Tag Archives: Rule of St Benedict

Pope encourages Benedictine nuns, sisters in vocation to hospitality

Dear Father Abbot Primate,
Sister Judith Ann
and Benedictine nuns and sisters,

Welcome to Rome! I thank Father Primate for his words of introduction: I have told him that his Italian has improved! Your Symposium is a good occasion for Benedictine nuns and sisters from all over the world to experience together a period of prayer to reflect on the various ways in which the spirit of Saint Benedict, after fifteen hundred years, continues to be vibrant and fruitful today. I am spiritually close to you during these days of your meeting.

For your theme, you have taken an exhortation from the fifty-third chapter of the Rule of Saint Benedict: “All are to be welcomed as Christ”. This expression has given the Benedictine Order a remarkable vocation to hospitality, in obedience to those words of the Lord Jesus which are an integral part of his “rule of conduct” found in Saint Matthew’s Gospel: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (25:35; cf. Gaudete et Exsultate, 102-103). Today there are many people in the world who seek to reflect in their lives the tenderness, compassion, mercy and acceptance of Christ in their lives. To them you offer the precious gift of your witness, as you are instruments of God’s tenderness to those who are in need. Your welcoming of persons of different religious traditions helps to advance with spiritual anointing ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. For centuries, Benedictine houses have been known as places of welcome, prayer and generous hospitality. I hope that by reflecting on this theme and sharing your experiences, you may find new ways of furthering this essential work of evangelization in your various monasteries.

The motto Ora et Labora places prayer at the centre of your lives. The daily celebration of Holy Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours puts you at the heart of the Church’s life. Every day, your prayer enriches, in a manner of speaking, the “breathing” of the Church. It is a prayer of praise to express the voice of all humanity and all creation. It is a prayer of thanksgiving for the countless and continued blessings of the Lord. It is a prayer of supplication for the sufferings and anxieties of the men and women of our time, especially the poor. It is a prayer of intercession for those who endure injustice, wars and violence, and see their dignity violated. You do not meet these people personally, but you are their sisters in the Faith and in the Body of Christ. The value of your prayer is incalculable, yet surely it is a most precious gift. God always hears the prayers of hearts that are humble and full of compassion.

I want to thank you for the special care you show towards the environment and for your efforts to protect the gifts of the earth, so that they can be shared by all. I know that the Benedictine nuns and sisters in the world are good administrators of God’s gifts. As women, you feel and appreciate especially the beauty and harmony of creation. Your monasteries are often found in places of great beauty where people go to pray, to find silence and to contemplate the marvels of creation. I encourage you to continue this style and service, so that God’s wonderful works can be admired and speak of him to many persons.

Your life in community bears witness to the importance of mutual love and respect. You come from different places and experiences, and each of you is different, and so the way you accept one another is the first sign you offer in a world that finds it hard to live out this value. We are all children of God and your prayer, your work, your hospitality, your generosity, all combine to reveal a communion in diversity that expresses God’s hope for our world: a unity made of peace, mutual welcome and fraternal love.

Dear Sisters, I accompany you with my prayers. You bring a precious gift to the life of the Church through your feminine witness of goodness, faith and generosity, imitating the Holy Mother of the Church, the Virgin Mary. You are icons of the Church and of our Blessed Mother: do not forget this. Icons. Who sees you, sees the Church as Mother and Mary as Mother of Christ. For this we praise the Lord and we thank you. I ask you please to pray for me and I cordially bless you and your communities, and all whom you serve in the name of Christ. Thank you!

St Benedict –our Father

Sts Benedict, Placid and MaurusAt the Introit, we sing today on the feast of Saint Benedict:

Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating the feast in honor of Benedict, in whose happy solemnity. The angels rejoice and praise the Son of God.

