“The Lord clothed me with garments of salvation; he has covered me with a robe of justice”.
This was the second antiphon of Vespers on Wednesday, December 7th. It was particularly appropriate that evening because, along with praying the Liturgy of the Hours, we had the joy of welcoming Billy Rombach into our community as a novice and clothing him with the Benedictine habit.
Coming to join the monks in prayer and witness this joyful occasion were several of Billy’s family members as well as students of Benedictine College, several of whom had been friends with Billy while he attended the college last year.
Vespers began with the organ turning the church's silence into song; moments later the monks processed in from the back doors with Billy among their ranks. The monks then began evening prayer, singing the antiphons and Psalms slowly and with a spirit of unity and reverence.
Near the end of Vespers, Billy was called to the front of the choir where he knelt before Abbot James. The Abbot then explained that the journey Billy has chosen to go on as a novice consists of one year of searching for Christ – looking inward and gaining self-knowledge. Knowledge of oneself, whether it is through daily examination of conscience or simply spending time in silence, is central to the life of any Christian. For a man discerning God's will for his life, this becomes even more important.
To fully delve into this life of seeking Christ, the novice is given the Rule of St. Benedict, the Benedictine habit, and a new name.
"Billy has been trying to get this name out of me for the last couple weeks", Abbot James said after he told the congregation that Billy had submitted three different names but was still patiently waiting to learn which one had been chosen for him. After a few more minutes of suspense, the Abbot pronounced Billy to be hereafter known as Brother Pius. He then received the habit and officially welcomed into the Benedictine community.
Asked why he had chosen Pius as one of the names, Billy said that “it’s ironic” and “something to strive for”. Having this name and being called by it throughout the day, truly will be for him a constant reminder of the universal call to holiness.
Billy Rombach, or Brother Pius as he will now be known, spent a semester at Benedictine College before leaving to discern the religious life. He looked into several different orders, but ultimately felt drawn to the Benedictine order because of their contemplative prayer life and strong community.
Brother Pius will continue to be under the direction of Fr. Denis Meade, the novice master. Having a young man discerning the religious life in the Abbey is “a moment of hope” Fr. Denis said. In a culture that focuses on the question "what do I want?", Brother Pius is asking instead, "what does God want?" It is in finding the answer to the latter question that we are able to find real fulfillment and happiness.
Fr. Denis also pointed out that although Brother Pius will be learning the "hard and rugged ways" of a Benedictine monk, he will learn the great joys that come with it as well. Even better, he will be learning among men who have welcomed him as a brother.