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Feast of St. Henry: Patron Saint of Oblates

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 (depicted on the side of his tomb, below.)

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I was fortunate on my recent pilgrimage Germany to visit the first Cathedral of Bamberg, founded by Saint Henry in 1002. The Bamberg Cathedral (German: Bamberger Dom) was constructed by King (and later Emperor) Henry II (Henrich ) and consecrated on his 39th birthday, May 6, 1012. The Cathedral and town of Bamberg, Germany were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. 

The Cathedral holds the double tomb of Henry and his wife, Cunigunde, created by Tilman Riemenschneider in 1513.  The slab cover portrays the imperial couple and the side panels depict scenes from their lives including Henry’s cure from kidney stones (pictured above), the weighing of his soul after his death, and Cunigunde at Henry’s side at his death.

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Here Lie Two People: a poem about Saints Henry and Cunigunde

Here rest the benefactors,
Here they lie close together, as saints,
Here is the foundation of the diocese of Bamberg.
Their names are inscribed
In our history,
Their work is
Still felt today.
They are ahead of us,
We follow in their footsteps.
They have arrived,
We are still traveling.

The Cathedral also includes the Chapel of the Heads, dedicated in 1997, located beneath the northern spire of the west choir. The heads of Saints Henry and Cunigunde lie resting in a glass shrine.

IMG_3699St. Henry was more celebrated for his holiness and generosity than for his military and political career. Henry died in 1024 and his body was buried in the church of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul at Bamberg (pictured throughout). He was canonized in 1146 by Pope Eugene III. Henry showed such great love and veneration for the Order that he has been chosen the special patron of the Oblates.

Benedictine Oblates continue to commit themselves to seeking God by following the Rule of St. Benedict as their daily life permits. This includes making promises of stability, obedience,  and the conversion of life. Oblates “connect to God all their encounters, their words and deeds, all events of their lives; thereby they want to honor Him, fulfill His will, and dedicate their whole lives to Him (Beil).”

Sources:

Catholic Online
 St. John’s Abbey
Church of St. Henry, Excerpted from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.
Catholic News Agency
Study Guide for the Rule of St. Benedict, Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB, Abbey of St. Walburga, Virginia Dale, CO, 2014.
Bamberger Dom Virtual tours and information
Bamberg Cathedral—Treasure of faith, A Meditative and Art-Historical Guide, Archdiocese of Bamberg

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Happy Birthday, St. Benedict!

St. Benedict is pretty special to me for a few reasons.

First, we share a birthday. I have to admit that I was pretty disappointed when I first discovered this. My parents had given me an illustrated book of the “Lives of the Saints” to commemorate my Confirmation. As any nine-year-old would do, I immediately looked to see who the saint was for July 11, my birthday. Perhaps Elizabeth or Mary, Theresa or Christine (my confirmation name) would be my special saint. A lovely woman saint with a beautiful name—I had hoped.

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Instead, I beheld an illustration of a man with a dark hood, a scary looking bird, some sort of walking cane and an unusual name that I had only associated with Benedict Arnold, a famous American traitor.

July 11, St. Benedict, Abbot, it said.

I had never heard of this saint and surely did not know what an Abbot was. Through the years, I returned to these pages about St. Benedict often, thinking that I should have some connection with this man, my patron saint.

Fast forward 26 years. I am married with a seven-year-old daughter, a high school teacher, and club sponsor. I live a full and busy life, but have a deep desire for silence and prayer. I respond to an advertisement in our local newspaper for a silent contemplative prayer retreat and discover an oasis of peace called the St. Benedict Center in Schuyler, Nebraska.

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St. Benedict Center

And then I remember St. Benedict. My saint. Continue reading “Happy Birthday, St. Benedict!”

A Benedictine Pilgrimage: The Soul of a Pilgrim, Part 1

“A pilgrimage is an intentional journey into the experience of unknowing and discomfort for the sake of stripping away preconceived expectations. We grow closer to God beyond our own imagination and ideas.” The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within, Christine Valters Paintner

Recently my Spirit Circle chose to read Christine Valters Paintner’s “The Soul of a Pilgrim”, a book that explores pilgrimage as both an inner and outer journey. Several of us were preparing for “Footsteps of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica,” a Benedictine pilgrimage to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland sponsored by the Benedictine Oblates of Christ the King Priory.

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By definition, a pilgrimage is a sacred journey or holy expedition, but we do not need to travel a great distance to go on pilgrimage. It is more about choosing to be “attentive to the divine at work in our lives through deep listening, patience, opening ourselves to the gifts that arise in the midst of discomfort, and going out to our own inner wild edges to explore new frontiers.”

The purpose of going on a journey “is always to return home carrying the new insight back to everyday life,Paintner writes. “When we take inward and outward journeys, we can be pilgrims as long as we stay open to new experiences.”  A week of hard work, becoming a new parent, losing a loved one, resolving a relationship conflict, or going on a spiritual retreat can all be a pilgrimage if one seeks to learn, reflect and be transformed from the experience.

These insights from the first few chapters and the book “The Soul of a Pilgrim” travel with me on my two-part pilgrimage. First, I visit cousins in Germany and then I join thirty-six other pilgrims to learn more about St. Benedict and to visit sacred sites including churches, monasteries, abbeys, castles, small villages, and large cities.

Three weeks, three days I will be gone. As I journey from Nebraska to Europe, I reflect on both my outer and inner experiences—the people, places, feelings and insights that I encounter on the journey. Continue reading “A Benedictine Pilgrimage: The Soul of a Pilgrim, Part 1”

Being Benedictine in the 21st Century: Spiritual Seekers in Conversation

You are invited to “Being Benedictine in the 21st Century: Spiritual Seekers in Conversation,” planned for June 26-28, 2020 at Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, KS. This opportunity marks the first-ever gathering of professed Benedictines, Oblates, staff, volunteers, friends and benefactors of Benedictine ministries and monasteries, and any seeker who has read The Rule of St. Benedict and experienced a conversion of heart.

The Rule of St. Benedict, a text written in the sixth century for monks living in community, contains wisdom that can be applied to the questions and pressing needs of the 21st century for those seeking purpose, inclusivity and connection—Catholic and Protestant, professed monks, religious leaders, Benedictine Oblates and spiritual seekers, young and old, married and single. Many have found the Rule, relevant 1500 years later, to be a guidebook for growing a deeper relationship to God and others. Benedictine values, including listening, community and consensus building, hospitality, humility, prayer and good work, provide an antidote for troubled times. Continue reading “Being Benedictine in the 21st Century: Spiritual Seekers in Conversation”

From who we are to who we might become

February 2019 Oblate Lectio Divina and Discussion

Topic: Conversion

Luke 5:27-32Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

Jesus saw something in Levi—that he was both a tax collector and open to an invitation to follow him. Levi worked with the oppressive Roman Empire, likely judged as greedy and affluent at the expense of others, but Jesus saw his potential.

So often we see people or situations as either/or, not both/and. We see the tax collector, or a politician, or social media as either good or bad, quickly making blanket statements or judgments to categorize into one or the other. But Jesus does not see Levi as one or the other, he sees Levi, and us, as both/and—as who we are and who we might become. Continue reading “From who we are to who we might become”

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”

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!”

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!! “

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