Sr. Mary Collins, osbMount Saviour Monastery

March 2001

Sr. Mary Collins, osb
On March 11th, the second of the monastery's anniversary lectures was given by Sr. Mary Collins, OSB, the prioress of St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas.  Sr. Mary Collins has written (and taught) extensively on the liturgy, and she took as her topic the Liturgy of the Hours, which she called "The Voice of the Praying Church."
In what she called The Big Picture, Sr. Collins described human life from a cosmic perspective as brief and tragic.  We come to consciousness and responsibility, asking: "If I must someday die, what can I do to satisfy my desire to live?"  For we find ourselves
impelled towards self-transcendence but without knowing what Rahner calls the "whither." Sr. Collins then discussed what contribution contemplatives make to this project: "What we Benedictine's are about and why?"
   The official claim has always been that the sole contemplative work is prayer.  And for Benedictines especially, that prayer has been public, choral prayer: the Liturgy of the Hours.  But various historical developments have tended to skew our understanding of this.  One thing, of course, is an emphasis on the individual and subjective experience.  The words and images of choral public prayer may then seem to be an obstacle to the "real" contemplative work: meditating, centering and the like.
But even that attitude may derive from the distortion of another notion upon which Sr. Collins concentrated: that contemplatives cannot make a contribution to society unless they are "doing something."  That contemplative prayer should be a ministry was sometimes turned even by contemplatives themselves into the idea that they act as "spiritual mercenaries," doing the praying for busy people who don't have the time!  In fact, no one can do your praying for you; but one has to understand the many forms of praying.
   The public Prayer of the Hours by contemplatives is part of an articulation of the prayer of the whole Church.  In fact, the Spirit is stirring in the whole of creation, and not just in the fields of flowers but in the fields of trash "which are waiting for redemption."  People are sometimes put off by the anguish and bitterness expressed in the psalms. But using a number of concrete and moving examples, Sr. Collins showed how the range of emotions in the Psalms "collect" the range of emotions to be found in people everywhere in their day-to-day existence.  And in this way, they give "Voice to the Prayer of the Church."
The Liturgy of the Hours, Sr. Collins claimed, is a priestly ministry, not in the sense of someone specially consecrated to administer the sacraments but in a very old and traditional sense of intermediaries "between porch and altar."  Christians, both lay and ordained, are "priestly advocates"; and praying communities embody (or "incarnate") the longing of all - including the longing expressed in their own ways by the youth of today.
   Sr. Collins listed some advantages of the Liturgy of the Hours for speaking to people in our day.  It does not exclude anyone, as our Liturgy of the Eucharist does.  And it draws no distinction between clergy and laity, expressing the common struggle of all the baptized to work out their Christian identity.  And for the monks especially, the Hours are a community-forming practice, involving the discipline of "mercy overcoming anger."
   Sr. Collins characterized the stability of Benedictine life as "a witness to God's faithfulness," and the monastic presence and hospitality as "honoring place, tradition and commitments."
   The talk was followed by a lively question and answer period and a reception.

Many monks went away during the month for family events or special ministry: Fr. Martin, Br. Stephen, Br. Alexis, Br. Pierre and Br. James Kelly.  Many feasts occur, this month, including the solemnity of St. Benedict.  On the 4th Sunday of Lent, we sang Vespers and Compline at Grace Episcopal Church.  It is an enjoyable ecumenical gathering.  For the week-end of the 16th, the Company at Kirkridge was here to reflect on the Contemporary Meaning of Lent.  One of the features was the Way of the Cross with transparencies of the Stations of the Cross created by Frederick Franck.  They were displayed on the windows of the chapel during Lent.
     Veronica wiping the face of Jesus.                       Jesus on the Cross
VeronicaJesus on the cross

Holy Week Schedule:
Holy Thursday: Mass of the Lord's Supper at 5:00 p.m.
Good Friday: Celebration of the Lord's Passion at 3:00 p.m.
Easter Sunday: Paschal Vigil & Mass at 4:15 a.m.

Coming Events:
Sunday, May 6th at 3pm, the Genesee Valley Orchestra and Chorus. They will perform at the Clemens Center in Elmira.  Ticket prices range from $5-$15.  This award-winning group of 40 musicians and 90 voices was established by Sr. Virginia Hogan of Rochester and has performed both in this country and in Europe.  The choral group will sing at a 10am Mass at the monastery and the monks will begin the program at the Clemens Center by chanting None.
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