Rorate Caeli

For the Feast of All Benedictine Saints (November 13)

Pietro Annigoni, La Gloria di S.Benedetto
The following reflection was written by Fr Peter Miller, OSB, prior of the Monks of Mary, Mother of the Word, in Sprague, Washington. To read more about this community and its future Our Lady of Whitestone Monastery, go here; to receive their newsletter, go here.

Feast of All Holy Monks of the Order of Saint Benedict
November 13, 2023

Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord: or who shall stand in his holy place? (Ps 23:3)

After the Feast of All Saints on November 1st, the various religious orders generally celebrate the feast of all the saints of their particular order. Today we draw our attention to those sons and daughters of St. Benedict whose lives have been so transformed by Christ and the Benedictine tradition that the Church has declared them in heaven. During their earthly lives, they lived with their eyes lifted up to God’s holy mountain, they have now finished their climb, they dwell on high with God.

This year’s novitiate hike was grueling and wonderful. We hiked over thirty two miles in the beauty of God’s mountains, and learned a little better to sing God’s praises in the Psalms, which so often speak of the mountains and rivers and all things natural.

St. Benedict’s titles are worth noting today. Founder of Western Monasticism. Co-Patron of Europe. One cannot understate Benedict’s transformative effect on Western civilization. Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B. captures St. Benedict’s legacy perfectly in his Commentary from the Liturgical Year:

By his Benedictines, numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sands of the seashore, he rescued the last remnants of Roman vigor from the total annihilation threatened by the invasion of barbarians; he presided over the establishment of the public and private laws of those nations, which grew out of the ruins of the Roman empire; he carried the Gospel and civilization into England, Germany, and the northern countries, including Slavonia; he taught agriculture; he put an end to slavery; and to conclude, he saved the precious deposit of the arts and sciences from the tempest which would have swept them from the world, and would have left mankind a prey to a gloomy and fatal ignorance.

Benedictine Vows

While the traditional vows of poverty and chastity are certainly included within the Benedictines’ life, Benedictines explicitly take three vows that, when viewed in light of secular modernity, offer a pathway to authentic freedom and a deeper relationship with Our Lord.

The first Benedictine vow is obedience. While most moderns shriek at the idea of submitting to authority, a right etymological understanding shows obedience comes from the Latin “to listen.” In an age marked by so much noise, where technology invades and permeates all aspects of life, we would do well to listen—listen in silence, especially before the Blessed Sacrament, in order to hear the whisper of God. Especially too in the voice of our human superior. Hearing that loving word, we can then submit in obedience to Him.

The second vow is stability. Data shows that the average American will move 11.7 times in his or her lifetime. A Benedictine, when he or she takes the vow of stability, commits themselves to a particular monastic house for the rest of their lives. There are times when they might temporarily move for the sake of study, or rare exceptions when they are obliged in conscience to change houses for some sad reason, but otherwise Benedictines commit themselves to a location. How often we moderns seek novelty and new places, always thinking something better is on offer elsewhere. St. Benedict urges us to see Christ’s grace where we are, to attend to the presence of the Holy Trinity in the daily rhythm of life.

The third and last vow is “conversio morum,” which might be translated as conversion of heart and deeds. When we speak of conversion, we often think of a singular event. Conversion for St. Benedict is so much more. Conversion is an ongoing, daily process of dying to anything that would slow us down in our ascent to God and rising to new life in Christ. For the Benedictine, this is very practical. It occurs when we attend to grace and commit ourselves daily to the Holy Rule, to prayer and to understanding God’s will.

So on today’s feast, we pray for St. Benedict’s intercession and for all those who have followed his path to heaven. We pray we may emulate their example in receiving Christ’s transformative grace and mercy. In a special way, we pray for Benedictines everywhere, that they may faithfully follow in their founder’s footsteps.

In Psalm 97 we sing, “The mountains will rejoice at the presence of the Lord: because he comes to judge the earth.” With unsurprised shock, most of us have recently learned that the Church of “radical inclusivity” has struck again, this time excluding Bishop Strickland from his (former) Diocese. Many ask: What should we do? Where should we go?

Our Lord tells us: when we see the abomination, we must flee to the mountains.

In our hearts, we must undertake that most difficult hike, ascending above the passing things of this earth. The mountains we climbed this year were present when Eve ate that darn apple. They have seen the wickedness of man throughout milenia, and yet they rejoice. Evils come and evils go. But the mountains rejoice, because the Lord comes to judge and to set all things right.

Climb my friends, not without pains and groans, but climb, and rejoice. Look out on the world not from down below but from on high, and rejoice. Our God is coming to set all things right.