Oblate Letter 37 - Lent

Nothing Dearer than Christ

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

Ph. (01343) 890257 fax 890258

Email oblatemaster@gmail.com and


Website www.pluscardenabbey.org DMB series No 37

Lent 2018

Monastic Voice From a Sermon on Lent by St Bernard of Clairvaux

            Let us rend our hearts, beloved, but keep our garments whole. Our garments are our virtues; love is a good garment, obedience is a good garment. Happy is the one who cares for these garments that he may not walk naked. Happy are those whose sins are covered; love covers a multitude of sins. Let us rend our hearts, as was said before, that we may keep our garments whole, as was our Saviour's tunic. The rending of the heart not only keeps the garment whole, but also makes it long and of many colours, like the coat the holy patriarch Jacob gave the son whom he loved more than the others. From this comes perseverance in virtue, from this the many-coloured unity of a beautiful way of life. From this comes the glory of the king's daughter, in golden borders, clothed with many colours.

            We can also take this rending of the heart in another way: if the heart is wicked it may be rent by confession; if hard, by compassion. Is not an ulcer rent so that the diseased matter may flow out? Is not the heart rent to overflow in compassion? Both rendings are expedient, that the poison of sin may not lie hidden in the heart, and we may not shut off our compassion from our neighbour's need, that we may receive mercy from Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is over all, blessed forever.


The Rule of St Benedict:- CHAPTER XLIX

"On the Keeping of Lent

The life of a monk ought always to be a Lenten observance. However, since such virtue is that of few, we advise that during these days of Lent he guard his life with all purity and at the same time wash away during these holy days all the shortcomings of other times. This will then be worthily done, if we restrain ourselves from all vices. Let us devote ourselves to tearful prayers, to reading and compunction of heart, and to abstinence.

During these days, therefore, let us add something to the usual amount of our service, special prayers, abstinence from food and drink, that each one offer to God "with the joy of the Holy Ghost" (1 Thes 1:6), of his own accord, something above his prescribed measure; namely, let him withdraw from his body somewhat of food, drink, sleep, speech, merriment, and with the gladness of spiritual desire await holy Easter.

Let each one, however, make known to his Abbot what he offers and let it be done with his approval and blessing; because what is done without permission of the spiritual father will be imputed to presumption and vain glory, and not to merit. Therefore, let all be done with the approval of the Abbot."

The First reading of Ash Wednesday:- Joel 2:12.....

‘Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks –

come back to me with all your heart,

fasting, weeping, mourning.’

Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn,

turn to the Lord your God again,

for he is all tenderness and compassion,

slow to anger, rich in graciousness,

and ready to relent."

            The oblatemaster  must needs be brief  because of the length of this Oblate letter with its farther reports on the Congress.

St Bernard, quoted above on Lent, then the Rule on the keeping of Lent  and then Holy Scripture from Ash Wednesday-- together they almost give us a programme for Lent do they not?

Yes an external programme but as a sign of real inner conversion to be summed up;-

"Let  your  hearts  be  broken  not  your  garments  torn...


"Prologue" to the Oblate Congress:

As many of you will hopefully have seen in previous editions of the Oblate Letter, there was held at the end of last year, the fourth World Congress of Benedictine Oblates in Rome. This was a gathering of Benedictine Oblates, from Catholic and Anglican Benedictine Communities from all across the globe.


I enthusiastically put my name forward to attend as an Oblate of Pluscarden and was delighted to discover that joining two others would be Fr Martin, out Oblate Master who had permission to come out to the gathering.


I had in the previous year attended a retreat organised by the UK Benedictine Oblate Team, a team made up of Oblates from various abbeys in the U.K. The retreat was held at the Cistercian Abbey of Mount St Bernard and the retreat itself taken and shared by Abbot Eric Varden, who of course gave the Pentecost Lecture here a couple of years ago and Dame Laurentia Johns OSB of Stanbrook Abbey. It was superbly organised, with time for walks and silence and prayer after the quite excellent addresses. Wisely some of the meals were not silent allowing participants to get to know the wide range of interesting people who were the Oblates of the various religious  communities around the UK. Everything was set, as you would expect, in the context of the monastic liturgy. Cistercian Offices start at 3am in the morning!

Following that retreat I stayed with Klara and Thomas Brunnhuber, Oblates of Douai Abbey and on the organising team of the World Congress. The graciously had me to stay with them in London when I came down to a pre-Rome preparation weekend and was the recipient of some fabulous Benedictine hospitality!   

However, there is a BUT coming! 


