The Oblate

A Newsletter for Oblates
Saint John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota 56321-2015

Vol. 50, Nr. 1 (January - March 2006)

This Issue

The Feast of the Resurrection by Abbot John Klassen, OSB
Announcements
Oblates Recommend by Lucie Johnson OblSB
College Oblate Program
Oblate Web Resource

Some Thoughts on Love
An Oblate Service Opportunity
Reflections on Mark's Gospel by Eileen Wallace OblSB
From Abbot Wimmer to Abbot Klassen, a poem
Area Oblate Meetings

 

Announcements

Deceased Oblates

Mrs Ruth Cullen Scully, +18 February 2006
mother of Oblate Robert Scully
Oblate Natividad Castro Santos +2 August 2005
Oblate Clarence Soyka +3 September 2005

New Oblate Candidates

Thomas Garcia 6 February 2006
David Fogh 11 March 2006
Susan Sink 15 March 2006

Final Oblation

Dan Walsh 4 February 2006
Nancybeth Schultz 10 March 2006
Bruce Walkley 14 March 2006
Shaina Crotteau 14 March 2006

Contents

 Oblates Recommend ...

by Lucie Johnson OblSB

Now and then I am a neglectful Oblate...reading the Rule slips, and so do psalms; retreat was a long time ago; my mother gets sick, my apartment floods, the computer network at school appears to be possessed. Do I remember then how grounding Benedictine spirituality can be? Not likely. God, mercifully, then sent me a reminder under the cover of an e-mail from amazon.com. Amazon.com wrote it had a recommendation especially tailored for me: Terrence D. Kardong, the author of the now classical commentary on the Rule had now written Day by Day with Saint Benedict (Liturgical Press, 2005). Besides, I ought to consider adding Aquinata Böckmann's latest Expanding Our Hearts in Christ: Perspectives on the Rule of St Benedict (Liturgical Press 2005). What else could I do but acquire both books?

Probably what I like most in Fr Terrence Kardong's book, besides his scholarship and love of the Rule, is his down-to-earth approach, and his dry sense of humor. It is rare for a scholar to write a set of devotional entries. In Day by Day with Saint Benedict, the scholar's voice deepens a word's meaning, clarifies a context, and invites us to see things clearly and realistically, and with a grain of salt. Sometimes, for newcomers (oblates as well as monks) monasticism seems to be "romantic" at first, yet "When one is asked to make drastic changes in her life, then romanticism could give way to terror. But it is a mistake to flee at once since this hard regimen is only a way to arrive at love." (p. 101) In this passage and many others, we benefit from writings seeped through and through in a love of the Rule and years of monastic experience.

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NOTE: Have you read a book you'd like to share with the rest of us? Let me know. Please. We all want to hear from you. Write me. My e-mail is: johluc@hotmail.com

Of a different nature is Sr Acquinata Böckman's Perspectives on the Rule, which is an exhaustive commentary on selected passages of the Rule, such as the chapters on hospitality (RB53), the good zeal (RB72), monastic profession (RB58). This is written for slow verse and verse pondering. If I should think I have, for example, plumbed the depths of what the chapter on hospitality can say, this book will show me that I've hardly started to listen. It is a lesson also in what it may mean to truly listen to a text, and all the places where this might take us. Each chapter also has one or more "excursus" sections which take one into Scripture and the larger monastic tradition, and sometimes also contemporary issues such as the reception of refugees. I turn to Fr Kardong's Day by Day in the morning, to get my day going. Sr Böckman's Perspectives on the Rule is late evening fare, when I grow more meditative and wish to go deeper.

Nature, the daily tasks of life, gardening, life itself is a source of lectio, as Gunilla Norris shows us in her small meditative volume A Mystic Garden: Working with Soil, Attending to Soul (BlueBridge, 2006). Gunilla Norris is a poet, meditation teacher and psychotherapist. She lives in Mystic, CT. She has written children books and several spirituality books centering around the spirituality of everyday life. A Mystic Garden is about the author and her garden throughout the year. It is a set of one-page meditations accompanied with some connected sayings or short poems. The author wrote it slowly, as she went through the year and experienced God through nature, the soil, the weather, small tasks, or just waiting. The author recommends we read this slowly as well. Gardeners will resonate with this. But so will the rest of us who need to stop, catch our breath, and notice how things grow.

