Oblate Letter 20 Christmas 2013

Oblate letter of the Pluscarden Benedictines, Elgin, Moray, Scotland. IV30 8UA.
 Ph. (01343) 890257 fax 890258
Website www.pluscardenabbey.org   DMB series No 20
Oblate letter of the Pluscarden Benedictines, Elgin, Moray, Scotland. IV30 8UA.
 Ph. (01343) 890257 fax 890258

Website www.pluscardenabbey.org   DMB series No 20
                         Christmas 2013
MONASTIC VOICE--- Our Congregation
"CONCORDIA CARITATIS"---what it is.......
An attempt both to define, but also, to evoke, the collaborative spirit of the whole Subiaco Cassinese Congregation in a world where resources, especially the human kind, are hard to find. This final text was put together by a theological commission, led by Abbot Visitor Anselm Atkinson of Pluscarden, and was officially adopted by a large majority vote at General Chapter, Subiaco, September 2012-Ed.1
Following a line of thought that began with the General Chapter of 2004 and continued at the Chapter of 2008, this General Chapter of 2012 presents some points of reference by which, in the circumstances of today, monasteries may grow in the life of charity and come to a renewed  understanding of the reciprocal relationship between autonomy and membership within the Congregation of Subiaco2
'Concordia Caritatis. '
Today the Holy Spirit is leading us to a fuller understanding of the absolute primacy of charity(cf. Benedict XVI, encyclical Deus Caritas est). Theology is engaged in the contemplation of God as Trinity and a meditation on Christ, centred on the paschal mystery and the definition of love that this reveals. The Church is defined as communion.
These Christian insights converge with the best of contemporary philosophy and culture. A person is not defined by himself alone, but by others, in a human and spiritual context where he listens to the other and speaks to him. At the same time, the reduction of distances in space and time in our civilisation result, in today's world, in a good deal of travel and more frequent communication.3
This shift of emphasis, which centres everything on love, must be genuinely lived out in institutions, if they are not to become outdated: so, for us, monasteries are called to give themselves to each other, and so live in charity. No-one exists alone, without others, and from now on, in an international Congregation like ours this is so world-wide: our "globalisation" is expressed in terms of relationships between our monasteries, first within the Province, then within the Congregation.
We must also acknowledge that the monasteries of our  Congregation have become fragile. There are few vocations in "first world" countries; it is hard to find ways of forming "Third World's" vocations; everywhere, it is becoming very, difficult to find superiors for each house. So henceforth membership of the Congregation will provide all our monasteries with the context in which they will achieve autonomy or, if this autonomy still seems solid, help others to acquire it. Authority itself, whether general or provincial, will take on a new face: fostering contacts, setting up relationships - in short, constantly urging to mutual, tangible love.4
Concordia Caritatis
I. The monastery is a school for the service of the Lord who calls us to share in the Kingdom where we shall see him 5 whose weakness we share,6 and who is recognised in weakness: he is served in needy brothers,7 received in guests,8  and guides the community through one who is still being purified from faults.9
2. This sharing in weakness engenders good zeal and the readiness to give, in a mutual obedience that transcends law .10 Ascending by humility towards the perfect love that casts outfear, 11 the monastic community is a communion of brothers united by the bond of charity and called to the freedom of the children of God.
3. The community lives through a variety of relationships created by the same charity that unites the brothers:relationships with the local Church and people,12 and other monasteries and communities. 13 Hence the community's autonomy, the sign of its freedom, is not the self -sufficiency of the rich man who, when his land produced an abundance, built bigger barns to store his crops.14 It is the dependence on the Lord shown by the woman who gave all her meal and oil to feed Elijah, and found the jar of meal was not empty and the cruse of oil was not spent;15 and by the disciples of Jesus, when, with their few loaves and fish they fed the multitude. 16 Like the disciples, we find ourselves poor when we look to our own resources. Our poverty becomes wealth when, in joyful dependence on the Lord, we seek first the Kingdom of God. 17
4. In its familial relationship with its Province and the Congregation the community can be known with a truth that informs and authenticates all its relationships. Hence the importance of fraternal contacts between communities, the dissemination by each community of information about itself,18 and study of the history of the Congregation and themonasteries16 of the Congregation. All this requires effort, especially considering the many languages spoken in our communities. 19 However, it contributes greatly to the life of the communities, creating a climate of mutual respect, trust and encouragement, a sense of a shared vocation, and a deeper understanding of the grace we have received.
