Category: Benedictine spirituality

“I realized that a lot of the time when I repent for my sin and go to confession, it is not because I truly want to be clean, rather it is because I don’t want to ‘stink’ any more. I don’t want to feel guilty or feel bad. … It is the difference between ‘Bless me, Father, for I did x, y and z’ and ‘Bless me, Father, for I have broken God’s heart.’ (p. 70-71)

In Hiking the Camino: 500 Miles with Jesus, Franciscan Fr. Dave Pivonka, T.O.R., has recorded a travel diary for the spiritual journey, one particularly suited for those who have perhaps tired and turned lukewarm on the road, or those who are willing but reluctant to start.

I particularly enjoyed the author’s light tone and openness in recounting his Spanish pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, a L O N G walk undertaken to give thanks to God for the tenth anniversary of his priestly ordination. Though the reader can guess many of the spiritual lessons Father will draw from his tales before he explains them, some (like the one I excerpted above, from a funny account of the laundering differences between men and women on the Camino) really struck home, so the book serves as much more than a breezy travelogue. The book did, however, make clear to me that should the possibility of this pilgrimage ever present itself to me — an unlikely event with four littles at my feet and our one-teacher salary — I have no desire to make it! Give me a few days at a Benedictine monastery instead. 🙂

Speaking of which, Father tells of some Benedictine sisters in Leon who care for the pilgrims as they pass through, welcoming them as Christ and opening their community’s prayer (as is the Benedictine way). A particularly beautiful part of this story is the “ministry” of one sister who greets each visitor entering the church with a large smile. The sisters also segregate the men and women pilgrims (unusual in lodging on the Camino, apparently) and offer to wash their clothes for them for a small fee.

Some spiritual lessons that merited an asterisk in my notes were:

  • When the walk is hard, keep walking forward to find rest; yet, the journey takes as long as it takes, so it cannot be rushed.
  • Don’ t miss the beauty and opportunities on the journey because of pain, but actively unite your pain to Jesus’. Also, understand that others on the journey may indeed be consumed by their pain.
  • Seek Jesus Himself and then His will will become clear.
  • Make meals and Mass together priorities.

As an aside, it occurred to me as I read that, as challenging as this pilgrimage clearly is, the pioneers of our nation’s Western Migration had to have even more grit to endure much more, especially in terms of distance and conditions. There were no yellow arrows pointing the way, or lodgings waiting for them each night, or even priests to offer them the sacraments. Most of the time, it was just your family, your wits and your wagonload of possessions, in the whole wide unsettled world. So, a strange effect of this book surely not intended by the author is a renewed admiration for the pioneers. End of digression. 🙂

This review was written as part of the Catholic Book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Hiking the Camino: 500 Miles with Jesus.


This book review for The Catholic Company will be cross-posted on the Benedictine Spirituality Forum.

“If [lectio divina] is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church — I am convinced — a new spiritual springtime.” –Pope Benedict XVI (p. 37)

One of the most vital and beautiful aspects of Benedictine spirituality is lectio divina, the prayerful reading of sacred texts. Dr. Tim Gray (a seminary professor and co-developer of The Great Adventure Bible study) makes this ancient practice practical for anyone seeking spiritual growth and holiness in his packed but slender book Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina.

In fewer than 130 pages, Praying Scripture for a Change introduces the concept of lectio divina, and then logically devotes a chapter to each of the five “rungs” of the “ladder” of lectio divina: lectio (read), meditatio (meditate), oratio (pray), contemplatio (contemplate) and operatio (apply). The chapters include “walk-through” examples of the different rungs. This book is an easy read, but best done slowly, doubling back over rich passages.

Passages that struck me included:

  • “[St.] Francis is known for his joy and love of God’s creation, but too often people see him as a simple-minded tree hugger. Francis exulted in the beauty of nature because he saw that it, like Scripture itself, is a love letter from our Heavenly Father. … Francis knew how to hear God’s voice in creation because he first listened to that voice in Scripture.” (p. 14-15)
  • a detailed analogy of lectio divina to working a vineyard (p. 32-33)
  • a practical suggestion to record striking passages of Scripture and frequently return to them during the day’s work, as did the ancient monks (p. 85-86)

The author also helpfully contrasts lectio divina with fad practices of today, like Eastern-style meditation, and Islamic prayer.

I was also impressed by the:

  • Imprimatur by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, well-known to be faithful to the teachings of the Church
  • many quotes from Pope Benedict XVI
  • use of the trusted RSV-CE translation of the Bible
  • author’s use of humor (including citing St. Augustine’s pre-conversion prayer: “O Lord, make me chaste. But not yet.” [p. 18])

For me, the only chapter that was difficult to follow was the one about contemplation, which seemed to jump around. However, I’m not sure that anyone could describe God’s gift of contemplation in linear style, so I appreciate that Dr. Gray tried.

