Tag Archives: Benedictines

Enticing things to grow with nature to help (at the abbey)

Spreading…makes life more interesting, or a least it makes the flowers grow. Yesterday Gail, the abbot’s administrative assistant, brought me a gift, a token of appreciation. Well, I requested it so it’s technically not a gift. Gail brought me a feed bag of mature horse manure from her own horses; it’s mature manure I am assured. I got a phone call from Brother Anthony saying that I had a bag of … manure on the front steps. Not wanting to offend guests I quickly moved the bag to the Saint Francis garden.

Mon flower.jpg

Before the night rain fell and after vespers but before the total loss of daylight, I made a mad-dash to the garden to spread the “garden tea.” I couldn’t help but remember -and laughing riotously– at what a senior Jesuit friend of mine said of Jesuits and horse manure: if you keep Jesuits together they stink; if you spread them around, they fertilize. I think you get the point. Besides hoping for the cooperative intercession of Saint Francis, I am expecting the manure to heighten the garden’s capacities.

Much of last week I had my friend Brother Michael visiting me. It was nice to have him here. As it is said, “Hospes venit, Christus venit.”  A stranger comes, Christ comes. This saying is part of the Rule of Saint Benedict and we often find it on signs at Benedictine monasteries:  “Let every stranger be received as Christ himself.” Brother Michael is not a stranger to me but he was to members of the community for a very short time. The others we edified by his presence and I got a chance to share life with a friend.

Last Saturday we had the privilege of welcoming back to the Abbey and the College Father Dwight Longenecker, an Oblate of Saint Benedict, to speak to interested parties on Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and her “little way” as a fitting approach to living Lent. His blog, Standing on My Head is a popular read.

These last days have been interesting and boring at the same time. More painting is taking place. This time we’re doing the Compline room, the place where Night Prayer is prayed; it badly needed some fresh paint on the walls. We also did some garden work in a neglected area of the monastery gardens and we did some odds-and-ends.

One of the postulants decided to leave the abbey thus ending his discernment in following a monastic vocation. Mary, Help of Christians – Belmont Abbey is much the poorer. Andrew is 24 and a recent grad of Belmont Abbey College and Saint John’s in Annapolis. We wish him well and many blessings.

My fun reading this week is a book on the Solesmes and Dom Gueranger: 1805-1875 (Paraclete Press, 1996).

Out of service.jpgLife in a monastery is fun. Oh, yea, the flowering trees are working hard to push out the color!!!! AND now I need more manure.

Novena to St. Benedict

San Benedetto da Norcia.jpgO Glorious St. Benedict, sublime model of all virtues, pure vessel of God’s grace! Behold me, humbly kneeling at thy feet. I implore thy loving heart to pray for me before the throne of God. To thee I have recourse in all the dangers which daily surround me. Shield me against my enemies, inspire me to imitate thee in all things. May thy blessings be with me always, so that I may shun whatever God forbids and avoid the occasions of sin.


Graciously obtain for me from God those favors and graces of which I stand so much in need, in the trials, miseries and afflictions of life. Thy heart was always so full of love, compassion, and mercy towards those who were afflicted or troubled in any way. Thou didst never dismiss without consolation and assistance anyone who had recourse to thee. I therefore invoke thy powerful intercession in the confident hope that thou will hear my prayers and obtain for me the special grace and favor I so earnestly implore (mention it), if it be for the greater glory of God and the welfare of my soul.

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Pope Benedict XVI speaks at the monastery of the Benedictine Oblate Sisters of St. Frances of Rome, Tor de’ Specchi

This is a rather important talk Pope Benedict XVI gave while visiting the Oblates of Saint Frances of Rome. Every pope since the 16th century has visited this monastery. Pope John Paul was the last 25 years ago.

Dear Oblate Sisters,

Francesca Romana oblation.jpgAfter my visit to the nearby Municipal Hall on the Capitoline Hill, I come with great joy to meet you at this historic Monastery of Santa Francesca Romana, while you are still celebrating the fourth centenary of her canonization on 29 May 1608. Moreover, the Feast of this great Saint occurs this very day, commemorating the date of her birth in Heaven. I am therefore particularly grateful to the Lord to be able to pay this tribute to the “most Roman of women Saints”, in felicitous continuity with the meeting I have just had with the Administrators at the municipal headquarters. As I address my cordial greeting to your community, and in particular to the President, Mother Maria Camilla Rea whom I thank for her courteous words expressing your common sentiments I also extend my greeting to Auxiliary Bishop Ernesto Mandara, to the students who live here and to everyone present.

