18. The Daily Office

Read by Br. James Koester

Read by Br. James Koester

Each eucharistic meal empowers us to approach God afresh in worship, united with Christ; Father Benson teaches us that “Just as in Holy Communion we receive His substance into our bodies, so in the saying of our offices we bring forth the power of that substance, so that it may rise up to God.”  The Daily Office is a sustained act of union with Christ by which we participate in his unceasing offering of love to the Father.  In reciting the psalms, singing canticles and hymns, pro­claiming the divine word in Scripture or lifting our voices in prayer, we are to enter more and more into the mind, heart and will of Christ, and be borne up by the Spirit in him to the Father.

Our praying of the psalter, which is the heart of the Daily Office, takes us ever deeper into the mystery of the Incarnation; the psalms give voice to the whole range of human experience which Christ has embraced and redeemed as the Savior of the world.  Although nothing essential is lacking when the office is said, we continue the tradition of our Society by singing whenever there are sufficient voices.  As we sing and chant deep levels of our being are involved; our hearts are lifted up in greater exultation.  And music enhances our worship with riches inherited from many ages.

This fellowship in praise at the heart of the Church continually deepens our integration as a community, making us one in Christ.  Our desire to experience this deepening communion will find expression in the care we give to the disciplines of choral prayer.  Among these disciplines are practice and preparation; the custom of taking our place in good time; stillness of posture; attentive­ness to the readings; sensitivity and responsiveness to one another so that we can sing and recite together.

The office will also nourish the inner life of each brother.  It is the means by which our hearts are constantly impregnated with the riches of the word of God in Scripture so that they bear fruit in our prayer and life.  When a brother’s heart is full of heaviness, praying the office can sustain him.  But for the office to be truly a means of our transfiguration we must cooperate by continually re­newing our inner attentiveness, laying aside again and again the preoccupations and daydreams that confuse and tie us down.  This effort to keep our hearts open to Christ will be needed all our lives; it is a hidden dying to self day by day.

The Daily Office offered by the Society shall be drawn from the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church or of its equivalent in the Anglican Church of Canada:  Morning Prayer, the Order of Service for Noonday, Evening Prayer and Compline.  Each house will establish a pattern in the recitation of the offices and the celebration of the Eucharist that best suits the local setting.

Each brother shall take part in every office unless he is permitted to be absent for reasons of infirmity or is prevented by some necessary work.  We shall recite Morning and Evening Prayer by ourselves if we are unable to join the community in choir and when we are away from the house.   In this way the community remains united in the common offering of praise even when we are separated.

19. The Word of God in Preaching

Read by Br. Mark Brown

Read by Br. Mark Brown

Preaching is central to our full experience of the living presence and power of Christ in our worship.  Although we do offer the Eucharist at certain times when silent reflection on the readings is judged to be sufficient, a homily will usually be preached at our regular community celebrations of the Eucharist.  In preaching, Christ, who will be present to us in communion, comes first to those who are listening in “the word of God . . . living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword,” and as the one who speaks words that are spirit and life.”  The preached word is thus part of our experi­ence of the daily bread of God’s nourishment. Continue reading

Good News or Old News – Br. James Koester

Deuteronomy 18: 15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8: 1-13; Mark 1: 21-28

One of the advantages of the lectionary is that each year, over a three year period, we have the opportunity to really sink our teeth into one of the gospels. This year, is the year of Mark, and Sunday by Sunday for most of the year we will hear Mark’s gospel proclaimed. Now as you know, each of the gospels has certain peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. They are not carbon copies of one another, even though many things are the same they sometimes appear in a different order or with a different emphasis. Each of the gospel writers is writing for a specific audience to make a specific point. One of the characteristics of Mark’s gospel is that it the shortest of the four gospels and scholars believe it is the oldest gospel, written down first sometime between AD 64 and AD 72, in other words just 30 or 40 odd years after the events the gospel depicts.

What is fun about Mark’s gospel is how breathless it is. Continue reading

20. Holy Scripture

Read by Br. Jim Woodrum

Read by Br. Jim Woodrum

The life we live is permeated by Holy Scripture; it has a central place in our worship, our preaching, our meditation and reading, and our study.  Through the scriptures the living voice of God is continually active to convert, nourish and transform us.  The more we open ourselves to their riches, the more we have to share with others.  And the more we open the scriptures to others, the more we discover in them for our own lives.

