Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Mother Prioress with the Grumneys & Wilsons
Nine of our OBLATES  were here this past weekend for a retreat.

An OBLATE  is a lay or clerical, single or married, person formally associated to a particular monastery. The Oblate seeks to live a life in harmony with the spirit of Saint Benedict as revealed in his Rule and how it relates to the world. They make  the promises of Obedience, Stability and Conversion as stated in the Rule. They strive after stability and fidelity in their lives by regular worship with other Christians and by the support they give to the social and educational apostolates of their local parishes as well as that of the Church as a whole.

In the spirit of the gospel, Oblates commit themselves to a continual conversion to Christ. In this way Oblates  come to recognize that in all the phases and events of their lives, in their joys and successes as well as in their sorrows and disappointments, they are in close union with Christ and participate in his very death and Resurrection. This 'putting on of Christ' is the goal Oblates pursue in their conversion of life.


LAUREN FORD:   was the daughter of Simeon Ford and Julia Ellsworth Ford. Simeon was owner of the fashionable Grand Union Hotel in New York City and a published after-dinner speaker. Julia was an author of children's books and doyenne of a salon that included the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, and American dancer Isadora Duncan.   Lauren’s soaked up this environment  and was encouraged  in her artistic talents. She was sent to France at the age of nine to study painting with her uncle, Lawrence Shaw.

Under her Uncle's tutelage and the influence of the medieval art of France, and the Liturgy and Gregorian chant of the monks of Solesmes,  she began to shape  her artistic and spiritual development. She would eventually become a Catholic, taking simple vows as a Benedictine Oblate.
Her early art, which explored the world of children, grew to focus on the world of the Christ Child and the Holy Family. Lauren settled in the small hamlet of Bethlehem, Connecticut, where she was to live the last 30 years of her life. In her art, one sees the rolling hills and peoples- mostly farmers- of this lovely, serene area. In the 1940s, during the tumultuous years of World War II,  her  paintings were featured in Life Magazine, and her Christmas scenes were popularized in Christmas cards produced by the American Artists Group. Her works are found in many museums in the East including the Smithsonian.

   She gave refuge to our foundresses, Mother Benedicta  and Mother Mary Aline, in the early years of their arrival in America.  She later introduced them to the Robert Leathers,  who donated the first 50 acres of what would become the Abbey of Regina Laudis.  She died in 1973, leaving her "Sheepfold" and land to RL.

:   a Delaware Indian, was an oblate of St. Vincent’s Archabbey. She was a family therapist whose “knowledge of the American Indian family and its traditions provided her with insights into the use of the extended family as a tool in therapy”.  Carolyn  found much in the Benedictine tradition that is kindred to the American Indian: reverence for the things around us, air, water, sky, trees, animals; holding all things in common; receiving as each has need; stewards of God’s world and responsible for taking good care of it; God revealing Himself in ordinary items of life.  She taught at the University of Washington.

She first came to OLR  about 1991 as a guest  with  Father Paschal,O.S.B., a monk from St. Vincent's  and bonded with us. I was traveling a lot in those days and would stay with her in Seattle to fly out the next day. She was a remarkable woman filled with many stories.  She died of a brain tumor and I was able to visit her just a few days before she passed to the Lord. Though she was unconscious, when I took her hand she squeezed it, as I said Our Lady of the Rock.  She had the only cat I ever loved- a huge Maine-coon called Douglas, after an abbot. As we talked he would curl up next to me. Her daughter offered him to me but it was felt the farm was no place for a house-cat.

JACQUES & RAISSA MARITAIN:. both converts, Jacques Maritain, from a Protestant background and Raissa from a Jewish family, joined the Church under the influence of the French author Leon Bloy, who challenged them into believing that life was worth living. As university students they were in despair and made a pact to commit suicide together if they didn't find meaning in life.  In 1906 they were baptized along with Raissa's sister, Vera. They became Oblates of St. Paul's Abbey in Oosterhout in 1912.  They are an example of lay people and married couples who dedicate their lives to prayer and good works. The Maritains, prominent in philosophy and with outstanding minds, never accepted a split between philosophy/theology and spirituality. Raissa was a contemplative, and a poet (RL published some of her early poems)  and Jacques wrote many volumes about a Christian relating to the world.

Jacques and Raissa Maritain were friends of Peter Maurin and  Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker in its earliest years. Dorothy Day learned from the Maritains that the Revolution must come, but it begins with a Revolution in one's heart. The goal of the Maritains and of Dorothy and Peter was to transform society by bringing Christian values to society and to ordinary people.
Later, Jacques  taught at Princeton, the University of Chicago and Columbia University.  Both Maritains related to Regina Laudis in the early 50's, and some notes can be found in Raissa's
Journal,  a profoundly moving spiritual journey, about her visits.  She died in 1960  and Jacques in 1973.  Both are being considered for canonization.

DOROTHY DAY: (1897 – 1980) was an American journalist, social activist and devout Catholic convert.  She was also considered to be an anarchist.  In the 1930s, she worked closely with fellow activist Peter Maurin to establish the Catholic Worker movement, a nonviolent, pacifist movement that continues to combine direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action on their behalf. Dorothy Day and the early Catholic Workers were blessed with the leadership of Peter Maurin, an immigrant from France who was able to translate Maritain's writings before they became popular in English. Dorothy and the Maritains were close in the early years of the movement. She became an Oblate at St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle , IL.

Her autobiography, The Long Loneliness,  (1952).  and her account of the Catholic Worker movement, Loaves and Fishes (1963) give great details about her and the CW.

    Mother Prisca, one of OLR's  co-foundresses, helped Dorothy establish the CW in Rochester, NY and became very close to her. When Mother was clothed with the habit, Dorothy was one of her "god-mothers".

Her cause for canonization is open in the Catholic Church.

 Read more about Oblates in  Benedict in the World by  Linda Kulzer, O.S.B. and Roberta Bondi.
Among the more well-known Oblates included are Rumor Godden, Walker Percy,  H. R. Reinhold, and Oliver Plunket.