Oblate Director's Letter - 2008 Archive

 

January 2009

Dear Oblates,

A new light shines in our world! We have every reason to be filed with joy and hope, because Light will dawn in the darkness for the upright, a light that is just, merciful and kind Psalm 112:4. Christ, our Light continues to stream into our world, and our lives, by the work of the Holy Spirit acting in His Body, the Church. All things are possible for the God who has revealed Himself to us through the virgin: God Emmanuel.

Whatever we encounter on this earthly journey, we do so in the Light of Christ. Our Blessed Lord illumines the darkness of sin, fear, addiction and distress. God has come to save us, and He shall accomplish perfectly the Father’s will. Christ is sent to us because the Father will not tolerate the evil one’s intrusions, which separate us from Divine Love.

We praise the Father in the Holy Spirit for the outpouring of His Love in Christ the Son. This is what we do at Holy Mass, and having encountered this greatest Love, the Church bursts into praise throughout the hours of the day: Great is the Lord, and worthy of all praise is the Mighty One Psalm 49:1. The Holy Eucharist and the Divine Office are at the heart of our Benedictine spirituality, along with lectio divina. Through this immersion into the Word of God we are washed clean and imbued with the light of God’s wisdom and holiness. May this new year be one of great grace, filled with the saving light of Christ, our Savior.

 

Peace & Blessings to you all,

 

November 2008

 

Dear Oblates,

It is already in to November by now. We just finished a great retreat this last weekend. Father Jeremy, OSB, lead a packed guesthouse of retreatants on a journey through the theology of Saint Paul, the Apostle. LaVern Hayworth did her regular fine job of keeping the weekend in good order. It was my privilege to ask Father Prior Gregory to receive three oblate novices as new Benedictine oblates of Mount Angel Abbey. I will soon post articles about this and my recent pastoral visits to oblates in Montana and Washington. They will be found under "Articles & Features."

If anyone has news from their own oblate activities, whether it be about groups or works of an individual, please send them (photos too), so we can share them with the other oblates and friends who visit the Abbey's web site.

This is also a good time to remind everyone to make sure we have your current mailing address. If you have moved in the last year or so, or have reason to believe that we might not have your most recent contact information, please mail it to the Abbey, attention of the Director of Oblates or e-mail here>>

This month of November is a special time. It is the month of the "Poor Souls," when we keep the faithful departed in our charitable prayers. There is one Church: triumphant in heaven, militant (working) on earth, and suffering in Purgatory. Those whom we assist with our prayers in their time of purgation will certainly remember our kindness toward them after they enter into their eternal rest in heaven.

All souls day has Benedictine origins. The great Abbey of Cluny, in France, had the practice of daily reading the necrology of their community, that is, the names of their deceased members on the anniversary of the passing, so that they could be recommended to the charitable prayers of the still "militant" members of the community. This is also the practice here at Mount angel, as it is in most, if not all monasteries. The Cluniac monasteries were so numerous, that this daily necrology became a burden to read, so they established a special day in the year when all their faithful departed would be remembered. Soon, the practice was taken up by others, and today it is observed throughout the Latin Church.

"Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon then. May they rest in peace. Amen."

 

Peace & blessings to you.

 

October 2008

Dear Oblates,

This month of October is fast becoming one of my favorites in the year: I love pumpkin pie, the Fall colors are so beautiful, the Professional Bowlers Tour begins, and it is the time of year when I typically visit some of our oblate groups who are some distance from the monastery.

I like all these attributes of October, but there is one more that I would like to share with you. Anyone who has listened to me speak for any length of time has undoubtedly heard about my friend, Dom Marmion. Well, October 3rd is the feast day of Blessed Columba Marmion , so there's one more great thing about this month!

Often, I have recommended his books, especially "Christ the Life of the Soul" and "Christ the Ideal of the Monk." From these books we learn that "baptism is the efficacious sign of divine adoption." Yes, through holy baptism we are incorporated, that is, made one body with Christ. This is very important in order for us to understand Christ's action in the Holy Eucharist. We are not mere observers in the sacred liturgy. By the action of the Holy Spirit, we members of Christ's Body are joined to Him in His one, eternal, perfect and atoning Sacrifice. "We become by grace, what Christ is by nature," Dom Marmion teaches. Christ takes us to Himself and presents us to our heavenly Father transformed by His grace: a treasury of Divine love won for us, and demonstrated to us, on the Cross of Calvary. This magnificent and wholly satisfying grace is given to us as an act of love, from Jesus to us, in every Holy Communion. This is why we Benedictines are so devoted to the liturgy of the Church, for Her sacred liturgies are the power-filled "mysteries" of God saving us in sacramental signs through the ministry of Jesus Christ continued throughout time in His Body the Church.

I'm grateful to Blessed Columba Marmion for teaching me this, and I hope you will learn much from him as well. Happy October!

Peace & blessings to you.

 

September 2008

Dear Oblates,

Summer is rapidly coming to an end here at Mount Angel. The new seminarians have arrived, we've already lost two hours of daylight and the southwest winds are blowing in the tell-tale signs of Fall.

It's good to see that so many oblates will be coming to the Abbey on retreat this Fall. If the numbers keep rising we may have to add yet another retreat to the schedule. Another type of oblate activity getting started in the vicinity of the Abbey is Benedictine Oblate Bowling (BOB). All are welcome to join us on the first Thursday of each month (beginning October 2) at Town & Country Lanes in Keizer, OR. Those who would like can meet there at the cafe at 6:00 p.m. (their cheeseburgers are extraordinary). Bowling in a doubles format will begin at 7:00 p.m., and the evening will conclude with compline about 9:00 p.m. Keep watch for this on the events page.

