Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 2012 Newsletter

September is here once more, and we are ready to resume our chapter meetings.  Summer was so hot and humid I thought at times it would never pass.  Now, I find it hard to believe it went so fast!

Our first meeting for 2012-2013 was held at 2:00 p.m. on September 23 at our home in Kenwood
(directions enclosed).  Fr. Joseph Cox, OSB, will be the Guest Speaker for this meeting.  The topic of his talk was:  "How Lectio Divina Helps Us in Overcoming Murmuring.”  (When I mentioned to Clyde the topic of Fr. Joseph’s talk, he commented that—regardless of Lectio—he considers himself an expert at murmuring.  I’m afraid Fr. Joseph is going to have a big job on his hands!)

A potluck dinner followed the meeting.  We provided the main course, plates, napkins, utensils, and iced tea, coffee and soft drinks.  Those who are able brought a side dish (vegetable, salad, fruit) or dessert to share. We always have plenty of food.

Two new oblates were invested in May.  We welcome Mainerd Sorensen, who was invested on May 9, and Claudia Reynolds, who was invested at the Oblate Day of Recollection in Columbus on May 19.  Our congratulations to you both.  We are happy to have you with us.

2012/2013 Meeting Dates

Please Note:  
• All meetings begin at 2:00 p.m.
• The annual Day of Reflection for Ohio oblates is shown in red.

September 23 (Fr. Joseph Cox) — at Home of the Dorns
October 28 (Video Conference) — at St. Gertrude Parish Center
November 18 (Monk from St. Meinrad) — at St. Gertrude Parish Center

January 27 (Video Conference) — at St. Gertrude Parish Center
February 24 (Monk from St. Meinrad) — at St. Gertrude Parish Center
March 24 (Video Conference) — at St. Gertrude Parish Center
April 28 (Program to be determined) — at St. Gertrude Parish Center
May 18 (Ohio Day of Recollection) —  in Dayton, OH

Monday, July 2, 2012

Final Oblation - A New Adventure

18 months ago, I was beginning to expand my horizons within my newly found faith. Being Catholic all my life, I would say for much of my young adult life I was "catholic" in name but spiritually out to lunch. Several years ago, with a renewed vigor and an unquenchable thirst for more understanding and instruction, I took the advice of my Pastor and attended Saint Meinrad on retreat with one of my very close friends.

I had never heard of the Benedictine's, the Archabbey, nor understood what I was getting myself into. I went to a series of conferences delivered by then novice monk Br. Matthew Mattingly on Lectio Divina (which admittedly I hadn't heard of either at the time). I recall my initial impression of the towering spires around the bend, the drive up the hill, the quality of the lectures, and the peace in that place. All together it was an incredible experience, and the prayer time spent with the monks was frankly riveting (in a quieting sort of way). I left the Archabbey stunned and unsure of the gravity of what I had just experienced. True peace and silence and prayer, something I think many Christians are yearning for in our increasingly busy lives.

After the first visit I had a desire to return, but was more interested in learning about the Benedictine way of life. I downloaded an app on my iPhone for the Divine Office and began to do that daily. I figured if I could do that a few times a day why not! So after 30 days of praying the Office I was online and found information regarding the Oblate program. Prior to this I had no clue it even existed on the Hill, much less what it meant nor anything really at all about the tenants of the obligation. I sat on the information for several months and then determined I would investigate by contacting the Oblate Office.

Now, being 30 at the time, and relatively young-looking I must say, I find it a bit awkward finding this all so fascinating around so many seasoned adults. I decided after some back and forth with the office that I would begin my Oblate faith journey. After having been invested into the novitiate in May of 2011, I met so many WONDERFUL people! Members from Dayton, Columbus, and Cincinnati. I quickly joined the Cincinnati Chapter and attended regular meetings, and continued to learn and discern my journey forward. I started a personal Blog that I shared with friends to keep tabs on my thoughts, musings, and readings. It was a great exercise early on, but then a job change occurred and my schedule suddenly changed where regular updates were difficult to complete.

I chose to participate in the monthly reflection with the Oblate Director which were extremely satisfying! Not only was it a great way to focus my attention to a particular theme during each month, I found the questions and the responses from the Oblate Director were both rewarding and educational. I learned a lot about myself, my time management, my life, my dealings with others, and more importantly my relationship with God.

