Content about the Oblates

The Prologue

Sr. Hilda Frost OSB - "Reflections"

The Prologue is addressed to each one of us personally. It is an invitation to the beginner (and all of us) to follow Christ. Like any other invitation one is free to accept or decline. It is a matter of choice. If we decide to accept the challenge, it means a total commitment of our whole life to God. 'Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days? If you hear this and your answer is 'I do' then God directs these words to you' (RB Prologue).

The very first word of the Prologue 'Listen' is probably the most important word in the whole Rule! The Latin word 'obsculta' implies a command. 'Do it, and do it now!' Benedict continues: 'Today if you hear God's voice, harden not your hearts' (Ps. 95).

He says we are to 'Listen with the ear of the heart'. This is no superfluous listening, but from the very depths of one's being. At the beginning of the spiritual journey each person is invited to a personal renewal: 'Return to God by the way of obedience'. So the whole idea of listening, and obedience go together.

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October 2004

The love of Christ must come before all else. (RB 4)

This short sentence found among the ‘Instruments of Good Works’ sums up all of Benedict’s teaching. From the outset Benedict points to Christ. The gospel is central to everything . He invites us to meet Christ in community prayer, meditation, and silence; to see Christ in one another, the sick, the guests, and especially the poor and needy. Benedict gently leads us away from self to embrace Christ in every situation, every person, and every event. If we truly take this message to heart, we will experience peace of heart, even in the face of difficulties and suffering.

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Some time ago (December 2003), I wrote a short Reflection for our Oblates on ‘Reconciliation in the Rule of Benedict’. However, in the light of various events since then it seems to me that this topic is by no means exhausted, so it might be worthwhile to look at it again. The whole question of forgiveness is one that we constantly need to reflect on as we walk the spiritual path.

Where can we look for encouragement and guidance? Let us begin with Scripture: Isaiah assures us of God’s unlimited forgiveness: I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.

(Isaiah 44:22) Similarly the Psalmist declares: As far as the east is from the west, so far God removes our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103) Jesus insists that we forgive, not seven times, but seventy seven times; (Matt. 18:22) in other words, an unlimited number of times. Christ himself forgave those who condemned him: Forgive them Father, for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34).

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Hope - Reflection for November

A word that we meet often in the Scriptures is ‘hope’. Frequently the psalms encourage us to hope in God Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope ( Ps. 119:49): Jeremiah reassures us that God will give us a future full of hope (Jer. 29:11) Job tells us There is always hope for a tree, even if it is cut down that it will sprout again (Job. 14:7) Of course the entire Gospel conveys a hope-filled message of salvation and new life. And Paul reminds us that hope does not disappoint us (Rom. 5:5).

This same spirit of hope characterises all Benedict’s teaching. He begins by setting the tone for the whole Rule: we hope to impose nothing harsh or burdensome (Prol. 46) And again, as we pursue our journey of faith Place your hope in God alone (R.B. 4:41). Quoting from Psalm 37 Benedict says: Make known your way to the Lord and hope in him’ (Ps. 37:5 R.B. 7:45). When it comes to material things Benedict stipulates that everyone is to receive what they need from the mother or father of the monastery: They may expect (i.e. hope) that everything they need in their lives will be supplied by the superior of the community (R.B. 33:5)

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"TWO OLIVE TREES" (Zech. 4:3 & 11, Rev. 11:4) | November, 2006

Many years ago in England, I used to enjoy listening to a radio program which always began with the question Have you read any good books lately? It makes a good conversation opener, and often leads to some interesting and thought provoking discussion.

One book I have been reading and re-reading over the past year is Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John, by Jean Vanier. It is an inspiring and challenging book, and has prompted me to take a fresh look at the gospel of John, and its implications in my daily life. As I read Jean Vanier’s book, I was struck by the similarities between many of his words and those of Benedict. This should not surprise us, for although they are more than 1500 years apart, their writing and teaching are both founded on the gospel.

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I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness,
and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than a light,
And safer than a known way.
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God
Trod gladly into the night.
(M. Louise Haskins 1875-1975)
Quoted by King George VI in his 1939 Christmas broadcast.

At the beginning of the New Year, we look back over the past year and also towards the one that is just beginning. One of the things that stood out for all of us in 2007, was that we remembered with great love and gratitude, our teacher and guide on the path of meditation, John Main. We recalled the details of his life; reread his books; and listened again to his voice encouraging us on our own spiritual path. What a great gift all of that is!

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“Some Reflections on the Rule of St Benedict: Four Principles or Attitudes” by Laurence Freeman, OSB

St Benedict was a Roman. Like any good Roman he had a flair for organization, a concern for order, a respect for authority. Monastic life for him was to be structured; it was to follow a rule and a hierarchical chain of command. He was founding his monasteries at the time the Roman Empire was breaking apart, weakened by corruption at the center and barbarian invasion from the without. Benedict’s monasteries were to be held together by a strong and responsible central leadership.

The Abbot or Abbess “holds the place of Christ” (Ch 2) however he/she was always accountable to the Rule and God. This center would not be corrupt and would recognize that it was part of a higher chain of command. As for barbarian invasions from the outside Benedict wanted his monasteries enclosed, all the necessities of life should be found within; “there should be no need for monks to roam outside,” he writes, “because this is not at all good for their souls” (Ch 66).

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Anglican Primate Preaches | Says It Challenges Modern Society

ROME, NOV. 22, 2006
Modern societies could learn a lot from a sixth-century monk, according to the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

In a lecture delivered at the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm, Williams used passages from the Rule of St. Benedict to comment on the idea of authority in the world today.

He said that "what the Rule distinctively does is that it ... asks what is the style of authority that will enable 'faith beyond resentment.'"

Williams continued: "The pressing issue is how we sustain a civilization capable of asking itself questions about its purpose and its integrity; only a civilization that can do this will generate people -- citizens -- who can turn away from individual instinct and self-protection ... because they know what sort of beings they are, mortal, interdependent, created out of love and for love."

The Anglican archbishop said the Rule of St. Benedict both defended those in authority and provided a voice for those being governed.

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"Labour Day Reflection 2005: Good Works in the Rule" by Ron McRae

In the Rule we discover a variety of ideas and activities that relate to what we might consider labour or work. Some of them are familiar to most of us – for example, activities such as laundry and food preparation. What is perhaps most striking for modern lay people, however, is the idea of the Work of God ("Opus Dei"). While in some sense all our activity may be described as the work of God when we see it through the eyes of Christ, St. Benedict is referring specifically to active and focused commitment to communal praying of the daily office.

His words remind us of the central importance of this activity in our lives: Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God [RB 43:3]. Most of us understand what a struggle it is to make this prayer discipline the priority in our daily lives. We also understand, however, that the consistent commitment to daily meditation and praying of the office shapes our lives and bears fruit.

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