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By Deacon Keith Fournier

1/25/2014 (2 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Monastic life and spirituality is labor immersed in prayer. This monk named Benedict is till hard at work.

I must admit, my heart is often drawn back to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. I miss him. He was and is such a humble and holy man. Now, he is a monk. I believe that the monastic life he has now chosen will not only continue his path to sanctity, but strengthen the whole Church and add to the theological treasury of the Church. Monks are themselves a treasure of the Church. No matter how much formal theological study they have, it is their depth of prayer which makes them the best of theologians. So it is with His Holiness, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Evagrius of Pontus once wrote "a theologian is one who prays and one who prays is a theologian."  

I believe that the brilliant theologian and monk named Benedict, from that cloister right within the walls of the Vatican, is still writing from the depth of his prayer and contemplation. I will venture to propose that his best writing may still be ahead. It is his unfinished work. I hope that his choice of the monastic life becomes a seed which gives rise to a monastic renewal in the Third Christian Millennium of Christianity.

I believe that the brilliant theologian and monk named Benedict, from that cloister right within the walls of the Vatican, is still writing from the depth of his prayer and contemplation. I will venture to propose that his best writing may still be ahead. It is his unfinished work. I hope that his choice of the monastic life becomes a seed which gives rise to a monastic renewal in the Third Christian Millennium of Christianity.

Article Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/25/2014 (2 months ago)

Published in Europe

Keywords: Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, Monks, monasticism, conetemplative prayer, benedictine, carmelite, Trappist, Cistercian, ora et labora, monastic rule, meditation, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - Lately, I have been drawn to much reflection. Deal Hudson's articles on beauty have been a source of inspiration. They have also brought to mind Pope Emeritus Benedict whose own reflections on beauty were so instrumental in my life.

Fortunately, the number of shallow articles seeking to contrast Benedict and Francis has finally slowed down. Most sincere people are realizing what a gift they both are to the Church. Anyone who reads my writing  knows of my deep appreciation for our Holy Father Francis, as well as my conviction that he is a gift of the Holy Spirit at a pregnant moment in Church history.

Yet, I must admit, my heart is often drawn back to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. I miss him. He was and is such a humble and holy man. Now, he is a monk. I believe that the monastic life he has now chosen will not only continue his path to sanctity, but strengthen the whole Church and add to the theological treasury of the Church.

Monks are themselves a treasure of the Church. No matter how much formal theological study they have, it is their depth of prayer which makes them the best of theologians. So it is with His Holiness, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Evagrius of Pontus once wrote "a theologian is one who prays and one who prays is a theologian."  

Out of the storehouse of grace monk/theologians help the faithful in their pursuit of the longing of every human heart - communion and intimacy with the God who has revealed Himself in the face of Jesus Christ.  What is necessary is to encounter Him, contemplate the beauty and be transformed in the encounter.

His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is doing that every day. His prayer of intercession is assisting the Church in ways which we will only understand in the beauty and light of eternity. My heart tells me that his hidden contemplation will give birth to future writing, even if it is after he enters the fullness of the communion of love.

I believe that his work is far from over. In fact, it is possible that the work which he is doing now may have effects we simply cannot yet even comprehend. Monastic life and spirituality is labor immersed in prayer. This monk named Benedict is still hard at work.

Monks are mystically caught up in the ongoing redemptive work of Jesus Christ in and through His Church. They follow a Rule, a Way of Life. In their work or prayer they peel back the deeper mystery and remind us that all work done in the Lord participates in His ongoing work of redemption and is a means of holiness.

Too often, people mistakenly believe that the monk retreats from the world because of corruption. In fact, the monk retreats from this world in order to transform this world by his prophetic witness and powerful prayer. The dedicated monk is an essential part of the Lord's plan for the Church and, for the world into which she is sent.

I believe that the brilliant theologian and monk named Benedict, from that cloister right within the walls of the Vatican, is still writing from the depth of his prayer and contemplation. I will venture to propose that his best writing may still be ahead. It is his unfinished work. I hope that his choice of the monastic life becomes a seed which gives rise to a monastic renewal in the Third Christian Millennium of Christianity.

