Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Beloved with Christ

It’s a wonderful insight to grasp the core of Jesus’ message by realizing the magnitude, the depth of the divine embrace, the depth of Jesus’ ardor for you. It is spiritually inebriating if you let it touch you as deeply as Jesus intends.  But there is more! The more here is simply the realization moment by moment that each of us is always and everywhere the beloved of God, someone with whom God is madly in love.

When we live this out, we allow grace to transform our eyes, our minds, our hearts. We experience our brothers and sisters as the beloved ones of God, and interact with them in such a way that this foundational spiritual realization grows in them and in us. We empower one another in family and community to believe this saving gospel truth by the very manner in which we relate to one another. 

The greatest gift we can give at Christmas is to so honor our brothers and sisters in our interactions that they realize they are the beloved ones of God.  Such honor grants them, as it were, the gift of faith; it makes the truth of the Divine Child's revelation believable. And what is more, something very mysterious happens. Because this is a spiritual gift, the more you give it away, the more it becomes your own.  The more you give others the capacity to believe they are the beloved of God, the more you realize it yourself. Unlike material goods, the more you give spiritual goods away, and so empty yourself of your claim on them, the more the infinite God can fill you. 

Orazio Gentileschi, 1563–1639, Madonna and Child detail from Rest on the Flight into Egypt 1628. Meditation by Father Isaac.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Loving Knowledge

Ordinary people not unlike you and me came to experience something in the living person of Jesus, something in who he was, in what he said and did, in how he lived and died, that was like the opening of a door to faith in him as the Son of God, the incarnate divine Wisdom or Word who was with God from the beginning, through whom all things were made.

The “Light that shines in the darkness” first shone in the person of Jesus—in his birth, life, death, and presence in the community of believers today. Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the angels from on high, saw something of this light and life in the baby whose birth we celebrate.

As we celebrate Christmas, we are drawn to a newborn baby in whom we experience the face and heart of God our Father. We do not have to reach to something infinitely beyond ourselves, but only embrace Someone who gives himself to us, even as a baby. Ultimately, it is our experience of Jesus Christ, a person born in human flesh who “pitched his tent among us,” that precedes our faith in him as the Son of God and revelation of the Father.

St. Augustine was convinced that we cannot really know something if we do not first love it. Karl Rahner echoed him when he wrote:

Only the heart knows in the full sense of the word. Really interior knowledge, knowledge that grasps something completely and is more than a list of facts, is knowledge of the heart, of the human center, which knows by experience and by suffering – the human center where spirit and body, light and love dwell undivided in one chasm. In the final analysis, knowledge is but the radiance of love… 

And now God says to us what God has already said to the earth as a whole through his grace-filled birth: “I am there. I am with you. I am your life. I am your time. I am the gloom of your daily routine . . . I am your joy. Do not be afraid to be happy; ever since I wept, joy is the standard of living that is really more suitable than the anxiety and grief of those who think they have no hope . . . I am present in your needs. I have suffered them and they are now transformed but not obliterated from my heart. This reality—incomprehensible wonder of my almighty love—I have sheltered safely and completely in the cold stable of your world. I am there. Even if you do not see me now, I am there. It is Christmas. Light the candles. They have more right to exist than all the darkness.

Drawing by Jerome Quigley. Excerpts from a Christmas homily by Father Dominic.

