March 9, 2015
Feast of St. Frances of Rome
The Feast of St. Frances of Rome calls to mind not only one of the patron saints of Benedictine oblates, but an example of a wife, mother and single person who in the course of her life time left an incredible impact on the troubled society of her day. During a turbulent time in the Church’s history in the early 1400s Frances became a towering example of help to the poor and sick, a woman of resolute faith and deep spirituality. She had elements of Dorothy Day and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. She organized a community life around the land she had inherited from her husband at Torre delle Specchi in Rome, where she served the needs of the plague-ridden, the homeless and the destitute, while at the same time organizing the Congregation of the Oblates of Saint Benedict. Frances was not without her crosses. She lost all of her sons in premature deaths. She endured the slander and unduly harsh criticism that a single woman of her time who took such initiative might have expected. As her biographer says: “Frances did not show the slightest aversion to those who slandered her way of life. Rather God made her so lovable that anyone who spoke with her would immediately feel captivated by love for her and ready to help her in everything she wanted.” Living in times like ours when we are privy to so many scenes of people whose lives have been ravaged by poverty, injustice and violence, as well as by the slander of others, let us look to St. Frances of Rome this Lent not only as our patron but as a model of how to live the Christian and Benedictine life.
Your prayers, as always, are requested for the monastic community. In particular we ask prayers for Br. Jude. In early February Br. Jude was hospitalized for congestive heart failure and subsequently underwent tests and therapy at McAuley Manor. He has made some progress and as of March 7 he returned to the abbey. Please keep in your prayer two monks who will be facing surgery this month. On March 14 Fr. Frederick will undergo another in the series of surgeries on his foot. On March 25 Fr. Basil will undergo hip replacement surgery. Fr. Basil has already had one hip and knee replacement, but is very much in need of another. Pray that Fr. Basil and Fr. Frederick can see through their many duties and recuperate from their surgery.
You may also notice that Fr. Marcos will not be with us for a few months. He is scheduled to leave for Italy on March 10. While there he will participate in a Program for Monastic Formators that will take place in Rome and in Assisi. This will be a wonderful opportunity for Fr. Marcos and we wish him well. I am also going to be away for the week of March 8-14, giving a retreat to the monastic community of St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas.
You may also want to know that the monastic community during Lent is experimenting a bit with our Monday-Saturday Divine Office in the morning. We are having Vigils at 5:45 rather than 6:15. We then take a break after Vigils for a half hour of lectio divina and continue with Lauds at 6:45. We will assess how this works and make a decision on whether to keep the new schedule after Easter.
Once again, I wish to thank Jim L’Allier for all of his work on our archive project and for Debbie Wilkinson and Jeanine Williams for their work on the new Oblate Brochure. We hope to have the brochures ready in the immediate future. Anyone wishing to make a donation to help defer the cost of producing the brochure is certainly welcome to do so.
Our next Oblate meeting will be on Sunday, March 15. Because of a ring ceremony for our Junior students in the Academy in the Abbey Church that afternoon, I am going to cancel our usual gathering in the day room at 2:30 p.m. We will meet in the Library at 3:30. We will finalize our plans for the oblations and annual renewal of oblation planned for the April meeting. We will also discuss dates and place for our traditional June pilgrimage. There will also be time for a discussion of how we are to approach Passiontide and Holy Week.
I want to thank all of you who sent in your Bona Opera forms. Abbot John was very impressed with the number who did so. Let us pray for one another in solidarity that our Lenten journey will bear spiritual fruit and have us make our passage to the Easter feast with the joy of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Joel Rippinger, OSB