“Beloved Martyr Meinrad, hear the voices of your loving sons, who praise your glory on this day, which saw your victory in Christ.”
O God who bestowed upon Saint Sylvester zeal for the sweetness of solitude and for the labors of the cenobitical life, grant us, we beseech You, to seek You always with a sincere mind and in humble charity hasten toward the eternal tabernacles. (antiphon)
On the Benedictine liturgical calendar the 13th century founder and abbot St Sylvester Guzzolini (1177-1267), is recalled.
A few marks of this saintly abbot’s spirituality would be his emphasis on the mysteries of the Passion of Our Lord, a filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and the intense love of the Most Holy Eucharist. You can see the two of these marks expressed in parting by Claudio Ridolfi in 1632.
Historically, some will remember that St Silvester founder of the so-called Blue Benedictines (from the color of their habit) or what became known as Silvestrines. The Benedictine way of life proposed by St Sylvester was confirmed by Pope Innocent IV in 1247. As a founder of a new expression of Benedictine monasticism Sylvester wanted his community to focus on contemplation thus being places of away from the cities, and he wanted relatively small communities of men who lived very modestly (even quiet poor) in contradistinction to the large monasteries of his time that had power and wealth and little regard for the Holy Rule. Today, this congregation of Benedictines is relatively small and not too well-known.
St Sylvester teaches us through his example and living the three marks I noted above: attend to the Cross, be in relation to the Mother of God, and prepare your heart to receive the Lord in the Eucharist.
The month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary. It is a profound prayer and a way to drawn closer to Christ by being a child of Mary, the Mother of God. Today, we commemorate the feast of the Benedictine abbot, Blessed Columba Marmion. When he was elected abbot of his abbey, he chose Rosary Sunday for the Abbatial Blessing in 1909. He had, as we ought to have, a sincere devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary. He writes:
Here is an example to help you understand the efficacy of the Rosary. You remember the story of David who vanquished Goliath. What steps did the young Israelite take to overthrow the giant? He struck him in the middle of the forehead with a pebble from his sling. If we regard the Philistine as representing evil and all its powers: heresy, impurity, pride, we can consider the little stones from the sling capable of overthrowing the enemy as symbolizing the Aves of the Rosary.
The ways of God are entirely different from our ways. To us it seems necessary to employ powerful means in order to produce great effects. This is not God’s method; quite the contrary. He likes to choose the weakest instruments that He may confound the strong: “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong — Infirma mundi elegit ut confundat fortia” (1 Cor 1:27).
Have you not often met poor old women who are most faithful to the pious recitation of the Rosary? You also must do all that you can to recite it with fervour. Get right down, at the feet of Jesus: it is a good thing to make oneself small in the presence of so great a God.
Christ, the Ideal of the Priest
Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) is a most attractive person with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a keen intellect and good zeal of a Benedictine nun. Knowing her history you would say she is a polymath. She said once, “There is the Music of Heaven in all things, and we have forgotten how to hear it until we sing.”
For many years it was hoped that Hildegard would be officially raised to the altar and be declared a Doctor of the Church. In deed, it was Pope Benedict who gave the Church this supreme gift of this saintly woman a witness to the new evangelization. Benedict stated:
In Saint Hildegard of Bingen there is a wonderful harmony between teaching and daily life. In her, the search for God’s will in the imitation of Christ was expressed in the constant practice of virtue, which she exercised with supreme generosity and which she nourished from biblical, liturgical and patristic roots in the light of the Rule of Saint Benedict. Her persevering practice of obedience, simplicity, charity and hospitality was especially visible. In her desire to belong completely to the Lord, this Benedictine Abbess was able to bring together rare human gifts, keen intelligence and an ability to penetrate heavenly realities.
Hildegard’s eminent doctrine echoes the teaching of the Apostles, the Fathers and writings of her own day, while it finds a constant point of reference in the Rule of Saint Benedict. The monastic liturgy and the interiorization of sacred Scripture are central to her thought which, focusing on the mystery of the Incarnation, is expressed in a profound unity of style and inner content that runs through all her writings.
The teaching of the holy Benedictine nun stands as a beacon for homo viator. Her message appears extraordinarily timely in today’s world, which is especially sensitive to the values that she proposed and lived. For example, we think of Hildegard’s charismatic and speculative capacity, which offers a lively incentive to theological research; her reflection on the mystery of Christ, considered in its beauty; the dialogue of the Church and theology with culture, science and contemporary art; the ideal of the consecrated life as a possibility for human fulfilment; her appreciation of the liturgy as a celebration of life; her understanding of the reform of the Church, not as an empty change of structure but as conversion of heart; her sensitivity to nature, whose laws are to be safeguarded and not violated.
For these reasons the attribution of the title of Doctor of the Universal Church to Hildegard of Bingen has great significance for today’s world and an extraordinary importance for women. In Hildegard are expressed the most noble values of womanhood: hence the presence of women in the Church and in society is also illumined by her presence, both from the perspective of scientific research and that of pastoral activity. Her ability to speak to those who were far from the faith and from the Church make Hildegard a credible witness of the new evangelization.
(Pope Benedict XVI, 7 October 2012)
Today is the feast of Saint Gregory the Great, monk and Roman Pontiff. In the Mass Collects for Saint Gregory there is reference to truth and charity. The connection is inseparable to the point of being real clear for our own apostolic life.
Here is a picture of the Throne of Pope Saint Gregory the Great inside his former home now called the Church of San Gregorio on Clelian Hill, Rome. The throne is a visible sign of the teaching authority of the Pontiff. Several years I had the chance to sit in the chair for a brief second. And guess what: I am still not a pontiff. There is a message here don’t you think?
The Clelian Hill monastery has a colony of Benedictine Camaldolese monks with a convent the Missionaries of Charity next door.
Saint Gregory pray for Pope Francis, and for us.