Friday, December 26, 2014


      “Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy.” The word ‘joy’ appears more often in Luke’s gospel than in any other New Testament writing. In the theological world view of the Gospel of Luke we live in a world redeemed and transformed by the birth, life, ministry, passion, death and resurrection of JC. In such a world there can be no other Christian response than joy!
     Is joy an integral part of my response to life? I would like it to be. On Gaudete Sunday Pope Francis, in his Angelus address said, “It is not a joy that is merely anticipated or set in paradise….here on earth we are sad but in paradise we will be happy. No. It is not that. Rather, it is a joy that is already real…” Is this angelic proclamation of good news of great joy just something that pertains to a past event or a future heavenly reality? It cannot be just that. Or, we are all wasting our time celebrating Christmas.
     Several years ago the author Ronald Rolheiser was treated for cancer. Following his diagnosis and treatment, here’s how he described his experience: “Life is what happens while you are planning your life; so too conversion. Having cancer taught me some lessons other than the ones I planned. Most important among these was this: Like everyone else in this world, I’ve always wanted joy in my life---friendship, love, celebration. But, and this has been the big handicap in finding these, I have always (however unconsciously) felt that the joy I so longed for could only come my way when I was finally free from all anxiety, emotional tension, pressure, overwork, illness, frustration, and stress of all kinds. We nurse this strange fantasy that it is only after all our bills are paid, our health is perfect, all tensions within our families and friendships are resolved, and we are in a peaceful, leisured space that we can finally enter life and enjoy it. In the meantime, we put our lives on hold as we perpetually gear up, get ready and wait for that perfect moment to arrive where we can finally rejoice within life.”
     What if it is God who is waiting. Waiting for us to wake up to something, SOMEONE who is already here!] Waiting for us to really hear and believe the good news of great joy. “Today in the town of David.” This today is more than just a chronological date. It is the now; the ever-present now of God’s eternity bursting forth in time.
      This joy is fundamentally God’s doing. In fact, it is the overflow of God’s joy in our lives. The very joy that God takes in creating us; in being close to us---so close as to become enfleshed; the joy that God takes in redeeming us and forgiving us. Such joy can in no way be produced on demand. The deepest joys in our lives sort of creep up on us when we aren’t looking.
     And this joy doesn’t take away the reality of threat or risk or suffering. But how can I know this joy in a world that is so full of atrocity and injustice? How can I know this joy when I am so aware of my own failures, my own shabbiness, my own depression? I have no theoretical answer to such questions. Because it has nothing to do with theory. It is not something you can get your head around. It simply happens this way. It is just here as sheer gift! In the “today”of the here and now of our concrete lives. Not somewhere else. Not later. Today!
     There is nothing theoretical about God’s closeness to us. And this closeness is offered to us not as some sort of a guarantee of a perfectly happy life, in the sense of one that is free from tension, pain or disappointment. But to affirm that whatever happens in this unpredictable world---sometimes wonderfully, sometimes horribly unpredictable---there is a deeper level of reality at work, a world within the world, so to speak. This is at the heart of the Christmas mystery and the source of our joy. God, the creator, becomes a creature. The infinite God becomes finite---a crying, hungry, defecating baby, who will grow up and develop and teach and heal and suffer, die and rise…in order to be close to us with a closeness that is never, ever removed. God’s closeness does not come and go. We may come and go but God doesn’t. God never withdraws from us. 

Excerpts from Abbot Damian's Homily for Christmas Midnight Mass.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Guests

We welcome our guests to join us for all the liturgies of Christmas. On Christmas Eve Vespers will be at 4:40 PM. Solemn Vigils begin at 12:50 AM with Mid-night Mass at 2 AM. On Christmas Day Lauds will be at 7:30 AM with an Aurora Mass immediately following. The Solemn Day Mass is at 11 AM; Christmas Vespers begin at 5:10 with Benediction to follow. The other Offices are celebrated at the usual times. Let us rejoice and be glad, for Someone who longs for us and loves us with love beyond all telling is drawing near- ever and always. Let us dare to open our hearts wide in welcome.
Photograph by Father Emmanuel.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Open to Him

How to welcome One who longs to visit us from on high, longing to dwell in our hearts, in our very flesh? If I pause and ponder too long and hesitate, stubbornly insisting that God could not possibly want to dwell in my broken heart, my too wounded, sin-scared flesh, then I may miss the opportunity that my neediness affords me. He only wants my weakness, that rough straw for his bed. The Desire at the heart of all our desiring is begging at the door of our hearts. Let us open in haste and hope and almost rash confidence. His desire for me trumps my unworthiness and makes my flesh his flesh. 
Madonna after Carlo Crivelli at the entrance to the Abbey church.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


"Behold, the virgin shall be with child."
Let us stay close to the Virgin who said, "Yes."  For there we will be near to her who accepted the fullness of light, she who received grace without fear, Our Lady who looked upon love and accepted it fully.
Let us follow in her footsteps.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Father Laurence