Contents

College Oblate Program

On 5 December 2005, five students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University were invested as Oblate candidates by Abbot John during Evening Prayer in the Abbey Church. On 14 March 2006, two of the five, Shaina Crotteau and Bruce Walkley made their Final Oblation during Evening Prayer and in the presence of Abbot John, the monastic community, and a large number of fellow students, relatives and friends. In selecting their heavenly patrons as companions on their faith journey, the two students continued a practice that is becoming more common among Oblates, that is, choosing names of the opposite gender. Shaina opted for Benedict John; Bruce for Maria. Before Evening Prayer, Abbot John invited the couple to share a lavish meal in the monastic refectory (liver and onions!). In spite of the food, jocularity rang with unbridled abandon in the dining room.

During the year of candidacy, Father Robert Pierson OSB, the monk-mentor for the student Oblates, meets with the group for an hour each Sunday before the Student Evening Mass. Each person is provided with a copy of The Benedictine Handbook, which is used as their study guide for being introduced to Benedictine spirituality and the principles of the Oblate life. The Oblate Office is deeply indebted to Father Bob for volunteering to minister to our college Oblates.
Shaina, a sophomore from Orono, Minnesota, is pursuing a double major (biochemistry/theology; minor in psychology). She is a member of a Benedictine parish, Holy Name of Jesus in Wayzata/Medina, Minnesota. Among her many interests are orchestra, piano, choir, ballroom dancing, and living on CSB campus in a Women 's Faith Group.

Bruce is a sophomore hailing from Independence, Missouri. His double major being chemistry/theology. He belongs to a vocation group and enjoys ballroom dancing. But his favorite out-of-classroom activity is driving the student bus between the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University. His motto seems to be: "A Creative Bus Driver Is a Happy Bus Driver." Quite by chance, he hit upon the idea of playing tapes from Disney musicals -- from Aladin, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and others. The bus rides turn into vehicular karaokes; the young folks not only like the songs, but join in singing the songs. He also creates a special ambience for the various holidays. For Valentine's Day the bus became a love machine, filled only with romantic songs and a love poem taped to the back of each seat.

Contents

New Oblate Resource Website

Paraclete Press is the publishing arm of the Community of Jesus, an ecumenical religious community in the Benedictine Tradition. Paraclete has recently created a new website called <www.oblatebooks.com>. This is a website with products that will enrich and aid those seeking to live the Oblate way of life. If Oblates have an interest in Gregorian Chant, Paraclete Press has created a new website called <Chantresources.com> -- which has recordings and books.

Paraclete is the exclusive North American distributors for the recordings of the Monks of Solesmes, as well as for the Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola -- one of the finest American chant recording groups.

Oblate Subscription Renewal

Please renew your subscription to The Oblate by sending a donation of $12: Mail to Director of Oblates, Saint John's Abbey, 31802 County Road 159, Collegeville, MN 56321-2015, Tel. 320 363-2018, E-mail: <Oblates @ osb.org>.

Contents

Some Thoughts on Love

by Father William Skudlarek, OSB
Saint John's Abbey

Here's an account of the creation of the world that I'll bet is unlike any other you have ever heard:

One afternoon, before anything was made, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost sat around in the unity of their Godhead discussing one of the Father's fixations. From all eternity, it seems, he had had this thing about being. He would keep thinking up all kinds of unnecessary things -- new ways of being and new kinds of being to be. And as they talked, God the Son suddenly said, "Really, this is absolutely great stuff. Why don't I go out and mix us up a batch?"

And God the Holy Ghost said, "Terrific, I'll help you." So they all pitched in, and after supper that night, the Son and the Holy Ghost put on this tremendous show of being for the Father. It was full of water and light and frogs; pine cones kept dropping all over the place and crazy fish swam around in the wineglasses. There were mushroom and grapes, horseradishes and tigers -- and men and women everywhere to taste them, to juggle them, to join them and to love them. And God the Father looked at the whole wild party and he said, "Wonderful! Just what I had in mind! Tov! Tov! Tov!"

