Oblate Letter 36 - Christmas 2017

Nothing Dearer than Christ

Oblate letter of the Pluscarden Benedictines, Elgin ,Moray,     Scotland. IV30 8UA.
Ph. (01343) 890257 fax 890258

Website www.pluscardenabbey.org DMB series No 36

Christmas 2017

Monastic Voice

 St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (quoted and paraphrased)


 'She begins with what is popularly termed the 'Christmas spirit', the spirit of love and joy associated with the feast even by unbelievers, and goes on to describe the joy of the Church in Advent, preparing for the coming of the Lord by her longing chants, 'Come, to deliver us'; the joy of the faithful giving each other gifts under the lighted Christmas-tree. But then she strikes a different note and again, in striking this note closely follows the Church.

                  "The Star of Bethlehem is a star in a dark night, even today. Already on the second day the Church takes off her festive white vestments and clothes herself in the colour of blood, and on the fourth day in the purple of mourning. ...Where is now the jubilation of the heavenly hosts? Where the silent bliss of the Holy Night? Where is the peace on earth? Peace on earth to men of good will. But not all are of good will. Therefore the Son of the Eternal Father had to descend from the glory of Heaven, because the mystery of iniquity had wrapped the earth in night. Darkness covered the earth, and He came as the light. ...To those who received Him He brought light and peace. ..but not peace with the children of darkness. To them the Prince of Peace does not bring peace but the sword. ...This is a heavy and serious truth which must not be suffered to be concealed by the Child in the manger. The mystery of the Incarnation and the mystery of iniquity are closely related. ."

                  As she was kneeling before the Crib in Carmel, the mystery of iniquity was indeed stalking her country. In schools and offices the crucifIx was being replaced by the picture of the dictator, Christmas itself should give place to the pagan julfest, innocent people suddenly disappeared, and the dreaded words 'concentration camp' were spoken in a whisper. But if we, of little faith, are horrified by the thought that such things should happen even at Christmas, Sister Benedicta will tell us that it is in the supernatural order of things that they should happen just then.

                  "The Child in the manger stretches out His little hands. ...These hands both give and demand: You wise men, lay down your wisdom and become simple as children; you kings, give up your crowns and your treasures and bow down humbly before the King of kings, take upon yourselves without hesitation the troubles and sufferings and hardships which His service demands. You children, who cannot yet give anything of your own free will, these Child's hands take your tender life from you even before it has really begun. It could not be used better than to be sacrificed for the Lord of Life. 'follow Me,' so speak the hands of the Child, as later the lips of the Man. ...Those who are kneeling round the Crib are creatures of light: the tender, innocent children, the sincere shepherds, the humble Kings, Stephen, the ardent Apostle and the beloved Disciple John, all those who have followed the call of the Lord. But opposed to them is the night of incomprehensible obstinacy and blindness: the scribes who can give information on time and place, when the Saviour of the world is to be born, but who do not draw the conclusion: 'Let us go to Bethlehem.' Herod the king, who wants to kill the Lord of Life. Ways part before the Child in the manger. ...He speaks His 'Follow Me', and he who is not for Him is against Him.

                  He speaks it also for us, and compels us to decide between light and darkness." '


The Oblatemasters desk is bestrewn with the necessary correspondence of the Stipendiary, the communications of the Oblates, the preparations for sermons, the details of recently dead monks  of the Necrologist and the detritus of the Oblatemaster’s recent attendance at the Fourth triennial Congress meeting of Oblates in Rome the main descritpion of which will come in February from three of your fellow Oblates(Fiona Mitchell , John McKinlay and Bryan Miller)though the following is in theform of some notes from me of a meeting at  it of Oblatemasters from round the world:

Session for Oblate Directors at Sant'Anselmo , Rome 8th Nov 2017, 2.00 pm.

About 30 were present including Oblate Directors or their representatives both monastic and lay.

Fr. Edward Linton of St. Meinrad’s Archabbey, currently working at the Benedictine Curia in Rome introduced the Session 14.00-14.15.

He also introduced Rev. Bill Wilson who was the “enabler” for the session. He went on to farther introduce himself. He is 45 years in ministry in the Methodist Church and fifteen year an Oblate of St Meinrad’s Archabbey U.S.A. .(Fr. Edward Linton’s Abbey).

He was a hospital chaplain—critical care and trauma—finally himself “burned-out”.

A “cradle” Methodist he was brought up in the “Episopalian/Anglican” school of spirituality.

