Oblate Letter 13 Winter-Lent--2012

Nothing Dearer than Christ”

Oblate letter of the Pluscarden Benedictines, Elgin, Moray, Scotland. IV30 8UA.

 Ph.(01343) 890257 fax 890258



   DMB series No 13

Winter--- Lent---2012  

Monastic Voice from the Oblatemaster’s Desk

From “The Spiritual Doctrine of Dom Marmion” by M.M. Philipon, O.P. trans.by Dom Matthew Dillon O.S.B:-In writing the history of spirituality in the twentieth century it is natural to begin with Dom Marmion. His work initiated a profound spiritual revival the influence of which has permeated the whole Catholic world. It is to him that we owe in great measure this return to that primary truth of the Christian faith: Christ, the model and sole source of life for us. He had some admirable precursors in this revival of Christo-centric religion: Scheeben in German-speaking countries, Fr. Faber in England, Mgr. Gay, steeped in the teaching of the French School; but none of these attained his world-wide influence.

“We must always consider the teaching of Dom Marmion against its monastic background. It was as a monk that Dom Marmion lived the Gospel of Christian perfection. Now, the figure of Christ dominates the Rule of St. Benedict.

When the postulant presents himself at his " school of the "Lord's service ", the patriarch of monks asks him only one thing: " Whether he truly seeks God "18 and whether he is resolved to fight for the true King, Christ.


If so, let him enter the monastic army and advance towards perfection, "following the guidance of the Gospel and walking in the paths of Christ."


Let him not look back, but bear his valiantly, " sharing by his patience in the sufferings of Christ, that he may deserve also to be a partaker of His kingdom."


On entering the monastery, he is received by the Abbot" who holds the place of Christ.


His life as a monk will be passed in this visible presence of Christ, for it is not in a man's presence but in that of Christ Himself, that he lives. In his Abbot he sees and loves Christ; he seeks only the glory of Christ.


It is Christ Himself whom he obeys with an obedience which is prompt, complete and joyous; for him “nothing is dearer than Christ."


He has only one desire:" to imitate Christ, who was obedient even unto death."


 Within the monastery he has found a family of brethren. Whatever their origin, rich or poor, freemen or slaves, they, are one In Christ. They all bear the same arms In the service of Christ.”


In his daily life, according as he advances towards the final' perfection, his actions are inspired solely by the love of Christ.27 In accordance with the counsel of the Gospel, he has denied himself in order to follow Christ.


He is free with that sovereign liberty of the children of God. His one maxim is: “to prefer nothing to the love of Christ."


It matters little whether the bell is for the Office or for work. Like Jesus, he is entirely consecrated to the glory of the Father, and prays and works in constant union with Christ. In time of temptation, without a moment's delay, " he dashes his evil thoughts on the rock of Christ,"


and emerges victorious.

He treats each of his brethren, and especially the sick, as he would Christ Himself.


He receives the guests who come to the monastery like Christ Himsel£. The poorer and more wretched they are, the more clearly does he see Christ in them.

Christ is the atmosphere which his soul breathes. In Christ  he lives and in Christ he is to die. Sustained by the companionship of his brethren, he can realize his unique ideal: to love Christ, " to prefer nothing whatever to Christ, who will bring him together with his brethren to life everlasting."


According to the teaching of St. Benedict the monastic life is a search for God,


following the guidance of the Gospel and walking in the paths of Christ.


Dom Marmion was familiar with all these texts. We come across them constantly in his private notes. His soul found constant support in them. For him Christ is the one great means of going to God.


“Everywhere in the Rule our holy Father places Christ before our eyes."


The special grace of Dom Marmion was that this Christ ideal was the dominating influence in his life. He could not conceive monastic life, any more than the Christian life, apart from Christ. “As I have so often said to you, the Order of St. Benedict is simply the development in all its fullness of the Christian life. We are simply trying to practise as perfectly as possible what Christ teaches and prescribes; we want to live according to His precepts and counsels. Our life should be the perfect expression of the Gospel."

