Friday, November 12, 2010

November 2010

A Message from Abbot Charles

It seems that Daylight Savings Time will end on Nov. 7 this year. I don’t know who decides the date but it is interesting how it keeps getting moved around. One of the benefits of the time change is that we gain an hour of sleep. Of course that is only making up for the hour we lost earlier in the year.

Maybe it would be better if we compromised and just adjusted the clock a half hour and left it that way throughout the entire year.

One thing we can be certain of is that there is no way of stopping the clock. The old saying that time marches on, is a perennial truth.

But we are always faced with the question of how well we use the time that is allotted to us. Only God knows the exact number of our days. The danger is that we are tempted to think that our own number is unlimited. Therefore very few of us give any consideration to the end of our own lives.

In fact, most of our time is spent trying to keep our attention turned away from our own demise. And Madison Avenue and Hollywood don’t help.

Therefore we seldom plan for the most important step of our whole life. If we see death as a period rather than a comma in our life’s story, what hope do we have?

To accept the fact that our days will end and that there is something (or better yet, someone) waiting for us gives our life new meaning and joy.

And we learn to accept challenges and obstacles as gifts that are designed to make us appreciate the full gamut of life’s experiences. To run from difficulties is to deprive ourselves of the richness of being trained to be of greater service to others. That will be our pass to the other side because the one waiting for us instructs us to “Love one another as I have loved you,” and, “As long as you did it for one of these my little ones you did for me.”

With hope, the number of days or years we have left can be lived in peace and joy rather than fear and the need for distraction. And instead of being concerned with Daylight Savings Time we can be more involved with making the time we have left more fruitful.

Time, during daylight or darkness, is not given to us to save but to use. So while we have the light let us use wisely the time we have left and not waste it lest we lose, not only time, but our life in eternity.


+ Charles, O.S.B.

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On Retreat at the Abbey:  Time Spent with God

Prince of Peace Abbey of Peace Abbey oblates and oblate novices enjoyed their annual retreat at the abbey conducted by Fr. Abbot Charles and Br. Daniel.  The topic was, ‘Father’, ‘Brother’, and ‘Son’:  Complimentary Roles in the Rule of St. Benedict.  A spirit of silence was maintained throughout most of the retreat, even during mealtimes, to facilitate reflection and prayer.  As one person commented, that they “got a lot of ‘down time’, ‘thinking time’, and ‘prayer time’”.

St. Benedict would have as the norm in all monasteries a place where people live the motto, “I have said, I resolved to keep watch over my ways that I may never sin with my tongue.  I was silent and was humbled, and I refrained even from good words” (RB 6:1).  We are happy and blessed to provide a place with ample facilities and grounds where persons can nourish their spiritual life and come closer to God.  But most important of all, we must constantly strive to foster a kind of place of peace and listening in our hearts.  We cannot always go off somewhere to be in communion with God, but we can at least daily spend some “quality time” with our sovereign Lord and Savior.

In this “Babble-on!” world crammed with noisy trinkets that clamor, clatter and beep their way into our (and other person’s) private world, it is wise to take time out for quiet reflection and prayer.  After all, “A talkative man goes about aimlessly on earth,” while “Only a fool raises his voice in laughter” (RB 7:56, 59).  A busy mind finds no rest nor any time for God.  Actually, it is more a matter of “making” the time for retreat than “finding” time.

Not only Oblates, but all persons occasionally need to consider making time for and rest.  The weekly Sunday Sabbath rest refers to God’s third commandment about making holy the Lord’s day.  Remember, time spent well alone with God is never wasted, rather it is both necessary and refreshing.  Many groups schedule time at the abbey for their own particular retreat or day of recollection.  Weekends are the most sought after times, but often during the week groups or individuals want to spend some time far from the madding crowds.

St. Benedict writes, “If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim (Ps 33[34]:14 15)”  (RB Prol 17).

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Spiritual Warfare and St. Benedict
by Stella Utomi, Oblate Novice

Spiritual warfare is a subject many Christians particularly Catholics are not familiar with.  Spiritual warfare goes by many names; spiritual combat, spiritual battle, immortal combat and some call it the invisible war.  Many Christians do not recognize that Satan and his minions wage war everyday for souls.  Many are oblivious of the fact that this battle, this spiritual warfare should take a place of prominence in their spiritual lives because our very souls are at stake.  St Paul says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).

