Memorizing Scripture

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Hey everyone!  Sorry it has been so long between posts.  I wanted to share with you some of my experiences as of late.  In the past few months, I’ve pulled back significantly from Facebook and it has done me a lot of good.  I have been finding more time to read and to focus on my business.  It’s also amazing how much less time you spend on a computer when you do that.

One of the things that I have done recently is to challenge myself to memorize a book of the Bible.  It may sound Protestant, but in fact it’s quite Catholic.  Monks throughout the centuries worked to memorize scripture, especially the psalms, since several of their hours in the Divine Office were prayed in the dark.  When I was a monk I came to have memorized (in chant) at least Saturday night prayer because we sang it at a holy hour.  In his bio in the Divine Office, St. Dominic was said to have the Gospel of Matthew almost memorized word for word because he drew from it so much in his preaching.  So I thought, “Why shouldn’t I do something similar?”

Moreover, memorizing scripture and the words of Jesus is a distinctly Marian prayer.  Luke reports at least twice that Mary “kept all these things in her heart.”  Mary seemed to be better equipped with understanding what was happening at the moment than any one else around her.  Think of the fact that she sensed that the time was ripe for Jesus’ first sign at the marriage at Cana.  She seemed to just be there at the Crucifixion, though none of the Apostles seemed to have been able to know that Jesus was going to be crucified (despite him repeatedly telling them so), and small indications in the resurrection narrative that show that she helped to ready the disciples for the Resurrection.

The book I chose was the Gospel of John, my absolute favorite Gospel, because of how deeply spiritual it is in its portrayal of Jesus, how detailed it is about the events of the Crucifixion, how lovingly he portrays the Blessed Mother and John the Baptist (my confirmation patron), and how beautiful his accounts of the Resurrected Jesus are.

So I started.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Jn 1:1)  The process of memorization is not difficult.  You simply read a line again and again until you can repeat it word for word without looking.  Then you go on to the next line: “He was in the beginning with God.” (Jn 1:2).  When you have that line memorized, you repeat everything back again: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”  Then you add your next line, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” (Jn 1:3)  Again, you repeat the process. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”  So far, I have made it halfway through chapter 3.  My goal is to get through the rest of the Gospel by the time I get married next June.

I wanted to share a few things that I have discovered so far about this practice.  First, it aids in understanding the scriptures.  When you have to memorize something word for word, you actually have to pay attention to what words are being used and how it is said.  This helps you to better understand small things in the scriptures that you would normally overlook on a fast reading.  One thing I have noticed is that in the Gospel of John, any time anything simply earthly or a misunderstanding is stated, John simply writes a variation of “says, said.”  However, when something extremely important is said, when it connects with the Divine, when John really wants you to know that this is what you should most take away from the passage, he uses a variation of the word “answer, answered.”  For instance: “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, “Behold! An Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”  Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”  Jesus answered him, “Before Phillip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”  Phillip answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!  You are the King of Israel!”  Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe?  You will see greater things than these.” (Jn 1:47-50)

Another thing I’ve noticed is that I now have the scriptures with me, and can pray them whenever I choose, without having a Bible with me.  This is excellent, especially as I work, I can also do lectio and pray.  It’s also an opportunity for me to repeat what I have memorized so as to keep it there in my mind.  I can also bring it out when I am struggling with anger or with a temptation and it helps calm me.

What’s more, I find myself to be more confident in my witness and more ready to share my faith with others when I have some memorized scripture to draw from.

It’s also helping my faith life and helping me keep focused.  When you devote a serious amount of time every day or two to memorizing several verses, you tend to stay on track with other parts of your faith too.

It’s also an excellent pre-Mass meditation.  I like to go to Mass several minutes early to sit and reflect in the silence before Mass begins so that I can get my head and heart where it should be so that I can best receive what Jesus is offering me.  What I have found is that when I recite these scriptures to myself, the Mass comes more alive, especially the scriptural readings and the Consecration.  My mind hones in on the mysteries much more deeply than I did before.

So I want to recommend this practice to you.  Pick a book (it doesn’t have to be a Gospel!) and try to memorize it.  Maybe you can do the letter to the Galatians, or (if you want to go small to start) the Letter to Philemon.  A strong recommendation that I give is the Letter to the Hebrews.  Your faith life won’t be the same.  I can guarantee it!

