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Being Benedictine

Living Benedictine values in everyday life

O Holy Spirit, You are the Mighty Way

O Holy Spirit, you are the mighty way in which everything that is in the heavens, on the Earth, and under the Earth, is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness. -St. Hildegard of Bingen

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“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place….All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages.”—Acts 2:1

They came from many different places and, yet, they understood each other. They were connected as one in Spirit, united in understanding by the One and Holy Life-Giving Breath of God. Despite their diversity, each person had a uniquely mystical experience. Their different languages were not erased, yet unity was accomplished.

It’s as if for this one day, in this one place, God blessed our diversity and showed that our differences need not divide.  It’s as if for this one day, in this one place, it was “on earth as it is in heaven.” All people understood what the other said. They saw themselves as a part of the whole, that their God—the Giver of Life, the Great Communicator and Unifier—resides in them and the other.

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The Holy Spirit was sent to bring us into communion with the Divine and with each other. Day to day, we may disagree, and especially these days we seem to be so divided, yet we must remember—we are in this together. We breathe the same breath. We long to belong, and, yet, we cannot achieve this belonging alone. Through the events of Pentecost, we are shown the potential for unity, an exemplar of what can happen if we allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us, to transform us.

God’s breath is our very breath, the purest evidence that we are made in the image of God. “The Jews did not speak God’s name, but breathed it with an open mouth and throat: inhale–Yah; exhale–weh. By our very breathing, we are speaking the name of God. This makes it our first and our last word as we enter and leave the world.” –Richard Rohr

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If only we would let the Breathe of Spirit work. If only we could remember to call upon Yahweh—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—with our every breath. If only we could remember to breathe in our circumstances and breathe out peace, breathe in the troubles of the world and breath out love. We can say the name of God with our every breath.

The Psalmist prays, “Send forth your spirit Lord and renew the face of the earth.”  God knows, we cannot bring unity to a divided world alone. It is only in God that we even have our breath, this life. We are in constant need of renewal, of forgiveness, of transformation. Let this be our prayer—

Holy Spirit, come into my heart, and in your power, draw it to you. -St. Catherine of Siena

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O, Holy Spirit, you are the mighty way. May I “wage peace” with my every breath. Help me remember that I share more connection with others, despite the differences. Help me remember to breathe, to remember that it is through your Spirit that understanding comes. 

Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
Breathe out whole buildings
And flocks of redwing blackbirds.

Breathe in terrorists and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fall and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.

Wage peace with your listening:
hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools:
flower seeds, clothespins, clean rivers.

Make soup.
Play music, learn the word for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit and make a hat.

Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
Imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty or the gesture of a fish.
Swim for the other side.

Wage peace.

Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious.
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Don’t wait another minute.

-Mary Oliver, Wage Peace

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125 Years: A Big Day for Benedictines!

Celebrating the 125th Jubilee of the Benedictine Confederation, Pope Francis addressed Abbot Primate Gregory Polan, Fr. Prior Mauritius Wilde and other Benedictines, expressing his gratitude “for the important contribution that the Benedictines have made to the life of the Church, in every part of the world, for almost fifteen hundred years.”

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Sant’ Anselmo, the seat of the Benedictine Confederation, is the home of the Abbot Primate and eighty monks from over thirty countries around the world. It was a thrill for me to visit Fr. Mauritius Wilde, Prior of Sant’ Anselmo, for a tour of the academic center, prayers with the monks, and a formal address for the Fourth International Oblate Congress. It was Pope Leo XIII, Fr. Mauritius shared, who said, “You Benedictines need a place in Rome. He saw two things: he certainly saw it was difficult for him to control us Benedictines, so he wanted to have a representative in Rome and he created the office of the Abbott Primate, the highest representative of all Benedictines.”

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On April 18, 1893, the first stone of Sant’Anselmo was laid on the Aventine Hill.  “In this celebration of the Jubilee of the Benedictine Confederation we wish to recall the commitment of Pope Leo XIII, who in 1893 wanted to unite all the Benedictines by founding a common house of study and prayer, here in Rome”, Pope Francis said. On July 12, 1893, Pope Leo XIII officially established the Benedictine Confederation.