A preeminent chapter in the history of the Trappist community at St. Joseph's Abbey ended late Friday evening, December 12, 2014, with the passing of our Father Laurence Bourget. Born in Central Falls, Rhode Island, he was thoroughly immersed in Rhode Island's Catholic culture. He entered the Abbey of Our Lady of the Valley, Lonsdale, Rhode Island, in 1933 and, after a fire in 1950 that forced the closure of that monastery, he moved with the rest of the monastic community to St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer. 
Father Laurence pronounced his solemn vows in 1938 and was ordained a priest in 1942. Throughout the span of his long career in monastic life he filled many posts: organist, abbot's secretary, enrollment secretary, choir master, guest master, retreat master, archivist, professor of history, patrology, philosophy and scripture, claustral prior, counselor to the order's Abbot General in Rome for English speaking monasteries in North and South America and English, French, French and English translator at General Chapter meetings.
The last living link to the earliest history of the Trappists in North America, Father Laurence's formative years were cultivated by monastic elders who had lived and prayed in the original 1825 foundation of Petit Clairvaux in Tracadie, Nova Scotia. He was a passionate witness to the cultural richness inherent in the traditions he handed on. In the hearts of the monastic community Father Laurence remains a figure of considerable effect in the history of St. Joseph's Abbey. With gratitude for the gift of his presence among us, the monks commend his soul to your prayers.

Photographs by Brother Colombo Weber.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Our Lady of Guadalupe

At Tepeyac the Virgin Mary depicts herself as a pregnant, olive-skinned Indian maiden. Like the Son she carries in her womb, she identifies herself with the little ones. She imagines herself as one of them.

On an icy cold day in December of 1531, she promises Juan Diego that he will find many flowers blossoming on the hilltop where he first met her. He does as she says and gathers roses, lilies, carnations, iris, fragrant jasmine blossoms, yellow gorse and tiny violets. The Virgin arranges them all in the fold of Juan’s coarse cactus fiber tilma.

When they fall to the floor before the dumbfounded bishop in Mexico City, he sees Our Blessed Lady’s lovely handiwork. She has painted her self-portrait with spring blossoms in winter.

Jesus and his dear Mother long to be with us; and even now they are doing everything, anything to get our attention. Very often perhaps we have ignored His mercy-laden advances; or perhaps forgotten her promise and desire to console and protect us. No regrets, for once again Mercy and His Mother come to us like spring in the midst of winter.

Do listen, do be assured of it, my littlest one, that nothing at all should alarm you, should trouble you, nor in any way disturb your countenance, your heart. For am I not here, I, your mother? Are you not in the cool of my shadow? In the breeziness of my shade? Is it not I that am your source of contentment? Are you not cradled in my mantle, cuddled in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?
from Our Lady's  words to Saint Juan Diego.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Work of our Hands

Since we live by the work of our hands,  we were grateful to learn that our new monastic product, Spencer Trappist Ale, was just named one of the best 25 beers of the year by Draft Magazine.  Here is the link: http://draftmag.com/the-25-best-beers-of-2014/.

Photo by Brother Daniel.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Immaculate Conception

You have heard, O Virgin,  that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.
   The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.
   Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.
   Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.
   Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word. 

Annunciation by Fra Angelico. Excerpt from a homily In Praise of the Virgin Mother by our Cistercian Father, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Second Sunday of Advent

Probably most of us were baptized when we were infants, and we were not aware of what was being done for us. But God sees into our hearts. And it is up to each of us now to make a real investment in our own baptism, to internalize it and to give it a value for ourselves. Then it will become for us, in the words of today's Gospel, "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." And it is through this forgiveness of sins that each of us will be prepared for the Birthday of the Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Excerpts from Father Aquinas' homily. Photographs by Father Emmanuel.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Witness and Communion

