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Being Benedictine

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Pope Francis

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.

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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.

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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:

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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

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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 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.

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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.”  He writes,

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.

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