Sunday, July 31, 2011

Receive, Lord, all my liberty...

Receive, Lord,
all my liberty,
my memory,
my understanding,
and my whole will.
You have given me all that I have,
all that I am,
and I surrender all to your divine will,
that you dispose of me.
Give my only your love
and your grace.
With this I am rich enough
and I have no more to ask.

- St. Ignatius of Loyola

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Humility, Twelfth Step and Wrap-up

In the twelfth and final step of humility, we find that a monk always manifests humility in his bearing no less than in his heart.[1]  Maybe the real fruit of this step is that the monk is approachable.  He now has made himself totally open to the Spirit working within him and is able to truly an instrument for the Lord to use.  This openness brings with it a real joy and peace to the monk who then manifests that same joy and peace to those he encounters.

Simply put, humility opens us to love of God, love of self, love of our neighbor and love of the stranger.  Put into an equation:  humility = love.  Not the warm fuzzy love, but the love that is present when things are not so nice.  Monks taking turns sitting with a brother monk who is dying.  The mother awake all night to care for a sick child.  The friend being there for a friend whose spouse just asked for a divorce.  The examples are endless.  This is the selfless love to which St. Benedict is calling the monk.

[1] RB 1980, 201.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Humility, Ninth through Eleventh Steps

Steps nine, ten and eleven also tie together.  In his ninth step, St. Benedict asks that a monk controls his tongue and remains silent, not speaking unless asked a question.[1]  Simply put, the monk is asked to learn the value of silence.  In our day, as in St. Benedict’s, noise is a problem.  Granted St. Benedict did not have computers, cell phones, voice messaging, TV, radio, etc., that are part of our 21st century life.  He did, however, have the interior noise that we too struggle with: making the list of things we need to do yet, re-hashing the encounter with another member of the community, murmuring, etc.

The tenth step continues the thought:  that he is not given to ready laughter.[2]  St. Benedict is not saying that laughter is bad, but laughter at someone else’s expense is not charitable.  Similarly, crude jests that bring laughter are not becoming to anyone, much lest to the holy state to which monks and nuns profess. 

St. Benedict wraps this train of thought up with the eleventh step: that a monk speaks gently and without laughter, seriously and with becoming modesty, briefly and reasonably.[3]  St. Benedict truly understood the value of a good listener.  Someone with whom you could share what was laying heavily on your heart knowing that they would really listen to your words and not be thinking of what they want to say next.  Someone who listens with that open ear and is able to speak those words that you sort of knew all along but needed someone else to confirm.  Someone who would not give you a homily (unless, of course, you really needed it!), yet affirm or challenge you in the ways you need to continue to grow.

[1] RB 1980, 201.
[2] Ibid, 201.
[3] Ibid, 201.

We need to learn how to be silent in our heart so that we can hear the voice of Lord speaking softly those words we so long to hear.  We can escape to the desert, but we will not escape the noise until we learn how to turn off the interior conversations so that we can truly listen.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Humility, Eighth Step

The eighth step of humility is a double challenge:  do what is endorsed by the common rule of the monastery and the example of the seniors.[1][1]  Yes, it is difficult to live by the rules sometimes.  It is even harder to set a good example – and it is not only those who have made a lifetime commitment that need to set the example.  As soon as someone enters behind you in community, you are now senior to someone.  And even if you are the newest member of the community, you are “senior” to those who are visiting the community to discern a vocation, so even then you don’t have an out.

Over the years, it has been heard that it is easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission. The question is: How contrite is the heart that is seeking for forgiveness when permission was not sought in the first place? If it is known that something should not be done, why is it being done?

