Newsletter of St. Gregory's Chapter. – affiliated with Holy Trinity Abbey, New Norcia WA.
Editorial Comment to The Editor

December 2000 – February 2001                                                                                                                  Issue 00/4


Chapter meetings are held at Camillus House, 15 Bronte Street, East Perth. (St. V de P Society headquarters.) Meetings commence at 2.00pm prompt.

December – This will be our Christmas meeting to be held on 17 December at 2.00pm. As in previous years we will hold it at the Camillus House premises. This will be a purely social event and we ask each oblate attending to bring a plate and drinks. Relatives and friends are also cordially invited.

January  - There will be no meeting in January. February  - Regular Chapter meeting 18 February – Rule No.64.


Please remember all our sick oblates, - In particular Tom Gollop. Please also remember to pray for our parent community in New Norcia. Also long time oblate, Mrs. Angela Schwartzbach passed away recently; previously of Bridgetown and the Benedictine Abbey Vineyard at Wyening. Prayers please for five members of Adrienne Byrne’s family who have all died over the course of this year.


The series of lectures entitled ‘Psalms – an acquired taste?’ as mentioned in our previous newsletter were a huge success and for those who missed them or could only attend some of them, we now have available the set of six lectures on tape. These have been well produced and we are able to offer them to oblates for $34.95 a set, including postage. For those attending our regular meetings, these tapes can also be borrowed from our library – see Rhod Metcalf to arrange. We request any orders for tapes to be lodged together with a cheque made out to the Benedictine Oblate Group prior to the end of this month, December. They can be sent to the editor at the above address who will organise their despatch.

The Oblate group pilgrimage to New Norcia and Bullsbrook Shrine took place on Sunday 3 September.  Seven Oblates met at the church for Mass at 9.00am. and completed a full day of prayer, lunch and social interaction. Unfortunately as the event clashed with Father’s Day, we did not get the turnout we expected. One of our recent enquirers Steve Storer really got into the spirit of things and decided to visit a third pilgrim site by calling in at the Schoenstatt Shrine at Armadale on the way back home to Rockingham.


Good news for those oblates who like reading. Our library is finally in operation and is located at Camillus House for the convenience of those who regularly attend Chapter meetings. As the group has committed substantial funds to the building up of the library stock, we encourage all oblates to make use of it. Our Librarian is to be commended for continually keeping an eye out for new and suitable publications, also all those oblates who have kindly donated their own books to it. The complete list by author and title, as at the time of printing is as below. We will give updated lists in future issues.

