Stability as Your Guide

“When he is to be received, he comes before the whole community in the oratory and promises stability, fidelity to monastic life, and obedience.” Rule of Benedict, 58

Stability, fidelity to monastic life and obedience. These are the three promises an oblate makes when he gives himself over to God. These promises make up the foundation of how one lives their vocation out as a Benedictine oblate. But what exactly does it mean? What exactly does living out the promises look like in the daily life of an oblate?

Living ones vocation out as a Benedictine oblate can take on many different forms. The way in which I strive to live out my vocation can be quite different from others even within my own monastic family. The Rule of St. Benedict allows for such diversity and is one of the reasons why it has lasted for over 1,500 years. In the next few posts I intend to speak on the three promises of stability, fidelity to monastic life and obedience and how I strive to live them out as an oblate.

The promise of stability stands in stark contrast to a society which seeks pleasure and fulfillment in quick fixes and happiness that is just a click away. Stability, the first of the promises made by any Benedictine, requires us to plant our roots in the community we find ourselves in, whether at home, work, or society in general. Stability is the promise that forces us to look at our surroundings and strive to see God there. It asks us to look for God in the here and now and not in some distant future where we think all shall be better.

At times we may find ourselves being irritated with those who surround us. We may find the way things are done to not be in our liking or taste and we may very well find ourselves being challenged by those we are called to love. Our gut reaction is to flee because this is the path of least resistance. This allows us to not have to get into the thick of things and face them as they are. The promise of stability shows us that God has placed us with these people, in these situations, and challenges us to grow in love. We are not called to change the world to our own wishes and needs but to love in the midst of all trials.

Stability also asks me to continue on the journey when I find the monotony a bit to much. I reminds me that I should not look for external excitements which might stimulate my desires at the moment but will produce very little fruit. It calls me to stick with the path I have chosen and to reap the benefits of the Benedictine life which has been lived out by thousands before me.

And in the life of an oblate stability also requires me to have a greater focus on my family, whether it be in single or married life. Those God has chosen to place before me are those which will help me to grown in love. Committing myself to a greater acceptance of who they are and who they are not will allow me to grow to love them as God loves them. When the going gets tough, as it inevitably does in life, I am called to stick it out and work through the difficulties that present themselves simply because in the end I recognize that the challenges of life and of others will lead me to a greater acceptance and love for all human life.

In a time in which people and places are disposable, stability asks me to see them how God sees them – as gifts which call me to holiness. It might not be easy but that’s not the point. Nothing worth having in life is ever easy.

Although it can seem constraining at first, stability is actually quite liberating. It takes away the need to look elsewhere for happiness and reminds me that it is to be found exactly where I am at and with the people God has chosen to place in my life.

Advertisements

Making the Rule Personal

The Rule of St. Benedict is the foundation or guide which aids us in living out our vocation as Benedictine Oblates. The beauty of the Rule is that it can be adapted to different times and places and provides the opportunity to have different expressions of Benedictine life.

As an oblate I certainly cannot follow the Rule as monks or nuns do but I can strive to implement it as best I can in my circumstances of life. Both the Rule and St. Meinrad Archabbey have given me the foundation as to how I can best live out my life as an oblate but I came to see that a personal rule was needed. This personal oblate rule would better help me to put into practice how I want to live out my vocation as an oblate. It is more of a guide on how to live out the spirit of the Benedictine vocation in my circumstances of life.

Although I believe that this be a working document and will take a little more time to complete, I also believe that it is a good start. I have debated on whether or not to share it here but have come to the decision to do so simply because it allows me to put it out there in the Benedictine online universe of the web and obtain feedback from others who are also striving to live out their vocations as Benedictine oblates. I also hope that in some small way it might be able to promote in others the desire to live out their lives under the Rule of St. Benedict.

In following the example of our Holy Father St. Benedict, I have tried to make sure that there is nothing too harsh in this rule. It is my hope and prayer that it will allow me to put into practice the guiding principles of the Benedictine way of life. I look forward to any suggestions and experiences other oblates may have on how they are striving to live out their vocations. Sharing this with the community is part of the process of being a Benedictine. In doing so I only hope that my life can be more enriched through the experiences of others.

Rule of Life

• Liturgy of the Hours

– Lauds, Vespers, Compline, Office of BVM Saturday morning

• Rule of Benedict

– Read daily and study more in depth when possible

• Lectio Divina

– Daily

• Sacraments

– Mass: as often as possible

– Confession: at least twice a month

• Presence of God

– Strive to be in Gods presence always, pray before beginning work and after, practice contemplative prayer

– See God in others, especially the sick and the poor

• Fasting

– Abstain from meat and snacking on Wednesdays and Fridays. Bread and liquids only on Ash Wednesday & Good Friday.