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I’m Back!

After about 2 years of not writing, I want to attempt a fresh start at my blog again.  I apologize for the long wait, but it was necessary for me to get my life settled and working again.  It was a difficult transition moving from the monastery back to lay life, but I am very happy with where I am and I’m still strong in the practice of my faith.  I thought I would post a few updates of what has happened since I last posted.

  1. I got a job.  After about a month of job searching, I was accepted to a position of Pest Control Technician at Edge Pest Control in Kansas City.  While it wasn’t my ideal job choice, I have found a lot of fulfillment in helping others in getting rid of pest issues- often serving some of the poorest people I have encountered and have been able to “lift and bless” (Edge’s motto) those that I have served.
  2. Benedict’s Beads is alive and kicking!  The rosary business I founded at the Abbey, Benedict’s Beads, is going well.  I registered the business as a Single Member LLC last year and business has been good.  There is rarely a time when I don’t have an order.  It’s definitely kept me busy and I have good hopes for its future and being able to provide rosaries and rosary services to people throughout the country and around the world.
  3. I got engaged!  About 6 months after leaving the monastery, I started dating a friend from the Legion at BC and we hit it off well.  I don’t know where I would be today without her help and encouragement as I transitioned to a normal lay life.  Ciera and I are so alike in so many ways that it sometimes startles me and we constantly find ourselves to be of one mind and heart on almost every subject.  Last September, I proposed to her amidst 500 relics of saints at Clyde, MO (I chose to go to one knee directly in front of St. Louis de Montfort!) and she happily said yes.  We are planning on getting married in June of 2019, giving her a year to adjust to normal life after her graduation from BC.
  4. I have rejoined the Legion.  I recently returned to the Legion, joining the praesidium of Mary the Queen at Christ the King in Kansas City.  I may at times write allocutios again when I am asked to give one at the praesidium meetings.  You can expect one tonight!

I think that’s it for now.  I will be posting far more often than every 2 years now.  See you soon!

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Moving On

To my esteemed readers,

I wanted to give you an update of the events of my life as they continue to unfold.  I want to let you know that after several months of careful discernment and consideration, I have decided to ask for a dispensation from my monastic vows of stability, obedience, and conversatio morum so as to return to the lay life.  There are several factors that have gone into the making of this decision.  A couple of these are

  1. Family Life– Since joining the monastery, my family has continued to grow closer and closer and I’ve begun to feel their absence more poignantly especially on holidays.  Since the closest member of my immediate family lives about three hours away (my parents being about 6 or 7 hours away) this has not been that easy.  The thought of marriage- that of starting and raising my own family, has continued to attract me and the desire has continued to grow in me.  As I continue thinking and praying about it I keep feeling a deep sense of contentment and joy at the thought of having a good wife and raising kids in the Catholic faith as well as the many joys and challenges that accompany this.
  2. A Desire to Evangelize- Those reading my blog, particularly my allocutios from the Legion of Mary, know just how passionately I feel about spreading the Gospel.  In my work with the Legion of Mary as Spiritual Director, I have felt a pang of longing to be going out and doing what they are doing- knocking on doors, bringing Christ to those who have rarely or never considered him, as well as the ability to practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy more broadly.  I have been able to do this to some extent in the monastery, but in a more limited way (I have been living a contemplative life after all).  As monks we are surrounded largely with those already in the fold of the Church (not a bad thing) but don’t interact as regularly with those that are on the fringes since the main way monks evangelize is by people coming to them- for retreats, education, etc.  To give an analogy- if you consider the monastery as a bow, those who visit or receive from the monastery are the arrows shot to the heart of our ailing culture.  I find myself wanting to be one of those arrows.  My desire is to do this as an active member of the Legion of Mary, whose spirituality (lay in character) has moved me so deeply and richly.

I have been blessed in my time at St. Benedict’s Abbey and recommend a visit to anyone who may be considering a vocation to the monastic life.  St. Benedict’s Abbey has blessed me in these years with confreres striving to live well, a good community, a deeper insight into the human person, a love of prayer, a greater confidence and love of myself, of my neighbor, of the saints, of Mary, and of the Holy Trinity.

