Ostende faciem tuam

Today I offer a final collection of loose thoughts on my retreat at Silverstream.

Before going I inquired of friends and acquaintances if there were any intentions they would like me to bring before Our Lord while on retreat. I was quite surprised at the amount of prayer requests that I received. “If I, being a simple, sinful layman, am asked to pray for all this, then how much more are those in the religious life solicited!”, I thought to myself. These requests brought to my mind another aspect of the communion of the saints which I normally don’t associate too much with the concept – the communion of those here below, in the Church Militant – and the power of intercessory prayer. I often tend to forget that if any prayer I offer is efficacious, it is not on any of my own merits, but on account of my participation through Baptism in the Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord.
As I came before the Eucharistic Face, bringing Him all these pleas, enjoining to them my own prayers, I was reminded of what I once heard from an anchorite: that a man at prayer is an awesome and terrible thing to contemplate. At that moment I was, in a sense, an icon of all those who had entrusted me to “deliver” their prayers. How could the crushing weight of such a responsibility not bear down upon me? How could I not be reminded of my unworthiness, of my failings, of my sins? How could I not think of my need for conversion of life? There, before His burning sacramental gaze, I felt small, humbled, speechless. Carried away by this feeling, the only appropriate response (when I was alone in the oratory) seemed to be to prostrate myself before the King of kings.


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“We are, therefore, about to found a school”

We are, therefore, about to found a school of the Lord’s service, in which we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But even if, to correct vices or to preserve charity, sound reason dictateth anything that turneth out somewhat stringent, do not at once fly in dismay from the way of salvation, the beginning of which cannot but be narrow. But as we advance in the religious life and faith, we shall run the way of God’s commandments with expanded hearts and unspeakable sweetness of love; so that never departing from His guidance and persevering in the monastery in His doctrine till death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ, and be found worthy to be coheirs with Him of His kingdom.

During our reading of the Holy Rule this past week, one verse in particular grabbed my attention:

[…] so that never departing from His guidance and persevering in the monastery in His doctrine till death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ, and be found worthy to be coheirs with Him of His kingdom.

Perhaps it was because we had recently been reading the Gospel of St. Luke, and just a week before an antiphon from the feast of St. Bartholomew, taken from Luke, had caught my attention as well: In patientia vestra possidebitis animas vestra – In your patience you shall possess your souls. A somewhat cryptic verse. What does it mean? What’s this business of possessing one’s soul and what does patience have to do with it? In context, Jesus is speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem, as well as the end times and enduring until the end. Etymologically, “patience” is linked to “suffering”. The Fathers seem to be in agreement that this verse means that those who suffer, who endure until the end, will enter the Kingdom. Maybe we tend to understand “patience” linked to simply “waiting”, but in this context “endurance” drives the point home. The Scriptures exhort us time and time again about enduring. Endure what? Endure the straight and narrow. Read more

“Console your God”

During my retreat at Silverstream I was always reminded of home every time I stepped into the oratory, as the first thing I would see was an image of Our Lady of Fátima. It is to the topic of Fátima that I will return again today, but perhaps in a way unexpected (but, hopefully, not fanciful). Today I wish to share some thoughts on Silverstream’s connection (in my opinion at least) with Fátima.

OLoF in the oratory.

It was while at Adoration, under the gaze of the Queen of Portugal, that I had an epiphany. While offering my time of adoration in reparation for priests I suddenly remembered the apparitions of the Angel of Portugal to the three young shepherd children.


“[…] thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to the little ones.”

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Reflections on a retreat – Part II (or, Martha and Mary)

As mentioned in the previous post, I will now try to describe a bit of my experience of the Liturgy at Silverstream.

Retreats at a monastery are quite different than what most Catholics would be used to. There is no “structure” to the retreat as there is in ones based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola; there are no conferences given by a priest/religious; no general confession; etc. The only structure is that of the Opus Dei, the Divine Office. The monks simply invite you to take part, as much as possible, in their liturgical life; you may also speak with a monk seasoned in the spiritual life if you wish; silence also plays a large role. The exterior silence, in my case, helped to notice that the interior was not silent at all. There are all these thoughts floating around, distracting, dissipating one’s attention from the one thing necessary which we in the world don’t notice most of the time due to all the exterior noise. Silence is not a commodity the world seems to appreciate; in fact, it seems to abhor it. Silence, many times, puts you face to face with yourself, with your weaknesses and brokenness. It’s the realization of our own littleness that allows us to open  up and hear the voice of God. The fight against dissipation – our forgetfulness of God – is a lifelong one, and silence is a necessary part of it.


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Reflections on a retreat – Part I (or, You can(‘t) go home again)

I recently arrived back home from a retreat at Silverstream Priory. The next few blog posts will focus on the fruit of prayers and reflections during those days; for now, this one will relate my experience of the residing monastic community.