    Witness and communion, are well described in St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians:  In Christ Jesus … you were enriched in every way [by the Father], with all discourse and knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift.  This means that the fullness of charisms has been poured out upon us by the Holy Spirit, and that there is nothing God could have done for us that he has not done by giving us Christ and by rooting our lives in Christ’s own life.  Both the Father and the world should look at the faithful monk and see nothing but Christ: this is what it means to bear living witness.  The unimaginable fidelity and goodness of God have taken the form of his bringing us into deepest communion with the beloved Son, truest koinonia, that is, intimate sharing of the divine life and mystery, as if it were by nature our own!  Such intimacy in love may indeed be said to constitute, in a certain way, the vision of God—seeing God in the experience of the living Christ.  In Christ, we have seen God’s Face and we have been saved!  Such union with the Beloved and vision of him is the end of all contemplation and the utmost fulfillment of the monastic calling.  Through word, sacrament, and prayer God has rooted us in Christ as our very Ground of Being, and the prayer typical of this state could be nothing other than thanksgiving and praise.
    Like calls out unto like, and only if we become humble through conversion, watchful through keeping vigil, loving through service, and witnesses of Christ’s splendor through our whole lives, will we be able to embrace as we ought, at Christmas, God in his form of humiliation as the Babe of Bethlehem.

Photographs of our first snow by Brother Casimir. Meditation by Father Simeon.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


With all his being the monk must try not to wander away from God through infidelity, and fall back into the condition of hardness of heart out of which God’s grace had brought him.  He must take very seriously his new identity as servant of God, put in charge of a particular work within Christ’s household.  His humble, obedient service out of love must embody the selfless goodness of the physically absent Master, who could return at any moment.  The practice of vigilance is, therefore, essential to a person who is not living for himself or by his own tastes and criteria, but whose joy and fulfillment in life consist in being faithful to the will of the One who has done so much for him, the Lord who has trusted him to care for what is most precious to God’s Heart.  The monk owes such service and vigilance not only to the Lord himself, but to the Lord’s Bride, the Church.  The monk keeps vigil both figuratively and literally, says John Paul II, because for him “eschatological expectation becomes mission, so that the Kingdom may become ever more fully established here and now” (Vita consecrata, 27).  The monk who shuns the practice of vigilance does so at his own peril.  He runs the risk of turning in upon himself and becoming enslaved to desires that are far below the delight God promises.  But the vigilant monk again echoes Isaiah: My soul yearns for you in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks you (26:9).  This is what a loving heart is always doing: searching for the Beloved in the night.
St. Benedict wishes that his monks should keep protracted vigil during the hours of the night, while the rest of the world sleeps.  It is as if an essential part of the monk’s calling—something he owes both the Church and the world—is this generous watchfulness in prayer.  His sluggish lower nature may not at all like it, but he is appointed to act as a link of love between the slumbering world and the ever-wakeful tenderness of God.  The monk is called to be the willing vehicle for God’s tender mercy traveling through the darkness.  Could it be that my fidelity in keeping vigil in the night here at Spencer could, by virtue of the circulation of graces in the Mystical Body of Christ, bring relief from terror to one little girl in Syria or Iraq tonight?  Our faith tells me it’s in my power to have this effect, or rather in the power of Christ who dwells within me.  In this aspect of monastic life, the prayer of waiting without idols is typical.  Christ is experienced as the ever-present Teacher who through lectio, fraternal relationships, and in the depths of the heart instructs the monk and draws him ever more closely to his own Heart.
Photograph by Brother Brian. Reflection by Father Simeon