[1][1] RB 1980, 201.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Humility, Seventh Step

 St. Benedict’s seventh step is a difficult one:  that a man not only admits with his tongue but is also convinced in his heart that he is inferior to all and of less value.[1]  The following words found in a commentary on the Rule by Holzherr really helps break open the meaning of St. Benedict’s words:
e ‘seventh degree’ is a high point to which the forgoing degrees lead.  One does not merely accept a humiliation with patience.  The attitude of humility must be rooted ‘in the very depths of the heart’ and become second nature.  Only a strong personality is capable, of his own free will and without being plagued by feelings of an inferiority complex, to be content with a modest place, without reacting with fear or resentment.  It is the attitude of the person who is ‘poor is spirit’.  Such a need for help is the preferred place for God’s grace.[2]

[1] RB 1980, 199.
[2] George Holzherr, The Rule of Benedict, A Guide to Christian Living with Commentary tr. Monks of Glenstal Abbey (Dublin, Ireland:  Four Courts Press 1994), 109.

What we do, we do by the grace of God and not of our own power.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Humility, Sixth Step

The sixth step is a tough one:  that a monk is content with the lowest and most menial treatment, and regards himself as a poor and worthless workman in whatever task he is given.[1]  Simply put, St. Benedict wants the monk to be content – whether with the way he is treated or with what he receives.

We all have such large God-holes that we try to fill with everything or anything but what is truly needed to fill them:  GOD!  Do you have a roof over your head?  Food?  Clothing?  Access to the Sacraments?  What then is there to complain about? 

I can remember hearing during my childhood, “Who died and made you boss (God)?”  Isn’t that what we are trying to do with our lack of contentment and complaints? 

[1] RB 1980, pg. 199.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Humility, Fifth Step

In step five, the monk is called not to conceal from his abbot any sinful thoughts entering his heart, or any wrongs committed in secret, but rather to confess them humbly.[1]  Put simply, the monk is to be open and honest about the state of his soul.  Is he murmuring is his heart?  Is he holding back anything?  Is he truly giving himself completely to God?

It is important to have an open dialog with one’s superior.  It is best, however, not to rely solely upon one’s superior to assist one in growing in the spiritual life.  Each monastic should have a spiritual director/confessor whom he regularly sees to share those things that are lying heavy on his heart.  This “spiritual father” should be able to challenge the monastic, offer encouragement and at times even help to guide the ship of one’s life. 

Another part of this step should include being honest with self and others about gifts and talents and a job well done.  All too often it is neglected to see the gifts and talents God has endowed and just see them as something one knows how to do.  The same could be said about seeing the extra effort someone puts forth on a specific task.  Acknowledging these is equally important. 

[1] RB 1980, 199.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Humility, Steps One Through Four


In the first step, the monk is called to keep the fear of the God always before his eyes[1].  What is meant by the fear of God?  Certainly it is putting God above all else – especially self.  Whoever is trapped by his own ego cannot be open to God or to his fellow man, indeed he becomes blind to God’s instruction and becomes indifferent and coarse.[2]

St. Benedict expands his vision of the monk in the second step of humility by calling the monk to love not his own will nor take pleasure in the satisfaction of his desires; rather he shall imitate by his actions that saying of the Lord:  I have come not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.[3]  Obviously we hear the words of Christ in the Gospel of John (6:38) in the last part, but there is so much more.  It is the radical call of Christ to the lawyer who asked, “What is the greatest commandment?”, only to hear the answer of the twofold call of love:  love of God and love of neighbor. 

The third step calls the monk to submit to his superior in all obedience for the love of God.[4]  We hear echoes of this in Chapter 1 (The Kinds of Monks) and Chapter 2 (Qualities of the Abbot).  We are not submitting to the superior because he is the “boss”; no, we submit to the superior because we first of all submit to Christ.  As Benedictines, we believe that the abbot holds the place of Christ in the monastery – therefore it is to Christ that we submit when we show obedience to the abbot.

St. Benedict binds the above three steps together in the fourth:  in this obedience under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, his heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape.[5]  When Christianity became an accepted religion, martyrdom was no longer a threat.  Men and women began to go out into the desert seeking a way to give their lives radically to God.  This “white martyrdom” makes the “red martyrdom” seem like a cake-walk.  Dying to self/self-will over and over again doesn’t get easier as time goes by.  Every death is a death – and no one wants to die.  Unfortunately, it is only in going through the process of dying to self that the monastic can truly become open to God and his work in his life.

