A fledgling Benedictine priory is bursting at the seams.
Dom Mark Daniel Kirby, 62, was born and raised in Connecticut. Today, he is the Prior of a newly-established Benedictine Monastery in Stamullen, Ireland. The Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle has an amazing vocations problem: they have far too many young monks (plus interested young men) for their meager means. Here’s their story:
Q. Dom Kirby, tell us how SilverStream Priory began.
The seed of SilverStream Priory was planted in my heart in 2004-2005. Profoundly moved by Saint John Paul II’s apostolic letter, ‘Mane nobiscum Domine,’ I resolved to live the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist and to preach that mystery every day during that year.
Q. Tell us how Our Lord called you to this vocation within a vocation.
I understood then that Our Lord was calling me to a “vocation within a vocation”: Not only to the pursuit of the traditional Benedictine life, but also to adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, in a spirit of reparation and intercession for the sanctification of priests. An indult from the Holy See dispensed me from my obligations to the abbey of my profession, and freed me to renew my vows, under the Rule of St. Benedict, into the hands of the Most Reverend Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa.
Another series of providential circumstances led our embryonic community from Tulsa to County Meath in Ireland, where we found a property and buildings.
Q. How did you find your priory in County Meath?
We made a novena to St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, and prayed to Blessed Columba Marmion.
Upon arriving at SilverStream, I discovered hanging above the sacristy vesting cabinet, a framed document in Latin attesting to the dedication of the little church and its altar to St. Thérèse.
On October 19, 2011, I met with the Most Reverend Michael Smith, Bishop of Meath, and laid our project before him. He graciously welcomed us to the Diocese of Meath. And so, with the fatherly blessing of Bishop Slattery, Dom Benedict Andersen and I set out for the Isle of Saints and Scholars to implant traditional Benedictine life at SilverStream, committed to the traditional forms of the sacred Liturgy, celebrated in Latin with Gregorian chant.
Q. What is the particular focus of your Benedictine community?
Like all Benedictine monks, we open the sacred Scriptures daily in lectio divina to discover, shining through every page, the adorable Face of Christ. This particular focus on the radiant Countenance of Jesus, both revealed and concealed in the Eucharist, is rooted in the expression coined by Blessed John Paul II in the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, wherein he enjoined the faithful to tarry before the “Eucharistic Face of Christ.” After Scripture, we, like all Benedictines, refer to the Fathers of the Desert, and to the ancient monastic traditions of East and West.
Q. Are you influenced by the example and writings of anyone apart from Saint Benedict?
We take to heart the teachings of Catherine Mectilde de Bar (1614-1698) on adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament in a spirit of reparation. Mother Mectilde is considered to be the “Teresa of Avila” of the Benedictine Order. Italian Abbot Celestino Maria Colombo OSB (1874-1935) believed passionately in the Mectildian charism, and hoped to see it flourish among monks of the Order. We also give a privileged place to the writings of Blessed Columba Marmion, Ireland’s most illustrious Benedictine.
Q. What is the Priory’s situation today?
Promising young men with vocations are knocking at our door, but neither the door, nor the house, nor the land belongs to us. I have to raise funds for the purchase of the SilverStream Property.
We now are engaged in renovating the guesthouse. We also have a beautiful hermitage (dedicated to the Holy Souls), which we would like to “do up” for those who would desire a more secluded retreat. We have had to gut the interior of the priory church built in 1952: It needs a new roof, heating, insulation, and furnishings. Eventually, we will be able to adorn the church with iconography.
Finally, we foresee creating twelve monastic cells in the main building. I believe there are faithful Catholics, eager to see a monastic springtime in Ireland, who would be in a position to offer us substantial help.
Q. How many monks and others now live at the priority?
Currently we are five: Two professed monks, Dom Benedict Andersen, a native of Denver, Colorado, who came with me from Tulsa, and I. When Dom Benedict pronounced his vows last September, he was the first Benedictine monk to be professed in the Diocese of Meath since the dissolution of the Abbey of Fore by the commissioners of Henry VIII in 1539.
We also have two novices: Brother Elijah (Oklahoma) and Brother Finnian (County Meath). We have one postulant, André (South Africa), and about twenty-five other men in the early stages of inquiry.
Q. What qualities do you seek in your postulants?
Our monks must have zeal for the Sacred Liturgy and love of the Word of God, particularly the Psalms, and the desire to adore Our Lord in the Sacrament of His Love, and to make reparation for coldness, irreverence, and indifference towards the Most Holy Eucharist.
They must have reverence for the Fathers of the Church and the great monastic teachers of East and West. Above all else, a candidate must have a certain passion to seek God, and a firm resolve never to despair of His mercy.
I help a man discern whether he is called to be a choir monk, or a converse monk (a lay brother). The converse monk seeks God in a life marked by manual labor, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and a limited participation in the choral Office. The prior can call a perpetually professed choir monk to Studies in preparation for Holy Orders.
The monastic priesthood, as we live it at SilverStream, does not involve pastoral ministry. It is a sacramental configuration to Christ, Priest and Victim, in his oblation to the Father; and this, in the context of a hidden life, marked by silence and in effective separation from the world.
