Tag Archives: Communion and Liberation

Benedictine Spirituality II: The Master’s Instructions

The other day Part I in Benedictine Spirituality –Silence– given by Dom Boniface Hicks, monk of St Vincent’s Archabbey. Now in Part II of the Benedictine Spirituality, Dom Boniface explores The Master’s Instructions and our developing the sensitivity to the divine Presence. Where is your heart? Who is your God? How docile are you to the Lord’s promptings?

Those who follow Communion and Liberation and who live as Oblates will want to attend to this essay as there are points of convergence.

The Divine Presence – “The Master’s instructions”

Saint Benedict exhorts the monk to listen to the “Master’s” instructions. Who is the Master? On the one hand the Master is God. On the other hand, it refers to those who hold divine authority, such as the Abbot, but also to other authorities like parents, government leaders, teachers, elders, etc. In other words, God certainly instructs us directly, but He also instructs us through other people. This principle is repeated several times in the Rule of Benedict and it is an extremely important one for our Christian lives. Blessed Columba Marmion, OSB noted that the central theme of the whole Rule of Benedict is expressed in this idea found in Saint Benedict’s exhortation: “We believe the divine presence is everywhere…but beyond the least doubt we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the divine office” (RB 19:1-2).

The beginning of our awareness of God generally happens in a religious experience. Our communal celebrations, including the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours and the other Sacraments, are important points of contact with God. It is critical that they be celebrated in a reverent and devoted manner. When these great times of prayer are beautiful and prayerful, they can be a cause for conversion. They should be bright with music, but balanced with times of silent reflection. They must be led confidently, reverently and prayerfully. These are the expectation of Saint Benedict when he reminds us that “beyond the least doubt we should believe” the divine presence is to be found in the divine office (RB 19:2). We must conduct ourselves in communal prayer and in the Church as we would conduct ourselves in the presence of a mighty ruler: “Whenever we want to ask some favor of a powerful man, we do it humbly and respectfully, for fear of presumption” (RB 20:1). Rather than carrying on raucous conversations or irreverent worldly activities in Church we must always act in a manner that reminds ourselves and also shows others that the One True God is present there in His Flesh reserved in the Tabernacle.

Saint Benedict expects us to develop a sensitivity to the divine presence by celebrating the liturgy well and taking the words of God on our lips seven times a day. “Let us stand to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices (mens concordet voci)” (RB 19:7). Normally we first form words in our minds and then we speak them out with our voices. When we pray the psalms, however, the words are given to us to speak, but then they begin to form our minds. In this way, we allow the Word to form our way of thinking, which in turn can form our way of acting. After repeating the words of the psalms, the liturgical prayers and the readings from Mass, our hearts become more and more sensitive to the divine presence. We start to see his fingerprints and footprints all around us. We see His presence in the lives of others—in the lives of other monks and in the lives of the guests who come to the monastery. We see His Presence in our work. We see His presence in the sick members of the community. We see His presence in the Abbot. We see His presence at our meals. By becoming sensitized to the Word of God and taking on the mind of Christ, we start to see the divine presence everywhere in our lives.

This brings us back to the question, “Who is the Master?” The Master is God and we must take time in liturgical prayer and in personal prayer in order to begin hearing God and to sensitize our hearts to His presence. As we do that, however, we also start to see Him in everything. The monk is the one who arranges His day around repeated acts of attention to the divine presence. He regularly interrupts every other activity because “nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God” (RB 43:3). With his visits to the oratory and his celebrations of the liturgy of the hours at the center of his day, the monk makes acts of recollection throughout the rest of his day to renew his awareness of the divine presence. In Saint Benedict’s time it was already encouraged by St. John Cassian to recite the verse of Psalm 70: “God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me.” Cassian identified that verse as a defense against every attack of the Enemy and as a simple way to return one’s attention to God throughout the day. In the subsequent centuries, the Jesus Prayer served a similar purpose, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” With these brief prayers, the monk can bring his awareness of the presence of God, which is especially strong in the places of prayer, out into the rest of his life. He can learn to hear the instructions of the Great Master through every other little “master”. Even in sinful men or atheists, the prayerful monk can learn to be aware of the Presence of God.

Part I

Communion and Liberation sainthood causes

The Fraternity of Communion and Liberation has four people who are in some process of beatification/canonization and study for thereof. There is, of course, the Servant of God Father Luigi Giussani, the Servant of God Andrea Aziani, the Servant of God Enzo Piccinini and the soon to be beatified Carlo Acutis.


The other day on the website for Communion and Liberation there was an update on beatification of Enzo Piccinini. The update is that the nulla osta for the cause of beatification has been received from the Congregation for Saints. Only twelve months ago was the cause opened. The news came on “twenty-first anniversary of the death of the Modenese surgeon, friend and collaborator of Fr. Giussani, celebrated on Tuesday, May 26.” The nulla osta from the Holy See means that the diocesan inquiry for the cause can officially begin.