[1] RB 1980, 193.
[2] George Holzherr, The Rule of Benedict, A Guide to Christian Living with Commentary tr. Monks of Glenstal Abbey (Dublin, Ireland:  Four Courts Press 1994), 104
[3] RB 1980, 197.
[4] Ibid, 197.
[5] Ibid, 197.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Humility, an Introduction

When understanding any text, one must first remember that what is being presented is based on how an individual interprets it based on his/her own life experiences, background, education, etc., not to mention “rose colored” glasses. 

In this series of reflections, I would like to share with you how this 21st century nun understands Chapter 7 of St. Benedict’s Rule on humility.  That being said, I would first like to look at a line from the Prologue as well as Chapter 5.

The first word St. Benedict uses in his Rule is obsculta (listen).  He not only encourages the monastic to hear but more importantly to pay attention with the ear of the heart – a call to act in love. When two people are truly in love, they speak in the language of the heart.  St. Benedict is calling the monastic to an even greater love – a love that can and will fill every corner of one’s being. 

Just as interesting is the first line of Chapter 5.  In reading St. Benedict’s first four steps of humility in Chapter 7 as a unit, it begins to come clear that these four steps tie to the words found  in verses 1-4:
The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all. Because of the holy service they have professed, or because of dread of hell and for the glory of everlasting life, they carry out the superior’s order as promptly as if the command came from God himself.
These four steps call the monastic to forsake his own will in favor of the will of God.  In putting aside self-will, one can step out in unhesitating obedience, i.e. put the needs of others above one’s own preferences.

Friday, July 22, 2011

St. Mary Magdalene and the Resurrection

From a homily on the Gospels by Gregory the Great, pope

When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples.  After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them.  The text then says:  The disciples went back home, and it adds:  but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.
We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained.  She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away.  And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him.  For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us:  Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.
At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for.  When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object.  Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires.  Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love.  As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says:  I was wounded by love; and again:  My soul is melted with love.
Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.
Jesus says to her:  Mary.  Jesus is not recognised when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying:  Recognise me as I recognise you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself.  And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognises who is speaking.  She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.

From:  Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. III
Second Reading for Office of Readings
Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hineni, Here I Am

God gives himself to us in Jesus, and we give ourselves to one another.  This is the meaning of the giving of gifts at Christmas:  giving ourselves, our presence.  Someone has said that the real meaning of Christmas is now at Thanksgiving, when we don't have to worry about gifts.  It is a time of just being together, which is the sharing of the greatest gift we have with one another.  This is the gift God shares with us, his loving presence:  I am with you in my son, Emmanuel.  Be Emmanuel to one another.

The Emmanual moment starts very early in our lives if we are blessed with parents who know how important their attitude of care is in delivering to their children the experience of God's personal love and care.  In the middle of the night, we are wet and cold, and we wail for help.  Almost immediately a loving presence is by our crib with a Hineni (here I am) of soothing tones and touches.  A playground collision or a collision of wills awakens in my small heart the fear that the world is a hostile, lonely place.  Put if someone is there to say, "Here I am," a spirit of fear and suspicion can be redeemed by hope.

We are sometimes convinced that all the news is bad, and that is we have hope, we are naive.  But the truth  is that God is in the world, and because of that, every place is good.  Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins reminds us that the world "is charged with the grandeur of God," and Cardinal John Henry Newman gives us this consoling thought:  "In a dark world, Truth still makes way in spite of darkness, passing from hand to hand" (Parochial and Plain Sermons, 1:22).  God says to us continually, "Hineni, here I am, I love you," but he passes his message along through his children.  We are the lifeline for one another.

From Life Lessons from the Monastery,
Wisdom on Love, Prayer, Calling & Commitment
by Jerome Kodell, OSB

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Walk in Faith

I'll walk in faith with God today
not knowing what it brings
I'll take each step that He directs
and trust Him in all things.

I'll not lose hope if I am lead
in moments of despair
I'll lean on Him with all my might
and trust me to His care.

I'll not assume that I know best
if heartaches come my way,
Because He'll meet my every need
I'll walk in faith today.

