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Maintenance

by Br. Alban Petesch, OSB
With the flooding that so many have experienced over the last few months, many people in North Dakota are dealing with the huge task of either rebuilding or relocating. Our hearts and prayers go out to these unfortunate ones. Most of us, who deal with the more mundane task of preserving what we already have, find it hard to imagine the trauma of starting over or letting go.  In the history of Assumption Abbey, the monks did face such a situation. In the 1920’s with a huge debt against the monastic community the dilemma arose: relocate or lose it all. Abbot Placid Hoenerbach had great illusions about moving the community, and building a grandiose complex close to Mandan, but the community was forced into bankruptcy and the monks were dispersed. A few years later, monks from Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, came to Richardton and reopened the monastery and school. Although we have remained a relatively healthy community in the ensuing decades, the ordeal of bankruptcy and closure remains imprinted on the community’s psyche. We are reminded of the demands made on us by the large complex of buildings left us by our monastic ancestors, so we strive to live simply and within our means. In more recent years we have benefited immensely from generous friends and donors who have helped us maintain and improve our physical plant.  The attitude that permeates our approach to our physical surround-ings is one of stewardship, based in large part on Chapter 31 of the Rule of St. Benedict. In this chapter St. Benedict instructs his disciples about how to treat material possessions. Although it seems that Benedict is talking about the smaller instruments we use on a daily basis—clothes, tools, goods and materials—he instructs that these be handled as if they were the sacred vessels of the altar. Extrapolating on this idea, we can see that everything created thus has a sacred dimension to it. Our buildings are, therefore, to be treated and maintained with care as are the grounds and yards, the fields and the water. All things, because created by God, are infused with the divine, and we must approach them with reverence and respect.  There is, however, another side to stewardship and maintenance: the interior or spiritual work that needs to continue day after day. Money, schedules and contractors cannot help a monk with this type of ongoing need. St. Benedict may devote a chapter or two to how we care for material things, but the other 70-or-so chapters are devoted to this spiritual aspect of our lives.  The first thing we must maintain is a regular order of common prayer. This prayer, called the Liturgy of the Hours or the Divine Office, is celebrated three times a day as we gather to pray the psalms, listen to Sacred Scripture, praise God and intercede with him on our own behalf and on behalf of others. We also gather each day for the celebration of the Eucharist. Here again we pray, praise, intercede and give thanks to God. We also tend to the health of our soul each day by engaging in lectio divina, the private reading of Sacred Scripture. This practice, along with personal prayer, is necessary to help each monk maintain balance and direct his mind and heart. The public or common prayer helps to feed and nourish our souls and provides inspiration to our private prayer and lectio. On the other hand, our personal prayer and our private reading of Sacred Scripture help us to sustain an outlook focused on God and this, in turn, enhances our experience of the liturgy, both Eucharist and Divine Office.  To these explicitly external spiritual practices are added some activities that may seem mundane, but which, for St. Benedict, ultimately help the monk along his spiritual journey. Both our work and our meals, seemingly necessary for the upkeep of the body, have a spiritual dimension. Our work keeps us humble and helps to preserve an equilibrium: which of us is really capable of praying all day? Work is also a service in which we provide for the needs of our brothers in community and for those to whom we minister outside the community. The common table, or meals, is an extension of our liturgical life. Just as we gather around the table of the altar to worship and be nourished by Christ’s Body and Blood, so we gather at the dinner table to serve one another, nourish our bodies and strengthen the bonds of brotherhood that unite us in the Body of Christ which is this monastic community.  All of the practices that Benedict prescribed for monks are available to anyone living in the world. The Liturgy of the Hours or the Divine Office: We monks of Assumption Abbey offer Partners in Prayer (a shortened version of what we pray in the morning and the evening) free of charge to anyone who is interested. The reading of Sacred Scripture is available to anyone with a Bible and some time. The celebration of the Eucharist is offered frequently every week in most Catholic parishes, and all denominations have a worship service on Sundays. We all gather with someone at some time for a meal, but how often is food just a matter of “filling the tank” rather than an opportunity for sharing life and fellowship and restoring a lonely and tired soul? And work. Work is something we should enjoy, at least sometimes, because we are doing something important. No matter how trivial a task may seem, it is helpful to someone and it is a sharing in God’s creative process.  Sometimes it takes a flood or a bankruptcy to make us aware of what we have and what we take for granted. It also keeps us alert to caring for what we have been given, including the gift that is the human soul.
Spiritual Reflections Spiritual Reflections

