Happy Feast of St. Henry, patron saint of Benedictine Oblates!
Saint Henry II was born in 973 in the village of Hildesheim, Bavaria, German. (Note: Hildesheim is the same hometown as Fr. Mauritius Wilde, Prior of Sant’ Anselmo formerly of Christ the King Priory. They also attended the same school!) Henry served as the Duke of Bavaria (995) and as the Holy Roman Emperor (972-1024), crowned by Pope Benedict VIII. As emperor, Henry, who had considered the priesthood, was devoutly religious. He shared his faith by rebuilding the many churches that had been destroyed, building monasteries, and supporting them with both money and land.
According to the Life of Saint Benedict, as told by Saint Gregory the Great, Oblates were received by Saint Benedict in Subiaco even before the monastery at Monte Cassino was founded. A monk during the 11th century wrote:
“There are a great many of the faithful, both poor and rich, who request confraternity with us. We give unto all of them participation in whatever good is done in our monastery, be it by prayer or almsgiving. Let us make special prayer for them, both while they live and after their death.”
According to historians, many people committed themselves to God and to follow the Rule of St. Benedict by uniting themselves to famous monasteries such as Cluny, Hirschau, Saint Blase, and others. St. Henry II was one such individual. Tradition states that Henry wanted to be a Benedictine and lived as an Oblate. Once when he was suffering from a severe illness in the monastery of Monte Cassino, St. Benedict cured him by a wonderful miracle.
St. Henry was more celebrated for his holiness and generosity than for his military and political career. Henry died in 1024 and his body was buried in the church of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul at Bamberg. He was canonized in 1146 by Pope Eugene III. Henry showed such great love and veneration for the Order that he has been chosen the special patron of the Oblates.
Benedictine Oblates continue to commit themselves to seeking God by following the Rule of St. Benedict as their daily life permits. This includes making promises of stability, obedience, and the conversion of life. Oblates “connect to God all their encounters, their words and deeds, all events of their lives; thereby they want to honor Him, fulfill His will, and dedicate their whole lives to Him (Beil).”
Christ the King Priory welcomed six new Oblates on Saturday, July 10. Fr. Joel, Prior of the community, shared:
Today we have six oblates that will make a final oblation to take up the spirit and some practice of the Rule of Benedict and live it in their daily lives. I would like to think that over the past few years you have been in a process of letting something new happen in your lives. The threads of your life have met with new colors, a new stitch, and a new patch has been woven. Now you come forward to place it into the large cloth, the wedding garment if you will. Or to use Jesus’ other image, over the probation period, the grapes of your life, your blood, if you push the image further, has been fermenting and now the new wine of your Benedictine-associated life is ready to be put into the wineskin of the Benedictine family of oblates and this monastic community.
And what is this new piece of cloth, this new wine? For each of you it is something unique. You discovered an affinity in yourself with the monastic way. Deep down, you saw the threads of your monastic soul or heart. Perhaps they were dormant or perhaps you had to set to work to test them to make sure they were of the color and texture of the monastic patch in God’s wonderful garment that clothes humanity. But you discovered it! Maybe it was the balance, the moderation that Benedict so frequently puts forward as a key virtue. Perhaps it is humility, Benedict’s criteria for being a fully integrated human being; perhaps it is the discovery that patience is what helps me to live through and make sense of the suffering in my life and that of society. Perhaps it is the regular rhythm of praying the psalms that we do here in community that struck a chord in the music that is already playing in your heart. Each of you has found something in our Benedictine Way that is and has become part of the fabric of your life. Read his entire homily here.
St. John’s Abbey
Church of St. Henry, Excerpted from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.
Catholic News Agency
Study Guide for the Rule of St. Benedict, Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB, Abbey of St. Walburga, Virginia Dale, CO, 2014.