Keeping up with my responsibilities as an Oblate Novice were challenging at times. Admittedly, keeping up with a lot of work travel, business at home, and my busy volunteer-oriented life, left me a little frustrated during the process. This frustration however, really kept me focused on the task, whether or not I was capable of flexing my time to complete the Oblate's very simple tasks, and just to slow down and focus. These learned lessons were very instrumental in helping learn to better manage my day, to focus my energies in a way that did not induce stress, and to live out my novitiate year with a terrific sense of peace and accomplishment. Most things in life worth doing aren't easy. And this process posed some challenges to me personally, and spiritually. Some challenges at the time were difficult, but most most were a good kind of challenge causing me to evaluate and then fully invest myself during the time I have in a day. This is not to say that everyday is successful. Life certainly happens, and one must be willing to allow life's ebbs and flows to drive on occasion. This process allowed me to better understand these things, and I believe has truly made me a better man.

I attended several more retreats during the course of the year with various friends and compatriots, and fully took advantage of the educational offerings made available by the monastery.

In June I went to the study days for my Final Oblation and with a good friend whom I had discussed starting his Novitiate. Younger than me, Phil is a brilliant mind and theologically well-versed in his faith but often struggles with the same things many of us do; namely where can I find some peace, so quiet and some time in my busy day/life. Fr. Prior Kurt delivered the conferences on the Sacraments, and what a remarkable understanding he has of the blessings and grace we receive through the. His insights as well as his book following up on those topics was an outstanding read, and so good I read his work in a day. Riveting material!

We both really enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of the week and recommend attendance to anyone who is an Oblate interested in learning more about their faith and to stay for an extended period on the Hill. Finally came the day for the Investiture and Final Oblation. Phil was up first and was received as a novice into the Oblate community. We had mutual friends drive up for the day to support us, and my wife attended as well truly capping off the days events!

When Phil's section was over I was asked to step forward with 2 others Helen and Jerry, fellow novices who were to complete their Final Oblation along with me. We had a really good time with each other during the week, and getting to stand in the church with such distinguished and loving people was a terrific treat.

When it came time for me to step forward and make my promises, I was a little antsy. Mostly in part due to having selected my Oblate name and not having shared it with anyone, including my wife. The process for choosing this name took me MONTHS! I prayed about it, slept on it, prayed some more and researched more resources than I think the law allows given my hectic schedule. Nonetheless I was determined to choose something that was appealing for faith reasons, someone whose life reflected mine in a way, and one whose journey led to the strengthening of virtues that hope to achieve myself someday. 

I chose the name of Saint Anselm who was a Benedictine monk, Abbot and Archbishop of Canterbury before the English bowed out of the Catholic Church. Anselm was a tough man who endured great hardship, relocation, deceit, struggle, and a dose of politics thrown in for good measure. He was a busy man! Somehow in his free-time he managed to write the original ontological argument (for you philosophy geeks out there) which basically for the first time used logic to prove the existence of God. His works earned him the name of  the "Father of Scholasticism" and rightly so!

At the close of our Oblation ceremony, Fr. Meinrad gave each of us a gift. The gift (pictured below) is a beautiful hand carved plate painted and made with the loving hands of another. We posed for a picture of it, and let me tell you, not only was the gift a surprise, but also an incredible work of art that I proudly display in my own home. What a blessing!

Following the presentation, all Oblates and guests in attendance came around and offered their sign of peace and support. This kind of fellowship is difficult to find and was a blessed ending to a long journey!

At the end of the ceremony we all were caught in a very cool live action pose (below) that I think really does describe the personalities of the group we had, and really captures the spirit of the day, the week, and really the entirety of the yearlong journey. I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life, to have met so many caring and compassionate folks who are out to learn more about God and their own faith journey. This group, this calling, this life is too short to spend on getting caught up in the nitty gritty. Spend a little time with the Lord, take a retreat and who knows where He will take you!

