Oblate letter of the Pluscarden Benedictines, Elgin, Moray, Scotland. IV30 8UA.
Ph. (01343) 890257 fax 890258
Website www.pluscardenabbey.org DMB series No 16
Father Abbot ( Anselm Atkinson OSB)
Conference on “Monastic Values” (from the Oblate Weekend 2012)
In this conference I intend to talk about monastic values. By values, I don’t mean things I live by, or feel anywhere close to living by. If I were only to talk about the things I live, then I wouldn’t have much to say. By values, I mean things which are true in such I way that they define reality for me, they constitute the world in which I live, they are literally things I stake my life on because if these things are not true then my world falls apart.
Values are not ideals. My values are already established. Even if they haven’t yet changed my life much yet, they are still my treasure; their loss would cost me something. Ideals cost nothing. They don’t exist outside my mind. Ideals represent the direction in which I would like my life to go. My values are things around which I have already begun to shape my life, at least in the sense that I am committed to them in such a way that if they go, my life will never have any shape.
A list of values is necessarily personal, even if we are talking about monastic values. I am talking about things I value. Speaking in this way provides a speaker with an opportunity to be personal, without boasting (because he not speaking about things he consistently does) and to speak to others without preaching to them or imposing a programme on them.
Well, the first value, of course, is Our Lord. Here I turn to the Rule. If you look up every place in the Rule where Christ is mentioned, St. Benedict speaks of Christ in the context of a living relationship between Christ and the monk. One could, I think, say more than that. St. Benedict never speaks of Christ simply “objectively”, as a theologian might; nor is Christ ever simply presented as the object of devout meditation, or even, precisely, as one to whom we pray. Nor is St. Benedict subjective in his presentation of Christ - in fact he is the very opposite. When Christ is named by St. Benedict, he seems to become a living presence, he is either the subject of the action, or he is a point of attraction. As point of attraction, he is true King for whom the monk fights, he is obeyed in the Abbot, he is welcomed in the guests and served in the sick, he is the principle of unity in the community - we are all one in Christ; he is the rock on which evil thoughts are dashed, and his love is the culmination of the ladder of humility. As subject, he is present to the monk’s mind as he struggles with evil thoughts, and the whole Rule ends by saying that with his help the monk will arrive.
For St. Benedict, it is as if Christ cannot be named without his becoming present. This, I think, is the first monastic value, what is most precious for a monk: the presence of Christ. Of course, this is true for every Christian; but it has a particular meaning for the monk and for the monastic community. If the monk loses sight of Christ even for a little while, his life loses all structure, all form. In other Christian vocations, there may be other things which can give life a certain false structure and meaning. Part of the monastic charism is that Christ’s presence is so necessary that remove him, and the whole thing dies. There may be something left, but it is very obviously a corpse - useless even from a purely human perspective.
We are all driven by something, an inner fire. At first, in the monastery, we are inflamed by ideals. There comes a point at which either our ideals turn sour and embitter us, or we must choose to be inflamed by something else.This, I think, is the point at which we choose between good zeal and bitter zeal.
Chapter 72 of the Holy Rule, the chapter on good zeal, is the summit to which St. Benedict leads us through chapters 63-71 (63 Rank in the Community, 64 The Appointment of an Abbot, 65 The Prior of the Monastery, 66 Monastery Porters, 67 Brothers Sent on a Journery, 68 If a Brother is assigned the Impossible, 69 Nobody in the Monastery Should Presume to Defend Another, 70 Nobody Should Presume to Strike at Random, 71 They Should Be Obedient to One Another). Chapter 72 contains the reciprocal honours of chapter 63, the ‘love for the abbot’ of chapter 64, and the mutual obedience of chapter 71. There are also several phrases scattered through these chapters which seem to prepare us for chapter 72: 66:4: cum omni mansuetidine timoris Dei...cum fervore caritatis; 68:1-2: cum omni mansuetudine...patienter; and 68:4: ex caritate.
With its eight maxims leading to eternal life, chapter 72 is reminiscent of chapter 4, on the instruments of good works. In chapter 72 the list of good works is completely adapted to a monastic community. The maxims are phrased in the plural, not the singular, and the monks hope to be led “all together” by Christ to eternal life. The theme common to all eight maxims is the bond of love uniting the brothers with one another and with their abbot in Christ.
In dealing with mutual relationships, the chapter picks up from chapter 63, and in a sense corrects it. As in chapter 63, the relationships between the brothers combine reverence with love, but now love is clearly seen to predominate. The ascent from order and discipline to the triumph of charity in chapters 63-72 is reminiscent of chapter 7, On Humility, where the monk rises from fear to love.
