The gifts have been opened, the Christmas carols have been sung, and we just celebrated the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.. This is a time for new beginnings, new experiences, and new opportunities. We begin a new year, with new beginnings. new opportunities, new experiences, there are many options to explore and even perhaps start a new beginning, a new path, a new journey. There are many paths to choose.
On Sunday, January 6, we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Scriptures tell the story of kings visiting Mary, Joseph and the Infant Jesus. The Collect for the Mass of the Epiphany says, says “that we who know you already by faith, may be brought to behold the beauty of your sublime glory.”
Many of us already know Jesus by our faith, but like the wise men, we might be searching for something more, to come to know Jesus on an even deeper level.
The magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but we too have gifts to bring, our abilities to write, to pray, to engage with others, our passion to serve the unhoused, the poor, the young and the elderly too.
The magi followed a star, but our star might be more hidden, perhaps a sense of curiosity of who the Norbertines are, and what they do. We may wonder if they are happy, and could we too find this happiness in today’s modern world? Also, the magi did not travel alone, and the Norbertines do not live alone either, but are a community of Catholic priests and brothers, living a common life through contemplation on God’s Word, common prayer and active service to the local Catholic community.
Even more amazing, Daylesford Abbey has been described as “an oasis of peace.”
The cadence of their life is rooted in their common prayer and provides an environment of reconciliation and contemplation. It is from the Abbey that they go forth to serve the local church and the wider community. An oasis of peace, often hard to imagine as we hear and watch the daily news of violence and shootings, the war in Ukraine, even gang violence in many cities.
They serve in a variety of ways, through preaching, teaching, parish work, social services, retreat ministry and more.
The Responsorial psalm for the feast of the Epiphany says that “Justice shall flower in his days,” and that the poor will be rescued when they cry out, and the afflicted when there is no one to help them.
The Psalm ends by saying “the lives of the poor he shall save.” And the Norbertine priests take these words to heart, not only on the feast of the Epiphany but in their daily lives.
Some work in the Bethesda Project, a major ministry to the homeless of Philadelphia. This project was founded in 1979 by Norbertine Domenic Rossi, now the abbot at Daylesford, and the Abbey prayer group that he was leading at the time. It has grown from one residence for women to 14 facilities ranging from emergency shelters to permanent supportive residences. This ministry serves over 2000 different individuals per year.
Others work in two parishes in the archdiocese of Philadelphia, and some work in school ministry. Still others work to collect non-perishable food each Sunday at Mass that is then delivered to St. Gabriel’s Food Cupboard. And they support Mission Santa Maria as it ministers to the migrant community in Chester County, both with monthly deliveries of non-perishable food as well as a special collection throughout Advent.
Gifts different that gold, frankincense and myrrh, but gifts and services that make a difference in the lives of so many others.
The journey to become a Norbertine takes time, just as the journey of the magi did. The journey begins with the Affiliate program, and then if an individual is ready, the community can then invite then to begin the Novitiate, The Novitiate is a period in which the Novice begins the process of assimilating a basic foundation and understanding of religious life and specifically Norbertine life. Other gradual steps are the profession of temporary vows, followed by solemn profession and then ordination. The formation process is gradual, giving the candidate time to explore if this life is right for them.
The Prayer After Communion for the Feast of the Epiphany has powerful closing words. “Go before us with heavenly light, O Lord, always and everywhere, that we may perceive with clear sight and revere with true affection, the mystery in which you have willed us to participate.”
Is God calling you to participate in this great mystery, this wondrous reality of peace, prayer, and service? The next step might not be following a star, but a phone call or email to the vocation director.
The magi took many steps in their journey to Bethlehem.
You too can begin taking steps by making time for prayer, going to Mass, and receiving the sacraments, seeking out a spiritual director, visiting Daylesford Abbey and most importantly, taking a step. “Today, we are inundated with options and choices that we suffer from analysis paralysis. People, especially men, feel like they need to make the right choice the first time. But this often leads to making no choice or just staying status quo. Take a step to formally consider a vocation. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
If you are interested in learning about the Norbertines at Daylesford Abbey, contact Abbot Domenic A. Rossi for further information at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 610-647-2530.
May your journey begin!