Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Autumn Moon

This evening's moon rises above the Abbey hillside. We are reminded that the moon is symbol of the Virgin Mary, since it receives its light from the sun, just as she receives her light from Jesus the Sun of Justice, the Dayspring from on high who dawns upon us.

Photograph by Kathleen Trainor.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

O Jesus

Jesu, rex admirabilis
et triumphator nobilis,
dulcedo ineffabilis,
totus desiderabilis.

Mane nobiscum, Domine,
et nos illustra lumine,
pulsa mentis caligine,
mundum reple ducedine.

O Jesus, wondrous king
And noble conqueror,
Inexpressible sweetness,
Wholly to be desired,

Stay with us, O  Lord,
And enlighten us with your light,
Scatter the darkness of our minds,
Fill the world with sweetness.

At this morning's Eucharist the Abbey schola sang this hymn by Palestrina with stanzas once thought to have been composed by Saint Bernard. We were moved by the text, its ardor and directness. Jesus is our hope, wholly to be desired.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Saint Mechtilde

Today we remember Saint Mechtilde of Hackeborn, a 13th century Cistercian nun from the convent of Helfta. Even in her lifetime Mechtilde was renowned for her humility, fervor and gentleness. Her prayer was marked by the great familiarity and intensity with which she lived her relationship with Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

It was said of Mechtilde that, "the words of the Gospel were a marvelous nourishment for her and in her heart stirred feelings of such sweetness that, because of her enthusiasm, she was often unable to finish reading it.” In one of her visions, Jesus opened the wound in his heart and said to her, "Consider the immensity of my love: if you want to know it well, nowhere will you find it more clearly expressed than in the Gospel. No one has ever heard expressed stronger or more tender sentiments than these, ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.’ 

In another vision Jesus showed Mechtilde his heart and said that it was like a kitchen where those he loved could go whenever they wanted nourishment. With Mechtilde we hasten to the wounded heart of Christ for all that we need and long for.

Insights from an address of Pope Benedict XVI and from Scholars and Mystics by Sister Mary Jeremy, OP.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Too Much

Amidst all the horror and fear and uncertainty of recent days, with terrorist attacks in Paris and so many grieving here and abroad over too much pain and violence over and over, we pray. We go to our inner room, the inner room of our heart, and we pray. Too much sadness, far too many tragedies. Too much death and suffering- countless innocent people, martyred Christians, flocks of refugees, too many parents cradling wounded children, far too many soldiers killed. Our hearts are stretched, yanked open. So much to pray for; too much sadness. We feel helpless. Still we hope, we believe though we cannot see, that our praying is efficacious. The wounded and risen Lord Jesus is our only Hope. He hears our prayer. That is enough.

And so each day, we bring each other, we bring the world in its suffering and despondency and seeming hopelessness to Christ, longing for the intrusion of his grace. Awkward, impeded, our tongues thick, not knowing how to speak our need and longing, and perhaps deafened by too much tragedy. Still we come back to church in hope; we close our eyes, open our hearts and pour them out to him. Christ Jesus assures us that he hears, he understands; he is with us, he himself praying in us, articulating our desire in words beyond words. This is what our prayer is best of all: our desire groaned by Jesus for us, within us. It is this very groaning of Christ that will bring healing to our world.

 Crucifix of Fra Innocenzo da Palermo, 1637, Assisi, Convento di San Damiano. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Holy Forebears

Remain in me as I do in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.

Today we monks celebrate the Feast of All the Saints of the Benedictine Order, all our holy forebears who lived according to the Rule of Saint Benedict. And we ponder these words from today's Gospel according to Saint John, well aware that all we have and all we are comes from Jesus, who has called us here to the monastery to remain with him. We thank him for calling us, we praise him for those who have gone before us and show us that fidelity and perseverance and true holiness are possible.
We share archival photos from Saint Joseph's Abbey  (at top) and Our Lady of the Valley (below.)


Tuesday, November 10, 2015


You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”
   John 15:12-17    
What might it be like to know myself liked by God, truly appreciated, loved with great tenderness, understanding, compassion? Could God be at least as good as my best friend, a friend who knows my goodness as well as my sometime cantankerousness and angularity and still just loves being with me?  What might it be like to imagine a God like that?

Photograph by Brother Jonah.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Becoming Compassion

Jesus really understands the poor widow’s gift and her predicament. Jesus notices the widow’s offering perhaps because it is his story too. Hounded, harassed and eventually condemned by the local religious authorities, he too will freely choose to give over all he has to live on- his very life blood and his precious body- because love is more important. Love and giving from the heart, real generosity, always have the quiet power to overthrow oppression. Compassionate mercy is enfleshed in Christ Jesus. It is he alone who really truly understands, understands each of us, our context, our stories. We are invited to have this compassionate mind in us, which was also in Christ Jesus. And so a huge part of our life together in the monastery is coming to understand each other, to learn the stories that we hold within us, the stories that we are. Then perhaps we can learn compassion.

Some years ago we heard the story of a parish conducted by a certain religious order. In the community there was one priest who was the bane of the brethren, judged by all as lazy and inefficient, always disheveled; clearly an embarrassment to everyone. He slept in late and could only manage to preside each day at the noon Mass, then have lunch and go back to his room. They never saw much of him. And soon they never saw him at all. One day he didn’t show up for his Mass; and soon after the superior found him dead in his cluttered, stuffy room. After he died the doctor told the superior of the rare incapacitating disease this priest had endured for years; the bone-numbing fatigue that was part of it. The rector recounted the priest’s daily routine- the one Mass, the drowsy lunch, the laziness. “Oh no, not laziness, Father,” the doctor assured him. “The little he was able to do was truly heroic.”

Maybe we come to understand. So much has happened. So many stories, stories that have formed and sometimes deformed and burden us still; so many triumphs and sorrows that have marked us. Only Jesus sees and really understands the little we have to live on and what we live with. He always notices. And slowly but surely we are invited to begin doing likewise. Even now, the little things we do no matter how unremarkable give Jesus pleasure. And His promise to us, as to Elijah’s widow in today's first reading, is that when we are generous, we will have more than enough to get by. We can afford it. Our task is to keep noticing with the compassionate, merciful eyes of Christ and so to get on our way to becoming compassion for one another. 
Photographs by Brother Brian.