5. Membership in the Congregation extends the possibilities for the exercise of good zeal. Provinces and communities help each other by sharing their resources, for example through shared programmes of formation, common work projects, and sharing of financial resources. 20 Provincial Chapters and meetings may be held in monasteries of other Provinces, and it should be normal to invite guests from other Provinces to these meetings. It may be necessary for communities to help each other by sending brothers, following the provisions of our legislation.21 The brothers who are sent strengthen the stability of the community that receives them, and live out their community's vocation at its deepest level: by sending them their community truly gives of itself.
6. The Abbot President with his Councils, and the Visitors within the Provinces, have particular responsibility for fostering the bond of charity between the communities. They should promote contacts and co-operation between communities. They are in a position to know the needs and also the possibilities of the various communities, and to make specific proposals about how communities might help each other. They should be attentive to small and isolated communities, applying in this context the teaching of the Rule of St. Benedict concerning the reception of the poor. 22 Of particular importance is the role of the Abbot President in fostering a common sense of the meaning of the monastic vocation. The primary responsibility of the Abbot President is the Congregation as a whole. Drawing on the Congregation's tradition, and his own experience of the communities, he is able to give new impetus through his teaching and his personal contacts with the monasteries and Provinces.
7. The sacrificial nature of charity is especially clear in our time, when many communities feel that their resources cannot be extended beyond their own immediate needs. Our weakness can be experienced as a call to a more authentic charity , not giving out of our abundance but of our substance, like the widow who put into the temple treasury all she had to live on.23 The greatest danger of our present fragility is that a community , not finding a way to give, might tend to close in on itself. This is a tendency towards death ( even if a community continues as a juridical entity).24
8. Communities are especially in need of help when they approach closure. The circumstances of this are not always foreseeable, and charity must provide where law cannot.25 The Congregation, and especially the Province, should help a community that can no longer maintain its autonomous existence make decisions that best suit its circumstances. Even when a decision to close has been made, the brothers may decide to maintain their common life as long as possible, attaching themselves in some way to another community.
9. A monastic Congregation exists for one purpose: to promote a constant return to the evangelical values of the Rule, lived in communities that have each their own proper character shaped by stabilitas loci. The indispensable benefit represented by membership in the Congregation appears most clearly when we realise that we cannot arrive at this goal by ourselves. It is for this reason that we seek to help one another and be helped by one another.
When the widow of Zarephath fed Elijah, she gave, with the food, her life and the life of her son, her hope. In return she received an abundance of food, the life of her son, renewed
hope. We may see here an anticipation of the eucharistic sacrifice. If our present time calls our communities to give more profoundly of themselves, it invites us also to a renewal of hope, that through the weakness of our humanity Christ will give us a deeper sharing in the paschal mystery that is the centre of our life in community .
1. See the letter " Appels lancés a nos communautes" of the 17th General Chapter.
2 [Unofficial note by the Editor: at the time of adoption, the Congregation' s official title
had not yet changed to "The Subiaco Cassinese Congregation"]
3 We know each other better; even the most stable of monks travel sometimes: in order to
receive necessary technical formation, to take part in some meeting or other, biblical or ,
spiritual... For the younger members, formation is often in common; at any rate, inter- ,
novitiate and inter-juniorate meetings regularly take place. More senior members,
superiors or cellarers meet each other more frequently, so that together they may better
cope with the problems of government confronting them.
4 [Editor's note] Monks, who have received Abbot Mauro Meacci's beautiful version of the "Concordia" will notice that these
first paragraphs, and the entire collection of footnotes, were therein omitted for reasons of brevity and practicality.

