For thus says the LORD: Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent. As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms… (Is 66:12)
We all love idyllic and fruitful scenes of nature. We all love images of prosperous and restful places. Since our hearts are made in the image of God, our hearts hearken back to Eden and beyond to heaven. Following the example of his Creator, man goes about organizing nature making chaotic spaces more beautiful: the public park and the monastery are two examples of this.
This week we will celebrate the memorial of St. Benedict. Benedict was the founder of Western monasticism. He and his monks established many monasteries through- out Europe since the early sixth century. These sacred places served as centers of culture, education, and agriculture which helped to renew both the landscape and the civilization of Europe. The monasteries were locales of prayer and prosperity which breathed the same into the lungs of Europe reviving the continent.
While we began our weekly reflection on the themes of place and prosperity we expand our thoughts now with an- other quotation from today’s Gospel reading, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest…” (Lk 10:2). That is to say, when prosperity comes, there must be workers to gather in the fruitfulness.
Now Jesus was always speaking about spiritual matters and while it may seem that these days there is less to harvest in the world because of the lack of interest in God and religion, there is still a bountiful amount of grace being offered by God. Our fields may be filled with many sickly plants, but the medicine to heal these souls still comes in abundance. Fewer monasteries exist; so too will fewer par- ishes. Yet, we can never give up on the hope of making our parishes prosperous again through truth and prayer. The Benedictines were the main movers in the renovation of culture mostly because they were the keepers of truth and knowledge; and when civilization fell apart they were there to pick things up and piece society back together in the fidelity of Christ.
Thus on this 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time we place on our bulletin cover a work by the Romantic Austrian architectural and landscape painter Rudolf von Alt, entitled View from the Monastery of Sant ‘Onofrio in Rome (1835). This is the second watercolor on paper we have used in two Sundays. Here we see a view as from a person looking out from an pillared ambulatory onto a bright landscape. Above the observer is a simple but pleasingly optical groin vault ceiling. Off the path is green grass and groundcover and possibly fruit or olive trees. However, the pillars need support from metal extensions, the brick pathway is beginning to rise, and the building walls need repainting.
Here we have an image, even an allegory, for today’s Catholic parish: a fruitful setting in need of spiritual and material upkeep; a river wanting to overflow with grace and charity into the valley below but which first needs its own revitalization through a sincere and reverent worship of God.
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services