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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Thursday, 12 August 2010

THE CROSS OF SAINT BENEDICT


The life and death of Jesus were one long fight against the powers of evil.   He fought disobedience with obedience unto death, pride with humility, hatred with love; and  behind the relatively feeble attempts of human beings to be evil, an evil mitigated by an apalling ignorance of the things of God, Jesus saw a reflection of Satan's presence: he saw it in human sin and even in human illness and death, and he set out to save humankind and to utterly conquer the devil.
On the cross Christ won the decisive victory over sin, death and the devil, and God the Father raised him to a new resurrected life, a life without a trace of any of these because it is a sharing in the very life of God.   Since then, his death, resurrection and ascension have become the pathway we all have to tread, led by the Holy Spirit,  to share in the life of the Blessed Trinity as sons and daughters of the Father, and the cross has become the sign and proclamation of Christ's victory


Although the victory of Christ was and is decisive, it is only complete in heaven where Christ is strong, and it is only complete in all its effects in Jesus and his mother. .  On earth where Christ is weak, where human beings need to tred in faith the path of obedience, humility and love,  carrying our cross in Christ.s footsteps, it is the Church's task to manifest God's power in our weakness and to proclaim Christ's victory on the cross.   The Christian life was seen in the early Church as a constant conflict between devil and God in which Satan's angelic powers come up against our faith in Christ which is an invincible weapon.   In this context we must place the the monks who went out into the desert to seek out places where  the devil might be hiding, places like graveyards and deserted pagan temples.   Once, St Anthony of Egypt was so attacked by the devil that he was thought to be dead; but, after this, God gave him a host of new charisms, an air of gentleness and compassion and a wonderful gift of inspiring others: his "passion", inflicted by the devil, led inevitably to a special participation in the resurrected life of Christ.   To become a monk, especially a solitary monk, was a challenge to the devil; and, if the monk remained faithful to the end , he became a vehicle of Christ's victory. over "the devil, the world and the flesh".   In spite of the dreadful suffering inflicted on him, when St Anthony of Egypt was asked if he was afraid of the devil, he began his answer with another question, "Who is stronger, a human being with the Spirit of God inside him or the devil?   Why!!   The devil cannot even control a herd of pigs"


It is in this context that we can understand the Medal of St Benedict.   Like his brother monks in the deserts of Egypt and Syria,   there are many stories of St Benedict's encounters with the devil, none of which resulted to the devil's advantage; and his faith in Christ's cross had greater force than anything the devil could do against him.People wear the medal in the hope that St Benedict's intercession will win for them a similar victory over temptation and the wiles of the devil; and the medal is often used by exorcists in their encounters with possessed persons.


The more important side of theSLATED medal is the cross, even though it is often called the reverse side.   At the top is the Benedictine motto "PAX" which means the peace that the world cannot give, but only God.    Against the background, in the four segments formed by the cross, there is CSPB which stands for "CRUX SANCTI PATRIS BENEDICTI", WHICH MEANS "Cross of Our Holy Father Benedict".   On the vertical bar of the cross there are the letters C.S.S.M.L. which stand for "CRUX SACRA SIT MIHI  LUZ". This is translated as, "Let the Holy Cross be my Light".   On the horizontal bar there are the letters NDSMD which stand for "NON DRACO SIT MIHI DUX" or, in English, "Do not let the demon be my guide."   Around the periphery of the medal (right side) are the letters V.R.S.N.S.M.V. which stand for, "VADE RETRO SATANAS.  NUNQUAM SUADE MIHI VANA" which means, "Get Behind Me, Satan.   Never Suggest Vane Things To Me"   On the other side of the cross are written the letters, S.M.Q.L.  I.V.S. which stands for "SUNT MALA QUAE LEBAS IPSE VENENA BIBAS" which, when translated means, "What you propose to me is evil.   Drink your own poison."   All this together is a prayer of exorcism to be used when tempted.





On the other side of the medal there is the figure of St Benedict holding a cross in one hand and the Rule in the other.   At his feet is a cup with a viper in it: remembering the time when his own monks wanted to poison him, and a raven that saved him from eating poisoned bread.  These two miracles remind us that, when he can, the devil uses human beings to do his will.

THE "ST BENEDICT'S CROSS" PROJECT IN PACHACAMAC


 

iT ALL BEGAN IN 2005 when a man called Porras invaded our land.   When we arrived he was already on the land, claiming that it had always been his.   He never actually lived there, only claiming to do so, and importing farma aninmals and family the night before a judicial inspection and evacuating everybody and everything the night after.   He appears to be poor, living like any peasant with his family, but he is an expert at lying with appearances   He takes advantage of the confusion and corresponding corruption and delays that surround anything to do with land and its ownership to invade peoples' land and then either leaves it to its original owner for a substantial fee or keeps it and sells it.   Sometimes he buys legally a small plot in an area where no one is actually living, and then lays claim to the lot.   With the help of corrupt officials and forged documents, he strives to cause such confusion that only highlt trained lawyers can shed legal light after years of litigation well beyond the pockets of the avarage land owner.  A couple of years ago, Porras sold a piece of land he legitimately owned to a businessman for $360,000, and offered him possession of the land immediately above what he had bought as a gift.   In fact, Porras did not own the land he offered alongside the original sale.      In our case, he did not reckon with our Bro. Mario, a medical  before he became a monk, with a brain like a knife, who has patiently cut through the confusion and unearthed the corruption that supported Porras who may well be sent to prison.