In the Daily Office and the eucharistic liturgy of the word, Scripture is continually absorbed into our beings as we pray the psalter and canticles and listen to the readings and preaching.  In our worship the Spirit sometimes touches us immediately through a word, an image or a story; there and then we experience the Lord speaking to us.  But we shall often go unaware of the ways in which the images and words of Scripture are seeping into the deepest level of our hearts.  These hearts of ours are not empty vessels but inner worlds alive with images, memories, experiences and desires.  It is the Spirit dwelling within us who brings the revelation of Scripture into a vital encounter with our inmost selves, and brings to birth new meaning and life.  Gradually we become aware of the deep resources of truth that this inner process of revelation has formed in us, and are able to draw upon them for our own needs and for the building up of others in ministry.  The effect of the scriptures upon us in the liturgy is largely subliminal, but this fact does not justify inattentiveness.  We should take care to read the scriptures with a clarity and energy that does justice to our love for them, and to listen as attentively as we can.

In our personal lives of prayer we shall feed on the scriptures and trust in expectant faith that God will be present in them for us.  If the Spirit draws us to ways of meditation and prayer that do not directly engage with the scriptures, then we would be wise to keep ourselves open to them by means of reading and study.  Often the scriptures will become most vivid and alive to us as we pre­pare to expound them in preaching and teaching.  However, we need to guard against the temptation to let our call to preach become the chief motive for investigating the scriptures.  We should learn to listen to the needs of our own hearts and search the scriptures for our own healing and revival.

The disciplines of critical biblical study and the spiritual appropriation of Holy Scripture in the heart are commonly treated as incompatible or kept separate.  Our community bears a valuable witness in the Church when we demonstrate that intellectual honesty and contemplative openness belong together in our life with Scripture.

If we are truly called by God into this Society we can be sure that the Gospel of John will be an unfailing source of life and light for us.  If we become intimately familiar with it by prayer and study, its riches will prove to be limitless.  In times of difficulty, when we are tempted to turn away, we should trust that this gospel will be our rock and mainstay.  Entering into it again we shall find ourselves praying the words of Simon Peter to Christ, “Lord, to whom can we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”

Reason and Revelation – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

In this homily for the feast day of Thomas Aquinas, Br. Geoffrey Tristram follows the theologian in exploring the connections between human reason and revelation, to celebrate how the intellect can discover—and help others to discover—God, in all places, even the least likely ones.

This sermon currently is available only in audio format.

21. The Mystery of Prayer

Read by Br. David Vryhof

Read by Br. David Vryhof

A ceaseless interchange of mutual love unites the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Our prayer is not merely communication with God, it is coming to know God by participation in this divine life. In prayer we experience what it is to be made “participants in the divine nature”; we are caught up in the communion of the divine persons as they flow to one another in self-giving love and reciprocal joy.  If we hold before us in wonder the mystery of the triune life of God our prayer will realize its full potential.  The conception of prayer as homage paid to a distant God will fall away.

We shall find ourselves full of awe and gratitude that the life of divine love is open and accessible to us, for God dwells in us.  “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  If we begin to accept God’s generosity in drawing us into the divine life, and grasp the dignity bestowed on us by the divine indwelling, prayer will spring up in adoration and thanksgiving.

We shall find ourselves adoring the Holy Spirit who is poured out into our hearts and gives us the love with which we can love in return.  Our hearts will be filled with thankfulness that the Spirit stirs in the depths of our being and unites all that we are, even what is broken and not yet formed, with the risen Lord.  We shall worship Christ himself with adoring love, full of gratitude that he abides in us, and that in him we enjoy the fullness of the Father’s acceptance and love.  Our contemplation of his undiminished humanity will continually encourage us to offer ourselves, our souls and bodies in all their humanity, to God through him.  Through Christ we shall adore the Father in whom we live and move and have our being, the life-giving mystery of love, who is beyond all words and above all thoughts.

There are many conflicts on the way into the experience of divine love.  Sinfulness originates in a deep wound to our humanity that hinders us all from accepting love.  As the Spirit exposes it to Christ’s healing touch in prayer, we shall often have to struggle with our reluctance to be loved so deeply by God.  Christ himself will strive with us, as the angel strove with Jacob, to disable our self-reliant pride and make us depend on grace.  Our love must be purified and tested by many times of darkness, loss and waiting.  The nearer we draw to God, the more we will sense our vulnerability to the “cosmic powers of this present darkness” that seek to isolate us from God and one another.  So there are sufferings to be expected in our prayer but through them we come to the peace Christ promised.  “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, support, strengthen and establish you.  To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.”

