40TH ANNIVERSARY OF FOUNDATION OF BUTENDE
“IN HIM YOU ALSO WHO HAVE HEARD THE WORD OF TRUTH… HAVE BELIEVED … TO THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORY.” This text from the Epistle to the Ephesians has a very particular significance for this community of Our Lady of Praise, at Butende, Uganda. The founders of this monastery were certainly moved by the same Spirit who had inspired the author when he wrote these words to the early Christian community at the important city of Ephesus. Tradition holds that St. John and our Blessed Mother made their home there following the resurrection of our Lord. Concern to give recognition to God in the form of praise was Mary’s spontaneous reaction to the message of our Lord’s Incarnation. Praise of God’s glory has been a prominent feature of Cistercian life from its origins. Such devotion, to be sure, had been cultivated since the days of St. Benedict who expressly encourages his followers so to conduct themselves “that in all things God may be glorified.”
Our founders had been formed as Benedictines prior to establishing the reform that grew into the Cistercian Order. They followed an observance that gave many hours each day to the Divine Office, singing the praises of God in the liturgy. We know that they chose to shorten the excessively long offices not because they had less zeal for the work of praise. No, rather it was because they were convinced that they would glorify God more truly by a simpler, more balanced life that includes manual labor. This was the pattern traced out by Benedict according to which they had made their vows and so represented the more faithful, truer acknowledgment of God’s truth and so contribute better to his glory. For it is not only the time spent in prayer that gives praise to God. It is above all purity of faith and the dedication of love that glorifies the God who created us and the Savior who redeemed us by his cross.
At the most solemn moment of his life when Jesus called upon the Father to glorify himself in the obedient suffering of his Son, he prayed for unity among those whom he had called to follow him. He knew already what the history of the Church has since revealed, that it is a very great work to achieve and preserve a truly harmonious community centered on God. A living faith and steady, quiet efforts are needed to create and preserve a community united in a single hope and bound together in charity. Such a life together is possible for weak human beings only at the price of selfless service and repeated generous forgiveness and overlooking of faults. To create true community united in heart and soul is a most valuable work that is an irreplaceable contribution to the life of the Church. True community brings new life and creates unforeseen possibilities for its members. Such a community gives glory to God for it imparts fresh hope to those who come into contact with it. Unity of purpose and sincerity of heart are the essential attitudes of those who would form a community of praise to God in prayer.
The Catholic Church was formed in unity and preserved it by its celebration of the Eucharist. May we here continue this holy work. May the Blessed Mary’s prayer assist us to make it our purpose as we daily offer this Eucharistic sacrifice to further and preserve unity of mind and heart in this community. And may the God of peace, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ grant us this grace to the praise of his glory.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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