Yesterday, I participated in a ceremony at my parish to begin a year of discernment to become an Oblate of the Order of St. Benedict. As I mentioned in an earlier an post, this is through the St. Benet Biscop chapter at St. John's Abbey in Minnesota. This bunch of candidates are mostly members of the Ordinariate. A few of the candidates are in other states are Anglicans. A couple notable candidates in this chapter right now are Monsignor Steenson (Former Ordinary of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter) and Fr. Jack Barker (Pictured to the right, historian of the Ordinariate). This is a very unique situation as most of the Oblates in this chapter will not be near their designated Abbey. Yet, the goal of such a thing is to have a group of Oblates, in community, who are attached to Benedictine Spirituality and can exercise that spirituality through the lens of the Anglican Patrimony. Some people. nontheless, will continue to ask: why Benedictine?
As the newly elected Bishop Steven Lopes made note of in a talk about the Anglican Patrimony, it arises out of a sense of English Benedictine Monasticism. The prayer book spirituality of Anglicanism is a direct byproduct of the Rule of St. Benedict, and inherited by the gifts given by the medieval monks in England. In the Rule, the highest work of the Monk is the Opus Dei. In context, this is to pray the Divine Office in union with Holy Mother Church. Rules #8-20 deal with the the way monks are to pray the offices daily. As a Catholic, our highest form of prayer is the Holy Mass. Using the Rule according to St. Benedict, the highest prayer below the Mass is the daily hours of prayer, what we call today the Liturgy of the Hours. When the Church of England severed ties with Rome, Archbishop Cranmer was authorized to eventually organize a prayer book that would unite the whole country behind one Church (under the Crown). He formulated a prayer book that was similar to the different rites in England, and in English tongue, that would pray through the Psalms everyday at Matins and Vespers. While the monks of the day prayed 8 offices a day, Anglicanism shortened the office to twice a day for both laymen and clergy. The people were already influenced by the daily offices in their spiritual lives, as they could go to the monasteries to listen to the monks chant the offices. Of course, not many laypeople spoke Latin. They could still marvel at the beauty of monastic chant. When Cranmer introduced his Book of Common Prayer, the concept was not foreign to the Englishmen.
St. Benedict, making his monks dedicate themselves to daily prayer in the Church's liturgical fashion also makes his disciples stay in tuned with the liturgical seasons as well. One of the biggest impacts of my time as an Anglican is first being introduced to the Church Kalendar. I had discovered the world of Epiphany, Advent, Lent, Christmastime (YOU MEAN CHRISTMAS LASTS MORE THAN ONE DAY!?). The Church Kalendar is filled with feasts, celebrations, days of victory for the Church, days of penance and fasting. This exists in Anglicanism, but the monks brought all this to England. Music is a big part of Anglican worship. It was the Benedictine Monks who introduced hymnody in the liturgical worship of England. The Rule of Benedict also instructs the monks to be generous and hospitable. The Monks were to welcome a stranger to their monastery as if they were welcoming Jesus Christ himself.
The history of Benedictine Monasticism is filled with beauty. It is deeply connected to the Anglican Patrimony. As I am in love with both, it only makes sense to live my life influenced by both. I also feel that implimenting the Rule into my life as an Oblate can only help me to grow as a Christian; it can push me to be better. I cannot do of my own will and power, but through Our Lord and King.