This review was written as part of the Catholic Book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina.

(cross-posted on the Benedictine Spirituality Forum)

I thought some brief Benedictine reflections on anger might be timely as we enter Holy Week and honor Our Lord’s meekness and forgiveness of those who took His life and abandoned Him.

22You are not to act in anger
23or nurse a grudge.

Verses 23 through 41 [of Chapter 4 of the Rule] are again practical advice for a strong spiritual life that is lived in our actions. In verse 25 we have the admonition never to give a hollow greeting of peace. We must be cautious with this advice because in the present time we judge the hollowness of a thing by how we feel about it. This is certainly not the intention of the Rule. Rather, the Rule is asking us to choose the good of the other, even when I feel total animosity toward the other. As Christians we are not to follow our feelings–and yet we must acknowledge them. Thus, a person must be able to acknowledge the dislike of another person, even anger towards another person, and yet still choose in Christ to act in a manner that is truly a reflection of Christ’s love for us.


We might also mention another antidote to persistent anger. The fourth chapter of the Rule of St. Benedict has the wonderful title “Tools for Good Works,” and in the chapter says that the way of the monk should not be the way of the world. Benedict quickly adds: “You are not to act in anger or nurse a grudge.” He then, without explanation, adds a few more injunctions: do not be deceitful in your heart; never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love. In that almost brusque series of “good works,” he might have given us a gem: to avoid anger, turn from the self in love, and care for others. Without saying so, Benedict links anger to self-absorption and pride; he links peace of mind to its opposites, love and concern. That strikes me as a wonderful truth even if easy to give and hard to put into play.


It is quite simply not good enough to keep on apologising for the sharp tongue or
the hasty word, or even to check our words before we utter them. That may well
help relations with our correspondents, and it is, of course, essential to
acknowledge and confess our wrongdoing when we recognise it, and return once
again to our loving Father, but this does not change the fact that we allow the
anger take over our hearts in the first place. It is this that is damaging. Feelings
of anger and frustration, and the nurturing of them, should not be in the same
heart that is host to Christ. The two cannot co-exist



“Bitterness, like a Gillette blade unskilfully handled in the to-and-fro of a razor fight, can do a certain amount of harm to other people, but it can do far more harm to oneself. A bitter man (or woman) may be destructive in what he (she) says, may cause mischief, may dash the hopes of those who are ready to start off with a flourish of trumpets, but he is the sufferer in the long run. Bitterness is the extension of a bad mood; it jabs continuously at other people, and all the time the blade goes deeper and deeper into oneself. It is a curious and fatal tendency on the part of human beings that they tend to work up a grievance against people whom they have treated unjustly. Discovered in a critical judgment we dig ourselves in when we should be digging ourselves out.


Feeling angry at life’s frustrations is a temptation of the human condition, and there is such a thing as righteous anger over one’s own sins and the sins of others. However, when this emotional sense of displeasure snowballs into antagonism, brooding resentment, the desire to sow discord, and especially the desire for vengeance, then anger is rightly called one of the seven deadly or capital sins along with pride, avarice, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1866)

As followers of Christ it is important that we discern anger as a sign of the times — to use the words of the Second Vatican Council — in order to bring His healing to the world. Jesus faced a tidal wave of human anger leading up to His crucifixion. However, He overcame this tragic state of affairs, not by returning anger for anger, but as the First Letter of Peter says: “When He was reviled, He did not revile in return. When He suffered, He did not threaten, but He trusted to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:23f)

If the triumphant Risen Christ has shown us anything, it is that patient endurance and merciful forgiveness — not anger — are the only paths to victory over evil and to the peace that this world cannot give, both for ourselves and for others.

When it comes to remedies, I cannot fail to mention the Sacrament of Penance. I once had a conversation with a psychologist about how much anger there is in people today. “Bishop,” she said, “what do you expect when so few people go to confession any more.”


“The first step toward freedom from anger is to keep the lips silent when the heart is stirred; the next, to keep thoughts silent when the soul is upset; the last to be totally calm when unlean winds are blowing.” (St. John Climacus)

“As water extinguishes fire, so prayer does extinguish the heat of the passions.” and “Conquer your rage with wise, rational thought. Offer it up as a sacrifice to God.” (St. John Chrysostom)



May St. Joseph intercede for us in the same spirit in which he watched over Our Lord and Our Lady!