Ref Title Author Description
27 What is prayer? Dunstan Adams OSB  
5 Basil by his Friends Carolyn Butler  
6 Benedictines in Aust. & NZ Benedictine Union of Aust. & NZ  
12 Marked for Life Maria Bolding OSB Prayer in the Easter Christ
16 Leadership Today: Can it Learn from an Ancient Rule? David Barry OSB  
40 The Narrow Gate Francis Byrne OSB Aspects of prayer/People of prayer
8 Wisdom distilled from the daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Joan Chittister OSB  
9 The Psalms Joan Chittister OSB Meditations for every day of the year
10 Songs of Joy Joan Chittister OSB New meditations on the Psalms for every day of the year
13 The Sacrament of the present moment Jean Pierre de Caussade Self abandonment to divine providence moment
17 Catechism of the Catholic Church    
18 Basil Hume, builder of community Stephen J Costello  
31 Towards God Michael Casey OCSO The Western tradition of contemplation
32 The Art of Sacred Reading Michael Casey OCSO  
7 The Rule of Peace Christopher Derrick St. Benedict  - the European Future
21 Cherish Christ above all Demetrius Dumm OSB The Bible in the Rule of Benedict
25 Models of the Church Avery Dulles SJ  
42 Love without measure Paul Diemer OCSO Extracts from the writings of St. Bernard of Clairveaux
11 Praying Robert Farily SJ  
23 Mindanao Mission Edward Fischer Arch. Pat Cronin’s 40 years in the Phillipines
38 The Psalms Frost,Emerton & McIntosh The Liturgical Psalter 1995, inc. lang version
44 The Rule of Benedict  Timothy Fry OSB RB1980 in Latin & English with notes
33 15 Days of prayer with Benedict Andre Grozier OSB  
14 Heart of the Koran Len Hixon Meditations & Illuminations from Islam
15 My Words are Spirit & Life Stephanie M Herz Meeting Christ through daily meditation
24 To be a Pilgrim Basil Hume OSB A Spiritual Notebook
26 The Mystery of Love Basil Hume OSB  
19 Celtic Christianity Timothy Joyce OSB A sacred tradition – a vision of hope
30 Cardinal Hume – A Spiritual Companion Liam Kelly Reflections through the year
1 Praying the Bible Mariano Magrassi OSB An introduction to Lectio Divina
37 The Rule of St. Benedict Justin McCann OSB  
39 The Rule of St. Benedict Gerald McGinty OSB Themes, texts and thoughts
34 A guide to monastic guest In Canada and the USA Robert J Regalbuts 3rd. edition
22 The Salvado Memoirs Rosendo Salvado E J Storman SJ editor and translator
41 Modern Benedictine Martyrs Of El Pueyo S Sanz de Galdeano A monk of New Norcia
36 The Devil is a Jackass Leo Madigan Autobiography of William Ullathorpe OSB
2 Praying with Benedict Kormeel Vermeiren OCSO Prayer in the Rule of St. Benedict
20 The Desert Fathers Helen Wadell Translated from the Latin
28 Seeking God Esther de Waal The way of St. Benedict
29 A life giving way Esther de Waal Commentary on the Rule of Benedict
35 Living with contradiction Esther de Waal Reflections on the Rule of Benedict
43 The Celtic vision Esther de Waal Prayers & blessings from the Outer Hebrides



Conversion – Catechism 1426 Conversion to Christ, the new birth of Baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Body and Blood of Christ received as food have made us ‘holy and without blemish’, just as the Church herself, the Bride of Christ, is ‘holy and without blemish’. Nevertheless the new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptised such that with the help of the grace of Christ they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life. This is the struggle of conversion directed towards holiness and eternal life to which the Lord never ceases to call us.

Conversion – Conversatio Morum – The Benedictine Way. The Benedictine vow of Conversatio Morum is to live Monastic life according to the Rule of Benedict. In practice this has become the conversion of his manner of life and moral conduct, translated as fidelity to monastic life through self-discipline, ie. The special monastic discipline.

The novice promises that he will daily reform his life and work at perfection according to the Rule. Monks and nuns reached holiness because they lived the monastic life and were model Benedictines. This is The Benedictine Way.

The novice promises to pursue only one end – Union with God, and that he will seek Him in His will, in much Lectio Divina, to go to Him in continual prayer, join his brothers in the prayer of the Church and Christ in His sacrifice of glory to the Father. Our daily life is the immediate church for us and through it we will seek God in perfection through penance – the penance of our daily life and community

The vow of Conversion means that the Holy Rule is going to be a manual for the monk, a working document that provides words to live by for his way of life, not a museum piece that serves merely to give a likeness by tradition. The Benedictine Way is essentially a mentality: how you view the world, your vows, your faith.

Monasticism is a response to a call or, maybe something more urgent than that – it is an inner compulsion – the love of Christ compels us. There is a demand within us, in response to some kind of experience, to live a radical yes to what is ultimate. This experience called for a redirection – a conversion within us. There is a need to be present to the ultimate meaning of life in such a way that we let go and renounce all that is not necessary to our doing this.

The monk seeks the one thing necessary – the pearl of great price – the treasure of life and to concentrate on this ultimate goal.

