St. Padre Pio is a favorite of many; you cannot but love him. His whole life was one of suffering, yet he was known to have a great sense of humor. He also had a righteous temper! Padre Pio knew what sin was, he knew exactly how it separated people from God, and he took offense at it.
The example of Padre Pio reminds me of what we read in the book of Haggai. Haggai 1:7 says: “Consider your ways/Reflect on your experience.” If we are serious about our lives, we will do just that. Monastic tradition dictates that we reflect on our lives particularly twice a day: at noon and in the evening at Compline.
We reflect on our day for the purpose of conversion. It’s not to take into account everybody else’s faults; it’s to account for our own reactions. I’m responsible for my reactions. Yes, people can push my buttons: they can be nasty, they can do all kinds of things, but that doesn’t mean that I have to react badly. The reason we are to consider our ways is so that we can change them. Beware of going through life saying “it’s everybody else’s fault.”
We also play a part in how we are to our [brothers and] sisters. Don’t push people’s buttons. If you know something hurts them, be aware of it. Go the extra mile to be kind in that area. Be aware of the weaknesses of one another. What we can do to help one another, we’re responsible for doing.
“Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:7). People are saying “Oh no… no-no… it’s not the time for that. It’s not the time to build the house within” (cf. Haggai 1:2). That’s what the world says, but God says it is the time. How are we supposed to do it? Read again in Haggai, “Go up into the hill country; bring timber, that I may be pleased with it, and that I may be glorified, says the Lord” (Haggai 1:8). Bring the Cross. Carry It. Follow Him.
Remember Who Christ is in your life. Keep Him before you daily. Every moment. Seek His Face every single moment.
On September 14, 2022, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, our Sister Mary made her First Profession of Monastic Vows during the Eucharistic Celebration, receiving the name Sister Maria-Rose, and taking Our Lady of Guadalupe as her Patroness. It was a beautiful ceremony, and unique because our Sister Assunta also renewed her simple vows for the final time before making her Solemn Profession next year.
We know the famous story about God telling Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let His people go. He says, “Now, go! I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10). Don’t you think Moses choked at this command: “Pharaoh? I took off from there a few years ago… This isn’t what I had in mind!” And isn’t it true that in our own lives, God also sends us to those places we don’t really want to go? The things we’ve run from are the very things we slam into. We think we’ve left them far behind when we’re in a new place…But there it all is again! And you sit there saying, “Why?”
Moses says to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Ex 3:11), as in, “Can we talk about somebody else going?” But God answered, “I will be with you” (Ex 3:12). There’s the difference. It’s that now you’re being sent. You’re being commissioned and now, personally, I will be with you. There is no fear when God is with us. I think that’s one of the most important things to remember: don’t be afraid of what God has ordained. Don’t fear the things of God… even when you have to run right back into the things you were fleeing from, or not really wanting to be around. Those are the places where He says, “Oh! Come right in! I’m here waiting for you.” It’s something to think about. God doesn’t want us to fear. He wants to show His power in weakness because then we’re sure it’s Him.
It’s nothing for a muscle-man to pick up a car. But if somebody who weighs 60 pounds and doesn’t look too well, walks over and picks up a car, you would say, “It can’t be him – it must be the Lord!” So He makes it evident, very often, that it’s His work and not our own. So never be surprised when you’re asked things beyond what you think you can do. God says, “This will be great. Even you will know it is I who am doing it.”
We know that St. Benedict says in the Rule that one of the signs of a vocation is if the person seeks God. That’s such an important part of our lives—that we never stop seeking Him. In the Psalms it says, “Look to the Lord in his Strength, constantly seek His face” (Psalm 105:4). I think sometimes we have to remember that prayer isn’t just when we’re in the Chapel. Prayer is being in the presence of God. That’s something we learn to carry throughout our day. We learn to be in His presence in the Chapel, and then we love it so much, we desire to become being in His presence. At the end of our lives, we are to become prayer. That is our goal: that prayer never leaves us. As Benedictines, we don’t separate the Work of God (the prayer of the Divine Office) from the rest of our lives. We take it and we live it continually, wherever we go, whatever we do. We never stop being the prayer. And I would say that is the challenge of our day. To become prayer means that we never ever cease having God in our hearts, on our minds, and on our lips. But that’s something you grow into. It takes a lifetime. I think that’s the beauty of life, that you grow into being fully who you were created to be. Your life will be holy and beautiful if you allow God to be the center of it.
In the same Psalm we hear, “Glory in His Holy Name! Rejoice, O hearts, that seek the Lord!” (Psalm 105:3). There should be a spiritual joy about us. In spite of whatever is going on, the only things that are really important are those things that are Eternal. All the rest? It will vanish, and it won’t mean anything. But everything that we do that has Eternity attached to it, we need to pay attention to.
One of the things we have to pay attention to is compassion. You learn compassion from being with others. That’s why being in community is so important; you learn to love even those who don’t love you. But what a gift! It teaches you truly to love. Don’t count it amiss when you have trouble with others. Don’t count it amiss when you have to work a little harder. Count it a gift. It will teach you to love with the love of God. Be sorry for those who never have that chance. It’s so important to be tried. It is so important in the monastic life that we work hard to be better than we could ever be alone. I’m finding that more and more, as I get older, you become more compassionate because you’ve had to struggle through many things. You also have moments when you realize your mistakes and say, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t done that!” These experiences teach us to have compassion on others who are in the same situation we were in. In these cases, how could you not care?