Sunday, November 30, 2014

First Sunday of Advent

    At this beginning of a new liturgical year the Church invites us to lay aside all distress, worry and hopelessness in order to give the light of God’s Word a chance to penetrate our darkness. St. Paul assures us: God, who is ever faithful, calls us to communion with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  All our hope resides in that trustworthy call.  Would God deceive us and call us to something illusory?  But will we truly open our hearts and allow ourselves to become like expectant children, dazzled by reliable promises of a joyful life? 
    Today is also the first day of what our Holy Father Francis has declared to be the Year of Consecrated Life.  Though all Christians have been consecrated to God by baptism into Christ, there are in the Church those of us called to live this consecrated life in a particular manner, totally at one with all the faithful and in no way superior to anyone, yet witnessing before the whole world, by the specific form of our life, to what is of perennial value.
    With reference to us who are vowed to a contemplative monastic life, St. John Paul II has written, By their lives and mission, the members of these Institutes imitate Christ in his prayer on the mountain, bear witness to God’s lordship over history and anticipate the glory which is to come…In solitude and silence, by listening to the word of God, participating in divine worship, personal asceticism, prayer, mortification and the communion of fraternal love, they direct the whole of their lives and all their activities to the contemplation of God. In this way they offer the ecclesial community a singular testimony of the Church’s love for her Lord, and they contribute, with hidden apostolic fruitfulness, to the growth of the People of God. Vita Consecrata 8
    The Prophet Isaiah portrays for us the beginning of the contemplative call, in a way that may be summed up in the two words conversion and supplication.  We are called to the monastery not on account of any merit or special quality of ours—quite to the contrary: in his mysterious freedom, God calls us out of a condition of dire need, of radical dissatisfaction.  You have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt, the prophet cries out to God.  God’s apparent absence and rejection of us have plunged us into a threatening void, and we receive the grace not to turn to idolatry out of desperation but rather to seek the true God all the more fervently, imploring him with savage desire to come to our rescue and save us by showing us the light of his Face: Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for.  The very ability, energy and impulse to appeal deafeningly to God out of our misery is the greatest of graces. 
    It is sheer grace that makes us cry out to God instead of despairing, sheer grace that makes us lament our sins and desire with our whole heart that our life could start again, could assume a new shape (we are the clay and you are the potter), sheer grace even to imagine the joy of clinging to God permanently with all our strength.  Such is the desert place where a monastic vocation begins.  It is a place of precariousness because what goes on here is mostly supplication (the root meaning of “precarious”), pure begging for help, pure dependency, as we sink into the awareness that we can do nothing to save ourselves.  In this place Christ is experienced largely as a still unfulfilled promise, and the typical prayer that dominates this state of soul is the prayer of repentance: Lord, have mercy on me a poor sinner!

Photograph by Father Emmanuel. 
Excerpts from Father Simeon's Homily for the First Sunday of Advent.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Year of Consecrated Life

   Pope Francis has proclaimed 2015 a Year of Consecrated Life, beginning the First Sunday of Advent. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Perfectae Caritatis, the decree on religious life, and Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church. During this Year the Church wishes to “make a grateful remembrance of the recent past” while embracing “the future with hope.”
   As a fitting way to begin this Year of Consecrated Life, the Abbot has invited us monks to gather in Chapter and respond to the question: Why have you come here? Or in other words: What brought you to the monastery? What attracted you? What drew you to write that first letter of enquiry? Or make that first phone call? Or come for that first visit? It has been moving and edifying to listen to each other tell the story of his vocation. The Lord is gentle, sometimes insistent even perhaps charming as He draws us to Himself.
O God, throughout the ages you have called
women and men to pursue lives of perfect
charity through the evangelical counsels of
poverty, chastity, and obedience. During this
Year of Consecrated Life, we give you thanks
for these courageous witnesses of Faith and
models of inspiration. Their pursuit of holy
lives teaches us to make a more perfect offering
of ourselves to you. Continue to enrich
your Church by calling forth sons and daughters
who, having found the pearl of great
price, treasure the Kingdom of Heaven above
all things. Through our Lord Jesus Christ,
your Son, who lives and reigns with you in
the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for
ever and ever. Amen.To open this Year dedicated 
to the Consecrated Life which begins 
on this First Sunday of Advent. Prayer for the Year of Consecrated Life

Thursday, November 27, 2014


As little children our parents would often tug at our sleeves when were given a gift or a small treat and remind us, “What do you say?” Recognizing all we have been given by God in his love and mercy, on this Thanksgiving Day we gather to pray and feast and remind one another, “What do you say?”

Thank you, thank you Lord from the bottom of our hearts for all you have given so freely, so lavishly. Our hearts are full, filled to overflowing, for what do we have that we have not received? Wonder, praise, thanksgiving become one.

