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Being Benedictine

Living Benedictine values in everyday life

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”

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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”

Spiritual Lessons from The Little Prince

If you haven’t started The Little Prince podcast series with Fr. Mauritius Wilde, you must. The third in the series was just released and it packs a punch.

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If you haven’t read The Little Prince, no worries. It’s helpful, but not at all necessary to benefit from the lessons of the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry classic. You can find the book and chapter summaries HERE.
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The author points to “sicknesses of our times.  Jesus said it was not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick,” Fr. Mauritius points out. We do not always achieve the ideal in our lives, but we take comfort that Jesus still meets us where we are. It is Jesus that went to the margins–to the broken people, the lepers, the Pharisees. It is the Little Prince who invites us in a compassionate way to welcome our “oddness”, to accept that all people have limitations.

We all experience feelings of judgment, shame, fear, and expectations. “Everybody has spots in their life that they are ashamed of.  And that’s okay. This is the place where Jesus goes. He is so merciful, so tender. He never tried to shame people. Never. He knew they were struggling enough already with their shame,” Fr. Mauritius shares.

Fr. Mauritius’ message, through the story of The Little Prince, meets us right where we are with our inadequacies and imperfections, the expectations that we put on ourselves and others, and our heartfelt desire for authenticity.

The Little Prince, the movie, is also worth an evening on the couch with popcorn. More information about the 2015 animated movie HERE.

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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.

After reviewing my teaching contract, I knew I didn’t need formal permission to take the nine days off in a row, but it was important to me that I have my principal’s blessing because it can be just as difficult for students when teachers are absent. But, Principal Brent Toalson was so gracious in understanding my unique request to take time off. He agreed with what I strongly believe: life is short and it’s important to seize the day when opportunities come.

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Confession: I’m a little nervous about leaving my classroom for two weeks.

Truth: I have no reason to feel nervous because I have an amazing substitute teacher, Karen Kay, a retired business teacher and my former department chair, who will step in and do everything perfectly (I think she’s probably an Enneagram One, too.)  When my mother-in-law passed away two years ago at the beginning of the school year, Karen taught the first week of classes for me. It was the best start of a school year my students ever had!

So CARPE DIEM!! I’m off to Rome to attend the Fourth International Congress for Benedictine Oblates. The conference is hosted every four years for Benedictine oblates, novices and oblate directors from around the world.

Oblates are ordinary people who want to live as a monk in the world. Affiliated with a specific monastery (for me, that is Christ the King Priory in Schuyler, Nebraska), oblates strive to become holy in their everyday life, in their family and their workplace. Oblates promise to live a prayerful life according to the Rule of St. Benedict.

The Congress theme, A Way Forward – The Benedictine Community in Movement, will provide encouragement for oblates to be peacemakers in a broken world, sharing hospitality in the face of war, terrorism, refugee crises and religious fanaticism, and to be stewards of an abused planet as challenged and inspired by Pope Francis in his encyclical “Laudato Si”. Surrounded by chaos, idolized entertainment, digital noise, and consumerism, oblates desire a life of silence, contemplation, and simplicity.  We hope to answer the question: How can we as oblates create and contribute to communities around us – in our oblate groups and chapters, in our families and neighborhoods, in our workplaces, in our own monasteries of oblation and in society as a whole?

Oblates desire to be change agents in their own communities – together finding a new way forward. It sounds like a daunting task, a tall order, and very serious business. But as an oblate, I have hope that each of us can do our part to encourage peace. Continue reading “Rome: Confessions, Truths and Carpe Diem!”

Lord, You Know Me: Friendships and Loneliness

A new blog post from Fr. Mauritius Wilde, Prior of Sant’ Anselmo in Rome, that honors both friendship, which God touches, and loneliness, which can only be filled with God. It captures the essence of the book Anam Cara, by John O’Donohue, which I treasure. He writes, “You should never belong to something that is outside yourself…(it is) important to find a balance in your belonging.”

He refers to the friendship of God, who is with us from the beginning as our “secret companion”, our truest friend. Christ is our true companion, nearer to us than any other. There is a danger to become too attached to our friendships, but we must not forget the Source of all friendships, our friendship in Christ. It is too easy to forget that God is our great love, our best friend.

