All Benedictine Saints

On 13 November we celebrate the feast of All Benedictine Saints (i.e. all those who don’t have a day to themselves, so to say) and host our annual Oblates’ Day at the monastery. There is special joy today because our Canadian oblate, Margaret, will be making her oblation by video conference, in which oblates from other parts of the world will be joining. So why am I sitting at the computer in a distracted frame of mind? It is partly because today’s ‘to do’ list already looks impossible and I am not always optimistic first thing in the morning; it is partly because it is cold and dark and neither is conducive to high spirits; but mainly it is because the thought of holiness is sometimes more daunting than encouraging. Other people become saints; I/we don’t.

Regarding holiness as something ‘other’, attainable only by a special few, is, of course, a snare and delusion. It is also completely unBenedictine. The Rule of St Benedict isn’t meant for supermen or superwomen. It doesn’t prescribe any esoteric practices or extreme ascetical feats. Instead, it asks the monk or nun to live a life of daily fidelity to small things which are actually great things: to living in community under rule and abbot; to prayer, work, service, hospitality; absolute renunciation of personal ownership; an obedience as entire as it is intelligent. In doing so, the Rule shows us a way of living the Gospel that will lead to holiness. The tragedy is that many of us stumble along the way, don’t quite make it, grow weary or give up. That is why Benedictines pray for perseverance; for the grace of daily fidelity. Please pray with and for us.



Oblates’ Day at the Monastery

Yesterday, the feast of All Benedictine Saints, was our annual Oblates’ Day at the monastery. A few of us gathered for Mass at Belmont then returned to the monastery at Howton Grove for a day of prayer and reflection during the course of which we had the joy of affiliating Margaret to our community. She lives in Canada so we did so online, with participation from oblates in the U.S.A. and elsewhere in the U.K.  There were a few glitches caused by our not all having the latest version of the necessary software, but on the whole it worked well, enabling us to see, hear and interact with one another in real time.

During the subsequent oblate chapter meeting, we discussed the way in which oblates and home community interact. One of the problems we have, as a very small community, is meeting the demands on our time. We do our best, but we just aren’t able to do everything we’d like, and people are sometimes very disappointed. We therefore discussed what we can give our oblates, and were surprised and pleased to hear that they also wanted to discuss what they, as oblates, can give to the community. It was encouraging to hear our oblates say that, just as much of our hospitality is conducted online, so much of our oblate interaction needs to be online, too. There was ready acceptance that the amount of input we provide by means of this blog, Facebook, podcasts and so on made it unnecessary, indeed impossible, for us to think in terms of regular oblate newsletters and the like. However, we shall be initiating a regular series of online meetings (using group video-call software such as Skype) during which we hope that some of the input will be contributed by the oblates themselves (after all, who wants to hear Digitalnun and Quietnun doing all the talking?). Roughly half our oblates live in Canada, the U.S.A., France and Italy, so negotiating suitable times will be a challenge (but, of course the software exists to help with that, too). I shall be emailing all the oblates who weren’t present with details.

All in all, it was a most enjoyable day, much of it spent in front of the logburner in the calefactory — a novel experience for our oblates, who are used to the rather colder and damper conditions at Hendred. We ended with the Oblate Dinner. Some things cannot be transferred to virtual space, and roast lamb, I’m happy to say, is one of them.