Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Notes From a Novice: "Out of Tune" -- By James Janicki

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A month away from the abbey is the equivalent of a spiritual lifetime for an oblate novice. For reasons and circumstances that offer no value to my thoughts and writing, I returned to St. Leo Abbey yesterday for the first time after a four week absence. One personal observation and one spoken statement by Brother Stanislaw provided the inspiration for the latest notes documenting a year as a Benedictine oblate novice. Personally, I was moved sometime in the first minutes of the 10:00 Sunday mass. In four short weeks I had nearly lost the clear, simple sense of purpose and being and the accompanying joy that I had only begun to realize after finding my way to St. Leo during the summer of 2012. Brother Stanislaw unknowingly set fire to this already glowing ember of an observation later in the morning when, during our oblate novice discussion, he keenly spoke of living  life “out of tune” with God’s plan. In a brief month’s time I had nearly forgotten everything I was only beginning to know and experience as a student of The Rule of St. Benedict.

The Rule of St. Benedict wisely acknowledges our need for continued external and internal exposure to God’s presence in our lives and provides us with a lovingly prepared, structured training program designed to help each of us as individuals find our way closer to God and, at the same time, share a lifetime personal journey in the company of others on similar journeys in rhythm and harmony.   Using music as a metaphor, I slipped “out of tune” in much the same way a musical instrument might fall out of tune when exposed to continued temperature and humidity changes. Even more dangerous, I was completely unaware of the negative consequences my daily distractions were having on my prayer life. In fact, until this past Sunday, I was foolish enough to believe I was in a very good place in my first months as an oblate novice and could afford some time enjoying myself as a finely tuned musical instrument and play along without effort. Brother Stanislaw again unknowingly struck the perfect chord as we discussed God speaking to us using human vessels or instruments choosing , rather, to continue using a musically inspired theme.

The Rule of St. Benedict clearly outlines a detailed plan for life with an ever increasing closeness to God as its primary purpose. For a Benedictine novice, small steps, using myself as an example, can be very helpful. One of the abundant blessings at St. Leo Abbey is the Benedictine oblates. Prior to my overconfidence and ill-advised spiritual spring break, I listened to the words of one of our dear oblates and developed an oblate plan for my year as a novice. (Thank you John) After reflecting on my oblate plan I have a renewed sense of focus and enthusiasm.

Using a common personal theme, I asked myself why when I sat down to develop an oblate novice plan; why do I feel compelled to become a Benedictine oblate? And secondly, how can I use my year as a novice to its most full advantage? Possibly the greatest benefit from asking these questions was arriving at the realization I am exactly where I envisioned myself nearly thirty years ago as a young man making his future. Many of the details of how I arrived here today were complete surprises, but generally speaking, I’m living the life I planned for myself. With this knowledge I developed the following oblate plan to intensify and enrich my life with the hope I can inspire others to seek God by my humble example and more fully enjoy God’s gifts to us on this earth:

·      ●    Learn to pray
   ●    Learn to use Breviary
   ●    Practice Lectio Divina
   ●    Seek the assistance of a spiritual director
   ●    Learn the history of St. Leo
   ●    Contribute to the abbey

o So I can…

o Live a more fruitful, spirit driven life while    better reflecting my unique blend of God’s gifts

  To Be…

  A better person for the ones I love

  A better professional & co-creator


Contribute to God’s Great Plan (professionally)

Bring beauty to our world (as co-creator/artist)

With my handwritten novice plan nearby for easy reference and Bible at close reach I am once again actively reading and reflecting  to grow closer to God with the hope I can experience ever increasing peace and, in my small way, project from the inside out God’s love for all creation.

For those of us seeking God’s word and moved by The Holy Spirit to find our way to St. Leo Abbey, I offer this humble prayer from a novice:

May you hear God’s sweet music, “dial in” and stay “in tune”.


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1 comment:

  1. Hi Don,

    Hope to read another of your comments.