In early times, the daily Chapter was a traditional feature of the monastic timetable. The monks left church at the end of the office of Prime and processed to a room near by, where a portion, or "chapter," of the Rule was read and the abbot commented upon it. It was also the natural occasion for announcements to be made affecting the life of the community and for a blessing to be given upon the day's work. Soon the room itself came to be called "the Chapter Room, or House" or simply "Chapter." Even today some form of this practice exists in many monasteries, including our own. Each month this page will feature a chapter talk given to the Community, as well as news and features. We hope you will visit us regularly.

 

Allocution for the Clothing of Francesca Cannas

 

Solemnity of St Joseph, 2015

 

 

 

Thou shalt be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord … thou shalt be called my delight in her and thy land inhabited.  Because the Lord has been well pleased with thee; and thy land shall be inhabited.[1]

 

 

Dear Francesca,

 

When we make petition to be clothed in the monastic habit, we offer ourselves for God’s service in a hidden life of praise and sacrifice, exemplified for us in many ways by the silent Joseph.  We hope also to find acceptance in the sight of Him who offers Himself totally to us.  We hope to be loved by Him and admitted to the contemplation of His Face.  The passage from Isaiah which we have just heard reassures our hearts that God will indeed receive our offering and, more, that He will receive it rejoicing.

 

Drawn into the monastery by the Beauty and Truth of God, we are attracted also by the assurance of His fidelity.  Unable to deny His love for His creature, God cannot disappoint or deceive us.  If we needed proof, we have it in the Passion and death of His only Son out of love for mankind.  Again, He draws us by making us aware of His complete comprehension of our being; in allowing us to perceive, even fleetingly, the reality of His admiration for all He has made.

 

There is a sense, then, in which we do not stand a chance; we cannot resist easily this sweet pressure to answer love with love.  We feel compelled to entrust ourselves to this love, not, perhaps, without a certain human fear, in a response of obedience to the upward call.[2]  Unwilling to waste the costly fruit of suffering, we do not seek to reclaim the self once offered, but, instead, conform ourselves more and more to Christ, poor, chaste and humble of heart.  In our desire to correspond to His fidelity, we embrace stability of place in a community.

 

Community life, despite its challenges to human nature, reflects the harmony of the Trinitarian Community.  The liturgy of the Hours has been called a foretaste of the music of eternity; not as reference to the beauty of its execution, but because it is a symbol pointing beyond itself to the Source of all Beauty.  It seeks, says M. Élisabeth-Paule Labat, “an interior reality from which it springs and which it can communicate.”  We thus become “cantors on behalf of all creation”.[3] 

 


 

The Divine Office feeds prayer and lectio divina, by means of which one may pierce the clouds, on one hand, and, on the other, listen with receptivity to the voice of the great Cantor.  In Him all things hold together.[4]  The Chant, which is the song of His Church, expresses both spiritual joy and the yearning of exile, yet is able to create from this tension a unity which transcends them.  Likewise, contradictions in our hearts and our community are resolved by love, which binds everything together.[5]  Our whole existence then becomes a harmony of apparently disparate elements.  For this to happen, we need the insight of faith and a willingness to be a part player in the symphony of communal living.

 

There is a saint whose life was likewise woven together in paradoxes; who loved austerity and all creation; who was free and yet Christ’s total servant; for whom poverty of spirit and wounds were the foundation of his joy.  His life with its enduring influence on the Church was at first a “holy risk”, based on “rash vows that turned out right”.[6]  He wandered everywhere, yet could say: “Never give up this place.  If you would go anywhere or make any pilgrimage, return always to your home; for this is the holy house of God.”  His praise and thanksgiving sprang out of possessing nothing for himself.  The monk, quotes Chesterton, should own nothing but his harp, with which to play “the song of the joy of the Creator in His creation and the beauty of the brotherhood of men”.[7]  Thus with childlike cheerfulness, he was forever starting afresh, in forgetfulness of the past.

 

I am speaking, of course, of St. Francis, the Poverello of Assisi, whom you will continue to claim as patron under the name of SR. FRANCESCA.  Following the “great giver”, may you always give pure praise to the Giver of all good things and aspire to the union of beauty and holiness in your own life.  May St. Francis intercede for your dear family also, that they may share in this flowering of your baptismal grace. 

 

Gaudens gaudebo.  The land, like Our Lady, “the chosen and consecrated one”,[8] is inhabited by God’s good pleasure.  A fine expression of this gaudium may be found in a prayer of St. Francis:

 

“Almighty, eternal, just and merciful God, grant us in our misery the grace to do for You alone what we know You want us to do and always to desire what pleases You.  Thus inwardly cleansed, interiorly enlightened and inflamed by the fire of the Holy Spirit, may we be able to follow in the footprints of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  And, by Your grace alone, may we make our way to You, Most High, who live and rule in Perfect Trinity and Simple Unity, and are glorified, God all-powerful forever and ever.  Amen.”[9]



[1] Is. 62:3-4

[2] cf. Phil. 3:14

[3] Labat, Élisabeth-Paule, The song that I am: on the mystery of music, 2014.

[4] Col. 1:17

[5] cf. Col. 3:14

[6] Chesterton, G.K., St. Francis of Assisi, 1923.

[7] Ibid.

[8] cf. St. Francis, Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

[9] St. Francis, A letter to the entire Order, 50-52.


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