37*Notes—as numbers below:-

18Rule,ch.58   22Rule, ch. 63.  26 Rule, ch. 2.

19 Prologue.   23 Rule, ch. 63. 27 Rule, ch. 7.

20 Prologue.   24 Rule, ch. 5.  28  Rule, ch. 4.

21 Prologue.   25 Rule, ch. 7.  29  Rule, ch. 4.

30 Rule,ch.4.  31 Rule. ch. 36. 32Rule. ch. 72.

33 Rule. ch.58.34  Prologue.  35 Conference, Louvain, 1905.

36Conference, Louvain, 1909.  37 Conference, Maredret. July 18th. 1917.

Dear Oblates( and our postulants, novices and friends,

                     Last year was a whirlwind—new Bishop, Hugh, new Abbot, Anselm, new superior Fr. Gregory for St Mary’s Petersham our daughter-house, new superior(or return of an “old” one) Fr. Ambrose for Kristo Buase monastery. Many of the monastery tasks have moved round. We have a new, altered (more demanding?—well earlier rising!) timetable which you will find in outline below for your convenience (in fuller form on the website)

            “What about you?” I seem to hear you ask, wondering if I have escaped these changerounds. Well we’re all involved in the new timetable, no doubt about that. But so far my biggest change – apart from now being stipendiary ( at least while in residence I say mysteriously!) and keeper of the “necrology”( you can ask me when next you see me!) and keeper of the’ Pluscarden Benedictines’ magazine (I’m now to blame if it goes astray!)---I’ve to go to keep Fr. Ambrose company at Kristo Buase from the 2


of April to the 1


of July—three weeks before the Oblate Weekend! I’m sure there will be someone on hand to see you when you come in my absence and answering for me here either by email ( or forwarding) or by post, though not yet chosen at time of writing. During those three months my address will be: Kristo Buase Monastery, PO Box TM-291, Techiman, B/A, Ghana, West Africa, but it takes about a fortnight if you’re lucky, for mail. Email is FAO Fr. Martin Birrell (there is a Br. Martin-- for whom please pray --- so surname may avoid confusion ) email  ph. +233 35 209 3150 –irregular service.(to some extent by whatever means!)

So amidst all these practicalities and nuts & bolts of preparing for Oblate weekends,etc. Blessed Dom Marmion is keeping us centred on Christ as monks and Oblates and Christians, in a stability of the heart centred on Christ.

“Who can separate us form the love of Christ?”


Blessed Columba Marmion

was born1858 Dublin and died 1928 .He was the monastic mentor of the founder of our community, Aelred Carlyle, who founded Caldey where we are going next year, please God. His principal books which are very readable and ideal for lectio are:

'Christ, the Life of the


(1917)which marks the opening of a new era in spirituality, inaugurating as it did the celebrated trilogy which was completed by

'Christ in His Mysteries'

(1919), and

'Christ the Ideal of the Monk'

in 1922.

'Christ the Ideal of the Priest'

, published posthumously in 1951, is the final consummation of his work.


rayer Intentions

Please pray for

Bishop Hugh,

Abbot Anselm, Brother Simon, Br. Jakub & our sick monks. Please pray for

vocations to the monastery.

We pray for The Repose of the Soul of Oblate



Peirce our N

ew Oblates:


Margaret of Scotland

Farley-Sutton & Jean


MacDonald Johnstone


Campbell Murdoch


Please pray for all the

sick & especially: Beth Fallows----sorry Beth, I missed you out!  Gail Schmitz, Marie Claire Hernandez, Bob Clark, James Cairns, Martin MacRae, Irene Coultard, David Paterson & his Wife Angela, for Beth Fraser( two Beths), Mary Roche, Poppy Sinclair, Bob Barr, and for all the sick &; their families.