Spiritual warfare is our Christian battle against Satan and his evil spirits to curtail their influence against our spiritual life, our families and against the Christian community.  Simply put, spiritual warfare is the invisible battle against the powers of evil in our daily lives.  Blessed Pope John Paul II in his pilgrimage to the holy monastery of Rila in May of 2002 declared, “It is a secret and interior art, an invisible struggle in which monks engage every day against the temptations, the evil suggestions that the demon tries to plant in their hearts; it is a combat that becomes crucifixion in the arena of solitude in the quest for the purity of heart that makes it possible to see God” (cf. Mt 5:8)... “This battle is necessary in order not to be distracted (aperíspastoi) or worried (amérimnoi) (cf. 1 Cor 7:32,35), and to live in constant recollection with the Lord.”

Spiritual warfare is a reality of the Christian life.  We know that our daily lives as Christians consists of ongoing battles, plagued with obstacles and enemies.  To fight these battles we can decide to choose our personal and natural inclination, or choose God’s.  St. Benedict gives advice in the fight against temptations.  “He has foiled the evil one, the devil, at every turn, flinging both him and his prompting far from the sight of his heart.  While these temptations were still young, he caught hold of them and dashed them against Christ” (RB Prol.28).

Spiritual battles are fought in the mind, heart, in relationships and in what is said, and what is left unsaid.  Whatever we entertain in our hearts and mind, and what we speak can trigger the activity of spiritual power for good or ill.  We fail in our Christian commitment unless Jesus reigns in our thoughts, in our speech, and in our relationships.  In the struggle for spiritual survival, we must not succumb to the power of Satan.  This struggle involves those who “are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord” (RB Prol. 3).

Our creator himself did provide us with spiritual armor to fight our spiritual battles, to withstand the attacks of the devil and be victorious.  The spiritual armor is a gift from our God, it has an offensive, defensive, and protective component.   St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians describes for us the tools for this combat. “So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.  To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones” (Eph. 6: 14-18).

The following illustrates the spiritual weapons while giving further scripture support and supplementing it with what St Benedict recommends.

+  BELT OF TRUTH (integrity - walk) is a defense against walking outside God’s will.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life…” (Jn 14:6).  It is only in our conscious walk with Jesus that truth will become a practical reality in our daily living.  “Rid your heart of all deceit…Hate the urgings of self will…speak the truth with heart and tongue…As soon as wrongful thoughts come into your heart, dash them against Christ …Guard your lips from harmful or deceptive speech…hate the urgings of self-will; (RB 4:24, 28, 50, 51, 60).

+  BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS is the protective gear we all need by  walking in uprightness, in obedience and in dedication to God’s commandments. We have to be reconciled to God and strive to be in a state of grace always.  “Make peace with him, be reconciled, and all your happiness will be restored to you…You will pray, and he will hear; and you will be able to fulfill your vows.…  He rescues anyone who is innocent; have your hands clean, and you will be saved” (Job 22:21, 27, 30).  St. Benedict says, “Hour by hour keep careful watch over all you do; aware that God’s gaze is upon you, wherever you may be.  Live by God’s commandments every day; treasure chastity…” (RB 4: 48, 49, 64).

+  SHOES help us to proclaim the gospel of peace, are also symbols of action.  Walking in love, repentance and forgiveness is a major weapon of spiritual warfare against curses, spiritual and sometimes physical illnesses, and hatred.  When our feet are protected by the gospel of peace, we are ready to go wherever we have to be, in the peaceful assurance of God’s faithful word.  “How beautiful on the mountains, are the feet of the messenger announcing peace, of the messenger of good news, who proclaims salvation and says to Zion, ‘Your God is king!’”  Isaiah 52:6-7.  The Rule of St Benedict advises us to set out on this way, “with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom” (1 Thess 2:12) (RB Prol 21).  “But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our heart overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love” (RB Prol 49).

+  SHIELD OF FAITH is a sure defense against any kind of attack.  Hebrews 11:1, 6 relates faith in God to hope.  “Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen…  But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is.”  Ephesians 16:6 expands this defensive tool: “In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all (the) flaming arrows of the evil one.  Place your hope in God alone.”  In RB 4:74 this message is emphasized, “….never lose hope in God’s mercy.”  St. Benedict also said, , “Clothed then with faith and performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom” (1 Thess 2:12) (RB Prol 21).