5 RE Prologue 21
6 RE Prologue 50
7 RE 36, 1.
8RE 53,1.
9 RE 2,40.
IOcr: RE 71 and 72.
II RB 7, 67.
12 cf. RB 64, 4.
13 RB 61,13-14.
14 Luke 12:16-21.
15 I Kings 17:8-24.
16 Matthew 14:13-21; 15:32-39; Mark 6:32-44; 8:1-10; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15.
17 RB 2,35.
18 For example, by a regular newsletter, by a website, and by announcements of and
invitations to special events such as professions and anniversaries.
19 If a community is to benefit from membership of an international Congregation, and
contribute to it, the study of foreign languages is indispensable.
20 For this purpose the Congregation has established a Solidarity Fund. This is not to be
seen as simply a means of transferring money from the rich to the poor. Every community
is invited to contribute, according to its means, so that the Fund can be a practical
expression of communion.
21 Constitutions nos. 93-95 and OCG 82, 13°.
22 RB 53,15.
23 Luke 21:1-4
24When we really have nothing else to give, we can always offer good words(cf. RB 31,
13-14), strengthening one another by sharing our experiences of limitation, shedding the
light of God' s word on our present situation, and praying for one another.
25 For the relevant provisions of our law see Constitutions nos. 13 and 18; OCG 1; 5; 80,
7° and 82, 5°.

Prayer Intentions :-  For Abbot Anselm's and Bishop Hugh's intentions. For vocations at Pluscarden, St Mary's,  Petersham and Kristo Buase.   Br. Adrian & Br. Finbar, health. For the repose of the souls of Rhoda Alcott(whose oblate husband Derek Alcott died saving a drowning man), Deacon William Joss, Lady Joan Innes, John McLaughlin, --all Oblates. Br Gabriel’s mother and Fr. Dunstan’s parents, failing . Our new Oblates: Rev. Christopher Thomas Mayo, Margaret Mary Pio Kessack, Leonora Ann Hildegaard Duson. We pray for the new Dominican Sisters in Elgin. Please pray for sick Oblates especially for Sarah Drever’s husband Leslie, Brigitte Mackay recovering from heart surgery, Mrs Maggie Barrett also recovering from heart surgery, Paul Miller 90's and hernia, Margaret Rawcliffe, Mrs. Gertrude Corker’s two daughters, for Bob Barr, Brian Milne, Mary Buist, Gail Schmitz and her son Julian, Maurice Dufficy, Mary Bradley, Graham Dunbar, Pauline Reid, Beth Fraser and her husband Chris, Marie Claire Hérnandez, Bob Clark(poorly), Nick Macrae’s son, Martin Macrae, and wife Sharon, kidney transplants, Dr. David Paterson and his wife Angela, Jacqui’s daughter Sally, Poppy Sinclair, Ian Brodie and his twin brother, Carolyn Boardman and son Malcolm, Martin Farrelly recovering from very major surgery, David Braine, philosopher, Susan Stephen and all friends of the Abbey and for all oblates, friends and all the sick, and those who care for them.  

Uganda Seminarians we are sponsoring.( "Concordia Caritatis"!!) Profound thanks to our supporters. I am repeating my appeal for further sponsors for 20 year old Josaphat for 2014 and onwards in the form of “one off donations” or preferably small monthly standing orders. Please also remember them all in your prayers especially dominic's mother whop was knocked down by a car.
For further detail or clarification please contact me, Paul Costello  at:-
4, Commercial Road, Ellon, Aberdeenshire AB41 9BD.
Phone: - 01358-721512 or Mobile:- 07762-432080

BOOKS and Media:-Jane Coll, Oblate of Pluscarden--buy and read her new book!:
                          ‘Handmaids of the Lord: Women Deacons in the Catholic Church’----
is published by Gracewing and can be purchased through their web page, £20
ISBN 978 085244 7727  www.gracewing.co.uk bookshops or on Amazon .It carries an Imprimatur from Bishop Hugh Gilbert, confirming that it does not contradict Church teaching on faith or morals.
“Jane Coll’s book is an important contribution to the debate over the role of women in the Church. It is a ‘must read’ for many reasons –
● It is loyal to Church teachings
● It takes an academic approach, avoiding personal, emotional bias
● It presents a doctrinally sound argument from Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium for retaining the all-male priesthood
● It explores in-depth the possibilities of reintroducing the order of deaconesses in the Church of the third millennium;
● It takes up the challenge of Pope Francis to investigate further the role of women in the Church."