It is significant that the specific regulations determining how mutual honour and obedience are to be rendered, given in chapters 63 and 71, are omitted in chapter 72. Previously obedience has only been given by the junior to the senior, and showing respect has also been mostly in the same direction. Now it seems that honour and obedience are given to all without restriction. This cannot mean that the precise regulations given in the preceding chapters are now abrogated, but it does seem to imply that charity transcends laws and good order.
Good zeal is directed entirely to persons; to the brethren, to God, to Christ who is at the centre of the community leading us all together to everlasting life. Bad zeal also focuses on the brethren, but it is directed to something else, to my own goals, and it tries to shape everyone according to those goals. Good zeal loves others without asking any questions about them or imposing any obligations on them. Because good zeal leads to eternal life, it orients us to that which is eternal in the present, i.e. to my brothers who will live for ever.
I may not be obedient, but I cannot question the value of obedience. I may not obey Christ in the superior, but I must always see him in the superior. I cannot question for a moment that when a superior legitimately calls on my obedience, it is Christ who is calling me.
In a sense, obedience is everything for the monk. Just about everything else can be taken away, so that obedience is all that is left. But obedience must be seen in all its glory, as obedience to Christ and as transforming me into the likeness of the obedient Christ. It must not be reduced just to keeping the rules. There is a constant danger in the Church, and perhaps especially in monastic life, of reducing Christian life to keeping the rules. To do whatever it is we are to do because we’re told to do it. But Christian life is living the life of God, sharing in the divine nature, doing with Christ whatever he shows us the Father doing.
Obedience must eventually be free, i.e. the expression of love. I obey not because I have to but because I choose to love. There must be times when I feel the restrictions of obedience, when it seems to be destroying me -obedience unto death. But the goal is freedom. Free obedience is part of good zeal. When obedience becomes simply the expression of love, it becomes universal, I obey everyone.
Superiors have the charism of fallibility. We must cling to the Covenant. That superiors will fail us is written into the contract: in our obedience, we will meet with difficulties and injustices. St. Benedict is practically telling the novice in his monastery: “I, your abbot, will be unjust to you.” If that happened to St. Benedict’s subjects, it will certainly happen to us. We shouldn’t be surprised, or blame anyone else. It’s what we freely took on by our vows.
Christians are always disciples, there is only one master. Like all learners, we have to be aware of the occupational hazards that go with the our undertaking. For the monk, a few one might name are:
The monk is a man of the Church.
All should be welcome in a Benedictine monastery. “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” And all should know who we are: that we are monks because we are Catholics.
The Infancy Narratives.The momentous third and final volume in the Popes international bestselling Jesus of Nazareth series, detailing how the stories of Jesus infancy and childhood are as relevant today as they were two thousand years ago. In 2007, then “Joseph Ratzinger” published his first book as Pope Benedict XVI in order to make known the figure and message of Jesus. Now, the Pope focuses exclusively on the Gospel accounts of Jesus life as a child. The root of these stories is the experience of hope found in the birth of Jesus and the affirmations of surrender and service embodied in his parents, Joseph and Mary. This is a story of longing and seeking,..£8.39 approx hardback—available on 26th December! Amazon etc---Pondering the mystery.“My hope is that this short book despite its limitations will be able to help many people on their path to and alongside Jesus”—Pope Benedict xvi
Real 21st century Philosophy & a real 21st century Philosopher David Braine. Contemporary analytic philosopher with interests in analytic Philosophy of religion and Metaphysics, who seeks to marry the techniques and insights of analytical philosophy and Phenomenology to the Metaphysics of classical Thomism. His The Reality of Time and the Existence of God (used copy £17.00 approx!()sets out to prove the existence of God from the fact that the world enjoys continuity in time. He argues that nothing in the world could be the cause of this continuity, whence God comes into the picture. David Braine has been an important, if insufficiently well-known, contributor to the renaissance of analytical Philosophy of religion. David is a friend of mine who lives his faith but proves that logic gives a level playing-field for metaphysics –and everyone “does” metaphysics, especially those who think they don’t!
“Conversation With Saint Benedict” by Terence G. Kardong ISBN 978-0-8146-3420-2 A monk and scholar of the Rule applies it in some modern areas of preoccupation. £11.15 approx A stimulating read.
From The Oblatemaster’s Desk –borrowing the poet’s words:-
Talk number two given by Fr Benedict for the Year of Faith continuing on the theme of “LumenGentium” 12th January 2013 at 10.15 am ending 3.30 pm.
The 3rd National Oblate Retreat, open to all oblates of whichever abbey, is at Douai Abbey 10th- 12th May 2013—cost about £140, I think, also see the Oblate Team’s website.
The Next Oblate Congress(near Rome!) is October 10th to the 14th if you are planning to be there! Go to the UK Oblates Website to register.
