Lent is a time to direct ourselves a little more intentionally to grow in holiness. We prepare ourselves to welcome the Lord of light, truth, and goodness into our hearts and minds. Anything that can bring us closer to Christ is a treasure to be fervently desired. We are turning away from darkness by welcoming the Light of Life.
It is only through God’s grace that we can find the courage to look upon our lives to search for the times we have turned our backs on God. If we dare look we will find where we have at times failed to heed His voice and instead pursued our own agenda. We have often found ourselves unprepared to turn away from our personal pursuits in order to respond to Jesus when he has called us to a better way. Lent is a time to foster our resources to turn to the Lord, asking for his grace to cleanse our hearts and abide with us. Come Lord Jesus!
If we consider the many words of Jesus that we have cast behind our backs we may find cause for great concern. There is a powerful latent force within us that slows our response to the inspirations of God. There are the many times we heard Jesus’ voice but were too busy to grasp them. We have heard his voice many times and acquiesced to the thoughts of our imagination that said we would find a more opportune time to grasp his words and make them come true in our life.
Let’s look for some of the words behind our backs and put them into effect. When we please God by doing what he wills for us to do he gives us the happiness of a clean conscience. Jesus is always ready to help us when we call upon him. He is a God who transcends our smallness of heart and resources to do good.
About 60 oblates and their guests enjoyed the annual oblate Christmas party at Saint Leo Abbey. The oblates decorate the abbey’s lake room for Christmas and provide all the party supplies. Prior to the party the good monks prepare their Christmas-gift wish list. Oblates may request the name of a monk drawn from a hat. Those requesting the name of a monk are given the monk’s wish list as a suggestion for a gift the oblate may get for the monk. Oblates personally give the gift to their monk at the party. All oblates bring a dessert to share as their ticket to the party. Everyone had a fun time meeting and talking with the monks and the two new postulants Brother Felix and Father Michael.
Small groups of oblates and monks gathered for conversations. It is one of the main purposes of the party, meet and get to know the monks. Enjoying the desserts, the monks and oblates were catching up with old friends and new on the balcony of the lake room overlooking Lake Jovita, in the retreat library, or the coffee room. The party included the monks and oblates singing Silent Night led by Brother Felix. Here is the video of singing and all the pictures of the party. [Links below]
If you are reading this, the oblates invite you to the next Christmas party which will be held near the first of December 2019. For more information about the oblate program for all lay women and men, both Catholic and non-Catholic, contact oblate Brother Giovanni at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 813-228-8015.
ACCEPTANCE OF BROTHER FELIX INTO THE ABBEY AS A CANDIDATE
The Abbey is happy to announce that Br. Felix was accepted on August 21, 2018 as a candidate to monastic life here at St. Leo Abbey. He will live in the abbey where he will participate in the monastic rhythm of prayer, work, and study — living as one with the community.
A Candidate. First step to become a monk. In this first step a young man may not know anything about true religious life. That is why he does not make a permanent commitment until the fifth and final step, years from now.
Br. Felix had been conversing about his interest in religious life with Brother Apollo, the Abbey’s Vocation Director for some time. Then after several visits to the abbey as a guest, Br. Felix liked what he saw. He felt ready. Br. Felix decided and Abbot Isaac agreed that Br. Felix was ready to move into the abbey as a candidate, which he did in August 2018.
The vocation process at St. Leo Abbey is designed for a young man to simply explore the reality, beyond many misconceptions about monastic life, without any final decisions at this point.
The abbey perhaps even more than the candidate wants all candidates to be sure when the time comes. The vocation process is slow and supportive, personal and positive. Up to the final vows far in the future, the young man is free to leave as a friend of the abbey and with its blessing.
A Postulant. Second step to become a monk. All men enter the abbey as a candidate for a period of several months which leads to his postulancy. The postulancy is a time of discernment while living in the community. It allows time to learn if his attraction is something he wants to continue. A postulant will wear the monastic tunic. It is about a six-month period. At the beginning of the Advent Season this year Br. Felix will become a postulant if he desires to proceed a step further in his monastic vocation and the abbot agrees. But he still has not made a final commitment. This is a long journey of faith. A man does not become a monk overnight or without having lived as one for several years in the fellowship of the abbey’s brotherhood. Going through all the steps to become a monk and a life-long member of a monastery takes a minimum of five years and may be ten years or more. At some point the young man comes to see that the rigor and disciplines of monastic life are ways to greater freedom in Christ, not less.
The Novitiate. Third step to become a monk. After the postulant and the abbot agree that the postulant is ready for the next step, the postulant enters the novitiate, a time of learning more deeply of monastic life. He is given the monastic scapular to wear over the tunic and is given a new name, often the name of one of the desert fathers.
The Junior Monk. Fourth step to become a monk. After a yearlong time of growth and discernment the novice may become a junior monk by the profession of simple vows. During this time he realizes another basic truth: monastic life is not so much what one gives up, but about the riches of God’s grace and love that are gained.
As a junior monk he receives the full monastic habit. These simple vows are for one year. He repeats these simple vows each year for a total of three years. The junior monk is free to leave at the end of each of the three year periods if he discerns with the help of the formation director that monastic life is not his calling. At the end of three years of simple vows the junior monk is still free to leave if he so desires.
The Solemnly Professed Monk. Fifth step to become a monk. After three years as a junior monk, the young man, now fully understanding the liberty of the monastic disciplines may enter into solemn vows if he is accepted by the community. At this point the monk is no longer free to leave the monastery and in fact no longer wants to leave. Throughout the 1,500-year history of the Benedictines, the path to become a monk is not the path of the weak or timid. Nothing is equal to the spiritual courage, the full armor from the Lord, and strength he receives from our loving God.
It is with a heavy heart that we report the death of Father Damian DuQuesnay on the morning of May 8th 2015. Father Damian was born in Jamaica in the city of Highgate on the 24th of July 1918. He made his monastic profession on June 24th 1941. He was ordained on June 20th 1946. As you all know he was an exemplar human being, a good monk and a fair mentor to many of us. For many who knew Father Damian, they may remember his fondness of loud classical music. The symphony of his life has ended and deserves a standing ovation. Father Damian’s caring nature was evident in his love for plants and the mankind.
May he rest in peace.
The eulogies were given by a Saint Leo Postulant, Brother Robert, Prioress of Holy Name Monastery, S. Roberta Bailey, OSB, and Fr. Robert Fucheck. The Mass was celebrated by Abbot Isaac, OSB.
It is you who makes God either far or near. Love and he will come close. Love and he will dwell in you. (Ser 21:2)