The announcement can be read be here.

In addition, we in the Movement are also waiting on the diligent work on the sainthood caused for Father Luigi Giussani, Andrea Aziani and the beatification of the Venerable Servant of God Carlo Acutis. We await word of a date for the beatification ceremony for Acutis.

The Acutis Family doesn’t have a history of practicing the Catholic Faith and there is speculation that the Polish woman who cared for Carlo introduced him to the person of Jesus. Known as a techi, Carlo was involved with CL and the Rimini Meeting. Two brief intros into the life and person of Carlo Acutis are from OSV and Crux. Acutis is a saint whose mission is (and was) to draw our attention to the reality of the Holy Eucharist and our devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Andrea Aziani died 12 years ago while serving the Lord in Peru, where as a consecrated member of CL’s Memores Domini, he taught Philosophy at a school he helped to establish, Sedes Sapientiae University. His was a life to dedicated to Christ through the service of the poor. His cause proceeds.

Aziani’s postulator is Father Antonio Nurena.

Saints beget saints.

Welcome without partiality

The role of hospitality is deeply embedded in the fabric of Christian life. It is modeled and encouraged by countless of witnesses over the millennia. I am thinking of my experience of the people in rural areas, and the monks and nuns, notably the Benedictines (in several monasteries) but also hospitality as a pivotal value in other Christian communities like the New Skete communities (Orthodox monks, nuns, lay companions).

Saint Benedict says,
“Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, “I came as a guest, and you received Me” (Matt. 25:35). And to all let due honor be shown, especially to the domestics of the faith and to pilgrims,” (Rule of Benedict, 53).

Benedict’s wisdom is a conviction based on Jesus Christ and the Christian community that the guest is to be welcomed as Christ. Hospitality forms a culture of avoiding the distinctions of race, gender, economic advantage, education, age and health. There’s a welcome without partiality.

I firmly believe that hospitality in Communion and Liberation is formed by witnesses not only by Benedictines (from which the Movement owes much) but also by the lay faithful who are serious about faith, life and other people. We still have lots to reflect upon and to learn.

It seems to me that we need to work on the recent narrative (see this link) in the recent CL Newsletter and The Miracle of Hospitality by Father Giussani.

Benedictines are our memory

Some Lenten meditation. While the Bishop’s letter speaks directly to the vocations monks and nuns there is much wisdom that oblates and members of Communion and Liberation can draw on.

Thanks to Dom Thomas of Marmion Abbey who works at the Pontifical Greek College, Rome.

A beautiful letter by Bishop Aiello of Avellino

Monastics’ gift to Italy

Letter to the nuns and monks:

We turn to you, sisters and brother monks, to ask for your prayers, to support your raised arms, like those of Moses on the mountain, in this time of particular danger and unease for our communities: by your persistent prayerful intercession, we acquire resilience and future victory.

You are the only ones who do not move a facial muscle in the face of the rain of decrees and restrictive measures that rain on us these days because what we are asked for, for some time you have always done it and what we suffer you have chosen.

Teach us the art of being content living  with nothing, in a small space, without going out, yet engaged in internal journeys that do not need planes and trains.

“Give us your oil” to understand that the spirit cannot be imprisoned, and the narrower the space, the wider the skies open.

Reassure us that you can live even for a short time and be joyful, remember that poverty is the unavoidable condition of every being because, as Don Primo Mazzolari said, “being a man is enough to be a poor man”.

Give us back the ability to savor the little things you who smile of a blooming lilac at the cell window and greet a swallow that comes to say that spring has come, you who are moved by a pain and still exulted by the miracle of the bread that is baked in the oven.

Tell us that it is possible to be together without being crowded together, to correspond from afar, to kiss without touching each other, to touch each other with the caress of a look or a smile, or simply … a gaze at each other.

Remind us that a word is important if it is reflected upon, ruminated within the heart for a period of time, leavened in the soul’s recesses, seen blooming on the lips of another, called a low voice, not shouted or cutting because of hurt.

But, even more, teach us the art of silence, of the light that rests on the windowsill, of the sun rising “as a bridegroom coming out of the bridal room” or setting “in the sky that tinges with fire”, of the quiet of the evening, of the candle lit that casts shadows on the walls of the choir.

Tell us that it is possible to wait for a hug even for a lifetime because “there is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embraces,” says Qoelet. President Conte said that at the end of this time of danger and restrictions we will still embrace each other in the feast, for you there are still twenty, thirty, forty years to wait …

Educate us to do things slowly, solemnly, without haste, paying attention to details because every day is a miracle, every meeting a gift, every step a step in the throne room, the movement of a dance or a symphony.