I'll walk in faith with God
by every single minute,
And although my pathway be unknown
by faith, I will walk in it.

He knows the road that I must take
He knows each rock and stone
In faith I'll walk with God today
I will not walk alone.

- by Betty Purser Patten
Published in Candles of Hope
from the Salesian Collection

Monday, July 18, 2011

Speak, Lord

This hymn, by Marienne Uszler and Tim Schoenbachler is full of wonderful images for prayer and meditation.  We hope you find them as powerful as we do for thinking and praying about your relationship with the Lord!

Speak, Lord, I love to listen to your voice. See, Lord, here I am.

My heart is silent, Lord. My soul is still, waiting upon your voice. Tell me your will. Empty, I place myself before your face. Touch me now in the silence of faith.
Speak, Lord, I love to listen to your voice. See, Lord, here I am.
Your word is life, O Lord, through all my days, like a radiant light guiding my way. Your law stands firm, O Lord, strong as a rock. It endures through the night and the storm.
Speak, Lord, I love to listen to your voice. See, Lord, here I am.
Your word is like a lamp burning so bright, showing the path ahead, giving me sight. In darkness I am lost: your word give light. Speak to me, live in me, saving Word.
Speak, Lord, I love to listen to your voice. See, Lord, here I am.

I am the Teacher Christ, speaking to you. Here is my mighty word, holy and true. Come, listen when I speak words filled with light. Learn of me, of my live, of my love.
Speak, Lord, I love to listen to your voice. See, Lord, here I am.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Wheat and Tares

First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.
(Matthew 13:30)

The householder in today's Gospel passage shows no anxiety and distress at the presence of the weeds in his field.  Although his slaves want to go out and remove them as they began to appear, the householder is more prudent and realizes that the tender young plants may likely suffer harm as well.  The seed is good, the soil is good.  Allowing the weeds to grow along side the wheat will not harm it.  Patience will bring in a good harvest.

For me, the householder represents Christ.  He sows His Word and His Love in our hearts, but we allow "weeds" to grow there just as much as we allow what God has planted to grow. 

By approaching Christ each day in our examination of conscious and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we bundle those weeds together for the fire.  Christ, like the household, is patient and waits for the harvest and helps us destroy the weeds that hold us back for fully loving Him.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

O beautiful Flower of Carmel,
most fruitful Vine,
Splendor of Heaven,

holy and singular,
who brought forth the Son of God,
still ever remaining a Pure Virgin,
assist me in this necessity.
O Star of the Sea,
help and protect me!
Show me that thou art my Mother.
O Mary, Conceived without sin,
Pray for us who have recourse to thee!
Mother and Ornament of Carmel,
Pray for us!
Virgin, Flower of Carmel,

Pray for us!
Patroness of all who wear the Scapular,

Pray for us!
Hope of all who die wearing the Scapular,

Pray for us!
St. Joseph, Friend of the Sacred Heart,

Pray for us!
St. Joseph, Chaste Spouse of Mary,

Pray for us!
St. Joseph, Our Patron,

Pray for us!
O sweet Heart of Mary,

be my Salvation!

-- Prayer of St. Simon Stock

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pierce My Soul with Your Love

Lord Jesus Christ,
pierce my soul with your love
so that I may always long for you alone,
who are the bread of angels
and the fulfillment of the soul’s deepest desires.
May my heart always hunger for you,
so that my soul may be filled
with the sweetness of your presence.
- St. Bonaventure

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI's Intentions for July

Photo:  Pressestelle Erzbischöfliches Ordinariat MĂĽnchen

July's Intentions:

Those Suffering with AIDS:  That Christians may ease the physical and spiritual sufferings of those who are sick with AIDS, especially in the poorest countries.
Religious Missionary Women:  That religious women in mission territories may be witnesses ofthe joy of the Gospel and living signs of the love of Christ.

For more information about the Apostlship of Prayer, visit:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

...until you have wings to fly

Have patience to walk with short steps until you have wings to fly.

This brief, yet succint quote from St. Francis de Sales can provide us with a wealth of things to think and pray about. 