His health gave way and  he was on the way to “needing”  a heart transplant.  Then he discovered Lectio Divina and it became healing for him. He became an Oblate of St Meinrad’s and was able to channel his God-given gifts. Fr. Meinrad Bruno called upon him to serve on the U.S.  council of Oblates as chairperson. He is used  to  sharing alongside people and so he was asked to enable this session.




He asked us to address ourselves to:


What resistance or difficulties do we encounter?

Can we achieve a “best friends” relationship with one another and our monastery ( as adverted to by  emeritus Primate Notker Wolff in his address)

Do we allow ourselves to be vulnerable?

Do we reach out to and share the life of Christ with people as adverted to by Sr Joan Chitister in her keynote address?

Answers to these from Oblate directors revealed a vast range of varieties of experience of Oblate life from monasteries with widely scattered Oblates and local “chapters” and occasional larger gatherings for education or support or worship.

There were Oblates gathered by the internet joining in Christian meditation.

There were monasteries with large numbers of monks or nuns and concentrated groupings of Oblates who could come together for monthly retreat/worship/seminars/support.

For many the principal support was the monastery and the individual Oblate’s visits to it with the support coming from the community of the monastery.

Responses raised the question how much the Oblate’s life should be “solitary” and how much shared.

One suggested that Esther de Waal’s analysis in “Seeking God” as being the task of finding equilibrium, in the midst of polarity—BALANCE.

As between:-- activity and contemplation

--Stability and change

--tradition and change--------------------the paradox of some middle term between polarities; repose in equilibrium

Questions posed  in closing were what would the Oblate/Monastic picture be like in twenty years’ time?

Should we collect statistics of number and place etc?

What help and befriending should be given by the monastery—by the Oblate to the monastery? What do each need by way of basic formation and formation for leadership?  Are there new skills and new opportunities? Energy, enthusiasm, flow , creativity—the work of the Spirit centred in Christ- in the Eucharist. The Glorifying of God; preferring nothing to Christ. The Oblate’s vocation, called in the name of Christ- these are all at the centre of our way forward.

Must we( individuals, oblates, monks) journey in solitude?

Are we one community or split communities?

Can there be a two-way understanding of being one? Can interface and balance play a part?

There are stages of life from youth to mid-life to old age and bereavement—both for individuals and communities—can we support one another in this?

Spiritual awareness—prayer the key.”


                  "The Child in the manger stretches out His little hands. ...These hands both give and demand.”(St Teresa Benedicta)

They both give all that we have and are as Oblates and as Monks , our talents and gifts, and they demand the return of all that we are as oblation and offering and this is our joy!---The giving is God’s gift to us; involving us in the sacrificial round the perichoresis of the Holy Trinity—our joy now and in eternity, thanks be to God.


PS—Your Oblate Renewal slips  for 2017 that many of you were asking about are contained herewith! Your Christmas  Oblation to the Christ Child!



“The scholar and The Cross”—The Life and work of Edith Stein by Hilda C. Graef. Rarely are biographers so well qualified for their work. A fine book. Longman , Green &Co. 1955! She is not however above giving occasional riders and criticisms whicjh is interesting.


Continued prayer for peace in the world based on justice and the God Who is love.

For Abbot Anselm's full recovery from pneumonia and Bishop Hugh's intentions.

For Brothers Martin de Porres and John Bosco here from Thien Phuoc in Vietnam for two years.

For Prior Bede.

For Fr. Ambrose Flavell  in charge of the Shetlands.

For Br. Cyprian-Prosper here from  KB for monastic studies.

For vocations to Pluscarden, St Mary's monastery, Petersham and Kristo Buase Priory.

New Oblate Aileen Ann MARGARET MacDonald.

