Saturday, June 29, 2013

Brother Jude

But this I will call to mind;
therefore I will hope:
The Lord’s acts of mercy are not exhausted,
his compassion is not spent;
They are renewed each morning—
great is your faithfulness!
The Lord is my portion, I tell myself, 
therefore I will hope in him. Lamentations  3

Brother Jude entered the community in July of 1972. He has served the brethren as community cook for more than twenty years. Brother Jude's kitchen is a place of warmth and hospitality, and the brethren can always pop in for a warm cookie and a kind word. He loves to quote Saint Elizabeth of Hungry, "We must make people happy."

Jude treasures the rhythm of the monastic life at our monastery, shaped as it is by the Church's great liturgical cycle. And true to Saint Benedict's dictum, he is content to  "prefer nothing whatever to Christ." A great lover of this place and of the brethren, he remarks, "If people knew what life was like in a monastery, they'd be beating the doors down to get in!"

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Free Relationship

A friend recently sent us these lines by Fyodor Dostoyevsky:  

The bee knows the secret of its beehive, the ant knows the secret of its anthill, but man does not know his own secret - the structure of a human being is a free relationship with the infinite, and therefore, it has not limits.  It bursts through the walls of any place within which one would want to restrain it.

God calls to us, beckons us into himself, into his heart, into the limitless possibility of receiving all and giving all. Perhaps this is what Jesus refers to when he tells us to be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect. Jesus longs to draw us into a surpassing, loving-kindness that lets us be loved and in turn open our hearts to love as perhaps we thought impossible- to let our love fall "like rain on the just and the unjust." Jesus envisions the real possibility for us of a free intimate relationship with the infinite God for whom all things are possible.

Photograph by Charles O'Connor.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Bridegroom's Friend

His mission was completely directed to another – to preparing for the coming of Jesus.  His ministry of baptism was not a goal in itself, but functioned as an introduction to the ministry of Jesus and came to an end at the moment when Jesus’ began. 

For John, this is just how things should be, and he explains his feelings on the matter using a wonderful analogy: “It is the bridegroom who has the bride; and yet the bridegroom’s friend, who stands there and listens to him, is filled with joy at the bridegroom’s voice.  This is the joy I feel, and it is complete.”

For Christ to grow in us, we have to be ready to give up, or at least to reconsider, what we think we know about God and ourselves. The work of growing less can require renunciations as radical as John’s leaving for the desert, giving up comfortable clothing for animal skins and home cooking for catching bugs and raiding bee hives. In less colorful terms, opening ourselves to Christ growing greater can mean giving up ways of thinking and acting that make us feel safe, comfortable and stable. This is a demanding ascesis, one that requires real honesty, courage and sustained effort.  

But the other side of this coin, and the aspect that John himself emphasized, is the complete joy experienced by one who has felt the growing presence of Christ in himself and among his brothers.  This is the point of our monastic ascesis and of all Christian life.  It is the joy of knowing Christ within and among ourselves for which we all strive.

The Birth and Naming of Saint John the Baptist, Sano di Pietro, Italian, Siena 1405–1481 Siena, 1450–1460, Tempera and gold on wood, 9 5/8 x 18 7/8 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Excerpts from Father William's Homily for today's Solemnity.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Our Lady on Saturday

Saint Bernard says that above all what has drawn God to Mary is her humility. God finds it absolutely irresistible. Certainly we will come to our humility by a route very different than Our Lady’s, but it can give us the same irresistible quality. We can do it through our sinfulness, acknowledging that we have nothing to boast of before God but our weakness. It is after all the only thing about myself that I am absolutely confident about. Problem is it’s also the one thing I most want to deny. But this reality, this humility lets God be God. Said another way, when things fall apart then God can be God. Through the Virgin Mary God has chosen to be part, an integral part, of our fragmentation.

An etching by Margaret Walters, (1924 - 1971).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Once a month during Ordinary Time, we celebrate the Mass and Offices of the day for our deceased brethren and our departed relatives, friends and benefactors.
May light eternal, O Lord, shine upon them, 
for you are ever merciful!

We include  Brother Casimir's photographs of Father Kizito's funeral last December.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Peonies for Our Lady

Peonies from the Abbey gardens adorn our Crivelli Madonna at the entrance to church at the the east cloister. 

Our Lady is our mother in whom we are all enclosed, and we are born from her in Christ; for she who is mother of our Savior is mother of all who will be saved in our Savior. 

