Röm 8, 12-17
Lk 16, 1-9
Feast of St. Benedict
11 July 2020 at Bruder Klaus
Rsp. 34: 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-11
Mt. 19: 27-29
The custom, not only here at Bruder Klaus but also elsewhere in Switzerland has been to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation in the context of Sunday Mass, wearing red vestments for the Holy Spirit, but taking the readings for the Sunday. It is actually a very good tradition, one that encouraged me on this Saturday to look to the saint of the day, Saint Benedict, Abbot, one of the major patron saints of Europe, to find my inspiration for a few words to all those gathered here.
Praised be Jesus Christ!
The Collect for the feast of St. Benedict sums up very well my prayer for all of you today:
O God, who made the Abbot Saint Benedict an outstanding master in the school of divine service, grant, we pray, that, putting nothing before love of you, we may hasten with a loving heart in the way of your commands.”
“O God…putting nothing before love of you…”
When we say that religious orders like the Benedictines or the numerous religious congregations in the Church are institutes of perfection we are saying and at the same time not saying something that should play a role in the lives of all of us who are baptized. Certainly, we are saying that religious men and women have a very high calling (putting nothing before love of you, O God). Nonetheless, we are not saying that the rest of us, ordinary priests and lay people, have nothing in common with religious or that we do not share a certain identity with members of institutes of perfection.
I remember studying Canon Law and discovering, but never quite understanding, that the big division in law in the Church is between clerics and non-clerics, between bishops, priests and deacons on one side and the laity and religious on the other, that religious were to be categorized under the heading of the laity. That would mean that all of you have more in common with religious than you do with me or than I do with you. Let me put it another way! If you will, you confirmands are just as much called to holiness of life as any monk, nun, religious brother or sister. We could spend a lot of time talking about what that means in terms of your reception of Confirmation which brings to completion your Christian initiation, which began with Baptism.
Perhaps the best way to understand the baptismal calling in which you will now be strengthened or confirmed in this Sacrament of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Confirmation, can be found in our first reading from the Old Testament, from the Book of Proverbs. It is a father/son advice kind of thing:
“My son, if you receive my words and treasure my commands, turning your ear to wisdom, inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call to intelligence, and to understanding raise your voice; if you seek her like silver, and like hidden treasures search her out…”
While yet a boy, St. Benedict was sent to Rome to study by his well-to-do parents. They sent him together with his nanny to look after him. Young Benedict was not impressed by Rome (in the late 5th Century, it must have been quite corrupt and lax, even as far as study opportunities went. We are talking about the no longer great Roman Empire, which had fallen into chaos. We are talking about life, society and Church a good century after St. Augustine lived). Young Benedict had the faith and he had a prayer life as well. He had been brought up well in his parents’ home, thoroughly Catholic. Hence, he wanted no part of what was going on in Rome and so he left his nanny behind and withdrew to a cave near Subiaco to become a hermit, to pray constantly and to do penance. In a word, Benedict chose to follow Christ and thus became perfect like His Lord. In living this hard life in the wilderness far from civilization and without advertising, he drew to himself others seeking such a holy life. They asked this holy man to teach them and to rule over them.
Let us go back to our first reading from the Book of Proverbs!
“Then will you understand the fear of the Lord; the knowledge of God you will find; for the Lord gives wisdom, from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; He has counsel in store for the upright, he is the shield of those who walk honestly, guarding the paths of justice, protecting the way of his pious ones.”
Benedict is the Father of Western Monasticism; he is a religious, but from his life story, we can glean the essential of what it should mean for any young person to live the Catholic Faith to its fullness, whether you are called by God to enter a monastery or a convent or not. From Benedict we learn and the Church teaches us that life is an all or nothing adventure. Either you choose God’s path, His wisdom and His truth, or you are lost, as are many folks are in our world today.
Let us talk about the significance of the Sacrament of Confirmation which you are about to receive and which us older folks have already received earlier on in life!
What do we pray for when we ask God to pour out the grace of His Holy Spirit upon these young people, upon you, in the Sacrament of Confirmation? What is the upshot of receiving the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and being strengthened in the great virtues, which make for the fullness of life: prudence, justice, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord? Well, we are asking God for a good Catholic life for you now and for as long as you may live. We ask this for the sake of your eternal salvation, that having known, loved and served God in this life, you might be happy with Him forever in heaven. For God’s sake and for the sake of the life of the world, we are making it as an open-ended request, that the Holy Spirit lead you to Benedict-like holiness, with no conditions or withholding on our part. We turn you over in this Sacrament to God’s grace and we say, “Lord, surprise us! Gift our Church and our world with some great saints!”
The grace of the Holy Spirit transforms us and shakes the foundations of the people around us, as it did those who were in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost day. If they are at all attentive to genuine goodness, they will be shaken. What might God be calling you to do or be? To have an answer to that question is not any more important in your life than it was in the life of Saint Benedict. Just follow Benedict’s lead; reject Satan and all his works, learn your faith, pray constantly, and seek the Lord above all else!
The COVID-19 lock-down business has called much into question. So much of what we were so sure of, back before March 13, lays in shambles. We need to leave those things behind which we can now see as unessential. It is not a matter of being lost or being without but of choosing, as did the great monk father of the West. Benedict did not set out to be some kind of revolutionary and challenge his world. Rather he turned his back on Rome, the great metropolis. He did so in order to seek Christ. You, confirmands, in the grace of this sacrament, do likewise, find joy for yourself, and give Christ’s glorious light to the world around you! Receive the Holy Spirit!
Praised be Jesus Christ!
PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI