To Jesus Through Mary
United with Our Lady at the foot of the Cross, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles seek above all else, a life of union with God in prayer as guided by the Rule of St. Benedict.
Totally consecrated to the Queen of Apostles, we take Our Lady’s hidden life at Ephesus as an inspiration for our own. We seek to be what she was for the early Church: a loving and prayerful support to the Apostles, the first priests, and daily offer prayer and sacrifice for the sake of her spiritual sons.
We cannot preach the Gospel to the nations nor bring the Lord to our tabernacles, but we can be “Love in the heart of the Church” with firm adherence to her teaching, loyalty to the Holy Father, and deep-seated love of the traditional liturgy.
In the company of Our Lady we contemplate the great High Priest, interceding for the sacred priesthood.
Aside from the maintenance of the community, all other works of our hands are directed toward the glory of the altar in the making of vestments and altar linens.
Customary Benedictine hospitality is an integral part of our life. Particular attentiveness is given to welcoming priests, the apostles of our day. Our hope is that they will find what the Apostles found at Our Lady’s home at Ephesus: encouragement, and a spiritual haven conducive to rest and prayer.
We have been richly blessed by God thus far with vocations, zealous young women imbued with the call to offer their lives to Jesus, through Mary, on behalf of all priests.
About Our Founding
Our community first began under the aegis of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in 1995, in the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania. We were originally called the Oblates of Mary, Queen of Apostles to indicate the offering of ourselves to the Benedictine family and we had consecrated ourselves to Our Lady, and offered ourselves to her service. We began following a monastic horarium as laid out by St. Benedict in his Rule, chanting the traditional Divine Office in Latin as prescribed.
In March 2006, we accepted the invitation of Bishop Robert W. Finn to transfer to his diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri. We were established as a Public Association of the Faithful with the new name, “Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles”. By the grace of God and through the fatherly solicitude of Bishop Finn, we were raised to the status of Religious Institute of Diocesan Right on November 25, 2014. September 9th and 10th of 2018 saw the erection of our priory to an Abbey, the consecration of our Abbey Church, and the consecration of Mother Abbess Cecilia as our first abbess. On April 28th of 2019, seven intrepid sisters left the Abbey to establish our first daughter house, the Monastery of St. Joseph in Ava, Missouri where they have extended our order and mission.
It was at the foot of the cross that the Lord entrusted St. John and Our Lady to each other with the words “Son, behold thy Mother” … “Mother, behold thy Son.” (Jn. 19:26-27) John, the first priest to offer the Sacred Body of the Lord, and representing all priests, was to be spiritually supported by His Mother. Mary was to be materially supported by John, “who took her unto his own.” We know that the Lord left her behind on earth for a reason: to nurture the infant Church by her prayer and example, to be a presence and support for the Apostles amidst their untiring labors.
According to tradition, the Apostles disbanded after the martyrdom of St. James in Jerusalem. St. John went on to found the “seven Churches of Asia” mentioned in the Apocalypse, and made a home in Ephesus where his new Mother might dwell. This is confirmed by the fact that at the time of the Council of Ephesus, churches were named after saints who had lived or died in the locale. Hence there still stands in Ephesus the ruined basilicas of Holy Mary and St. John.
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, a mystic of the 19th Century, received detailed visions of Our Lady’s final years and assumption, which were dictated to the German poet, Clemens von Brentano. The writings were taken in hand many years later by skeptical Lazarist Fathers stationed in Turkey at the close of the nineteenth century. Sister of Charity Marie Mandat de Grancy challenged the men to go look for Our Lady’s house on Bubul Dagh as described by the visionary. This they did, and found the ruins of a monastery of women at the foot of a deteriorating little house, tucked in the secluded mountainside exactly as described by Emmerich. The local Turks had long held that this was indeed Our Lady’s house, where she spent her final earthly days. Bishop Roncalli (later John XXIII) visited the rebuilt home, as did Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI.
This little home is the very inspiration for our own house of prayer, the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus. It is that little house that served as a powerhouse of prayer to the infant Church. Though little is written of it, we do know that St. Paul wrote in the final lines of his first Epistle to the Corinthians that he would “tarry at Ephesus,” which he did for two years. His stay occurred at a decisive moment in the formative years of the Church. When he wrote his Epistle to the Ephesians, he addressed them as the “fellow citizens of the saints of God,” (Eph. 2:19) and that, in all probability, he visited the Mother of God to receive encouragement and strength as he went out again, on fire to spread the Word of God. Most scripture scholars agree that St. Luke, also venerated at Ephesus, must have received the Infancy narratives first-hand from Our Lady. Since the Evangelist was baptized by Paul, after the Apostles had fled Jerusalem, it must be deduced that Luke also sought her out at Ephesus, perhaps en route to his See at Antioch.