As I caught the bus from my house to the airport at 5 in the morning my head was full of thoughts about the journey I was embarking upon. While I had been eagerly looking forward to this retreat, now thoughts of leaving my wife and children – my home – behind, if even just for a few days, began to make me question my decision. These doubt-filled thoughts continued to loom in the back of my mind, even as Giovanni (a friend of the monastery, who collected me at the airport in Dublin) and I talked on our way to the monastery. Yet, as the car pulled up in front of the Gatehouse and I saw D. Finnian’s familiar and friendly face, the “buzzing” of those lingering thoughts went silent. I was home.

Shortly after greeting D. Finnian, the guestmaster D. Cassian, a young monk hailing from Australia, came out to meet me; it was the first time we met in person. D. Cassian took me to visit Our Lord, and as we made our way up the stairs to the house, and then inside to the oratory, I saw that things were the same as I remembered them since my last visit, yet much had changed as well. Shortly thereafter I returned to the guesthouse; D. Cassian appeared with some coffee, we spoke for a bit, and I had the chance to make the acquaintance of a young man who is currently an “inquirer” at Silverstream. I was then shown to my room. Not too long after that the bell rang: it was time for Terce followed immediately by Mass.


I met the rest of the monks over the next day or two. It was impressive to see the community’s current size. When last I visited, nearly four years ago, there were just four monks; since then Silverstream has grown threefold! It was nice to finally meet face to face all our monastic brothers who we had only seen in pictures online and prayed for, recalling them with “…et cum fratribus nostris absentibus.” I had a chance to speak with most of them, to a greater or lesser degree. I tried as much as possible not to get in their way, or distract them with idle chatter.


Besides myself, the inquirer, and one of the monk’s parents, there were two other people staying at the guesthouse – two priests. One is an oblate of the monastery, and I believe was just there for a few days; the other had been there for quite some time now, and would be staying for an indeterminate amount of time. This priest mentioned to me that he had never heard of Silverstream before; he had mentioned needing a retreat to an ordained friend, who replied he knew just the place for him. And so this priest found himself far from the country where he was ministering in, praying and waiting, taking his time listening to the Lord (which, apparently, is not part of his character, being the type of person more inclined to action. [If you are reading this, Father, I hope I haven’t misrepresented you, or said anything I shouldn’t have.]). This is not the first time I have met a priest here in such a situation. It seems to me that Silverstream is a place of healing, most especially for priests, a fact which does not surprise me given the place’s charism. I will try to say some more about this, perhaps, in the next post.


Dame Hilda Benilda was not seen out and about as much as last time; it seems her age is catching up with her. However, I chanced upon Constance and Mildred; the former seems to be taking her monastic vows seriously and avoiding contact at all costs with visitors, while the latter has no problem interacting with guests (or perhaps she’s just vying for D. Cassian’s role as guestmaster?). On my daily walk within the enclosure I would quite often pass by the chickens, which seemed to think I was one of their own after I clucked to gain their attention (the rooster did not seem amused with this).


A verse from Chapter LIII, On the Reception of Guests, came to mind during my stay:

[…]guests, who are never lacking in a monastery […]

I never understood why monasteries should be busy places, but after a few days of seeing people coming and going, it finally made sense. It is not the easiest place to arrive at (and this is a good thing, especially for the monks), yet people managed to find their way there. While the World Meeting of Families was going on, people would happen to find their way to the monastery. People from all over the world seem to find their way to this secluded monastery, and many times someone will know someone in common with another visitor.

The house no longer resounded with the bustling noise of renovations, as it did four years ago. Nonetheless, works were still being carried out, with the new novitiate cells being built, as well as the new church (aptly named Bethlehem). Silverstream has a vocational problem: it’s a growing family, yet does not have enough space to take in all those who “persevere in knocking” at the door. If you can help this growing community, please consider making a donation here.


In the second part I will say a bit about my experience of the Liturgy during my stay.

“The world is passing away…”

This blog’s purpose is not to comment on current events, but I felt impelled to say a word or two on the sexual abuse scandal that has recently come to light within the Church in the USA, as well as in England.

Corrupt priests are nothing new, and it should come as no surprise to those who know Church history. In times when discipline and morals become lax priests fall into sins of simony, fornication, sodomy, pride,… There is nothing new under the sun. I don’t say this to lessen the gravity of the sins committed; I’m only pointing out the obvious for those who might think this is something “new”. While hearing about these things always saddens and grieves me greatly, it does not surprise me. I am not surprised, not because I think there is something wrong with the Church’s structure (as some seem to believe is the origin of this crisis), but because I believe in concupiscence and the scars of Original Sin. If one doesn’t fight the good fight, if one does not cooperate with grace, should it be any surprise that one falls into vices and sins of all sorts? As a saint (whom I can’t recall) once said “if you are not advancing in the spiritual life, you are moving backwards”.