THE 2012 OBLATE WEEKEND 27th to 30th . Martin Gardner is making a dvd of the whole thing and you can get your copies from him if you simply mail him at:- Dunmoir,18 Gurney St., STONEHAVEN, Kincardineshire, AB39 2EB or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org & all he asks is that you make a donation to the Abbey!—Thank you from all of us to Martin Gardner( He says three have contacted him so far.)
Br. Antony, who made his Solemn Profession at Kristo Buase, on the 6th of August, The Transfuguration. Frs Pierre-Marie & Peter Thu who have returned to their monastery in Vietnam after their exemplary presence amongst us, learning English and teaching us in return how to be kind to one another!
For our new wood chip heating system and all those monastic and lay whose work has made and will continue to make it possible.
Prayers for Br. John (formerly Br Jan) who was clothed as a novice recently. Also for Br. Cyprian who is helping Fr. Ambrose at KB for 3 months, Br. Matthew helping at St. Mary’s Petersham for 1 year and for Fr. Mark studying bookbinding for 3 weeks in a Dutch monastery to revive that monastic art here. For Colin & Rita Sim recently married and working in and around the monastery & its guesthouses.
Please pray for the repose of the souls of Oblates:-Tom Devine, Irene Coulthard, Theresa McQuillan and Pamela’s auntie, Shirley Khoo, & for the bereaved.
We pray for new postulant Oblates: Mrs. Kathleen Hoy, James Craig, Stuart Coleman & Lilian Bailey.
Our new novices: Mrs. Rebecka Winell-Reid, John Wilson, Georgina Quinn, Campbelll Murdoch, David Paterson, Rev. Christopher Mayo, Dr. Lorn Macintyre, Jacqueline Maguire.
Our new Oblates: Rev. Dr Michael Columba Ross, Mrs. Alice McLeod, Mrs. Christina Monica Teresa Nicol, Robert Benedict Clark, Joan Gabriel Hildegaard Kilmurray, Anne-Marie Elizabeth Ferla, Grant Margaret of Scotland Farley –Sutton, Anne Paula Morgan, Mrs. Julia-Jane Margaret Teresa Gladwin.
Please pray for sick Oblates especially for Sarah Drever’s husband Leslie, for Bob Barr, Mary Buist, Gail Schmitz, Beth Fraser & her husband Chris, Marie Claire Hérnandez, Bob Clark, Nick Macrae’s son, Martin Macrae, Dr.David Paterson &; his wife Angela, Jacqui’s daughter, Sally, Deacon William Joss, Mary Roche, Poppy Sinclair, Ian Brodie, Carolyn Boardman, Val Farrelly, David Braine( writings mentioned above), Susan Stephen and Sheila Fraser, friends of the Abbey and for all oblates, friends & the sick, and those who care for them.
The OBLATE WEEKEND 2013 2nd to 5th August on CALDEY ISLAND (WALES!)Principal speaker Fr. Aelred Baker of Prinkash; expert on the origins. This is to commemorate 100th anniversary of the conversion of the Caldey community. All the places are taken already though you can go on a short leet for a cancellation… ./OR:- I am in the process of asking if we can have a second three nights/two days for another group of 15 to twenty ( i.e. 5th -7th or 31st July to the 2nd August—check your diaries) So it’s still worth registering your firm intention if you want to be there. (“2nd sitting” so to speak. £100 each plus your own travel. Name & contact details to me please saying that you intend to come. There are 20 places & those intending coming already:-1.Fr Aelred Baker,2. Fr. Giles Connacher,3. Fr. Martin Birrell,4. Joan Kilmurray,5. Joseph Ly,6. George Brown,7. Hester Du Plessis,8. Marie Cumming,9. Rebecka Winell-Reid, 10.Michael Blair, 11.Martin Gardner,12. Leonora Duson,13. Margaret Kessack + 8 from Prinknash--- which as you see makes 21 with 20 places( Is your name missing?—let me know!)—but the Lord will provide and you see there is a plan for a “second sitting”—so YOU CAN STILL SIGN UP!
St Mungo’s Chapter Glasgow. As announced. Peter Aitken 11, Maxwell Grove, Glasgow. G41 5JP. Phone:0141 4272084.
St Margaret’s Chapter Dunfermline. Pat Carrigan ------------at email@example.com
St. Monica’s Chapter, Thurso. Contact Jane Coll .