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Pope Francis recognizes the various gifts of Benedictine spirituality, especially its motto “ora et labora,” prayer and work, and also study. An important part of prayer and listening to God is the practice of Lectio Divina.  He states, “In our era, when people are so busy that they have no time to listen to God, your monasteries and convents become oases, where men and women of all ages, backgrounds, cultures or religions can discover the beauty of silence and rediscover themselves, in harmony with creation, allowing God to restore proper order in their lives. This makes it possible for God to bring a right order into their lives again.” Hospitality, St. Benedict’s instruction to, “let all guests who arrive be received like Christ”, the Benedictine charism of receiving strangers, Pope Francis stated, “is quite important for the new evangelization … There is no conflict between a contemplative life and service to others.”

The Pope also praised the commitment of the Benedictines in ecumenism, interfaith dialogue and education.  Finally,  he notes the principal of stability, “is also important for people who come to look for you. Christ is present in this encounter: He is present in the monk, in the pilgrim, in the needy.”

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It is through the monastery and St. Benedict Center that I learned about the 1500-year-old Benedictine principals of stability, hospitality, obedience, conversion of life, and prayer. I am eternally grateful for the good prayer and work of the Benedictine monks, sisters, authors, and oblates that I walk this journey with. I believe as Pope Leo XIII said, “The more difficult the times are, the more we must reach our hands out to the Orders, both old and new, because all are necessary, in the north as in the south, in the East as in the West. […] For what concerns the Benedictine Order, the sap of this old trunk is not dried up. You will have proof of this.”

For more information and original sources:

Audience with the Monks of the Benedictine Confederation, 19.04.2018, Holy See Press Office

Video: Pope to Benedictines: Your monasteries and convents allow people to hear God’s voice, RomeReports.com

Pope Francis marks anniversary of Benedictine Confederation, Vatican News

Jubilee of the Foundation of the Benedictine Confederation, Sant’Anselmo

 

A Story Behind Everything

“However well satisfied you are with your own skill or intelligence,
never forget how much there is that remains unknown to you.”
-Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis

There’s so much we don’t know, so much we don’t see, so much we can’t understand. There is a story behind everything.

On a recent country drive, I stumbled upon a cemetery I had never seen before. It was an old cemetery surrounded by, likely, the original iron fence and arched gate.

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I find the old gate breathtaking: the rust over the exquisite spirals and twists on the finials and posts; the contrast of brown and green grasses; the juxtaposition of birth and death, new and old, all at once. I wonder: How many people have passed through that gate? How many tears shed at the graves of loved ones?  I wonder when flowers were last placed on a grave.

The gate remains locked now, and instead, a simpler entrance and a few graveled paths intersect to help visitors find their beloved. Only symbolic now, the fence and gate remain part of this sacred site and its story.

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I continue my journey for miles down a country road, passing no houses, or people, or other cars–truly, a solitary journey. In a wooded area, I notice several old vehicles behind the limbs and brush, so easily missed that I turned around at the next intersection to drive by again. Taking a closer look from many angles and directions, I photographed the old truck. I wondered when it’s dying day had come and it was left to become part of the landscape. When had it last been driven to town? How many children had ridden in the back of the truck, wind blowing in their hair, or perhaps more recently, used it as a jungle gym? Continue reading “A Story Behind Everything”

Easter of Light… and Darkness

“We love to think of Easter as the feast of dazzling light. We get up on Easter Sunday morning knowing that the sorrow of Good Friday is finally ended… that Jesus is vindicated, that the faith of the disciples is confirmed for all to see, and that everyone lived happily ever after. We love fairy tales. Unfortunately, Easter is not one of them.” (Joan Chittister)

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During the Holy Triduum, we remember the events leading up to Easter. Each Holy Day is significant to the fullness of Jesus’ story—his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus’ life was full of joy—learning, teaching, helping others, growing in his authentic identity, and embracing his essence—but, also, as the Gospel of John poignantly states, “Jesus wept.” Even Jesus could not escape his own suffering—the death of a friend, concern for political and religious corruption, the betrayal of his disciples, his own physical persecution, and, finally, his fear of abandonment, that he had been forgotten by God and everyone. No doubt about it, Jesus experienced both joy and suffering.

Jesus’ life is an archetype for our own spiritual journey. There is nothing that happens in our lives that Jesus didn’t also experience. When we live out our own Good Fridays, mini-deaths that bring us face to face with darkness, we know we are not alone. We may feel betrayed by loved ones, blamed for problems we didn’t create, forsaken by those we trust. We grieve the loss of loved ones and lament our own mistakes. We are depressed or sad.

Our Holy Saturday is a time of waiting, enduring or resting, perhaps a respite from problems, a time when we can separate from our pain for moments, even days at a time. In the tomb, we wait for healing. Perhaps, we allow others to mourn with us and wait with us in hope. Our waiting is a gray space of in-between.

