Rome 2009: Reflections on the World Congress of Oblates

I am home and the 2009 World Congress of Benedictine Oblates is history. I am richer for the experience and for the fellowship I have gained with the broader Benedictine world. I will try to post several reflective capsules of my experience in this space over the next days as I listen for echoes of that intense time in Rome.

Today, I am reminded of a quote, very early in the Congress, from theologian, Karl Rahner. Fr. Henry O’Shea, the primary organizer of the Congress, a monk of Glenstal Abbey in Ireland and a former student of Rahner’s, quoted Rahner as saying that “the 21st Century Christian will be a mystic or he will be nothing at all.”

As I understand the definition of a mystic, that person will not necessarily be given visions or the extraordinary experiences many of us tend to associate with mysticism, though such signs may not be ruled out. Rather, the mystic is one who seeks and finds a spiritual oneness with God, in prayer and in life, by one avenue or another, according to the will of God in a particular person’s life. That unity with God might or might not be sensed or known by the individual whom God has claimed by it. By that definition, are we not all mystics? At least some of the time? I certainly perceive a mystical heart in every Oblate I know, whether or not they would term it that way, in most of the Christians I know…and, indeed, in one or two people in my life to make no claims to Christianity.

All that is to say, that in this new millennium, the Church will grow as a body of those who are seeking and finding, whether consciously or unconsciously, a oneness with and in Christ, the Oneness for which Jesus himself prayed in the seventeenth chapter of St. John’s gospel.

That kind of Church strikes me as impossible to contain, define or comprehend…and more exciting to be a part of than anything I’ve ever dreamed of.

One thought on “Rome 2009: Reflections on the World Congress of Oblates

  1. Have you read Rahner’s little book on prayer? (I have not as yet, but it comes strongly recommended by a fellow theologian, Joy McDougall; she treasures it.)


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