For all our novice and postulant Oblates. Please pray for the health of the Very Rev Mgr. Robert Provost McDonald, Fr. Stuart Chalmers, Rev. Christopher Mayo, Fr. Bob Halshaw,Gail schmitz, for Joan Kilmurray, Albert Paterson. For Siobhan Gilmour's husband, for Mrs. Allie Brien, Mrs. Alice Sullivan , Gitte Mackay, Kay Fernandez, Leonora Duson, Margaret Rawcliffe, Robert Cantafio’s mother Margharita, Mrs. Gertrude Corker, herself and her two daughters, Joe Barrett, Bob Barr, Brian Milne, Fiona Sellar, Johan(Joy) Baillie, Martin's Farrelly (84), Graham Dunbar, Beth and Chris  Fraser, Bob Clark, Nick MaCrae’s son, Martin MaCrae battling illness, Dr. David Paterson and his wife Angela and granddaughter Grace, Bryan Miller, Jacqui Heath-Anderson very ill and for her daughter Sally, Hester du Plessis, Poppy Sinclair, Ian and especially Frederick Brodie--the twins, for Pat Foster, Malcolm Boardman & all the family, Martin Farrelly and especially for his wife Val, and also for Peter Wynne, Susan Stephen, Cindy’s husband, Danielle & her son Osyp, Evelyn, Violet and Sheila and all friends of the Abbey and for all Oblates, and all the sick and those who care for them--and for Josaphat and Charles our sponsored seminarians.


2017 4th International Congress of Benedictine Oblates 4th-13th November 2017 in Rome- preliminary report  on one session above and in February  the main report

Dates for your Diaries

                  Oblate retreats Pluscarden 2018

•                February 16th -19th-Fri-Mon.2018--LENT

•                August 17th-20th—Fri-Mon 2018--SUMMER

Book with guestmaster for those dates . Make it clear to him ( Br. Thomas) please the dates and which retreat you are coming to ( or both)-the first talk in February will be after Mass on the Saturday and the last on the Sunday afternoon.( Timetable similar to previous years)

 Our sponsored seminarians

December--Josaphat and Charles, are still doing  well.   Please pray for both of these young men, and also for Sr.Catherine who does so much in Uganda to ensure that our support is effective. If you would like to help support this work please call Campbell Murdoch on 07810 350006 (or email jcmurdoch@yahoo.co.uk - the normal amount is £10-£20 per month).


St Mungo's  chapter, Glasgow:-We meet on the second Saturday of each month at 2 p.m. Contact can be made via Peter Aitken. Tel. 0141 427 2084, or via Graham Dunbar at 0141 558 4323 as group Secretary and Treasurer.

St Margaret’s Chapter, Dunfermline monthly meetings as announced, All details contact Deacon Pat Carrigan smcb_oblates@live.co.uk

St. Monica’s Chapter, Thurso. Contact Jane Coll. "Scaraben”, Westside, Dunnet, Thurso, Caithness, KY14 8YD. Phone 01847 851467 and as announced.

St. Peter's chapter St. Peter's Catholic Church, Castlegate, Aberdeen e-mail brianbmilne2647@gmail.com Brian Milne convener phone 01224 485781 mobile 07443032289 -- due to poor health   Brian is encouraging this chapter and any of our Oblates in a similar position or living far from other oblates  to join an e-chapter – that of Oblate John McKinlay—the “Benedictine Prayer Circle "The idea is to help oblates who might feel lonely or isolated to connect, through prayer, with their brother and sister oblates, and so be part of the Oblate brotherhood of prayer. The prayer schedule is taken from the Benedictine Prayer Book – a short breviary, based of course, on the rule of St Benedict, and will be made available to all oblates who wish to sign up, and make a commitment to regular prayer. There is opportunity for personal intentions, within the schedule, and in this way we are praying together for our own as well as the intentions of our fellow oblates. It is hoped that we join in prayer as an Oblate community at midday on Friday each week. Those who wish may pray together on a daily basis if they so wish. The prayers will only take 5 minutes of our time, so it is not arduous! If interested please contact John G McKinlay by email for further details, and/or a copy of the prayer schedule:                jgjm07@yahoo.co.uk         

St Meinrad’s Chapter—A new chapter meeting monthly at Dysart Carmel—for details contact Mary Murphy                                 marymurphy118@gmail.com

St. Mirin’s Chapter. Paisley. Date: 1st Saturday each month. Time 2-4 pm. Venue: Hall 2, St Mirin’s Cathedral, Cathedral Precincts, Incle Street Paisley, PA1 1HR—secure parking there within Cathedral enclosure. Farther information: St Mirin Chapter, Benedictine Oblate Group, c/o Campbell Murdoch, Fircroft, Knockbuckle Road, Kilmacolm, PA13 4JT

‘ “Oh", David sighed, "If someone would fetch me a drink of water from the well that stands by the gate of Bethlehem” ‘    2 Samuel 23.15 >David saw prophetically the future Saviour<!!—St Ambrose


With  Christmas  blessings ,
In S.P.N.B.,                           
& In  the  love  of  Christ,

Fr. Martin

Our Lady of Pluscarden, pray for us!