Lenten Almsgiving: an Option

THE THREE ANCIENT mainstays of Lenten observance are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Needless to say there is a dizzying array of worthy objects of your almsgiving attention. Some are more obvious than others; some suffer for their lack of, for want of a better phrase, instant gratification.

One of the less obvious objects for almsgiving is a religious house or order. It used not to be so. Monasteries and convents used to be a standard target for benefactions, often to support a liturgical devotion for which monasteries were particularly well suited. The Reformation struck a grievous blow to that wholesome, if occasionally abused, tradition. Secularisation of western society has landed a second blow. Benefactions, legacies and donations are just not as common as they used to be.

In the midst of the gloom the monastic life is giving off small and tender new shoots. New foundations are springing up that seek to reinvigorate the monastic vine. The Benedictine life is far from dead. Some will fail; this is an historical reality. Some others will prosper: taking the right approach at the right time in the right place. Continue reading “Lenten Almsgiving: an Option”

What Amoris Laetitia lacks: the Marian Solution

In a recent post on the vexed issue of the cardinals’ dubia and their alleged dissent, a deal of discussion was prompted, and this is no bad thing. It merits being talked through sanely and sagely, without hysterics or histrionics.

Lost, or at least potentially so, is a brief but very helpful comment from Fr Mark Kirby OSB, Prior of Silverstream, a new and thriving Benedictine community north of Dublin. In his comment he points us to a post on his blog, Vultus Christi. Acknowledging the perennial nature of “difficult pastoral situations” of the sort Amoris Laetitia seeks to address, he laments that in the current debate so little is said of prayer, grace and Mary in offering strategies for what is now being called “pastoral accompaniment”. Continue reading “What Amoris Laetitia lacks: the Marian Solution”

Happy feast day to us!

What with all the distractions of unexpectedly good episcopal appointments this year in England, and the debate about Catholic, especially clerical, bloggers, and the crisis in the Ukraine, it may understandably escape the notice of most members of the Church that today Benedictines celebrate the Solemnity of the Transitus (or Passing) of St Benedict.

Below is a translation of the Latin hymn set for this feast, which you otherwise might never see.

Shout, all ye people! Let your measured praises
Ring through the churches solemnly and sweetly;
On this feast day Benedict ascended
Heaven’s high summit.

He, when his youthful joyous years were blooming,
Yet in his boyhood left his native dwelling,
Seeking concealment hid within a cavern
Lonely and silent.

There amid nettles, rigid thorns and briars
Won he the battle over youth’s enticement,
Nurse of pollution; then he wrote a Holy Rule
of blest living.

Thy brazen image, infamous Apollo,
soon hath he smitten; burnt the grove of Venus,
Then to the Baptist, on the sacred mountain,
Established a chapel.

Now doth he witness happily in heaven
Seraphim, leading thongs of shining angels,
While he refreshes faithful hearts of who hear him
With living waters.

Praise to the Father, to the Sole-begotten,
And to Thee, always with the Twain co-equal,
Fostering Spirit; One only Godhead
Through all ages.

“Measured praises” is the sure sign of a hymn that originates in the noble simplicity of the Roman rite. Moreover, the tenor of all St Benedict’s Rule is one of measured common sense. In the midst of all his moderation, St Benedict had no time for pagan idols, the shrines of which he overturned in a moment. With the Church beset by a neo-pagan secularism, she needs even more the quiet witness of faithful, godly monks and nuns.

Please remember Douai Abbey in your prayers, and all English Benedictines, and also the brethren at Silverstream Priory.

May God, who has begun a good work in you, bring it to fulfillment, through Christ our Lord.

The Passing to the next life of St Benedict
The Passing to the next life of St Benedict

A worthy cause

Most monasteries feel short of money. Mine has been running at an annual deficit for some years but life is far from desperate. That said, there are things we need to be doing or fixing that we cannot now do due to the limitations on our funds. One huge advantage we have is that our property is an asset that can secure us loans when we need them.

So when a monastery is both short of money and living in a house not its own, the danger is compounded. It is hard to practise the Benedictine vow of stability when it is quite possible to be evicted from the place in which one’s stability is rooted.

So please spare a thought for the brethren at the recently-founded monastery of Silverstream, in County Meath in Ireland. Fr Mark maintains the edifying and insightful blog Vultus Christi, and the brethren focus on the worthy celebration of the liturgy in its monastic integrity, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and providing hospitality particularly to priests in a country which largely holds its clergy in low esteem at present. Silverstream has a flourishing community of external oblates, but more imnportantly it has new recruits who need to be formed and housed in security.

Silverstream Priory

The brethren at Silverstream do not own their monastery, but they would like to buy it. Every year that they cannot make the purchase sees 12.5% added to the asking price of the monastery. So in the last few days Fr Mark and his brethren have appealed for help to buy their house. Amazingly, in short time someone stumped up €100,000. That is about 15% of what they need to make an outright purchase.

If you have some money that cries out to be directed to the glory of God, or you know someone else who has, please consider a donation to Silverstream. Fr Mark gives guidance on how to donate in a tax-effective way for those in the UK, the EU and the USA.

Just st St Joseph provided for our Lord and our Lady, so too should the Church provide for those who serve it in the least economically-profitable but most spiritually-profitable way. Such monks are the heart of the Church which prays without ceasing for a world that so much needs God’s grace, and yet is so oblivious to it. Please help them in even a small way, if you can.

Pax.

The brethren on a community walk

 

 

Another’s conclusion

My recent change in blog design was not unanimously acclaimed, and there was even a gentle but heartfelt plea for a return to the previous theme. So the innovation has been abandoned and the traditional theme restored. This seems spookily emblematic of something… cannot think what though…

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Dom Mark Kirby of Silverstream Priory in County Meath, Ireland, has noted (with unwarranted kindness) my cri de ceour on the Mass. He admits to having been a fellow-traveller in the Reform of the Reform school, but has now reached a somewhat different terminus than the one at which I find myself. He concludes:

The cracks in the post–conciliar liturgical edifice became evident almost as soon as the new rites began to be “lived in.” Today, the same edifice appears like so many shabby buildings put up hastily during an economic boom, now revealing their structural flaws, and threatening imminent collapse.

He has both reason and experience in his rhetorical arsenal, and the courage of his convictions. He and his brethren have found a happy home in the bosom of Mother Church, enjoying the freedom to use the liturgy of 1962 as confirmed by Benedict XVI. He is no sectary. It is his community’s just-getting-on-with-it that is so attractive and so compelling. Arguments must be made, of course; still, to see a community making the old liturgy not so much an ideological stand but, well, normal daily practice is consoling. It is how liturgy is meant to be: not something controversial and almost political, but part of the warp and weft of Christian life.

I still think something can be fruitfully salvaged from the liturgical reform, and in large measure it will come from communities such as Silverstream quietly and faithfully worshiping as the Church has always desired we should. For some it will be with the liturgy of 1962, and for others the liturgy of 1969 and after. I still think there might be something in those interim missals immediately after the Council. They merit further study as they are far more clearly in communion with the previous liturgy of the Church, while just as clearly reflecting the desires expressed by the Council Fathers. They are not so much a via media but more of a path too quickly ignored.

Pax.