• Devotions

– Office of the Dead for each monk who has died

– Divine Mercy Chaplet and Devotion

– Mary’s Fiat Office from the Little Office of the BVM replaces Saturday Lauds

– Eucharistic Adoration: at least once a month

• Monastic Practices

– Monthly Hermit Day

– Annual retreat with review of how I am living the Oblate way of life

– Renewal of Oblate Promises: January 16th (Anniversary of Oblation), March 21st (Transitus of St. Benedict), July 11th (Feast of St. Benedict), November 21st (Presentation of Mary)

– Find a confessor/spiritual director

– Discern an apostolate

– Silence: stop using cell phone and all electronic devices after 6pm. Decrease television use and strive to use speech for only good. Proper attention should be given to conversations that are unnecessary or deemed inappropriate.

– Hospitality: to receive all guests as Christ, whether at home, work or in society.

A Song Throughout the Halls of Heaven

tree of life mosaic“Jesus Christ, High Priest of the New and Eternal Covenant, taking human nature, introduced into this earthly exile that hymn which is sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven.” (On the Sacred Liturgy/Vatican II Document)

This quote sums up the greatness we share in when we pray the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office/Opus Dei). Coming together as God’s people we cry out with, in and through Christ, the praises of the Church and the world. United with the members of Christ’s body on earth, our voices are raised in adoration, thanksgiving and praise when we pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

This is the heart of the vocation of being a Benedictine Oblate. Making our voices the voice of the Church through the Liturgy of the Hours is the reason for our existence. Singing the praises of God is why Benedictines exist. Everything else is secondary.  “Nothing is to be preferred to the work of God.” (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 69)

Taking up into ourselves the cries of the poor, the sick and suffering, we cry out to God in the Psalms on their behalf. Filled with joy and expectation, we sing His praises for those who know Him not. The Divine Office is not just the prayer of the Church but the prayer of the world and the cosmos itself. We unite our voices to that one great hymn of praise which is “sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven” through Jesus Christ our Savior in the flesh.

This prayer of the Church is not our own. We cannot claim the Divine Office to be our personal prayer. We speak with the voice of the Church on behalf of all.

There are days when the Psalms may not mean much to me personally. I may not be suffering or crying out to God in pain but I know that somewhere in smoking thuriblethe world someone is. Somewhere in the world others are suffering yet cannot find the words in their need. The poor, the hungry, the sick and the dying, we stand before God on their behalf and cry out to Him, knowing that He hears our prayer.

Each day we join our voices with the Church here on earth and in heaven to sing the praises of the Triune God, and we know that our prayer is heard because it is the prayer of Christ Himself to the Father, in the Holy Spirit.

The mystery of salvation history is made present in the Divine Office. We recall the things God has done for us and they are made present through the liturgy. They truly become present in a sacramental way because the Church brings forth that which she celebrates in Christs name.

What a great joy to be able to join our voices to the Church throughout time and history! What a great joy to know that the hymn of praise in heaven is taken up by us when we pray the Liturgy of the Hours. And what an honor it is to stand before God with, in and through Christ on behalf of those who’s voices are not heard.

May God in His goodness show us the great dignity we possess when we pray the Divine Office on behalf of all!

Feast of St. Meinrad (Martyr of Hospitality)

Icon of St. Meinrad
Icon of St. Meinrad

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Meinrad Archabbey, the patron of the monastic community I am attached to as a Benedictine Oblate. The Life of St. Meinrad reminds us of the great act of hospitality we are all called to as followers of Christ and especially as Benedictines.

St. Benedictine tells us in his Rule that we are to “receive all guest as though they were Christ.” (Chapter 53). St. Meinrad followed this command to his death. Seeing Christ even in those who would kill him, he is known as the martyr of hospitality.

Reflecting on the life of St. Meinrad requires me to ask myself how I receive others into my life. Do I see them as Christ or as a nuisance? Working in medicine I come across a lot of different individuals who are unlike myself in a variety of ways. The rich and poor, powerful and meek, the sick and healthy all come into my life at one point or another. Not only do I have the obligation to receive them as Christ, I have the added obligation to receive them in their sickness and suffering. There are times in which I may feel overwhelmed or worn out but this does not give me permission to overlook the great apostolate of hospitality.

St. Meinrad is a reminder for me that I must go the extra mile to live out my

vocation as an oblate even when I do not feel like doing so. Am I asked to give up my life as he did for the sake of seeing Christ in others? Probably not but receiving Christ may call me to go out of myself and suffer a little in the hope of providing hospitality to all I meet. A little death might be asked of me and my ego if I truly strive to live out the Benedictine hospitality I am called

1st Class Relic of St. Meinrad (finger bone)
1st Class Relic of St. Meinrad (finger bone)

to as an Oblate of St. Benedict.

No one ever said following Christ or the Rule of St. Benedict would be easy. St. Benedict himself reminds us of this. But it is rewarding when we realize that it leads us to a fuller relationship with Christ who quite often appears to us in those who come into our lives.

St. Meinrad, Martyr of Hospitality, pray for us!