Lydia, Dorcas, & Phoebe – Br. David Allen

Acts 16:11-15; Lk 8:1-3

We all know what a significant contribution is made to the total life of the Church by women. But, very little emphasis has been given to the significance of the contribution that women made to the life of the early Church, although it must be obvious to anyone paying attention to the reading of the Epistles and Gospels of the New Testament that women have been very much involved in the life of the Church from the very beginning. To my knowledge it is only within the past 50 years or so that women have been elected or appointed to major roles in the Episcopal Church.  Continue reading

22. Prayer and Life

Read by Br. Curtis Almquist

Read by Br. Curtis Almquist

God the Holy Spirit longs to inspire in us prayer that includes and embraces the whole of our life.  It is a great privilege to be called to the religious life, which offers us every opportunity and en­couragement to welcome the Spirit’s transforming grace so that prayer may enter more and more into all that we are and all that we do.

Resisting the tendency to restrict prayer to set times, we are to aim at eucharistic living that is responsive at all times and in all places to the divine presence.

We should seek the gifts which help us to pray without ceasing.  The Spirit offers us the gift of attentiveness by which we discern signs of God’s presence and action in creation, in other people and in the fabric of ordinary existence.  We are called to spiritual freedom by which we surrender fretfulness and anxiety in order to be avail­able to God in the present moment.  There is the gift of spontaneity, which gives rise to frequent brief prayers throughout the day in which we look to Christ and express our faith, hope and love.  There is the gift of prompt repentance, which encourages us to turn to God and ask for forgiveness the instant we become aware of a fall.  Through these and other like gifts, prayer comes to permeate our life and transfigure our mundane routines.

The life of prayer calls for the courage to bring into our communion with Christ the fullness of our humanity and the concrete realities of our daily existence, which he redeemed by his incarna­tion.  We are called to offer all our work to God and ask for the graces we need to do it in Christ’s name.  In our prayer we are to test whether God is confirming our intentions and desires or not.  We are able to pray about one another, our relationships and common endeavors.  We are to bring him our sufferings and poverty, our passion and sexuality, our fears and resistances, our desires and our dreams, our losses and grief.  We must spread before him our cares about the world and its peoples, our friends and families, our enemies and those from whom we are estranged.  Our successes and failures, our gifts and shortcomings, are equally the stuff of our prayer.  We are to offer the night to God as well as the day, our unconscious selves as well as our conscious minds, acknowledging the secret and unceasing workings of the Spirit in the depths of our hearts.

This deep intention at the heart of our life to find God in all things means learning to trust that divine companionship continues undiminished even when we feel only boredom and  frustration.  We can learn to stay still in our experience of numbness and resistance, and trust that Christ is just as truly alive in our hearts in these times as in those in which we enjoy the sense of his presence.

The more we discover through prayer how completely the divine presence permeates our life, the greater will be the integrity of our ministry as we teach others to pray.  Men and women come to us not merely to learn to pray, but to learn to pray their lives.  The prayer that has spread its roots into our whole life bears fruit a hundredfold as we use the resource of our own experience in guiding and initiating others.

Companions of Paul – Br. David Vryhof

Feast of Timothy, Titus, and Silas (Companions of Paul) – Acts 15:22-26, 30-33; 16:1-5

In our Rule of Life we express the desire that “wherever possible we shall go out on mission in twos and threes rather than singly so that we can express our companionship in ministry” (ch. 32).  Our experience has been that when brothers share in ministry they can be a support and encouragement to one another, and can complement one another by their different gifts and styles of teaching.

I suspect that St. Paul would understand this thinking and endorse it.  Today we mark the feast of three of his companions, young men who accompanied him on his journeys, whom he trained and encouraged and who then went on to ministries of their own. Continue reading

23. Meditative Prayer

Read by Br. David Allen

Read by Br. David Allen

In our meditative prayer each of us seeks intimate communion with God.  Quietness and freedom from interruption are needed for us to enter deeply into this prayer.  Accordingly, each house of the Society shall have one hour of strict silence set aside each day so that all the brothers can spend this time in meditative prayer completely undisturbed.  Occasional necessity may compel a few of us to have their hour of prayer at another time of day, but the community hour is sacrosanct. Although we usually pray alone we are especially close in this hour, bearing one another up.

