It seemed truly a “leap of faith” when, in February 2012, the Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration moved their small community from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to the historic Boyne Valley in County Meath, Ireland (Cenacleosb.org).
Since that time, their monastic family has steadily grown — the fruit of their trust in Divine Providence. And their current provisional oratory is filled to capacity.
The community resides in the former Silverstream House, a stately 19th-century home situated amid pasture land and forest in the eastern reaches of County Meath. Two connecting high-ceilinged rooms have served as a temporary chapel since the monks celebrated their first Mass there on April 2, 2012. Renovations to other areas of the house have gradually been completed: monastic cells, a Scriptorium, a Chapter Room and a spacious common room. Last year, a small redundant church, built in 1952 by the Brothers of St. John of God, former occupants of the property, was transformed into the monastery’s novitiate wing and placed under the protection of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
Architectural designs for Silverstream Priory’s new church were completed in 2017. Bishop Michael Smith came from Meath’s cathedral city of Mullingar to preside at the traditional “turning of the sod” in February 2018. The projected monastic church will accommodate a choir of 33 and will include transepts to the right and left of the sanctuary for visitors and retreatants attending the Divine Office and Holy Mass. The monks envisage several additional phases of expansion: a cloister connecting the original house with the new church, a bell tower, a retreat house for clergy, and a new kitchen and refectory.
Father Hildebrand, a native of St. Louis, explained Silverstream’s astonishing growth to the Register: “Since entering Silverstream about three years ago, I have marveled to see the growth of the community. In the summer of 2016, there were four professed monks and one novice; at the present time, the community numbers nine professed monks and three novices, with four postulants making preparations to enter the novitiate. This has presented unforeseen but welcome challenges: As every choir stall in the oratory is now occupied, we are forced to be creative in finding additional seating until the monastic church can be constructed. The construction of more cells may soon be just as urgent, as the novitiate building inaugurated last fall is already almost full.”
A Flourishing Monastic Family
The reason for the growth is clear to the monks — and to Father Hildebrand. “I am often asked why the monastery has grown so rapidly and why it is attracting men from so far away. It seems to me that what draws men here is Our Lord himself in the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. “All those who come here are seeking an intimate friendship with Our Lord, who gives himself to us in the sacrament of his love, and they find in the Rule of St. Benedict a simple path to union with the hidden, silent, obedient Christ, whom we adore. This life of adoration finds its fullest expression in the Holy Mass and the Divine Office, celebrated in the traditional forms of the Latin Rite, forms which have lost none of their ancient power to inspire and nurture vocations.”
Father Hildebrand, charged with responding to vocational queries and with the care and instruction of novices, receives inquiries from men around the world eager to experience life according to the sixth-century Rule of St. Benedict. Requests to visit the community flow in steadily from Ireland, America, continental Europe and elsewhere on the globe.
Silverstream’s youngest novice, Brother Isaias, who is looking forward to his 20th birthday in November, was drawn to this community because of its charism. “At Silverstream we try only to give our hearts to that One Thing Necessary, which is the only thing that can satisfy them. Of course, this is true for any religious community faithfully living the Christian life, but it was in Silverstream that God showed me where I was to find in particular the Pearl of Great Price.”
Novice Brother Gregory enjoys life committed to the Benedictine Rule, as well: “The prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict is one of the most profound ascetical texts that the Church possesses. In fact, the whole Rule gives us many things; but what it gives us first is St. Benedict himself. This is fortunate, because each one of us has to be the child of somebody: It’s how we share in the capital grace of Christ.”
While it might seem strange — though not unprecedented (and canonically permissible) — that a priest should take on the title of “brother,” Brother Gregory told the Register that the new direction his ministry has taken has only deepened his love for holy orders. “I had three fine years as a parish priest before entering the novitiate,” Brother Gregory said. “Yet, because of St. Benedict, my reverence for the priesthood and the Holy Mass has only increased. I often ask myself how this could be. But the answer is simple. St. Benedict breathed his last in a Eucharistic death, at prayer in the oratory. So, it seems to me, the Benedictine’s vocation is nothing less than to continue St. Benedict’s prayer where he left off.”
Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament in a spirit of reparation is what distinguishes the Benedictines of Silverstream from other monks. Brother Isaias shared its importance: “In adoration in a spirit of reparation we are repaired by the Divine Reparator, Christ. Yes, the mystery of the Mystical Body enables our own presence and loving attention to Christ to repair a world broken by sin.”
Father Hildebrand concurs: “One of the things which most drew me to our monastery was the call to intercede and make reparation for priests. As a priest myself, I know that I am the first one in need of the grace that flows from the tabernacle. At the same time, in a mysterious way, God wishes to make use of our life here to help priests throughout the Church. Amid the obvious challenges that the Church and her priests face today, it is an awesome and humbling thing to be entrusted with this mission of intercession.”
Silverstream also has a growing international group of Benedictine Oblates. As the monks offer themselves to God in their prayer and work in the cloister, so do Oblates offer themselves to God in the context of their family and professional life. The Oblates of Silverstream Priory offer a portion of the Divine Office, as circumstances permit them, and promise “to foster with all diligence” the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Robert Nugent of Ballina, County Mayo in the west of Ireland, is one of several native Irish, Polish, German and American Catholics drawn to live as Benedictine Oblates of Silverstream. “Without a doubt,” said Nugent, “Silverstream Priory has had a major impact on my life, especially in how I’ve learned to appreciate Our Lord present in the Eucharist. They [the monks] have opened me to age-old Benedictine spirituality, which has helped me have a better living relationship with Our Lord.”
“I’ve been blessed to see this small community grow and thrive. Their devotion to the sacred liturgy, to adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, to Our Lady as Abbess and to the Holy Rule is inspirational. I’ve also been blessed to become an Oblate and to see all my children receive their first Holy Communion at Silverstream. The joy of the monks is contagious, and when I visit, I am treated like a close family member by all the fathers and brothers. During personal difficulties, knowing that my fathers and brothers are praying for me has sustained me and helped me incalculably,” Cathal Steele (Oblate Brother Luke) told the Register.
Silverstream Priory is becoming known as a place where priests laboring in the vineyard of the Lord find refreshment in the radiance of Our Lord’s Eucharistic Face. Typically, priests in retreat at Silverstream immerse themselves in the monastic silence; they assist at the Hours of the Divine Office, the Conventual Mass and adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Bishop Tom Deenihan of the Diocese of Meath, reflecting on Silverstream’s mission of hospitality to priests, provided this statement to the Register: “Silverstream Priory is a place where many in priesthood seek refuge and find God again in the monastic rhythm and in Eucharistic adoration. It deserves support. As the local ordinary, I support the fundraising efforts wholeheartedly; it is wonderful to see the hand of God working in the growth of the monastery and in the quality of the men that he calls there.”
J.B. Kelly writes from