Tag Archives: Benedictine

All of us are sons & daughters of Abraham

This picture is more than 1000 words.

In light of what happened at the US Embassy in Libya, I feel like this art piece echos what I feel is the solution to all the violence between the US & the Middle East should start with understanding. Weare ALL heirs of the promise God made to Abraham…we are ALL ” People of The Book”.

Why can’t we pray together & have interfaith dialog? Let us forget name-calling & focus on educating each other about the three faiths with Abrahamic roots.

Why don’t we start by praying together, s the two women depicted in this piece of artwork I posted are doing. Show some hospitality & invite the ” other” inside for a meal & a prayer.

Amen.

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Spiritual ” Housecleaning”: Part 1

When I was a  newly-minted Episcopalian I was much more diligent in my prayer life.

I’d even turned the nightstand next to my bed at the house into a “prayer place” .I’d covered it with a prayer shawl knitted for me years ago, placed a ” baptismal font” full of water, my Bible, BCP, a rosary, my Benedictine crucifix, a candle, ect. For about 8 months I kept that space in my otherwise *very* secular house reserved for contemplative and/or intercessory prayer.   

After all, one of the  main points I’d taken away from my Cursillio weekend back in April of 2009 was how important it is for Christians to make time for God every day. One whole weekend of being completely on ” God’s Time” {Greek- karios} taught me that every day is sacred & we need to remember to be still and listen to God. Well, anyone who knows me at all is aware  that being patient is NOT one of my virtues, but the prayer place was a visual reminder for me to slow down & just ” be” with God.

My latest project is to re- create said place designated for prayer at my house.  So on Tuesday evening I took one look at the nightstand in my bedroom which at one time held my sacred objects & realized that it had become a dumping ground from everything from unworn necklaces to fish food{ yes, I have a betta fish} to loose change.

I removed the old prayer shawl…{after all it had been given to me by a woman who won’t even say hello to me when we see each other in Publix} and replaced it with a prayer shawl that Best Dude bought for me at our parish’s annual silent auction/ food & wine event.  I cleared out all the junk but kept Argo, my betta fish, on the prayer table. His bowl{ at least for me} is a visual and tactile reminder of  my baptism & his ” just being” in his aquatic home next to my bed aids me in contemplative prayer. {Really…try watching a fish sometime & see if you don’t become more relaxed & open to the Holy Spirit It works.} I’d found a painted stone that was painted during an intergenerational Sunday School led by a former Presbyterian pastor.  Also on my prayer table is my rosary given to me at the closing of Cursillio #139 , a hand-held pewter labyrinth, & a rosary I’d purchased from the Benedictine monks in St Leo , Florida.

Inasmuch as I wanted to be rid of the old prayer shawl, i discovered that I could not just toss it in the trash. So, when Best Dude & I went to Mass at a neighboring parish where our friend is the rector, I surprised her by giving her the shawl.  She loved it but once again God reminded me that my next task is to work on some internal ” Spiritual Housecleaning” & purge myself of all the old grudges  left over from my metaphorical wilderness.

Say tuned as my much-needed housecleaning project continues.  

And remember, Walk with God.

Amen.

Homily for St Benedict’s Day{ Transferred}

Homily for Feast Day of St Benedict of Nursia
{ Transferred}
July 14 2010

My priest honored my request to move the Feast Day of St Benedict of Nursia, which was Monday, to today. Not only is St Benedict one of my two patron saints, but he has a place in the history of modern Christian monasticism.

Benedict was born in Nursia, the son of a Roman nobleman in the year 480 . He has a sister, Scholastic, who is also among the saints we recognize.

Benedict is most known for writing a literary work known as The Rule of St Benedict . It is important to note that “ rule” in this usage of the word, , does not mean laws or mores. In this sense, the word “ rule” traces its meaning back to the Latin word which loosely means” to measure”. Benedict wrote his rule as a literary measuring stick with which Christian laypeople can aspire towards.

Although Benedictines have used The Rule as a guide to their communal way of life for centuries, Benedict himself did not wish to start an order of monastic’s. His Rule ‘s original audience were laypeople.

I first came across the saint years ago when my Presbyterian minister at the time let me borrow a copy of Kathleen Norris’ The Cloister Walk. This is a story of one thoroughly Protestant woman’s account of her extended stay with Benedictine monks in the western United States. Ms Norris’ book captivated my attention & led me to further investigate a core principle of Benedictine life: radical hospitality.