And so fittingly, wonderfully, jubilantly we celebrate Eucharist on this day. Eucharist means thanksgiving. God never stops giving God’s very Self to us. God is love. Love never ends. And even as we come to thank and praise God for all he has given us, it is he who is gathering us at this Eucharist to feed us once again with himself. Our thanksgiving overflows.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Christ Our King

    We are all too familiar with how the human family has been divided and scattered in our days: in family life and marriage; through vast migrations due to wars, drugs, and terror; even within the Church there is a vast alienation of so many Catholics. It seems to me that the mission of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, is to reverse this wholesale scattering of peoples and families by gathering them once more under His gentle and liberating rule.
    The words of the prophet Ezekiel seem particularly important here. Ezekiel speaks of the true king who like a loving shepherd would gather the Israelites from every place where they were scattered. Listen to the words of this king: “I myself will look after my sheep…I will rescue them…I will give them rest…I will seek out…bring back…bind up…heal.” Is there a better description of what Our Lord Jesus did to reverse the forces of scattering? He took responsibility for us. Perfectly one with His Father, He made Himself perfectly one with us, identifying Himself with the least of His brothers and sisters. When it was “cloudy and dark,” as dark as it can get, He fought and overcame our great enemy – death itself – and He frees us from the fear of death. He seeks out disfigured families and gives a word of consolation and mercy; He stirs up aid for those who are forced from their homes; He offers healing to the disaffected in His Church, and by the wounds in His hands and His side He shows them how much they mean to Him.
    These are all reasons for hope that the forces of scattering will not prevail. But there is another reason that all this is important for us. At our baptism we were anointed by the Spirit of God to share in the kingly mission of Our Lord. It’s part of our spiritual DNA. In the ordinary events of our monastic life we share in this mission: in the Infirmary we bind up and heal; in the kitchen and refectory we are very well pastured; in the Guest House we welcome strangers and offer them a blessed rest; in our daily encounters with one another, we bring back, we bind up, we give rest, and we free one another from the fear of death. Our humble services make it possible for us to gather daily around Our Head and King. And I’m sure that much the same happens in the ordinary lives of our friends who are gathered with us today.
    Brothers and sisters, today we celebrate the kingly mission of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and like Our Lady we share in His mission. Our prayer is united with His prayer and with the prayer of the Queen of heaven and earth. And with them we gather into one the People of God until the last and least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters are gathered to share His life-giving bread and sacred wine. Let us thank God for this marvelous gift and mission! “Christ, King of Glory! Christ, Prince of nations! Christ our King of Kings! To Him only is victory, all praise and jubilation, through all the endless ages of eternity. Amen!”

Photograph of a bas relief of the Resurrected Christ in the Abbey orchards by Michael Rivera. Father Vincent's Homily for the Feast of Christ the King.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Presentation of Mary

An ancient tradition holds that Mary was presented in the Temple of Jerusalem as a little girl. And so today the Church celebrates Mary as Ark of the Covenant and House of Gold, the dwelling place of God Most High who chose her chaste body as his nesting place.

At this morning's Mass we heard the Gospel reading in which a woman from the crowd listening to Jesus is so taken with him that she cries out, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed."  Jesus responds, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep  it.” Jesus tells us that we are like his mother when we hold on to the words he speaks to us and ponder them in our hearts. Then like Mary we become Christ-bearers.

The Child Mary Asleep, Francisco de Zurbaran, 1630-1635, oil on canvas,  Galerie Canesso, Lugano.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Today we celebrate the memorial of Saint Mechtilde, a thirteenth century Benedictine nun from the monastery of Helfta in Germany. Mechtilde had a tender devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who opened His wounded side to her in love and gave her His Heart as a place of refuge and consolation. In one of her visions Jesus told Mechtilde that His Heart was like a kitchen where we could go to get whatever we needed at any time. In another He told her, "In the morning let your first act be to greet My Heart and to offer Me your own." Jesus continued, "Whoever breathes a sigh toward Me, draws Me to himself." 

It only takes a sigh. Let us sigh quietly, insistently, confidently.

