Sunday, September 30, 2012

On Continually Thinking of God


Those who are filled with an earthly love are always thinking of the object of their attachment, their heart brims with affection for it, their mouth is always full of its praise.  When absent, they constantly speak their love in letters, engrave the treasured name on every tree.

In the same way those who love God are never tired of thinking of him, seeking him and talking to him.  They would like to engrave the holy name of Jesus on the heart of every human being in the world.

To such people, everything speaks of God, and all creation joins them in praising the loved one.  The whole world speaks to them in a silent but intelligible language of their love, everything excites them to holy thoughts, from which arises a stream of ejaculatory prayers to God.

The habit of recollection and ejactulatory prayers is the keystone of devotion and can supply the defects of all your other prayers, but nothing else can fill its place.  Without it, you cannot follow the contemplative life well, or the active life without danger.

~ St. Francis de Sales
in Athirth for God

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Michael, Raphael and Gabriel

Our Office of Lauds uses the following hymn for the Feast of the Archangels.  We thought you would enjoy meditating on the text of this wonderful hymn as well...


Christ, of the Angels praise and adoration,
Father and Savior Thou, of every nation,
Graciously grant us all to gain a station,
Where Thou art reigning.

Angel all peaceful, to our dwelling send us,
Michael, from heaven coming to befriend us,
Breathing serenest peace may he attend us,
Grim war dispelling.

Angel of Strength, who triumphed, tumults quelling
Gabriel send us, ancient foes expelling,
Oft in these temples may he make his dwelling,
Dear unto heaven.

Angel Physician, health on man bestowing,
Raphael send us from the skies all glowing,
All sickness curing, wisest counsel showing
In doubt and danger.

May the fair Mother of the Light be o'er us,
Virgin of peace, with all the Angel chorus,
And may the heavenly army go before us,
Guiding and guarding.

O may the Godhead, endless bliss possessing,
Father, Son, Spirit, grant us this blessing;
All His creation joins His praise confessing,
Now and forever.
Amen.

Source:  The Monastic Diurnal

Friday, September 28, 2012

God has created me...


“God has created me to do Him some definite service.
He has committed some work to me
which He has not committed to another.
I have my mission.
I may never know it in this life,
but I shall be told it in the next.
I am a link in a chain,
a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for naught.
I shall do good;
I shall do His work.
I shall be an angel of peace,
a preacher of truth in my own place,
while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments.
Therefore, I will trust Him,
whatever I am,
I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness,
my sickness may serve Him,
in perplexity,
my perplexity may serve Him.
If I am in sorrow,
my sorrow may serve Him.
He does nothing in vain.
He knows what He is about.
He may take away my friends.
He may throw me among strangers.
He may make me feel desolate,
make my spirits sink,
hide my future from me.
Still, He knows what He is about.”

~ John Henry Newman

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The rose is neighbor to the thorn...


Urticae proxima saepa rosa est

That which is beautiful may be dangerous.  That wich is beautiful needs protection so that harm isn't done to it.  That which is worthwhile, one has to pay for.  There is, it's said, no such thing as a free lunch.

What is most worthwhile, of course, is love.  Anyone who has really loved knows the pain that goes right aong with it:  watching the beloved suffer, unable to really help.  Letting go and watching a child, now almost grown up, walk free into the world. 

The joy of the resurrection follows the pain of crucifixion.  The beauty and wholeness of eternal life is borne for us out of the suffering of the One who loved.  The gift is offered, perfect and undeserved, but never can we forget what made it possible:  the Son of God, crowned with thorns.

from Latin Sayings for Spiritual Growth
by Archabbot Lambert Reilly, OSB

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ocean of Sacred Love and Sweetness


O God, ocean of sacred love and sweetness, come and give Yourself to my soul.  Grant that I may continually long for You with my whole heart, and absolute desire and burning love, and that I may live in You.  O my true supreme joy, may I prefer You to all creatures, and for Your sake, renounce all transitory pleasures!

O Lord, nourish this starving beggar with the influx of Your divinity, and delight me with the desired presence of Your grace.  This I long and beg for, so that Your vehement love may penetrate, fill and transform me into You.

O loving Redeemer, make me burn with love for You, making no account of myself, and finding my delight in You alone; may I know and enjoy no one but You.  O overflowing abyss of the divinity!  Draw me, and immerse me in You!  Take all the love from my heart and apply it to Yourself, so that I may be dead to all other things.

