There are moments when the Divine Office is oddly resonant. Thanks to Rev. Mommy’s postings of her morning and evening prayer and finding a copy of the Benedictine office, I’ve gotten back in the habit. Tonight’s psalms at vespers were one of those odd moments, when it seems to leap up and speak to your situation.

“Circumdederunt me dolores mortis:
et pericula inferni invenerunt me.
Tribulationem et dolorem inveni:
et nomen Domini invocavi.
O Domine, libera animam meam:
misericors Dominus, et justus, et Deus noster miseretur.
Custodiens parvulos Dominus:
humiliatus sum, et liberavit me.
Convertere, anima mea, in requiem tuam:
quia Dominus benefecit tibi.
Quia eripuit animam meam de morte:
oculos meos a lacrimis, pedes meos a lapsu.
Placebo Domino in regione vivorum.” Psalm 114:3-9

I’ve been working on the dissertation, and for some reason, I was thinking of how my situation was back in college. For many, college is a time where one flowers and discovers the things which form one’s vocation. My time as an undergrad was no exception: I discovered that I could compose music and I discovered the Rule of St. Benedict.

At first I was quiet about both of them. I composed music in middle and high school and was forbidden to do so, since it took time away from the violin. Composing was considered a further waste of time in college. My interest in the Rule of St. Benedict was similarly not something to be encouraged: my parents had left the Catholic Church shortly after my first Communion, and they had an irrational fear of my being alone, that I would crack for being “too cloistered.” Getting into CalArts for composition seemed like a miracle come true. I didn’t know how things were going to work out, but it felt like someone was looking out for me.

My relationship with the Rule of St. Benedict and my process of becoming an Oblate was another story. To say there was resistance was an understatement. When I was to become an oblate novice, there was no way I could’ve gotten to the monastery where I would’ve been affiliated. I was imprisoned at my mom’s for that summer, since she refused to let me take the car anywhere (I couldn’t afford my own), nor would she take me anywhere. There was no public transit between the towns in south-central Illinois. My interest in Benedictine monasticism was met with ridicule (to the point of cruelty), and whatever I did (Divine Office, lectio) had to be hidden. By the end of that summer, I had memorized most of the psalms. That way if my books were taken from me, I’d have some semblance of the liturgy.

“For He has delivered my soul from death; my eyes from tears; and my feet from failing. I will please God in the land of the living.”

Thinking back to how things were, I’m overwhelmed by the fact that I can both compose and recite the Divine Office openly. I don’t have to hide my composerly or contemplative dimensions. I don’t have to live with the false fear that my mental health will suffer for being who I was called to be.

“Turn, my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has been good to you.”


~ by Jen on February 6, 2007.

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