Saint Benedict’s Day

Now I would be remiss if I did not write about St. Benedict’s day having just returned from walking in his footsteps in Italy. So how do we, the Benedictine sisters and I, celebrate St Benedict’s Day at the Beguinnage? It is a high church feast day. Benedict was made patron of all Europe by Pope Pius XII in 1947, honoring Benedict for the many houses of monks he established and the influence of his rule over virtually all western monasticism to this day.

The altar is dressed in white for holiness and then bedecked with flowers, a vast array of which are now prolifically growing in the monastery garden as if they know their beauty is destined for the high altar to bless their creator. Bouquets regularly arrive from grateful guesthouse ‘stayers’ and these blooms also wend their way to the church adorning either the Mary altar or the main high altar. The day begins with lauds where the invitatory enjoins us to “Come let us praise God on the feast of Holy Benedict.” Lauds continues with the Sunday praise psalms and the short reading reminds us of that God’s law is in our hearts and following it will keep us from falling.

Eucharist at 9:30 assembles the faithful, pensioners who live in the Beguinnage homes, a family with sons and daughters reminding me of St. Therese of Lisieux’s family, the Martins. There are faces I know well but whose names I know not, only that they worship with me and will no doubt share my heavenly home. The priest’s chasuble is a rich heavy satin with strong green embroidery and visage of St. Benedict and his scepter and the ubiquitous raven. No doubt this is all the work of some long 14-15th century nun. Sweet smelling incense carries our prayers to heaven and leaves an ethereal mist in its wake. Today, a professional singer shared our eucharist, playing the organ and singing, making the music a truly beautiful celebration.

The spiritual aside, we had croissants for breakfast! Thank you St. Benedict! St. Benedict’s day falls within our sisters’ vacation week when as the Prioress pointed out we are supposed to do things we do not normally do. So I ate two croissants! I might also go for a walk along the canal on this lovely sunny St Benedict’s Day in Belgium.

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