No, hospitality in the Christian sense isn’t about using the correct salad fork at the potluck. Benedictine hospitality is so much more than anything we can learn from Emily Post’s etiquette column.

In the fourth chapter of his Rule, Benedict writes” The First of all things is to love the LORD God with your whole heart & soul & strength and then to love your neighbor as you do yourself.” Does this sound familiar? Radical hospitality is nothing more than following the first & greatest commandment.

Radical hospitality isn’t easy & I’m the first to admit that it is much easier to love “ neighbors” who act, believe, look & think as I do. But Benedictine hospitality calls us to step away from our comfort zones to embrace the stranger.

St Augustine’s’ does a pretty good job of welcoming guests who find themselves among us on a Sunday or Wednesday worship. But lets face it: al of us are guilty of preferring to associate with people who are very similar to us & our loved ones. We are wary of the stranger who might show some sort of outward “ difference”.

My favorite charge while growing up as a Protestant has echoes of St Benedict’s radical Hospitality It is from chapter 12 of Paul’s letter to the Romans ”…let love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good…Rejoice in hope be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer, Contribute to he needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.”
May this be true for you & me. Amen.

Feast of St Benedict ’10

 

One of my patron saints

Today is the Feast Day of one of my patron saints, St Benedict of Nursia. I am, in case I didn’t already mention, a Benedictine Oblate with the order of monks at St Leo Abbey in St Leo, FL.

I was first introduced to Benedictine spirituality years ago when a Presbyterian minister I had here in Florida  suggested that I read Kathleen Norris’ book_ The Cloister Walk_.  Few books have impacted my life as much as that one has: as this was my introduction to Benedictines & their rich spirituality of “ora et labora”

Norris, a totally Protestant , married woman, spends several long periods of time with the monks of a community in Minnesota. The book is basically a chronicle of her time with them, interspersed with stories of her time away from the monks between  visits to the abbey. The book also taught me a lot about what life is like for one monastic community, since I’ve pretty much grown up as a Presbyterian, monks & nuns seemed foreign to me.  Norris’ book taught me that monks{ and nuns, too} are just as human as we non-cloistered Christians. 

One of my favorite parts of” The Cloister Walk_ is when Norris recounts conversation she had with specific monks about  such topics as acacia, celibacy, ect.  By the end of the book I felt like I not only knew Norris better, but also the community about which she writes for this volume. Although _ Cloister_ is nonfiction, Norris’ easy prose flows like a novel & is a pleasure to read.

 One of the most attractive aspects of Benedictine spirituality for me is the concept of ” radical hospitality”. Benedict wrote in his Rule{ which, by the way, is not a rule as we 21st century folks think of it, but more of a set of guidelines by which to live.} Benedict tells his monks & nuns to welcome all as though  she or he{ meaning the stranger/newcomer were Christ himself.  This is a practical theology  that I try very hard to live out daily & I admit that it is so much easier to welcome others with open hearts who are similar to me & the people in my own community.

When I was on vacation in western Pennsylvanian I visited an ” Anglican church. { you know, one of ” those” churches who broke away from TEC} It was hard, but I said a prayer to God on the way to Mass & God * did* open my mind & heart enough so that I felt the presence of our LORD in  that place amongst people who think very differently from me. While they were no the most welcominng of church communities, I do not hold their attitudes against them. We are * all* fallen creatures & it is by God’s Grace that we are adopted into God’s Household.

where to go?

Finally, after about 6 years, I’ve earned a free flight on Delta.

My problem right now  is: where to go?

 I’d LOVE to go to NYC in October, but so far have * not* heard back from my friend at General Seminary yet regarding these plans. So I am thinking that I’ll need  some altenate ideas.

 Idea One: Home.  Autumn in  western PA, WV & eastern Ohio is lovely.

Idea Two: Retreat at St Leo Benedictine Abbey{ FL} & some quality time with Crystal & Mike.

My friends & family from up home are going to want me to make the resernations for PIT, & I would love to see them again..  Yet  I very much NEED a silent retreat  & now that I have a free airline ticket anywhere in the continental US, I’m also thinking that now is the time for a silent two-day retreat at ” my” abbey in St Leo, FL{ near Tampa}.  If I make this trip, I can also spend some days with my good friends  Mike & Crystal.  Another bonus is, I can see if I can make the ” Oblate’s weekend” at the abbey: something I’ve * never* done yet due mostly to the insane amount of money airline tickets  require. 