This does not mean we have to renounce all the necessities of life. St. Benedict states quite clearly in his Rule – our poverty is to be an individual poverty of spirit, sharing of our talents and charity. To be free from possessiveness in the way of endowments, where each is to have what he needs; for some this will be more, for others less but all hold in common and all is to be held in common and put at the use of everyone.

To undertake monastic conversion means that one actually assumes the life patterns of the monk. Many people can lay claim to a monastic mentality but unless they assume the monastic practices of celibacy – poverty – obedience to a definite superior, they are not monks in the Benedictine sense of the word.

As Oblates we live out the spirit and values of the Rule in and as our state in life allows. We are not called to take the heady vows of a monk but we can and we should, embrace the Rule, its mentality and the practices of monasticism in our lives as far as we are sensibly able.

Reflection on the Prodigal Son – Catechism 1439.

The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in this parable. At the centre is the merciful Father, the fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the Father’s house, the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune, his deep humiliation at finding he is obliged to feed swine and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate. His reflection on all that he has lost, his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his Father. The journey back, the Father’s generous welcome, the Father’s joy – all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring and festive banquet are symbols of that new life – pure, worthy and joyful – of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of His family, which is the Church.

Only the heart of Christ who knows the Father and the depth of His love, could reveal to us the abyss of His mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.

Reflection on ‘I want to know Christ’ – Phillipians 3:10-14.

‘Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal…’

Profession whether simple or solemn cannot be an end in itself in an absolute sense. It is an end with regard to the future and Paul insists on saying that we must be straining forward to what lies ahead. The road that lies behind is to be forgotten – no more useless regrets, no more ‘if only’s’, no complacency about the spiritual riches we have accumulated. In the presence of God we are always unworthy servants – forgiven sinners – poor men. We are not to close our hands but to keep them open towards the Lord in order to receive the generosity of His love.

Christ is always ahead of us. We are supported by the ladder that links earth to heaven which Jacob saw and God calls us to ascend to Him.

This ladder is for us the Rule of Benedict. The ladder is Christ and we are constantly at the beginning with respect to what is above us.

The created being can always become greater. If God is infinite in reality, the soul is infinite in potential. Its divinity consists in transforming itself into God. If it is infinite in potential, its creation must take the form of a process of growth, without which it would simply be finite in the way that the material world is. In this perspective, continual progress is constitutive of the soul itself and it keeps itself constantly orientated towards something higher than itself.

The Call to Conversion then, is a call to spiritual maturity. In RB72, Benedict gives us the vision he had for his communities in a life of charity. There are no favourites. For a community to operate on the basis of each being given what they need requires much spiritual maturity. Benedict calls these needs ‘infirmities’. It is only the outpouring of the Spirit into the hearts of the members of the community, that allows them to live in charity. A community manifesting the life of the risen Lord.

The spirit of the vow of Conversion of Life is simply to bring to fulfillment in a monastic context, the promises of baptism, that we renew every year during the Pascal Vigil.

I do reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God’s children.

I do reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin.

I do reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness, in order to pass to the Father.

The conduct outlined in RB4 for those who filled with the Spirit have chosen to follow the ways of Christ are:

  1. Striving to develop a profound love of God and neighbour.

  2. A reverence and respect for all people.
  3. They do not count serving the needs of others as any great inconvenience.
  4. They prefer nothing to the love of Christ that has been poured into their hearts and therefore, strive to have this love become the dominating power in their lives, activities and relationships.

The primary demand of the Gospel is conversion. The monastic vocation is meant to sound the very depths of this demand.

Through this institution, God has willed to call to Himself people in whose poverty He can manifest the glory of His grace and the greatness of His mercy.

