Friday, January 23, 2015

Saint Marianne Cope

In 1883 Sister Marianne Cope left New York with six sisters to minister to leprosy patients in Hawaii. She planned to remain only long enough to get them settled. But the patients’ great needs led her to remain in Hawaii for four decades; she would die there in 1918. Courageous, energetic and never daunted by any challenge, she is reported to have once said, “I am not afraid of any disease.”

In one of his treatises our own Cistercian father William of St. Thierry calls the monastery a menagerie, a zoo where wild beasts are sent to be tamed, and a great infirmary, where we monks have come to be healed. As we remember the holiness of Saint Marianne and her dedication to the lepers of Hawaii, perhaps we could also call the monastery a leper colony. We monks have come here because we realize we are covered with the disease of our sinfulness and our tendencies toward sin. We had to come away, for we are in desperate need of the healing grace and tender mercy that only Christ Jesus can give.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Brother Paul

We mourn the loss of our Brother Paul Forster, who passed away quietly in the Abbey infirmary on Monday afternoon. The community had gathered in his room the evening before to pray the prayers for the dying.

Brother Paul was born  in Union City, NJ in 1922. He was a veteran of  World War II, serving in Europe as a teletypewriter mechanic. In 1950 he entered the Abbey and through the years continually contributed his mechanical skills. He helped in establishing our monastic foundations in Snowmass, Colorado and Azul, Argentina. And here at Spencer he was the principal electrician and builder, overseeing the construction and maintenance of the Abbey's main wood-chip burning heating system. He also loved to putter in his beautiful garden.

God our Father, the death of our Brother Paul recalls our human condition and the brevity of our lives here on earth. But for those who believe in your love, death is not the end nor can it destroy the bonds of love you create in our lives. We bless and thank you for the life of Brother Paul, for the love and joy he brought. Fill us with the light of Jesus’ resurrection in this time of sorrow, as we pray for Brother Paul and those who loved him. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


At conclusion of this morning’s Mass, we prayed that we might have undivided hearts. Later on one monk mentioned that he senses that he cannot “un-divide” his heart on his own. He sees clearly his lack of wholeness and integrity, the reality of his divided heart. And he had the insight that he could only beg the Lord to put his heart right, beg Jesus to heal and put his heart back together the right way. Somehow, he realized it’s all about availability, the continuing desire to follow the Lord with greater purity of heart. Will we accept Jesus’ invitation, beg him for help and accept his healing intervention?

Indeed, we may sense the division in our hearts. We do want Jesus, we want to follow him completely, be his monks. And perhaps some mornings we also want to go backwards, back into a cozy blindness that we imagine might be a comfortable compromise. There are dreams and unfinished agendas that haunt us. But we know it’s too late for that. Too late. We have seen the Lord, experienced his call, felt his healing, his touch. We cannot deny it, though embarrassing as it might be to admit, we might want to sometimes. But Jesus has intruded, interrupted, transformed our lives. And he longs for us to allow him to come closer and closer.

Photograph of the monks in chapter taken by Brother Brian.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Come and You Will See

This morning with characteristic humility, John the Baptist sends two of his own disciples over to Jesus. Jesus notices them following and turns to them. And this glance in their direction will change everything, this turning of the blessed face of Jesus’ toward those who long to know him better. God in Christ allows them to see his face, not just his back as when he passed by Moses. They see God's face; they hear his question, “What are you looking for?” This most haunting question: What do you want? What is your deepest desire? What are you looking for? And it is clear that the “what” is soon to become a “who.” Who are you looking for? Who is at the heart of all your desiring? Jesus senses their curiosity, the first inklings of their desire. And he turns around and invites them to his house for the evening, for food and first conversations; they will come to know him. A relationship has begun. Never ever indifferent to our least move in his direction, Jesus continually looks over his shoulder at us and invites us, “Come and you will see.” Come closer and see for yourselves whom you desire; experience for yourself who I am, who I want to be for you.

Jesus’ question this morning is like that small persistent voice that keeps waking up little Samuel as he sleeps near the Ark of the Lord. Like the psalmist this morning, like little Samuel, like the disciples we may respond, “Here am I Lord. Speak. I am listening.” We want to follow. We become disciples. We put everything else aside. We have lost ourselves, but we find our truest selves. Then like Bernard of Fontaines, like Ignatius Loyola and Francis in Assisi we lay down all the trappings and encumbrances of our former ways of proceeding- the sword, the shield, the lovely clothes, the blind ambition, the other sweet relationships. Jesus is worth my all. Somehow everything else has turned stale and unsatisfying in the long term. We sense it. We are ready, and yet we are amazed. The admission of the deepest desire realigns our hearts. A new meaning draws us to a Person, who is worth all our desiring, one who cannot, who will not stop calling after us. 

Excerpts from this morning's homily. Photograph's from the recent clothing last July of Brothers Charbel and Micah taken by Brother Brian.

Friday, January 16, 2015

January Light

                       a winter light
                       opens air to iris blue,
                       glint of frost 
                       through the smoke....

Photographs by Brother Casimir. Lines from a poem by Denise Levertov.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Midwinter Sunrise

Photograph of the Abbey church field by Brother Casimir.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Available for the Gift

We were amazed by these words from this morning’s prayer after communion:

O God, who touch us through our partaking of your Sacrament,
work, we pray, the effects of its power in our hearts,
that we may be made fit to receive your gift
through this very gift itself.

What do we have that we have not received? Truly the gift of the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion makes us more available to the unfathomable Gift of Himself that He longs to bestow upon us unceasingly. If only we recognized the Gift more clearly.

Photo by Charles O'Connor.