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St. Benedict Center ~ Christ the King Priory

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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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. Continue reading “125 Years: A Big Day for Benedictines!”

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”

Happy 20th Anniversary, St. Benedict Center!! 

Happy 20th Anniversary, St. Benedict Center!! Tens of thousands of people have enjoyed the many gifts of St. Benedict Center since 1997. At our celebration and blessing of our new labyrinth on Sunday, July 16, I shared the following words:

IMG_4788Some things change the trajectory of your life forever—getting married, having a baby, getting a new job, for some becoming a monk or a sister. For me, I add to the list coming to St. Benedict Center for the first time in June 2002. It was the beginning of a relationship that has changed my life in many ways.

First, the retreats that I’ve attended at the Center have nurtured my love of learning. The first retreat I went to was a Contemplative Prayer retreat, a 4-day silent retreat. I wasn’t sure if I would come back for a silent retreat again (it was hard!) but I knew I would be coming back to this sacred getaway soon. It started out that I came two or three times a year….and it gradually increased over time to be once or twice a month. There was one summer that I came every week and it was suggested that I build a little cabin out back. I’ve particularly enjoyed attending retreats given by the monks of Christ the King and by authors like Macrina Weiderkehr, Anselm Gruen, Helen Prejean, and Michael Casey. I have even come back for more silent retreats too, and I eagerly look forward to them now.

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Second, I am grateful for the relationships I have made at St. Benedict Center. I have met some of my best friends here—the monks and oblates, people I have met on retreat and those that have come to retreats that I lead. It has become a spiritual home for me, and now it can be difficult to find silent time because I run into so many friends and interesting people that I want to connect with.  If I have a friend that I didn’t meet here, you can be sure I have invited them to come with me. Which brings me to the next gift that the Center has given me.

I have a passion for sharing what I love.  If you know me, you know that when I feel passionate about something I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. If I read a good book, I want to tell everyone about it and start a book discussion. If I take a photograph that moves me, I feel compelled to share it with others. Fr. Thomas has given me the opportunity to put purpose and passion together by helping with the St. Benedict Center Facebook page and other social media marketing. It’s something I love to do and it’s helped me think more like a monk too; with everything I post I say, “What would a monk do?” Continue reading “Happy 20th Anniversary, St. Benedict Center!! “

St. Henry II: Patron Saint of Benedictine Oblates, July 13

Happy Feast of St. Henry, patron saint of Benedictine Oblates!

Saint Henry II was born in 973 in the village of Hildesheim, Bavaria, German. (Note: Hildesheim is the same hometown as Fr. Mauritius Wilde, Prior of Sant’ Anselmo formerly of Christ the King Priory. They also attended the same school!) Henry served as the Duke of Bavaria (995) and as the Holy Roman Emperor (972-1024), crowned by Pope Benedict VIII. As emperor, Henry, who had considered the priesthood, was devoutly religious. He shared his faith by rebuilding the many churches that had been destroyed,  building monasteries, and supporting them with both money and land.

According to the Life of Saint Benedict, as told by Saint Gregory the Great, Oblates were received by Saint Benedict in Subiaco even before the monastery at Monte Cassino was founded. A monk during the 11th century wrote:

“There are a great many of the faithful, both poor and rich, who request confraternity with us. We give unto all of them participation in whatever good is done in our monastery, be it by prayer or almsgiving. Let us make special prayer for them, both while they live and after their death.”