The actual status of the land above the monastery is that it belongs to the state but we now have legal possession.   However, in order to finalize our ownership of the land the state can sell it to us; but we must prove that we are using it and that we intend to stay there.   Lima is gradually spreading in our direction, and he who owns the land could become a multi-millionaire when time is ripe for building.   If that is why we want it, then the state will not let us have it.  They do not accept projects we present to them for future action because, once owned, we can throw away the projects and build or sell.  Hence our plans for planting trees does not count because it could be an elaborate lie to get our hands on prime building land.   On the other hand, we cannot start immediately on our very real forestation project without permission, and the red tape connected with such a permission is abundant: we have been trying to obtain that permission for years!!   However, if we are not actually using the land, then we will not be allowed to buy it, and it can always be liable to attack by Porras and people like him who know how valuable the land is going to become.   That was the problem over a year ago: there was an urgency to do something : we could be inspected at any time as part of the process to purchase the land from the state; but there was no actual concrete sign that we were putting the land to use.  Help came from an unexpected quarter, and the result is the "Cross of St Benedict".

A small group of people, members of a Catholic lay community that runs a television channel called Pax Tv , hit on the idea of building a cross of St Benedict at the highest point on our land.   They saw it as a centre of pilgrimage because the medal of St Benedict is in wide use throughout Latin America even by people who know nothing of St Benedict or of Benedictines.  This could be a place where people are evangelized - which is their pre-occupation - and would confer economic benefits on the monastery that gains most of its money from visitors.   They were devotos of St Benedict because Pax Tv is under his patronage and the community tries to live by his spirit.  They recruited an engineer who does not belong to Pax.   They are accustomed to make difficult things possible.   Firstly, a female member of Pax has a husband who is managing director of Cement Lima, and that company provided all the cement necessary.   "How can we get the building materials up the steep side of the hill?" I asked anxiously.   Smiles all round, "God will provide." they said contentedly.   One of them is a recently retired general of the Peruvian Airforce and had been in helicopters.   The airforce did a two day "training exercise", at the end of which, all the materials were where they were supposed to be.




Then came a hitch.   Just when I thought everything would be plain sailing, the small group from Pax Tv told me that, because of a decision of their community, they would have to switch their support for our project to  project of their community.   They were going to build a church in a poor area of Lurin and establish medical services, activities for the children and job training for adults.  I think this was a right decision, a true ordering of priorities; but it left us in an awkward position.  We had no money!!   "Don't worry," said one of them, "I am convinced that this project to build a cross has God's blessing.  That being so, Providence will provide: God always does."    Thus, all our materials were at the top of a hill; and there was no prospect of bringing them down again.   Cement Lima would never help us build the new monastery if we cannot manage to build the cross!!   We were stumped.  I bit my finger nails for several days.   Then - Gracias a Dios - the engineer who was not a part of Pax told me that he would pay for it himself.   So it was built.   It is thirteen metres high and, when it is illuminated, will be visible from the sea.   It has yet to be painted white, with the medal of St Benedict outlined in black.   Then electricity will be taken to the top of the hill and reflecters built.  However, this will only happen when a bridge has been built over the canal that separates our own property and that which has yet to be bought.   Then there will be a straight path built.  The alcalde has offered us the use of the machine to do this together with the driver.   His engineer has drawn up the plan for the bridge.   Places will be prepared along the way where our engineer is going to put the Stations of the Cross







Last Good Friday, Br Mario took a group of people on retreat up to the top in the first Stations of the Cross.  On July 11th, Solemnity of St Benedict, after a Mass in which we sang the whole of St Benedict's Mass with Gregorian Plainchant, Father Luis took the people on another Stations of the Cross.   At the top, he formally blessed the cross in the presence of the alcalde, a representative of Pax Tv, members of the Airforce and the Police, the engineer and a host of others.   Since then, people come to walk to the cross on Sunday afternoons, and a few youth groups have also come.



Our lawyers were enthusiastic because it is the only convincing evidence that we are here to stay and are not just speculators in property waiting to make a killing.   They kept on asking when it was going to be built, fearing that the inspection of our property would happen before the cross.   Father Luis in his address at the top of the hill, said that our land would one day be green, a garden of the Virgin in which the tree of life grows, a place where people will encounter God.  He mentioned a parallel between this place and Athos.









  Religiosidad Popular likes nothing better than a pilgrimage, and nothing proves our commitment to the land more than a thirteen metre "Cross of St Benedict" set in concrete.   Every further step in the construction and every public act of worship associated with the cross confirm public recognition that this is Benedictine territory. Of course, once bought, with the land securely in our possession, there still remains the main role of the cross.   In the last photos, as Father Luis and the people start leaving, people go up to touch the cross.   With the blessing of the Church it has become holy.   It is what the whole of creation was designed to be, a point of contact between God and ourselves.


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