March 2017 Oblate Reflections and Lectio Divina
Topics: Lent for Benedictines; Ways to Pray
Source for discussion: Study Guide for the Rule of St. Benedict with Reflections for Oblates and All Who Seek God, Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB
Readings in the Rule of Saint Benedict: RB 48:14-15 THE DAILY MANUAL LABOR, RB 49:1-10 THE OBSERVANCE OF LENT
St. Benedict states that the life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent (RB:49). St. Benedict in his wisdom knew few would have the strength for this, so he has other suggestions. Fr. Volker Futter, Oblate Director, shared two important ideas:
- Lent is self-offering, not denial, it comes from the heart.
- We need to acknowledge the presence of God then we can do sacrifice. Sacrifice can be giving up something specific like food, TV or internet, or we can give a positive sacrifice.
Oblates shared that “giving of your time is priceless—you can’t get it back”. So a short visit to the nursing home, or a visit to a neighbor or sending someone a long overdue card—that is your gift of time. “This may sound simple, but one of the hardest things for me to do is find that priceless gift of time for others. It really is a sacrifice.”
A definition of compunction of heart was requested. Compunction of heart is when we have an uneasiness or anxiety of the conscience because of something we may have done that may have caused worry, fear, etc. in someone’s heart. When we give this up we receive more in return.
The monks are given a sheet to fill out and return to the Abbot before Lent starts, listing their intended Lenten sacrifices. The Abbot reviews it, makes suggestions and signs and returns to the monk. This prevents vainglory from “sneaking into a monks list of sacrifices.” The urge to have a long list so that “I might be better than another monk” can suggest vainglory. Oblates could consider this also for Lent—turn the form into Fr. Volker and he could return it to you signed, with suggestions. One could also share with a soul friend for accountability. It’s never too late to make a Lenten resolution, and could even be done any time of the year to practice a spiritual discipline. Lent is a good time for introspection, but perhaps there are other times of the year that one may be in particular need to withdraw and reflect. Suffering remains until the heart lets go, Fr. Volker shared. Lent is a special time for us to realize that suffering comes from our attachments and that are heart is meant to be free.
Suggestions for prayer:
PRAY UNCEASINGLY. We have often heard we are to pray always, unceasing prayer was part of the monk’s life. How can we possibly do this? We all know that it is ridiculous to think anyone should walk around constantly saying prayers. If we begin our day with a prayer to sanctify our actions for the day, our day becomes prayer. Even the mundane tasks of laundry, doing dishes, cooking, cleaning up the spilled milk are prayers. We do these without thinking we are praying—-but we are using God’s gifts of our hands, the food, the water, for which we are so grateful. We CAN pray unceasingly.
LITURGY OF THE HOURS or DIVINE OFFICE. This is the recitation of the Psalms at specified times of the day. From our study book St. Benedict placed such great importance on the Liturgy of the Hours that he called it the Work of God (Opus Dei). The Liturgy of the Hours is so valued in the Church that Benedict said, “Nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God”. Our study book states, “Oblates strive each day to pray some part of the Liturgy of the Office, as the circumstances of their lives permit. Even if we pray by ourselves we never pray privately as this is the public prayer of the whole church.”
LECTO DIVINA. “This is one of my favorites, especially when I allow myself the time to really listen to God speak to me. There is no better feeling in the world than to hear his voice in whatever form it may come.” The process of lectio divina need not be legalistically followed, but practiced with fluidity: Read. Reflect. Read again until some word/ phrase grabs you. Pray. How does this apply to my life now? Contemplate. Journal. Savor the word or phrase in silence.
COMMUNAL PRAYER. “This was new to me and the most comforting form of prayer ever. For all my prayer life I have struggled with guilt because I would tell someone I would pray for them and then forget who and why I said I would offer these prayers for. They immediately told me I should never feel guilty. Father said the monastery has 500-600 people requesting prayers constantly. So when I pray I ask God to remember all those I said I would pray for. They are a part of my communal prayer and becomes a prayer family. The “Our Father” is a communal prayer—we pray “Our”, not “my”; give “us”, not “me” … I was reminded that when the Apostles asked Jesus how to pray he said, “You pray, Our Father who art in heaven…”
EJACULATORY PRAYER. There are times when we all have trouble praying. Busyness, a crisis, illness, a tragedy, those times when we are even angry with God. Father encouraged all of us to have an ejaculatory prayer to use. One that is very short and to the point such as the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Or “Jesus I Trust in you”. Sometimes “Jesus, Help” is all you need. Choose one that touches your heart; it can be used in any situation and repeated over and over.The ejaculatory prayer is a quick way to bring you back when your mind wanders (and it happens to everyone.)
St. Benedict says it is very important to use multiple forms of prayer, to find balance in our prayer life. We need to have a variety consider the prayer forms listed including Liturgy of the Hours, spontaneous prayer (outpouring of your heart), stillness, prayers with others, music, and so on. Prayer should be short and pure unless perhaps it is prolonged under the inspiration of divine grace. When discussing unanswered prayers a beautiful comment shared, “When praying for something and you don’t get it, there is a level of excitement because there is something else coming.”
Oblate discussion comments compiled by Betty Bohaty and Oblate Director, Fr. Volker Futter.