To let God transform our nothingness into the image of His Son is indeed, the grace of our vocation.


from Fr. David Barry OSB, our Spiritual Director. Re the Benedictine Oblate meeting – 20 August 2000. My apologies for not attending today’s meeting. I think you won’t have much difficulty in understanding why this is so, in view of Fr. Abbot’s absence at Lammermoor for the AGM of the Australasian Benedictine Union. This is quite a busy weekend here, with more than one Jubilee Pilgrimage group visiting. I’m particularly sorry to miss the meeting if there is anyone from our Wednesday evening Psalms course attending to find out more about the oblates. This is not exactly a homily, but is offered as a short reflection on the basic thrust of Benedictine life and spirituality. I’m being reminded of the essential characteristics of this in our lunch time reading, which is a book already known to some of you, and one that I have mentioned previously – Columba Stewart’s Prayer and Community – The Benedictine Tradition.

God is the goal of each human person and for the Christian believer Christ as man is the way to that goal. Our relationship with God is expressed in a special way in prayer, both that of the liturgy (spoken of shortly at last Wednesday’s talk) and private or personal prayer. Each requires the other and each nourishes the other, helping us to remain focussed on God. We don’t come into the world as isolated individuals, nor do we come to birth as Christians independently of others. We are by nature social, oriented to community and called into the community of the life of the Trinity of Persons in God.

You’ve often heard me say (and I don’t feel the need to apologise for doing so) that prayer, like love, is the easiest thing in the world and the hardest. When each of them is easy, no one needs any urging to love or to pray. It’s when the going is hard that encouragement is most needed and most appreciated. I have to remind myself constantly, through lectio divina, of where my treasure is and it’s there that I find the encouragement I need. Paul found himself able and happy to share with the Corinthians the encouragement/comfort he himself received from God. 2Cor 1:3-7 is well worth revisiting in this connection.


Another extract from The Chapter newsletter, 1995. We wondered whether Fr. David might consider enlarging and framing this and perhaps hanging several in guesthouse rooms? We think this might be from chapter 74 of the Rule!

Concerning Guests

If any pilgrim come from distant parts, if he wish as a guest to dwell in the monastery and will be content with the customs that he finds in the place and do not perchance by his lavishness disturb the monastery, but is simply content with what he finds, he shall be received for as long a time that he desires. If, indeed, he find fault with anything, or expose it, reasonably and with the humility of charity, the Abbot shall discuss it prudently, lest perchance God had sent him for this very purpose. But, if he have been found gossipy and contumacious in the time of his sojourn as guest, not only ought he not to be joined to the body of the monastery, but also shall it be said to him, honestly, that he must depart. If he does not go, let two stout monks, in the name of God, explain the matter to him.


By Rt. Rev. Dom Aldhelm Cameron-Brown, Prinknash Abbey. Gloucestershire.

Courtesy ‘The Chapter’ 1995. In the desert of Egypt in the 4th century, there was a young monk named Palladius and he was feeling fed up as we all do from time to time. The Middle Ages called it accedia, we call it boredom. So the young man went to Abba Macarius and said, ‘What shall I do Father? My thoughts keep telling me that I am making no progress here, that I would do better to go somewhere else’. The old man answered: ‘Tell your thoughts – for Christ’s sake I am guarding the walls’. ‘Guarding the Walls’ – that seems to me an apt phrase for one aspect of the monastic vocation in these days. Christendom is crumbling. Indeed, as far as this country is concerned, it crumbled long ago. There are still many Christians among us but Christian values are no longer part of our public life, part of the air we breathe, part of our legislation. A monastery is one of the few institutions of any size in this country where the public life is centred on the Faith, where people can speak in Christian terms without being thought odd, where the crucifix and statues of the saints can still be seen, outside the homes or rooms of private individuals. In the so-called Dark Ages monks helped to preserve the learning of the ancient world. Monks do not need to do that today – there are plenty of other people who will look after the learning. We can however help to preserve Christian values.

Today we still have much to be thankful for in this country. Most people are still honest and decent and the staff of British Rail are more polite and friendly than they were some years ago, but it is sad that we have to keep all the outside doors of the monastery locked nowadays, even during the day, something we would not have dreamt of doing a few years ago. When I was young, girls at university did not ask to be protected from the possibility of rape.