Perhaps  am being ” called” to make this trip to St Leo Abbey?

I don’t know.  If I either go home for a Fall Break or make the trip to southwest Florida I’ll need to give up a chance to spend some time at General Seminary & NYC. Boo.

Choices…….stay tuned.

We need Good Shepherds

Sunday was Good  Shepherd Sunday.

While Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd, we have a responsibility to be good shepherds to those whom God entrusted to our care.

Christ knows each of  us & cares for us as beloved members of His flock.

 In a homily preached this past Sunday ++ Katharine Jefferts-Schori  said:

“We need more good shepherds who are willing to go out there and invite everybody to the feast. We need more good shepherds in Congress. We need more good shepherds in schools. We need more good shepherds in the choir. We need more good shepherds on the streets. Each and every one of us is both a sheep and a shepherd,”

Amen again, sister Presiding Bishop.

We do need more shepherds out tending to the flock. All of us, by virtue of our Baptism, are shepherds. It is our responsibility  & PRIVLEGE to tend to those  whom we find ourselves among.  My Protestant friends would call this ” the priesthood of all Believers” but I like the shepherding image better.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd & we Christians are His flock.  He loves us & in response to that love we are to tend to the needs of other ” sheep”. It matters not if the sheep  we meet in our daily lives are similar to us  or totally different.  ALL Of us are Christ’s beloved sheep & He loves us without regard to race, socioeconomic class, gender, disability and { yes!!!} sexual orientation.

Part of the beauty of Benedictine spirituality is the  welcoming the guest as one would welcome Christ Himself.  My Benedictine monastic friends  teach me so much about welcoming  & ” shepherding” the  sheep one finds at one’s metaphorical or literal doorstep.

Are you a good shepherd? Am I?

I know I  fall short of being the shepherd that our Good Shepherd would want me to be, but I know that I try every day to overcome my own prejudices & see each person as Our Lord & Good Shepherd would see him or her.

In the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Alleluia . Amen.

Community: Shared Hope In Ressurection

Today is Wednesday of Holy Week.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori published her Easter message today on the Internet.  This quote: lifted directly from her message: summarizes the content of  the entire piece.

“The Christian community is about shared hope in resurrection. The citation at the head of this article first buoyed hope among a people exiled in a foreign land, without the support of familiar leaders or places of worship. That people developed a community that could practice its faith in a strange land, insisting that God was present among them even in exile.”

~Presiding Bishop  Katharine Jefferts-Schori

Amen & amen again.  No matter what sort of church we Christ-followers call home, it is important to remember that He died for the sins of everyone.

As we travel with Our Lord towards that hill outside of Jerusalem, let all of us be mindful of the  great ” cloud of witnesses” that  comprises the Christian community.  This Eastertide, my challenge to myself is to live into the Gospel of inclusion… seeking community with other faithful Christians whose social views I don’t espouse. { and anyone who knows me at all knows how hard this challenge shall be for me to live into!}  Christians don’t need to agree on everything in order to worship & fellowship together. It is so easy for those of us who are in agreement to  share fellowship together.

Sarah’s Rule of Life

I am in the process of rewriting my Rule of Life. If you do not know what a Rule of Life is: I suggest you Google it}. {I’ve had a Rule of Life since I became a Benedictine oblate years ago &  each year update it according to where God is leading me . All of us are ” works in progress” & the ule of Life helps me to keep my spiritual self in check.  I am a natural list-maker & making this Rule is { usually} not too difficult.

So much has happened in the ten  months since I’ve updated my Rule that I knew the time has come to seriously rewrite this personal but very important document.  I have a Spiritual Director now so one of the  amendments I’ve added to my Rule is to meet with him at least monthly. {even if said meeting is via phone}

While God is the One to Whom I am the most accountable, I am also accountable to my parish family: especially those  Cursillistas in my parish. My Cursillio reunion meets next Friday, so it is my goal to have the updated Rule completed by the March Reunion Group.

Worship was the easy one. I almost never miss Sunday Mass & I almost always am in the choir. Now that Wednesday Mass will return to my parish’s life I’ll  attend Mass  twice on most weeks. A******** for the return of the Wednesday  Eucharist: I’ve missed  worshipping midweek in that way  and with  a smaller number of my parishioners.

