On Saturday, March 21, 2020, Br. Simon Peter Clayton, O.S.B. and Br. Asiel Maria Rodriguez, O.S.B., professed their Solemn Vows to the Benedictine Abbey of Newark before Abbot Melvin J. Valvano, O.S.B., the Monastic Community and a few family members, while many others watch via live stream recording. For more about the profession read the Benedict News Article at https://www.
Please read Abbot Melvin's Homily below:
March 21, 2020
Brothers Simon and Asiel, --- and Bishop elect Elias.
We begin our reflection on this most happy occasion of Simon and Asiel’s strong and sacred and grace filled self-offering to Jesus Christ the Lord. These two monks pledge with a solemn promise to be today and every day reflections of Jesus Christ, for every person and in all circumstances.
No doubt professing Solemn vows is a life changing decision that is extraordinarily personal, and, paradoxically, highly public for all their life. These two Benedictine monks have spent many hours praying, thinking, inquiring and listening to wise counsel to identify Jesus Christ’s call so clear and yet so mysterious and sometimes even opaque. Why is that so? I think because in the very last analysis doing the monastic life, one day at a time, is entirely a great work of divine faith and of the Holy Spirit! But, alas, one needs sometimes many rugged years to embrace fully, this astounding fact of a monk’s life! Your life Simon and Asiel. Already and deeply you have experienced in your own monastic journey St. Benedict’s essential reminder: “never swerving from his instructions, then, but faithfully observing his teachings in the monastery until death we shall through patience share in the sufferings of Jesus Christ that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom.”
All your Brother Monks thank Asiel ‘s father --- and Asiel’s mother, already in Heaven in the Communion of saints-- and Simon’s dear Mother and Father.
We are grateful for each person who has helped these young monks to choose and embrace the living Holy Rule of our Father St. Benedict of Nursia. Our Father Benedict offers freely to Asiel and Simon and me, our novices, and all women and men monks the wisdom of his grace filled understanding of this special way of Christian living, loving, praying and working together in a monastery for and with each other. At the very same time never separate from your, our monastic calling our living with and helping all the Lord gives us, sends to us, today, tomorrow. This living dynamic remains one whole and forms the divine mystery for our monastic community. Please never forget this.
Living and praying together naturally and in a definitive way, places a permanent stamp on why I seek out, enter, and finally remain all the days of my life in this strange (mysterious I think is a better word) life of a monk. Allow St. Benedict’s own opening words of the Holy Rule to clearly teach you Simon and Asiel and all of us who are interested in learning what the monastic life is meant to be.
I quote Benedict: “Listen carefully, my sons, to the master’s instructions, and attend to these instructions with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father, Benedict, who loves you: welcome it … within the daily, hourly labors of obedience.
The monk has been entrusted with the faith of Jesus Christ in order to take up the strong and noble weapons of obedience, to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord! Slowly but noticeably this becomes my personal life’s sole, core task and goal, in all we are and in all we hope to become. Free to love all, and help and serve all! And equally necessary, free to be helped and to be loved!
Finally then this 6th century master work of Christ centered living the Holy Rule of St. Benedict seeks women and men to live in charity, work for others, rely in Faith on the intimate presence of Jesus, rejoicing daily in the personal actions of the Holy Spirit. Helping me and you to listen to and do a life of prayer, service, humility, obedience, moderation, help for the sick, and a conscientious, bold reliance on a most loving Father, God, and Jesus His Son in the presence and power of their Holy Spirit.
So do I dare this morning before you profess Solemn Vows to choose from the entire range of teachings in the Holy Rule two of St. Benedict’s very revealing indeed sharp requirements for the monk’s conscious daily living? Each loving mandate promises and promotes life for the monk’s journey. Please be convinced of this all the days of your life.
The First stands out since we are in Lent. Here is this statement of St. Benedict found in chapter 48 On the Observance of Lent: “every monk should, however, make known to the abbot what he intends to do, since it ought to be done with his prayers and approval. Whatever is undertaken without the permission of the spiritual father will be reckoned as presumption and vainglory, not deserving a reward. Therefore, everything must be done with the abbot’s approval.” I have seen that this makes for fullness of life for the individual monk and for the abbot. The second powerful admonition comes at the very end of this great Rule for Monks. Chapter 73, Benedict’s last words from a loving father, monk, abbot and friend to the monks living his wisdom words.
“For observant and obedient monks, all these [writings, instructions] are nothing less than tools for the cultivation of virtues, but as for us, they make us blush for shame at being so slothful, so unobservant, so negligent. Are you hastening toward your heavenly home? Then with Christ’s help keep this little rule that we have written for beginners. After that you can set out for the loftier summits of the teaching and virtues we mentioned above, and under God’s protection you will reach them. Amen.