In times of struggle the sense of unity in prayer will be a great support.  When we are away on vacation or mission we shall aim at spending half an hour in prayer each day.

“There are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit.”  We shall not all have the same ways of prayer, but we will be united in seeking to open our hearts to “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that [we] may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  The focus of our meditation may be on the Word of God in Scripture or holy writings.  We may use our imaginations to enter into the deep meaning of a scriptural story.  Or in slow, reflective reading we may wait for the Spirit to alert us to the words or image that are to be the means of God’s particular revelation to us on this day: “The Spirit of truth . . . will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  Then meditation opens our minds and hearts, and our response to God’s gift and disclosure is kindled by the Spirit within us.  God may touch us through icons, images and symbols, impregnating our hearts with grace and fur­thering our transformation “from one degree of glory to another.”  Sometimes God’s word is waiting to be heard in our own current experience.  The call may be to sift through it in company with Christ to see how he is at work in our lives and where he is leading.

Our prayer may distill our heart’s desire in single words or hallowed phrases lovingly re­peated, while we lay aside discursive thoughts in order to be unified in Christ.  Or we may simply wait on God expectantly until our affections are kindled, and our hearts find a few words to give voice to our worship.  When God wills, we may be drawn to contemplation.  In the radical simplicity of contemplative prayer we surrender ourselves to the mystery beyond words of Christ’s abiding in us, and our abiding in him close to the Father’s heart.

Meditative prayer is the receptive and responsive prayer of our whole selves.  Our bodies are at prayer in the postures and breathing that enable us to be centered.  The solitude of the cell gives us the freedom to be spontaneous in expressing prayer through gestures, movements, tears and singing.

24. The Mystery of Intercession

Father Benson taught us to look always to the glory of the ascended Christ and find the mean­ing of all we do in union with him.  We shall enter into the mystery of intercessory prayer only if we realize our oneness with Christ the great High Priest, who lives forever to make intercession for all the world.  Christ makes this prayer to the merciful Father through the prayers of all the faithful who are baptized into his body.  His voice does not appeal to God separately from theirs; “They are . . . so many mouths to Himself; and as they pray . . . His voice fills their utterance with the authority and claim belonging to Himself.”  The Father hears the voice of his beloved Son in our prayers and accepts them as Christ’s.

It is the Spirit of Christ who stirs our prayer and weaves the movements of our hearts into his great offering.  Because the Spirit moves so deeply within us we cannot always be conscious of the full meaning and substance of our prayer.  Often our intercessions will feel weak and incoherent. Yet the Spirit is helping us “in our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.  And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Through faith we see Christ not only in his majesty in heaven, but in his lowly presence in every creature.  He suffers with and in everyone in need.  Our intercession does not call down the divine presence to come to the place where we have seen a need, for the Christ who fills all things is already in that place.  It is his Spirit who calls us to join him there by offering our love in inter­cessory prayer and action, to be used by God for healing and transformation.

It is a wonderful thing that God makes us his fellow-workers and uses our love, acting in in­tercession, to further the reconciliation of all things in Christ.  We offer thanks with joy whenever prayer results in the transformation for which we had hoped.  However, we must often suffer the pain of seeing no visible result to our prayer.  But we should let no frustration wear down the trust that sustains our waiting on God.  Every offering of love will bear fruit.  “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

According to an ancient monastic saying “A monk is separated from all in order to be united to all.”  The pioneers of monasticism believed that the monk was called to the margin of society in order to hear within himself the deepest cries of humanity, and to discover a profound unity with all living beings in their struggle to attain “the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”  In our in­tercessory prayer this solidarity will find its deepest expression.  We shall also experience through faith our communion with all the saints in glory who pray unceasingly with us and for us.

What Is Family Anyway – Br. Robert L’Esperance

Mark 3:31-35

Some of you might remember when, some years ago, people were expressing shock and even grief at an instructive issued by the Catholic Church.  Speaking on behalf of the magisterium, then Cardinal Ratzinger seemed to say that one must embrace the Roman Church in order to be saved.  Of course, our “shock and grief” have found their home in our own communion.  Anglicans have engaged in battle for some years now over the nature of human sexuality and what the Bible says or doesn’t say about it.  Both sides have fumed at each other.  Both sides have claimed the right.  Pronouncement has been answered with pronouncement.  In our own country, some congregations have decided that the issue is too important to remain within the Episcopal Church and have migrated to less objectionable quarters of the Anglican Communion.  There have been law suits, mostly about property rights (ah, that’s code for money).  It’s not a pretty picture.