Having received our call to emulate Our Lady in her final, hidden years, we offer our lives in prayer and sacrifice for priests. These are the new apostles of the Church who bear her truth to the world. We anticipate the coming of the Lord as Our Lady anticipated her Assumption, singing the psalms as she did, until we are admitted into the life of endless praise that is to come. In the meantime, we extend customary Benedictine hospitality most especially to priests, our spiritual sons, and strive to offer them the spiritual refurbishment so often denied them in their zealous work. We hope to see them return to the vineyard with renewed ardor to win souls. We have left all to be one with Christ, our Spouse, and we repeat what He Himself said of His newly ordained: “And now I am not in the world and these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep them in Thy name which Thou hast given me; that they may be one as we also are.” (Jn. 17:11)
Ora et Labora
What is here the dowry of the Bride? It is her miseries, her weakness, but likewise her heart to love and her lips with which to praise … in the name of Christ and with Him, she offers the adoration and praise of all her children to the Father. This praise is the voice of the Bride, the voice that delights the Bridegroom. It is the canticles sung by the Church in company with Christ, and that is why, when we join in it in faith and confidence, it is so pleasing to Christ Jesus. In God’s sight it surpasses in value all our private prayers.
—Blessed Columba Marmion
The Mass is the center of our spirituality and the mystical focal point of the day.
We are privileged to daily partake of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (1962) in accord with Pope Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum, the liturgy which the Church has jealously guarded for centuries. Bound up inextricably within this ancient liturgy, is a great reverence for the sacredness of the holy priesthood, which is at the heart of our charism. The fitting worship rendered to Almighty God in the Holy Sacrifice spills over into the chanting of the Divine Office.
The Benedictine stands in a particular way as a figure of the Church, the Bride of Christ. She can do so no more fully than when she daily chants the Divine Office, the official prayer of the Church.
And so we gather for the principal “work of God” as St. Benedict calls it, eight times a day. The entire 150 psalms with their hymns are chanted throughout the week as originally prescribed by the Rule.
For this end also, we use the 1962 Monastic Office, with its traditional Gregorian Chant, in Latin, the official language of the Church, and continue the rich legacy of our predecessors.
Since the monastery is the “vestibule of heaven,” we anticipate the life of praise to come through the Divine Office. The verses of the psalms are sung antiphonally, (back and forth from one side of the oratory to the other) to imitate the choirs of angels in heaven, in their incessant praise.
We “sing our lives and live our song,” as Mere Genevieve Gallois wrote, so the Divine Office, in turn, spills over into a spirit of recollected prayer throughout the day, nourished also by silence, solitude and Lectio Divina.
.... And Work
A means of restoring our innocence, manual labor is essential for combating vice and cultivating virtue “so that by the labor of obedience you might return to Him from Whom by the sloth of disobedience you fell.” (Prologue of the Holy Rule)
Appointed hours of work are for the shared responsibilities of domestic chores (cleaning, cooking, gardening, farm work, etc.) carried out in a spirit of silence, so as to foster union with God in prayer.
The labor of our hands—other than the aforesaid work for the upkeep of the Abbey—is devoted to the service of Our Lord in His priest as he carries out his three-fold mission of governing, instructing and sanctifying souls. It is our great privilege to serve Our Lord in this way by making vestments, albs, surplices, and altar linens for the glory of the altar and the sublime Sacrifice of the Mass.
Lectio Divina - Prayerful Reading
And so, he who is the primal Fountain of life, full in himself and filled with himself, gushed forth in the secret places of the heavens about Him, to fill them all with His favors. And having endowed the remotest heights and recesses, He burst upon our earth, saving men and beasts, multiplying His mercies everywhere. When He had first filled up the secret places, His teeming mercies billowed over; they poured upon the earth and drenched it, to multiply its riches. You must imitate the process. First be filled, then control the outpouring. The charity that is benign and prudent does not flow outwards until it abounds within.
One ancient aspect of monastic life, imperative for proper growth in receiving the love and grace of Our Lord, is Lectio Divina: the reflective reading and re-reading of Sacred Scripture in silence, holy leisure and openness to the Word of God.
“Would you enter into the very heart of God? Listen to His words,” St. Gregory has said. Lectio Divina literally means a divine lesson, or divine listening, and is broken down sequentially into:
- meditation (ruminating on what has been read),
- prayer (interior conversation), and finally
- spiritual communion with God.