No – I feel rather like Matthew Arnold when he wrote (after a visit to the Grande Chartreuse) that he was wandering between two worlds, one dead, the other powerless to be born. The world that is dead is the world of Christendom. It was far from being an earthly paradise, but however hard life was for so many people, society was held together by a common faith, which gave a meaning to life and gave people hope. The world powerless to be born is the society which Pope John Paul speaks of as ‘the new civilisation of love’. There are so many seeds of this civilisation of love in the world today: so much spontaneous generosity, so much work done for people in trouble, so much creative work. If in the end it does not appear to amount to much, that may be because of the magnitude and complexity of the task of building up a new world. So when I speak of monks guarding the walls, I do not mean that the monastery should be simply a museum where people can see a replica of one slice of the life of the past. We have to guard the values of the past, the values of the Gospel. But we have to help the new world to embody them in new ways. So I would hope the monastery might be a place where people of different faiths and no faith at all might meet. Above all I hope that monks and nuns might be able to help people to discover and deepen the spiritual dimension of life. This is a two way process. Who wrote, ‘My me is God, nor do I recognise any other me except my God himself’? There is someone who has reached the heights of union with God and it wasn’t a monk or nun. It was a very busy wife, whom we know as St. Catherine of Genoa. There has to be symbiosis. Monks and nuns tend to stand back from the world and so they may see life more clearly, with prophetic vision. Laypeople, immersed in the nitty gritty of life, may be too close to see clearly and too busy to do much about it. But if lay Christians really give themselves to life in God, then they can feed monks and nuns, as does Delia Smith, whose books feed us spiritually even if we have not seen her cookery lessons on TV. Of the three people whose life or writings lead me to understand more clearly the contemplative heights of union with God, one is a monk, Dom Henri le Saux, one a Carmelite nun, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity and the third is a wife and mother in California, Bernadette Roberts. I say ‘the contemplative heights’ because of course the real criterion of union with God, of holiness, is not contemplative vision, but the union of wills, or rather, having only the one will, which is the will of God. 

So the monk is to be like the man in the Gospel, who draws things both new and old out of his treasure house. What has this to do with Oblates? Well, the life of Oblates must reflect the life, the spirituality, of monks and nuns, otherwise there is no point in it and our spirituality is the life of the Gospel, interpreted through the Rule of St. Benedict.

One thing is central to the Rule: seeking God. We seek God through a life of prayer which is ever deepening. We seek God through the love and service of our fellow men and women. How can we seek someone who is already so close to us that in Him we live and move and have our being? ‘Seeking’ is one way of putting it. The idea of the journey is an apt image for life in the Spirit, for Benedict and others. But we also know that God dwells within us and we dwell within Him. In seeking God we aim to make His continual presence more real for us.

So if the monk is called in these days to guard the walls for Christ’s sake, the Oblates too are called to live by the standards of the Gospel, which used to be taken for granted in this country. They are called to maintain the truth and holiness coming to us from the past and to look out for and encourage the new seeds of life in the Church and in the world. Some of them may think, ‘I am too old for that’ but we are never too old to pray, never too old to suffer and to offer our suffering to Christ.

To offer ourselves to Christ, to surrender ourselves and our whole lives to Christ, there is the nub. Benedict tells us to prefer nothing whatever to Christ. ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest’. Christ will indeed give us rest, for He also said, ‘No one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Father chooses to reveal Him’. Jesus is the revelation of the Father and in the knowledge, the security of His love we find rest. Even amidst the storms and winds of this world we find rest.

So as Oblates we do not just sit down and bemoan the way things are going. There is a lot to be sad about. But these things are matters of urgent prayer. So we need to face the future, not with facile optimism, but with faith and hope, knowing that Christ is the Lord of history; He knows what He is doing and in the end, not perhaps in our lifetime, but in the end, as Julian of Norwich said, all manner of things shall be well.


