I couldn't help but smile when I read Deacon Jim and Ann
Cavera's recent piece for this blog titled
Digging Deeper, a reflection on the spirituality of the
late great, Dorothy Day. Well over a decade before I experienced my
first monastic retreat at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani,
which ultimately led to my oblation at Saint Meinrad, I was
fascinated by Day.
In fact, I knew about Dorothy Day long before I learned that she
had been a Benedictine Oblate, or even what an oblate is! Her story
as a devout lay Catholic and activist with a checkered past living
the Beatitudes amidst the poor in the slums of New York had a big
impact on my personal spirituality and faith walk.
It wasn't until after my first few trips to Gethsemani that I
made the connection between the Rule's admonition to
"Receive all visitors as Christ" and the houses of hospitality that
Day had founded.
Could America one day have its first oblate saint? Day's cause
for sainthood continues and has picked up considerable momentum, as
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York and the
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are actively promoting
As a lifelong Catholic, I have always made an effort to attend
Mass and visit churches, cathedrals and basilicas when travel for
business or pleasure has taken me throughout the United States and
sometimes to other parts of the world. I have always found it
comforting that the Mass is essentially the same, no matter what
building, culture or language it is celebrated in.
The Church is different, but also the same, no matter where you
go. As an oblate "newbie" who has been formally part of the family
for only two years, I am just beginning to understand that the
1,500-year-old Benedictine tradition is a mirror of the Catholic
Church in its paradox of diversity and universality.
Several weeks ago, I was in the Chicago suburbs for a couple
days of business meetings. As I was settling into my hotel room, I
recalled that Dorothy Day had been an oblate of a monastery
somewhere in the Chicago area. After doing a Google search, I
discovered that the monastery of her oblation was St. Procopius
Abbey in nearby Lisle, IL - just a short drive from where I was
I made a phone call to the abbey, spoke to one of the priests,
told him I was an oblate in town for business and asked if it was
possible to join the community for Lauds the next morning. With
typical Benedictine hospitality, he extended a warm welcome and
early the next morning I found myself in a small chapel with about
a dozen monks chanting Morning Prayer of the Divine Office.
As I was praying with the monks, I couldn't help but think back
on my first monastic experience at Gethsemani nearly a decade
earlier - when I had absolutely no idea what the Opus Dei was, let
alone how to recite it. Having prayed the Office for many years
now, sitting in the pew at St. Procopius I was totally comfortable
actively participating in this ancient prayer ritual.
I also couldn't help but think of the connection between Dorothy
Day, St. Procopius Abbey and this humble oblate as I felt like the
many spiritual roads I had previously traveled had all led me to
this place. It felt like I had arrived at a long-awaited
destination, but also at a new beginning.
I was a visitor, but I felt right at home. Like the Church of
which it is a part, the Benedictines are a large global family and
- like the Mass - the Divine Office is prayed pretty much the same
way all over the world. In the Gospel of John, Jesus prays in the
Garden that His followers then and always would remain as "one."
And so we are.
It was a Catholic moment. It was a Benedictine moment. It was a
God moment. Dorothy Day, pray for us.
Soli Deo Gloria!
St. Procopius Abbey prayer for Dorothy Day's
O God, may the Church recognize the holiness of Dorothy Day,
Servant of God and Benedictine Oblate of St. Procopius
Abbey, especially in her dedication to the liturgy, her
desire for the justice of God's Kingdom, and her devotion to the
poor as persons in whom Christ is welcomed. Amen.