My soul call You, and seeks You with indescribable love, O delight of loving embraces!  Come, my Beloved, come, You whom I desire above all, that I may possess You within me, and that my soul, may embrace and hold You close!  Come into my soul, O sovereign sweetness, and let me taste Your sweetness, and delight and rest in You alone.

O my Beloved, Beloved of all my desires, let me find You and then hold You and press You close in a spiritual embrace.  I desire You, I sigh for You, O eternal Beatitude!  Oh, give Yourself to me, unite me closely to You, and inebriate me with the wine of Your love!

~ Bl. Louis de Blois
in Divine Intimacy

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What is it you request?

What is it you request?  This question begins the ceremony wherein a postulant receives the habit and becomes a novice.  What is the postulant seeking?  Her response to the Prioress' inquiry in the ritual, The mercy of God and acceptance into the community of your Sisters, touches on some of her deepest desires but likely the answer and the reality have many layers and various levels of meaning.

The same can be said of discerning vocation as well as living monastic life day by day.  We all come seeking a deeper union and communion with God.  Living in community aids us on the journey with companions who are also on the same path seeking God and holiness of life.

Consider joining us for one of our upcoming Monastic Immersion Experiences or schedule a time that fits your schedule to help discern this question for yourself.

Please call Sr. Mary Clare at 724-834-3060 or email vocations@stemma.org to begin the process of journeying with us.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Prayer - the Key to God's Heart

We came across this quote by St. Padre Pio, whose feast day was yesterday, and thought it helped to break open what prayer is about.  We hope you find it helpful...


In books we seek God,
in prayer we find him. 
Prayer is the key
which opens God's heart.

~ St. Padre Pio

Sunday, September 23, 2012

No Excuse Sunday

This poem has made the rounds of the Internet, and even into books.  We all know someone who has an excuse, or rather a reason, for not going to Church on Sunday.  While appreciating the humor behind this poem, let's pray for those who aren't in Church this week...



To make it possible for everyone to attend church next Sunday,
we are going to have a special "No Excuse Sunday".

Cots will be placed in the foyer for those who say,
"Sunday is my only day to sleep in."

There will be a special section with lounge chairs
who feel that our pews are too hard.

Eye drops will be available for those with tired eyes
from watching T.V. late Saturday night.

We will have steel helmets for those who say
" The roof would cave in if I ever came to church."

Blankets will be furnished
for those who think the church is too cold
and fans for those who say it is too hot.

Score cards will be available
for those who wish to list the hypocrites present.

Relatives and friends will be in attendance
for those who can't go to church and cook dinner, too.

We will distribute "Stamp Out Stewardship" buttons
for those who feel that church is always asking for money.

One section will be devoted to trees and grass
 for those who like to seek God in nature.

Doctors and nurses will be in attendance
for those who plan to be sick on Sunday.

The sanctuary will be decorated
with both Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies
for those who never have seen the church without them.

We will provide hearing aids
for those who can't hear the preacher
and cotton for those who say he is to loud.

by Unknown

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Obedience of Mary




The humility of our Divine Savior and His most blessed Mother was always accompanied by a perfect obedience.  Obedience had such a power over both of them that they would rather have died, and even by death on a cross, than fail to obey.  Our Lord died the Cross through obedience.  And Our Lady -- what remarkable acts of obedience did she not make at the very hour of the death of her Son, who was the Heart of her heart?  In no way whatever did she resist the will of the Heavenly Father, but rather remained firm and constant at the foot of the Cross, completely submissive to the divine pleasure.  We can use the words of St. Paul for obedience as we have for humility:  Our Lord became obedient to death, even to death on a Cross.  He never did anything throughout His entire life except through obedience, which He Himself made know to us when He said:  It is not My own will that I have come down from Heaven, but to do the will of Him who sent Me.  Therefore, always and in order to follow it, and not for a time, but always and even unto death.