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Lord, You Know Me

It is wonderful to have a friend who knows you well, with whom you have walked for many years. With whom you can share everything; who knows your story. With whom a conversation does not start at zero, you can just jump into it. To have a person who understands and who knows you, is a great gift of God.

However, sometimes not even a friend can reach my heart. This is an odd experience. Sometimes we are just left with ourselves, left alone. We cannot find a partner that adequately responds to our feelings, our story, our thoughts, situation or needs. But these moments that can be filled with darkness and sadness can also turn into a very precious experience. The situation breaks us open to realize that our loneliness is not an accident, but the reflection of our deepest call as human beings that goes beyond what another human being can grasp or understand. We realize that our loneliness touches the dimension of God; it is a result of the fact that we are immediate to God. This is the monk’s moment. The term monk stems from the Greek word “monachos” which means “single, solitary”.

Through God’s grace, we are able in these moments of aloneness to talk to Christ or to God and find his ear. And his response is always exactly what we need. We realize: HE understands, HE knows. His presence resonates with everything I utter and express. I feel understood, appreciated, loved. I feel liked by him as by a good friend. But even better, and in a perfect way. Nothing is missing.  Read More at WildeMonk >>

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Gather Together

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When we see problems, we want solutions. When there is chaos, we desire peace. As over-thinking humans, we think that our incessant thinking will bring us to our desired goal. And the sooner, the better. There is no time to wait around for peace, to slowly work through issues or to wait for answers to present themselves. We want peace and we want it now. But is this God’s way?  Fr. Mauritius shares,

“There are some words in our prayers that I just love. Words such as “gather together”; we monks chant them regularly in a hymn. These words resonate with my longing for unity and peace. In these times when our countries and our world seem to be more torn than ever, this longing is even stronger. It moves me to strive for unity and collaboration, in our small worlds, in our communities, in our families, and in the teams in which we work. When we live and work together as one, things flow better and we are happier and more successful.

However, one time while praying the hymn, I paid closer attention. It says, that all things are gathered together in Christ. Both the original Greek and Latin have a term that comprise the word “head” (recapitulare). The gathering happens in Christ, who is the head. He does the gathering together. This immediately gave me relief. I cannot do it. He will do it. He will gather us all. But, how does he do it?”  Read more at WildeMonk.  

The Gospels: The Story of Jesus

God does so much and asks so little

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The past several days I have read all four Gospels of the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke, AND John. And not just the miracles or the well-known parables, but from beginning to end; every chapter, every verse. And for each of the Gospels, I’ve also read a chapter in my textbook, The New Testament by Stephen L. Harris, for a class I’m taking at Creighton University. Each chapter comments on key topics, themes, author, date and place of composition, various sources used, the intended audience and interpretations.

I don’t have the words yet for all that I’ve learned, but that’s also why I’m procrastinating. I need to find some words (very soon) to write an 1800 word paper, due in 48 hours, responding to this prompt: Explain the story of the life of Jesus as portrayed in the Gospel of John, and compare it to either Matthew or Luke and how this might relate to ministry today.

I trust the words will come, but this first. Here goes….

Surprisingly (to me) each of the four Gospels share a unique portrayal of Jesus, his life, death, resurrection, and ultimate purpose of all of the above. Ninety percent of the content in the Gospel of John is not in the other three synoptic Gospels. Who knew?Continue reading God does so much and asks so little

Luke vs. John: An 1800ish word paper

the wordA few of you asked to read the paper…and now that it is graded (94%), I feel confident enough to share the-just-shy-of-1800-words that I wrote.  I would love to hear what you think, whether you have ever read all four Gospels in their entirety, and what resonates most with your spirituality.

Jodi Gehr
Word Count: 1794

Each of the Gospels contributes to an understanding of who Jesus is. The Gospel of Luke shares Jesus as bringing a universal faith under the direction of the Spirit; John focuses on the power and divinity of Jesus to confer salvation and immortality (Harris 110, 189). The themes, characters, teachings and post-resurrection interpretations for each of the gospels support these unique aspects of Jesus. The relationship between John and Luke could be stated: the Johannine Jesus shows who God is while Luke shows people how to be God-like in their lives.  Read all 1800ish words here.  

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”

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