Oblate Director's Letter - Archive 2009
Advent is always a season of new beginnings. Perhaps this has never been so true for us here at Mount Angel. We are lead into this holy season this year by a new abbot. Father Abbot Gregory's quiet prayerful presence in the community is a sign for us all to observe. The Sacred Scriptures call to us to prepare the way of the Lord, to be watchful, and to set things right. Our real hope for achieving these Advent goals lies in our ability to hear the Word of God so that we might respond in joyful obedience. A monk devotes himself to "listening with the ear of the heart" so as to receive the Word, and let Him take life within us. As Benedictines, we monks and oblates can offer our own quiet prayerfulness as as a witness to our hope that all things will be made right with the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
We also have a new prior in the monastery. Father Vincent Trujillo, O.S.B. is well known through his work in the Abbey schools, local parishes and the Guesthouse. Now he takes up a new ministry as Father Prior of the monastery, running many of the day-to-day activities of the house. The prior is arguably the busiest man in the monastery, but Father Prior Vincent possesses a "servants heart," and that will keep him going, no doubt.
Father Odo Recker, O.S.B., a past Oblate Director, has been appointed by Father Abbot Gregory as Subprior. He will continue his work in support of the Seminary as well as his new "fill in" work in the absence of the other superiors.
Some may be disappointed, but I'm not, to be re-appointed as Director of Oblates. I will also be returning to the Guesthouse as Guestmaster.
On behalf of Father Abbot Gregory and the entire community, we wish you all a holy Advent and a most blessed Nativity of the Christ.
This past week we celebrated a lot of angels. The Abbey’s patronal feast was on September 29th, Saints Michael, Gabriel & Rafael, and all Holy Angels, and the patronal feast of our motherhouse, on October 2, the commemoration our Holy Guardian Angels.
Saint Jerome noted in his commentary on Saint Matthew’s Gospel that the fact of each and every person having a guardian angel tells us something of the importance and magnificence of the human soul. We are so dearly loved and cherished by our Heavenly Father that He has assigned an angel care for us, to guide and protect us, and to direct us to the place prepared for us in heaven.
An angel is a pure spirit. Like human beings they have both intellect and will, but unlike us, they have no material body. The have angelic being and the perfection of the powers proper to their created state, and historically we know they can manifest themselves to us in various forms. Their love for and devotion to God is absolute and irrevocable. They are totally and ceaselessly devoted to accomplishing God’s will.
What this means for us is that we have a constant heavenly companion who loves us with a truly divine love. Our guardian angels are devoted to helping us get to heaven. This is radical teamwork. We can never be alone. We are never without hope. Heavenly aid is only a prayer away.
Even though my guardian angel is no doubt exhausted from his labors, I plan on seeking even greater assistance in the future. I hope you will do the same.
September is always a particularly joyful time here at the Abbey. Most in Western Oregon may think this is so because of the great harvest festival of the Mount Angel Oktoberfest which occurs each year at this time. These days of fun and feasting certainly are something to enjoy, for year after year, the Lord showers us with great blessings, both spiritual and material.
I particularly enjoy the month of September because it marks the end of the hot August days, and the beginning of the cool nights of Fall, and even though it means a bit more work to be done, September also marks the beginning of the new school year for the Seminary. This year finds 64 new seminarians on the "Hill;" that is a particular joy.
Above all of these great things, the monks of Mount Angel rejoice each September in the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Mass of monastic profession that is celebrated on this day. This year, we are blessed to receive two new brothers into our monastic community. September 8th is a day to celebrate most every monk's anniversary of monastic profession. For me, this month marks 21 years of vows, a relative "newcomer" when one considers Fr. Athanasius' 1949 profession - 60 years and counting!
Our Blessed Lady shows us how to say "Yes" to God, and how to be faithful and grateful. As the monks rejoice in their own monastic vocations on this feast of Our Lady, we also give thanks to God for your own monastic witness and the communion we enjoy in the Church. May Mary, Joy of Monks, help us all to ever rejoice in God's blessings.
Peace & Blessings to you,
These past days, the weather has been just perfect here at the Abbey. The temperature is presently in the high 70s, with a very pleasant breeze. The skies are mostly clear, and the nights cool.
So much for the weather report. As I contemplated the comfort of our climate and the beauty of the trees and flowers here at Mount Angel, my mind slipped away to other places were there is less comfort. I wasn't thinking of the heat of the desert-southwest or the high humidity of the midwestern states. I called to mind the terrible discomfort so many feel these days. Around the world, so many are presently suffering from hunger, political oppression, and economic trials, etc. These thoughts challenge us to seek justice or to act in charity. But, the monastery, like many places in our land, is in some respects "worlds away" from these very serious problems. We can't just up and go to a "third world" country or join the protests of the Middle East - or can we?
The most remarkable reality of our incorporation into the Body of Christ is that, in fact, we are ONE with believers everywhere. Even in a typically non-Christian land, Christ is present there, for the love of God Incarnate is not contained by time or space. Our prayers made here, the sacrifices we offer daily, are a very real participation in Christ's saving work, and that is exactly what our world needs. Grace knows no borders. No political regime can block our prayers. No innocent suffering is wasted if it brings about greater love. No matter where we find ourselves, or with what meager resources we might have at our disposal, we can effectively confront evil in our world, because we can do so IN Christ, AS Christ. The more "dis-armed" we are, the more powerful we become. Love is mightier than aggression. It is the only resource of endless supply, for it has its origin and end in Christ. Spend it lavishly.