I set off from Aberdeen with fellow Oblate Fiona Mitchell, two modern day Chaucerian pilgrims....only to arrive at Edinburgh having had my passport and wallet stolen. For me that was the end of my journey and it soon became apparent that I would not be able to obtain a replacement passport to get out in time for the congress. To say I was upset might at the time have seemed a slight understatement, however on reflection I had gained much, not least in the new people I had met, the friendships formed, and the grace of further insight into what it is to be an Oblate. Of course I was much supported by the prayers of those in Rome and I was pleased to pray for them having returned back to my home near Pluscarden Abbey.


I take solace in "always we begin again", from The Rule of St Benedict.


Others must tell you of Rome, but at least I can recommend joining a retreat run by the British Oblate Team. It is a real joy to discover fellow Oblates, endeavouring to live out their Christian vocation guided by the rule of our Holy Father St Benedict.

Bryan Miller ( Oblate name "Sylvester")--retired Classics teacher.



Report on The Oblate congress at Rome:-

Fourth World Congress  of Benedictine Oblates 4 -  10 November 2017 Fraterna Domus , Rome, Italy


“A Way Forward – The Benedictine Community In Movement.”


It was with great excitement and anticipation that I boarded my flight from London Gatwick travelling to Fiumicino airport, Rome on Saturday 4th November 2017, to join fellow oblates for the 4th International Oblate Conference (4-10 November 2017).  I had paid for the 3 day add-on Rome trip which included the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel, the Roman Forum, Coliseum, Church of San Benedetto, Basilica of Santa Cecilia, a tour of St John Lateran and St Mary basilicas and St Paul Outside the Walls.  One of the highlights of the conference was to be our visit to Monte Casino Abbey with Mass in the Basilica.  There were welcomers waiting at the airport to direct us to our transport which took us to Fraterna Domus, where we were staying for the duration of the conference.  There were two fellow oblates from America waiting at the airport, and we all travelled together in the taxi, talking excitedly about our own spiritual monasteries.  Once ensconced in my room it was important for me to reflect on the week ahead, to pray and to commit myself to being fully involved in all aspects of the conference.

 The conference asked all oblates to consider the message of “Laudates Si” – The Encyclical of Pope Francis, which is a very relevant one to consider to today’s world.  How can we, as oblates, practice better care of our common home and “Hear the Cry of the Poor, Hear the Cry of the Earth?”  We need to have a different perspective in our relationship towards creation – to be a good and responsible steward and co-operator with God in the work of Creation.  Being pro-Life does not stop at being anti-abortion or anti-euthanasia.  It means creating a social climate and natural environment that nurture a balanced and joyful life, that support the poor and the disadvantaged, that nurture, educate and keep people healthy and that accompany and support the sick, and the elderly until they are called home by God.  The message of Pope Francis’ encyclical is a call to all religions to come together and dialogue for the sake of protecting nature, defending the poor and building networks of respect and fraternity.  An open and respectful dialogue is also needed between the various ecological movements.  The Holy Father makes it clear that dominion over the Universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship





The Conference keynote speaker was Sister Joan Chittister, OSB.  One of the best known and best loved writers and international speakers on Benedictine spirituality and social justice in the world today, Sister Joan delivered her keynote speech in the Fraterna Domus auditorium on Tuesday 7th November.  The author of over 50 books and 700 articles, she has won 16 Catholic Press Association awards in the USA.  Considered “one of the most influential religious and social leaders of our time” Sister Joan was Prioress for 12 years of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania, President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and is currently co-chair on the UN sponsored Global Peace Initiative of Women.  Her life’s work is a journey towards finding God and inner peace in the midst of today’s turbulent world.  Sister Joan says that when we fail “to see the whole world in one ray of light” as St Benedict did, we imprison ourselves inside our own small selves, without ideas, without experience, and without love.  Once we begin to look at the world as oblates, as God looks at the world, we see every person in it as unique, precious, all absorbing.  People cease to be numbers, stereotypes and races and sexes -  they become individuals to us.  Each and every one of them on their twisted, limping way to God.  Life’s major problem, according to Sister Joan, does not lie in choosing between good and evil.  No life’s real problem lies in choosing good from good.  When values are in conflict always choose the higher one.

