As the Church today celebrates the feast of St. Benedict, the Father of Western Monasticism, it is a good time to give thanks for the many women and men religious who so self-lessly, and often, in a ‘hidden’ fashion, make such a rich contribution to the life of the Church. 

I personally benefited from a grade school education where many of the teachers were Benedictine nuns.  As many of this readership knows, my aunt, Jeanne Voges, OSB and a sister, Nicolette Etienne, OSB, are both members of this  community from Beech Grove, Indiana.

Also just ‘down the road’ from where I grew up is St. Meinrad Archabbey.  This Benedictine community of men has a long tradition of ‘work and prayer’ that benefits the church and the world in many ways, seen and unseen.

I suppose this is my basic point today: what is not seen is perhaps the greatest gift.  I am talking about the unique charism of religious to regularly pray for the good of the Church.  These men and women throughout the world, daily pray for all of us and indeed, for the well-being of the world.  If they did nothing more than this, and heaven knows they do so much more, it would be enough.

I was recently visiting with someone about our Carmelite monks, and he asked a question, which showed a seeming lack of appreciation for the gift of cloistered religious.  His question was innocent enough, but had a very ‘pragmatic’ tone: “How does the local church benefit from their presence?” The implication was that there should be some ‘practical’ work, such as teaching, or working in parish life, and so on.  It made me take note: “blog about the beauty and gift of religious life.”

I recently came across a quote from St. Teresa of Avila that highlites the ‘hidden life’ of those who seek to love and serve God:

“It seems to me the devil has used the following artifice as something very important to him: those who truly want to love and to please God are as hidden as other unrighteous persons are incited to make their evil known so that evil becomes so customary it seems socially justified; and the offenses committed against God in this matter are published.”  Volume One – The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, p. 64

Sadly, many today, including Catholics, have little personal contact with women and men religious.  But that does not diminish their greatness, nor the significant contribution they make to the Church.  Their ‘hidden life’ within the cloister or even outside, is a rich source of grace to all of us.  God only knows how these many graces are applied on our behalf, for our growth in holiness, and for the good of the Universal Church.

So, for all our Benedictines, and many other religious, we give thanks.  We recognize the true gift that your lives are to the Church!  Thank you for you fidelity to prayer.  Thank you for the many sacrifices, great and small, you make for our well-being and the good of the People of God.  Thank you for lives lived out of love for God.  Thank you for all you do, seen and unseen. 

May today’s feast of St. Benedict be a blessing for our religious, as their religious life and profession is for all of us!