Photograph by Brother Anthony Khan. Lines from Julian of Norwich.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


And so the question becomes: will I allow myself to believe that I am the object of Christ’s love? Will I dare to be content more and more, over and over, to be the one who is endlessly sought after? Or will I prefer to be stranded on my own planet, circling the Abbey and pretending everything’s really just fine. No, our emptiness and need can be our joy because they grant us ready access and make us, best of all, totally available to Christ. That’s why it would be foolish, so very foolish to pretend I’m not lost, or sinful or empty. What a waste. Why bother?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

As the weather warms the windows and the great door of the Abbey church are opened to the spring breeze, we hear the singing of birds, the chortling of little frogs. They join as we chant the Hours.

Photograph by Brother Daniel.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

He was moved with pity

Once again in this morning's Gospel we see the real power of the compassion of Christ. He is the God who feels with us, understands us and our needs, our deepest desires. And so when we “pray always without becoming weary,” we express our trust in the attention of a loving God who wants our good. And like today's widow, we can expect great things.

Our faith is expressed in our praying; we reach out without giving up because we trust Someone is listening.  Prayer is indeed a relationship. And if in prayer we are relating to God, to Christ, then we are in relationship with a Someone who is completely Other, completely Mystery. In prayer we grow in intimacy with this Mystery who loves us. We become more and more accustomed to believing that God is going to work something out, even when we don’t understand God’s ways. We wait, we live in hope, “a hope that will not disappoint.”

Photograph of the crucifix above the high altar by Charles O'Connor.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Most Sacred Heart

Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High.
Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven.
Heart of Jesus, glowing furnace of charity.
Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills.
Heart of Jesus, patient and rich in mercy.
Heart of Jesus, rich to all who call upon Thee.

Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance.
Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation.

In this morning’s parable Jesus compares the repentance of a sinner to the rescue of a lost sheep by a loving shepherd. From Christ’s perspective God is always running after us, pursuing the lost one, from our side this sense of the pursuit of a loving God who has made the first move in our direction is expressed in our desire to repent. As usual God makes the first move, we respond. And Jesus tells us that consequently there is then very great joy 
in heaven.

We celebrate today God’s tenderness, God’s loving pursuit. We celebrate the reality that our God enfleshed in Jesus and his deeds and compassion will always, always be the God with a broken, open, wounded heart. And so the invitation is to honestly even joyfully take ownership of our lostness, my very real need for mercy, my desperate need to be found and sought out by Jesus. My sinfulness, my apartness from God can never estrange me from him, but instead, once I beg for his mercy, become a very great, greasy shoot which will lead me right into his broken Heart.

Today here and now the Sacred Heart of Jesus notices us, lost in our isolation and confusion, all the stuff that does not fit, and he rushes toward us without delay to take us to himself, even into his wounded side as refuge. God loses himself in love over and over again. He is searching for us relentlessly.

Excerpts from the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus precede 
excerpts from this morning's homily.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Preferring Christ

The organisation of the monastery is directed to bringing the monks into close union with Christ, since it is only through the experience of personal love for the Lord Jesus that the specific gifts of the Cistercian vocation can flower. Only if the brothers prefer nothing whatever to Christ will they be happy to persevere in a life that is ordinary, obscure and laborious. And may he lead them all together into 
eternal life. 

Photograph of one of the Abbey's processional crosses by Brother Brian. 
Text from the Constitutions of the Monks.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Corpus Christi

This is my body that is for you. 
God in Christ is hidden and yet revealing himself over and over, doing anything at all to get our attention; “playing in ten thousand places,” in nature and grace, over and over, all day long. Vigilance is essential, a willingness to be surprised at every corner of the cloister, as St. Bernard would say, because angels will be there- heavenly messengers- reminding us that Someone is here. Someone is coming, sneaking in. Someone wants to be with us. Someone we love has seen our sad predicament and has come down to be with us now. Someone we long for has come to feed us with his Body, the Bread of heaven, with his Blood, true honey from his wounded side. Christ is at once hidden and most especially present for us in this Most Blessed Sacrament. 

Quiet as a thief on tiptoe, Christ Jesus comes, present in a morsel of broken Bread, a sip of Wine; the God of tiny violets and of tall, tall trees, too tremendous for us to grasp fully but also somehow astoundingly, disarmingly ordinary. Let us open to this Divine Thief; open the doors of our hearts to the flood of his love and mercy.

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is always a great feast in the monastery. At the end of the solemn Eucharist, we process around the cloisters chanting. We pause at the station altar pictured above and enter the doors of the church to the ringing of bells. Yesterday's celebration was heightened by the addition of the special hour of adoration begun at 11AM in conjunction with churches around the world, as the Holy Father had requested. In the top photograph we see one of the brothers in adoration before the enthroned Sacrament. Both photographs were taken by Brother Daniel.