Father’s Day Meditation

In our current culture, there is sometimes a call to not use the fatherhood of God as a metaphor because not everyone is a father, nor has a father that is a worthy example. But even in Jesus’ time, and even further back into the Hebrew Scriptures, there were lousy or absent fathers. Isaac and Jacob showed favoritism among their sons. Moses didn’t bring his sons under the covenant of circumcision. High priests Aaron, Eli, and Samuel all failed to train their sons to honor God. King David was often an absent father. Throughout scripture God’s people are called to care for the orphan because many had no father. But that is not God Our Father.

27384456692_f88fc2f1f7_oLift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts, Whose name is the LORD, a father of the fatherless. God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity. Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Psalm 68:4-6, Matthew 6:26; 7:11)

*Pause for silent meditation on God our Father*

Prayer:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).

To Our Father we pray, Amen.

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Discernment Retreat – Oblate Formation

6722697543_9a0f26a795_oThe oblate candidates spend 24 hours at the monastery for a final discernment retreat. We spent much of our time either in silence or prayer, even taking our meals separately from the monastic community, but still participating in all the chapel prayer times.

Discernment combines figuring something out with supernatural revelation. Discernment does not happen without both the person searching and the Holy Spirit showing. Continue reading Discernment Retreat – Oblate Formation

Spirituality of Work – Oblate Formation

6728845957_fbe5054772_oAccording to Genesis 2:15, God offered work to humanity as part of the good creation. Work becomes more difficult in Genesis chapter 3, but the curse on the earth does not make work on the earth any less a holy task. So while in Religious Studies I learned to delineate The Sacred and The Profane (Mircea Eliade), this night, with regard to work, we learned we need not have that division. Continue reading Spirituality of Work – Oblate Formation

5 Formation Lessons from Oblation

Nearing one year of Benedictine oblate candidate formation, here are five formation points I experienced which are useful to any spiritual formation, especially small groups.

24700974346_4a15b9e179_bSet Goals

In order to enter oblate candidate formation, I completed an extensive application, which included goals to work on during my time in formation. Also, at the end of each class, each candidate added new goals or honed existing goals to greater specificity. Having goals provides a target and a way to check progress (2 Corinthians 5:9). As oblate candidates we each have individual goals, but as a group we choose to pursue our goals together at the Benedictine monastery.

20763232908_d75fed275b_bHave Community

Oblation candidates form a small group, and that small group is part of the greater monastic (Benedictine in my case) community, which is also in turn part of the greater Church. Small groups need the larger communities for worship and accountability. The larger communities need small groups because that is were personal accountability and encouragement grows. The Church is our connection  to Christ. Small groups are our connection to each other (Romans 16:23, Colossians 1:18).

19363723741_e05a5491a4_bForm Relationships

Small groups can have several purposes. Study, service, and fellowship come quickly to mind. However, growth comes through the relationships. How can I encourage the growth of a person I do not know? Our oblate group only met, formally, once a month, but in those 2 1/2 hours each month we pray together, listen to each other, and eat together, in addition to learning together (Acts 2:42). As many small groups meet weekly, it seems to me that the regularity and quality of the relationships may be more important than frequency.

25333971474_1ba8da63e8_bLimit Time

We candidates committed to one year of formation, with the caveat that if we discerned at any time this process was not for us (whether at this time or forever), we could drop out. The structure we follow is a year (technically 9 months) of formation which ends in a discernment retreat to determine if we would like to continue. Being relational, small groups may go on for years, but people do need points to freely enter and exit, and to know the length of commitment (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). A time limit also pushes one to accomplish goals.

24500990423_0bea18ec79_bUse Symbols

In every class the sisters gave us some symbol. We sit in a circle with a lit pillar candle in the middle. Sometimes we took home small physical objects: a scallop shell, a lapel pin, an acrylic diamond, word art. Other times we gained a useful item: a book, bookmark, book bag, soap. We heard sounds: sacred music, tolling of bells. We touch: the water in the baptismal font, each other by the laying on of hands or hugs. Symbols create reminders, engage different senses, and support varied learning styles (1 Samuel 7:12).

