Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Lifestyle Worthy of the Gospel, Part III

Yet all these blessings lose their savor if they are not integrated within the search for God and the commitment to gospel values, as embodied in our particular way of life.  Monasticism is a package:  Some of its features are desirable, but they are inseparable from necessary renunciations.  These are not impositions that we rightfully resent, but part of what we have freely chosen.  Jesus prefaced his demand for absolute poverty with the conditional phrase, "If you wish to be perfect" (Mt. 19:21).  The choice is ours:  After fully manifesting the hard and difficult passages to be encountered on the journey towards God, Benedict solemnly reminds the aspirant:  "This is the rule under which you wish to serve; if you can observe it, enter; but if not, freely leave" (58:10).  Selective observance is unacceptable.  We are expected to commit ourselves to the whole.

from Strangers to the City
by Michael Casey

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Lifestyle Worthy of the Gospel, Part II

Show that list to any of our contemporaries and they will conclude that you lead a miserable life.  And so you will -- unless there is something else.  It is this "something else" that makes monastic life tolerable, worthwhile, and sometimes delightful.  Among the benefits we receive from belonging to a monastic community are the following:
  • our relationship with God in prayer;
  • our discipleship of Christ;
  • the gift of daylong liturgy;
  • our belonging to a sound spiritual tradition;
  • our clarity about goals and means;
  • the support and affection of like-minded brothers or sisters;
  • our contemplative ambiance;
  • our hours of holy leisure;
  • our opportunities for spiritual, intellectual, and personal formation and growth;
  • our relative freedom from financial and other worries.
from Strangers to the City
by Michael Casey

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Lifestyle Worthy of the Gospel, Part I

...we have been returning to the notion that the specificity of the Benedictine vocation needs to be expressed by a distinctive philosophy and lifestyle, each supporting the other.  Beliefs and values are not much use unless and until they are embodied in practice.  Practice, be it ever so holy, can become self-defeating unless the values it represents are internalized and appropriated.

We have seen that fidelity to many Benedictine values is at odds with many of the priorities we have acquired in the course of growing up.  Typical among the substitutions that we are expected to weather in the process of growing into monastic life are the following:
  • stability instead of mobility;
  • humility instead of ambition, status-seeking, and pride;
  • patience instead of anger, recrimination, and revenge;
  • obedience instead of autonomy;
  • common order instead of spontaneity;
  • working without remuneration instead of being paid;
  • discipline instead of relaxation;
  • poverty instead of affluence;
  • chastity instead of sexual liberation;
  • celibacy instead of family life;
  • silence instead of communication;
  • abstemiousness in food and drink instead of satisfaction;
  • early rising instead of sleeping late;
  • early to bed instead of partying.
from Strangers to the City
by Michael Casey

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Sure, it take a lot of courage
To put things in God's hands,
To give ourselves completely,
Our live, our hopes, our plans.

To follow where He leads us
And make His will our own,
But all it takes is foolishness
To go the way alone.

~Betsey Kline
inFavorites from the Salesian Collection

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Road Unseen

It is so easy for us to amke out a little programme of the spiritual life for ourselves, quite nicely constructed accordingto our capabilities, our aptitudes, the means we have to hand, etc., and so, pleasantly, happily, we would end up living a nice honest little life.  But the Lord passes, and with a single gesture brushes aside this construction, which was hamless, but which would have led us only to mediocrity; and, instead of allowing us to be an expounder of beautiful theories on the spiritual life, detachment, self-denial, he arranges things in such a way as to make us practice them.  This is how saints are made.  No one ever arrived at sanctity except by that complete and absolute overturning of their projects, their plans, their arrangements.  the remarkable thing about the religious life is that, unless we actually break our vows, we become saints either willingly or by force.

~ Abbess Cécile Bruyère, OSB
in Praying with the Benedictines, A Window on the Cloister

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Listening for a Word...

