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Begin everything in prayer

The Lord is Our Shepherd: New Meaning, Ancient Words

May 2017 Oblate Reflections and Lectio Divina

Topic:  Psalm 23, God is Our Shepherd and Guide

Psalm 23 is the most commonly known Psalm—simple, familiar and full of richness. In lectio divina we ask, “What does this Psalm mean for me?”  We dwell in the words to make personal the promises of God to the people of Israel–promises of renewal, healing, peace, protection, encouragement, and guidance.

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

After reading through the text together and then quietly, we share the words and phrases that come to mind. These words should ultimately lead to personal prayer.

Psalm 23 lectio

Oblates share the words that have settled on their hearts, continuing to listen deeply to what God is saying.

“I remind myself every morning that no matter what the day may bring, I gather strength from God. If I forget this, then other thoughts come into my mind and the day doesn’t go very well.”

“I realize that I lack nothing.  When I pray the “Our Father”, I am praying for my daily bread, not for yesterday or for tomorrow or when I retire, but for my daily bread.  When I realize I lack for nothing in this present moment, my cup overflows. Even when it’s cold, rainy, dreary, or my coworkers are a pain, my cup still overflows. I need to remember the gifts rather than the stuff going on around me.”

psalm 23b

“It can be comforting to substitute the name of a loved one who has died when reading Psalm 23. The Lord is John’s shepherd, He shall not want. He makes John lie down in green pastures; he leads him beside still waters; he restores his soul.

“In grief and hard times, we can believe that our happiness will return soon and our spirit will be renewed. If you substitute happiness for spirit, the Psalm can read as prayer and affirmation. Lord, renew my spirit.” Continue reading “The Lord is Our Shepherd: New Meaning, Ancient Words”

The Presence of the Saints

The Presence of the Saints

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Saint Benedict, founder of the Benedictine Order, writes in his Rule:

When the novice is to be received, he comes before the whole community in the oratory and promises stability, fidelity to monastic life, and obedience. This is done in the presence of God and his saints … He states his promise in a document drawn up in the name of the saints whose relics are there, and of the abbot, who is present. (RB 58:17-19).

At the important moment of their vows, the monks are reminded of the presence of the Saints. The Church believes for some people with certainty that they are with God. They have risen to a life eternal, which means they are with God in unending light, joy, and community. In the Catholic Church we have the custom to invoke the Saints on certain occasions. For some this seems to be superstition. However, when you try to do it, you might be surprised that it “works”. St. Anthony has helped me a lot. He is the Saint you call when you have lost things. I often lose things. When I call him, I calm down. I trust that I will find what I have lost, and he has never disappointed me. One may argue this is self-suggestion – and if so, why not? There are other Saints you can call. Saint Christopher helps the travelers. Recently I heard about St. Leonard who helps to find a parking space. Yes, it made me smile. It is a playful way in which we recall the presence of the Saints. Who are your favorite Saints?  (Read more at WildeMonk)

 

Learn more about St. Benedict and his sister, St. Scholastica.  Capture

Praying the Psalms ~ Psalm 22

April 2017 Oblate Reflections and Lectio Divina

Topic: Praying the Psalms

We can read the Psalms with three layers in mind: what the Psalm meant the first time it was prayed in history; how the Psalm hints at the life of Christ in the New Testament and how Jesus would have prayed it; and, finally, how it applies to our own lives and  how we can pray the Psalms now. We pray Psalms 22: 1-32.

my god why have you forsaken me

In practicing Lectio Divina, after reading the Scripture out loud, we contemplate, consider and reflect on what we have heard. The Scripture is read again. After some time of silence, we are welcomed to share a word or phrase that speaks to us.

All night long I call and cannot rest, my soul will live for you.      They never trusted you in vain.     Do not stand aside trouble is near.       They trusted and you rescued them.     If God is your friend let God rescue you.        Rescue my soul from the sword.           More worm than human.        My heart is like wax melting inside me.  