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised In the city of our God, on his holy mountain. (Ps. 47:2)

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI wrote this about this man of blessings:

The obedience of the disciple must correspond with the wisdom of the Abbot who, in the monastery, “is believed to hold the place of Christ” (2, 2; 63, 13). The figure of the Abbot, which is described above all in Chapter II of the Rule with a profile of spiritual beauty and demanding commitment, can be considered a self-portrait of Benedict, since, as St Gregory the Great wrote, “the holy man could not teach otherwise than as he himself lived” (cf. Dialogues II, 36). The Abbot must be at the same time a tender father and a strict teacher (cf. 2, 24), a true educator. Inflexible against vices, he is nevertheless called above all to imitate the tenderness of the Good Shepherd (27, 8), to “serve rather than to rule” (64, 8) in order “to show them all what is good and holy by his deeds more than by his words” and “illustrate the divine precepts by his example” (2, 12). To be able to decide responsibly, the Abbot must also be a person who listens to “the brethren’s views” (3, 2), because “the Lord often reveals to the youngest what is best” (3, 3). This provision makes a Rule written almost 15 centuries ago surprisingly modern! A man with public responsibility even in small circles must always be a man who can listen and learn from what he hears.

Benedict describes the Rule he wrote as “minimal, just an initial outline” (cf. 73, 8); in fact, however, he offers useful guidelines not only for monks but for all who seek guidance on their journey toward God. For its moderation, humanity and sober discernment between the essential and the secondary in spiritual life, his Rule has retained its illuminating power even to today. By proclaiming St Benedict Patron of Europe on 24 October 1964, Paul VI intended to recognize the marvellous work the Saint achieved with his Rule for the formation of the civilization and culture of Europe. Having recently emerged from a century that was deeply wounded by two World Wars and the collapse of the great ideologies, now revealed as tragic utopias, Europe today is in search of its own identity. Of course, in order to create new and lasting unity, political, economic and juridical instruments are important, but it is also necessary to awaken an ethical and spiritual renewal which draws on the Christian roots of the Continent, otherwise a new Europe cannot be built. Without this vital sap, man is exposed to the danger of succumbing to the ancient temptation of seeking to redeem himself by himself – a utopia which in different ways, in 20th-century Europe, as Pope John Paul II pointed out, has caused “a regression without precedent in the tormented history of humanity” (Address to the Pontifical Council for Culture, 12 January 1990). Today, in seeking true progress, let us also listen to the Rule of St Benedict as a guiding light on our journey. The great monk is still a true master at whose school we can learn to become proficient in true humanism.

Saints Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany

Raising Lazarus Martha and Mary Hunterian PsalterOn the Universal liturgical calendar of the Church today’s feast is for Saint Martha of Bethany. Yet, on the Benedictine liturgical calendar the Church honors the three of Bethany: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus  described in the Gospels as saints. Revealed in sacred Scripture, these people are acclaimed as the much-loved friends of Jesus (according to Luke and John). In the Gospel of Luke ewe read the well-known story of hospitality noting Martha as a symbol of the active life and Mary of the contemplative. The Lord holds both women in tension of what the disciple is to be: a contemplative in action.

The Lord’s raising of Lazarus from the dead is an anticipation of resurrection and a sign of eternal life for the rest of us who are baptized into the Mystical Body of Christ. Resurrection from the dead becomes, with this pericopy a powerful “game-changer” in the life of every human being. The death and subsequent raising of Lazarus evokes in each of us the acknowledge that we do not make ourselves, that God is the only Creator of who we are and what we are about as persons (not as individuals). This gesture of the Lord’s invites each of us to a deeper faith in the Messiah.

So, why is honoring all three characters crucial in our Christian life? Each person: Mary, Martha and Lazarus are convicted in the friendship with Jesus. If friendship, then fidelity, and perseverance, gratitude and hospitality.

Why is this a true feast for Benedictine monks, nuns, sisters and Oblates (laity)?

Saint Benedict sees all persons as a gift of God. The greatest gift was the person of Jesus who received as the giftedness of each person when he said: “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.” Our Holy Father Saint Benedict is quite direct in how we treat the stranger, how welcome the person who presents himself at the door, we definitive statements. In Chapter 53 of Rule of Saint Benedict we read:

All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35). Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims. Once a guest has been announced, the superior and the brothers are to meet him with all the courtesy of love. First of all, they are to pray together and thus be united in peace, but prayer must always precede the kiss of peace because of the delusions of the devil. All humility should be shown in addressing a guest on arrival or departure. By a bow of the head or by a complete prostration of the body, Christ is to be adored because he is indeed welcomed in them. After the guests have been received, they should be invited to pray; then the superior or an appointed brother will sit with them. The divine law is read to the guest for his instruction, and after that every kindness is shown to him. The superior may break his fast for the sake of a guest, unless it is a day of special fast which cannot be broken. The brothers, however, observe the usual fast. The abbot shall pour water on the hands of the guests, and the abbot with the entire community shall wash their feet. After the washing they will recite this verse: God, we have received your mercy in the midst of your temple (Ps 47 [48]:10). Great care and concern are to be shown in receiving poor people and pilgrims, because in them more particularly Christ is received; our very awe of the rich guarantees them special respect.