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This darkness is not what we want—and anytime we experience something unwanted, or conversely don’t get what we do want, we live in some shade of darkness. Truth be told, we simply want peace and joy. We don’t want to be patient, to feel bad, to hurt. There are times when we cling to the darkness and choose to stay in a place of suffering, but we can both honor the darkness while looking towards a glimmer of light, to Easter. Continue reading “Easter of Light… and Darkness”

Happy Feast Day of St. Benedict!

Happy Feast Day of St. Benedict!

On March 21, Benedictines around the world celebrate the “transitus of St. Benedict, the day Benedict entered eternity. “Transitus” in Latin means passing from one state to the next—death is not the end of life, but the transition into eternity with God.  It is one of two days that St. Benedict is recognized on the Benedictine calendar. Since this feast day is always during Lent, another commemoration date was set when Pope Paul VI declared St. Benedict the Patron of Europe at the rededication of the Church at Monte Cassino on July 11, 1964. July 11 is the Feast of St. Benedict for the Universal Church. Only Mary, the mother of Jesus and John the Baptist are remembered with both their birthdays and their day of entry into heaven.

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Montecassino Abbey, Italy. St. Benedict penned the Rule in this Abbey.


Continue reading “Happy Feast Day of St. Benedict!”

You Will Be With Me Wherever I Go

“Wherever you send me
There will I find you
Wherever you lead me
There will I go
Into all nations
All situations
You will be with me wherever I go.”
-Patrick on the Water, Garrison Doles

I stumbled upon a special song today called “Patrick on the Water”. The writer, Garrison Doles, was inspired by the life of St. Patrick—born in Britain, kidnapped by raiders, and enslaved in Ireland. Years later, after escaping, he felt called by the land where he had been held captive to travel back. The song tells this story while incorporating “The Deer’s Cry” or “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”, a prayer attributed to St. Patrick.

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What does it mean to follow God’s call wherever it may lead, “into all nations/all situations”? How can I trust that God “will be with me wherever I go”? Continue reading “You Will Be With Me Wherever I Go”

Embracing the Cross

Sometimes there is a lot on our plate. Sometimes it is just too much what we have to bear. It is then that we realize what Jesus meant when he said everybody has to carry his cross,” begins Fr. Mauritius Wilde in his blog post, Embracing the Cross.

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There are times in our lives when we feel that we have reached our limit, that what we have to bear seems more than we can cope with. It may be an overwhelming sense of loneliness, or grief, or seemingly insurmountable challenges, an accumulation of daily frustrations, or doubt, fear, anger, disappointment, or betrayal.

It may feel like a total exhaustion of mind, body, and spirit.

Sometimes these burdens are carried for some time and then, finally, come glimpses of light, a bit of relief. Other burdens may last for long periods of time, even a lifetime. We call these burdens, “our cross to bear.” Often, we make these exclamations melodramatically, but other times we know this is our truth—it isa cross. It is everyone’s truth.

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But how do we manage our burdens? How do we willingly carry our cross? Continue reading “Embracing the Cross”

O God, Who Are Moved By Acts of Humility

February 2017 Oblate Lectio Divina and Discussion

Topic: Lent and Humility

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“O God, who are moved by acts of humility and respond with forgiveness to works of penance, lend your merciful ear to our prayers.” These lines in the Catholic Prayer for Blessing and Distribution of Ashes resonated with me during Ash Wednesday Mass, especially after a recent oblate discussion.

This prayer suggests our Creator is moved by what we do, by our acts of humility. The Latin word for “are moved” is flectaris, meaning to bend down. God bends down to us, moves to us, is moved by us. In our humility, we become vulnerable and open ourselves for a deeper connection with God. Continue reading “O God, Who Are Moved By Acts of Humility”

Guns and Schools, Prayer and Work

These past few days our social media feeds have been filled with messages of thoughts and prayers for the victims of yet another school shooting. And there are just as many posts that reject what may seem like Pollyanna, feel-good greetings:

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I understand both perspectives. I want to “LIKE” the thoughts and prayers posts and the posts that say prayers are not enough.

I send my thoughts and prayers to all the families who have lost loved ones because I believe in prayer. My heart goes out to the parents who have lost their beloved children, bursting with potential; for the teachers, inspired to share a passion for life-long learning; for the students who survived, the students who saw their friends die, and the students who will have nightmares for weeks, months and years to come from this trauma. Continue reading “Guns and Schools, Prayer and Work”

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