Silence and listening and hearing and obedience, then, require trust -- trust that God wants to speak a word to me, trust that God has a particular will for me, trust that God's will for me is always good even if I cannot yet see its goodness for me, trust that God does speak through some whom he calls to a special leadership, trust that my obedience even to a mistaken judgment by another will make me a better listener and a less self-willed disciple, trust that God will make a better good come from my obedience even if the abbot's direction is wrong-headed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Prayer to St. James the Greater

O Glorious St. James,
because of your fervor and generosity
Jesus chose you to witness his glory on the Mount
and his agony in the Garden.
Obtain for us strength and consolation
in the unending struggles of this life.
Help us to follow Christ constantly and generously,
to be victors over all our difficulties,
and to receive the crown of glory in heaven.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

O eterne deus

O Eternal God, now may it please you
to burn in love
so that we become the limbs
fashioned in the love you felt
when you begot your Son
at the first dawn
before all creation.
And consider this need which falls upon us,
take it from us for the sake of your Son,
and lead us to the joy of your salvation.

~Hildegard of Bingen

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Heaven of Our Souls

Our Lord dows not come down from Heaven every day to lie in a golden ciborium.  He comes to find another heaven which is infinitely dearer to Him -- the heaven of our souls, created in His Image, the living temples of the Adorable Trinity.

~ St. Therese of Lisieux

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Psalm 23 is one of those wonderful texts that is so familiar yet, when we take time to prayerfully pray through it line by line, it opens up tremendous riches to be mined.  In today's Gospel reading, Jesus saw the crowd that had gathered as sheep without a shepherd.  We are blessed, because we know our shepherd is Christ.  Today take some time to prayerfully read over and meditate on this text.  How do you allow Christ to be your shepherd?  How to you block him out?  What do you need to do to be in better communion with Him?

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
for years to come.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Jesu Dulcis Memoria

This hymn, attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153) and translated by Ray Palmer (1808-1887) provides us  with a rich text to pray and meditate with.  We pray you find it also so...

O Jesus, Joy of Loving Hearts

Jesus, thou joy of loving hearts,
The fount of life, the light of all;
From ev'ry bliss that earth imparts
We turn, unfilled, to hear your call.

Your truth unchanged has ever stood;
You plead with all to call on you;
To those who seek you, you are good;
To those who find you, life is new. 
We taste you, everliving bread,
And long to feast upon you still;
We drink of you, the fountainhead;
Our thirsting souls from you we fill.

For you our restless spirits yearn,
Where'er our changing lot is cast;
Glad when you smile on us you turn,
Blest, when by faith we hold you fast.
O Jesus, ever with us stay!
Make all our moments fair and bright!
Oh, chase the night of sin away!
Shed o'er the world your holy light. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Mystery of Woman

The Church would like to thank the Most Holy Trinity for the "mystery of woman," and, for every woman -- for what constitutes the eternal measure of her feminine dignity, and for the "great works of "God" which throughout human history have been accomplished through her.  After all, wasn't the greatest event in human history -- the incarnation of God himself -- accomplished in her and through her?

Mulieris Dignitatem, 1988
John Paul II

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Monastic Witness

We can say that the monastery as a place of community and grace is an assembly in Christ, a gathering in the name of Christ.  St. Benedict calls the monastery the "House of God" (RB 31.19, 53.22; 64:5).  It is the place where his Word is enthroned and proclaimed, where monks seek the presence and glory of God, where Christ is represented in the abbot, the sick and the guests.  It is the place where believers are already in communion with Christ and expect to be brought forward into the communion of eternal life:  "Let them... prefer nothing wthateve to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life" (RB 72.1-12).  Communion in Christ is a grace, and the goal of the communion is continual life with God in Christ.  The monastery, as a group of believers, effectively symbolizes and brings about the milieu of grace and forgiveness, of hope and loving communion.

from "Community as the Shape of Christian Salvation"
in The Continuing Quest for God:  Monastic Spirituality in Tradition and Transition
by Jerome Theisen, OSB

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Wondrous Love

The cross prompts two kinds of feeling in me.  The first is incomprehension.  How could God allow Jesus to come to such a cruel end on the cross?  Although I know that ti was human beings who nailed Jesus tothe cross, there remains the provocation, the harshness, the incomprehensible nature of this death.  It raises questions about my image of God and my image of Jesus.  The other feeling is one of being filled with love.  When I look at Jesus hanging on the cross with outstretched arms and dying there, I feel that I'm loved unconditionally.  In the depth of my heart I know that in the end Jesus also died for me.  He hand nothing back.  On the cross he gave everything, he opened himself for me.  His outstretched arms are an invitation to me to feel secure in his love.  When I kneel before the cross all self-accusations cease, and my heart becomes still.  I know that all is well.  Everything is embraced by his love.

from Images of Jesus
by Anselm Gruen

Sunday, July 15, 2012

God's Will Nourishes

The food of my Jesus was to do the Will of the Eternal Father (John 4:34).  My food also will be to do his most holy Will.  Abandon yourself to this most dear Will.  Believe me, true perfection requires this:  to do the most holy Will of God and to have a humble opinion of oneself.

