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Being Benedictine

Living Benedictine values in everyday life

Month

April 2018

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

 

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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”

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