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Oblate Congress 2017

The Future Is The Spirit’s Work

Benedictine Oblates have a commitment to a specific monastery to live out their spirituality in the world according to the Rule of St. Benedict. But what is the future of Benedictine monasticism?  As monastic vocations decrease, monasteries have been forced to consider their future, either merging with other monasteries or closing altogether. How might Oblates respond to this uncertain future?

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Sister Joan Chittister addressed this theme at the World Congress of Benedictine Oblates in Rome in November 2017. She asks, “The question of the day is a simple one but potentially life-changing one: the question is why would anyone even bother to get attached to a Benedictine monastery?”

Fr. Joel Macul, Prior of Christ the King Priory, also addressed the future of Benedictine Oblates at the Benedictine Oblates Regional Conference at St. Benedict Center held in September 2018.

He begins: “We can ask ourselves why we are raising this question or topic in the first place. What prompts us to raise it? It is certainly not because the Oblate community is diminishing! Is it because the some of the communities to which Oblates belong are diminishing and Oblates might be left high and dry? Or perhaps it is a concern about Oblate communities in lands where Benedictine life is new, communities are young and the Oblate experience has no precedence? Or is there something about our culture, our American culture that makes the question of the future so important?

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While I do not consider myself a prophet in the sense of predicting a future for Benedictine life let alone Oblate life, I can fall back on the Prophet Joel.  The best future I can invite you to consider is to listen to the word of God through the prophet Joel who simply says: “It shall come to pass (code words for the future) I will pour out my spirit on all flesh…” It is clear enough. The future lies with the Spirit and our willingness and readiness to recognize its presence. According to the prophet, old and young, sons and daughters, male and female, servants and slaves will receive this gift of the spirit. The Spirit is God’s future or plan. When we can trust that Spirit, we are standing in God. And being in God is the future for ourselves, as well as humanity and our created world. If we co-opt God’s Spirit or start writing God’s plan, then theologically, we have no future. Any threads of the future will have to have the deep and inexhaustible richness of color of the Spirit. The future of anything Christian, including the Benedictine monastic way, lies with the Spirit. It is assumed that the Benedictine way is itself a gift of the Spirit and so holds within it the Spirit’s creative power. Continue reading “The Future Is The Spirit’s Work”

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Rome ~ Layers Like Lasagna

There are layers of history in Rome—“layers like lasagna”—one tour guide suggested. Literally, layers were built on top of layers, buildings that had been destroyed by war and natural disaster were covered with dirt and new buildings were erected over ruins. Symbolically, many Christian churches were built over ancient pagan sites.

The architecture, art, and religious history communicate something spiritual, a deeper story with layers of meaning, like lasagna. I’ll share some of my favorite places, and the journey, from my trip to Rome to attend the World Congress of Benedictine Oblates:

St. Peter’s Basilica and the Scavi tour Continue reading “Rome ~ Layers Like Lasagna”

Rome: Packing and unpacking can be a lot of work

It’s been a little over a month since I’v­e returned from Rome. I’ve reported on official business of the Oblate Congress in a four-part blog series on Being Benedictine. Continue reading “Rome: Packing and unpacking can be a lot of work”

Pilgrimage Day for the World Congress of Benedictine Oblates, Part 4

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.

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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. Continue reading “Pilgrimage Day for the World Congress of Benedictine Oblates, Part 4”

4th World Congress of Benedictine Oblates, part 3 {Benedictine Oblates stand at a crossroads in monastic history}

Attending the 4th World Congress of Benedictine Oblates was an opportunity to experience a sense of community with and to learn from our oblate family around the world.

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An important component of the Congress was meeting in small groups during the six-day event. We discussed the values embraced in Benedictine spirituality, addressed obstacles we face, including program formation, diminishing monasteries, and promotion of the oblate way of life, and brainstormed a vision for the future.

Our conversations touched on a number of challenging questions: What does it mean to be an oblate? As an oblate, how can I change my way of life to be a good example? What can our oblate groups do locally, regionally or internationally to ensure the future of Benedictine spirituality? What personal skills or abilities can I offer my oblate program?

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My small group ~ Bottom right: Judith Valente. Excerpts from her article, “Benedictine Oblates stand at a crossroads in monastic history”  are shared in this post.

Continue reading “4th World Congress of Benedictine Oblates, part 3 {Benedictine Oblates stand at a crossroads in monastic history}”

4th World Congress of Benedictine Oblates, part 2

The 4th World Congress of Benedictine Oblates continued with Mass celebrated by Emeritus Abbot Primate Notker Wolf, OSB.  Originally from the Benedictine Archabbey of St. Ottilien, Wolf served as the ninth Abbot Primate from 2000-2016 and was the initiator of the World Oblate Congresses. He has written many books, speaks a number of languages and is a well-known musician, playing everything from classical to jazz. He graced us with a beautiful thank you gift by playing his flute at a special luncheon in his honor.

I was blessed to meet Abbot Notker at Christ the King Priory in Schuyler just a few months ago. Upon his retirement, he was gifted with a trip around the world to visit monasteries that had supported his ministries through the years. I was struck by how friendly and joy-filled he is. When we met again at the Congress, his hands were full so he said, “I cannot hug you, but I give you a kiss instead.” And he kissed my cheek. A very kind man, indeed, with a heart for oblates. Continue reading “4th World Congress of Benedictine Oblates, part 2”

4th World Congress of Benedictine Oblates, part 1

Greetings from the 4th World Congress of Benedictine Oblates at Fraterna Domus in Rome, Italy!

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Benedictine Oblates from every continent, 36 countries in all, have gathered in the Eternal City to consider the Congress theme: “A Way Forward—The Benedictine Community in Movement.”  The conference started on Saturday, November 4 with a welcome from Fr. Edward Linton, Director of International Benedictine Formation and a monk from St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana. The first day we enjoy good food, Benedictine hospitality, time to connect with those we know and those we hope to know better and, of course, prayer.  Continue reading “4th World Congress of Benedictine Oblates, part 1”

Rome: Confessions, Truths and Carpe Diem!

Confession: I feel a little guilty for taking nine days off during the school year.

Truth: But not enough that I wouldn’t seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Rome.

It’s unheard of for a teacher to take off two weeks during the school year. First, we only get eleven days off for sick or vacations days per school year. Second and more importantly, it’s a lot of work to be gone, planning what students will do, securing a trusted substitute teacher to deliver curriculum, and “letting go” of controlling my classroom. (Perhaps this has something to do with being a bit of a perfectionist, control-freak, as I’m learning about Enneagram, Type One.)  Usually, teachers take time off for a wedding or funeral, a child starting college, an important doctor’s appointment, but a two-week long trip? Nope. Continue reading “Rome: Confessions, Truths and Carpe Diem!”

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