Yours in St. Benedict,

Oblate Nicholas Anthony Paul Anselm DelleCave

Monday, May 14, 2012

50 Years of Oblation - An Anniversary

My Benedictine connections journey begins in Evansville, Indiana at St. Benedict Cathedral Parish where our family belonged and my five younger siblings and I went to school. The Benedictine monks from St. Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana and the Benedictine sisters from the Convent of the Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Indiana continued to encourage our Catholic faith that began in our home.

For high school I attended the Academy of the Immaculate Conception boarding school staffed by the Benedictine sisters at Ferdinand, Indiana. During my junior year on May 8th, 1962 I joined the Benedictine Oblates. I took my mother's name Mildred as my Oblate name. Yearbook pictures show Fr. Gerard Elspermann from St. Meinrad receiving Oblations from the juniors in 1963. At that time Oblation was made to a men's monastery rather than a woman's. Now the Sisters do have their own Oblate groups.

After high school I joined the Benedictine sisters for three and a half years as Sr. Rebecca and went to college in Ferdinand at St. Benedict College and in Atchison, Kansas at Mt. St. Scholastica College. After I left the community in 1967, I taught in schools in Boonville and Evansville, Indiana that were staffed by the Benedictine sisters from Ferdinand and lay people.

In 1985, I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and began teaching in the Cincinnati Public Schools. As there were no Benedictine parishes here, I joined the Jesuit parish St. Francis Xavier downtown. In the mid-1990's I noticed in the Cincinnati Archdiocese Catholic Telegraph information about a Benedictine Oblates chapter meeting here.

On my next trip back to Evansville, I stopped at St, Meinrad on the way and asked for Fr. Meinrad in the Oblate Office if there was record of my Oblation. He located a shoe box of 3 x 5 cards that included one with the information shown on the Oblate Identification Card copied here with the yearbook cover. Fr. Meinrad explained that my Oblation could now be transferred to the Ferdinand Sisters Oblate group if I wanted. I preferred to keep my Oblation with St. Meinrad and have enjoyed the renewed connections now in my Cincinnati area home.

Our family's roots at St. Meinrad are deep going back to my godfather, Robert Garvey, my mother's oldest brother, who was in high school seminary there in the 1920's. He returned home to Evansville for his senior year because their father had several severe strokes. My mother and sisters and I have enjoyed annual retreats together for many years at St. Meinrad.

I thank God for all the rich blessings of my life including 10 years of Hodgkins' lymphoma cancer survivorship as of May 10, 2012. My years of learning and praying with the Benedictines have immeasurably enhanced my life's journey. I thank God for all the connections given in my birth family and beyond to all the learning, social, musical, and religious families of my life thus far in my journey to become who God created me to be!

Fifty Year Oblation - May 8th, 1962 - May 8th, 2012
Susan Marie Bernadette Mildred Rebecca Anderson

Friday, April 20, 2012

Welcome to Our New Site!

The Oblates of Saint Meinrad - Cincinnati Chapter, is please to present our newest website setup and version! Over the next several weeks we will be working on rounding out the final changes to the site design, adding links and resources, and enhancing the experience for all users!

Please don't hesitate to let us know if you have questions or concerns!


Cincinnati Oblates of Saint Meinrad Archabbey

A Monastery Reflection

One of my duties in the monastery in 1944 was refectorian of the monks’ dining room.  This came about as the result of volunteering my assistance when Brother Stephen Shidler was in charge.  He always could use help but no one came forward.  When I did, Brother Stephen went on to other duties.

Daily the monks finished the Office of None before noon, and then prayed the Angelus at twelve o’clock.  On this particular day, I was busy preparing the dining room for the noon meal.  Our bakery was in a building apart from the monastery.  There were several dining rooms.  Next to the monks’ dining room was one for the little oblates.  There was a guest dining room; Father John Thuis was in charge.  The major and minor seminarians also had their dining room.

The closer it got to the noon hour, the more agitated I became.  In checking with the other dining rooms, I found that none had received their share of bread.  Close to twelve o’clock noon, I hurried to the door from which the Abbot, priests and brothers exited the Church.  Father Abbot Ignatius Esser was always the first to exit.  I was waiting.  Seeing my distress, he gently took my arm, asking what was my concern.  I explained that the bread for all the dining rooms had not arrived.  I then attempted to run back to the dining room to help place the bread if it had arrived in my absence.  Father Abbot firmly held my arm and calmly said, “Walk with me.”

