Since the last time I wrote my Oblate colunm for the “Quarterly,” something of a major event has taken place in my life: I’ve accepted the invitation of Father Daniel Ward to form part of the monastic community at Saint Augustine’s Priory in Nassau, Bahamas. Many of you already know that Saint John’s Abbey has two dependent mission priories. In addition to Saint Augustine’s Priory in the Bahamas, there is Saint Anselm’s Priory in Tokyo, Japan.
Because of this new overseas assignment (effective 1 July) I’ll be trading the Oblate Director’s position at Saint John’s for the one at Saint Augustine’s. I’m looking forward to meeting the Oblates in the Bahama Islands, but I want all the Saint John’s Oblates to know how much I’ll miss you. It really has been my privilege – and joy – to serve you these past two years as Father Allen Tarlton and I attempted to fulfill Abbot Timothy’s mandate to build up the abbey’s Oblate program.
It has been a special joy to accompany so many of you in your discovery of Saint Benedict, his Rule and Christian life lived under their inspiration and guidance. I think back to the many good conversations I’ve shared with you these past years and thank you for permitting me to be a part of your spiritual journey and search for God. The celebration surrounding your becoming Oblate Candidates and your Final Oblations, as well as our
Days of Recollection and monthly gatherings at the abbey, stand out in my mind as graced moments. I’m grateful to God for all that we’ve experienced together and ask God’s blessings on all that is yet to come for you!
My personal sadness at leaving the Oblates here at Saint John’s is mitigated by the knowledge that you’re in good hands. Father Allen Tarlton, the Assistant Director these past two years, assumes the Oblate Director’s mantle on 27 June. Most of you know Father Allen very well indeed and will concur with my assessment that he is truly the logical-and best pos- sible-person to become the next director. Father Allen’s indefatigable labor of love in the daily running of the Oblate Office, and in particular his voluminous correspondence and personal contact with so many of you have given him absolute familiarity with what needs doing; indeed he’s been doing it all along! As I pray for all of you I also pray for Father Allen and wish him the richest of blessings in this ministry.
It seems especially significant to me that the group of four Bahamian missionaries will formally receive their “missioning” blessing from Abbot Timothy on 29 June, feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and that my own departure for the Bahamas is 1 July, feast of Blessed Junipero Serra, the famous “Apostle of California.” Both of these missionary feasts, in conjunction with the departure of a group of missionary monks from the abbey, can serve to remind us of the strong missionary component of our Benedictine and monastic heritage.
I see “missionary” activity, broadly defined, as that manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives which impels us outward and toward others. It is a movement which counteracts the tendency toward complacency or comfort with the familiar that most of us experience from time to time. The phrase which Saint Paul employs in II Corinthians is a favorite of mine and seems to describe that impulse so well: “The love of Christ impels us!”
Paul’s phrase explains the genuine spiritual underpinnings of the missionary activities of Christians over the centuries–including thousands of monastic men and women–who have responded to that movement of the Spirit in their lives to reach out in loving service to people and causes which would otherwise lie beyond their normal sphere of operations, beyond their own nuclear families or communities and beyond their ideas of what Christian life demands of them. Isn’t that impulse at the very heart of Oblate spirituality as well?
And so, as the mission to the Bahamas takes me beyond the Collegeville environs, I thank God for the Oblates of Saint John’s Abbey who have been impelled by the love of Christ to commit themselves to bearing witness to the Gospel through a Benedictine manner of life, wherever they happen to be. Truly, your mission is to be a concrete expression in “the world beyond the cloister” of all that is good and holy in the ancient monastic tradition.
May God prosper and bring to fruition that mission. PAX!