February 10, 2014
Feast of St. Scholastica
We thank the Lord for St. Scholastica. Her feast comes in our limbo liturgical season before Lent and in the throes of our wearying winter. She reminds me that rather than complain about weather that keeps me inside (as her brother St. Benedict no doubt was want to do when she prayed up the storm to keep him overnight), I can give thanks for the added chance to come close to God inside the warm confines of home and heart. I also recommend that you use this extended period of Ordinary Time to prepare for our Lenten season that begins in four weeks. As an aid to do that, I am putting an attachment of a Bona Opera form for all those receiving this letter by e-mail. For those who may not be entirely sure what this is, we maintain the practice recommended in Chapter 49 of Benedict’s Rule that at the beginning of Lent we offer the abbot of the community a list of the good works we intend to perform during the Lenten season. We traditionally hand that list in to the abbot on Ash Wednesday and he then looks it over and gives it back to us with his blessing and a good word. I have a number of blank copies that I will make available at our February 16 meeting.
The winter has not stopped monks from traveling. Abbot John joined Fr. Charles in an Advancement trip to Florida from Jan. 27-Feb. 2. Abbot Vincent returned on Feb. 7 from his three weeks in Israel with the seminarians from Mundelein. I returned from the March for Life with our students on Jan. 23. Fr. Patrick, as pastor of Annunciation Church, attended the Rockford Diocesan Presbytery Days at Pheasant Run from Feb. 3-5. Abbot John and Abbot Vincent will be attending the annual Abbots Workshop later this month.
Br. Oscar returned Jan. 30 from his studies at St. Meinrad. He will be spending this semester at the abbey, living and working within the house. Br. Antony Maria and Br. Theodore continue their studies at St. Meinrad.
I mentioned in our last letter that I wanted to introduce some of the new faces who have expressed interest in becoming oblates of Marmion Abbey. I think they represent something of the diversity we have now in so many oblate programs. Sharon Fernandez is a wife, mother and counselor from Aurora and has come to us through her membership in Our Lady of Mercy Parish and through spiritual direction. Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Harrison come to us from Wheaton. They began attending our weekday Mass some time ago and are now attracted to the oblate program as a means of participating even more in the spiritual life of the abbey. Richard Phelan, from Geneva, is the father of a recent alumnus. Impressed with the Benedictine identity of the Academy and the monks, he wanted to take a step further to investigate it. Rev. Carol Soderholm is a Lutheran minister from the Rockford area who is drawn to the Benedictine spirituality of the oblates. You can see that we are blessed to have a flow of “new blood.” I encourage you to continue to invite people you consider to be potential oblates to come to a meeting.
On the subject of meetings are next one is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 16. Since it has been a while since we last did lectio divina in common, that will be our activity during our 2:30-3:30 time in the Abbey Day Room. Please bring your Scripture with you if you plan to attend. Our meeting in the Abbey Library will take place at 3:30. I have received a request to go over different monastic words and terms. So I intend to have a “Monasticism 101” course that will go over a glossary and review of Benedictine symbols and terminology.
I want to alert you to a couple of future dates. There will be a Lenten Day of Recollection given by Fr. Marcos on Saturday, March 15, sponsored by the Alumni Association. Anyone is welcome to take part. I would also like to advise you of a gathering this summer. The American Benedictine Academy Convention will take up the subject of changing aspects of Benedictine Monasticism when they meet at Conception Abbey in Missouri from July 24-27. There will be a special panel of oblates at this meeting and many oblates attending. I would like to have at least two or three Marmion oblates in attendance. I can provide you with more details.
One more invitation I want to extend is for oblates to give a personal presentation of their spiritual journey at one of our meetings. Jim L’Allier did a superb job for us in November and I know that there are other oblates who can do the same. The presentation of Fr. Charles last month was well received by you and I also hope to have more monks make similar presentations. Please let me know if you have any of your own ideas on content for future meetings.
For the time being, I trust that you and your families will be given good health and God’s protection in our remaining winter days. Know that you are all remembered to the Lord in prayer each day by the monks of Marmion.
Fr. Joel, OSB