Almsgiving
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Bl. Teresa of Calcutta said, "One thing that I ask of you: never be afraid of giving. There is a deep joy in giving, since what we receive is much more that what we give."

At the abbey, we give alms in many different ways every day. Most importantly, in our abbey church, we offer Mass every day for our confreres, friends, and benefactors, both living and dead and for the entire world. The graces of this daily Mass are extended and applied throughout the entire day by the chanting of the hours of the Office in choir, where we continue this intercessory prayer. The abbey also distributes bread to the poor every day, something that has been done discreetly for many decades now. Another alms deed practiced by many of our priests is work in the prison ministry and hospital chaplain work, bringing the sacraments to those in prison and to the dying. Yet it is particularly in Lent that we find the priests of the abbey giving alms in the spiritual works of mercy and sacramental ministry. Lent is one of the busiest times for the priests at St. Michael's because of the many penance services they help at across the diocese of Orange and beyond. It is also a time that sees many of our confreres giving retreats and parish missions, bringing sacraments to the sick and providing guidance to the faithful.
 
Ministry in Focus
Order of Malta

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The Norbertine Fathers contribute their time and talent in many service organizations and valuable ministries in and beyond Southern California. One of these organizations is the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and Malta, better known as the Order of Malta. This is an ancient religious Order founded in Jerusalem in 1050 AD. Its Rule borrows from St. Benedict and the Benedictine tradition. The Order has long focused its apostolic work at helping the sick and the poor.

The Western Association of the Order in the United States was formed over 50 years ago. With more than 700 members, the Knights and Dames live primarily in the states of California, Arizona and Washington.

Abbot Eugene started his involvement with the Order of Malta when three very fine men, Tom Fuentes, Ken Tait, and Bob Bond told him about the about the work of the Order and invited him to join.
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Holy Hour
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During this year of consecrated life, it is appropriate to focus on the practice of prayer and its forms. Many of the saints and spiritual writers have advocated the idea of the "Holy Hour" - an hour's time spent before the Lord in the tabernacle or even the Blessed Sacrament exposed. This time can be spent reading Scripture, saying the Rosary, reading a spiritual book, or focusing one's attention on the Lord in a gentle way, keeping aware of His love and care.

There is a daily exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Holy Hour at the abbey, and if you live in our area, you are warmly encouraged to come and join us. The way it is practiced at St. Michael's includes exposition, the recitation of Compline, a period of silent meditation (during which the sacrament of confession is available in the back of the church) and then Benediction. This is a very fruitful way to spend an hour in the evening and to get to know the Lord and His will in your life better.

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Photo: Accompanied by two servers, Abbot Eugene incenses the Blessed Sacrament at the beginning of Holy Hour.
 
Why do religious rise so early?
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Each morning, all the priests and seminarians of the abbey rise at around 5 o'clock in the morning. Waiting in two lines by a side of the church (called statio in Latin - think of it as "battle stations"), all process in at 5:45 to begin the day's prayers.

Now, you might say, "Yikes! That's really early to get up and start praying! Why would you do that?" A reasonable series of questions, and an accurate observation: it is early. Replies could be made that actually 5:45 is actually very moderate in practice. Historically, Norbertines used to interrupt their sleep each night and have the first office of the day at midnight, and present day Trappists and some Benedictine abbeys start the day at around 3:15.

The ultimate reason for rising so early for communal prayer, even more than the penitential aspect, for the confrere who is not a "morning person", is the sanctification of the day - rendering to God what is His throughout the hours of the day so that all comes under His gentle yoke. Such a practice pulls each member out of himself and purely personal concerns, while the community prays the public prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours, or "Officium" in Latin, interceding for the Church and the world.
 
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