Some reflections from Mother Teresa.

People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centred,
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives,
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies,
Succeed anyway.
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow,
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable,
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight,
Build anyway,
People really need help but may attack if you help them,
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth,
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.


By Fr. Lawrence Freeman OSB. This is an excerpt from an article by Fr. Lawrence who is leader of the World Community for Christian Meditation and published in the Australasian Christian Meditation Community’s newsletter, Winter 2000 edition. He writes about his recent visit to a Benedictine monastery in California, situated a few hundred feet above the coast road and the pounding surf of the Pacific Ocean.

Each morning you look down from the monastery upon a thick carpet of cloud that rolls in over the ocean during the night. It hides both road and beach. By mid-morning the California sun has burned away the fog and little by little the concealed beauty of the coastline’s panorama is restored to view with an exhilarating clarity. This rhythm of nature, concealing and disclosing, is like the rhythm of the life of the monastic community and of all prayer. There are times when we are content to see and know nothing. At other times we see and praise and perhaps even try to describe what it is we are seeing. Liturgy and chant, silence and stillness, thought and contemplation. The rhythm of the spiritual path is word leading to silence and silence leading back to the word, investing words and signs with new meaning and power. These rhythms are not constructed by the mind. Better to say that our mind is itself constructed around this rhythm. To be conscious of it is to obey it and to be true to ourselves. All these perceptual rhythms display the intangible, unknowable movement that is the divine life filling and guiding each of us and that is ‘all in all’. A good, happy human life is one that has reverence for these rhythms and senses this original movement of God flowing through them all. Benedict understood this with such profundity in his ‘little rule for beginners’, that he did not need to conceptualise it but simply describes a way of life that could capture it, harmonising the rhythms of the body, mind and spirit. Of action and contemplation, solitude and community, youth and age, sickness and health, work and rest.

Book Reviews

Currently available to oblates from the Chapter library.
The Art of Sacred Reading.
by Michael Casey, OCSO.

Michael Casey is a Cistercian monk and is Prior of Tarrawarra Abbey in Victoria, Australia. He is also the author of The Undivided Heart and the recently revised Towards God, to which The Art of Sacred Reading forms a companion volume.
A unique guide to the contemplative reading of spiritual texts.
The originality of The Art of Spiritual Reading is that it makes accessible to today’s Christians an important aspect of the Western tradition and ties in with the growing interest among ordinary people with spirituality and the Bible. An extremely good and useful book – a worthy companion to Michael Casey’s Towards God.

Dorothy A Lee – Professor of New Testament, United Faculty of Theology. Melbourne. In The Art of Sacred Reading, Michael Casey writes exquisitely – and with astonishing learning – about an ancient Christian technique of prayer. Drawing upon his personal spiritual resources and deep familiarity with the Bible and the sacred texts of the Western tradition, the author has crafted a remarkably fine book.

Lectio Divina – the ancient art of sacred reading – is much more than a way of simply comprehending the words printed on a page. Understood properly, sacred reading expands into an entire approach to living. At its heart is the application of the ‘prayerful’ life, which Michael Casey explores in this most engaging book of spirituality.

Many ask today how they can benefit from the writings of the ancient Western teachers of spiritual wisdom. Few people are more qualified than Michael Casey to answer this question. The Art of Sacred Reading will fascinate and delight its readers. More than that it is likely to change their lives.

Reflective personal reading is rapidly becoming a lost art. Michael Casey invites contemporary Christians to practice the ancient discipline of lectio divina as a way of deepening communion with God and with others. Spending time with The Art of Sacred Reading is itself an exercise in holy reading.

Michael Downey, Editor – The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality.


Our thanks and appreciation to Clare Anderson of the UK who was the Editor of The Chapter newsletter and who is on our mailing list for our own newsletter. As you can see Clare we are putting back issues of The Chapter to good use!