As to Our Lady, examine and consider the whole course of her life.  You will find there nothing but obedience.  She so esteemed this virtue that, although she had made a vow of virginity, she nevertheless submitted herself to the command that was given her to marry.  Ever afterwards she persevered in obedience, as we see today, since she comes to the Temple to obey the law of purification, even though there was no necessity for her to observe it, nor her Son either, as we have already mentioned in the first point.  Her obedience was purely voluntary.  It was not less for being voluntary and unnecessary.  She so dearly loved this virtue, which her sacred Son had engrafted as a divine graft on the trunk of holy humility, that she recommended no other...  This virtue is the inseparable companion of humility.  One is never found without the other, for humility makes us submit to obedience.

In The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales on Our Lady

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fruits of the Cross


Take courage and carry your cross with Jesus.  Sleep quietly in the shadow of this tree of life.  Nourish yourself with the fruits that fall from it.  These fruits first appear bitter to the palate of the senses, but afterwards become most sweet to the palate of the spirit.

~ St. Paul of the Cross
in Living Wisdom for Every Day

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Forgiveness Rooted in the Love of God


Even a superficial look at the world around us reveals the immense need for forgiveness rooted in the love of God...

Many people live under a tremendous burden of guilt because they don't know how to deal with the sins and temptations of daily life.  Whether it is over major sins or minor transgressions, guilt robs us of the joy and freedom that is the rightful heritage of every Christian.  When guilt is left to fester, it can lead to confusion, isolation, and even physical illness as it leaves a person bitter, defensive, and sapped of his or her self-esteem.

What is the answer to this plague of guilt?  Jesus told his disciples:  "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you" (John 15:9).  No matter our circumstances, our God is "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6).  Through the Holy Spirit, God has poured his love into our hearts (Romans 5:5), and it is there -- in the depths of our being -- that we can experience a divine forgiveness that melts away guilt and shame.  At any moment, we can turn to God and know his love and forgiveness.  We wants to pour out his mercy, and the only thing he looks for is a repentant heart.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Prayer as the Key


In prayer, we see that Christ’s final victory over sin and death is the key to all history.  While giving thanks for this victory, we continue to beg God’s grace for our earthly journey.  Amid life’s evils, the Lord hears our prayers, strengthens our weakness, and enables us to trust in his sovereign power.  In our own prayer, and especially in our celebration of the Eucharist, may we grow in the hope of Christ’s coming in glory, experience the transforming power of his grace, and learn to discern all things in the light of faith.

~ Pope Benedict XVI
General Audience
September 12, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Authentic Love


Authentic love is not a vague sentiment or a blind passion.  It is an inner attitude that involves the whole human being.  It is looking at others, not to use them but to serve them.  It is the ability to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and to suffer with those who are suffering.  It is sharing what one possesses so that no one may continue to be deprived of what he needs.  Love, in a word, is the gift of self.

~ John Paul II
Angelus Prayer
Rome, 1994

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Holy Spirit as Sapientia


I heard a voice saying to me,
"This Lady whom you see is Love,
who has Her dwelling place in eternity.
When God wished to create the world,
He leaned down,
and with tender Love,
provided all that was needed,
as a parent prepares an inheritance for a child.
And thus, in a mighty blaze
the Lord ordained all His works.
Then creation recognized its Creator
in its own forms and appearances.
For in the beginning,
when God said,
"Let it be!"
and it came to pass,
the means and the Matrix of creation was Love,
because all creation was formed through Her
as in the twinkling of an eye.

~ St. Hildegard von Bingen
trans. B. Newman (mod.)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Universal Prayer

I came across a snippet of this prayer years ago and found it helpful in my spiritual journey in trusting in God more and more.  Recently, I can across its full version and was delightfully surprised and inspired by the riches it contains.  We hope you find this prayer, attributed to Pope Clement XI, to be as inspiring...


Lord, I believe in you: increase my faith.
I trust in you: strengthen my trust.
I love you: let me love you more and more.
I am sorry for my sins: deepen my sorrow.

I worship you as my first beginning,
I long for you as my last end,
I praise you as my constant helper,
And call on you as my loving protector.

Guide me by your wisdom,
Correct me with your justice,
Comfort me with your mercy,
Protect me with your power.

I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you;
My words: to have you for their theme;
My actions: to reflect my love for you;
My sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.

I want to do what you ask of me:
In the way you ask,
For as long as you ask,
Because you ask it.

Lord, enlighten my understanding,
Strengthen my will,
Purify my heart,
and make me holy.