The hospitality shown by the the Holy Three is what we come to know as their personal mission given by God, their personal “I Am” and not mere kindness to the other. In the person of Jesus we meet his enjoyment of their company because it show us how the beauty of human friendship and love is at the core of our DNA. The Church’s honoring Saints Mary, Martha and Lazarus is a sign of hope and promise for all who are in Christ Jesus.

Can we live as the Saints of Bethany? Can we live as Saint Benedict shows us?

Saints Mary, Martha and Lazarus: Christian examples of friendship and hospitality

The Church universal celebrates the liturgical memorial of Saint Martha today. However, for those who live the Benedictine charism, the ordo (notes for Mass and the Divine Office) is much more expansive by observing the feast of Saints Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Even though these holy siblings predate Benedict and his blessed Rule, they are easily considered Benedictines.

The reason being is that Benedictines see all three siblings as Christian examples of interpersonal friendship and mutual obedience, hospitality (openness) and friendship with the Lord. But there is a deeper meaning in keeping the holy siblings together in the liturgical act. Each of the protagonists represent a fullness of the Christian life: penitence, service and contemplation (awareness). You could easily include confession of faith as when Martha declares her belief in Jesus’ radically claim of resurrection.

As Brother Emmanuel, a newly ordained Deacon at St Joseph’s Abbey (Spencer said),

Our Father, Saint Bernard, compares the monastic community to a family, like the one Jesus visited at Bethany. In the monastic community we find Lazarus, the penitent; Martha, the active servant and Mary, the contemplative. All three are necessary to make the monastery what it ought to be. For Saint Bernard true monastic perfection consists in ‘the union of all three vocations: that of the penitent, the active worker and the contemplative.’ (Sermon for the Assumption) Thomas Merton agreed that while the contemplative life was to be  preferred to the active life, the ‘most perfect souls’ would combine the vocations of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.

Benedictine monks, nuns, sisters and oblates are known for offering hospitality to pilgrims. In the Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 53 on The Reception of Guests, we read: “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for him himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matthew 25-35).” You could easily include, You must honor everyone (1 Peter 2:17). This chapter is a manner of being, a path of meeting the Lord through a relationality with the person in front of us. Hence, hospitality is way of living communio, as way of engaging in friendship, as way of extending and receiving invitation to be a better person, as way to walk a journey with the other given to us to care for.

So, the feast of Saints Mary, Martha and Lazarus is a feast of friendship and hospitality. We are friends with Christ he first called us His friends, and friends open us to Him.

We need Saints Mary, Martha and Lazarus to show us how to live. They open show us to be Christians. Mary, Martha and Lazarus show us how to be a new Benedict and Scholastica.

New roots in ancient soil, the Cistercians revive monastic life in Norway

hotellerie croix.gifThe Cistercians of the Strict Observance –the Trappists– are busy reviving monastic life in Norway after an absence since a fire destroyed the ancient monastery. Monks and nuns are taking up with great seriousness the invitation of the Pope Benedict XVI to share the spiritual, intellectual and cultural traditions of the monastic Rule in places where the need is great even new: to bring a light to darkness. Cistercian monks and nuns, hence, are founding separate monasteries bringing with them observances of the traditional vows of stability, conversion of manners, and obedience to a part of the world that’s been basically secularized for a long time even though the Norwegian Lutheran Church is the “state church.” In 2009, monks of Munkeby Priory are the first foundation of the great Cistercian house of Cîteaux since the 15th century, and in 2000 the American nuns arrived. Cistercians first came to Norway in the 12th century.

This 15 minute video gives a good introduction into the Monkeby and Tautra Cistercians.
The Cistercians join the Dominicans and Poor Clares in establishing new contemplative houses in Norway, the North country. The Benedictines have returned to Denmark and Sweden and the Brigittines and Carmelites in Iceland.

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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