There was a letter posted on the monastery bulletin board the other day that I found to be of great interest. perhaps you have heard about it already in your parishes. It is a letter to the bishops of the world from the vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. It is a reminder that the "tetragrammaton" YHWH sometimes spelled out "Yahweh" is to be neither used (spelled out) or pronounced in divine worship. This is the ancient tradition of the Church that She inherited from Judaism. We are to have a profound respect of the Holy Name, and address God with only the greatest humility and love. This will cause a bit of editing to be done to a few hymns used by some today in the liturgy, but the official liturgical texts have always observed this respectful custom. I remember some 20 years ago, our Abbot Bonaventure reminding us of this very point. Typically, the "tetragrammaton" should be rendered "LORD." That is the way the psalms used here at the Abbey are translated. I think this is a good opportunity for all of us to recall the sacredness of the name of God, and discipline ourselves to use it only with the greatest devotion.

Peace & blessings to you.

August 2008

Dear Oblates,

This month's letter is a bit late because I was on a very special trip to Nova Scotia, Canada. 2008 is the 225th anniversary of what is called the Loyalist Landing, or the post Revolutionary War arrival on the shores of Nova Scotia of those American colonists who remained loyal to the British crown, and thus were on the losing side of the conflict. Personally, this summer was the celebration of the culmination of my four times great-grandfather's journey from Londonderry, Ulster in Ireland to Philadelphia, to his final home in what is today Canada. Jasper Harding arrived on the rocky shores of Shelburne, Nova Scotia starting over again. His son George had a son named Jacob, who had a son named David. He had a son named Peter who named his son David. This second David Harding had two sons, one of whom he gave to the Church as a monk and priest.

You may be wondering where all this is going. I don't blame you. It might be simply that family heritage is on my mind, but those who recognize the points of history and the places traveled by Jasper Harding can discern that he lived in times and places of conflict, both national and religious. My English, Scottish, Irish and German ancestors fought, fled, protested and refused to speak to one another for centuries, yet all their blood has converged in me. Perhaps this gives me a right to inner conflict. Maybe not.

All of this family history has given me cause to ponder such things as truth and justice, conflict and peace. Above all, charity. When one truly desires for another that which one desires for oneself, conflict can be overcome. Charity respects persons. It safeguards justice and practices mercy. Charity makes one requirement: that we pursue and cling to Truth. Christ Jesus is our truth and the source of all charity.

Peace & blessings to you.

 
July 2008

Dear Oblates,

The month of Our Blessed Father Saint Benedict's solemnity is upon us, along with its festive liturgies and annual Oblate Weekend. Also, we have just begun the Church's Jubilee Year of Saint Paul, which goes from the Solemnity of Saints Peter & Paul 2008 to that same celebration a year from now in 2009.

You can see how the Abbey is celebrating the Pauline year by following this link here.

There you will find the Saint Paul icon written by Brother Claude and enshrined in the Abbey church for the Holy Year, as well as links to other Pauline year sites. As the activities to take place here at the Abbey are finalized they will be posted, so check back throughout the year for the latest news regarding the commemoration of the 2000th anniversary of the birth of the Saint Paul, Apostle to the gentiles.

One of the things that I have decided to do is to each week choose a quotation from Saint Paul's writings. I carry it in the pocket of my habit for easy reference so that I can meditate on its message throughout the day. For the first week I have chosen something from his First letter to the Thessalonians 5:16-18 "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

Our Blessed Father Saint Benedict exhorts us in chapter 4:56 of the Holy Rule to devote ourselves often to prayer. The Holy Patriarch's writings are imbued with the spirit of Saint Paul and encourage in us to cultivate that great zeal for union with Christ Jesus found in the heart of Saint Paul. We have so much in which to rejoice, but most of all, we rejoice in and are thankful for the salvation won for us in Christ Jesus and given to us freely in Christ's Church. It is God's will for us that our Christian hope should lift us up beyond the many trials with which this life challenges us. May this Holy year of the Apostle Paul, be a time of great hope and joy for us all.

Peace & blessings to you.

 

June 2008

Dear Oblates,

The seminarians have been dispersed, the community retreat is complete, and now we settle in for the summer months that, by the way, seem to grow shorter with each passing year. After a few really hot days in May, and then some rather cold days following, things are now a bit wet, but generally more seasonable.

I first wrote this letter a few weeks ago. Since then, our dear Father Bernard passed to the Lord. But, just the other day a good friend of mine stoped in to say hello. He recounted for me a recent visit he enjoyed with Father Bernard, someone he has known well for quite some time. As they exchanged greetings and light conversion, this gentleman discerned that Father had not recognized him, and so said to Father Bernard: "You don't know who I am, do you?" To which Father responded: "Is that important?" I suppose this reply could be taken a couple of ways. I fear that many today would be offended by such a response - not being recognized for who they are, or their position not properly acknowledged. There is another way of looking at this, however. The key to the precise interpretation of this brief discourse, I think, lay in yet another exchange, this one at the end of the conversation. In the spirit of the desert, the wise old monk was asked for a spiritual good word: "Father, What should I remember?" (long pause) "Remember that you are a child of God."

The reason that individual recognition wasn't particularly important to Father Bernard, was that he had already made an often overlooked, yet far greater one: he simply recognized before him a dearly beloved child of God. What more was there to see? That recognition alone was reason enough to give of oneself, and to simply rejoice in yet another encounter with Christ the Beloved.

May they angels lead dear Father Bernard into paradise this day.

Peace & blessings to you.