~ St. Paul of the Cross

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Christ's Spirit

We also have as our Paraclete our Lord Jesus Christ.  Although we are unable to see him bodily, we recollect what he did and taught in the body, as written down in the gospels.  If we commit ourselves with all care to sharing, reading, conferring with one another, and preserving these [deeds and teachings] in our heart and body, it is sure that we will easily overcome the hardships of this age -- as if the Lord were sojourning with us forever and consoling us.  If we love this Paraclete and keep his commandments, he will ask the Father, and he will give us another Paraclete -- that is, he will in his clemency pour forth the grace of his Spirit into our hearts, and it will gladden us in the expectation of our heavenly homeland in the midst of the adversities of our present exile.  Then we will be able to say with the prophet, According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, your paraclesis, that is, your consolations, O Lord, have gladdened my soul.

~ Bede the Venerable
in Homilies on the Gospels, Book II

Friday, July 13, 2012

Uphold me, O Lord, as You have promised...

On Wednesday, July 11 we joined our Benedictine brothers at St. Vincent Archabbey to celebrate the feast day of our Holy Father St. Benedict, Founder of Western Monasticism and to witness the solemn profession of four of the monks.

The Mass, as always, was impressive and being part of their solemn vows renewed our own sense of monastic commitment.  Our prayers go out to Brother John Paul, Brother Albert, Father Jean-Luc and Brother Pio.  May our Lord sustain as you seek to follow Him each day with the Gospel and the Rule (of St. Benedict) as you guide...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Stability of Heart

The spiritual value of stability lies in commitment.  Like everything else in monastic life, stability works best when it is wholehearted, without escape hatches or preserves of autonomy.  Having committed boht spiritual and material fate to a particular community, a Benedictine has a stake in keeping the community focused on what they are meant to be about.  She must be faithful to the work of God, lectio divina, personal prayer.  She has committed herself to being present to her sisters in the monastery.  She works in support of their life together.  She attends chapters and community meetings, welcomes guests and newcomers to the community.  She helps to care for those who are ill or in distress, and helps to bury the dead.  She works at seeing Christ in the people with whom she lives.  Where better to find him?

from Prayer and Community:  The Benedictine Tradition
by Columba Stewart, OSB

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Medal of St. Benedict

We thought today's Feast of St. Benedict an appropriate time to share with you some information about the Medal of St. Benedict.  We hope you find it both informative and a way to deepen your devotion to our wonderful Founder of Monastiac Life!

On the face of the medal is the image of Saint Benedict. In his right hand he holds the cross, the Christian's symbol of salvation. The cross reminds us of the zealous work of evangelizing and civilizing England and Europe carried out mainly by the Benedictine monks and nuns, especially for the sixth to the ninth/tenth centuries.

Rule and RavenIn St. Benedict's left hand is his Rule for Monasteries that could well be summed up in the words of the Prolog exhorting us to "walk in God's ways, with the Gospel as our guide."

On a pedestal to the right of St. Benedict is the poisoned cup, shattered when he made the sign of the cross over it. On a pedestal to the left is a raven about to carry away a loaf of poisoned bread that a jealous enemy had sent to St. Benedict.

Above the cup and the raven are the Latin words:  Crux s. patris Benedicti (The Cross of our holy father Benedict). On the margin of the medal, encircling the figure of Benedict, are the Latin words: Eius in obitu nostro praesentia muniamur!  (May we be strengthened by his presence in the hour of our death!). Benedictines have always regarded St. Benedict as a special patron of a happy death. He himself died in the chapel at Montecassino while standing with his arms raised up to heaven, supported by the brothers of the monastery, shortly after St. Benedict had received Holy Communion.

Monte CassinoBelow Benedict we read: ex SM Casino MDCCCLXXX (from holy Monte Cassino, 1880).  This is the medal struck to commemorate the 1400th anniversary of the birth of Saint Benedict.