Why should we be surprised that those outside the church looking-in grow more and more confused and turned-off by what they see? Continue reading

25. The Practice of Intercession

Read by Br. David Vryhof

Read by Br. David Vryhof

From the beginning the Church has entrusted to the monastic communities a special re­sponsibility for intercession.  Our hearts must always be open to those who ask for our prayers and depend on us to share their burdens.  We will rejoice with them when the gift we have sought together from the Lord is given them.  And we will stay joined to them in their struggle if God’s response seems to deny their request or calls them to wait.

Our prayers for one another, those we serve, the Church and the whole world, the living and the dead, are gathered up in our worship, particularly at the prayers of the people at the Eucharist. We should gladly use the opportunities provided in the liturgy of the Eucharist and in the Daily Office to offer our intercessions aloud as the Spirit moves us.

Once every quarter the community devotes a day to the offering of prayer and fasting.  On these days it is our custom to pray together in the presence of the eucharistic elements.  Through our fasting and these special times of prayer, we open ourselves so that the Spirit can draw us into the prayer of adoration, and move us to offer intercession for all the people of God.

We shall intercede also in our personal prayers day by day, appealing to God to pour out his saving grace on particular people and situations.  In intercession we shall discover the power to love those we find difficult.  Father Benson taught that “in praying for others we learn really and truly to love them.  As we approach God on their behalf we carry the thought of them into the very being of eternal Love, and as we go into the being of him who is eternal Love, so we learn to love whatever we take with us there.”  God will also inspire each one of us to make certain causes our special concern.  We may also be moved to draw the needs of the world into our contemplative prayer, holding them silently in the radiance of God’s mercy within our hearts.

Intercession is not an intermittent activity, restricted to those times in which we are de­liberately praying for the world and for people.  The entire life of each member of Christ’s body is intercessory.  Christ takes up our actions and everyday experiences into the eternal offering of his whole self to the Father.  If we abide in Christ he will show us that he accepts our labors, our struggles, our afflictions and the ordinary actions of our daily lives as sacrificial, and uses them to bless and uphold the world.

26. The Cell and Solitude

Read by Br. James Koester

Read by Br. James Koester

The Father of all whom we seek to love is a hidden God.  Therefore we take to heart the words of Jesus, “Whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  The cell is the place of this secret encounter and reward.  From time to time we may choose to pray in chapel, where the icons and sacramental presence of Christ in the tabernacle draw us to contemplation.  Or we may pray in a quiet place out of doors.  But the cell is the primary place of prayer where we are to stand before God.  The cell therefore must be ordered as a space for prayer and treated as sacred.

God has promised to be there for us: “Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.”  As we enter our cells we renew our commitment to meet God there by praying these same words.

We will experience our cell as a place of divine presence and companionship not only in our prayer but in our studying, resting and sleeping there.  There is solace in being alone with God, but the privacy of our cells is not meant to shut us off from one another.  We gladly welcome one an­other into our cells for quiet conversations.

Maintaining a balance in our life between solitude and engagement with others is not easy. We are subject to many pressures that deter us from experiencing solitude:  the claims of work, the fear of loneliness, and the reluctance to face ourselves as we are in the company of Jesus before God. Without solitude we would forfeit an essential means of inner restoration and encounter with God in the depths of our own souls.  Therefore we must find times to be alone.  We need to love our cells and take opportunities to stay quietly there in reflection, and in restorative activities such as reading and listening to music.  We will need to be disciplined in our use of the radio and recordings so that we use them as means of enrichment rather than of empty distraction.  Whenever staying in the cell becomes repugnant to us, or it begins to lose its attraction as a place of solitude, we must remember that we are called to life through death:  “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  In persevering in our cells we shall discover for ourselves the wisdom of the ancient saying, “The cell will teach you all things.”

Our close proximity to one another in our houses means that further solitude may need to be sought elsewhere.  We should value opportunities to be alone out of doors and in places where we can be replenished in spirit by ourselves.

