Oblates find peace, wisdom in Rule of Benedict
By Paul Paproski, OSB
MUENSTER, Sask. — St. Benedict was a man who had a wise and discerning heart. His authoritarianism was practical wisdom, immersed in justice and mercy, Jim Penna of Saskatoon said to the Benedictine Oblates at a gathering July 21.
The wisdom of St. Benedict flowed from his prayer,
Penna said to 35 attending a gathering of Oblates of St. Peter's Abbey.
Jim and Marion Penna were guest speakers for Oblate Day. Oblates are
lay persons who are attached to a Benedictine monastery. They strive
to deepen their baptism by living the Rule of St. Benedict, the spiritual
guide of Benedictines.
The Rule of St. Benedict is a means of helping Oblates to immerse themselves in the Christian life and become the Body of Christ, Penna commented. Oblates are challenged to become radical Christians who strive for unity and harmony with their inner selves, with others and nature. The Sacred Constitution on the Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #48) of Vatican Council II echoed this, he remarked. The document encourages everyone to grow into a fuller union with God.
This union naturally leads them to becoming of service to others. St. Paul spoke about this transformation into the Body of Christ when he said, “The life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me” (Gal 2:20). Oblates let Christ live in them by praying in Christ, seeing in Christ, suffering, working and loving in Christ. The ultimate goal of an oblate is confirmation in Christ, he said.
The Prologue (21) of the Rule of St. Benedict speaks of serving others through good deeds, Jim remarked. The Pennas have strived to live a life of service through their involvement in their parish and the larger community. Their work, Jim said, has been carried out with the belief that each of us is called to create human conditions for peace, justice, freedom and solidarity. This vocation does not come easy and the Rule explains this by stating that perfect charity comes when we endure another's weaknesses (RB 72:5).
Marion Penna recalled 30 years ago when she and Jim were searching for something more in their spiritual life. Marion read The Story of a Soul, the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux. The book spoke of a loving God which was a contrast to the very legalistic perception she had of God. Marion said there was a way of thinking that God was very judgmental and she was afraid that the littlest sin could cause one to lose salvation.
The Pennas were introduced to the Oblates by Rev. Albert Ruetz, OSB, who was the director. Ruetz and Abbot Jerome Weber encouraged them to become Oblates. There was little instruction on living as an Oblate, but she remembers being encouraged to live it to the best of her ability.
The first word of the Rule of St. Benedict, “listen,” stood out as an important guide to begin their vocation. It is a good reminder of how we need to live in the present moment where one meets God. The Rule speaks of a balanced life of work and prayer and that continues to be a goal for Marion.
It is always a challenge to follow the daily prayer encouraged by the Rule of St. Benedict, she commented. A prayer life encourages one to listen, be silent, humble, and bring peace to the world. Listening means going deep within your heart, she said. Scripture is the best way to come to Christ and prayer keeps one in touch with Christ. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is peace and Marion strives to be a promoter of peace within herself, within her family and the larger community.
The psalms are especially important to Marion because she loves poetry and, next to the Our Father and eucharistic liturgy, she believes the psalms are the perfect prayer of the church. She quoted Bishop Demetri of the Antiochian Orthodox Church who said, “The psalms are an indispensable part of the private devotions of all who seek a closer relationship with God. The psalms . . . express in divinely inspired language the innermost thoughts and even fears of humanity . . . the wonder felt by those who gave at the glory of God's creation.”
Marion extended her appreciation to the monastic community for its hospitality, acceptance and encouragement, and for praying for the Oblates. She is grateful for all that it has done for her. Quoting G.K. Chesterton, she said “gratitude is the highest form of charity.”