Christ in the Pandemic

“Care of the sick must rank above and before all else so that they may truly be served as Christ…” Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 36

I have been quiet over the past few months because I have been sick with a cold that seems to not have wanted to go away. No, I do not have COVID-19! But what I do have is a small sense of anxiety because I work on the front lines of this pandemic and am myself not in the best of health.

I have been seriously considering what I should do. Should I seriously discern whether God might be calling me out of the medical field? Shouldn’t I think first of myself and those I love and not risk being in the midst of something like this? Why chance it? It’s just a job, right?

This evenings reading from the Rule of St. Benedict brought comfort to my soul. Let’s be honest – God did not call me to work in medicine to then abandon me. If I am called to serve Him in the sick and suffering then I must trust that His grace is there with me.

It’s only human to be fearful in situations we can do very little about. The unknown scares us. Our anxieties must be tempered with a good dose of faith in the God who does not abandon His people. Christ is both in the pandemic and in those suffering from it.

As an oblate I am to remind myself of the promises I made. Conversatio Morum calls us to a continual deepening of our monastic way of life. Am I really to turn my back on my sick brothers and sisters when St. Benedict tells me that their care must “rank above and before all else so that they may truly be served as Christ?” In thinking of myself would I not be turning my back on my sick brothers and sisters and essentially on Christ himself?

In sharing in Christ’s sufferings may we also come to share in His resurrection. Let us pray for all medical workers and all those affected by this pandemic. Let us pray that our fasting, prayer and almsgiving during this Lenten Season may be offered on behalf of all who suffer at this time.

Pax!

P.S. WASH YOUR HANDS!

Oblation Anniversary

Signing my oblate vows

Today I celebrate the 4th year anniversary of my Final Oblation as a Benedictine Oblate of St. Meinrad Archabbey. The past 4 years have been filled with many blessings. The greatest being a deeper understanding of what God has called me to in this vocation.

The oblate life calls one to a deeper understanding and love for the liturgy of the Church. As Benedictines we are called to be active voices in the continual prayer of the Church in the Divine Office. We are to be formed in the liturgy of the Church and become voices which praise God throughout all time.

We cannot properly participate in praising God if we have not first listened to Him in His word. An attentive ear is always necessary, for to hear God’s voice one must always be open to how He wishes to reveal himself.

Listening with an open heart requires the oblate to respond. Obedience is found in the many situations of life. We are called to live our lives as best we can and respond to the daily demands. God is not found up in the clouds but in the menial things of life. How do we respond to Him there?

All this requires a certain amount of stability and follow through. One cannot possibly grow or hear God’s voice if they are continually on the move. What are we running from if we can’t possibly sit for a moment to learn what God wants from us?

The life of a Benedictine oblate is one of beauty. The liturgy, the Rule, community, and the word shows the oblate that life is beautiful and should be lived with purpose.

Being a Benedictine oblate of St. Meinrad Archabbey is a happy life. God has not been stingy with His grace in my vocation and He most certainly has not been in showing me how wonderful this calling is.

May St. Benedict, St. Meinrad and St. John Paul II pray for me and all oblates this day as I celebrate with joy my 4th anniversary of oblation.

Looking at life with open eyes

Getting older isn’t much fun. Soon I’ll turn 46. I’m grateful that I am alive and in good health. But this time also brings things into your life such as my mom being diagnosed with breast cancer.

You are forced to face the mortality of your parents and yourself. When my parents go to God, I must realize that I’m next. This is disturbing.

Saint Benedict tells us in Chapter 4 of his Rule to “keep death daily before your eyes.” I never really thought much of death until recently. It is something I need to focus on.

There are a lot of wonderful things that come with getting older, yet one is forced to look sickness and death in the face.

St. Benedict’s practice of keeping death daily before our eyes is a practice that should be done, because if we can face death with peace and the knowledge that we will be with God then we can accept what lies ahead.

How should an oblate react to things like sickness and death? We must realize that if we believe that God exists and the perfect place is to be with him, then we should not weep much over the loss of others or our own sickness because heaven awaits us when we close our eyes to this world.

Thanks be to God!

The Incarnation is Everything

Mass at midnight seems odd to many but it is only so to those who do not understand the Church.

The long awaited time has come for the Messiah to appear. Century after century has longed for him and the earth can no longer wait. At the stroke of midnight, the very moment Christmas Day begins, the Church must cry aloud, “he is here…come let us adore him!”

So many reasons come to mind as to why God chose this way of redeeming us. When the word of God, that one word spoken by the Father took on our flesh God for the first time could truly understand what it was like to feel, taste, see, smell, and love with a human heart.