NB All the DVD's  of the Oblate events are available from Martin GardnerNB ( You sometimes say you haven't got your DVD and I ask you if you get in touch with Martin Gardner and you answer... He kindly assumes you have given a donation to the Abbey in respect of it and will send you one-- he has borne all the expenses to help the Abbey. So do please apply to him at martin@guardair.co.uk Post:- Dunmoir, 18, Gurney St., Stonehaven,AB39 2EB. This is most especially for those who were not there!-- get one and it's as if you'd been there!

Con gr e  s s u s C ar it  a  t  i s ? R o m e 2013  A n d  r e w M a r t i n  a nd            J  i m ,   o u  r   K  B  a n d  P l us c a r d en D e l  e g  a t e s

From The Oblatemaster's Desk 

The "Concordia Caritatis" agreement in charity, concord of love, covenant of love, entered into by our monasteries( at the head of this Christmas letter) expresses the collaboration and communion between our monasteries of our Congregation. It is essentially what our Christian life is about, our monastic life, our oblate life. It is brethren sharing everything in common, riches & poverty, strengths and weaknesses. We do all this because our loving God has done it first. Like St Paul we imitate God by sharing all our sufferings and consolations "For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort."  (2Corinthians 1.6-7) This is Christmas, God living among us, of which our poor modern-day, God-starved neighbours are blisslessly unaware." His state was divine, yet He did not cling to His equality with God but emptied Himself". ( Philippians 2.6) "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth." (John 1.14) or in the beauty of Latin " et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis et vidimus gloriam eius gloriam quasi unigeniti a Patre plenum gratiae et veritatis (John (Vulgate) 1.14) God's is the original "Concordia Caritatis"! What Joy is in those words of  God's sharing with us in the Incarnation whether sung aloud or in our hearts, or both--Happy Christmas!!—PAX

Pluscarden Oblate Lenten Retreat 2014. Fr Abbot is giving your Retreat. 1st Weekend of Lent,  Vespers,Friday, 7th March to morning Mass, Monday, 10th March departing. Please use this form to book into St Scholastica's and St. Benedict's. PLEASE RETURN THE FORM TO FR. BEDE THE GUESTMASTER AND AWAIT HIS REPLY  TO FIND OUT IF THERE IS A PLACE FOR YOU. You can of course attend without being resident but in accomodation of your arranging. Please let Fr. Martin, the oblate master, know if you are attending even if not resident.  No special provisions will be made for meals so if attending from elsewhere please bring your own sandwiches and flasks.
Oblate Retreat ---Vespers,Friday, 7th March to morning Mass, Monday, 10th March departing— see over for booking form:-

BOOKING FORM TO RETURN TO FR. BEDE, GUESTMASTER, Pluscarden Abbey, Elgin, Moray, IV30 8UA.-postal address guestmaster.pluscarden@gmail.com   both  for Ladies, St Scholastica's and men, St Benedict's--- NB.There are no special provisions for meals.
Surname......................................... Christian Name.....................................
Post Code................................ Phone number...........................................
Mobile number............................ email..........................................................
I am staying the whole weekend if I may Fri/Mon Signature..............................
I have let Fr. Martin know: tick if yes..............................
I am bringing my own food at St Scholastica's (necessary) please tick................
Return to Fr. Bede, Guestmaster, Pluscarden Abbey, Elgin, IV30 8UA as soon as possible.
#.....................................................................................Programme:-Friday, 7th March -arrivals for Vespers; Saturday--10.30 am 1st retreat talk Abbot Anselm, Saturday afternoon 2.30-4.00 confession/talk with priest St Benedict's, ground floor and confessional box in the Church; Sunday homily at 10.00 am Mass Abbot Anselm, 2.00 pm-4.00 pm silent  Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, 7.00 pm 2nd retreat talk Abbot Anselm; Monday, 10th March final Mass at 9.00 am and renewal of oblation, departures following. In general we follow the timetable of the Divine Office and Holy Mass for the weekend apart from the additional items specified.

With  profound thanks for all your renewals and

letters and contributions 

 not all of which I've been

able to acknowledge,

With  love and prayer and with

every blessing for

Christmas and forever,

          Yours in Christ and our

Holy Father Saint Benedict,

                                                Fr. Martin OSB


In addition there are to LATE extra items only appearing in this email until the Lenten Letter of next year—two appendices—updates—reports.

