Buon Giornno (Did I spell that correctly?) from the Benedictine Oblate World Congress!
I have discovered that I am multi-lingual: I can say “Howdy” in six languages!
There is so much to tell! But, alas, there are only two computers for 250 delegates. I will try to give the fuller picture to those who care to read it when I return home.
For now, three themes have emerged in this week of intense and often very deep conversation among the delegates here. (Every continent is represented except Antarctica, which is probably evidence that penguins are not Benedictine oblates.)
More serously: WE ARE MONASTICS. While we as Oblates are not professed monks, nuns or sisters, we do have a legitimate vocation as monastics under ther Rule of St. Benedict. We must take our promises seriously and consider them as lifelong. In our vocation as Benedictines outside the monastery we can understand ourselves as loyal to our individual monasteries and as important members of the global Benedictine family. This Congress is very much like a visit to the house of Grandpa Benedict and discovering 249 cousins (other Oblates), uncles (monks) and and aunts (nuns and sisters) that we never knew we had. This is a glorious and venerable family! This Congress is a celebrative reunion of the worldwide family!
CONTEMPLATION IS THE ROOT OF OUR VOCATION AND THE HEART OF OUR LIFE TOGETHER. A number of us gather here at the Congress twice each day for centering prayer or meditation. We pray the Office all together and we celebrate the Eucharist together daily. This contemplative spring feeds our deliberation, enables us to listen (ausculta!) to each other through the fumbling of language and translation, hand signs and laughter. In our daily lives as Oblates at home, it is no different. However we approach contemplative practice, that deep prayer of love is our invitation to God to invade and transform our lives as we live them in the work place, with our families, and as we support the sisters, and enjoy relationships under the shelter of grace that our monastery offers.
THE FACE OF BENEDICTINE MONASTICISM IS CHANGING. At St. Mary Monastery, monastic life flourishes and we can be very thankful. We have a houseful of Sisters, we have celebrated four new vocations in as many years (Thank you Sr. Bobbi for your hard work and hospitable heart!) and we have access to a constant stream of Oblate gatherings, retreats, spiritual direction, and any number of other offerings developed and presented by the Sisters at St. Mary. It is not so in much of the rest of the world. The sisters, monks and nuns are aging and new vocations are few and far between. Meanwhile, numbers of Oblates are growing dramatically and visitors crowding to monasteries are in some cases almost overwhelming. People all over the world are recognizing the failure of secularism and they are hungry for the depth, mystery and joy that the way of Christian contemplative life makes possible. With numbers of professed monastics waning, we Oblates must be ready to make a deeper, more active commitment to carry Benedictine values and monastic life, albeit it in very different form, into the future. We Oblates of St. Mary Monastery should not allow the blessings of a flourishing house to lure us into complacency, but should, with the guidance of the Sisters, actively seek out ways to support and feed our Benedictine brothers and sisters in situations with fewer and poorer resources. My presence at the Congress and Madeline Callahans presence at the last Congress are one way of supporting our global monastic family. What are other ways we can encourage Benedictines around the world as we enter a new generation of contemplative life guided by the Rule of St. Benedict?
There is much more to tell, but it must wait for later postings. Pray for this Congress as it draws to a close and for safe travel for the delegates as we return to our families and monasteries.
My prayers are with you, Oblates of St. Mary Monastery, as you gather for our annual “family reunion” tomorrow. I pray especially for my wife, Cynthia, and the others who will make their final oblations tomorrow at Vespers.
Grace and peace be with you all.