Reverse Side of the Medal
On the back of the medal, the cross is dominant. On the arms of the cross are the initial letters of a rhythmic Latin prayer:  Crux sacra sit mihi lux! Nunquam draco sit mihi dux!  (May the holy cross be my light! May the dragon never be my guide!).

In the angles of the cross, the letters C S P B stand for Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti (The cross of our holy father Benedict).

Above the cross is the word pax (peace), that has been a Benedictine motto for centuries.  Around the margin of the back of the medal, the letters V R S N S M V - S M Q L I V B are the initial letters, as mentioned above, of a Latin prayer of exorcism against Satan:  Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas! (Begone Satan!  Never tempt me with your vanities!  What you offer me is evil.  Drink the poison yourself!)

Source:   www.osb.org

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

One in Christ

For Benedict, everything is centered in this loving of Christ that has become our own loving and which establishes our identity as true Christians.  He writes, "Your way of acting must be different from the world's way; the love of Christ must come before all else" (Rule of St. Benedict, 4:20-21).  In other words, it is precisely inthe way that Christ's loving has become the center of our being that we are distinguieshed from the world, for all those who have not know or accepted Christ in faith.  Ultimately, it is the Father's love that finds expresssion in Christ and in all those who have come to know and appropriate that love because they are one with Christ.

from Cherish Christ Above All:  The Bible in the Rule of St. Benedict
by Demetrius Dumm, OSB

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fiat! Days

Greetings from Emmitsburg!

Each year the Diocese of Harrisburg hosts Fiat! Days for women of their diocese at Mount St. Marys Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.  These women along with Sisters and Nuns of various communities to explore various facets of religious vocations.

Please remember these women -- as well as all those discerning religious vocations in your your prayers!


Obedience is a defense against self-will; no wolf is cleverer at assuming sheep's clothing than the wolf of self-will.  What St. Benedict says about this defect sends a chill down the spine.  It seems to go against what we call today self-expression, self-fulfillment, and the rest.  But he has a point here.  It is easy to make ourselves the center of our own little universe, to live our lives for our own self-aggrandizement, our own self-gratification.  "Good" people fall into this trap.  In their zeal they try to compete with others, trample them underfoot.  Do not be so sure that the teaching of St. Benedict on self-will is out of date.  Experience shows us how subtly, very subtly, we an see... "self."  The art of being a Christian and therefore the art of being a monk, is to learn to put God at the center -- the love of God and of our neighbor; to be devoted to God and to our neighbor.  You meet people who apparently are very spiritual, very holy -- only to detect, on closer acquaintance, that self-seeking takes precedence over seeking God or the service of their neighbor.

~ Cardinal Basil Hume, OSB
in Praying with the Benedictines,
A Window on the Cloister

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Doing the Ordinary Extraordinarily Well

Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things,
but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.
Neglect nothing;
the most trival action may be performed to God.

~ Angelique Arnauld

Saturday, July 7, 2012

“Holy Loafing”

Lectio divina is more about experiencing God than thinking about him, and about being washed by the word of God rather than reflecting on it.  Its literature is not new writings to generate thinking, but the old and familiar that favor mulling, which is why the Bible (a “sacred reading” in itself) is the favored text.  In contemporary usage, lectio often integrates old and new methods of “reading” in a practice of “holy loafing” with the Bible, using the textual apparatus and technical assistance now available.  Lectio divina is not complete until it ends in prayer, and at its highest level is contemplative silence in the presence of God.

by Jerome Kodell, OSB
From Life Lessons from the Monastery

Friday, July 6, 2012

God Is Calling Us to a Deeper, Richer Life

Both in consolation and in desolation God is calling us to a deeper, richer life in the love of Christ.  God uses desolations in prayer, like all sufferings in life, to prune away our bad habits, self-sufficiency, and illusions about prayer, about ourselves, about God, and about life in general.  To have consistently lofty thoughts and feelings during prayer would tempt us to identify God with those good experiences, whereas He is far beyond them, and might lead us to cling to such paltry satisfactions, whereas God is urging us to transcend them.  If we are somehow responsible for the desolation, then we need to reform the disorder in our lives and then get on with the prayer.  If we are not responsible for the desolation, then we must simply persevere the best we can with the faith-knowledge that desolation is no indication of God’s displeasure.  In all cases of our sincere prayer, the Lord embraces us and seeks to reach lovingly into every corner of our lives.  Our task is to keep praying amidst all the dryness and “never [to] lose hope in God’s mercy.”  This is the narrow road that leads to salvation and total immersion in Christ! 