Photograph by Brother Brian  of  a bas-relief crucifix by Suzanne Nicolas  in the Abbey church.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Beyond Fairness

    What sort of fairness is going on here? We are obviously not talking about fairness at all. What we are talking about is a higher level of consciousness where the normal rules just do not apply. This is a theoretical story told to make a point about three kinds of people.  Each of the three responds to the divine good fortune differently.  In neither case is the amount of money determined by the servant “earning” it. Neither of them deserves anything. We think that because we are good and work hard, it is only fair that we should be rewarded. This is fairness in the way of the world. However, Jesus is not talking about that kind of “fairness.” He is trying to raise our consciousness to a divine level. His Father who sent Him loves him (and loves us), unconditionally and without limit.  Five talents or two talents or one talent are all irrelevant in this story. In this parable the first two servants got this point and were not afraid to risk losing their gifts. After all, the same source who gave them their talents out of a divine, unlimited goodness would continue to be good to them. They knew that. They might as well use this money as a way of being grateful.  It had nothing to do with deserving or earning God’s goodness. It had everything to do with gratitude.
    In the section which follows this parable just before the Passion, Matthew tells another story with the same theme. This is the story of Mary of Bethany who anointed the head of Jesus with costly ointment. She is strongly defended by Jesus when the others begin to criticize her extravagant expression of love. In both stories, we are dealing with a new level of logic. We are at the heart of the mystery we call the Incarnation.  The world,and all its comparisons of good and bad, more and less, success and failure, have just been made irrelevant. The only one in the crowd who seems to have gotten the point is this woman, who extravagantly emptied her jar of perfumed oil all over the head of Jesus. The men of the world and the followers of the world’s rules are horrified. Jesus gives solemn testimony, not only to the woman’s spiritual wisdom and understanding, but also to her courage in daring to go way beyond the logic and the normal rules of human affection and courtesy.
    Now, it is our turn. We are invited to risk everything and place all our trust in this divine level of life.  Let us take the risk of believing in this mystery of unlimited, but at the same time, incarnate love, which goes way beyond all our pathetic human rules.  

Photograph by Michael Rivera. Excerpts from Father Robert's homily for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time.                                       

Friday, November 14, 2014

Praying in Him

   Truly Jesus is our place of prayer. All of our praying takes place in his heart; for we can only pray in him, through him. Indeed, we can only pray at all because he prays first, begging the Father incessantly on our behalf. And each time we step into the Abbey church, we enter Christ’s wounded heart, the sanctuary that he is for us. In our praying through him, in him we are becoming more and more with him a most beautiful temple, a life-giving flood of mercy gushing from our woundedness, if we will allow it. 
   This transcendent beauty of the wounded, resurrected Jesus is what we reveal as individuals, as monastic community and as Church. We are his most beautiful body, a temple meant to overflow with mercy and compassion. He is our broken wounded Self, forever risen and pierced.
Photographs by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saint Martin

Saint Martin shares his military cloak with a shivering beggar, and Jesus notices. That night in a dream He visits Martin wearing the half-cloak he had shared. The beggar is Christ. A bit of unseasonable balminess this morning reminds us that in Italy a warm spell at this time of the year is called l'Estate di San Martino- Saint Martin's Summer. Legend has it that after Martin had shared his cloak, God made it a little warmer so that neither Martin nor the beggar would suffer from the cold with only a half a cloak each. 

Those who need us are the Lord Jesus in disguise. How will I encounter Him this day? 

El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos), Greek, 1541 – 1614, Saint Martin and the Beggar, 1597/1599, oil on canvas with wooden strip added at bottom, 76 3/16 x 40 9/16 in. National Gallery of Art, Washington.     Francí Gomar , Spanish, Aragon, active by 1443–died ca. 1492/3, Altar Predella of Archbishop Don Dalmau de Mur y Cervelló,  detail, Saragossa, 1456–1458, Alabaster, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Used with permission.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Temple

“He was speaking of the temple of his Body.” The temple of his Body. The temple that will be destroyed and raised up is not the temple of stone but the temple of Jesus’ own body. The temple, the sanctuary, will no longer be a place, but a person. Jesus declares himself now and forever the meeting place between God and his people, the place where God’s desire for us and our desire for God merge.

Jesus will restore the meaning of temple as sacred place of wonder and worship; the sanctuary where we may encounter God’s mercy. Jesus himself is God’s Lamb who will be slain once and for all. His self-offering in its bitterness and pain, in its immeasurable mercy and compassion will fulfill all that the temple liturgy aspired to. Jesus’ sacrifice will reinvigorate the meaning of all liturgy, for it means service- leitourgía. And liturgy is always, always first of all God’s service of us. This is the true meaning of worship: our celebrating with gratitude and praise all that God in Christ is doing for us. It is not about us, our service of God, but God’s astonishingly humble service of us in Christ. Jesus as physician, healer, and messenger of the new covenant comes to serve us, to heal and feed and console us. It is his risen and wounded body that is our sanctuary. 