The Third World Congress of Benedictine Oblates October 2013 
During the first week of October Jim and I found ourselves on a flight to Rome to attend the World Congress of lay Benedictine oblates.  We arrived, not without some little adventure, at the Salesianum, our accommodation for the week, in time for Vespers.  There were 13 delegates from Benedictine Abbeys around the U.K. and 160 fellow oblates from around the world including Korean, Brazilian, Australian and Nigerian, to name just a few, mostly Catholic but also brother Benedictines from Anglican communities.

The Theme of this Congress was “Obsculta” – the Oblate listening in the world.  This is the first word of the Rule, meaning listen (and obey), which reminds us that from the very beginning the Rule puts into place the dynamic of listening and obedience.

Listening there was aplenty during the week including keynote speeches from Sr. Mary John Mananzan O.S.B., who reminded us of Pope Francis’ call to alleviate poverty in the world, Abbot Primate Wolf OSB and Fr. Michael Casey OCist whose address was, for me, the highlight of the week.  One of his memorable remarks concerned Faith.  “Faith comes from hearing, from receiving the Word.  This fundamental gift of grace passes through five stages before it becomes complete - experience, enlightenment, assent, practice and perseverance.”  He also spoke wonderfully on Lectio Divina.   Some Oblates were unaware of Lectio Divina so an additional workshop was hastily organised.  Who among we oblates carry out this as a norm in our daily lives?  

Should you wish to read Fr Michael’s speech in full please use the following link http://www.benedictine-oblates.org/2013/txt/txt-03-en.pdf  I promise you will be very glad you did.

From first light until usually 10 pm each day we explored a number of topics in breakout workshops which included that of Kenosis – emptying ourselves so we may be truly able to Listen.  Lauds, Mass, Vespers and Compline were sung in the Church’s universal language of Latin which was a boon in such a diverse lingual gathering.

It was not all lectures, workshops and study, very profitable though they most certainly were.  Trips were organised to Subiaco, Sant’Anselmo, Saint Peter’s for the Sunday Angelus, and Monte Cassino.  We were privileged to be given true Benedictine hospitality from the Abbot Primate Fr Wolf OSB who treated us not only to supper at Sant’Anselmo but also to a musical evening at Sant’Anselmo.  

The most evocative image I retain from our trips was seeing one of our American spiritual directors, Fr Paschal Morlino OSB, kneeling at the foot of the statue of St Benedict in the grotto of Subiaco.  His visage filled with humble piety, love, devotion and prayer to our Holy Father St Benedict was a sight I shall not forget.

In his closing remarks the Abbot Primate indicated that there will indeed by a 4th World Congress.  I would encourage you to put yourself forward without any hesitation.  Only one word of caution – do not fly Alitalia; our journey home was even more adventurous than our outward journey.  They too should perhaps “Listen”.

Martin Gardner & Jim Bradley

This will appear in the hard copy of  the Lent Oblate Letter next year ( Fr. Martin)


   2.               News on our two Sponsored Seminarians.

The oblates continue to sponsor the two young Seminarians in Uganda.

The first, Dominic, is 18 years old and has just completed his third year at Junior Seminary. The second, Josaphat, is 21 and has just completed his Secondary school education. Both young men are now home in Tororo for the Christmas break.

Our contact with Tororo is through Sr. Catherine OSB at the Benedictine Priory in Tororo. In the next few weeks I expect to receive from Sr. Catherine the end of term results. If the results are good, Dominic will progress into his final year at the Junior Seminary. If Josaphat has done well then we hope that he will be accepted into the Major Seminary for 3 years of study. If all goes well and after discussion with Sr. Catherine, the Oblates will fund the young men for 2014.This is the time of year of much discussion with Sr. Catherine on what is a good sum of money to send. The Seminary send in the cost of fees, then we need to include transport + books + paper/ pens + clothing & finally put something on top for medical cover. 

Please keep them all in your prayers.

      ( This fuller update will also go in the Lenten Oblate Letter hard copy--- Fr. Martin )