Help me to repent of my past sins
And to resist temptation in the future.
Help me to rise above my human weaknesses
And to grow stronger as a Christian.

Let me love you, my Lord and my God,
And see myself as I really am:
A pilgrim in this world,
A Christian called to respect and love
All whose lives I touch,
Those under my authority,
My friends and my enemies.

Help me to conquer anger with gentleness,
Greed by generosity,
Apathy by fervor.
Help me to forget myself
And reach out toward others.
Make me prudent in planning,
Courageous in taking risks.
Make me patient in suffering,
unassuming in prosperity.

Keep me, Lord, attentive at prayer,
Temperate in food and drink,
Diligent in my work,
Firm in my good intentions.

Let my conscience be clear,
My conduct without fault,
My speech blameless,
My life well-ordered.
Put me on guard against my human weaknesses.
Let me cherish your love for me,
Keep your law,
And come at last to your salvation.

Teach me to realize that this world is passing,
That my true future is the happiness of heaven,
That life on earth is short,
And the life to come eternal.

Help me to prepare for death
With a proper fear of judgment,
But a greater trust in your goodness.
Lead me safely through death
To the endless joy of heaven.

Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Praying with Our Lady at the Foot of the Cross


 
O my Son,
to see you thus breaks my heart,
yet I know that the Father's ways
are known to your heart.
 
The love You have,
the compassion You show,
can only be of mirror
of the love You know.
 
Placed under the tender care of John,
and becoming the Mother of the Church
are but small consolations
in the midst of so great a hurt.
 
Yet, with You
the Father's will I embrace
that all will come to pass
in its proper time and place.
 
 Jesus, my joy and my delight,
my Son and my Lord,
I can't help but remember You
as the small child I bore. 



Friday, September 14, 2012

Triumph of the Most Holy Cross



Today's feast gives us the opportunity to pause and meditate on the great mystery of the Cross of Christ.  The instrument of torture and death that God used as the means of our reconciliation. 

Take a few moments to mediate on the words of Ve­nan­ti­us For­tu­na­tus (Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle) trans­lat­ed from the La­tin into Eng­lish by Per­cy Dear­mer, 1931, and John M. Neale.

Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle,
Sing the ending of the fray;
Now above the cross, the trophy,
Sound the loud triumphant lay:
Tell how Christ the world’s Redeemer,
As a victim won the day.

He, our Maker, deeply grieving
That the first made Adam fell,
When he ate the fruit forbidden
Whose reward was death and hell,
Marked e’en then this Tree the ruin
Of the first tree to dispel.

Tell how, when at length the fullness,
Of th’appointed time was come,
Christ, the Word, was born of woman,
Left for us His heavenly home;
Showed us human life made perfect,
Shone as light amid the gloom.

Lo! He lies an Infant weeping,
Where the narrow manger stands,
While the Mother-Maid His members
Wraps in mean and lowly bands,
And the swaddling clothes is winding
Round His helpless feet and hands.

Thus, with thirty years accomplished,
Went He forth from Nazareth,
Destined, dedicated, willing,
Wrought His work, and met His death.
Like a lamb He humbly yielded
On the cross His dying breath.

There the nails and spears He suffers,
Vinegar, and gall, and reed;
From His sacred body pierc├Ęd
Blood and water both proceed;
Precious flood, which all creation
From the stain of sin hath freed.

Faithful cross, thou sign of triumph,
Now for us the noblest tree,
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thy peer may be;
Symbol of the world’s redemption,
For the weight that hung on thee!

Bend thy boughs, O tree of glory!
Thy relaxing sinews bend;
For awhile the ancient rigor
That thy birth bestowed, suspend;
And the King of heavenly beauty
On thy bosom gently tend!

Thou alone wast counted worthy
This world’s ransom to sustain,
That a shipwrecked race forever
Might a port of refuge gain,
With the sacred blood anointed
Of the Lamb of sinners slain.

To the Trinity be glory
Everlasting, as is meet:
Equal to the Father, equal
To the Son, and Paraclete:
God the Three in One, whose praises
All created things repeat.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Concluding the Retreat

Suscipe me Domine 


This morning at Holy Mass we renew our profession, re-commiting ourselves to our promises of stability, conversion to a monastic manner of life and obedience that we each made on the day of our profession.

