pattern of liturgical time to strengthen the praying heart.



Picture is cohdranknhangers2.JPG by cohdra and is used subject to license.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Notes of hospitality. A Benedictine oblate blog

Church of the Holy Cross at
St. Leo Abbey, Florida, USA

[Click picture to enlarge]

Over 1.5 million people live within a 45-minute drive to St. Leo Abbey. Five of us visited the abbey today to pray vespers with this Catholic Benedictine monk community -- the only one in Florida.

I was by myself and there was the man staying in the guest house — we met and talked with him last Sunday in the abbey bookstore — and there was a family of 3 including a child about 8 years old.

Five visitors is about average -- to pray with the monks during their times of the divine office. It is easy to greet and exchange a couple of words (literally) with every visitor and I try to do that if possible — and other visitors will often smile and speak first to me as well — again, these are not conversations — just a sincere smile and acknowledgment.

I can't remember the last time anyone was not considerate of the stillness that attends the prayers or the obvious desire of all visitors to spend the time in prayer rather than chatting.

Today after the last words of vespers, all of the monks and the visitors bow to the altar and then the monks walk out of the Church of the Holy Cross in silence as they go to dinner. The visitors are standing as the monks exit and we stand still until the last monk has left the church — well, the last monk except the guest master monk who takes care of the microphones, lights, and guests staying for dinner. And there is one other monk who stays -- the monk who plays the organ.

The monk who plays the organ will always, as he did today keep playing while the visitors — now alone in the dimly lit church after the other monks have left — gather their belongings and begin to walk to the big double doors. His gesture of accompanying us with beautiful music as we leave is a perfect example of Benedictine hospitality. I always have the feeling that he is thinking: "this little musical blessing is also for the other 1,499,995."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Contemplative House. A Benedictine oblate blog

by cohdra

[Click picture to enlarge]

Lectio divina, praying the divine office, the treasured spiritual retreats at a monastery, and time spent at rest in the harbor of silence, are all helped by several home improvements.

Big Ben Chimes. Every fifteen minutes we hear beautiful chimes just like those at the St. Leo Abbey where we visit. Our chimes are played on an inexpensive second-hand computer we bought from a man who repairs and then resells old computers. The computer is connected to a pair of deep bass speakers and another set of wireless speakers located in another part of the house. Every fifteen minutes we are reminded to pray. We use this chimes program. The sound from this program is of very high quality.

Wind Chimes. We like to be reminded of the Holy Spirit and the wind chimes give that reminder in beautiful sounds. Both the Big Ben Chimes and the wind chimes outside our home illustrate that although we often speak of making our home quieter, that is somewhat misleading. What we actually want to do is replace noise from the world with sounds that call us to God's peace and turn our hearts to his path. We have the grandfather chimes from Jacob chimes.

Phone flasher. Silencing the phone is a way to avoid noisy disruptions. We bought the KMFT-793 Krown Strobe Visual Flasher that allows us to see a very subtle flashing light anytime we have a phone call. Although the small flasher is called a strobe, if you are imagining the strobe lights you have seen on emergency vehicles or remember from your college days (oh, boy) — you have the wrong image of the Krown Flasher — the light is subdued and lacks anything that could be called intense.

Prayer chair. Some fortunate oblates have rooms in their homes set aside for prayer. We have not been able to do that, but I have a chair that is used for praying the divine office and lectio divina.

Candles for prayer. I like to light a candle when praying the divine office. We will light a sanctuary-style candle in the weeks before we go on retreats at the abbey.

Incense. I have not used incense yet, but after writing this blog, thought it would be another practice I should try. You can get incense online from the incense shop of Hermits of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel who are in Texas, USA.

Shades open. We like to have as much natural light in our home as possible and are surprised by the number of people whose homes have the shades or blinds shut so the home is always dark. I think people were meant to live in the light.

Home Shrine. We do not have one, but here are some links to pictures of home "altars" or places of prayer. I liked each of these examples of drawing close to God. The links are to a thread about home shrines on the Catholic Answers forum. It is a long thread and I selected some of the most recent pictures. The short descriptions are my own -- my impression of the pictures.
Simple, Benedictine

Icon beauty in gold

Celtic ocean calm

Window cross

Mother and child

Angels protecting

Prayer reading corner
Book stand. My wife reads without one, but I like to use a small wooden book stand when I am sitting in the prayer chair. I use the books The Monastic Diurnal and Benedictine Daily Prayer, both require a lot of flipping back and forth. The book stand helps.

Gardens. This takes the most time and is constantly on our list of projects, but no matter how large or small, some form of garden is part of the monastic pattern.

How does your home help you on the journey to dwell with God?



The garden picture at the top of this blog is 000_0008_0001ENHsml.jpg by cohdra and is used subject to license.

