St. Benedict’s Abbey is graced to have two new postulants who are now in a four month period of discernment, called the postulancy.
Billy Rombach comes from Washington, MO. After several years of maintenance work in schools, he began his college career at Benedictine College. Matt Leen comes from Seattle, Washington. After graduation from the University of Washington with a major in political science, he spent two years as a FOCUS Missionary: one at The University of MN at Mankato, and one at St. John’s University at Collegeville, MN.
What are postulants like Billy and Matt so important to us? What is the meaning of the postulancy?
Religious life is a group of men, or women, who come together for a common purpose. Each of them has a deep yearning for God. The normal walks and stations of life do not satisfy them. They want more. They sense that only God can satisfy the deepest desires of their hearts. They understand that their hearts were so designed, that only God can satisfy those yearnings.
When you read the history of the early monks, beginning in Egypt and Syria, you recognize this same pattern from the beginning.
A young postulant does not fully understand what religious life is. But from what little he has seen and experienced of it, he is attracted to it.
Religious life, from the moment you wake up in the morning until you retire after a busy day, is focused on God. God is the unseen presence, but He is very real. Invisible things, like love, are often more real than visible things, like a good meal. Religious life is a constant search for God, looking for Him in every nook and corner of daily life. The postulant sees this, and is drawn to it.
When a group of religious men, or women, come together, very soon they take on projects that serve the people of God. They do what the typical parish priest or deacon cannot do, because their plate is already fully with the normal sacramental services of a parish. A religious community seeks out those needs of the people of God which are unaddressed. They find ways to address those needs.
At SBA those major projects include such things as being the religious sponsors of a high profile Catholic College, teaching religion there and in a Catholic boarding high school and a grade school, while providing chaplains for all of these. It extends to supporting a dependent Priory in central Brazil, to prison ministry, to over 270 Benedictine Oblates in Prison, to spiritual direction for FOCUS Missionaries across the country, and to teaching liturgy at advanced levels. It includes providing the sacraments and spiritual guidance to MSSM and to St. Benedict’s parish, and giving retreats to a wide variety of retreatants. In involves periodic lectures and articles.
All these projects flow out of the monks’ regular prayer life and the daily Sacrifice of the Mass.
A postulant has much to learn and experience. He gradually discovers the dynamics of a religious community. This is made up of individuals with unique personalities and distinct sets of talents. God deals with each one of us as a member of a broader community. Each monk contributes to the community according to his strengths and talents. Each monk draws from the community according to his needs.
Community life is very rich and attractive, but it takes time and discernment to gradually grow into it. The postulant is at the first stage of this orientation.
Every monk at SBA can identify with where the two postulants are. Each of us took the same gradual steps towards a greater immersion into community life, with all it complexities and dynamics.
Sometimes the postulant decides that religious life is not for him. He has discerned, and discovered that God is calling him elsewhere. But no time has been lost. He takes with him a deeper understanding of who he is and what the Faith is all about.
When God gave us free will, He removed the possibility of total predictability. Each of us must find his calling in life. Having found it, we must repeatedly renew our commitment to it. Every monk understands this. That is why they watch with great interest the gradual progression of the postulant’s life.
Postulants come to the Abbey in a search for God, with a strong desire to serve His people. We all hope and pray that this is where God has meant them to find their home, and to enroll in the “School of the Lord’s Service.”