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Stabat Mater

by Br. Alban Petesch, OSB
The Blessed Virgin is not someone we readily associate with our Lenten devotions aside from her appearance in the Stations of the Cross and the singing of the Stabat Mater (“At the cross her station keeping”). But she is always there. You might almost call her Omnipresent Mary. We are a monastery dedicated to the Blessed Virgin under the title of her Assumption, and the appearances of Mary around our campus are many and varied. She graces the front lawn; she appears many times in the church windows; a statue; she is in artwork hanging in the halls and rooms of the monastery; she is in prayers, hymns and texts we sing and recite; and at the end of each day we sing to her. Just lately she has been a bit more prominent in our life. With plans to update and repair our courtyard, and due to the crumbling base on which she stood, the statue of the Blessed Virgin that adorned the center of the courtyard lawn has been moved inside to the sacristy and now she stands there, with her arms open in greeting, supplication, welcome. With Mary standing a more insistent watch as she does now, the words of the Stabat mater dolorosa come to mind more readily. This poem was written by the Franciscan Jacopone da Todi in the thirteenth century, at a time when devotion to the Blessed Mother was particularly strong and a greater emphasis was placed on the human sufferings of Jesus Christ.      At the cross her station keeping, Mary stood in sorrow, weeping, When her Son was crucified. Standing, staying, remaining. To a monk these words speak of stability, one of the promises we take. When running and changing are the modes of life for most or many in the twenty-first century, can you stand or commit or hold firm? When the world around you seems to be falling apart and everything is tumbling down, can you stay? When all things in life seem against you, can you remain? Mary here offers a witness to faithfulness. There’s no mention of comprehension of the experience she is living through or an acknowledgment of the ultimate outcome of the situation and a reward. She stays put, she believes, she is faithful.     Ever patient in her yearning, Though her tear-filled eyes were burning, Mary gazed upon her Son. Patience is another trait that a monk should exhibit—patience in the face of life’s hardships, but there’s more to it than that. There’s patience with those around us. For Mary these would be the jeering crowds and frightened disciples. For the monk, less dramatically but no less real, one must be patient with one’s brothers in community, the guest, the abbot. We don’t always understand one another or relate well; we all have different needs and issues. There’s also patience with oneself. For Mary this would be patience with the emotions welling up within her, the grief and anguish that were breaking her heart. For the monk this is patience with his own fallen and sinful nature, the continuous lapses, trespasses, character faults. There’s ultimately patience with God. For Mary this was bearing with what God had in store for her and her Son, where this apparently final moment could be leading. For us it is the same.      We must practice patience and trust the unfolding of God’s plan for each of us individually and for us as a community; patience with God’s apparent silences and his perceived slowness in responding when we feel urgency and burning need.       Virgin, ever interceding, Hear me in my fervent pleading: fire me with your love of Christ. Mary is a woman of prayer. Monks should be men of prayer. As a community under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin, we have a great friend in heaven who prays for us and for those for whom we pray, which is basically everyone. Monks gather to pray not only for their own needs and for the needs of those who commend themselves to the monastery or the monks’ particular friends, but we pray for the Church and the world, those we prefer and those with whom we differ. There is another, perhaps more essential, element in this stanza of the poem, however. Always Mary points away from herself to Christ Jesus, her Son. Here we pray not just for particular intentions or specific needs. We pray to be filled with a burning love for Christ, the same kind of love Mary exhibited: a passion not just to follow Christ, but to become Christ-like, to go beyond what is merely human to approach the divine.     Let me to your love be taken, Let my soul in death awaken To the joys of paradise. And finally, Mary directs the gaze of every monk and every Christian to their final destiny: heaven. Love is the animating force in the life of the Blessed Virgin. Love should be what animates a monk’s life. Obedience and hard work are important for the monk, but he obeys and serves for no other reason than the love of and for Jesus Christ that compels him to do so. At the end of one’s life in the monastery, hopefully a long life, it is not the resumé that counts but the love one has shown. A monk may be remembered for the many jobs he did and the many ways in which he served, but ultimately he is missed for the person he was and the man of God he was. Jobs can be filled, no one is indispensable, but the love one expresses and gives permeates the community and makes it richer and more vibrant.      These reflections may be for the monk who wanders into the sacristy and finds Mary standing watch: Stabat mater amorosa, there stands the loving mother. May they also provide some meditation for you, our friends, during this Lenten season. For, Mary actually has a lot to do with Lent, as she does with all of life. May God bless you all during this holy season!
Spiritual Reflections Spiritual Reflections