As I’ve considered and prayed about this, a constant sense of joy and peace has surrounded the decision to leave.  God has blessed me abundantly in this time of discernment and has even given several signs confirming this decision.  I am very confident in this move.  Nevertheless I still ask for your prayers, since coming back to the world and its troubles (including student loan bills, a job, and housing) will be a new cross to bear (though I receive it willingly as did Christ).

In Christ through Mary,
Br. Benedict Mary, soon to be Brad, Geist

P.S.  I will be continuing my rosary business of Benedict’s Beads.  You can read more on my blog over at benedictsbeads.com

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Allocutio: The Holy Spirit Always Operates with Mary

One of our legionaries, Anastasia, makes her Legionary Promise today.  Please pray for her.  Today also marks the 100th meeting of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Praesidium.  The meeting was attended by Fr. Simon Baker, OSB, who is our Spiritual Director and Chaplain of Benedictine College and Fr. Jay Kythe, OSB, the Associate Chaplain of Benedictine College.  Also in attendance were many of our auxiliaries and members of Our Lady Queen of Victory Curia.  I, Br. Benedict Mary, gave the allocutio.

Reading:

Handbook, Ch. 39 Cardinal Points of the Legion Apostolate, pg 278

The Holy Spirit operates always with her.— Come a little further to the feast of Pentecost — that tremendous occasion when the Church was launched upon its mission. Mary was there. It was by her prayer that the Holy Spirit descended on the Mystical Body and came to abide in it with all his “greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty.” (1 Chron 29:11) Mary reproduces in respect of the Mystical Body of Christ every service which she rendered to his actual Body.  This law applies to Pentecost, which was a sort of new Epiphany. She is necessary to the one as she had been to the other. And so of all divine things to the end: if Mary is left out, God’s Plan is not conformed to, no matter what one’s prayers and works and strivings may be. If Mary is not there, the grace is not given. This is an overpowering thought. It may provoke the question: “Do those who ignore or insult Mary receive no graces?” They do, indeed, receive graces, for failure to acknowledge Mary may be excused on grounds of utter ignorance. But what a sorry title to Heaven! and what a way of treating her who helps us! Moreover, the graces which come in such circumstances are but a fraction of what should flow, so that one’s life’s work is largely failing.

Allocutio:

Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_018-Pentecost-Apostles-and-Virgin-Mary-Holy-Spirit

Congratulations Anastasia on making your Legionary Promise!  This promise is an important step in your life as a legionary.  In this promise, which you have made to the Holy Spirit and Mary, you have recalled something once again of Pentecost.

When Jesus told the Apostles to pray for the Holy Spirit, they were naturally joined and guided by Mary.  And what a guide!  She, who had already been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit on at least one major occasion- the Annunciation- joined them in praying for Him whose coming would bring about the New Church.  Though the scriptures do not mention anything else that she did after this, we can be sure that she did not fade into the background.  Mary prayed for the ongoing success of the new believers- her own children through her Son.  She helped instruct them and care for them and it’s obvious that they loved her in return.  All the evangelists express a great love and respect for her and many of her insights seem to have been recorded by them (sometimes word for word!).

We should take this as an indication, as St. Louis de Montfort and our own Handbook affirms, that the Holy Spirit does not work in the world except through Mary.  At every crucial moment of our salvation, Mary was there- the Annunciation, Jesus’ first miracle, the Crucifixion, and Pentecost.  He has chosen to work only through her, not that he is limited but because he loves her so much.  We should therefore always turn to Mary if we wish to receive the Holy Spirit.  If we spurn her, we also spurn him.  Mary is called the Spouse of the Holy Spirit and for good reason.  This is not a fanciful title, but a reality to difficult in words.  Thus, at the heart of legionary devotion to Mary is the Holy Spirit- and the Legionary Promise.

As legionaries, we should also gather around Mary and learn from her.  We should imitate her virtues and ask for her powerful intercession as we carryout our legionary work.  We should strive to bring her into every single thing we do, no matter how small.  All are important to her and help her to continue the work that was perpetuated at Pentecost.

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What a Legionary Saw (Allocutio: The Liturgy of the Eucharist in Union with Mary) | Philothea Surrendered

Another excellent allocutio from our president Ciera.  Check it out!

At the foot of the man’s cross I notice three Jews: a man and two women. One of the women is bent over, shaking with sobs. The other – who I realize is his mother – stands still, held by the young man, her tear-stained face raised to behold her disfigured son in his wretchedness.