One participant said the images of wild beasts in the desert environment was overwhelming—she had no words.  We rest in silence, some speak, a few sniffles, a sigh. The verses and words in this Psalm touch each of us in a unique way.

What resonates with you from reading Psalms 22?  This is what resonated with us:

So many feelings are expressed in this Psalm—complaint, fear, desperation, anguish, hopelessness. We tend to think that we should feel in a certain way, that trust is the superior action or emotion, but it is human to feel all of the desperate feelings mentioned. We can accept all of our emotions because God lets us feel all of those things and desires that we express them. Continue reading “Praying the Psalms ~ Psalm 22”

Earthquake and Easter go together

Homily for the Easter Vigil 2017 at Christ the King Priory/St. Benedict Center, Prior Fr. Joel Macul OSB

Vigil readings: Gn 1:–2:2 • Gn 22:1–18 • Ex 14:15–15:1 • Is 54:5–14 • Is 55:1–11 • Bar 3:9–15 • Ez 36:16–28 • Rom 6:3–11 • Mt 28:1–10

Earthquake! Earthquake and Easter go together today. Most of us could probably use a little earthquake right now to wake us up and get our attention. We have been sitting and listening for a long time. ….God is so full of surprises. Dawn comes, a new day and Fr. Joel Macul, O.S.B.what do we feel? An earthquake. Everything is splitting open, the old is collapsing, and the new is stepping out. The sound of the earthquake and stones rolling away, that is the announcement of Easter this year. But it is a new day, a new creation, the old has passed. After the earthquake, we cannot go back. Life is not the same, for Jesus, for the women, for disciples. Dare I say, for us also?

The readings we have just heard are like photos in a family or community album. Each year on this night we gather to sit down and look at these pictures. We gather here to listen to the stories and poems about God’s ways in our faith community’s story. We sit and listen to the stories and words of the prophets and apostles. Every time we look at a family or community photo album, the pictures remind someone of another story, of another member of the family and community. Sometimes the stories are the same, sometimes they are not. A new memory is added. It is like that with the words and rituals of this Easter Vigil. Each year the same words are read but each year they sound new and different. Something in them is heard for the first time. Why? Because each year we have grown and experienced another piece of life since the hearing last Easter. This year a particular word hits us; it makes sense, more sense than ever before. God is penetrating into our hearts ever more deeply. Each year we hear these words and each year we become these words more and more. Or so we hope.

Continue reading “Earthquake and Easter go together”

Prayer during Lent (and other times too)

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:

  1. Lent is self-offering, not denial, it comes from the heart.
  2. 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. Continue reading “Prayer during Lent (and other times too)”

Blessed are the Poor

I’ve been thinking about the decision to give (or not to give) to a beggar on the street since Pope Francis suggested that giving “is always right,” whether one thinks the other is truly in need or not.  A few evenings ago, as I was leaving a movie theater, having spent a lovely evening with friends, there was a homeless man with a sign asking for donations. Engaged in conversation, I quickly walked by him. I was unsure if I had any cash on me at the time, but as I reflected on my thoughts and actions, I realized that I did not (or could not) look the man in the eye, and I wondered why.  If I had know I had money with me, would I have given it to him? Would I have looked him in the eye then? I felt a sense of shame–some for not giving him money,  but more so that I hadn’t looked at him directly.  Looking someone in the eye honors their dignity–it acknowledges WHO THEY ARE.

poor

I am considering more that “tossing money and not looking in (their) eyes is not a Christian” way of behaving. Pope Francis suggests the way one reaches out to the person asking for help is important and must be done “by looking them in the eyes and touching their hands.” It is really about honoring the dignity of another, regardless of whether we feel the other is deserving.