"Scaraben”, Westside,Dunnet,Thurso,Caithness,KY14 8YD
Phone 01847 851467
St. Peter’s Chapter Aberdeen. St.Peter’s Chapter Oblates Group The group meetings are held in Flat 19/ 3rd floor, Donview House, Seaton, Aberdeen. All meetings will be on the 1st Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm but only as announced. For more information please speak to Mr Brian Milne Donview House, Seaton,Aberdeen AB24 1TZ Tel 01224 485781 E-Mail:- firstname.lastname@example.org
St Mary’s Chapter Dundee. Dates as agreed 11.30 at St. Mary’s High Street, Lochee, Dundee. -------information from St Mary’s, or email@example.com
Moray Group: To be announced January? Provisionally you’re your diaries for 22nd/23rd January, 7.00 pm St Sylvester’s Elgin( provisionally a presentation by a guest speaker!)(May alternate local/Pluscarden—local being Forres, Elgin, Fochabers, etc )
The community magazine Pluscarden Benedictines has been in print now for over 44 years and has gone from a modest 12 pages to an average 28-32 pages, with a full colour centrefold. It is produced quarterly and is sent out all over the world, for the very modest annual subscription of £5, or £10 airmail. We are trying to build up our subscription list. If you would like to go on the mailing list, please contact The Editor of Pluscarden Benedictines at the Abbey.
Summary regarding our sponsored Seminarian
Pluscarden Oblates are sponsoring for the Priesthood an 18 year old Ugandan boy, Dominic, who is approaching the completion of his second year at Junior Seminary near Tororo.
Full support is given for all Seminary fees, books, uniform, transport & a small allowance for pocket money in addition to an allowance for medication due to the problems with Malaria.
Our contact in Uganda is with Sr. Catherine OSB at the Benedictine Priory in Tororo.
It is hoped that Dominic will start his third academic year at Junior Seminary in February 2013 and has before him seven further years of study before entering his final year at the National Seminary in 2021.
Joe Costello( our organiser) asks—would you be interested in sponsoring a seminarian through KB in Ghana? Let him/me know.
Please find enclosed the oblate renewal for this year for you to fill in together with an update of details; you were expecting it with the last issue!
BLESSINGS for CHRISTMAS
THE OFFICE RECITED BY BENEDICTINE OBLATES
Oblates are strongly encouraged to unite themselves with the prayer
of the monastic community through a habit of daily liturgical prayer
(cf. the Oblate Statutes n. 28). The official Prayer of the Church in
the Divine Office is an ideal form of this. The most important
“Hours” of the Office are Morning and Evening Prayer, otherwise
known as Lauds and Vespers. If these prove too much for a person
to manage, they could be replaced by one of the various abbreviated
forms available in good Benedictine and Catholic prayer books.
Alternatively oblates can say the little Office of St. Benedict by
heart, as given below. Formerly oblates were asked to say this seven
times a day, ideally at the very times of day the monks would be
praying in Church. While this would remain an excellent practise,
it is not now in any way obligatory.
THE "LITTLE OFFICE"
V/ O GOD, COME TO MY AID.
R/ O LORD, MAKE HASTE TO HELP ME.
GLORY BE TO THE FATHER AND TO THE SON AND TO THE HOLYSPIRIT.
AS IT WAS IN THE BEGINNING, IS NOW AND EVER SHALL BE, WORLD
WITHOUT END. AMEN.
O PRAISE THE LORD, ALL YOU NATIONS,
ACCLAIM HIM ALL YOU PEOPLES!
STRONG IS HIS LOVE FOR US;
HE IS FAITHFUL FOR EVER.
GLORY BE TO THE FATHER, AND TO THE SON, AND TO THE HOLY
AS IT WAS IN THE BEGINNING, IS NOW, AND EVER SHALL BE, WORLD
WITHOUT END. AMEN. ALLELUIA.
V/ LET US BLESS THE LORD.
R/ THANKS BE TO GOD.
V/ MAY THE SOULS OF THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED, THROUGH THE MERCY
OF GOD REST IN PEACE.
OR IN LATIN:
V/ DEUS IN ADIUTORIUM MEUM INTENDE.
R/ DOMINE, AD ADIUVANDUM ME FESTINA.
GLORIA PATRI, ET FILIO, ET SPIRITUI SANCTO.
SICUT ERAT IN PRINCIPIO, ET NUNC, ET SEMPER: ET IN SAECULA
SAECULORUM. AMEN. ALLELUIA.
LAUDATE DOMINUM OMNES GENTES
COLLAUDATE EUM OMNES POPULI.
QUONIAM CONFIRMATA EST SUPER NOS MISERICORDIA EIUS,
ET VERITAS DOMINI MANET IN AETERNUM.
GLORIA PATRI, ET FILIO, ET SPIRITUI SANCTO.
SICUT ERAT IN PRINCIPIO, ET NUNC, ET SEMPER: ET IN SAECULA
SAECULORUM. AMEN. ALLELUIA.
V/ BENEDICAMUS DOMINO.
R/ DEO GRATIAS.
V/ FIDELIUM ANIMAE PER MISERICORDIAM DEI REQUIESCANT IN