Study is also pretty easy. I am very active in my EfM program in my Diocese.  I am currently also reading some books on discernment.

Piety is pretty tricky. I * do* read the Gospel every day & pray intercessory prayers for folks but that is all I do on a daily basis.

I’m struggling with the ” Action” part. What constitutes ” apostolic action”?

Concerning alms & fasting

{ Matthew 6:1-6 & 13-18}

Blessed Ash Wednesday, everyone. Today marks the official beginning of Lent, 2010.  Put away the moon pies & Mardi Gras beads as Altar Guilds in parishes throughout the world  dress altars in purple  fabric & clergy prepare the palm ashes for use in the Ash Wednesday liturgy.

I am a high-Church Anglican who loves both Lent & Advent  for entirely different reasons.  One of the reasons why I love  Lenten liturgy & Tradition so much is because my Presbyterian background  had little, if any Lent.  When I was a child, Lent to me meant fish  fries at the local volunteer fire house every Friday. My Roman Catholic grandparents  observed the ” meatless Fridays” during Lent but I never understood the reason behind  this practice & surely did not know anything about fasting.   Fish fries were, at least according to my  child-self, were merely social occasions.

Today’s Gospel lesson has to do with what Jesus teaches about giving alms.   As we journey with each other & Our Lord towards Jerusalem, let us be mindful of  our Lenten practices. 

As a Benedictine oblate, I am required to submit a Lenten Rule to my Abbot every Lent, detailing what spiritual practices & service I will do in the name of Christ as part of the Lenten discipline we catholic Christians observe. 

Matthew’s Gospel lesson for today also  discusses fasting & how we Christians are to approach our Lenten fasts.  Fasting is a personal discipline which should be between  the Christian & God. The Gospel tells us specifically that we are not to fast with sad minds & with half-a-heart nor is fasting supposed to be about  gaining  piety points with God.

 Anglicans are not * required* to fast, but this part of our Church Tradition is one which I have found  brings me closer to Christ.  Small sacrifices during Lent also makes me more aware of how blessed we westerners are compared to other parts of the world. 

 I have been more mindful about my giving habits during Lent & not * just* mindful of  my monetary tithing. During this season I shift  my focus to  becoming more giving of myself. Lent is not really about  going without, but  realizing how much we Christians have  as heirs with Christ.

Amen.

Ash Wednesday 2010

Alone but not lonely

{ Mark 1:29-39}

Today’s Gospel has Christ healing the sick and also casting out demons.  But later in the  reading appointed for today, we see that Christ Himself has to go away for some quality ” alone time”.

“In the morning , when it was still very dark, He got up and went out to a deserted place, and there He prayed.”

Even the Son of Man sought solitude.

Maybe it is because I am a natural introvert, but solitude never has bothered me. I come from a family of extroverts who cannot comprehend why I often choose solitude over time with mere acquaintances, or even good friends. My wonderful but totally  secular family does not realize how important my private prayer time is to my emotional & spiritual health.

Our modern society frowns upon solitude.   Introversion is something that  many psychotherapists try to ” cure ” in their clients.  The mainstream culture tells us that we always have to be the  metaphorical ” life of the party”, & to crave anything but to  always be in the thick of social interactions with other people is  deemed ” abnormal”.

Well,  today’s Scripture lesson says that even Our Lord took time alone to pray, and the writer of the Gospel of Mark says that Jesus went to a place away from the  crowds immediately after He  performed healing miracles.   It sure sounds as if  Jesus had a busy evening, what with all the healing & the driving away of demons occurring.

He also needed time away to rest & to pray. This is a lesson for all of us. Even though I am more contemplative than many  folks I know , I still can get carried away with all the ” busy-ness” of life . But on the rare occasions when I don’t take the time to  retreat to my  special private prayer place at home to pray I * do* feel the negative effects of a worn-out soul.  Having a worn-out soul is even worse than suffering from a worn-out body. No one  is able to serve God without first taking time out every day to remember to spend time WITH God.

Benedictines have a motto that goes something like this:

” Ora et Labora” Work & pray. Benedictine community life is structured around  times for work, play & PRAYER. While prayer occurs & community, the importance of one’s personal time with God is paramount.

Amen.