Thursday, July 31, 2014

Saint Ignatius Loyola

We are told that Saint Ignatius Loyola reminded spiritual directors that the "Lord wants to deal directly with his creature," meaning that the director should never impede but enhance the Lord's access to a person's heart.  Ignatius was so certain of the Lord's deep love for each person, that at the conclusion of his Spiritual Exercises he invites the retreatant to ponder: quanto el Señor desea dárseme (how much the Lord wants to give himself to me.)
Given this endless loving desire of our God and Lord, our only work minute by minute all day long is to allow the Lord easy access to our hearts. He only asks us to crack the door open. If we give him even just a little opening, he will enter and love and transform our hearts, our very selves.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Loved Sinners

One of the monks told us that he read recently about a man named Brendan Marrocco. He’s a 26-year-old veteran who lost his arms and legs in 2009 in Iraq when a roadside bomb struck the vehicle he was riding. First he was given two new prosthetic limbs. That surely was hard enough, but he got them working. Then in December 2012 he was given two new arms- not prostheses, but donated, real arms- that were transplanted onto his shoulders. Unbelievable. “I hated having no arms,” he said. “It takes so much away from you. You talk with your hands; you do everything with your hands. When I didn’t have them, I was kind of lost.” He said he could now focus on what’s ahead. Imagine his courage. After such a risky double-transplant surgery, he now faces years of grueling rehabilitation to gain full use of his two donated arms.

This monk told us, “It was so humbling, even humiliating to read about this brave young man. But I guess for us as monks, that’s not such a bad place to be. I thought of all the petty things that sometimes concern and annoy me in the monastery. God forgive me. I wanted to say, ‘Depart from me Lord, I am a sinful man.’ Well, the hardest part is that he won’t go away, even with my stubbornness and stupidity. Jesus is not going anywhere.”

When, despite our foolishness, our sinfulness, all our resistances, we dare to say yes to the Lord, we are blessed indeed. For then we come to inhabit a place where all things are possible, a place where we can even rejoice in our nothingness as Our Lady did. As always it is a matter of letting ourselves be loved and daring to believe, to trust in Another’s love and desire. Perhaps we could call it- holy allowing. Those who are in love have always known that. They know enough to trust in the foolishness of another’s fondness and partiality. How good it is to put everything else aside each morning and go to him, up to the altar of God to receive this Best Gift of his Body and Blood, which each day reminds us who we are- deeply loved sinners, from whom Jesus our Lord will never ever depart.

A rendition of the sanctuary of the Abbey church in an etching by Margaret Walters, (1924 - 1971). 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cistercian Feastday

Since we as Cistercians celebrate today Mary, Martha and Lazarus- Hosts of the Lord, our Gospel took us to Bethany. After Lazarus has been raised by Jesus there is a dinner in the house of his dear friends and Mary washes Jesus’ feet. This often reminds us of another scene in John’s Gospel- Jesus washing the feet of his disciples on the night before his crucifixion. We know that foot washing was something a Gentile slave could be required to do, but never a Jewish slave. Foot-washing was typically something wives did for their husbands, children for their parents, and disciples for their teachers. There is undoubtedly a level of intimacy is involved in these last scenarios. And in Jesus' case, there is an obvious reversal of roles.* Jesus calls his disciples his friends. And by washing their feet he overcomes in this act of loving intimacy the inequality that exists between them. And so he establishes an intimacy with them that signals their access to everything he had received from his Father, even the glory that is his as Beloved Son.* 

We like to imagine that Jesus was inspired to wash their feet because he had been so touched by what was done for him at Bethany six days before Passover, when Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil and anointed his feet most tenderly and dried them with her hair. Was this something that inspired his own most loving action on this night before he died? Perhaps. In any event Peter cannot bear the thought of his teacher doing this. We can imagine that probably it was something his wife had done for him many times. And doubtless he like the others is embarrassed by the intimacy of it, the touch, the loving condescension, and the unaffected tenderness, the unmanageability of the love that is so available. It’s disorienting. We see now it is a parable, a parallel to what he would do for us on the cross the next afternoon.

*See and Sandra Schneiders Written That You May Believe,.

Monday, July 28, 2014


All week long at work, we monks try to be efficient at work, whatever it is- cleaning, cooking, making jam and ale, more chasubles in fewer minutes, whatever. But very soon we realize that the efficiency and discipline required for making great jelly, a great ale or the perfect vestment, all of that is not going to be much help when we go to pray. We’ll need a very different set of tools for that. Perhaps we could call them tools for inefficiency. For at prayer we have to be satisfied to be helpless and small, attentive and totally dependent on Christ’s kind favor; simply trusting his loving-kindness; ready to depend and listen, to trust our emptiness; eager to surrender. Make no mistake; this is work too, a very different kind of work- the discipline of relaxing into our powerlessness. We rejoice for Jesus comes to meet us there.

The rose window at  the west end of the Abbey church.

Friday, July 25, 2014


We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 
2 Cor. 4

Paul's words from today's first reading tell us what it is like to live always in hope. Simply falling backwards into Christ’s compassionate embrace in our desperation is always disconcerting but an exquisite refuge and relief. This is because, as Paul tells us elsewhere, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Christ Jesus will never forsake us. And our dyings, daily defeats, disappointments and near despair are endless opportunities to trust and rely on Him, "so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." Each of us then becomes a finely detailed icon of the crucified and risen Jesus. Surrendering in hope to the contradictions that our lives present day by day, moment by moment, we can say with Paul, "I live now not I, but Christ lives in me."

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


We love Mary Magdalen because of the way in which the boldness of her love for Jesus made her stare death down beyond all human logic or hope.  For her there is no question that the Messiah of Israel, sent to redeem all humankind, and the Beloved of her most intimate heart are one and the same person.  She perseveres in weeping at the entrance to the tomb because she perseveres in her love: the presence and actions of Jesus in her own life had taught her that love is indeed stronger than death.  Against all odds and logic, in a sort of sublime madness, she clings to her Jesus dead or alive; and she does not reason about a her relative physical strength when she says ironically to the man she thought was the gardener, “Tell me where you laid him, and I will take him away.” Because she loves Jesus so much, she is prepared to carry his body away single-handed.

Such passionate intensity surely was born from her gratitude at having had no less than seven demons driven out of her by Jesus.  As one transformed by the healing power of Jesus’ love, she becomes “the apostle to the Apostles,” since more than any of them she can easily believe in Christ’s Resurrection. For all time St. Mary Magdalen stands as the foremost embodiment of the soul thirsting for God, the soul passionately seeking God.  And in the end she does find him.  “He whom her heart loves” is also the Beloved of the Father who had first come seeking her.  Mary could find him because he first chose, in utter love, to put himself within her reach.

Reflection by Father Simeon.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


In this morning's homily Father Robert spoke of the interior garden of our thoughts and desires. The good seeds point to those loving, selfless desires planted in our hearts by the divine sower. They grow in the moist soil of our hearts and ripen into good and holy choices to be loving and selfless. It is then that we experience the Kingdom planted within us. 

Selfish thoughts are those weeds sown in our hearts by the evil spirit and need not worry us, for God the divine gardener will take good care of us. We are not our thoughts or temptations, we are known by our choices. We must be humble enough to live with the real admission of the existence within us of competing thoughts and real temptations. We let the weeds grow with the wheat. Faced with the reality of our poverty, in silence and simple faith we rely on God's unlimited and unconditional love.