 At that time at Saint Meinrad a long corridor led from the Church to the dining room.  The monks chanted a Psalm and responses as they walked along.  In a few moments we arrived at the dining room.  Bread was in place as if it had just come out of the oven—as it also was in the other dining rooms, when I later checked.

I later learned that the reason there had been no bread was because some equipment in the bakery had failed.

By John Campbell

Heavy Traffic on Salvation’s Narrow Road: The Importance of Community in Fidelity to the Monastic Way of Life

So, once we’ve turned toward God in response to His call, we never quite know through what He may lead us or whom we’ll bump into along the way.

But the destination beyond the horizon, which is Christ, comes to meet us and illumines our path. The important thing is to stay on the road to salvation, and at the same time, to keep moving forward. Along the way, the scenery is bound to change, and the road will at times narrow or broaden, become rough or smooth, be congested or clear, wet or dry, low or high, winding or straight, arduous or delightful, frightening or breath-taking.

But we keep moving. We keep moving—those with us, alongside us, and even those who seem to be moving against us.

This is an important lesson for the novice entering the monastery, but just as much so for newly married couples or any Christian committed to living out his or her faith. Whatever the state of life, fidelity to the gospel requires living in community—and imperfect communities at that. “Let them grow together until harvest,” Jesus says in the parable of the wheat and the weeds.

It is a time of grace for all, and if the weeds seem particularly prickly at times, they serve the purpose of challenging the wheat to bend with the wind and look to the light above for energy, strength, and the dew of charity that nourishes its growth. For the truth of the matter is that we’re all a bit prickly at times, and it is God’s abundant grace to grow with one another side by side as we learn to die to ourselves, live for Him and serve one another.

“Oh, how good and pleasant it is, when brothers live in unity,” Psalm 133 says. The depth of meaning in that passage is much richer for me today than it was when I entered the monastery. And each day, I am challenged to plumb its depths even more—as are the brothers who live with me.

Our Fr. Vincent, in a recent homily on fidelity to the monastic way of life, had this to say about the experience:

A novice not infrequently enters the cloister bubbling with romantic ideas—restful Gregorian chant wafting through gothic cloisters, blissful brethren absorbed in ancient manuscripts, the garden in bloom—only to discover before long that heaven has not yet descended to earth. Cloister shock is inevitable as the neophyte comes to grips with the primary and indispensable source of monastic ascetism: living at close quarters with fellow monks. One by one, illusions peel away in fidelity to the daily round of prayer and work as the search for God gradually climbs down from theory to practice. Human weakness is acknowledged and confessed, and the Lord’s prayer each day asks for and grants forgiveness on a regular basis.

This is true for the layperson as well. Any commitment to Christ requires us to grow in virtue in relationship to one another— in “heavy traffic” as it were. Once newlyweds settle down to the reality of everyday living, they discover new things about themselves in relation to one another. Some of this may be wonderful, some of it seemingly not so wonderful. But the fact is that they are committed to one another in the unity of life they have vowed to one another. Hopefully, as painful as it may be at times, their love for one another deepens as they learn and grow, for better or for worse. 

The fact is that difficulty and trials will surface, but no more than the grace God provides to endure them in faith. We can’t grow in virtue unless we’re tested to display it, and that is done through those around us on the same highway to salvation. When traffic is light, we can fall into the trap of complacency, but our fellow travelers provide us with genuine opportunities to recognize and express the love of Christ within one another.

The truth is that I never quite recognized my capacity for things like anger, pride, greed, envy, jealousy, and being judgmental until I came to the monastery. Certainly, those things were there already in one way or another, but I was only able to become more aware of them by living in community according to the monastic way of life. As I reflect on it, that is God’s indescribable mercy. Being shown these things provides me with the opportunity to seek forgiveness, grow in faith, and to hopefully improve in ways I may never have known had I not heard God’s call. “Where sin increases, grace abounds all the more,” as St. Paul says.

Naturally, this realization changes how we think of conversion—in the monastic way of life or in any other. It is a process, a journey joined with that of others. As one saint put it: “Conversion is the matter of a moment. Sanctification is the work of a lifetime.” We sanctify one another through God’s grace. Along the way, a wonderful thing happens for those whose hearts are open to it. We change, and others change, through an honest recognition of our human fallibility and an increasing trust in the power and mercy of God.