 Pentecost Lectures :29th – 31st May 2012 at Pluscarden Abbey--below

Pentecost Lectures continued:-Professor Lewis Ayres, Bede professor of Catholic Theology at the University of Durham. “You Have Revealed Your Glory”—the Mystery of the Trinity Tuesday 2.45 –last lecture Thursday AM 10.15. Free –open to all ( but I think the accommodation is spoken for—you can check for a cancellation non-residents more than welcome-please indicate coming –for the soup!


  JULY 27





2012, This Year

-please let me know if you intend to come.

The monastic guesthouses are booked up already

  Here is a list of those booked: Pamela Nelson-Shaw, Tricia Kirby, Ursula Humphrey, Pat Fernandez, Morris  family, Brigitte Mackay, Georgina Quinn, Jane Coll, Ann Morgan, Barbara Van Rooyen, Glynis Stranraer-Mull.(Awaiting cnmacellation Rebecka Winell-Reid).Men: Martin Gardner,Pat Carrigan, Terry Kirby, Chartlie Muir, Jim Bradley, Steve Fennell, Henry Logan, Frederick and Iain Brodie, Fr. Frnacis Wilson (Awaiting cnacellation: Edmund Young & Chris McKeown)

I shall append alternative accommodation to the next Oblate letter as before.

Fr. Abbot (Anselm!) is giving our keynote address. Bishop Richard Moth(Pluscarden Oblate) is giving one of the talks in DVD form as did our Abbot the year before last!



2nd to 5


August on CALDEY ISLAND(WALES!) to commemorate 100


anniversary of the conversion of the Caldey community. At this stage simply please let me know, Fr. Martin by mail or email (


) ( Your name & contact details) & that you intend to come. (


places only—

Caldey have minimum


& there is the


down to consider)

Groups & Chapters-below

Edinburgh Group

:–If anyone is interested in forming an Edinburgh group please get in touch with Robert Hill

 phone him on 07905 407936

St Mungo’s Chapter Glasgow


As announced. Peter Aitken :- 11, Maxwell Grove, Glasgow. G41 5JP Phone:01414272084.

St Margaret’s Chapter Dunfermline.

Pat Carrigan at


: 07853 407 913   . Have just held an Advent Retreat!

St.  Monica’s Chapter, Thurso

. Contact Jane Coll (website manager Benedictine-oblates) on 01847 851701 or         

St. Peter’s Chapter


. 1


Wednesday’s 7.30  Telephone 01224 485 78119 Donview House Seaton Crescent, Seaton, Aberdeen, AB24 1TZ.

St  Mary’s Chapter Dundee

.  May 21


and dates as agreed 11.30 at St. Mary’s High Street, Lochee, Dundee. -------info. St Mary’s.

Moray Group

Interested in a meeting three to four times a year, in Elgin & Forres and once a year ( of the “Moray Group”) at the Abbey? For the

Moray locals

really! ( ie not Edinburgh & Glasgow or London—rules always have occasional exceptions!) If interested for 2012 then please let me ( Fr. Martin) know by email, letter or otherwise. How about a venue in Elgin on the evening of Wednesday the 21



Please Note New Changes to the Abbey timetable as follows:-


Vigils & Lauds                                                                      04.30 

Prime 35 minutes after Lauds

Conventual  Mass   &Terce                                                  09.00

Sext                                                                                             12.35

Followed by lunch

None                                                                                           14.15

Vespers                                                                                       17.15

Supper                                                                                        18.45

Compline                                                                                    19.45


Vigils & Lauds                                                                      04.30 

 Prime 35 minutes after Lauds

Mass (English spoken)                                                                  8.00

Terce                                                                                           9.15

Mass (Sung)                                                                                10.00

Sext                                                                                            12.35  

Followed by lunch

None                                                                                          16.20

Vespers                                                                                      17.15

supper                                                                                        18.45

Compline                                                                                    19.45


                                          FR. MARTIN                                                                 PAX