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A homily

A wonderful homily by Father Prior, wherein he speaks of points in common between the monastic and married life, touching upon that of witness.

I am not my own

We’ve recently been reading a collection of homilies by St. John Chrysostom on the topic of Matrimony. A common theme throughout them – husbands and wives bodies are not their own – brought to my mind Chapter XXXIII of the Holy Rule, a chapter which, perhaps due to a superficial reading, I never thought had anything to say to those in the married state. That has changed since reading these homilies. It was the following verse that came to mind while reading the saint’s words and which, in my opinion, shows a common thread between the monastic and married life:

[…] since they are not permitted to have even their bodies or wills
at their own disposal.

The homilies are based on some of St. Paul’s epistles. The Apostle reminds us that our bodies are not our own, that we who have been baptized are incorporated into Christ as His members and that we have been bought at a great price. Our bodies, therefore, belong first and foremost to the Lord. Read more

Love in obedience

In last Sunday’s Gospel we hear Our Lord say:

If anyone love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me, does not keep My words. And the word that you have heard is not Mine, but the Father’s Who sent Me.

This talk of words [speech], hearing, obedience and acting brought to mind a couple of chapters of the Holy Rule, specifically the opening Prologue and Chapter V.

I was immediately reminded of:

Listen carefully, my child, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart. Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving father’s advice, that by the labor of obedience you may return to Him from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.

One could almost say that these opening words were those of Christ Himself: He is the Master (Jn 13:13) and father of all baptized, they being the fruit of His nuptial embrace on the Cross with His mystical bride, the Church; He asks His children to obey Him so that we may return to the Father Who loves mankind. He requires of us the faith of a child (Mt 18:3), to trust as a child trusts in their parents. As the eyes of the servant are upon their master’s hands, so too are those of the child on their parents’. Children tend to listen to and watch their parents (even if most of the times it doesn’t seem like it), and end up emulating them.


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Pax Christi [II]

Today I return to a theme I touched upon some time ago and which, even though I never got back to it, has been lingering in my mind. The Gospel pericope from two Sundays ago brought it to the fore once more, particularly this bit:

Jesus came, and stood in the midst and said to them: Peace be to you. And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord. He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you.


This Pax vobis, along with the priest’s Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum, got me to thinking yet again about Christ’s peace. While for some time I thought that this might be some kind of interior peace, a kind of absence of struggle, reading the Fathers and the lives of other saints disabused me of such erroneous notions. Having written already about the interior struggle, I won’t go over that again; rather, I would like to focus this time on Christ.
Our Lord, in John’s Gospel, gives the Apostles His peace both before His betrayal (in the context of the institution of the Eucharist) and after His resurrection. In the context of the Mass the Pax comes right after the embolism, and before the Agnus Dei: both are entreaties to be free of sin. In the old rite, when the Pax is given, it descends from the altar – which is a figure of Christ as well – being given hierarchically as well as mediated.


So what is this peace that Christ gives us? It is His salvific work, it is redemption. In short, it is the peace between God and Man, the broken relation having been restored.


We read in St. Paul:

And through Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, making peace through the blood of His Cross, both as to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven. And you, whereas you were some time alienated and enemies in mind in evil works: Yet now He hath reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unspotted, and blameless before Him [..] (Col. 1:20-22)

Being justified therefore by faith, let us have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: By Whom also we have access through faith into this grace, wherein we stand, and glory in the hope of the glory of the sons of God. (Rm 5:1-2)

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. And not only so; but also we glory in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom we have now received reconciliation. (Rm 5:10-11)

For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and breaking down the middle wall of partition, the enmities in His flesh: Making void the law of commandments contained in decrees; that He might make the two in Himself into one new man, making peace; And might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross, killing the enmities in Himself. (Eph. 2:14-16)

It is through Christ that Man can finally be at peace with God, that Man may be God’s “friend” once more, as it was in the beginning, when they walked together in the Garden. His peace is the shedding of His precious Blood, as the Paschal Lamb, which keeps the exterminating angel at bay, returning to us life everlasting; it is the outpouring of water from His pierced side, by which one crosses from the land of sin and death into that of milk and honey and life.

Christ’s peace is the foundation of all the Instruments of Good Works, but I think especially of the last one – to never despair of the mercy of God. Being at peace for the Christian is not some inner feeling of tranquility or of stillness; it is not even being at peace with oneself. I would go so far to say that if one is at peace with oneself, if there is no inner struggle, then something is not right. As said above, peace for the Christian is being reconciled to God, it is living in a way that Christ lives within us. We should never despair of the mercy of God because Christ has bridged the chasm; He has redeemed us from bondage; He has manifested the Father’s hesed, His charitas towards Man. This is something worth meditating during Paschaltide.