Monks and monastic renewal always seem to show up in Church history at pivotal times of internal church reform and external mission. We are in such a time in the Third Millennium of Christianity. We need a monastic revival. There is nothing more powerful than prayer and monastic prayer is one of the most potent sources of spiritual grace.

Monasticism in the first millennium gave us the fountain of theological wisdom which still inspires the Church. Those who went into the desert became the great teachers, fathers, confessors and prophets. Their prayer and witness kept the Church in the Divine embrace so that she could effectively continue the redemptive mission of the Lord.

In the second millennium, their work and witness continued. Sadly, the Church had been torn in two with the first split, East and West. In the East, the Monks continued to be a resource for the kind of theology which brings heaven to earth and earth to heaven. From their ranks the great Bishops of the Church were chosen and the Church was continually renewed.

In the West, the great Monasteries of Europe became the beating heart of the emergence of Christendom. The extraordinary intellect exhibited in the emerging theological tradition birthed in the monasteries enabled the Church to contend with daunting challenges, welcome them without fear, contend for the faith and offer the claims of Truth Incarnate.

Now, His Holiness, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is giving us a prophetic witness of monastic life right within the Vatican in this Third Christian Millennium . His teaching on monks during his papacy gives us insights into how he views his chosen vocation. For example, in an address given in 2007 he spoke of  the monastic life as a gift for the whole church. It can be read in its entirety here.

He told a group of monks in Austria, just as a liturgy which no longer looks to God is already in its death throes, so too a theology which no longer draws its life-breath from faith ceases to be theology; it ends up as a array of more or less loosely connected disciplines. But where theology is practiced on bent knee, as Hans Urs von Balthasar urged, it will prove fruitful for the Church.

The monk named Benedict XVI is practicing his gift of theology on bent knee. What an interesting twist of Church  history that a Pope has become a monk. We have much precedent of monks becoming Popes. Perhaps we have not yet received the greatest theological gifts from this extraordinary Pope who chose to become a monk.

Monks are a seed of the great renewals of the Catholic Church. It is no accident the last Pope  took the name Benedict when he said Yes to the invitation to serve as the successor of Peter. He had just returned from a retreat at Subiaco, the cave where St. Benedict spent three years in prayer.

In a General Audience on April 29, 2008 he called St. Benedict the Patron of His Pontificate.  This why I am convinced that it is no accident he asked to keep the name Benedict when he voluntarily stepped aside from his service in the Chair of Peter. He is living a monastic vocation right within the heart of the Vatican. How fitting. How prophetic. How beautiful.

Over the years of Pope Emeritus Benedict's service in the Chair of Peter, he regularly spoke of monks and their essential contribution to the Church. In that address given in 2007, he zeroed in on the monastic life as a gift needed for the whole church. Now he is a part of the gift.

As a 'revert' to the Church, one who returned after wandering away as a very young man, I spent 21 months in a Benedictine monastery shortly after coming home. There, I began what has become a lifelong journey of prayer and found my continuing hunger for theology on bent knee. 

I also began what has become a lifelong study of the early fathers of the Church. I was taught by a wonderful monk in those years . He was the first of several monks who have graced my life with their gift of holy presence, making Christ so palpable by their interior life - one which overflows in a genuine transfigured humanity. 

From my encounters with monks, living immersed in their unique and vital vocation, I learned that no matter how much formal theological study they have, it is their depth of prayer which makes them the best of theologians.

So it should be with all theologians - one cannot give away what one does not have.

It is out of the storehouse of grace that monks and theologians are able to help the faithful in their pursuit of the longing of every human heart, communion and intimacy with the God who has revealed Himself.

If we are all meant to see, to use the expression of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the human face of God in Jesus Christ, we must first encounter Him. Only then can we contemplate that beauty and be transformed into His Image in the encounter.

The early Fathers called the Church the New World, the world in the course of transfiguration, being recreated in Christ. We who have been baptized into Jesus Christ now live in the Church and go into this world to bring all men and women home into the new world.

Monks are prophetic seeds of the kingdom who support us in this task. They have always been around when we need them the most. We need many, many more. We need a monastic revival. Lord, send us monks for the renewal and reform of your Church. Thank you for the monk named Benedict who is now cloistered inside the Vatican and holds the Church up with his prayer. 

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for April 2014
Ecology and Justice:
That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick: That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.



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