The first reading of the Office of Readings in the Divine Office for this Feast is Hebrews 11: 1-16, a beautiful chronicle of praise of the faith in God of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sara.

The second reading is particularly beautiful. I thought I would post it for those who don’t have access to the appropriate volume. I’ve underlined the segment I found most powerful.


From a sermon by St. Bernadine of Siena

There is a general rule concerning all special graces granted to any human being. Whenever the divine favor chooses someone to receive a special grace, or to accept a lofty vocation, God adorns the person chosen with all the gifts of the Spirit needed to fulfill the task at hand.

This general rule is especially verified in the case of St. Joseph, the foster- father of our Lord and the husband of the Queen of our world, enthroned above the angels. He was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of his greatest treasures, namely, his divine Son and Mary, Joseph’s wife. He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying: Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.

What then is Joseph’s position in the whole Church of Christ? Is he not a man chosen and set apart? Through him and, yes, under him, Christ was fittingly and honorably introduced into the world. Holy Church in its entirety is indebted to the Virgin Mother because through her it was judged worthy to receive Christ. But after her we undoubtedly owe special gratitude and reverence to St. Joseph.

In him the Old Testament finds its fitting close. He brought the noble line of the patriarchs and prophets to its promised fulfillment. What the divine goodness had offered as a promise to them, he held in his arms.

Obviously, Christ does not now deny to Joseph that intimacy, reverence and very high honor which he gave him on earth, as a son to his father. Rather we must say that in heaven Christ completes and perfects all that he gave at Nazareth.

Now we can see how the last summoning words of the Lord appropriately apply to St. Joseph: Enter into the joy of your Lord. In fact, although the joy of eternal happiness enters into the soul of a man, the Lord preferred to say to Joseph: Enter into joy. His intention was that the words should have a hidden spiritual meaning for us. They convey not only that this holy man possesses an inward joy, but also that is surrounds him and engulfs him like an infinite abyss.

Remember us, St. Joseph, and plead for us to your foster-child. Ask your most holy bride, the virgin Mary, to look kindly upon us, since she is the mother of him who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns eternally. Amen.



cross-posted on the Benedictine Spirituality Forum at Catholic Answers Forums

For those of us who are just beginning to plumb the riches of Benedictine Spirituality, here are some links I’ve found helpful, particularly for those of us in the world. Please feel free to add more to this thread. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of them!

Rule of St Benedict

The Online Guide to Saint Benedict

The Jubilee Medal of St. Benedict

Oblates of the Order of St. Benedict

Benedictine Oblates: Introduction for Inquirers and Candidates

There are also some great basic books:

“The Benedictine Handbook”

“Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict,”, by Esther de Waal

“St. Benedict: A Rule for Beginners,” by Julian Stead, OSB

anything by Blessed Columba Marmion, including “Union with God: Letters of Spiritual Direction” and “Christ, the Life of the Soul”

Well, the Catholic Answers Forum Benedictine Spirituality group that I mentioned here has, thanks be to God, already taken-off into its own discussion forum, with all the cool capabilities thereof.

Among the first threads are an ongoing study of the Rule of St. Benedict, a brief bio of a Benedictine saint, and some basic Benedictine links. I’ll go ahead and repost the start of the latter thread here on my blog.

If you want to know what this Benedictine thing — truly riches from Heaven — is all about — or if you’re ready to chat — please come on by!

Sorry for another l o n g lag in posts; unfortunately, there will probably be another soon, as I’m due to have our fourth child any day now. Prayers are always appreciated! 🙂

I did want to invite anyone who is interested in Benedictine spirituality to a group we’re forming on Catholic Answers Forums. To get a taste of Benediction spirituality, you can check the posts here and then come on over to the group on Catholic Answers Forums.

May God bless you, especially in your Lenten journey!

I believe we have reached the final post of my personal election blogging marathon. 🙂 Next time, I don’t plan to wait six months between blog posts and then post a lot at once. I would love it if you would stick with me by subscribing in your blog reader! I always welcome feedback, either on the blog or at

A great resource in our spiritual life, especially for those of us attracted to the spirituality of St. Benedict (the founder of Western monasticism), is:


(This is an excerpt from Rev. Randall Paine, ORC, His Time Is Short: The Devil and his Agenda, [St. Paul, MN: The Leaflet Missal Company, 1989] pp.89-91. This EWTN link also provides a prayer to St. Benedict and other specific uses of the medal.)

