June 02, 2007

Sisters who really think INSIDE the box...

... and have made a habit out of it.

June 01, 2007

Stabilizing Chaos

[From Zenit.org, May 31, 2007]

Stability is probably not one of the first impressions that one comes away with in hectic modern Rome.

So there is a certain ironic twist that as St. Benedict fled the chaos of Rome in 500 seeking tranquility and prayer, the rule he established would become the stable context for the flourishing of art and culture, as well as the cornerstone of modern political Europe.

This irony is not lost on Benedictine Father Edmund Powers, the abbot of the small Benedictine community that staffs the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

The beauty and richness of culture one experiences in Rome today hearkens back to the monastic rule established by St. Benedict, he explained.

The decadence of life in Rome appalled St. Benedict, whose ascetic practices and life of prayer eventually attracted followers and led him to establish his first monasteries on the outskirts of the city. He established a rule of life so his followers could live in harmony.

The vow of stability became a hallmark of the Benedictine Rule.

During the chaos that ensued after the decline of the Roman Empire, the Benedictine monastery was a stable social unit and, ideally, a selfless one, Father Powers said.

The ordered contemplative life of the monastery became the nest in which classical culture was preserved at a time when Europe was fragmented.

"The monastic life attracted people who were dedicated to the spiritual search, dedicated to order in the sense of organization, clear cosmos rather than chaos," Father Powers said. "Thus, the creation of art and culture was a reflection of the whole creative work of God in bringing order out of chaos."

According to Father Powers, art and culture spring from the context of stability. The function of stability as a prerequisite for the development of individual gifts and talents within the community cannot be underestimated.

"The production of any art, music, or literature requires a stable context in which people can develop their concrete gifts of making the art," he said. "And the monastic life provided the context in which people could reflect on what they wanted to convey."

Father Powers pointed out that a Carolingian Bible entrusted centuries ago to the community at St. Paul Outside the Walls is but one of the treasures that flow from this culture.

"The Gospel scenes and illuminated script make one realize that this was a labor of love and the fruit of much study, prayer, and selfless dedication," he said. "The manuscript reveals a sense of profound stability and patience, as well as a sense of time that is not rushed."

The Benedictine Rule also had powerful political exponents, such as the Emperor Charlemagne in the ninth century, who recognized the value of stability encoded in the Benedictine way of life as a powerful organizing principle for society.

The Benedictine charism and the establishment of monasteries throughout his realm resulted in a harmonic social structure.

"It was like a European constitution," Father Powers said.

Although the Benedictine community today is smaller than in years past, Father Powers said its stable presence continues to exert an influence in modern culture.

He said: "We have a list of all the abbots of this monastery from the 900s onward. It gives you a sense of continuity, fidelity to a tradition, a sense of belonging to the Benedictine family that gives you a strength of context from which you can move forward into the future.

"Life is a gift and you just move slowly through it. The art we have here is an impressive witness of what the Benedictine spirit can produce."

The end of May, and the monks are impressed.

I put the new donation button on my blog only ten days ago to show my fellow monks how it works. They are in wonder at how quickly donors have put it to use.

Thank you for your kindness and generosity!

We're also going to install the button now on the monastery's website.
Click HERE for it.

May 31, 2007


[I’m posting this for the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Elizabeth.]

In paragraphs 508-511 and 973-975, the CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH provides a summary of our faith concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary.

From among the descendants of Eve, God chose the Virgin Mary to be the mother of his Son. “Full of grace” [Lk. 1:28], Mary is the most excellent fruit of redemption: from the first instant of her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she remained pure from all personal sin throughout her life.

Mary is truly “Mother of God” since she is the mother of the eternal Son of God made man, who is God himself.

Mary remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin: with her whole being she is “the handmaid of the Lord” [Lk. 1:38].

The Virgin Mary cooperated through free faith and obedience in human salvation. She uttered her yes in the name of all human nature. By her obedience she became the new Eve, mother of the living.

By pronouncing her “fiat” [let it be] at the Annunciation [Lk. 1:38] and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish. She is mother wherever he is Savior and head of the Mystical Body.

The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son's Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body.

We believe that the Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ.

How and why the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary entered the worldwide calendar of the Church

Pope Urban VI began the work of setting up today’s feast for the the whole Church.

The year was 1389, the last year in his life.

He became pope in 1378.

Later that same year a faction of cardinals proceeded to elect a rival who took the title “Clement VII,” the first in a row of false popes who challenged the true popes for thirty-nine years.

In 1389 Pope Urban prepared to institute the feast of the Visitation as a way of praying for the unity of the Church.

Pope Urban died while preparations were underway, but his legitimate successor, Pope Boniface IX, carried through the plan of Pope Urban.

Today’s feast is a good day to pray with the Blessed Virgin Mary for the unity of the Church.

May 29, 2007

My debt of gratitude

I have written to each of you who sent a donation for my monastery by using the recently installed donation button over on the right side of my blog.

However, if I neglected anyone who sent a donation, I ask forgiveness.

"St John, St Ignatius, and Pope Benedict on the Sacrament of Charity"

From the blog of "DimBulb" (but bright light).
Click HERE for it.

Floorplan of a monk's cell in my monastery

Click on the image to see it larger.

News from Prince of Peace Abbey

I'm going to start posting the editions of my monastery's newsletter.

I have put up the most recent, the March 27 edition.

It includes a chronicle of day-to-day events of the monastery beyond what we do everyday.
Click HERE for it.

May 28, 2007

"The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die without Being Baptized"

Vatican Posts Document on Unbaptized Infants
Click HERE for it.

The anonymity of my blog readers

If you leave a comment under the category of "Anonymous", I never find out who you are.

If you use the donation button that is on the right-side column of my blog, the process identifies the donor to me, but never connects any donor with any comments that were ever made under "Anonymous."

"The American Seminarian in Rome"

My nephew, Vincent Arong (Diocese Houston) is on the left, in a cassock.

From the blog of another seminarian.
Click HERE for it.

May 27, 2007

The "Monk" episode of "Lost in Space"

As you know, I was assigned to a parish for three years until this last May 1. My bed at the parish rectory was queen-sized.

When I got back to the monastery on May 1, I wondered the first night if I would find my old twin-size bed "cramped". Actually I was quite comfortable, and I slept soundly.

I had wondered if I would fall off the bed after having become accustomed to sprawling indiscriminately all over a queen-size.

Back on my twin-size in the monastery, I would guess that some part of my body, whether a hand, an elbow, a knee, or a foot was probable always in contact with an edge of the mattress, thus keeping me subconsciously aware of the edges even while sound asleep.

This past Friday, May 25, I drove from the monastery one hour south to San Diego for an evening wedding rehearsal. Since the wedding was to be the next morning (Saturday, May 26, yesterday), I got permission to spend the night at my mother's in San Diego, rather than drive back to the monastery at night, only to have to drive right back to San Diego for the wedding in the morning.

My mother's guest room has a queen-size bed. How well did I sleep on it?

Not well. I kept drifting awake, wondering each time, "Where am I on this big thing now? Am I about to fall off the edge?" Then I'd consciously reach out to feel for an edge of the bed to reassure myself.

Lost in Space....

... and I don't want to turn into Tony Shalhoub's kind of "monk".

There might be some kind of "parable" in this experience. "More (bed) is not necessarily better." Maybe also, "Blessed are the poor...."

Speaking of "more bed": a good monk wakes up at 4:30 ... twice a day.

I have posted a homily for Pentecost Sunday.

Click HERE for it.