Why does she not protest for her son’s life? How does she not look away from the wicked sight? Why does she hold on so intently to the pain that must be shattering her heart?

via What a Legionary Saw (Allocutio: The Liturgy of the Eucharist in Union with Mary) | Philothea Surrendered.

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Allocutio: Ecce Mater Tua | Philothea Surrendered

I have temporarily stepped aside from my duties as Spiritual Director.  In my leave, Our Legion’s president, Ciera has taken over with allocutios and luckily she posts them on her blog.  This week’s allocutio was absolutely phenomenal and blows mine out of the water.

And this is what the Lord is asking him to do: watch over her, support her, embrace her, console her, be there for her. This is how she teaches. She instructs by being served by her children.

This service continues beyond Calvary. Each of us today becomes St. John. We receive Christ’s command individually: “Ecce mater tua.” Then we look into the world and find her in those whom we serve, her sons and daughters whose hearts are pierced, estranged and longing for Christ.

via Allocutio: Ecce Mater Tua | Philothea Surrendered.

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Allocutio: The Legionary and the Mystical Body of Christ

Reading:

Handbook Chapter 9: The Legionary and the Mystical Body of Christ, 1. Legionary Service is Based on this Doctrine, pg 51 to 52

At the very first meeting of legionaries the supernatural character of the service, which they were undertaking, was stressed. Their approach to others was to be brimful of kindness, but their motive was not to be that merely natural one. In all those whom they served they were to see the Person of Jesus Christ himself. What they did to those others — even the weakest and lowest — they were to remember that they did it to Our Lord himself, according to his own words: “Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Mt 25:40)
As at the first meeting, so ever since. No effort has been spared to bring home to legionaries that this motive is to be the basis of their service, and likewise that the discipline and internal harmony of the Legion rest chiefly upon the same principle. In their officers and in each other they must recognise and reverence Christ himself. In order to ensure that this transforming truth will remain impressed on the minds of the members, it is incorporated in the Standing Instruction which is read monthly at the praesidium meeting. In addition, the Standing Instruction emphasises the other legionary principle that the work must be done in such a spirit of union with Mary that it is she, working through the legionary, who really performs it.
These principles, upon which the Legion system is built, are a consequence of the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. This doctrine forms the main theme of the epistles of St. Paul. This is not surprising, for it was a declaration of that doctrine which converted him. There was light from heaven. The great persecutor of the Christians was thrown, blinded, to the ground. Then he heard those overwhelming words: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” and St. Paul rejoined: “Who are you, Lord?” And Jesus replied: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:4-5) What wonder that these words burnt themselves into the apostle’s soul, so that he must always speak and write the truth which they expressed.
St. Paul describes the union which exists between Christ and the baptised as being like the union between the head and the other members of the human body. Each part has its own special purpose and work. Some parts are noble and some are less so; but all are dependent one upon the other, and the same life animates them all. All are put to loss by the failure of one, as all profit by the excellence of one.

Allocutio:hqdefault

Our founder, Frank Duff, had a very strong sense of the Mystical Body of Christ.  He put this sense into every aspect of the Legion.  The doctrine of the Mystical Body flows directly from the Church’s belief in the Incarnation.  The Legion understands this well and turns its devotion to the instrument of the Incarnation- Mary.  It was Mary’s yes that made the Mystical Body of Christ a reality and it is her unfailing care for it that has given the Church so much growth and strength down through the centuries into our own age.

We are all members of Christ- not in the relationship between a corporation of a CEO with the lowest workers but the relationship between that big round thing on your shoulders with that which is underneath.  We are intimately united to Jesus.  Thus, any good we do to others is good done to ourselves, and any harm or neglect of others is harm to ourselves.  We are all mystically united in the Body of Christ.  We are called therefore to respond to the needs of others.  The Legion focuses on the spiritual needs in particular- mirroring the role that Mary has for Christ’s body.  We nourish, we teach, we defend and recognize the dignity of others.

We also must recognize this dignity in one another.  We should seek to show respect and love to one another as we would to Christ.  This includes in our meetings, in our works, and our daily interactions with one another as legionaries.  Each of us have a dignity and importance to what is at hand that is beyond description.  We should support each other when we are struggling, rejoice in one another’s success, and see ourselves united in the same mission, no matter what works we may be doing.  May our hearts always look for Christ in one another and those that we serve.

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