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Significance of investiture as a Benedictine oblate novice to be understood and felt with passing of time

      It’s two p.m. on Saturday afternoon June 8. The sky is like lead and it has been all day. Low undulating clouds threaten rain. As of now, that threat has not been carried out.

      I’m sitting in the second row of the south choir in the archabbey church at St. Meinrad Archabbey, a Benedictine monastery in far Southern Indiana. Know where Evansville is? Well, St. Meinrad is about 64 miles east of Evansville.

      Along with me in that second row are two ladies and another man. In front and slightly below us in the first row of the choir sit five other people. At the organ, just to the east of where we sit, George plays the organ. Next to him, sitting in a chair on the floor of the church, Brother John Mark plays the cello. I have no clue as to the title of the music they are playing, nor do I know the composer. I only know that not only is the music sweet, it also is apropos.

      In the chairs on the floor of the church adjacent to the choir stalls sit the guests. My wife sits in the chairs next to the north choir, and so I can clearly see her. A smattering of other guests is scattered about.

      Standing at the ambo between the two choirs at the eastern end is Abbot Kurt, the abbot of the monastery. When the music concludes, he dives right into the liturgy for Investiture of Oblate Novices.

      He first reads a portion of chapter 58 from the Rule of St. Benedict. Following the reading, Abbot Kurt calls out the first names of the nine of us and asks, “Do you wish to be enrolled as a Benedictine Oblate Novice of Saint Meinrad Archabbey?” I and the eight others answer in unison, “I do.”

      Next, two monks approach, each carrying a tray. On one tray are nine scapulars, and on the other tray are nine copies of “The Rule of St. Benedict,” the little red paperback edition edited by Timothy Fry, O.S.B.

      Abbot Kurt blesses the scapulars using this formula: “Almighty God, giver of every good gift, you clothed us in the garment of salvation at baptism. Bless these scapulars, that they who wear it might be recognized as a faithful disciple of the Blessed Abbot Benedict. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

      Now, one-by-one, each of us slips out of the choir and approaches Abbot Kurt, who stands in front of the ambo. I bow slightly before him, and as he places the scapular over my head and onto my shoulders, he prays, “Mark, receive the habit of our holy father, St. Benedict. Many saints have worn it.”

      I stand erect. Next, he selects a copy of the Rulefrom the other tray. He hands it to me, but he does not release his hold on the book. Then, his blue eyes zeroing in on me, he says: “Mark, accept this ‘little rule for beginners’ and listen carefully to the master’s instructions.” He now releases his hold on the book. Taking it in hand, I now return to my place in the choir. A blessing follows, we all reply “Amen!” and the liturgy is concluded.

      For years I had pondered and prayed about doing this. During, and at the conclusion of, the liturgy, I was confident and happy that I was doing God’s will.

      Each of us have spiritual milestones; points in time and space that mark a significant moment in our relationship with God. Most are private; many are public. Few rise above the level of satisfaction.

      Making investiture was a bombshell on par with my baptism (remember, I was raised Baptist, and I well recall my baptism. Full immersion, by the way, when I was 12-years old), my marriage (and subsequent children) and my ordination to the diaconate.

      But just like those other three bombshell moments, this one’s full significance will only be understood and felt with the passing of time. Like those other three bombshells, investiture as an oblate novice is a mystery.

      And what says Holy Writ in regards to mystery? “Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted you.” (Matthew 13:11) Jesus may have granted me that, but I’ll need time to percolate on it in order to fully fathom what has occurred. For the moment I can only bask in the concussion of this bombshell.

      Meanwhile, the daily saga of Office, Lectio and the Rule continues. As Wordsworth noted, “The holy life of music and of verse.”

      Now comes the rain.

      Deacon Mark Plaiss teaches in the Department of Religious Studies at Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein, Ill. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

     

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