The incarnation allowed God to understand us by experiencing things as we do. The inevitable consequence of the incarnation turned out to be the sacraments, for in them God allows us to touch, taste, smell, and hear him in ways he now knows we need and understand.

God becoming like us opened up for us a way to become like him and to directly share in his divine life. Our lives as Catholics and especially as oblates should always be focused on the incarnation for it is the first cause of so many joys we have in the faith.

Without the incarnation – dare I say – we would not have the sacraments. Without the incarnation we would not have the liturgy. And without the incarnation we would not truly have the understanding that God loved us in such a profound way that he chose to experience life just as we do.

St. Leo the Great reminds us, “Christian, remember your dignity!” The incarnation is the reason we have any worth and it is the reason we thank God on this most solemn and silent night.

The O Antiphons – the Church’s Cry for Christ to Come

“O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.”

As the days get closer to Christmas, that great celebration of God becoming man, the Church begins her cry of longing in the “O antiphons.” The liturgy is ripe with passion and longing for the Lord to come.

All creation cry’s out to the Lord for him to come in the incarnation. This is what we have desired for so long – God to come in the flesh and set us free.

The “O antiphons” are the Church’s prayer of longing and expectation for the Lord. They resonate in the heart of any oblate who has prayed the Divine Office for some time. This is the time of expectation and we are called to actively participate in it.

The heart of an oblate is one of longing and expectation for the Lord. It is formed by the Psalms in the Divine Office and is fed by Lectio Divina. Keeping vigil is what we do as oblates. We wait for the Lord to reveal himself to us and we join with the Church in her longing.

The liturgy is rich and colorful this time of year. Let us join in this longing and expectation by praying the Divine Office and entering deeply into the life of the Church.

God Longs to See Himself in You

“…and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15)

This phrase is what struck me the most during my Lectio this evening. It is in regards to John the Baptist. Gabriel gives this wonderful message to John’s father, Zachariah.

What strikes me most is that John the Baptist is filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb. Why is this important? We find the answer a few paragraphs later in Luke, “and when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the child leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 1:41)

It seems to me that God wishes to recognize himself in us. That is the way in which he sees us – filled with the Holy Spirit, his life. We are but dust yet God lifts us up to share in his life. He recognizes us when he sees himself in us, filled with the Holy Spirit.

When Mary visits Elizabeth she is pregnant with Jesus. The Immaculate Conception who was filled with the Holy Spirit and who held within her womb God incarnate, visited her cousin who held within her womb a boy who is filled with the Holy Spirit. God rejoices, leaps for joy when he recognizes himself in us. The only response of God seeing himself in us, sharing his life with us, is a leap for joy.

On judgment day I feel that God will first try to see himself in us. Will he see himself in us and leap for joy or will he see the stain of sin which tarnishes his vision? The Holy Spirit dwells within those who love God. When he sees himself within us he responds with joy.

It was necessary for John the Baptist to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It was his vocation to proclaim the coming of God in the flesh. He started his vocation in the womb of his mother with a little leap.

The life of an oblate is be open to the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is to proclaim in a loud voice – like John – that the Messiah is coming and yet has already arrived. It is the duty of an oblate to sing the praises of God – maybe with a little leap of joy – and to proclaim that God longs to see himself in us.

“…and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” Sit for a moment and meditate on that. See the graciousness of God and how he longs to see himself in you.

A Time of Expectation

Advent has always been a rather fascinating season for me. It is a time when we prepare for the coming of Christ in Christmas yet it is also a time when we prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming to us in other ways.

This season helps us to focus not only on Christ’s coming to us at Christmas but his coming to us in the sacraments and his final coming at the end of time.

The incarnation is the coming of God in the flesh. The sacraments are an extension of the incarnation and brings into our time and place the grace that was bought for us by Christ. Death and then the final judgment shows us the fulfillment of the incarnation where we experience God’s face in our resurrected bodies.

Advent allows us the time to focus on how God reveals himself to us in our lives and requires us to reflect on how we respond to that revelation. One day we shall be required to give an answer to that!

Benedictine life is sometimes called one long Lent yet I would argue that it is also one long Advent, for as Benedictines we strive to make our lives into a great vigil for the Lord.

This is a time when our hearts should be filled with longing. This is a time when we should review our spiritual lives to see how we prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ in various ways. This is a time when we must remind ourselves and the world that God so loved us that he gave us his only Son to become like us.

Let us celebrated Advent with a longing heart so that we might truly rejoice in the joy of the incarnation.