December 7, 2013
Feast of Saint Ambrose
An ongoing challenge for me every December is to enter into the liturgical rhythm of the Advent season. Doing that in the midst of our secular culture celebrating “the holiday season,” our Academy’s end-of-semester crunch of exams, and the crowded round of sacramental duties and social demands in the surrounding community, can constitute quite an effort. A distinct advantage of living in the monastery is that there is a buffer from the commercialism and frenzy of popular culture. The violet vestments, the Advent wreath, and the lilting tones of the Advent hymns and antiphons, all call me back to a more measured and meditative space. The Advent hymns at Divine Office carry a special resonance for many of us, a reminder that St. Ambrose, the Doctor of the Church who was so supportive of the monastic movement, was the one whose hymns were recommended to be employed in the Divine Office by St. Benedict. While the world around us the week before Christmas is inundating us with Christmas music, at Vespers each day in the monastery we treasure the O Antiphons and know that they will work their way into our hearts as we ready ourselves for Christmas.
I need to remind you that our December meeting will be on Gaudete Sunday, Dec. 15. Since this is the time when we will have our annual dinner with the monks, we will meet a little later for our meeting, at 3:45 in the Abbey Library. We will have a short business meeting and then I will have a presentation on Thomas Merton. December 10 is the 45th anniversary of Merton’s death in Thailand.
There a few directions for you with respect to the dinner on Dec. 15. I hope I have received all the reservations from those oblates and spouses intending to come. We should have over forty oblates present. I request that those bringing a salad or dessert bring them in a disposable container and drop them off for the kitchen at the entrance on the ramp at the north end of the abbey.
The last few weeks of the calendar year are always busy on Butterfield Rd. The Abbey Farms have seen a steady stream of customers. Thanksgiving was special in that we had our three junior monks from St. Meinrad return for the entirety of Thanksgiving week. They were joined by Fr. Paul who had a week to be here from his duty at Fort Hood and by Fr. Thomas who met up with his parents for a bit of a reunion as he was up here for a few days of vacation from the Seminary at Conception. Fr. Charles made his return from his sabbatical in Israel on December 2. We are glad to have him back and perhaps we can persuade him to speak of his experience with the oblates at a future meeting. Among the infirm of the abbey, Abbot David came from St. Patrick Residence in Naperville and joined us on Thanksgiving Day for Mass and the community meal. Br. Jude has been back at the abbey since mid- November and is feeling better. Please continue to keep Fr. Christian in your prayers as he deals with his spinal stenosis. You prayers are asked too for Juanita Mattio, the mother of oblate Michael Mattio, who died on December 2.
This past week we had a number of visitors from Guatemala staying with us. This is part of the exchange we have promoted in recent years. Just as we have students from the Academy and adults go down to Guatemala in June, we have students and staff from our Colegio de San Jose come up here during their vacation time.
An Advent project that I want to invite oblates to be part of is Br. Andre’s Infirmary Service Project, an annual effort to restock the Abbey Infirmary. You are welcome to send to Br. Andre gift cards (Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Target) that will allow him to keep the Abbey infirmary well supplied. You can send the cards, with your name, to Br. Andre at the Abbey address. The deadline for doing so is Dec. 20.
For those of you who are interested in the liturgical schedule for Christmas and the Octave, it will be posted on our website. I can also remind you that our Oblate meeting in January is tentatively scheduled for January 12, the second Sunday of the month. That is because I will be accompanying a large group of our Academy students to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. the next week. Another date in the future to keep in mind is Saturday, March 15, when Fr. Marcos will give a Lenten Day of Recollection in conjunction with the Academy Alumni.
I want to take this occasion to wish all of you a prayerful Advent season and a very joyous and peaceful celebration of the Lord’s Nativity. Know that you and your families are remembered in the prayers and Masses of the monks of Marmion this Christmas.
Fr. Joel, OSB