 St Benedict preached gospel values applied in an orderly fashion to everyday life and was a way of living similar to that of the early Christians, who are described in the Acts of the Apostles.  They devoted themselves to holding all things in common, breaking bread together and praising the Lord.  Benedict is focused on Christ in prayer, work and in familial relationships.  To be an oblate is to be a carrier, not a consumer only of Benedictine spirituality.  The charisms of the spirit persist – they never die – they power each and every one of us – to pursue together – always right – continuously discovered and expressed.  Power is Truth and its weapon is Fearlessness.  Oblate programmes need to be spiritual ripples – to carry these values beyond the monastery walls into the world outside – civil society, city halls, workplaces, schools and family homes.  We are keepers of a great spiritual tradition, which we must pass on or it will wither and die.  We are companions on the way, carrying our wisdoms, to share with one another, along the spiritual pathway towards greater understanding and meaning in our lives, spreading gospel values and the Rite of St Benedict in everyday life.  Sister Joan reminds us that the “Wisdom we seek with one another can lead us to the truth.  Our needs have to include the needs of others.  We are ambassadors for a vision for the future.”

The Conference had been organised by an international team led by Father Edward Linton OSB, monk of St Meinrad, Archabbey, Indiana, USA.  This highly professional and vastly experienced team organised a fully comprehensive and thought provoking conference which provided a wonderful opportunity to listen, pray and share with one another, inspirational messages from around the world.  We were asked as oblates of the 4th International Conference, the key question “What does it mean to be an oblate in the 21st century?  How can we as oblates create and contribute to communities around us – in our oblate groups and chapters, in our families and neighbourhoods, in our workplaces and in society as a whole (and even, in our own monasteries of oblation)?”  During the 4th World Congress of Benedictine oblates we were given opportunities to pray together, to share mealtimes and to work together and co-operate in a number of workshops where we discussed the relevant issues from the Pope’s encyclical “Laudato Si”, and our response to this wonderful encyclical as oblates.  On Wednesday, November 8th, we visited the Vatican and Sant’Anselmo, after mass and breakfast.  The highlight of the day was a general audience with Pope Francis himself.  This was an amazing experience made even more significant when collectively we were mentioned by name as the 4th World Congress of Benedictine Oblates.  There were a number of important speeches by among others, Father Edward Linton himself.  There were panel sessions where for e.g. the theme was “The Benedictine Community in Movement – A vision for the next 4 years”.  Most importantly the Congress gave oblates a wonderful and unique opportunity to meet and share with oblates from around the world something of their own life and spiritual experiences within their monastic institutions.  Personally I met with so many oblates from Mexico, India, The Philippines, the USA and South Korea.  These meetings and discussions were quite frankly incredible.

 I learnt so much about the culture and way of life of my international fellow oblates.   When would we have been able to enjoy such important discussions except at such a unique spiritual conference.  The Congress ended on Friday 10th November and those oblates that had agreed to the additional 3 day extension, enjoyed with me a wonderful opportunity to visit the Vatican museums, including the Sistine Chapel.  Being able to visit the major basilicas and famous churches in Rome as well as the historical and famous Monte Casino Abbey was a wonderful and unique opportunity which we all enjoyed  very much.  This was my first World Congress of Benedictine Oblates, and I left Rome with a deep sense of joy and appreciation for the hard work of the international team under their director Father Edward Linton.  The Congress inspired all of us to renew our oblateship, to return to our own monasteries enriched and revitalised.  We returned with the realisation that although life is the world’s great spiritual teacher, each of us carries a piece of that spiritual wisdom.  We need to refind ourselves in The Rule – to discover that unique vocation, which we have to find for ourselves – through prayer, discourse and contemplation, while at the same time “hearing the cry of the poor, hearing the cry of the earth and responding  in our own unique way as oblates to  Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si.”

Retired headmaster John G McKinlay   MA, MBA, FRSA, DPSE, DipEd.( Oblate Michael)

 “Pluscarden”, 169 Chislehurst Rd., Petts Wood, Orpington, Kent, BR6 0DU England



“The scholar and The Cross" by Hilda C. Graef was adverted to in the last Oblate letter.

Mrs. Francis Philips who is on our Oblate Letter mailing list and a reviewer for the Catholic Herald was intrigued enough to get a copy and write a piece on it for her blog the link of which I give here privately for our very limited readership. It points up the sometimes tragic relations between the Old People of God and the New--------- to be resolved in the Kingdom.

the link      http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2018/01/27/how-st-teresa-benedicta-reconciled-with-her-devout-jewish-mother/

Mrs Francis Phillips asks for prayers for her husband Michael just diagnosed with cancer and for the Lord to reveal to him His love for him and for us all.


For the repose of the soul of our oldest monk Brother Adrian Walker O.S.B, died November aged 94.; the Oblatemaster worked alongside Dom Adrian in the garden for about 14 years. Best known as  a pillar of the garden and a pillar of the liturgy, playing the organ.