In comprising his Rule, St. Benedict realized this. It is no accident that Chapter 7 on humility holds such a prominent position in the Rule. Humility, or living in truth, is the foundation for our capacity to change, because it is the ability to face the honest reality about oneself and others.

“A man is humble when he stands in the truth with a knowledge and appreciation for himself as he really is,” says the author of the Cloud of Unknowing. When we know who we really are, and accept ourselves and our progress on the road to salvation, we then become more accepting of others and their progress on that same road. Humility, as St. Benedict notes in Chapter 7, leads to that “perfect love of God which casts out fear.” This perfect love that transforms us allows us to let others change as God wills and not as we do—without necessarily being permissive.

The beauty of the Rule is that it is only through living in community that we discover who we are as individuals so that we may give of ourselves. Fraternal life enables us to know ourselves in the encounters of daily life, discover our need for ongoing conversion, and share that mercy with others. Humility, then, joins us together. Its opposing vice—pride—is what divides us.

“My way to holiness and to personal wholeness lies through and with my fellow travelers,” says Charles Cummings in his book Monastic Practices. “I will be faithful to my vocation and will experience the living God because of them, not in spite of them.”

The monk, then, or the oblate, who practices fidelity to the monastic way of life must strive always to be attentive, open, willing to adapt and modify opinions and attitudes (or let them go altogether), respond to unexpected demands, make allowances, surrender what is perceived as “my time,” forgive, be able to offer and receive correction in true charity and not from selfishness, and live with peace of heart through the inevitable contradictions and tensions inherent to common life. This applies to the monastery, the parish, the workplace, or the family household.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and is this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Galatians. This “law” Paul speaks of is simple: By bearing our weaknesses, Christ healed us. When we truly follow Christ, we do the same and become a living expression of his love.

But it’s so hard!!!

Impossible, in fact, without God, who makes all things possible. Remember that God has often used rather frail instruments to carry out his will. Take a good look at the apostles. Grace builds on nature. Nourishing us through the Eucharist and all the sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours, lectio divina, personal prayer, and the blessings of community life, God builds us up to become what we receive through Him—the Body of Christ. His words echo in our hearts through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Take up your cross daily and follow me.”

The road to which he beckons us is nothing more and nothing less than the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. St. Benedict speaks often of this in his Prologue to the Rule, repeatedly using terms like road, way, path and journey. Like Jesus, he doesn’t promise that it will be easy, only that it will be eternally rewarding.

“Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset,” he tells us. (Notice the use of the word ‘we’ in the next few sentences, rather than the word ‘you’, and also the emphasis on the process of conversion): “But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. Never swerving from his instructions, then, but faithfully observing his teaching [in the monastery] until death, we shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom.”

Clearly then, fidelity to the monastic way of life is the work of a lifetime, not something to be achieved cheaply, overnight, or all by one’s self.

I recall that after my conversion but before coming to the monastery, I would make the 15-minute drive to work at The Blade every afternoon fighting the traffic along a three-lane highway. Everyone was in a hurry and in one another’s way, it seemed. It was very stressful speeding up, slowing down, stopping at all the lights, passing slower drivers, and being passed by quicker drivers. I would usually arrive at work with frayed nerves and an ill temper before the pressures of editing on deadline in a noisy newsroom even began.

One day I tried something different. I decided to stay in the right lane as much as possible, drive consistently at the speed limit without rushing to beat lights or get around other drivers. And I prayed the rosary—looking at the faces of all the other drivers and asking God to bless each one of them and their families. I discovered four things: 1) I arrived at work more relaxed and in a much better state of mind; 2) I became more aware of the people in all those other cars. I even got a smile or two; 3) It took me the same amount of time to get to work; and 4) with the return trip I was able to thoughtfully pray all five decades of the rosary daily when I thought there had been no more time in my day.

Encouraged, I applied the same principle in relating to my co-workers. Tensions are often high in a packed newsroom filled with people doing five things at once and always keeping one eye on the clock. Raised voices are commonplace. Whenever I was addressed by one of these, rather than responding in my typical fashion, I intentionally offered a moment of thought, and then spoke slowly and politely, and several octaves below the person who had addressed me. It was amazing to see what a calming effect that had on us both. We began to really listen and speak to one another, even when we disagreed.

