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.

The Presentation – of Mary and Ourselves

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of Mary. Today is also the day when Benedictine Oblates throughout the world renew the promises we made at our final oblation.

This feast celebrates Mary being set aside as an offering or oblation to God for His glory and service. It is fitting that we renew our promises on this feast for we too have been called to become an offering for the Lord.

I find great joy in being an oblate. I recognize all the more that God called me to this vocation. It is both a blessing and a responsibility that has been laid upon me and I once again promise to strive to live this vocation through stability, conversatio morum and obedience.

I recognize my limitations and see my shortcomings, which are great. Thankfully, God gives me the opportunity to begin again each day and on this day He offers me the chance to renew my promises to Him.

The Mother of God should always be my guide for she continually points towards her Son. She can show me how to offer myself totally to God’s service and teach me how to pray.

“My soul magnifies the Lord…” Mary’s song of praise is what we continue in the Divine Office. She is the great example for all oblates on how we can best live the offering we’ve made of ourselves to God.

May her prayers guide us along the way!

Community with the living and the dead

Community comes in a variety of ways and it is something which is intrinsic to the Benedictine way of life. Family, friends, coworkers and fellow oblates help form the community I’m a part of. The same can be said for most others.

We forget that there is a community of faith within the Church – the Church Militant, Church Suffering and Church Triumphant. The month of November helps to remind us that other members of the Church – those who have died and are in purgatory – depend on us.

Death cannot break the bonds of community life. In a certain real way it strengthens them. Although no longer present on this earth, our brothers and sisters see God face to face. Some may need the assistance of our sacrifices and prayers while others stand before God. Do we really think they forget us? Quite the contrary!

Too often we forget those who have died and are in need of our prayers. We do a disservice to those who have completed their earthly life when we do not remember them in prayers.

Praying for the living and the dead is an act of charity and an act of mercy. It also reminds us of our own mortality and that we too may very well one day rely on the prayer of others.

Community definitely comes in many ways, shapes and forms. The Holy Souls ask that we not forget that they too are a part of that community which helps to form us.

May the souls of the faithful departed Rest In Peace!

My Patron, My Spiritual Friend

Today the Church celebrates a giant of the faith – St. John Paul II. Today I personally celebrate this man who has had such a huge influence on me even though I never met him.

My conversion to the Catholic Faith is in no small part due to to John Paul II. His writings and holiness of life made me proud to enter the Catholic Church. I was proud of him and how he showed the world the beauty of the Catholic faith.

John Paul II’s love for the Virgin Mary has always been a great inspiration to me. Although my devotion to the Mother of God pales in comparison, he helped me to see the necessity of turning towards our Mother that she may show us how to love her Son.

Faced with illness for the greater part of my life, John Paul II was a wonderful example of how to embrace the cross and redemptive suffering. In the midst of such a great pontificate, his last days spoke more to me than any other. How can we forget his embracing the cross with devotion and love on the last Good Friday?

When the time came for me to make my oblation I knew without a doubt that St. John Paul II would be my spiritual guide. His name I would take as I made my oblate promises. I sought not only his prayers and guidance but a small part of his spirit too. St. John Paul II is the epitome of a Benedictine even though he was never one.

Obedience to the will of God lead John Paul II to places he never could have imagined. Stability kept him close to the deposit of faith, his beloved Poland and to the world. Conversatio Morum was his way of life as he strove to live Christ more fully in his state in life.

I am privileged to be called a son of St. Benedict. I am honor to have St. John Paul II pray for me that I might be worthy of such a life.

St. John Paul (the Great), pray for us!

A Better Understanding of Community

It has taken me much longer to recover from the two surgeries I’ve had. As difficult as it has been, my inability at times to say the Divine Office has caused me more difficulty and pain than the recovery.

Recently, I came to realize that the community I am attached to – St. Meinrad – with all its monks and oblates, has always been taking upon itself the duties to the Divine Office even when I could not.

I am not the community but part of it. When I am sick I must recognize that the community becomes my voice at prayer. Although it may await the return of my voice in the Office, it is not dependent on it. And although my voice must once again take up that same Office, I must remind myself that my brothers and sisters have been praying for me, with me, and even in my place, all along.

My obligation to the community of St. Meinrad also implies that in some small way it has an obligation to me. Through oblation I was brought into the fold, thus allowing me to not only strive to meet my obligations but to also participate in the fruits of others.

Real community is reciprocal. It does not count the cost. I’ve learned a very good lesson about community over the past few months and I’m grateful I did.

It has been a humbling experience to recognize that my voice has been united in the Divine Office with, in, and through my oblate confreres and the monks. And I’m deeply grateful that I have these individuals to rely on when life gets in the way.

Sacramental Participation and the Oblate

Part of any spiritual life is an active participation in the sacramental life of the church. Benedictine oblates are called to this participation in an even greater way because of the offering we made of ourselves to God. Signing our oblate promises on the altar is something more than just a formality!

In a very real way oblates have united themselves to Christ on the altar, not in a sacramental way such as the priesthood, but as a sign that we are called to be deeply conformed to Christ, who gives himself to the Father for the good of the Church and the world. The sacraments are the means to that deeper conformity.

Recently, I have been blessed with being able to conform myself more closely to the suffering Christ as I’ve had surgery a few month ago and as I prepare for another surgery in the next few days. The means for this has been the sacrament of the sick. This sacrament of healing is also a sacrament of conforming one to the suffering Jesus who chose suffering as the means of redeeming the world. The anointing one receives sets the sick individual aside to suffer with, in and through Christ for the good of the Church and the world.

As a convert to the Catholic faith, I’ve know life without the sacraments. It is a dull and boring spiritual life. It is a life that leaves much to be desired.

Although oblation isn’t a sacrament of the church it definitely points to them. It is a way of participating in the offering of Christ to the Father. It is a life which must continually be strengthened by the sacraments Christ gave to his Church long ago.

Failing to participate in the sacramental life of the church is spiritual suicide. It is certainly necessary for any of Christ’s followers. How necessary it must be for those of us who have chosen to dedicate our lives to him under the title of “offering/oblate?”

Enough Said – it’s what we need!

“Let us do what the Prophet says: ‘I said, I will take heed of my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I have set a guard to my mouth, I was dumb, and was humbled, and kept silence even from good thing’ (Ps 38). Here the prophet shows that, if at times we ought to refrain from useful speech for the sake of silence, how much more ought we to abstain from evil words on account of the punishment due to sin.” (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 6)

Words can definitely be good but we see that they can quickly turn into evil and sin. St. Benedict reminds us that our words have effects and consequences. We see this happening in our country today. Vile insults and name calling is bad in itself. It has no place in society or the church. It is not nor shall it ever be acceptable.

Restraint in speech must come from all sides. We cannot justify what is being done today simply because we think we are in the right – politically, ideologically or morally. It is better that one keep quit and pray then self-righteously proclaim to the world own goodness and the bad we may see in others.

Our country and our church are filled with this attitude. It has infected many to the detriment of all. One day our words will condemn us and it appears that day is arriving at our doorsteps quicker than we might think.

True conversion of our country and our church starts with us closing our traps so we at least try not to add to the disruption and distress we see around us. Nothing will ever get done if we first can’t shut up.