St Benedict Novena Day 4: The Monks of Christ in the Desert

Continuing today my series highlighting monasteries around the world and the cause of the revival of Benedictine religious life, I wanted to focus today on the monks of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert.

An intriguing community who share their wisdom...

This is a monastery I find fascinating firstly because it is one of the few thriving Novus Ordo monasteries.  It has continued to attract vocations and grow, and at the same time has a group of about eight other monasteries that are associated with, either as their own foundations, by assisting groups to get started, or helping existing monasteries who are struggling.  Some of these include the relatively new Nuns of Our Lady of the Desert, who are now formally associated with Australia's Jamberoo nuns, and a Vietnamese foundation in the US.

It is intriguing secondly because of the often confrontly honest weekly epistles of its abbot, whose wisdom I've personally learnt a lot from, both from his Abbot's notebook editions, and his commentary on the Rule (also available from their website).

And thirdly because this is a monastery that started out seemingly as a new agey experiment of the kind only too common in recent decades, but has gradually found its way back to the mainstream of Benedictine practice!  Abbot Lawrence has described this process as follows:

"In my early years as a monk in this community, we experimented all the time…At one point we had only Buddhist cushions on the floor of the Church and not a single place to sit, except on the floor. We went through a phase when we sang only four part harmonies as in the Russian Orthodox tradition and we had icons everywhere… We went through a period of trying various practices of the Native Americans. At one time we did not even let the priest presiding at Holy Mass wear vestments... Out of all of that experimentation, slowly our community took shape. We began to make choices that put us into the heart of the Church instead of always on the fringes. For some, those choices made us appear much more traditional and perhaps more rigid."

The monastery eventually adopted traditional habits, rediscovered Gregorian chant and Latin, returned to the use of the full weekly psalter in the Office, and made other changes toward recovery of the tradition.  

Accordingly, this monastery provides hope that the many seemingly lost monasteries out there can yet be reformed and recover the tradition!

The monks are about to put out a new CD of Gregorian Chant, and in the lead up to it, are releasing a series of videos on their home page.  The introductory one can be found below.

Please keep the monks and their associated communities, and their efforts more generally in your prayers.

Novena Prayer

O glorious St. Benedict, sublime model of all virtues, pure vessel of God's grace! Behold me, humbly kneeling at thy feet. I implore thy loving heart to pray for me before the throne of God. To thee I have recourse in all the dangers which daily surround me. Shield me against my enemies, inspire me to imitate thee in all things. May thy blessing be with me always, so that I may shun whatever God forbids and avoid the occasions of sin.

Graciously obtain for me from God those favors and graces of which I stand so much in need, in the trials, miseries and afflictions of life. Thy heart was always so full of love, compassion, and mercy toward those who were afflicted or troubled in any way. Thou didst never dismiss without consolation and assistance anyone who had recourse to thee. I therefore invoke thy powerful intercession, in the confident hope that thou wilt hear my prayers and obtain for me the special grace and favor I so earnestly implore (mention your intentions here), if it be for the greater glory of God and the welfare of my soul.

Help me, O great St. Benedict, to live and die as a faithful child of God, to be ever submissive to His holy will, and to attain the eternal happiness of heaven. Amen.

[For the special intention (Magnificat antiphon of the feast): O pattern of heavenly life, our guide and teacher Benedict, whose soul is now rejoicing with Christ in heaven: protect thy flock, dear shepherd, and by thy holy prayer support them; and with thyself as leader showing that brightened way, make them enter the heavens.

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