According to historians, many people committed themselves to God and to follow the Rule of St. Benedict by uniting themselves to famous monasteries such as Cluny, Hirschau, Saint Blase, and others. St. Henry II was one such individual. Tradition states that Henry wanted to be a Benedictine and lived as an Oblate. Once when he was suffering from a severe illness in the monastery of Monte Cassino, St. Benedict cured him by a wonderful miracle. Continue reading “St. Henry II: Patron Saint of Benedictine Oblates, July 13”

A Big Day for Benedictines: July 11, Feast Day of St. Benedict

Learn more about St. Benedict on July 11 in an original EWTN docu-drama presenting the life and spirituality of Saint Benedict of Nursia.  Fr. Prior Mauritius Wilde and Abbot Primate Gregory Polan contribute to this one-hour program taped at Sant’ Anselmo, the Benedictine monastery in Rome.  The program airs Tuesday, July 11 at  8:00 am and Wednesday, July 12 at 12:00 AM Central Time.  See EWTN schedule for your time zone.

Listen to The Life of St. Benedict –The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde O.S.B.  Podcasts #28-33 reflect on the life of St. Benedict by using the biography penned by St. Gregory the Great. The first episode looks at the pivotal discernment he made as a young man to pursue the religious life. The aspect of detachment from our earthly family in favor of our Heavenly Father is explored by Fr. Mauritius. There are six reflections on the life of St. Benedict in this Discerning Heart series.

Read Benedict-inspired blog posts from Fr. Mauritius Wilde, OSB at WildeMonk.net

Learn more about living Benedictine spirituality as a monk or oblate at Christ the King Monastery’s website.  

And finally, St. Benedict is pretty special to me too.

“My parents gave me an illustrated book of the “Lives of the Saints” to commemorate the occasion and as any nine-year-old would do, the first thing I did was look up my birthday. I was immediately disappointed. The illustration seemed so dark –a man with a hood, a scary looking bird and a funny name that I had only associated with Benedict Arnold, a famous American traitor.  After gaining such a beautiful name like Christine, what kind of luck did I have to get a guy named Benedict on my birthday?!  July 11, St. Benedict, Abbot, it said.  I read the pages about St. Benedict often, thinking that I should have some connection with this man as my patron saint, but then I forgot about him until…

Read more of St. Benedict, St. Scholastica and Spiritual Friendship at SoulFully You.

Happy Feast Day of St. Benedict!

Many Ways to Pray: Walking a Labyrinth

“There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” –Rumi

There are many ways to pray—in song, spoken or written words, silence, creativity, nature and movement, just to mention a few. Paul recommends to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), which is only possible if we are able to connect with our Creator in a variety of ways. We are meant to engage our senses, our whole bodies, in prayer.

I’ve come to appreciate this about the Catholic Mass, even if visitors might think there is a lot of up and down. We genuflect, sit, stand, kneel and bow. These gestures, postures or movement help to bring our whole being into prayerful expression—raising our hands when saying the “Our Father”, making the sign of the cross or receiving the Eucharist allows us to use our bodies in prayer.

lab signIn addition, walking the stations of the cross or a labyrinth, taking a nature hike, or practicing yoga or tai chi are prayerful forms of movement that engage our bodies while quieting our mind. Going away on retreat is an opportunity to explore and practice various forms of prayer.

St. Benedict Center is building a labyrinth modeled after the famous labyrinth in the Cathedral of Chartres, France.  “When the Holy Land was closed to pilgrims in the Middle Ages, labyrinths abounded in the churches of Europe.  They were used to symbolically represent the pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Our life is a pilgrimage, a journey to our eternal home with God in heaven.” –Father Thomas Leitner The labyrinth will be completed in late summer or fall. 

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This summer I had the opportunity to pray in many ways while attending an eight-day Ignatian retreat at the Creighton University Retreat Center. Each day, for about an hour, I met with a spiritual director to receive guidance and to share my faith journey; the remainder of the day was spent reflecting on these discussions and praying. One of the ways that I prayed was by walking a labyrinth.

“A labyrinth is not a maze. A maze is a symbol of life without meaning, it is an agent of confusion, deception with dead ends that lead you nowhere. But a labyrinth is a symbol of a life of deeper meaning, an on-going sacred journey leading us inward, outward and to greater wholeness.” –Carrie Newcomer Continue reading “Many Ways to Pray: Walking a Labyrinth”

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.

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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”

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