Later, God apparently thought I was ready for another challenge, because I came to the monastery. Suddenly, that literal three-lane highway I drove to The Blade every day became, in figurative terms, a congested two-lane road often reduced to one lane for construction. There are more drivers and there is less room to maneuver. Most importantly, when the day is finished, there is no drive home. Prayer, work, meals, and the common life in the monastery bring the same people together, along with all their strengths and weaknesses, day after day.

Naturally, this requires quite a bit of adjustment, and the reality of community life at times contradicts the ideal. However, that is also its beauty. Shortly after arriving at the monastery, Br. Martin told me community life can be compared to a big revolving mixer filled with many stones—some big, some small, all different shapes and colors, and some more jagged than others. A wonderful thing happens as the mixer is turned, and all those stones begin scraping and scuffing one another. Over time, they become smooth and round and polished—maybe even sparkling.

What threatens this process is expecting immediate perfection from oneself and from others. Success means accepting—but not excusing—imperfection in oneself and in others, while allowing room for polishing. It is God’s mercy incarnate, the love of Christ making us one. “Do not aspire to be called holy before you really are, but first be holy that you may more truly be called so,” St. Benedict tells us in Chapter 4 of the Rule: The Tools for Good Works.

This is why during the Rite of Solemn Profession, the monk sings three times a passage from Psalm 119, repeated by the rest of the community: “Uphold me O Lord, according to your promise, and do not confound me in my expectation.”

Certainly, expectations often get the best of us. That is all too human. However, when those expectations start mapping out our entire direction of thinking, we can easily start drifting off that narrow road and onto the exit ramp of pride—finding ourselves in unfamiliar terrain before we even know we’ve made a wrong turn. Sometimes we turn around and get back on track. Other times, we look for someone to blame and become even more lost.

Getting sidetracked like this is particularly dangerous for those who consider themselves to be on the right path. Pride lurks around every corner, waiting to lure the virtuous astray. Pride invites the virtuous to project their hidden faults onto others and focus on other people’s deficiencies without considering their goodness. “O, God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity,” prays the Pharisee in Luke’s Gospel, while the tax collector simply acknowledges his imperfection. Anyone observing these two from a distance in the temple might presume that the Pharisee was the virtuous one. Christ tells us otherwise.
***C.S. Lewis/Screwtape Letters excerpts***
Falling victim to our expectations and then pride has the disastrous effect of cutting us off from community simply because it tempts us to think we’re better off without anyone else. “Everyone but me is to blame for what I suffer, so I may as well be rid of them.” And so I remove myself—in body, mind or spirit—from among my brethren whom God has given me to work out my salvation with. Mercifully, God is always ready to lead us back; but we have to be listening.

***Desert Fathers story on anger***
Fortunately for him, this monk realized the necessity and blessing of living in community, and rejoined the flow of heavy traffic on the narrow road to salvation. He had left his community thinking that others were the ones in need of conversion, not him. He returned with the realization that he must love his brothers in their faults, as God loved him in his, and as He lived in all of them.

Mysteriously, he discovered this truth: It often happens that in another’s fault lies your own conversion. As I progress on this narrow road, I often discover (sometimes too late) that when I am most judgmental, most intolerant, most disproportionately angry, and most impatient with others, that it’s really because I don’t feel too good about myself at the moment. I’m failing to live in the truth of who I am and who those around me are. So my interior disposition is driving my exterior direction in relating to others.

Fr. Jeremy, in a recent homily, had this observation to offer:
So often, something bothers us not because of what is being done but because of who is doing it. Often our ability to weigh an offense as serious or trivial depends on who is engaged in the activity. Our judgments are often clouded by personality clashes. This is true whether we live in a monastery or in a house with our spouse, children or brothers and sisters.

Realizing this, however, offers genuine opportunity for growth in fidelity to the monastic way of life, and to receive, bear with, and serve one another as Christ. Recall that Jesus told his disciples: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” This is great mercy and responsibility combined. As believers, we make Christ present to one another. He’s entrusted his mercy to us to share with one another.

