Monday, June 29, 2009

Prince of Peace Abbey

Just returned from a long weekend retreat at Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, California. I'll post a little on the retreat in the next few days. In the meantime, here's a picture from the Abbey grounds.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I SING of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers,
Of April, May, of June, and July-flowers ;
I sing of May-poles, hock-carts, wassails, wakes,
Of bridegrooms, brides and of their bridal-cakes ;
I write of youth, of love, and have access
By these to sing of cleanly wantonness ;
I sing of dews, of rains, and piece by piece
Of balm, of oil, of spice and ambergris ;
I sing of times trans-shifting, and I write
How roses first came red and lilies white ;
I write of groves, of twilights, and I sing
The court of Mab, and of the fairy king ;
I write of Hell ; I sing (and ever shall)
Of Heaven, and hope to have it after all.

by Robert Herrick

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Hymn of Praise

I confess to Thee, O Lord, and I give thanks unto Thee, because Thou
hast created in me this Thine image, that I may remember Thee, think upon Thee, love Thee, but so darkened is Thine image in me by the smoke of my sins that it cannot do that whereunto it was created, unless Thou renew it and create it again. I seek not, O Lord, to search out Thy depth, but I desire in some measure to understand Thy truth, which my heart believeth and loveth. Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this too I believe, that unless I first believe, I shall not understand.

St. Anselm of Canterbury, Devotions

The Salt of the Earth

The first degree of humility, then,
is that a person keep the fear of God before his eyes (Ps. 35[36]:2)
and beware of ever forgetting it.
Let him be ever mindful of all that God has commanded;
let his thoughts constantly recur
to the hell-fire which will burn for their sins
those who despise God,
and to the life everlasting which is prepared
for those who fear Him.
Let him keep himself at every moment from sins and vices,
whether of the mind, the tongue, the hands, the feet,
or the self-will,
and check also the desires of the flesh. (From Ch 7 of the Rule of St. Benedict)

The word “humility”, as many of you will already know, comes from the latin humus which is a root for our English word, earth. The implication is that, by “humility”, Benedict didn’t mean to imply the modern idea of submission and weakness, even mousiness. The idea he had in mind is the trait of knowing exactly who we are in the world. As Fr. Michael Casey put it, the idea is of living in the truth, about ourselves, about others, and most importantly, about God.

People today have lost touch with this reality. The tendency I see all too often, is to try to bring God down to our size. We want to make him a good buddy, a friend and companion, a big sugar-daddy, forgetting all the while just who exactly he is: the Lord, God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. He is something entirely Other from any of us.

Benedict wouldn't agree with our modern tendencies. He would ask us to be mindful of just exactly who we are and who God is. He's not afraid to remind the monk, and the Christian, that there is, indeed, such a thing as “hell fire” and that it is something to be feared. I don't think there can be much doubt that Benedict seems to be talking about real, almost visceral fear, not just “respect” or “love” as I’ve heard it described all too often lately. Benedict means the real thing, because if we forget all this, the consequences will be eternal.

But, when Benedict talks about fearing God and hell fire and brimstone, is he just showing himself to be another Christian fundamentalist extremist whose only desire is to squeeze all the joy out of life? Is he really advocating that Christians must live their lives in fear and terror of an unreasonable and judgmental God?

At first glance, it might look that way. But a further reading of Chapter 7 gives a different picture. At the end of the chapter, Benedict writes:

Having climbed all these steps of humility, therefore, the monk will
presently come to that perfect love of God which casts out fear.

At this point, those souls will have attained that perfect loves that drives out fear. It becomes clear that Benedict sees the Christian journey as just that, a journey on the road to final beatitude. In keeping with what he wrote in the Prologue, he sees this life as a “school” of service to the Lord. In the early, simple stages of development, the initial motivation might be little more than fear of hell. But this first step is the necessary prelude to further growth – it’s what first gets our attention. The goal is the driving out of that fear through love. And progressing along this road, if that is the right term, means that we come to know and accept more of the truth about the reality of our existence. It means growing in humility.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Call To Lectio

COME now, thou poor child of man, turn awhile from thy business, hide thyself for a little time from restless thoughts, cast away thy troublesome cares, put aside thy wearisome distractions. Give thyself a little leisure to converse with God, and take thy rest awhile in Him. Enter into the secret chamber of thy heart: leave everything without but God and what may help thee to seek after Him, and when thou hast shut the door, then do thou seek Him. Say now, O my whole heart, say now to God, I seek Thy face; Thy face, Lord, do I seek.Come now then, O Lord my God, teach Thou my heart when and how I may seek Thee, where and how I may find Thee? O Lord, if Thou are not here, where else shall I seek Thee?

St. Anselm of Canterbury, Devotions