Peace & Blessings to you,
We are well into the Easter season, with it great blessings won for us by our Risen Lord. I hope you are experiencing this in your own life. Soon after the celebration of the Lord’s glorious ascension into heaven, the great Pentecost will be upon us.
The Lord promised to send His Spirit to us as our counselor, our teacher and our consolation. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are real and effective. They are ours for the sincere asking. According to the Prophet Isaiah (11:2-3) the gifts are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. According to the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 8-10) they are: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues.
To me, the greatest manifestation of the Holy Spirit is the epiclesis, the descending of the transforming Spirit of God in the canon of the Holy Mass, where the substance of ordinary bread and wine become the “mystical” Body of Christ, so that we who receive it may become the “true” Body of Christ, the Church. Interestingly, through the many centuries of Christian theological discussion, these terms “mystical” and “true” have occasionally changed places. Pope Benedict XVI comments on this in chapter 4 of his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy. I highly recommend this great book to anyone who desires a deeper understanding of the sacred liturgy. The Blessed Sacrament is, of course, the “true presence” of the Lord, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The ancients also understood this to be a “mystical” presence, this is, from mysterion, sacramental power. You might recall that sometimes we refer to Holy Mass as “the Sacred Mysteries.”
When it seems that nothing ever changes, that our struggles go on and on, or are merely replaced by new ones, it is good for us to remember the Lord’s promise to us that He will send His Spirit. This promise is renewed in every celebration of the Holy Eucharist. It is a promise that we personally receive in Holy Communion. Whatever we need: faith wisdom, understanding, even miracles; they are available to us from our Heavenly Father, through Christ Jesus the Son, in the Holy Spirit.
Blessings of the Spirit to you all.
In Christ and Saint Benedict,
Resurrexit Sicut Dixit! Alleluia, Alleluia! He is Risen as He Said! Alleluia, Alleluia!
This traditional Catholic greeting has expressed Easter joy since it was first uttered by angels, Saint Mary Magdalen and the apostles themselves. The joyous news of our Lord's glorious resurrection has been handed on from one believer to another throughout the centuries, even to our own day.
The Easter vigil here at the Abbey began at 10:00 p.m. and concluded with great revelry of the tower bells at 12:30 a.m. After the sacred liturgy the festivities continued in Aquinas Hall until after 2:00 a.m. We broke our lenten fast with the most wonderful almond tarts, each adorned with a victorious cross imprinted with powdered sugar. Brightly colored easter eggs and plenty of candy for the children were found on every table.
Not too many hours before sunrise, we were finally all in bed. As for myself, too much activity and too much sugar kept sleep at bay at least until 3:00 a.m., so there was some time to be grateful for our life as believers and Benedictines. At the heart of the monastic way is the praise of the Father for what He accomplished this night: the conquering of sin and death. This is why we pray the Divine Office day after day, to keep alive the joy of this dawn of new life.
Peace & blessings to you.
It's hard to believe, but we are already nearing the mid-point of our lenten preparation for Easter. I remember Father Delany, my childhood pastor, preaching this time of the season that a good second half of lent is a lot better than no good lent at all. So, if our start has faltered, or we never started at all, now is a great time to to set our sights on Holy Easter, and prepare our hearts to receive so great a grace. If our lenten observance has been more robust: yea! You're half way home!
Today's reading's for the Monday of the 3rd week of Lent told of the healing of Naaman the Syrian, and how a prophet is not honored in his own land. They remind us that just as the Lord God had a blessing for Naaman the Syrian through the word of the prophet, so God has a blessing for us. Blessings can be missed, however. Washing in the muddy waters of the Jordan didn’t seem to Naaman as much of a cure. He wanted something a bit more impressive. He didn’t really listen to the prophet, but he did eventually listen to his servants, and because of this he was healed.
We need to have an inner sense, an “ear of the heart” with which to listen for the prophet’s word in the midst of the ordinariness of our daily lives. The blessing of God doesn’t always come in an impressive package.
If we are truly servants to one another, perhaps we can help one another to hear that “word” which is the vehicle of the blessing God intends for us. Fidelity to God requires that we listen to His Word, but also, that we speak His Word. We are to be both prophets and servants. The Lord wills that we be vehicles of His blessings and that we be blessed, as well.
Peace & blessings to you.
The holy and joyful season of Lent begins this year on February 25th.
Chapter 49 of the Holy Rule of St. Benedict requires the monks to submit to the abbot what they propose to do for Lent as a special good work (bona opera). They are to do only what the abbot approves, lest their good work become a source of pride. This has given rise to the custom of the Bona Opera. It is a form on which each monk submits to the abbot what he proposes to do for Lent. St. Benedict recommends “refusing to indulge in evil habits and devoting ourselves to prayer, reading, and self-denial.” Traditional Christian practices include prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Since the Bona Opera is a special practice for oblates as well, Abbot Nathan has asked that each oblate of Mount Angel Abbey be given the opportunity to participate in this Benedictine spiritual practice. St. Benedict asks that we also do some special reading during Lent. Some suggestions can be found on the oblate pages of the Abbey’s website: mountanfelabbey.org. Of interest to many will be the re-printing of Blessed Columba Marmion’s Christ in His Mysteries; it is published by Zacchaeus Press.
I find that for me, fasting from food and entertainment are the most useful Lenten practices. Getting up a bit earlier to pray is a beneficial practice too. Each of us has our own particular “sloth of disobedience” which can be overcome by opening ourselves to God’s grace through works of prayer and penitence.
Be assured of the community’s prayers for you during your Lenten journey and thank you for your support of the Oblate Association. You are an important part of the prayer and work of Mount Angel Abbey.
Peace & blessings to you.