Lectio Divina is an essential part of the monastic day, as it is the nourishment of prayer.
Better still, as we are the vessels in Our Lady’s hands, waiting to receive the Mercy and Grace flowing from Christ’s wounded side and to be poured out for priests, Lectio is prime “filling time.”
“Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it,” the Bridegroom tells us through Scripture (Psalm 80:11).
The prayer which sanctifies the rest of our day is anchored in and flows from these periods of prayer and prayerful study. Other conferences and classes in spirituality, philosophy, and theology provide a solid foundation for the mind and heart.
“I will speak with My bride… And when I speak to My bride, you shall know that I cannot speak of anything but love.” (Hugh of St. Victor)
Fasting knows no debtor, nor is it aware of the burden of debt. The table of men who fast is not savored with borrowed money. In fact, fasting adds pleasure to the festal meals. After hunger, the dishes which are repulsive because of their frequency and grow disgusting in their daily repetition, become more tasty. Fasting is a condiment to food. The sharper the appetite, the more agreeable the food. – St. Ambrose
In the Gospel of Mark (9:28) when the Apostles asked Our Lord why they were not able to cast out the devil in the possessed man, He answered, “This kind can not be cast out but by prayer and fasting”.
The Benedictines of Mary attempt to observe the monastic fast as described in the Holy Rule of St. Benedict, to assist the priest in casting out the Evil One from society. Therefore, only one full meal is taken during Lent Proper and Monastic Lent (September to Lent) but “collations” (small meals) are available according to the present ecclesiastical rules of fasting. We have found fasting, when undertaken with prudence, is a real utility toward prayerful recollection, and a joyful expression of our dependence upon God.
We know that God receives this gift and takes the fruit to feed the souls of His priests. By experience, we can also affirm St. Ambrose’s notion that fasting intensifies each feast! As our lives “should be a continuous Lent, though few have the strength for it,” as the Rule says. As Lent prepares us for Easter, so the daily fast intensifies the joy of Sundays and feastdays. Thus we enjoy the strange paradox of penance in this life and yet a joyful anticipation of the Eternal banquet that is to come!
The Lord also did not think that the teaching of His word alone was enough, but He wanted to give an example of humility, when, girded with a towel He washed the feet of His disciples. Whose feet do you wash? Whom do you care for? To whom do you make yourself inferior and last of all since you live alone?
—St. Basil the Great
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity” is chanted every Tuesday at Vespers, but it is chanted more often in the hearts of the Benedictines of Mary. Our life is intensely community oriented.
Since our primary obligation is to the perfection of charity, we have no better subject to practice on than the Sister sitting next to us. Granted, in any collection of fallen mortals, there is bound to be friction arising from our varied temperaments, upbringing and education. But as star differeth from star in glory and virtue from virtue, so we understand that diamonds cannot be cut except by other diamonds.
We seek the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ through the strengthening of the bonds of family love. Thus compassion and encouragement are continuously given and received in living out the charity that “seeketh not its own.”
Silence and Solitude
Our Lady remained, silent, in adoration of her Son… and from the sanctuary of her Immaculate Heart a hymn of praise and thanksgiving rose up unceasingly to God. – Blessed Columba Marmion
The Benedictine of Mary, Queen of Apostles, is “silent by vocation, articulate by mission.” (Dom Hubert Van Zeller) To cultivate an atmosphere for prayer, we keep silent as we work. This silence is broken only to ask questions or give instructions concerning work. Before one of us even asks a question, she first asks a blessing from her senior. The question, answer and or instruction is given briefly and quietly, then both return to silence.
To curtail talking, we make use of ancient Cistercian sign language. If a simple sign can be used, recollection is better preserved. After Compline and until Prime the next day, the “Grand Silence” is maintained. All speech, except in cases of grave necessity, is forbidden at this time.
The Grand Silence is reserved especially for communication of the heart with God alone. The more one cultivates silence of heart, the more she is able “to be still and see that He is God.” Time for solitude and silent prayer is allotted within the times for Lectio Divina. This time is the fulcrum for prayerful recollection during the Office and Manual Labor.
In separation from the world, the Benedictines observe “constitutional enclosure,” to facilitate our particular charism of availability to priests and necessary errands may be done while keeping an integrated community life. We do not make “home visits,” since the Abbey is our home. Rather, our families may come visit us two times a year, and may visit by phone when one of the customary visits to the Abbey is not possible.
The Sisters are permitted to receive mail, and write three letters each month outside of the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent.