October 11, 2014
Feast of St. John XXIII
October has been a time over the years when the Church has gathered members of the hierarchy and others to come together and share their faith and gifts. That has been the case these past days with the Synod on the Family. It was the case on this date in 1962 when Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council. Next Sunday, October 19, the pope who continued and closed that Council fifty years ago, Pope Paul VI, will be beatified in Rome. It is good for us to feel the solidarity we have with the Church and its leaders at such times. From the time of Saint Benedict, whose Rule shows a deep familiarity with the liturgical practices and customs of the Church of Rome, the Benedictine family has felt a special communion with the place that is the symbol of the unity of the Church. May we continue to foster that unity in our own prayers and practice.
Occasionally people will ask me “how many oblates do you have at Marmion” and what are they like. As a means of establishing a profile for Benedictine oblates in the U.S., I encouraged the leader of Benedictine Oblate programs in the Midwest Region of the U.S., Sr. Antoinette Purcell, to conduct a survey. I had to set a good example in doing so, and I did my best to come up with a demographic snapshot of our active oblates at present. We have just over 90 active oblates. Our oldest, Emily Zilly, is 103 years old, and we several “young” oblates in their 40s. We are about equally split between men and women. We also have a fine balance of married, widowed and single oblates. We have oblates in eight different states, with our farthest one geographically being in Alaska. We are predominantly Roman Catholic, although there are a number of other religious denominations represented. At our next meeting I hope to go into greater detail about the history of our Oblate program at Marmion and how we might better connect with other Oblate groups in the U.S. and throughout the world.
That is a natural segue to announce that we will meet on Sunday, October 19, at 3:30 p.m. in the Abbey library. At 2:30 we will have a meeting in the Day Room. I want to encourage our newest oblates and those who have not yet had any experience or background in lectio divina to attend this meeting. While we have had a common experience of lectio divina several times in recent years, it has been some time since we looked at the history and development of this revered practice. We will do that on Oct. 19. I want to take this opportunity to thank Oblate Kathleen Behrens for her presentation at the last Oblate Meeting. I encourage other oblates who have had retreat experiences or perhaps want to share part of their spiritual journey with others to let me know. I also want to remind the newer oblates that you are always invited to stay after the Oblate meeting and take part in Vespers and Benediction with the monastic community at 5:00 p.m. A number of our oblates assist at our sung Vespers during the week as well and it is always good for the monks to have you as support.
In recent news from the Abbey, I am pleased to report that at Vespers on Oct. 3 Eric Knott was invested with the Benedictine habit and began his novitiate year as a claustral oblate of Marmion. He will be taking classes and living life within the monastery during this year. His status as a claustral oblate makes him like any other monk, save for the fact that he will not take canonical vows at the end of his novitiate year. I want to thank the numerous oblates who were present for the investiture on Oct. 3.
A number of you have come to the Pumpkin Daze at Abbey Farms and have assisted Adam Voirin as volunteers these past weeks. I know I speak for Adam in extending thanks for your efforts. The better weather of last Sunday and this weekend have brought out large crowds of people and the expanded facilities and parking areas has made that less problematic for the Abbey community.
The major apostolates of the Abbey continue to function well. Abbot John is in Guatemala at this time to be present for graduation at our Colegio de San Jose in Quetzaltenango. Enrollment at the Academy is at hoped-for levels this year and thus far the school year has kept us all quite busy.
I ask that you continue to keep in your prayer Abbot David at St. Patrick Residence in Naperville and the ailing members of our monastic community and oblate family, as well as a number of Academy Staff and their families who are dealing with serious illnesses. In this month of the Rosary and of Respect Life let us also entrust to Mary the many whose lives are in harm’s way, especially the most vulnerable.
In the peace of Christ,
Fr. Joel, OSB