So they shouted together, "Tov meod!" and they laughed for ages and ages, saying things like how great it was for being to be, and how clever of the Father to think of the idea, and how kind of the Son to go to all that trouble putting it together, and how considerate of the Spirit to spend so much time directing and choreographing. And forever and ever they told old jokes, and the Father and the Son drank their wine in unitate Spiritus Sancti, and they all threw ripe olives and pickled mushrooms at each other per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

That's the way the Episcopal priest Robert Farrar Capon begins his book, The Third Peacock.

Now one could rightly say that what Father Capon has given us is a crass analogy; but, as he puts it, crass analogies are the safest. Everybody knows that God is not three old men throwing pickled mushrooms at one other. But not everyone is equally clear that God is not a cosmic force, or an intelligent designer, or some other scientific or philosophical analogy one might come up with.

The point Father Capon is trying to make is that this world is the result -- as he puts it -- of a Trinitarian bash. God creates because God is love, and love cannot be contained. The world is the exuberance of divine love spilling over into a riot of shapes and sounds, colors, tastes, and textures. What's more, God's love doesn't just get the world started; the only reason the world continues to be is because God continues to love it, loving it to the point of giving his only Son for it.

Capon's insistence on love as the only way to speak about God's relation to the world creates a problem for some people. If God cannot not love the world, how is it possible to talk about condemnation, as the Evangelist John does when he says that whoever does not believe in the Son of God has already been condemned? How can anyone be condemned if they came to existence through God's love and are being kept in existence by that same love?

That was the question my students asked me when I used Capon's book in an introductory theology course some 30 years ago. They were a little more straightforward, however. If God cannot not love, they asked, then what happens to the Church's teaching about hell?

So I wrote to Father Capon and asked him, "What about hell?" Here's what he wrote back:

Just a quick response -- please forgive. I just didn't bother to follow up how the doctrine of Hell flows from the imagery of the Word [of God] romancing creation to himself.

For the record, I think it follows easily: It is precisely the Mexican standoff between a Romancer who will never give up and a "romancee" who will never give in that is the hell of it all. When one of the two parties to a love affair grows cold, his dearest wish is that the other would oblige, do likewise, and drop the whole subject. Any unwanted lover is a tribulation; an unwanted infinite lover who insists on hanging around for all eternity has got to be the supreme tribulation -- one for which the descriptive terms "undying worm" and "unquenchable fire" may well be, if anything, too mild.

Last Christmas Pope Benedict XVI issued his first encyclical, Deus caritas est, God is Love. It came as quite a surprise to those who were expecting him to begin his pontificate with a stern condemnation of secular relativism or a ringing defense of the superiority of the Catholic faith. Instead, he said that he wished in his first encyclical "to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others."

Now Pope Benedict's language isn't nearly as colorful as Capon's: no pickled mushrooms or fish swimming in wine glasses in this encyclical. But what he has to say about divine and human love is remarkable in its own way.

According to Pope Benedict, divine love -- and the human love in which divine love is reflected -- isn't just that selfless devotion that the Greek New Testament calls agape; it's also passionate love, eros, a word which, as Pope Benedict notes, never occurs in the New Testament. And yet he goes on to say, "God loves, and his love may certainly be called eros, yet it is also totally agape."
The reason Pope Benedict says that God's love may be called eros is because the people of Israel and the followers of Jesus experienced God's love as a love that was totally giving, agape, and at the same time intensely passionate -- even though they didn't use the word eros to describe it. And because God's love is both eros and agape, human love also begins with eros and blossoms into agape. This is how Pope Benedict puts it,

Even if eros is at first mainly covetous and ascending, [fascinated by] the great promise of happiness, [when it draws] near to the other, it [becomes] less and less concerned with itself [and] increasingly seeks the happiness of the other. . . . The element of agape thus enters into this love, for otherwise eros is impoverished and even loses its own nature. On the other hand, [we] cannot live by . . . descending love alone. [We] cannot always give. [We] must also receive. Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift.

Love is the gift we are offered today, in God's word and in the sacrament of the body and blood of Jesus. God loves us so much, is so passionate about us, that he gives us his only Son. What can we do but receive that gift with joy and thanksgiving, love him in return, and share it with others?

 

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The Oblate is published by Saint John's Abbey, 31802 County Road 159, Collegeville, MN 56321
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Fr. Michael Kwatera OSB, Director of Oblates
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