Community Meals
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Table Reading

At St. Michael's Abbey, it doesn't take long to realize that silence is an important aspect of our daily life. Many are puzzled, however, when they learn that we even observe a spirit of silence during our mealtimes. For one, breakfast is taken completely in silence. Having just come from Holy Mass, the confreres observe this quiet as a way of fostering continued recollection and prayer. You won't hear conversing confreres at lunchtime either; instead, a seminarian reads aloud for the duration of the meal. "Table reading," as we call it, is meant to encourage and enlighten the confreres. It often consists of the Sacred Scriptures, the lives of the saints, and other religious topics. At dinnertime, while the confreres can converse for most of the meal, we begin with a short reading from the Roman Martyrology: short biographies of the saints for the next day. This is followed by the Norbertine constitutions. At the end of the meal, we conclude with a final reading, usually about the life of St. Norbert or from the Office of Readings.
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Photo: Frater Urban takes his turn reading aloud to the community during lunch.
 
"Communio"
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Communio
(a Latin word meaning communion) is said to be the charism of the Norbertine Order. The Rule of St. Augustine, which Norbertines follow, tells us, "the first purpose for which you have come together is to live in unity in the house, and to be of one mind and heart in God." Prayer is the most perfect expression of this unity - which is manifested concretely in the several hours of each day devoted to the sung recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours. Each man comes to his place in the choir to sing these prayers throughout the day and night. But the notion of "Communio" is not exhausted by the communal prayers at the abbey. It extends to the common life we live. Meals are taken in common, the priests and seminarians come together weekly for recreation after dinner, where conversation is lively and friendships grow. Communio is manifested also in many of the shared activities confreres do, not only in the area of ministry and apostolate, but in the arts, landscape work in the gardens, music and literature. It even extends to play, as the seminarians have sports recreation on Saturdays, and some of the more intrepid (and younger) priests join them in games that run the gamut from soccer to basketball. So, extending from the most sublime height of our prayer life, down though every detail of the daily schedule, the communion between brethren is a true bond that unites us as brothers in Christ.
 
Community Mass
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"Your mercies are renewed each morning, for great is Your faithfulness." Thus the prophet Jeremiah sings in his beautiful Lamentations. At St Michael's Abbey these mercies are renewed each morning at what is called our Conventual or Community Mass. Although there can be many Masses celebrated for various occasions, this Mass, called from the first days of our Norbertine order the Missa Summa, the "supreme" Mass, must be celebrated with the participation of all the confreres at the abbey each day of the year. The celebrant of this Mass must offer it according to our Constitutions for the intentions of all the living and deceased confreres and benefactors of our canonry. There is nothing we do for ourselves or our friends that is more powerful than this, for the Mass fulfills our whole duty as creatures by our adoration and thanksgiving (that is what "Eucharist" means), and gains us graces and pardon by our offering of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Each day is a new day, with new gratitude, new hopes, and new forgiveness, so each day has its Mass for all of us together. This Mass is at 7:00am on weekdays, and 11:00am on Sundays. Everyone is most welcome, but present or not, you are always represented here at our altar as the celebrant lifts up the Lamb of God. Join us each day in body or in spirit!

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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.
 
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