That's why retreat is so important.  Sometimes we can get so busy with the needs and cares of daily life, that we can forget that first fervor, that first love that initially brought each of us to the monastery.

We all need to take time to step aside and let God renew us.  We hope that these reflections we have shared with you over the last few days have been a gift in your lives, as these days of retreat have been for all of us.  Together, let us pray the verse that we will sing at Mass, echoing that first time we sang it on our profession day:

Suscipe me Domine secundum eloquium tuum et vivam: 
Et non confundas me ab exspectatione mea.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto
Sicut erat in principio,
et nunc et semper,
et in saecula saeculorum.  Amen.

(If you uphold me by your promise, I shall live;
let my hopes not be in vain [Psalm 119:116]. 
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. 
As it was in the beginning,
is now and will be forever.  Amen.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eighth Day of Retreat

Preferring Nothing Whatever to Christ


In Chapter 72 of his Rule, St. Benedict talks about the good zeal that he desires his monks to have that leads to God and everlasting life.  This zeal just as Webster defines does mean eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something:  self-forgetfulness. 

It's the final goal, God and everlasting life, that makes the self-forgetfulness possible.  And it is in looking at Christ, and his cross, where we have our greatest example. 

And it is in the cross that we find our consolation, our encouragement to seek the narrow way and foster fervent love.  Boniface Wimmer, in writing to the monks who would come with him from Germany to make the first foundation of Benedictine monks in the United States could only promise them the cross.  Christ promised the same thing to his apostles and disciples.  Can we expect any different?

Lord
Jesus
Christ,
give me
an ardent love of your cross.
May it be my consolation and my hope.
May it lead me where I would not chose
to go, so that I
may follow in
your footsteps,
your paths,
your ways,
not my own.
May it give
me courage
in difficulties
and strength
in weakness.
Amen.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Seventh Day of Retreat

Uniting Ourselves to the Cross


At the heart of the Christian life stands the cross.  You can't go around it.  It's present in everyone's life:  from the greatest saint to the greatest sinner.  The difference is the saint learns to embrace it and the sinner always tries to avoid it.

At the end of Chapter 7 (on Humility), St. Benedict tells us
Now, therefore, after ascending all these steps of humility, the monk will quickly arrive at that perfect love of God which casts out fear (1 John 4:18).  Through this love, all that he once performed with dread, he will now begin to observe without effort, as though naturally, from habit, no longer out of fear of hell, but out of love for Christ, good habit and delight in virtue.  All this the Lord will by the Holy Spirit graciously manifest in his workman now cleansed of vices and sins.  (RB 7:67-70)
It is love that makes a saint out of sinner:  love of Christ, and love of his cross.  Not the love that our society so strongly calls love, when it's lust.  Not the "love" we have for our car, or our favorite dessert.  No, it's the self-sacrificing love mirrored so beautifully by Christ on his cross.  A love so great that He was willing to offer himself so that we could be re-united to Him.

It's not an easy love.  It calls for a lot of death to self.  A lot of stumbles, and backslides.  A lot of picking yourself up and beginning again.  A lot of surrendering yourself, only to have to do it again and again because our human nature is not good at letting go.

Is it worth it?  Yes!  Is HE worth it?  Absolutely, positively, YES!

Lord, I desire your cross
and at the same time I run from it.
I want to give myself to You,
but keep pulling little bits and pieces back.
Lord, help me to embrace the crosses in my life,
and help me to be able to
surrender my life fully into your hands.
Please, Lord,
help me...
Amen.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sixth Day of Retreat

The Work of God



Coming together six times a day to chant is what our life at the monastery is truly about.  Our vocation, our ministry, if you will, is to sing the praises of God. 

The Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church, is for all peoples -- not just monks and nuns in monasteries.  The psalms take us through a whole gammit of emotions, not just what we are feeling at the moment.  The psalms help us call to mind God's faithfulness and our sinfulness, God's glory and our lowliness. 

In other words, The Liturgy of the Hours necessarily puts those words on our lips that we find difficult to express -- be it thankfulness and praise when we are going through a particularly difficult struggle with something to an acknowledgement of our sinfulness in the midst of a surge of pride. 

Most of all, The Liturgy of the Hours helps us pass through the Church year with a greater appreciation to God for all that He has done for us. 