Whisper to us that it is important to wait, postpone a kiss, a gift, a caress, a word, because waiting for a feast increases its brilliance and “the best is yet to come”.

Help us understand that an accident can be a grace and a sorrow can hide a gift, a departure can increase affection and a distance that can finally lead us to encounter and communion.

To you, teachers and masters of the hidden and happy life, we entrust our uneasiness, our fears, our remorse, our missed appointments with God who always awaits us, you take everything in your prayer and give it back to us in joy, in a bouquet of flowers and peaceful days. Amen.

Lettera alle monache e ai monaci:

Ci rivolgiamo a voi, sorelle e fratelli monaci, per chiedere la vostra preghiera, per sostenere le vostre braccia alzate, come quelle di Mosè sul monte, in questo tempo di particolare pericolo e disagio per le nostre comunità provate: dalla vostra resistenza nell’intercessione dipende la nostra resilienza e la futura vittoria.

Siete gli unici  a non muovere un muscolo facciale dinnanzi alla pioggia di decreti e provvedimenti restrittivi che ci piovono addosso in questi giorni perché ciò che ci viene chiesto per alcun tempo voi lo fate già da sempre e ciò che noi subiamo voi lo avete scelto.

Insegnateci l’arte di vivere contenti di niente, in un piccolo spazio, senza uscire, eppure impegnati in viaggi interiori che non hanno bisogno di aerei e di treni.

“Dateci del vostro olio” per capire che lo spirito non può essere imprigionato, e più angusto è lo spazio più ampi si aprono i cieli.

Rassicurateci che si può vivere anche di poco ed essere nella gioia, ricordateci che la povertà è la condizione ineludibile di ogni essere perché, come diceva don Primo Mazzolari, “basta essere uomo per essere un pover’uomo”.

Ridateci il gusto delle piccole cose voi che sorridete di un lillà fiorito alla finestra della cella e salutate una rondine che viene a dire che primavera è arrivata, voi che vi commuovete per un dolore e ancora esultate per il miracolo del pane che si indora nel forno.

Diteci che è possibile essere insieme senza essere ammassati, corrispondere da lontano, baciarsi senza toccarsi, sfiorarsi con la carezza di uno sguardo o di un sorriso, semplicemente… guardarsi.

Ricordateci che la parola è importante se pensata, tornita a lungo nel cuore, fatta lievitare nella madia dell’anima, guardata fiorire sulle labbra di un altro, detta sottovoce, non gridata e affilata per ferire. Ma, ancor più insegnateci l’arte del silenzio, della luce che si poggia sul davanzale, del sole che sorge “come sposo che esce dalla stanza nuziale” o tramonta “nel cielo che tingi di fuoco”, della quiete della sera, della candela accesa che getta ombre sulle pareti del coro.

Raccontateci che è possibile attendere un abbraccio anche tutta una vita perché “c’è un tempo per abbracciare e un tempo per astenersi dagli abbracci” dice Qoelet. Il Presidente Conte ha detto che alla fine di questo tempo di pericolo e di restrizioni ci abbracceremo ancora nella festa, per voi ci sono ancora venti, trenta, quaranta anni da aspettare…

Educateci a fare le cose lentamente, con solennità, senza correre, facendo attenzione ai particolari perché ogni giorno è un miracolo, ogni incontro un dono, ogni passo un incedere nella sala del trono, il movimento di una danza o di una sinfonia.

Sussurrateci che è importante aspettare, rimandare un bacio, un dono, una carezza, una parola, perché l’attesa di una festa ne aumenta la luce e “il meglio deve ancora venire”.

Aiutateci a capire che un incidente può essere una grazia e un dispiacere può nascondere un dono, una partenza può accrescere l’affetto e una lontananza farci finalmente incontrare.

A voi, maestre e maestri della vita nascosta e felice, affidiamo il nostro disagio, le nostre paure, i nostri rimorsi, i nostri mancati appuntamenti con Dio che sempre ci attende, voi prendete tutto nella vostra preghiera e restituitecelo in gioia, in bouquet di fiori e giorni di pace. Amen

mons Aiello,
Vescovo di Avellino

The heart is key in prayer

Life in the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation forms us to know and appreciate the role of the heart in all things. Looking at the spiritual life, “The heart is the key to all true prayer. When prayer arises out of our deepest center it is pure and totally free. It seeks nothing but to reveal to God how we truly are at that moment, with all our desires and concerns, our hopes and expressions of wonder and praise at God’s goodness. Beneath whatever external “form” we use to come before God is the silent pulse that carries our “Yes” to God in a rhythm of faith.” (NS)

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT, follows the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, and is an Oblate of Saint Benedict, works as a monastery farmer and a keeper of honey bees. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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