Cardinal Basil Hume, addressing his community while abbot of Ampleforth, states it well: “It’s so simple to talk about community; so simple to think of community as a kind of temporary ‘togetherness.’ However, when you have to live the life in terms of harsh reality, it poses problems. But you will have discovered your own shortcomings, as far as living in community is concerned. You will also have discovered that it is rewarding, that we derive support from one another. … You are beginning to appreciate each other for what you are and not what you would like others to be.”

In the monastery, nowhere is this grace more evident than in the celebration of the Divine Office. It is the clearest expression and witness of the common life of prayer and work to which we are called. Coming together each day, several times a day, to seek forgiveness, praise God and implore His aid for all, we bring with us our strengths and weaknesses, our joys and sorrows, our charity and rancor, our pleasing gifts and annoying quirks, our bitter woundedness and our sweet goodness.

It is the same for all those who merge into heavy traffic along the narrow road to salvation—who wish to live in fidelity and truly seek God, accept oneself, and know the love of Christ in our fellow travelers.

Regardless of what’s going on in our lives, we stop, gather, and present our humanity to God through His Word, so we may delight in His transforming divinity. Christ is not only the destination, but also a recurring rest stop on the road to salvation, where we refuel and regain our bearings, and then begin again—so that His love, which impels us to take the narrow road, may “bring us all together to everlasting life.”

Br. Francis de Sales Wagner
Saint Meinrad Archabbey, 2008

Miracle on Hill Drive

 I spent December 24th, 25th, and 26th at the St. Meinrad Archabbey.  Driving home I realized a miracle had occurred; a small miracle, but highly singular.

For three days I did not make one joke or pun, did not tell a funny story, and did not put down any person, place, or thing with a biting remark.  For three whole days! That is what St. Meinrad and St. Benedict (The Rule: Chapter 7; tenth degree of humility) do to you.
I was the only guest staying for a full three days.  A few other pilgrims came and went, the seminary students were on holiday, and the monks and brothers were in their secret havens.  Decorations were limited to a few Christmas trees and wreaths.  Not a jingle bell or ho-ho-ho or grandma got run over by a reindeer was to be heard.  I ate in Newman Hall, sometimes sharing the room with only one or two other diners.  When you go, hope that the beef barley soup, salmon, and apple-caramel pie are on the menu.
However, I did receive one gift—a wide smile as warm as a Christmas hearth—from Fr. Meinrad.
I owned St. Meinrad.  St. Meinrad owned me.
Christmas afternoon I walked hatless and gloveless beneath a bright Episcopal-blue sky down the hill, through the village, and up the wooded hillside to Monte Cassino.  I walked through the red doors (never locked), lit a candle, sat down, and said the rosary with Anglican beads, wondering if it would “take.”  It did.

At the rear of the chapel I took down the chain with the sign reading, “Please Do Not Enter,” and walked the narrow steps to the dark belfry and rang the bell a Trinitarian three times.  I got a kick out of ringing the sweet bell over an empty countryside.
When I sit in the Archabbey Church I try not to look up—way up—like a dumb, hick tourist at the bold, rich, magnificent stained glass windows.  I try to appear as an old, sagacious oblate from Harrison, Ohio, who is quite used to such things thank you.  (I wait until everyone leaves.)
 Stepping outside the rear entrance of the Guest house at night, hearing the bells scaring the birds and welcoming the angels, seeing on the neighboring knoll the Church, fully lit and fully bright is a blessed and everlasting, ambitious memory.
Last February Rev. Dave Halt (St. James Episcopal, Cincinnati) and I drove to St. Meinrad for my Rite of Final Oblation.  I remember walking to the Church along the hillside through a cool and cloudless night, that for one brief shining moment all this—Benedict, the Archabbey, Fr. Meinrad, the monks, and my priest—were there just for me.
Rev. Dave once told me that he believed a place is made more holy by the weight and number of prayers said in it.  Before the altar I made my Oblation and a prayer, promising before God stability of heart, fidelity to the spirit of the monastic life, and obedience to the will of God.  The Archabbey Church was made a little holier that night.  A prayer said.  A prayer granted.  Another miracle on Hill Drive.

by Oblate Andrew (Ron Beathard)