What is there in your life that you need to have patience with until you have mastered it?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Congratulations to our some of our Benedictine Brothers

Yesterday for the Feast of Our Holy Father St. Benedict, Archabbot Douglas and the monks invited us to join them for Mass and to witness the solemn profession of three of the monks:  Brother Maximilian, Brother Jeremiah and Brother Michael.  It was a wonderful liturgy and it is a great joy for us as well at the lifetime commitment made by these monks.

Several times during the year the monks who are in the Junioriate come out for days of recollection and then we share a meal together in the evening after Vespers.  It is a pleasure for us to get to know them and be part of their early monastic journey.

Brother Max, Brother Jeremiah, and Brother Michael please be assured of our continued prayers for you, and thank you for saying "Yes!" to Christ's invitation to follow Him as a monk at St. Vincent Archabbey.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Short Act of Devotion to our Holy Father, St. Benedict

V.  Lord open my lips,
R.  and my mouth shall proclaim your praise!

Glory to you, Christ our King, glory to you!

Support me, O Lord, according to your word and I shall live!

Let me not be disappointed in my hope.

Glory be tothe Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
Support me, O Lord, according to your world and I shall live!

V.  St. Benedict, our patron, pray for us:
R.  that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray: 

Rekindle in your church, Lord, the Spirit whom our holy father Benedict followed and obeyed:  filled with the same Spirit may we love what he loved and live as he taught us, through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

from:  The Glenstal Book of Prayer, A Benedictine Prayer Book
The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Handy Little Chart

God has a positive answer:

You say: "It's impossible"
God says: All things are possible
(Luke 18:27)
You say: "I'm too tired"
God says: I will give you rest
(Matthew 11:28-30)
You say: "Nobody really loves me"
God says: I love you
(John 3:16 & John 3:34 )
You say: "I can't go on"
God says: My grace is sufficient
(II Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)
You say: "I can't figure things out"
God says: I will direct your steps
(Proverbs 3:5-6)
You say: "I can't do it"
God says: You can do all things
(Philippians 4:13)
You say: "I'm not able"
God says: I am able
(II Corinthians 9:8)
You say: "It's not worth it"
God says: It will be worth it
(Roman 8:28 )
You say: "I can't forgive myself"
God says: I Forgive you
(I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)
You say: "I can't manage"
God says: I will supply all your needs
(Philippians 4:19)
You say: "I'm afraid"
God says: I have not given you a spirit of fear
(II Timothy 1:7)
You say: "I'm always worried and frustrated"
God says: Cast all your cares on ME
(I Peter 5:7)
You say: "I'm not smart enough"
God says: I give you wisdom
(I Corinthians 1:30)
You say: "I feel all alone"
God says: I will never leave you or forsake you
(Hebrews 13:5)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pecans in the Cemetery

On the outskirts of a small town, there was a big, old pecan tree just inside the cemetery fence.

One day, two boys filled up a bucketful of nuts and sat down by the tree, out of sight, and began dividing the nuts.

"One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me," said one boy.

Several dropped and rolled down toward the fence.

Another boy came riding along the road on his bicycle. As he passed, he thought he heard voices from inside the cemetery. He slowed down to investigate.

Sure enough, he heard, "One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me."  He just knew what it was. He jumped back on his bike and rode off.

Just around the bend he met an old man with a cane, hobbling along.  "Come here quick," said the boy, "you won't believe what I heard, Satan and the Lord are down at the cemetery dividing up the souls."

The man said, "Beat it kid, can't you see it's hard for me to walk."  When the boy insisted though, the man hobbled slowly to the cemetery.  Standing by the fence they heard, "One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me..."

The old man whispered, "Boy, you've been tellin' me the truth.  Let's see if we can see the Lord."

Shaking with fear, they peered through the fence, yet were still unable to see anything. The old man and the boy gripped the wrought iron bars of the fence tighter and tighter as they tried to get a glimpse of the Lord. At last they heard, "One for you, one for me. That's all.  Now let's go get those nuts by the fence and we'll be done."

They say the old man made it back to town a full five minutes ahead of the kid on the bike.