This medal has long been regarded as especially efficacious in protecting its wearers against demonic attacks, and securing a number of special graces. Let us take a closer look at the inscriptions on its two sides. On the front of the medal we find St. Benedict holding a Cross in one hand, and the Rule of St. Benedict in the other. At his sides are the words “Crux S. Patris Benedicti” (“The Cross of the Holy Father Benedict”), and below his feet: “Ex S M Casino MDCCCLXXX” (“From the holy mount of Casino, 1880”). On that date, Monte Cassino was given the exclusive right to produce this medal, and special Jubilee indulgences were added. Still on this front side of the medal we find inscribed in a circle the words: “Ejus in obitu nostro presentia muniamur” (“May his presence protect us in our hour of death”).

The reverse side of the medal is where the real exorcistic force reveals itself. In the center is a Cross. The Cross, which St. Benedict so loved and often used as a powerful exorcism, is the sign before which even Dracula shrinked. The vertical beam of the Cross bears the letters “C.S.S.M.L.”, and the horizontal beam, the letters “N.D.S.M.D.” These are the first letters of the words: “CRUX SACRA SIT MIHI LUX” (“May the Holy Cross be a light unto me”), “NON DRACO SIT MIHI DUX” (“And may the Dragon never be my guide”). The four large letters at the corners of the Cross, “C S P B”, stand for “CRUX SANCTI PATRIS BENEDICTI” (“The Cross of the Holy Father Benedict”) … In addition to the “Pax” (“peace”) motto at the top, we find the following letters in a circle around the margin of this side: “V.R.S.N.S.M.V.” “S.M.Q.L.I.V.B.” … “VADE RETRO SATANA; NUNQUAM SUADE MIHI VANA” (“Get behind me, Satan; Never suggest vain thoughts to me”). “SUNT MALA QUAE LIBAS” (“The cup you offer is evil”). “IPSE VENENA BIBAS!” (“Drink the poison yourself!”).

This richly indulgenced medal can be worn around the neck, or be attached to one’s Rosary, or simply kept in a pocket or purse. The pious intention of wearing such an object, together with the Church’s powerful blessing and intercessory power, make it into an unspoken prayer which has been shown to be of great help in maintaining holy purity, bringing about conversions, protecting against inclement weather and contagious disease.

Many beautiful crucifixes, to be worn or hung, are embedded with this powerful medal. One site that sells them (and other Catholic goods) at a discount is GetFED at A priest would be glad to bless the medal for you. You may want to attach it to your sacrifice beads or scapular, or in a way that you always have it.

UPDATED 9/9/10 to fix a broken link and add some new ones, and to reflect current prices.

Here is one of the greatest treasures of the Church, one that I lived most of my life knowing nothing of:


The site linked above is a good overview of LOTH.

Here’s my summary: The Liturgy of the Hours, which is sometimes called the “Divine Office” or “Breviary,” is — after the Holy Mass — the greatest prayer of the Church. It is prayed by priests, religious, and some lay people. The Church encourages us all to pray this beautiful prayer, as a sign of unity and to enrich our daily prayer life with the treasure of centuries of Christians, most notably early monastics like St. Benedict. One may even pray constantly by organizing her day around the hours.

The Liturgy of the Hours consists of seven “offices,” generally prayed every three hours: The Office of Readings (usually before Morning Prayer), Morning Prayer (at 6), Midmorning Prayer (at 9), Midday Prayer (at noon), Midafternoon Prayer (at 3), Evening Prayer (at 6), and Night Prayer (at 9). The “major” offices are generally held to be Morning and Evening Prayer, but one can benefit from praying whatever offices suit her schedule. Midmorning, Midday and Midafternoon Prayer are collectively called Daytime Prayer, and some people simply pray one of these offices. In general, each hour consists of a hymn, three psalms/canticles with antiphons, short New Testament readings, and other prayers. The Office of Readings consists of the hymn and psalms, along with a reading from the Scriptures and one from the writings of the early Church Fathers, saints, Vatican II, etc.

There is a great free Website (still under development) that offers the Offices as text and podcasts! An older favorite with excerpts from the LOTH (though in a different translation than the approved set) is at

There are three main publications of the LOTH: the complete four-volume set — used one volume at a time (at about $145), Christian Prayer — abbreviated prayers, most notably lacking the Office of Readings ($30), and Shorter Christian Prayer — with the four-week Psalter and Morning and Evening prayer ($12). The four-volume set comes with several useful reference cards and the publisher also sells a very helpful annual guide inexpensively.

For further information, visit:

Finally, if you would like an inexpensive, step-by-step guide to praying this beautiful prayer, I’ve found The Divine Office for Dodos useful.

[N.B. Researching, acquiring and learning to pray different versions of the Divine Office has become a hobby of mine, so I plan a future post to discuss the breviary associated with the Extraordinary Form, the traditional Benedictine breviary, etc.]

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