As you know, together with my collaborators in the Roman Curia, I have just completed the Spiritual Exercises which coincided with the first week of Lent. In these days I have experienced once again how indispensable silence and prayer are. And I also thought of St Frances of Rome, of her unreserved dedication to God and neighbour which gave rise to the experience of community life here, at Tor de’ Specchi. Contemplation and action, prayer and charitable service, the monastic ideal and social involvement: all this has found here a “laboratory” rich in fruits, in close connection with the Olivetan nuns of Santa Maria Nova. But the real impetus behind all that was achieved in the course of time was the heart of Frances, into which the Holy Spirit had poured out his spiritual gifts and at the same time inspired a multitude of good initiatives.

Your monastery is located in the heart of the city. How is it possible not to see in this, as it were, the symbol of the need to bring the spiritual dimension back to the centre of civil coexistence, to give full meaning to the many activities of the human being? Precisely in this perspective your community, together with all other communities of contemplative life, is called to be a sort of spiritual “lung” of society, so that all that is to be done, all that happens in a city, does not lack a spiritual “breath”, the reference to God and his saving plan. This is the service that is carried out in particular by monasteries, places of silence and meditation on the divine word, places where there is constant concern to keep the earth open to Heaven. Then your monastery has its own special feature which naturally reflects the charism of St Frances of Rome. Here you keep a unique balance between religious life and secular life, between life in the world and outside the world. This model did not come into being on paper but in the practical experience of a young woman of Rome; it was written one might say by God himself in the extraordinary life of Francesca, in her history as a child, an adolescent, a very young wife and mother, a mature woman conquered by Jesus Christ, as St Paul would say. Not without reason are the walls of these premises decorated with scenes from her life, to show that the true building which God likes to build is the life of Saints.

Santa Francesca Romana.jpgIn our day too, Rome needs women and of course also men but here I wish to emphasize the feminine dimension women, as I was saying, who belong wholly to God and wholly to their neighbour; women who are capable of recollection and of generous and discreet service; women who know how to obey their Pastors but also how to support them and encourage them with their suggestions, developed in conversation with Christ and in first-hand experience in the area of charity, assistance to the sick, to the marginalized, to minors in difficulty. This is the gift of a motherhood that is one with religious self-gift, after the model of Mary Most Holy. Let us think of the mystery of the Visitation. Immediately after conceiving the Word of God in her heart and in her flesh, Mary set out to go and help her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth. Mary’s heart is the cloister where the Word continues to speak in silence, and at the same time it is the crucible of a charity that is conducive to courageous gestures, as well as to a persevering and hidden sharing.

Dear Sisters, thank you for the prayers with which you always accompany the ministry of the Successor of Peter and thank you for your invaluable presence in the heart of Rome. I hope that you will experience every day the joy of preferring nothing to love of Christ, a motto we have inherited from St Benedict but which clearly mirrors the spirituality of the Apostle Paul, venerated by you as Patron of your Congregation. To you, to the Olivetan monks and to everyone present here, I warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing.

Pope Benedict visits Saint Frances of Rome’s monastery

The Pope’s visit to the monastery founded by Saint Frances of Rome today was a spectacular example of pastoral solicitude for the sisters and for their vocation. The Pope illustrated his love for the Benedictine charism and value today. Read and watch the video clip:


Tor de Specchi.jpgThe spiritual dimension of life must be brought back to the centre of civil coexistence. Benedict XVI said this during his visit to the historical monastery of Saint Francesca Romana in Tor de Specchi near the Campidoglio.

The Oblate sisters’ community of contemplative life, in close connection with the Olivetani monks, is called to be society’s “spiritual lung”, in order maintain the reference to God and to His plan of salvation. The Pope noted that the convent, which was founded by St. Francesca Romana, is characterized by a singular equilibrium between religious and secular life.

Rome currently needs women who, following the saint’s example, are capable of committing themselves to God and neighbour, capable of obeying the Church and assisting its pastors with their propositions, after being matured in dialogue with Christ and in concrete experience of charity. (courtesy of H2O News)


Contact the oblates:


Monastero delle Oblate di Santa Francesca Romana (Tor de’ Specchi)
Via del Teatro Marcello, 32

Roma, Italia

The patient monk

The truly patient monk is one who has trained his mind to look beyond present pain to ultimate realities. Patience is, accordingly, a work of faith. Without such a vision suffering is meaningless


There is no doubt that negative experience is the great challenge to faith and a source of temptation to abandon one’s commitment. It is also true that patience has a purifying effect on faith and commitment and leads to a more naked definition of selfhood.


One who has survived suffering knows that personal integrity is independent of goods and status and owes nothing to the attitudes and actions of others. It is the quality of a heart that has been hammered into humanity by this most universal of human experiences.


Michael Casey, OCSO

Truthful Living

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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