Father Philip Edwards, OSB was born in 1929 in Oakland, California.  As a convert to Catholicism at the age of 21, Father Philip developed a deep love and appreciation for scripture.  This fit perfectly with the Benedictine practice of lectio divina, a prayerful reading and mediation of scripture.

Father Philip said that he was also attracted to the Benedictine life of prayer and work, ora et labora.

“I was poor growing up, so I was struck by the saying from the Rule of St. Benedict, ‘a monk is a true monk when he lives by the work of his hands’ (Rule 48),” Father Philip said.

“I thought if this became my motto for life, there would be very little chance of me becoming a poor beggar.”

After professing vows in the Benedictine order in 1962, he was sent to study in Rome where he received a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from Sant’Anselmo.

During his stay in Rome, he learned Italian, French; Father Philip also speaks Spanish.  His French came in handy when he was asked more than once to assist in one of our sister monasteries in Rwanda, Africa.

A Life in Prayer

Today, Father Philip, who lives at St. Andrews Abbey in Valyermo, California, spends his time in prayer, welcoming guests and serving the poor.

“The primary work of every monk is prayer,” Father Philip said.

“When I am not praying with the monastic community at the designated hours, I am working in the Guest/Retreat House office, welcoming our guests.  St. Benedict says in his Rule that we are to ‘receive all guests as Christ’ (Rule, chapter 53).”

“I have also been delegated by the Abbot to serve as a liaison for the poor, since often times we have individuals and families who come to the Abbey seeking the basic needs of life:  food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare.  We help as much and as often as we can.”

Additionally, on any given day, Father Philip can be found either in the guesthouse where he serves as the Abbey guest master welcoming the pilgrims and retreatants to the Abbey, or up to his knees in dirt in one of the many Abbey gardens and flower beds, giving TLC to the flowers and plants.

Joys and Challenges

Father Philip said that his greatest challenge in religious life is obedience.

“I believe this is the most difficult of all the vows because God made each of us uniquely different with different desires, preferences, opinions, etc.,” he said.

“The natural tendency in life is to do what ‘I’ want to do.  But the challenge of the follower of Christ is to do what God himself wants.  As consecrated men, we believe the will of God is made known through the superiors of the community whom God has placed over us.”

His greatest joy happens every Sunday morning, when he sings the psalms at Morning Prayer, especially Psalm 118.

“This psalm encapsulates the Easter proclamation:  despair and death are overcome, joy and life endure,” he said. “’This day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!’”

“This reminds me of why I wanted to be a monk:  so that when people see me, they don’t see me, but rather they see the Risen Christ.”

Each week, Father Philip said, this psalm reminds him of why God called him to this vocation, and why he said “yes.”