On July 11, the Solemnity of Saint Benedict, our Sister Maria-Placida renewed her vows for another year. Join us in praying for her as she journeys toward Solemn Profession!
During the vow renewal ceremony, the “Suscpie” is sung by the sister before the altar. The full text of the chant is “Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum, et vivam et non confundas me ab expectatione mea,” which translates, “Uphold me O Lord, as you have promised, that I may live; and disappoint me not in my hope.” Below is a beautiful word about the “Suscpie” from Esther de Waal, a contemporary author on Benedictine spirituality:
We stand daily before God with empty hands, just like the publican. “Suscpie me, accept me O Lord as you have promised and I shall live; do not disappoint me in my hope.” [These words] mean more now that I have learnt that the Latin word comes from the verb sub-capere, to take underneath and so with the idea of supporting, raising, and that in Roman usage it was the word for a father taking up a new-born infant from the ground and thus recognizing it as his own…Accept me, receive me, support me, raise me up – wonderful singing words that say everything that I want to say as a prayer for myself.
It seems to me that God loves to meet people on a walk. Starting in Genesis we hear that God walked with Adam and Eve through the gardens. And we have Jesus meeting the disciples on the road to Emmaus. And we have Saul on the way to Damascus. And how many other encounters there have been, we don’t know, but I’m sure there are many. And I think they still happen today. Enjoy your walks! You never know if He is going to be upon you, quickly, and with a great deal of love. But remember He also walked His Passion. The Way of the Cross. And He met each one: His Mother, Veronica, Simeon… Think of all those He encountered on the Way, specifically.
We have to be able to allow God’s presence, and not pass Him by. On the road to Emmaus, the disciples had the chance to let Jesus go, and they didn’t. “Stay with us,” they said. I think the excitement of every day comes from wondering, “Where am I going to meet Him?” “How am I going to meet Him?”
Jesus wants our lives to be mixed with His. It’s like in a marriage, how over time a couple even grows to look alike, because they transform each other. That should be true of all of us. By the end of our lives we should be transformed. By doing things so much like Christ we should begin to look like Him. I wish that for everyone, and for you to have a lovely walk, encountering Him all along your way every day.
Every year on October 12 the holy oil from Saint Walburga’s tomb in Germany begins to flow, and it continues until her Feast Day on February 25. Due to the testimonies of many people who have experienced God’s healing power after anointing themselves with the oil and asking Saint Walburga to pray for them, it seems that this quote from Saint Thérèse of Lisieux may also be applied to our patroness:
A reflection on the purpose of the Holy Rule of St. Benedict by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB
The Rule of St. Benedict outlines for us how to live a righteous life, and most importantly, it leads us to love. At the end of our lives, we will be judged by love. Just as the law isn’t going to save us so the Rule isn’t going to save us. But if we do what it says, it leads us to love.
In the Prologue, St. Benedicts says that his Rule is from “a father who loves you” (RB Prologue:1). His bottom line is that he’s writing it out of love. According to the dialogues of St. Gregory, at the end of Benedict’s life, his love needed to be perfected. So St. Scholastica, who was more perfect in love, was there to show him this last mark of his life that was needed—that love triumphs. The law was good and necessary, but it leads to love, and that’s its only purpose. (Click here for Gregory the Great’s account of this meeting).
Again, we hear in the Rule that “as we advance in the religious life and faith, we shall run the way of God’s commandments with expanded hearts and unspeakable sweetness of love” (RB Prologue:49). That’s what we’re all supposed to become. That’s what St. Benedict so desires for us. It is nothing more than the gospel message to love God and love our neighbor, and he shows us clearly a way to do this in his Rule. I challenge everyone to read Chapter 4 of the Holy Rule and pick one thing to work on for the good of the Body of Christ, for the better of another, for love. Do this seriously, that Christ may look upon you and say, “What a light in this world, which is so needed. I see clearly that my death meant something.” And in this way we will comfort the heart of Christ.
A reflection on the
triumph of Love by Mother Maria Michael Newe, OSB
I was thinking about the incredible words we sing during the Divine Office on the Feast of St. Andrew: “Seeing the cross [of his own martyrdom], Andrew cried out with joy, ‘O precious cross! Truly I have always loved you, and I have desired to embrace you.’”
This is a disciple who ran away in the garden of Gethsemane—he
didn’t stand by Jesus on the cross—so the greatest gift that could be given to
him was another chance to stand by the cross. What did he do with it? He
embraced it. He longed for that moment to tell Christ, “I love you, and I want
to be with you, wherever that leads.” This is the power of the triumph of the
cross. Love is the triumph of the
cross. When we love enough that we no longer fear the crosses in our lives but
we embrace them and we long for them because they unite us with him who has
loved us beyond all love, that is the triumph of the cross. So today we
celebrate that we no longer fear the cross; it is truly the exaltation. Of
course we cannot do this of ourselves. St. Andrew, St. Peter, none of them,
could have embraced the cross on their own, but with divine strength they could
embrace and kiss it. And their suffering turned into gratitude. Yes, when we
can thank God for the crosses in our life, God has triumphed. When we can see
that it is Love that has given us once again the chance to prove our love, we
will rejoice and say, “Amen!” and run toward it, because we have a chance to
prove our love. Let us pray today that the cross may triumph in our own lives, because
it will not happen on our own. It is completely divine strength.
May this Easter season bring you much joy in the
resurrection of Our Lord, who suffered his cross for the love of us, that we might
have a sense of the depths of his love and desire to return our love for his.