Maintenance

by Br. Alban Petesch, OSB
With the flooding that so many have experienced over the last few months, many people in North Dakota are dealing with the huge task of either rebuilding or relocating. Our hearts and prayers go out to these unfortunate ones. Most of us, who deal with the more mundane task of preserving what we already have, find it hard to imagine the trauma of starting over or letting go.  In the history of Assumption Abbey, the monks did face such a situation. In the 1920’s with a huge debt against the monastic community the dilemma arose: relocate or lose it all. Abbot Placid Hoenerbach had great illusions about moving the community, and building a grandiose complex close to Mandan, but the community was forced into bankruptcy and the monks were dispersed. A few years later, monks from Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, came to Richardton and reopened the monastery and school. Although we have remained a relatively healthy community in the ensuing decades, the ordeal of bankruptcy and closure remains imprinted on the community’s psyche. We are reminded of the demands made on us by the large complex of buildings left us by our monastic ancestors, so we strive to live simply and within our means. In more recent years we have benefited immensely from generous friends and donors who have helped us maintain and improve our physical plant.  The attitude that permeates our approach to our physical surround-ings is one of stewardship, based in large part on Chapter 31 of the Rule of St. Benedict. In this chapter St. Benedict instructs his disciples about how to treat material possessions. Although it seems that Benedict is talking about the smaller instruments we use on a daily basis—clothes, tools, goods and materials—he instructs that these be handled as if they were the sacred vessels of the altar. Extrapolating on this idea, we can see that everything created thus has a sacred dimension to it. Our buildings are, therefore, to be treated and maintained with care as are the grounds and yards, the fields and the water. All things, because created by God, are infused with the divine, and we must approach them with reverence and respect.  There is, however, another side to stewardship and maintenance: the interior or spiritual work that needs to continue day after day. Money, schedules and contractors cannot help a monk with this type of ongoing need. St. Benedict may devote a chapter or two to how we care for material things, but the other 70-or-so chapters are devoted to this spiritual aspect of our lives.  The first thing we must maintain is a regular order of common prayer. This prayer, called the Liturgy of the Hours or the Divine Office, is celebrated three times a day as we gather to pray the psalms, listen to Sacred Scripture, praise God and intercede with him on our own behalf and on behalf of others. We also gather each day for the celebration of the Eucharist. Here again we pray, praise, intercede and give thanks to God. We also tend to the health of our soul each day by engaging in lectio divina, the private reading of Sacred Scripture. This practice, along with personal prayer, is necessary to help each monk maintain balance and direct his mind and heart. The public or common prayer helps to feed and nourish our souls and provides inspiration to our private prayer and lectio. On the other hand, our personal prayer and our private reading of Sacred Scripture help us to sustain an outlook focused on God and this, in turn, enhances our experience of the liturgy, both Eucharist and Divine Office.  To these explicitly external spiritual practices are added some activities that may seem mundane, but which, for St. Benedict, ultimately help the monk along his spiritual journey. Both our work and our meals, seemingly necessary for the upkeep of the body, have a spiritual dimension. Our work keeps us humble and helps to preserve an equilibrium: which of us is really capable of praying all day? Work is also a service in which we provide for the needs of our brothers in community and for those to whom we minister outside the community. The common table, or meals, is an extension of our liturgical life. Just as we gather around the table of the altar to worship and be nourished by Christ’s Body and Blood, so we gather at the dinner table to serve one another, nourish our bodies and strengthen the bonds of brotherhood that unite us in the Body of Christ which is this monastic community.  All of the practices that Benedict prescribed for monks are available to anyone living in the world. The Liturgy of the Hours or the Divine Office: We monks of Assumption Abbey offer Partners in Prayer (a shortened version of what we pray in the morning and the evening) free of charge to anyone who is interested. The reading of Sacred Scripture is available to anyone with a Bible and some time. The celebration of the Eucharist is offered frequently every week in most Catholic parishes, and all denominations have a worship service on Sundays. We all gather with someone at some time for a meal, but how often is food just a matter of “filling the tank” rather than an opportunity for sharing life and fellowship and restoring a lonely and tired soul? And work. Work is something we should enjoy, at least sometimes, because we are doing something important. No matter how trivial a task may seem, it is helpful to someone and it is a sharing in God’s creative process.  Sometimes it takes a flood or a bankruptcy to make us aware of what we have and what we take for granted. It also keeps us alert to caring for what we have been given, including the gift that is the human soul.
Spiritual Reflections Spiritual Reflections
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Phone (701) 974 3315 Address PO Box A Richardton, ND 58601