Our cells are meant to be congenial and personal places so we are free to have around us plants, pictures and other things that beautify them in simple ways.  If we clutter the cells with a profusion of objects or make them chaotic and untidy, our rooms will be a hindrance instead of a help to centered, prayerful living.  Therefore at least once a year the Superior or Senior Brother shall require each brother to renew the order and simplicity of his cell.

Jesus’ Invitation to Follow – Br. Curtis Almquist

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Mark 1:14-20

The news is not necessarily good.  If you follow a newspaper or some online news source, or if you take in the news by TV or radio, you will not presume that the news you learn will be good news.  NPR reported not long ago on a study which researched the relationship between being well informed with the news, and being happy.  Are people who spend more time and energy getting more news more happy in life?  No.  It’s largely the opposite, an inverted relationship: the people with more news are more unhappy.  Well, I’m not about to suggest we become News Luddites; but I am saying that good news is remarkable, because there’s so much bad news, and that is as true today as it was in Jesus’ own day.  Which is why the news that people heard on Jesus’ lips was compelling: because it was so good.  He called it that – good news – and people voted with their feet.  If Jesus had been a political candidate, we could call it an enormous swelling of grassroots’ support.  They followed him in hordes. Continue reading

27. Silence

Read by Br. Mark Brown

Read by Br. Mark Brown

The gift of silence we seek to cherish is chiefly the silence of adoring love for the mystery of God which words cannot express.  In silence we pass through the bounds of language to lose ourselves in wonder.  In this silence we learn to revere ourselves also; since Christ dwells in us we too are mysteries that cannot be fathomed, before which we must be silent until the day we come to know as we are known.  In silence we honor the mystery present in the hearts of our brothers and sisters, strangers and enemies.

Only God knows them as they truly are, and in silence we learn to let go of the curiosity, presumption and condemnation that pretend to penetrate the mystery of their hearts.  True silence is an expression of love, unlike the taciturnity that arises from fear and avoid­ance of relationship.

Silence takes root through our cultivation of solitary prayer in which we are free to take delight in our aloneness with God undisturbed.  The Spirit helps us through our struggle with  distraction to return to that inmost place of mutual love where God is simply present to us and we to God.  If we are faithful here in our movement into silence, we will bring the same spirit into our liturgical worship and cherish the silences observed before and during the Eucharist and Offices.  Without this constant opening of the heart in silence alone and together we are unable to feel the touch or hear the word of God.  Silence is a constant source of restoration.  Yet its healing power does not come cheaply.  It depends on our willingness to face all that is within us, light and dark, and to heed all the inner voices that make themselves heard in silence.

Our ministries demand silence for their integrity, in particular our speaking to others and our listening to them in Christ’s name.  Without silence words become empty.  Without silence our hearts would find the burdens, the secrets and the pain of those we seek to help intolerable and over­whelming.  And our ethos of silence is itself a healing gift to those who come to us seeking newness of life.

Each of the disciplines that  protect silence in our common life calls for respect.  The Greater Silence makes the night and early morning a healing time for recollection.  Silent meals and those accompanied by music and reading accustom our guests and us to enjoying fellowship without needing to converse.  Appointed days of retreat and quiet invite us to deepen our awareness and prayer.  Our cells welcome us into the silence of God’s company, and we spurn that welcome if we rely unthinkingly on radio, music and conversation.  We cultivate a thoughtful respect of one an­other’s need to stay focused by avoiding unnecessary interruptions.

Our own strength is not sufficient for weaving silence into the fabric of daily life.  For the hours of the day to be permeated by mindfulness of the divine life we must be engaged in constant struggle, depending on God’s grace.  Powerful forces are bent on separating us from God, our own souls, and one another through the din of noise and the whirl of preoccupation.  Technology has in­tensified our risk of becoming saturated with stimuli.  We who are called to maintain a lively interest in our own culture, so that we can bear witness to Christ within it, can never rest from the effort of discernment and resistance or we shall fall captive to scatteredness and stress.

28. The Rhythm of Feast and Fast

Read by Br. Luke Ditewig

Read by Br. Luke Ditewig

Jesus chose to work the first of his signs and reveal his glory at the wedding feast at Cana, and he was the chief guest at many meals held to celebrate the new life he was bringing through the gospel.  His joy will abound in us when we celebrate by feasting on the holy days that commemorate the great acts of creation and redemption, and the glories of the saints.  He will continue to reveal his glory among us on the joyful occasions when we have festal meals to mark professions, clothings, anniversaries, holidays and special turning points in our life.