Lord,
You search me and You know me.
Thank you for allowing me,
an unworthy sinner,
the grace to sing your praises
in the name of the Church.
Help me to be mindful
of my brothers and sisters
who I uplift in my prayer.
Amen.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fifth Day of Retreat

Lectio Divina


Interestingly enough, St. Benedict talks about lectio divina, or prayerful reading, in Chapter 48, The Daily Manual Labor.  The monks day was punctuated with The Liturgy of the Hours; lectio divina provided a means for the prayer that was begun in the oratory to continue and the fruit that came out of the time spent in lectio divina could then be further mulled over during times of work -- thus sanctifying the entire day.

Too often we confuse lectio divina with spiritual reading.  Both are important, but they are distinctively different.  The best book used for lectio divina is the Bible, Old Testament or New.  Our aim is to allow God's Word to transform our hearts.

Spiritual reading encompasses many different categories, from books on the saints, writings of the saints, theology, Christology, church history, etc., and while the text we read impacts us, can change us, it doesn't put us in touch with God's own Word.  Only Sacred Scripture can do that.

Lord,
let your Word come alive for me,
as I sit with Sacred Scripture
Let it transform my heart and mind,
may I hear your still small voice
leading me into deeper union with You.
Amen.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fourth Day of Retreat

Using the Tools - Part II


The first tools dealt with duties toward those around us; the second half deal with duties toward the self.  One might wonder why this is so, but then again the Greatest Commandment was to "love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, all you mind, all your soul and all your strength;" and Christ told us the second is like it, "Love your neighbor as yourself."  With that admonition from Christ in mind, it only makes sense that the second half of St. Benedict's tools of good works deal with the self.

And this part of the list does not seem like dos and don'ts, but rather challenges on how to live an authentic Christian life.  Giving over selfwill and allowing God to be God and admitting and claiming him as our King.  St. Teresa of Avila whenever she referred to God would call him her Majesty. 

While that sounds crazy, unheard of, stupid perhaps to our democratic sensitivities, until we claim Jesus as our Lord and King, our Master, we cannot fully surrender to Him working in our lives.  And that is what the second part of the tools is about.  And there's even a line, Verse 74 to be exact, to console us when we fall and need to pick ourselves up:  never lose hope in God's mercy

Lord, you know my heart.
You know my good intentions,
and You also know my sinful folly.
Fill my heart with so great a love for You,
that the narrow and rugged path that I am on,
widens in the delight of that love.
Help me to yearn for You
with all my heart,
all my soul,
all my mind, and
all my strength.
And Lord,
help me to love myself,
with the same love
with which You love me.
Amen.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Third Day of Retreat

Using the Tools - Part I



Chapter 4 of the Rule of Our Holy Father Benedict lists a number of "tools" to help us live a more Gospel-centered/God-centered life.  Tools are only a help though, if we put them to use.

The first tools that St. Benedict lists have to do with the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments, the Corporal Works of Mercy, rounded out with other admonitions on how to live with/get along with others.  Some might call it a simple list of dos and don'ts.  Unfortunately, most of us have a problem with someone else suggesting how we are supposed to live -- God, at times, included. 

Monastic life is a call to live the Christian life in a radical way.  It calls us to love deeply, be extravant in sharing ourselves, to hold nothing back -- to give our all. 

And like others, we do fall.  Someone recently shared a story about a monastery in a city where everyone one wondered want on inside.  As so one day one of the monks was out, and the people who encountered him on the street wondered if they dared ask.  Finally someone got up the courage and approached the monk and inquired, "What's life like in the monastery?"  His reply?  "We fall down, and we get up.  We fall down, and we get up.  We fall down, and we get up."

But that's the Christian life.  And that's why St. Benedict in his Rule, provided his monks with these first set of tools.  So that we can learn how to live with one another better, how to love more generously, how to share ourselves.

Lord, You search me and you know. 
You know when I stand and when I fall. 
Help me to remember that You are there
to help me to rise up when I stumble. 
Help me with your grace
so that I may love as You love,
see as You see,
give as You give,
live and You live. 
Lord, make me a mirror of Yourself.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Second Day of Retreat

Silence


When one thinks of the word silence, normally the first thought is the absence of physical sound.  Yet, when we learn about silence in Chapter 6 of the Rule of St. Benedict, he is referring to refraining from speech -- even good, edifying conversation.

