Hearing from speakers, having small group discussions, sharing meals and worshipping in daily prayers and Mass were on the agenda for 5 out of the 6 days of the conference. The exception, Wednesday, November 8, was a special day for the participants of the 4th World Congress of Benedictine Oblates.
Our morning started with attending the General Audience of Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square. We were delighted to be seated on the platform, very near where the Holy Father was also seated. His message on the Eucharist was followed with a welcome for visiting groups with a special mention of Benedictine Oblates. For many oblates, this was one of the most magical moments of the week.
Tre Fontane Abbey, which includes three churches, was the next stop on our pilgrimage. The Church of St. Paul of Three Fountains is the spot where St. Paul was jailed and then beheaded. Legend states when severed from Paul’s body, his head bounced and struck the earth in three different places, from which fountains sprang up. These fountains still flow and are located in the sanctuary. I particularly liked the church and monastery dedicated to Saints Vincent and Anastasius built by Pope Honorius I in 626 and given to the Benedictines.
Sant Anselmo was our final destination where we were greeted by Prior Father Mauritius Wilde, formerly Prior of Christ the King Priory in Schuyler, Nebraska, the monastery of my oblation. Sant Anselmo is the home of the Abbot Primate and eighty monks from over thirty countries from around the world. 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.” We joined the monks in Vespers, praying in Latin as the common language of prayer. It was a moving experience to sit in the monk’s choir with a dozen other oblates for prayers. We were invited to a lovely tapas dinner and wine, an enjoyable evening wandering the monastery grounds, visiting with oblates and shopping in the gift shop. For Steve Meysing, also an Oblate from Christ the King Priory, and myself, seeing where our former Prior prays and works was another highlight of our trip to Rome.
The final day of the congress was spent responding to the question, “Where are we going?” and developing a vision statement to guide our prayer and work in the future. After gathering feedback from each of the small groups, the following statements were created:
Statement 1—The Rule as Our Living Tradition. We desire to live the values and virtues (moderation, humility, service and hospitality) of the Rule in today’s context—diversity, ecology and equality.
Statement 2—Listening through Prayer and Contemplation. We commit to hearing the Word of Christ, that prayer give structure and rhythm to our Oblate life, and silence to listen with the ear of our heart.
Statement 3—Oblate formation to ensure the future. Oblates need to be well grounded in the Rule and in the Tradition with ongoing conversatio (conversion of life) and continuous formation, and as oblates serving as mentors to others.
Statement 4—The Oblate as the Good Steward. The oblate is committed to the care of the planet at the personal, local, regional and international levels as skills allow, that oblates use their spiritual and material gifts responsibly, and take action in the society they live in.
Statement 5—Oblates are networked working towards improved communication among themselves and their monasteries and using websites, links, contacts, future congresses and regional meetings to stay connected.
These statements will be shared with our oblate groups for further refining.
There is no doubt that each person that attended the congress left with their own personal experience that will be integrated into their spirituality and shared with their monastery and fellow oblates. I welcome you to share your experience for a future blog post by sending an email HERE.