These feasts are another expression of our eucharistic life, and anticipate the heavenly banquet which the risen Lord is preparing for those who love him.  The careful preparations that make our festivities so pleasing are sacred tasks.  Our ministry of hospitality finds one of its richest expressions as we welcome guests to join us in these festal liturgies and meals of celebration.

Just as we feast to celebrate the abundance of the risen life, so we also fast because the end is not yet and the bridegroom is still to come.  Our feasts will be holy and joyful if we are equally prepared to enter from time to time into Jesus’ desert fast.  When we fast we should be following him, moved by the Spirit, to offer to God the experience of emptiness and want.  This offering is made in faith simply to God’s glory, yet from time to time it will open us to the Holy Spirit’s work of revelation.  In our fasting the Spirit may disclose our need to grieve for sin, ours and the world’s.  There may be some temptation we will experience more sharply when fasting, and the Spirit can encourage us to struggle with it more directly.  Or Christ may want us to sense our connectedness with his countless brothers and sisters who suffer hunger, and embrace their cause in prayer.  Above all, the hunger of our fast can open our hearts so that we discover again our hunger and thirst for the living God and have our desire rekindled by the Spirit.

During Lent there will be a common discipline of abstinence with simpler meals and no meat. We will fast by abstaining from food until evening on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and the four quarterly days of corporate retreat.  We will join our brothers in a fast of preparation on the day before they make their vows.  On fast days the Superior will give dispensation to those who require some food for reasons of infirmity, medical condition or unavoidable duties.  Those dispensed can participate in other ways through prayer, silence and recollection.  We may also fast on our personal retreat days.

Both our feasts and fasts have a part to play in achieving a wise balance in our daily eating and drinking.  In our feasting we learn to savor and appreciate what we eat and drink, in thankfulness to the Creator who gives them.  Fasting can help us to become more attentive to what our bodies really need so that we can moderate our appetites and be liberated from greed.

29. Retreat

Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Read by Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Times of retreat are essential elements in the rhythm of our life.  They enable us to celebrate the primacy of the love of God above all else.  Whenever we enter retreat we seek to be more available to God so that we may enter more fully into the divine life.  The community shall have one week of retreat together every year under the direction of a retreat leader.  The experience of shared silence and prayer deepens our solidarity in the Spirit and unites us in a common response to the living word.  In addition each professed brother shall have a week of individual retreat every year.

The arrangements about the time and place of this retreat will be made in consultation with the Superior.  In each quarter of the year there will be a day of corporate retreat, fasting and intercession.  Each brother will have an individual day of retreat every month in which there is no time of com­munity retreat.

Brothers who feel confident of God’s call to go forward in the Society will use their retreat before clothing or making their vows to deepen their self-offering to God.  If a brother needs further confirmation of his call, the focus of the retreat will be on the discernment of God’s will.

Retreat is an opportunity to experience the intimacy we have with God through our union with Christ.  Our availability to God will normally be expressed by setting aside three periods for prayer each day, and leaving all distracting tasks.  We seek an inner silence for communion with God and therefore refrain from conversation.  Exercise and gentle recreative activities in solitude will help us be open to the Spirit.

Retreats will often be times in which we hear Jesus inviting us to be at rest with him:  “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  But we must expect retreats to expose us to spiritual trial.  We may be tempted to tire our­selves or waste the time in busy work and preparation.  We may find ourselves staying on the surface to avoid an authentic meeting with the living God.  And the emptiness of retreat time may compel us to face the painful signs of our need for healing that it was easier to overlook during our usual routines.  So our retreat times will be opportunities to strive against everything that would discourage us from radical dependence on the love of God.

Those of us who guide the retreats of others should be creative in their own use of retreat and guard against mere routine.  Our own experience must be real and vital if we are to draw on it when we guide those who are seeking God.

30. Guidance and Reconciliation

Read by Br. Robert LEsperance

Read by Br. Robert L'Esperance

In our own prayer Christ will come to us as a servant seeking to wash our feet, but he also seeks to attend to our needs through the ministry of others and the Church’s sacraments of nurture, forgiveness and healing. We fall and fall again so we should be glad of the opportunities that the sacramental rite of Reconciliation provides to encounter Christ again in the places of our brokenness and poverty, and allow him to bind up our wounds and set us on our feet. If we ever feel reluctant to use this means of grace, we must remember how Peter was tempted to refuse the touch of Christ and how the Lord had to warn him of its necessity.The Superior ensures that each brother has regular access to a confessor outside the community. We are to make our confessions at least every quarter.