Why the emphasis on silence, you might ask?  It is in silence that one is able to enter into deep communion with God.  Prayer becomes wordless.  It is an act of love.

Yet, on the other hand, absence of speech is at times in hurtful when it is done in giving "the cold shoulder" to someone who knowingly or unknowingly hurt or offended us, i.e. we act unloving.

We should desire our relationship with God to be one where we are content simply to be with Him in silence.  A good image of this is the older couple who sits quietly beside each other, not needing to chatter, enjoying the beauty of the sunset together.

Lord, may I learn to savor and value silence in my life, not as an absence of noise or speech, but as a means of deeper communion with You.  May I be mindful of the impact of my words, or lack of them, on those around me.  May my speech be an instrument of your love.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Day of Retreat

Obsculta



 The first word of the Rule of Our Holy Father St. Benedict is listen (obsculta).  If we are to truly listen to another person and more importantly for the voice of the Lord, we need to put aside our own thoughts.

Have you ever heard someone make the comment that someone is a good listener?  What can that mean, but that the other person puts listening (i.e. actually paying attention to what the other person is saying) ahead of what they are going to say next.  They put the other person first.

The same is true with prayer.  In giving our whole attention to listening for God to speak, we put Him first -- not our own agenda of what we would like God to do for "us." 

Prayer is about changing us and changing our hearts, not changing other people or circumstances. 

Lord, so often I let my own thoughts become distractions
when spending time with you.  Help me to become a
better listener to those around me and most especially
of your voice calling to me.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Beginning Our Retreat


This evening we begin our community retreat through the morning of Thursday, September 13. 

We ask your prayers for us while we spend this special time of silence and prayer with the Lord and for our retreat master, Father James Hess, OCarm, that he may truly be an instrument of the Holy Spirit during these days.

While we are on retreat, we have prepared a "mini" retreat for you with reflections based on the Rule of St. Benedict so that you might join in our prayer in a special way.

Know that we hold you and your intentions in our prayer.  God bless!

Monday, September 3, 2012

The "Ora" of Labora


So often the term ora et labora (prayer and work) and highlighted as the Benedictine motto.  In honor of today's seculary "holy-day", we thought a few thoughts on work appropo!

In recent years we have begun describing our work as our love made manifest.  Our love for Christ, our Divine Spouse, needs a physical manifestation.  Just as husbands and wives have a physical expression of their love and care for each other in the time they spend taking care of each other through the various "jobs" they do around the house -- from cooking to laundry, lawn care and taking out the garbage, just to name a few -- so, too, does our care get expressed in the work we do here the monastery.

It is more than that as well.  In his letter, St. James proclaims I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works (2:18).  For St. James, work was not an end in itself, but rather a vehicle that allowed him express his faith.  So, too, with prayer.  Work becomes prayer when the disposition of one's heart is right:  one needs to do it joyfully, generously -- and with a desire to offer it wholly to God.

And as one can see clearly in the Latin text, the last three letters of labora spell ora -- God certainly had a hand in that!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Seeing God in everything...


A noble and delicate soul... sees God in everything, finds Him everywhere, and knows how to find Him in even the most hidden things.  It finds all things important, it highly appreciates all things, it thanks God for all things, it draws profit for the soul from all things, and it gives all glory to God.  It places its trust in God.

St. Faustina Kowalska
Divine Mercy Diary (148)


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Light from Light


My soul,
have you found what
you are looking for?
You were looking for God,
and you have discovered
that he is the supreme being,
and that you could not possibly imagine
anything more perfect.
You have discovered
that this supreme being is
life itself,
light wisdom,
goodness,
eternal blessedness
and blessed eternity.
He is everywhere,
and he is timeless.
Lord my God,
you gave me life
and restored it when I lost it.
Tell my soul that so longs for you
what else you are
besides what it has already understood,
so that it may see you clearly.
It stands on tiptoe to see more,
but apart from what it has seen already,
it sees nothing but darkness.
Of course it does not really see darkness,
because there is no darkness in you,
but it sees that it can see no further
because of the darkness in itself.
Surely, Lord,
inaccessible light is your dwelling place,
for no one apart from yourself
can enter into it
and fully comprehend you.

~ St. Anselm

in Praying with the Benedictines
A Window on the Cloister