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Archive for the ‘Journey with St. Benedict’ Category

What if the followers of Jesus…

  • made sure no one was homeless, BEFORE they built a church building?
  • made sure every kid had shoes, BEFORE they started a Youth Ministry?
  • made sure no one was hungry, BEFORE they celebrated communion?
  • made sure no elderly person was truly alone, BEFORE they hired a preacher?
  • made sure the needs of their community were satisfied, BEFORE they decided what worship style they would have?
  • welcomed everyone as Christ, BEFORE they started buying property for a “satellite campus”?
  • made sure they were fulfilling the words of Christ, BEFORE they decided who they didn’t fellowship with?

What if?

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As I reflected later on my Investiture at St. Meinrad, I was again struck by my feelings at the end of the service. When Fr. Meinrad informed me that the monks were going to give me the “Sign of Peace”, I remember feeling a little weird. I was unsure of what was about to happen, due to the fact my faith background didn’t exhibit a “Sign of Peace”. (There are many times that I think my branch of Protestantism doesn’t exhibit much peace – signs, wonders or otherwise!)

As each of the monks individually grasped my shoulders and spoke their blessings, they pulled me forward and leaned Bob Investiture Sepia into me. This was not a hug, or an embrace per se, but something somewhere in the middle. I felt a strange invasion of my personal space. Although it was something deeply spiritual on their part, I was unsure of how to react. What should I do? What should I say? Is there some sort of special response I am to give?

How odd that in my Protestant roots this blessing makes me feel so uneasy, invading my “space”. Like so many other spiritual practices, we in Protestant churches have “sanitized” the Sign of Peace and its blessings down to a mere handshake, or a well-meant “church hug” sometime during our worship services. In our railing against the Catholic church, we have tended to throw the baby out with the proverbial bath water, and in turn have lost all sense of benefit that these practices might give us on our journey.

Maybe part of the reason these men seem to feel a closer connection with the Divine is not the particular church they are a part of, or the habits they wear, or the vows that they took – maybe it’s the fact they let God routinely invade their space through the sharing of these blessings. If I consistently felt God’s presence symbolized by the intentional “invasion of my space”, maybe I wouldn’t feel so far from Him. Maybe if I made it a practice to not just “greet those around me” or participate in a surface “love feast” (as my home church used to call it), but to intentionally touch and bless those who I am in community with, I too could feel His “invasion of my space”. Maybe it would help me to see our worship services as less about what I get out of it, and more about God inhabiting the space through me.

Maybe…

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Bob's investiture at St. Meinrad

A few weeks ago, Sharon and I travelled over to the St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. We have had a relationship with the monastery there for nearly ten years and have enjoyed visiting their peaceful community several times.

This was a special trip, however. Shortly after Noon prayer in the Abbey church, I stood before Fr. Meinrad and a few of the other monks in order to be invested as an Oblate Novice. This begins a year of prayer and study led by Fr. Meinrad into a deeper walk with God. I have pledged to spend the next year studying the Rule of St. Benedict, praying daily the Divine Office, practicing lectio divina and growing in my own spiritual formation.

The small ceremony was interesting and went by quickly. I received a load of materials to study, along with an Oblate Scapular and the Medal of St. Benedict. (I later found out that Sharon and Fr. Meinrad had been conspiring via email about the weekend, and she gave me my own copy of the Oblate Liturgy.) I didn’t have much time to drink in what was going on, and before I knew it I was being blessed by the five or so monks that had witnessed the ceremony. Afterwards, it struck me that I had had the ordination that I never received in all my years of ministry which brought tears to my eyes.

After the ceremony we had an unexpected lunch with Fr. Meinrad (Oblate Director for the archabbey), who shared many stories of his years at St. Meinrad.  We had beautiful early spring weather, and enjoyed walking the grounds as much as we could.

What a great beginning to what I believe will be a challenging and insightful journey!

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