We beseech Thee, O Lord, be merciful to the souls of all your servants and handmaids of our Order for whom we humbly entreat your majesty; that by these prayers of pious supplication they may be counted worthy to enter everlasting rest (From the Office of Compline for All Souls of the Order of Saint Benedict).
Throughout the Benedictine world, monks and nuns are praying today for their brothers, sisters, and oblates who have gone before them. Today is the Commemoration of All Souls of the Order of Saint Benedict. Yesterday, although suppressed for the observance of the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary time, we reflected on All Saints of the Order of Saint Benedict.
It is fitting there should be a day set aside for the Benedictines to remember and pray for the souls of their brothers and sisters who have persevered to end and have died in the habit. The observance of the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed on the universal calendar in the Church began in a Benedictine monastery. The custom of praying for all the faithful departed from this life in the state of grace originated at the great Abbey of Cluny. In 998 Abbot Odilo instituted the praying of the Office of Dead after Vespers of All Saints in the monasteries of Cluny. This tradition of All Souls went on to be observed in the universal Church when it was officially instituted by Pope Saint Pius X in the early twentieth century.
The life of the Benedictines revolves around the hours of the Divine Office. So, it is fitting for the Benedictines to sing the praises of the Lord in choir for the repose of the Souls of their fellow Benedictines. It is a tradition in the monastery to pray the Office of the Dead when a monk of their monastery dies. There’s also the tradition of remembering the brother for the thirty days after the monk’s death, as well as, for each priest of the house to offer Mass for their brother and each brother to offer a Holy Communion for the brother. These practices reinforce the idea that the fraternal relationship that begins in the monastery endures for eternity with the help of God’s grace.
The goal of the monastic life is the achievement of purity of heart. An undivided heart, which rest in the enclosure of the heart. The monks and nuns of the Order of Saint Benedict, strive to live out a beginning of the peace of eternal life throughout their monastic life. However, this isn’t always achieved and never achieved easily, as monks and nuns are just as susceptible to sin and temptation as any other Christian. The monastic life is called a radical way of living out the Christian life, but it’s not any easier to achieve holiness within the enclosure. The brothers and sisters of monks know this about each other. So, we know when our brothers have entered eternal life, they are need of our prayers for further purification and preparation to see the Lord with purity of heart.
Saint Benedict teaches: Let peace be your quest and aim. And encourages his monks in the prologue of his Rule: Never swerving from his instructions, then, but faithfully observing his teaching in the monastery until death, we shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom. Amen (Prol. v 49).
In this month of November, we continue to pray for all the Souls of the Faithful Departed. However, today we participate in the school of love found in the monastic life by offering a prayer for all the Benedictine men and women who responded to the silent whisper of the Lord. They left much to follow Christ and strove in weakness, persevering until death under the Rule of Saint Benedict and guidance of the Abbot to achieve that purity of heart.
Fr. Aidan, OSB
Fr. Aidan is a Benedictine monk and priest of the Abbey of Saint Mary and Saint Louis in Saint Louis, Missouri. Father Aidan grew up in Saint Louis with his mother and father and two sisters in a working class Irish Catholic family. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2015, on the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, and currently serves as the Pastor of Saint Anselm Parish in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis. Fr. Aidan holds a BA in English Literature from Webster University in Saint Louis, and a MDiv from Saint John XXIII National Seminary in Massachusetts.
Father Aidan prays his contributions will help the faithful discover how the Benedictine virtues of obedience and humility, can be helpful in their particular vocation to seek the image of Christ through purity of heart in their lives.