Stabat Mater

by Br. Alban Petesch, OSB
The Blessed Virgin is not someone we readily associate with our Lenten devotions aside from her appearance in the Stations of the Cross and the singing of the Stabat Mater (“At the cross her station keeping”). But she is always there. You might almost call her Omnipresent Mary. We are a monastery dedicated to the Blessed Virgin under the title of her Assumption, and the appearances of Mary around our campus are many and varied. She graces the front lawn; she appears many times in the church windows; a statue; she is in artwork hanging in the halls and rooms of the monastery; she is in prayers, hymns and texts we sing and recite; and at the end of each day we sing to her. Just lately she has been a bit more prominent in our life. With plans to update and repair our courtyard, and due to the crumbling base on which she stood, the statue of the Blessed Virgin that adorned the center of the courtyard lawn has been moved inside to the sacristy and now she stands there, with her arms open in greeting, supplication, welcome. With Mary standing a more insistent watch as she does now, the words of the Stabat mater dolorosa come to mind more readily. This poem was written by the Franciscan Jacopone da Todi in the thirteenth century, at a time when devotion to the Blessed Mother was particularly strong and a greater emphasis was placed on the human sufferings of Jesus Christ.      At the cross her station keeping, Mary stood in sorrow, weeping, When her Son was crucified. Standing, staying, remaining. To a monk these words speak of stability, one of the promises we take. When running and changing are the modes of life for most or many in the twenty-first century, can you stand or commit or hold firm? When the world around you seems to be falling apart and everything is tumbling down, can you stay? When all things in life seem against you, can you remain? Mary here offers a witness to faithfulness. There’s no mention of comprehension of the experience she is living through or an acknowledgment of the ultimate outcome of the situation and a reward. She stays put, she believes, she is faithful.     Ever patient in her yearning, Though her tear-filled eyes were burning, Mary gazed upon her Son. Patience is another trait that a monk should exhibit—patience in the face of life’s hardships, but there’s more to it than that. There’s patience with those around us. For Mary these would be the jeering crowds and frightened disciples. For the monk, less dramatically but no less real, one must be patient with one’s brothers in community, the guest, the abbot. We don’t always understand one another or relate well; we all have different needs and issues. There’s also patience with oneself. For Mary this would be patience with the emotions welling up within her, the grief and anguish that were breaking her heart. For the monk this is patience with his own fallen and sinful nature, the continuous lapses, trespasses, character faults. There’s ultimately patience with God. For Mary this was bearing with what God had in store for her and her Son, where this apparently final moment could be leading. For us it is the same.      We must practice patience and trust the unfolding of God’s plan for each of us individually and for us as a community; patience with God’s apparent silences and his perceived slowness in responding when we feel urgency and burning need.       Virgin, ever interceding, Hear me in my fervent pleading: fire me with your love of Christ. Mary is a woman of prayer. Monks should be men of prayer. As a community under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin, we have a great friend in heaven who prays for us and for those for whom we pray, which is basically everyone. Monks gather to pray not only for their own needs and for the needs of those who commend themselves to the monastery or the monks’ particular friends, but we pray for the Church and the world, those we prefer and those with whom we differ. There is another, perhaps more essential, element in this stanza of the poem, however. Always Mary points away from herself to Christ Jesus, her Son. Here we pray not just for particular intentions or specific needs. We pray to be filled with a burning love for Christ, the same kind of love Mary exhibited: a passion not just to follow Christ, but to become Christ-like, to go beyond what is merely human to approach the divine.     Let me to your love be taken, Let my soul in death awaken To the joys of paradise. And finally, Mary directs the gaze of every monk and every Christian to their final destiny: heaven. Love is the animating force in the life of the Blessed Virgin. Love should be what animates a monk’s life. Obedience and hard work are important for the monk, but he obeys and serves for no other reason than the love of and for Jesus Christ that compels him to do so. At the end of one’s life in the monastery, hopefully a long life, it is not the resumé that counts but the love one has shown. A monk may be remembered for the many jobs he did and the many ways in which he served, but ultimately he is missed for the person he was and the man of God he was. Jobs can be filled, no one is indispensable, but the love one expresses and gives permeates the community and makes it richer and more vibrant.      These reflections may be for the monk who wanders into the sacristy and finds Mary standing watch: Stabat mater amorosa, there stands the loving mother. May they also provide some meditation for you, our friends, during this Lenten season. For, Mary actually has a lot to do with Lent, as she does with all of life. May God bless you all during this holy season!
Spiritual Reflections Spiritual Reflections
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Phone (701) 974 3315 Address PO Box A Richardton, ND 58601