From Lessons from Saint Benedict, Finding Joy in Daily Life
by Donald S. Raila, OSB

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Abba, I have wandering thoughts!

A brother complained to a hermit about his wandering thoughts.  The hermit answered, "Keep sitting in your cell and your thoughts will settle down.  Hitch a mother donkey to a rail and her foal will dance and prance around, but it always returns to her.  The same thing happens for the one who sits patiently in his cell seeking God.  His thoughts may wander occasionally, but they will return to God."

By Way of the Desert, 365 Daily Readings
compiled and modernized by Bernard Bangley

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Sacredness of the Gift of Time

…the sacredness of the gift of time challenges us to welcome each moment as coming from the hands of our loving Father, who sent His Son into the world to sanctify all things, including time.  To develop such a disposition, we must be healed of tendencies to grasp time for our own self-fulfilling purposes, to neglect valuing the “wasted time” between events and destinations, and to run late continually because we try to force too many projects into too short a time.  Instead, let us run to Christ as His “little ones” who open themselves to Christ’s marvelous revelation; let us find “rest” in the Lord Jesus Himself, rather than in our own achievements, and become “meek and humble of heart like Him (cf. Mt. 11:25-30).  Through our lectio divina, our praying the Divine Office, and our efforts to praise God for the lavish gifts of the present moment and recognize, with Saint Paul, that “now is a very acceptable time…now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2).   

from Lessons from Saint Benedict, Finding Joy in Daily Life
by Donald S. Raila, OSB

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My Lord and My God!

From a homily by Saint Gregory the Great, pope

Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. He was the only disciple absent; on his return he heard what had happened but refused to believe it. The Lord came a second time; he offered his side for the disbelieving disciple to touch, held out his hands, and showing the scars of his wounds, healed the wound of his disbelief.
Dearly beloved, what do you see in these events? Do you really believe that it was by chance that this chosen disciple was absent, then came and heard, heard and doubted, doubted and touched, touched and believed? It was not by chance but in God’s providence. In a marvellous way God’s mercy arranged that the disbelieving disciple, in touching the wounds of his master’s body, should heal our wounds of disbelief. The disbelief of Thomas has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples. As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our faith is strengthened. So the disciple who doubted, then felt Christ’s wounds, becomes a witness to the reality of the resurrection.
Touching Christ, he cried out: My Lord and my God. Jesus said to him: Because you have seen me, Thomas, you have believed. Paul said: Faith is the guarantee of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. It is clear, then, that faith is the proof of what can not be seen. What is seen gives knowledge, not faith. When Thomas saw and touched, why was he told: You have believed because you have seen me? Because what he saw and what he believed were different things. God cannot be seen by mortal man. Thomas saw a human being, whom he acknowledged to be God, and said: My Lord and my God. Seeing, he believed; looking at one who was true man, he cried out that this was God, the God he could not see.
What follows is reason for great joy: Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. There is here a particular reference to ourselves; we hold in our hearts one we have not seen in the flesh. We are included in these words, but only if we follow up our faith with good works. The true believer practises what he believes. But of those who pay only lip service to faith, Paul has this to say: They profess to know God, but they deny him in their works. Therefore James says: Faith without works is dead.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Thoughts on Obedience, Part III

Fear-filled, grudging obedience or obedience eroded by subtl murmuring, is not the obedience of those who hold nothing dearer to them than Christ and his obedience.

from The Gift of Saint Benedict
Introduced by Verna A. Holyhead SGS

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Thoughts on Obedience, Part II

To a society that values collaboratin, consultatin, and team ministry, Benedict has much to offer.  He recognizes the significance of listening to our sisters and brothers through whom the call of God also comes.  Not only obedience to the learder of the community, the abbot, but mutual obedience to its members, one to the other, is called 'a blessing', an acknowledgment that everyone has some wisdom, and no one has it all.  Benedict stresses that whenever important matters are to be decieded, the abbot must call together the whole community and ask for the counsel of each one, even and especially the youngest.  All must tune the ears of their hearts to the Rule and not be arrogant, prejudiced or deaf to each other's words.  Although the decision rests with the abbot, right judgment requires him to ponder the counsel offered.

from The Gift of Saint Benedict
introduced by Verna A. Holyhead SGS