Other posts in this series:
8 Attributes in Effective Spiritual Formation: Lessons Learned from Saint Ignatius

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The Pulse of the Day

Recently, I had to reflect on the question: What is the pulse of my day? This question pushed me beyond the Christ is the center of my life answer to determine what person or activity marks off the hours of my day. In other words, what activity or person causes me routinely to change my activity?

pulseThe answer for my Benedictine teachers is prayer, while for me the answer is currently fatherhood/my daughter. While I work on the personal ramifications of that realization of my life, I also began to wonder: What is the pulse of my church? I think small groups, local congregations, and denominations/Christian movements all have pulses. Continue reading The Pulse of the Day

Benedictine Prayer – Liturgy of the House and lectio divina – Oblate Formation

This month’s class had two distinct sections: liturgy of the hours in the monastic tradition (taught by Sister Mary Lou) and lectio divina (taught by Jacquelyn (a completed oblate)).

As always, our meeting began with evening prayer with the sisters. Since it was St. Patrick’s Day, we sang a version of St. Patrick’s Breastplate to the tune of a traditional Gaelic melody that many of us would know as “Morning has Broken.” We all had Cat Stevens in our minds as we when to class.
Continue reading Benedictine Prayer – Liturgy of the House and lectio divina – Oblate Formation

Benedictine Prayer: Work of God

I did not find this month’s homework particularly challenging in terms of difficulty, but certainly challenging in finding focused time for its completion. Realizing that I needed to make space for something important aligned well with the lessons on prayer, something for which we often do not make time for. This month I found myself preparing for Holy week worship, the Fall 2016 All-15376755283_f441d92d9a_oChurch Spiritual Formation, a new sermon series on emotional health, medical appointments, Girl Scout cookie sales, a book manuscript, and many other good activities. Taking the time to meditate on prayer, an activity with God that we are to do without ceasing, I had to evaluate whether or not I actually made prioritized time for communication with God in my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly activities. Continue reading Benedictine Prayer: Work of God

Benedictine Spirituality for Today – Oblate Formation

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The cross specially placed at the entrance to the chapel for the prayer vigil.

The Prioress, Sister Paula, taught the class “Benedictine Spirituality for Today.” Following the homework: prayer, community, and hospitality were the topics of the evening, yet, as with the tri-unity of God, the three were one.

Our evening prayer consisted of a vigil, as one of the sisters had gone to be with the Lord, after residing with us here for 97 years. That prayer time caused me to change my pre-written answer for how I had experienced prayer in the community. Continue reading Benedictine Spirituality for Today – Oblate Formation

Come and Pray as the Bell Tolls

7197918690_028cfe1c76_bListen carefully, my child, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. Come and pray, as the bell tolls. [Ring the bell]

Let us get up, at long last, for the Scriptures rouse us when they say: It is high time for us to arise from sleep. Come and pray, as the bell tolls. [Ring the bell]

Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from heaven that everyday calls out this charge: If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts. Run while you have the light of life, that the darkness of death may not overtake you. Come and pray, as the bell tolls. [Ring the bell]

Not to us, God, not to us give the glory, but to your name alone . . . What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of God’s grace. Come and pray, as the bell tolls. [Ring the bell]

Therefore, we intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service. In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing burdensome, nothing  harsh. The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love. Come and pray, as the bell tolls. [Ring the bell]

Faithfully observing God’s teachings in the monastery until death, we shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ that we may deserve also to share in God’s Glory for all eternity. Come and pray, as the bell tolls. [Ring the bell]

[Silence]

[Ring the bell]

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Oblate Formation – Benedictine Spirituality

Our upcoming formation is titled “Benedictine Spirituality for Today.” The pre-course work for this class consists of:

  1. ruleforbeginners_coverReading an excerpt from The Rule of Benedict for Beginners: Spirituality for Daily Life by Wil Derkse. Derkse is a Benedictine oblate of St. Willibrord’s Abbey in Doetinchem, the Netherlands.
  2. Reflect upon how I have experienced my sponsor and the community life so far, in the areas of: prayer, community life, and hospitality.

Continue reading Oblate Formation – Benedictine Spirituality

Thoughts on Personal and Corporate Spiritual Formation

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