For the repose of the soul of Oblate Martin Farrelly's wife Mrs Val Farrelly. For Oblates Mrs Gertrude Corker, Mrs. Elizabeth McEnteggart, Mrs. Joan Kilmurray and for her family ,especially her grand-daughters, and Mr Michael Protheroe, and David Hingston of the St. Margaret's chapter, Oblate of Salisbury Priory----- all but one of whom died since the last Oblate letter.

For Abbot Anselm's  and Bishop Hugh's intentions.

Fr. Stuart Chalmers ( Oblate) new spiritual director of the Scots College in Spain

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 and St. Scholastica's, Petersham and Kristo Buase Priory.

New Postulant Oblates Kazik Kulpa and Marek Zielinski.

For all our novice and postulant Oblates. Please pray for the health of the Very Rev Mgr. Robert Provost McDonald and his elder brother Canon Bernard,  Rev. Christopher Mayo, Fr. Bob Halshaw, Gail Schmitz, Albert Paterson. For Siobhan Gilmour's husband, for Mrs. Allie Brien, Mrs. Alice Sullivan ,Mrs. Janet Fraile, Gitte Mackay, Kay Fernandez, Leonora Duson, Margaret Rawcliffe, Robert Cantafio’s mother Margharita, Joe Barrett, Bob Barr, Brian Milne, Fiona Sellar, Johan(Joy) Baillie, Graham Dunbar, Beth and husband Chris  Fraser being received into the Church at Easter, 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, , and also for Peter Wynne, Susan Stephen, Cindy’s husband, Danielle & her son Osyp, Evelyn, Violet and Sheila, Bernadette Harris( almost housebound) and all friends of the Abbey and for all Oblates, and  for ALL the sick and those who care for them--and for ALL our sponsored seminarians.


•                FEBRUARY 16TH -19TH-FRI-MON.2018--LENT


Arrivals Friday 16th--Please Note:- Residents meal arrangements in guesthouses just as normal this year. Liturgy-- standard times as notice boards and website. Special items only as follows:-

Saturday 17th 10.30 am first conference

Saturday  17th  3.00 pm second conference

Sunday 18th 10.00 am Mass sermon FR. ABBOT

Sunday 18th Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament 2.00-4.00 pm--opportunity for confession during.

Renewal of Oblation during 9.00 am Mass Monday 19th.

Book with guestmaster for those dates

THE 2018 PLUSCARDEN PENTECOST LECTURES – TO BE GIVEN BY FR RICHARD OUNSWORTH O.P.Teacher of Scripture and New Testament Greek at Blackfriars, Oxford“You Have Come to Mount Sion: The Christian Pilgrimage in the Letter to the Hebrews”

22 – 24 May 2018 .Tuesday 22nd May at 3.00 pm “Potato Stamps: Reading the Old Testament in the Light of Christ”

Wednesday 23rd May at 10.30 am “Jesus is Joshua: What’s in a Name?”

Wednesday 23rd May at 3.00 pm “Passing through the Veil: Christ the High Priest and the Day of Atonement”

Thursday 24th May at 10.30 am “Robed in Flesh, Our Great High Priest”


•                August 17th-20th—Fri-Mon 2018--SUMMER OBLATE WEEKEND!!--Full programme

Book with guestmaster for those dates --popular time-- please book early!

 Our sponsored seminarians

I am delighted to let you know that the Oblates are now supporting 3 seminarians!  Your prayers and financial support is appreciated so much.  The third student is Okomgo John Stephen, who is in minor seminary (St. Pius X Seminary in the Archdiocese of Tororo).  Josaphat is now entering his last semester at major seminary.  He will complete his three years of study in May 2018.  He will then be sent to a parish for a year of pastoral work (and may need some ongoing support).  Charles is currently awaiting his exam results, which will come out in April.  This will determine his next steps.

Please continue to pray for Sr Catherine in Uganda and for Josaphat, Charles and Okomgo.  If you would like to support the seminarians financially (typical donations are between £10/£20 monthly direct debit) please contact Campbell Murdoch on 07810 350006 or email jcmurdoch@yahoo.co.uk



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  Blessings on Deacon Pat!   RIP David Hingston. Oblate, as above

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

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

The Miserere Ps 50              

  "Give me again the joy of Your help;

with a spirit of fervour sustain me,

O Lord, open my lips

and my mouth shall declare Your praise."

Our Lenten prayer

In  the  love  of  Christ  with  Lenten  blessings ,

                                                           Fr. Martin