Redemptive Suffering – No Easy Task!

Suffering in one fashion or another seems to have been my lot. I don’t say this out of complaining or trying to get sympathy. It’s just the reality of my life. Not too long after my birth I was diagnosed with encephalitis which my parents thought might kill me. I grew up with severe asthma and allergies, have had migraines since the age of 7, and was diagnosed with a heart condition at 13. Nine years ago I was diagnosed with a chronic condition that will most likely one day take my life.

I have tried to look back at a time in my life where I wasn’t suffering from one illness or another yet I cannot seem to think of a period of when that would have been. There have been a few months here of there where I have been free of the burden of illness yet it all seems meshed together that I cannot really think of a time when I haven’t lived like this. It’s all I know.

As one can imagine, I now have an incessant desire to try and understand the value of redemptive suffering, not because I’m obsessed with my sufferings or why I seem to have to carry these crosses but because I want to know how to be able to use the grace God is giving me through them. I’ll be honest. There are days when I want it all to go away. There are days when I simply cannot handle another migraine this week because I’ve already had 4. And there are definitely days when you question why in the world any of this makes sense. Frankly, it’s hard to understand with faith. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like without it.

The teaching of redemptive suffering goes something like this…Christ could have chosen any way he wanted to redeem us. He could have simply willed it but he chose the path of the cross. Suffering and death was the vehicle he chose as our way of salvation. So the one thing which touches us all to our very core is flipped on it’s head and becomes the vehicle for our redemptive. But it’s even more then that. In his infinite wisdom and love, Christ chose to allow us to participate in this redemptive act of the cross for the Church and the world. He didn’t take away our suffering but redeemed it and made it a channel of grace for ourselves and others.

Now this sounds great and all but the question remains of how. How does one participate in this? How does one carry one’s cross and participate in redemptive suffering instead of just biting ones lip and praying for it to all go away soon? It has taken me years to even begin to have an inch of insight into this. I’m not too sure I’m much father along but I will share a little about what I’ve learned.

Patience and trust. These are the two virtues that are needed the most when one is asked to carry the cross. At first I tried hard to figure out why I was suffering and stressed myself out trying to figure out how to conform myself to Christ. In the process of doing this I didn’t realize that I was rely on myself way too much and not enough on Christ. I’ve had to come to the realization that I may very well never come to understand how God is using these crosses for the good of myself or others. I’ve had to rely more on believe that He is working good through them and that I must be patient for Him to reveal it to me in His on way and time.

It’s not just about bearing the suffering with patients but striving with Gods grace to accept it with open arms BECAUSE this is the way in which Christ chose to redeem the world. If Christ has chosen this way then can I be any different? I’ve also come to understand that prayer is not just about words. Sometimes I must sit in silence with the suffering and recognize that Christ is present with me. That 5th migraine of the week in itself can become a prayer which rises up like incense if I allow God to be present to me in it. But I also have to remember that sometimes carrying the cross of suffering also means crying out to God with Christ. “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” The cry of abandonment is an honest and profound prayer which rises up to the heart of God. In it we recognize in all our weakness and pain that no one else but God can save us.

The gift of redemptive suffering is one that asks so much of us. More often then not I have found that I fail at what might be asked of me but God is generous in offering me ever more opportunities to try again. In the end, I must always remember that suffering never has the last word.

3 Years Later

Three years ago today I made my final oblation as a Benedictine Oblate of St. Meinrad Archabbey. The memories are still vivid of offering myself to God through the monastic promises of stability, coversatio morum and obedience which all Benedictines make. Taking as my patron St. John Paul II, I promised to strive to live life a little differently then most, with the Rule of St. Benedict as my guide.

As I reflect upon this time within the Benedictine family I have to try and make an honest assessment as to the successes and failures which have come my way and how I must always continue to strive towards that which God has called me to be. This is no easy task but one that God calls us to make if we are true to our commitment to Him.

Something I have learned during this time is that striving to live out the promises we make as oblates is often a humbling experience. It is a call to look at the world through a different lens, to reorient ourselves with a long view of life and history and to strive to see life how God sees it. Many times I have failed at this endeavor but stability calls me to get back up and try again with God at my side.

I am not too sure as to why God asked me to go this route in life but I do know that I am blessed to be living it. I am not sure if I have come any closer to holiness but I do know that I want to try. I am not sure if I will ever make a difference in this world living out my vocation as an oblate but I hope that God in His goodness will see the effort I try to make and bring it to perfection in His own time. In the end I am simply grateful that He has willed that I try to come closer to Him, with the Rule as my guide, and a 1,500 year hearitage which has lead so many to holiness. May He be praised through it all!


Delayed

Yesterday it came to my attention that as a member of the oblate community of St. Meinrad, permission is needed to publish on the oblate life. Therefore, I will be delaying any publishing on this site until I obtain the proper permission from the Archabbot and Oblate Director.

That In All Things God May Be Glorified!