Q. Would you describe a day in the life of a monk of SilverStream?
Our horarium does not differ essentially from the horarium of any other traditional Benedictine Monastery. We pray the entire Psalter, 150 Psalms, in a single week, respecting the injunction of St. Benedict in the Holy Rule. We rise at 4:35 a.m. to be in choir for Matins at 5 a.m. Following Matins, there is ample time for lectio divina. At 8 a.m., we return to choir for Lauds.
After Prime, there is the daily chapter. We listen to the portion of the Holy Rule appointed for the day, and I give a brief commentary on it. The Holy Rule is the transmission of the living tradition by which men aspiring to the monastic life are stimulated to become “all fire.”
A monastery in which the flame of fervent love burns low quickly becomes dark and cold. The abbot, or conventual prior, is the keeper and guardian of the flame, charged with transmitting the living fire. Thus do monks become “friends of the Bridegroom,” like St. John the Baptist, whom Our Lord described as ardens ac lucens, a man burning and giving light (John 5:35).
Q. Would you describe the labora part of your day?
After chapter, we perform a variety of tasks, including giving hospitality to visitors and spiritual direction to priests; running a bookstore; doing desktop publishing; gardening; and maintaining and renovating the buildings.
At 9:45 a.m., we sing Terce, the Hour traditionally associated with the descent of the Holy Ghost. Even though we are few, we then sing the Mass, using the Graduale Romanum, nearly every day. Sung Mass, in the Usus Antiquior, is a discovery for many Irish Catholics, especially young people, who have expressed joy after their first experience of what was for them a pearl of great price.
Shortly after midday, we have the Office of Sext and go to the refectory for dinner. Following St. Benedict’s injunction, we have reading at both dinner and supper. After a siesta, we have the Office of None, then another work period, and Vespers at 5 p.m. Supper is a light collation, and Compline follows. With one last filial homage to the Mother of God, we enter the great silence until the following day after Prime.
Q. Does your community have any special practices?
As Benedictines of Perpetual Adoration, we keep every Thursday as weekly Corpus Christi, giving greater solemnity to the Mass and having solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and Adoration all day. On other days, a few hours in the afternoon, between None and Vespers, are dedicated to Adoration. The time given to Adoration will increase as the community grows.
Every day after Mass, one of us recites an Act of Reparation by which we seek to make up for the coldness, indifference, irreverence, and sacrileges that grieve the Heart of Our Lord in the Sacrament of Love.
Q. Are lay people from the region coming for Mass?
Layfolk from the region occasionally come for Holy Mass on weekdays, but even more come for Sunday Vespers and Benediction. On Sundays, a number of Polish families come to the priory for Holy Mass; the adults remain after Holy Mass for a cup of coffee in the gatehouse while the children play together outside. Many people come to the priory seeking a blessing. I often bless people with a relic of Saint Thérèse or with one of the Irish Saint Dymphna.
Q. Do you have any program for Oblates, such as layfolk and diocesan clergy?
SilverStream Priory does have oblates: including layfolk and diocesan clergy, who offer themselves to God in the spirit of the Rule of St. Benedict. We consider our oblates members of the extended monastic family.
We have about two dozen oblates living in North America and Europe, including a priest and several permanent deacons. Geographical proximity to the Monastery is not a requirement of the oblateship.
Q. What led you to become a monk and a priest?
I was drawn to monastic life from a very tender age. The seed sown in my heart, when I was a small boy, took root. Today, it is beginning to bear fruit.
Q. What would you say to a young man who is interested in discerning a vocation to your priory?
In a community still at its beginnings, the monastic journey does not always flow smoothly. For all of this, I can say “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us.”
One last thing, a very important one: We are not just Benedictines; we are Eucharistic Benedictines, that is, men called not only to tarry in adoration and reparation before the Sacred Host, but also men called to become like the Sacred Host, to become what we contemplate, to imitate what He shows us of Himself, hidden beneath the sacramental veils.
Ordinatus, A Setting in Order, visually charts the key moments of the ordination at Saint Mary’s Church at Drogheda of Reverend Benedict Maria one of an order of four Benedictine monks from SilverStream Priory at Stamullen, County Meath in Ireland. Music was performed by the renowned Dublin-based choir The Lassus Scholars.
The Host is disarmingly humble; so would we be. The Host is the living icon of the poverty of God made man; so we would become poor with Him. The Host is silent; so do we find ourselves cherishing silence over words.
The Host is the sacrament of the Divine Hiddenness; so too must we choose hiddenness over ostentation and obscurity over acclaim. The Host is obedient, remaining where it is placed, not moving of Itself or by Itself, but waiting to be moved; and that is, I think, the very pattern of how we ought to live so as to please God. “Live by that pattern,” says Saint Paul, “and make more of it than ever” (1 Thessalonians 4:1).
This is what we are trying to do at SilverStream: we want to live by the pattern we contemplate in the Sacred Host, and this for the glory of the Father and the salvation of souls.
This article originally published by Regina Magazine. Beverly De Sotois the magazine’s editor.