Last evening, after my husband and I enjoyed a lovely restaurant meal, we encountered the same scene from earlier in the week–a homeless man with a sign asking for money. As we walked by, not looking at him directly, I paused. We had a quick discussion about giving some money or not–and I remembered Pope Francis’ advice: It is not my job to determine whether this man is truly in need or to be concerned about where the money shall be spent. And it’s not even about whether I can afford a dollar or two, of which I am quite able. If I can’t spare a dollar on the way to a concert that cost $150, then it says more about me than the beggar. I shall give out of gratitude.

So I gave the man some money and I looked him in the eye. I will make this a habit. I
believe it will be a practice in withholding judgment and freely giving. Perhaps God is simply training me for other situations that will require a radical generosity of heart. We are all poor. Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)     Blessings, Jodi

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Fr. Mauritius Wilde looks at this poverty in his most recent blog post, “I am poor, too.

Whenever I see a beggar, homeless or poor person in the streets, I have this moment of “Shall I or shall I not?” Pope Francis encourages Christians to give something, in any case. I know that many beggars are part of a bigger, very well organized group. What a shame that the poorest are misused in this way. So, shall I give a donation?

Recently I found myself begging for something before God. I cannot remember what I asked for. It must have been something of minor importance, but I remember the intensity of my begging – and felt ashamed. To my surprise, it seemed that God had nothing against me begging. On the contrary. “Ask and it will be given to you,” Jesus says in Matthew 7:7, describing God as a good and loving father.

Great care and concern are to be shown in receiving poor people and pilgrims, because in them more particularly Christ is received. (Rule of St. Benedict 53:15)

Read more at WildeMonk, Cherishing Christ Above All.

Happy Feast Day of St. Benedict!

Happy Feast Day of St. Benedict!

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

A Benedictine monk and 900 pounds of cheese  

How did Fr. Volker end up with over 900lbs of cheese?? Learn how this modern day ‘Traveling Brother’ drives 2500 miles to meet with over 150 families every year!


Shortly after coming to the United States, three of the Benedictine Monks began the task of fundraising by traveling to communities in various states. Brother Egbert, Brother Felix and Brother Placidus began their work in New York, among the German immigrant communities. They became known as the ‘Traveling Brothers’. 

Since World War II displaced many immigrants, several groups from Luxenburg and Germany settled in Wisconsin. A large group started their lives over in Port Washington, Sheboygan and Marathon City. These people were primarily farmers–many were dairy farmers. As the brothers reached out to them for support of the missions, relationships and friendships developed that have lasted to this day. Often during these visits the farmers would gift the brothers with the fruits of their labors – cheese. 

Read story – http://bit.ly/2lIg3pQ

Article written by Mary Vrbicky, Benedictine Mission House. 

Begin Everything in Prayer

February 2017 Oblate Reflections and Lectio Divina

Topic—Prayer; Rule of St. Benedict, Chapters 8-20, 52.

The Divine Presence is Everywhere, RB 19:1 We believe that the divine presence is divine-presence
everywhere
and that in every place the eyes of the Lord are watching the good and the wicked. (Prov 15:3). 2. But beyond the least doubt we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the divine office.

“It is also held that even work can be prayer. Any occupation undertaken through obedience, offered to God and accompanied with short invocations frequently renewed would in itself be prayer. Thus, only by sanctifying one’s daily actions can one pray without ceasing.” – Maria-Thomas Beil

Lectio and Discussion

Scripture for Lectio Divina: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

After reading the Scripture out loud, we contemplate, consider and reflect on what we have heard. The Scripture is read again. After some time of silence, we are welcomed to share a word or phrase that speaks to us. What I love most about practicing lectio divina with a group is what resonates with each of us is so different. We bring to the table a variety of ways to understand what we’ve read; we learn from each other.

Inner room.      Deliver.     Do not babble.    So that others may see them.    Received they reward.      Sees in secret.          Thy will.         Us.          Forgive.           Your Father knows what you need. 

 What resonates with you from this reading?  This is what resonated with us:

prayer-fr-volker

There’s more to prayer than making words. Continue reading “Begin Everything in Prayer”

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