We cannot keep pace with the risen Christ who goes before us if we are encumbered by guilt. If we stay estranged in our hearts, we jeopardize the communion we have with our brothers and our fellow members of the Body of Christ. Regular sacramental confession enables us to shed the bur­dens of remembered sin, and move forward encouraged by the Spirit. We enter the fellowship of the community again with fresh gratitude for the reality of forgiveness. Father Benson has taught us to live as penitents, “to rise thus to live in the full light of the presence of Jesus, to rise to have nothing hidden, to live in openness of heart to Him, and in an openness of heart to one another also, which the world does not know of, to tear away the veil which hides our hearts, to have our inmost life standing out in the presence of God.”

Each brother in vows, after consulting with the Superior, will find a spiritual director with whom to meet regularly. Christ is not only the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, but “the Way, and the Truth and the Life.” In spiritual direction we make progress on the way which is Christ, learning how we go astray and discovering the paths of prayer and mercy. Our spiritual directors help us enter into the truth which is Christ, uncovering our illusions and guiding us to ex­plore the freedom for which Christ has set us free. They challenge us to seek liberation from all that is narrow and superficial so that we can find the abundance of life which is Christ. Anyone who tries self-sufficiency in the spiritual life soon falls prey to illusion. From the earliest days God has given members of our Society the calling and gifts for the ministry of spiritual direction. It is especially important for those of us who are called to be spiritual directors to receive direction ourselves.

Christ will also make himself known as the good shepherd through the teaching and counsel of our retreat leaders. In times of retreat we should open our hearts, expecting to hear his voice speaking through the one we have invited to guide us.

31. Mission and Service

Br. Curtis Almquist

Read by Br. Curtis Almquist

Christ sends us with the same passionate trust and love with which the Father sent him into the world.  Our mission is to bring men, women and children into closer union with God in Christ, by the power of the Spirit that he breathes into us.  Christ is already present in the life of everyone as the light of the world.  It is our joy to serve all those to whom we are sent by helping them to embrace that presence in faith.  Our mission is being fulfilled as our prayer, worship and daily life in community draw people into life in Christ.

It is also expressed through ministries that demon­strate the wide range of the Spirit’s gifts.  These ministries spring from our baptismal vocation; only a few of them are the specific responsibility of the ordained.  The Society’s identity is not defined by any particular ministries, since the Spirit is free to change them.  Nevertheless our tradition, expe­rience, and discernment of the signs of our own times encourage us to be alert for Christ’s invitation to serve in the following ways:

We are ready to respond to the needs of those who desire to learn how to pray, to understand the things of the Spirit, and to press forward on the way of conversion.  Some brothers therefore make themselves available, as the Spirit enables them, for ministries of spiritual formation, initiation and guidance with individuals and groups in the Church, and with seekers outside it. We will be alert to the claims of those who seek solid nourishment for the heart and mind, and be open to God’s call to preach, to teach, and to provide written resources through books and publications.

God may prolong our tradition of service to those who are exercising, or being prepared for, ordained ministry in the Church by calling us to support them with our hospitality, to act as guides and confessors, and to offer such training as we may be qualified to give.  Equally, we are ready to support and equip lay men and women for their ministries.

God can call us to further the work of healing and reconciliation by reaching out to the sick, offering the sacraments of healing and forgiveness, befriending the alienated and perplexed, serving those in prison and seeking the company of the marginalized.

We are to be prepared for God to call us to be active witnesses for peace and social justice, bearing witness to Christ’s presence on the side of people who are deprived and oppressed.  We expect our calling to continue to bring special resources to bear on the needs and claims of children and their families who are impoverished and at risk.

God may call a few of us to special ventures in mission in other places and countries, or to hold office in the Church.  In rare cases where a brother would be separated from community life for long periods we would look for clear signs that this was indeed a call coming from God.  In our understanding and discernment of ministry we must be careful to recognize how broad is the range of talents that God uses in ministry, and be prepared for ministries which draw on artistic gifts, and engage our concerns for the environment, and the renewal of society.