+  The HELMET OF SALVATION is a precious gift.  You must be saved!  Ensure that your salvation is not just intellectual but has in fact transcended from head to heart. The helmet also signifies the necessity of protecting the mind and guarding at all costs what we allow to enter through our mind-gate.  Be ever vigilant over what we read or watch, because the mind is the battle ground for our salvation.  Remember that Jesus is our salvation. “And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.  For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation upon his head” (Isa 59:16-17).  “O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation, You have covered my head in the day of battle” (Ps 140:7).  “…for he [the Lord] shows us the way to his tent…[as] one who walks without blemish, he says, and is just in all his dealings; who speaks the truth from his heart and has not practiced deceit with his tongue; who has not wronged a fellow man in any way, nor listened to slanders against his neighbor (Ps 14[15]:2-3).  He has foiled the evil one, the devil, at every turn, flinging both him and his promptings far from the sight of his heart.  While these temptations were still young, he caught hold of them and dashed them against Christ” (Ps 14[15]: 4; 136[137]:9) (RB Prol. 24-28).

+  The WORD OF GOD— SWORD is an offensive weapon in the hands of a good Christian.  Satan and his cohorts (wicked spirit beings) cannot prevail against the spoken word.  We must cultivate the habit of committing to mind powerful short verses and speak them out when tempted with things of this world, such as, “Satan, it is written!!  Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4).  “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb 4:11-13).  “Listen readily to holy reading,” says St. Benedict; “and devote yourself often to prayer” (RB 4:55-56).  Georg Holzherr, OSB, in his commentary on the rule would add, “The ‘healing remedy of Scripture’ [RB 28:3] is however only effective when the soul is not surfeited with ‘Aliorta’ (every other thing).”

+  PRAYING ALWAYS is the action of supplication.  ”With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.  To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones”(Eph 6:18).  “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all men,” (1 Tim 2:1).  “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Cor 9:8).  St. Benedict urges his followers to “Listen readily to holy reading, and devote yourself often to prayer.  Every day with tears and sighs confess your past sins to God in prayer and change from these evil ways in the future” (RB 4:55-58).

It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity.  The bible tells us that we must trust that all things work together for our benefit.  “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).  As long as we put our trust in Christ, live in Christ, submit to Christ, and live a consistent life of obedient prayer, and wait on the Lord, the enemy will be disarmed.  And that includes walking in loving relationships with the Lord and your neighbor.

When Satan has God’s permission to tempt our own flesh and blood— our own children, husbands, wives, brothers, and sisters— to bring us trials, we must keep our eye on the hand that allowed the trial for our spiritual good, not the instrument.  “Accept whatever befalls you,  in crushing misfortune be patient; For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation.  Trust God and he will help you; make straight your ways and hope in him” (Sirach 2:4-6).  Keep in mind brothers and sisters, “…today you are going into battle against your enemies.  Do not be faint-hearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them.  For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”  Deut 20: 3-4.  In all these battles, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s” 2 Chron 20:15.

More Weapons of Spiritual Warfare
1. Walk in humility and submission to his word and spirit.  This is a powerful spiritual weapon against pride, egoism, arrogance, disrespect.
2. Confession, repentance and forgiveness helps to close any door opened through sin (c.f. psalms 139:23, 24; 32:1-7).  This puts us in a state of grace.  The enemy only has a weak stand in areas of un-confessed darkness. 
3. Generous giving to the work in the body of Christ is a powerful weapon of spiritual warfare against greed, selfishness, insufficiency, poverty.
4. Persistence is a spiritual weapon against impatience, despair, etc.
5. Holy communion—receiving the body and blood of Jesus fortifies us and is the most effective spiritual weapon against all forms of evil.  Prolong your Holy Communion by abiding in Christ and keeping yourself pure of heart.
6. The use Sacramentals such as holy water, anointing with oil, medals, etc., are amongst our common and plentiful weapons of spiritual warfare against sickness, evil spirits, weakness and other burdens. It is our faith and obedience to use them when and where necessary that enables God to do the miraculous work.

St. Benedict in the prologue to his rule said, “Clothed then with faith and performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see him who has called us to his kingdom” (1 Thess 2:12) (RB Prol 21).