I have linked to several of the products we use -- there are places where similar or superior products might be bought and I receive no compensation for the links placed in this blog or any purchases you make. I am not associated with any of the companies listed. You must decide if any of the products would help your home, but I do think it is a sign that the first review on Amazon for the Krown Strobe Visual Flasher said the unit was purchased for a church! :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cassian – Our Summer Reading. A Benedictine oblate blog

Church of the Holy Cross,
St. Leo Abbey, Florida

[Click picture to enlarge]

My wife and I are reading the Conferences of John Cassian in a translation by Edgar C. S. Gibson available at the fine Order of St. Benedict website - Cassian. This translation of the Conferences was published in 1894 as part of "A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume 11."

About every day we read a chapter in the Cassian's Conferences and then discuss it.

We almost always identify the same key points in a chapter and we give the same explanation of what the chapter means for the contemplative life. I take this to mean that Cassian wrote clearly and there's not much left for: "and what does this chapter mean to you?" We talk about what the abbots meant. The Conferences are easier to read than I thought.

And we each add observations based on our own interests — my wife might mention something that is similar to an idea from St. Teresa of Avila or I will claim I see where something in the Rule of St. Benedict came from Cassian — I actually do not know enough to say "this is from Cassian," but — at least until my wife reads this blog — she does not know that.

We look forward to our discussions of Cassian's Conferences.1



1. St. Benedict mentions Cassian's Institutes and Conferences in Chapter 73 of the Rule of St. Benedict as good reading for the monks.

Cassian was born in what is known today as southern France or in Romania. Cassian lived 360 to 435 AD — which is within a few generations after the end in 313 AD of the Roman persecutions of Christians.

Cassian died about 45 years before the birth in 480 AD of St. Benedict.

Cassian traveled extensively in the Egyptian deserts to learn about monasticism which had began to flourish in Egypt about the time the Roman persecutions were ending.

John Cassian’s accounts and interpretations of the most ancient wisdom of the desert fathers were important in the “transmission of the culture of Egyptian monasticism into the early medieval west.” (John Cassian and Augustine Casiday, Saint John Cassian on prayer (Oxford: SLG P, 2006) pg. # 1.)

St. Benedict of Nursia, Italy. Born at Nursia, c. 480 AD; died at Monte Cassino, Italy, 543 AD. Benedict was author/compiler of a Rule for monks. The Rule consists of 73 short chapters on how to live in a monastery.

St. Benedict’s Rule became the foundation of western monasticism.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The weeks after Pentecost. A Benedictine oblate blog

Entrance to Church of the Holy Cross at St. Leo Abbey, Florida

[Click picture to enlarge]

I tried to observe the seasons of Lent, Easter and Pentecost with as much concentration as I had. During Lent I tried a mild fast — the first I had ever done. The result was that I have seen first hand why Christians fast — ascesis (rigorous training, self-discipline, or self-restraint) and penance and "mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart."1 Those reasons fit well in the monastic purposes of the Rule of St. Benedict — from the Prologue:
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 I have a better understanding of the importance of Pentecost as beginning the age in which we live. I like using The Monastic Diurnal because it describes the current part of the liturgical calendar as "weeks after Pentecost."2

I am better able to see the relation of today to Pentecost and also its link to Easter and Lent and Christmas when I mark the time as the weeks after Pentecost.



1. From Paragraph 2043 of the Catechism

2. Here are some of my blogs comparing "The Monastic Diurnal" and "Benedictine Daily Prayer."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"The love of God is all that matters." A Benedictine oblate blog

Church of the Holy Cross

[Click picture to enlarge]

"The love of God is all that matters." Those words ended the homily by an elderly monk priest Saturday, June 5, 2010 at St. Leo Abbey, Florida, USA. My wife and I were on a weekend retreat there having arrived Friday afternoon before Vespers (divine office explained). Saturday's 7:00 am Lauds and 7:30 am Mass pulled us quickly into the pace of monastic time.

The elderly priest's voice was quiet and trembled a little during all but his concluding words. The concluding words of his homily were just as soft, but were spoken with astonishing authority — they stayed forefront in my mind throughout the rest of the retreat. And even now, when I thought about all that I might say in a blog after my long Lent preparation, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and Octave of Pentecost absence, it was those words, "The love of God is all that matters," that first came to mind as a fitting oblate blog topic.

The love of God is all that matters. Those words began our first full day at the abbey.

We had a wonderful time during the rest of our stay.

Those early morning Masses at the abbey are much shorter than the Mass on Sundays when the abbey's Church of the Holy Cross is nearly always overflowing. But for the non-Sunday Mass, usually there are only a handful of people — typically people like us on retreat and a few local women who faithfully come every day. The morning also means the abbey church is especially cool, quiet, and filled with a much softer light than later in the day.

At Lauds (morning prayer — part of the Benedictine Divine Office) before Mass, the monks all arrive hooded and in silence that began the night before at Compline (the night prayer — part of the Benedictine Divine Office). At Compline the monks had left the abbey church with their monastic hoods over their heads. The monks do not speak until the next morning at the start of Lauds when they remove their hoods in unison and begin from Psalm 51:15, "Lord, open my lips. And my mouth shall proclaim your praise."

After Lauds there is a short break before Mass. And the short homily last Saturday ended with the monk's great wisdom for the start of our retreat and for these weeks after Pentecost — "The love of God is all that matters."