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” says Jesus. He is referring to his Hour, the Hour of his passion, death and resurrection. For it is most of all in this Hour that he will truly become the place where we can encounter the most tender, self-emptying love and service of the Father for all creation. For when Jesus’ body, his heart, is gashed open and shattered by the horror of the passion, it becomes that wonderful leaky temple of Ezekiel’s vision in the First Reading, life-giving waters flowing from his wounded body, recreating the beauty of Paradise. For in his Hour death dies, for Jesus’ Hour includes his final lifting up, the resurrection, accomplished by the Father’s love.

Antique corpus in the Abbey Hermitage photographed by Brother Brian. Excerpts from this mornings homily for the Feast.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Work of God

We believe that the divine presence is everywhere
and that "the eyes of the Lord
are looking on the good and the evil in every place."
But we should believe this especially without any doubt
when we are assisting at the Work of God.
To that end let us be mindful always of the Prophet's words,
"Serve the Lord in fear"
and again "Sing praises wisely"
and "In the sight of the Angels I will sing praise to You."

Let us therefore consider how we ought to conduct ourselves 
in sight of the Godhead and of His Angels, 
and let us take part in the psalmody in such a way 
that our mind may be in harmony with our voice.

Photographs of monks at the Divine Office by Brother Brian. Text from Chapter 19 of  The Rule of Saint Benedict. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


We notice transitions as autumn wears on; transitions subtle and bold; and the leaves dying and falling in this most beautiful of ways.  
Nature helps us, as we learn how to welcome the dying, the falling, all the alternations and transitions in our lives together as opportunities for God, opportunities for hope, opportunities for grace. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Saint Martin de Porres

Born in Peru in 1579, the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed black slave, Martin de Porres embodies quite literally the often conflictual encounter between the cultures and races of very different worlds.  But as a barber-surgeon and Dominican tertiary with the heart of Jesus his Lord, Martin knew how to become an instrument of universal reconciliation through active mercy, ardently loving and serving the poor and the sick.  He truly "regarded others humbly as more important than himself, putting their interests before his own,"(Phil 2:3-4) and so he emptied himself through works of outpoured love.  Let us, too, welcome this same action of transforming grace in our own lives.

Meditation by Father Simeon.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

All Souls

Today we think of the last things, as we marked this solemn day with our traditional procession through the cloisters and the blessing of the graves in the Abbey cemetery. The dear departed, our brethren, friends, relatives and benefactors, belong to us and we pray that the Lord Jesus will raise them up to himself. With them we belong to God in Christ; we are filled with hope because he promises us that he will raise us up with them on the last day.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Everything Is Nothing

Like Saint Paul and all the saints, we very often long to depart to be with Christ. Daily we try to set our minds and hearts on things that are above where Christ is. For truly we have died, our lives are hidden now with Christ in God. Don’t we consider everything to be nothing at all compared with knowing Christ Jesus, our Lord? Isn’t knowing him the best thing of all? Isn’t it because of him that we set everything else aside? Don’t we consider everything else a pile of rubbish, so that we can get to know him even more? Don’t we want to know only Christ and the power of his resurrection? Aren't all of us sharing in his sufferings even now and so becoming like him in his death? And isn’t it worth it, if somehow we may attain the resurrection from the dead? True, we haven’t yet reached the goal; but we are pressing on to make it our own, because Christ Jesus has made me each of us his own. And so each morning we go up to the altar of God, the God of our joy, and receive his risen flesh and blood, our promise of everlasting life and peace and joy.

Photo by Charles O'Connor. Reflection on Saint Paul's Letter to the Philippians 3.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lectio Divina

Careful lectio divina greatly strengthens the brothers' faith in God. This excellent monastic practice, by which God's Word is heard and pondered, is a source of prayer and a school of contemplation, where the monk speaks heart to heart with God. For this reason, the brothers are to devote a fitting amount of time each day to such reading...Tradition greatly values lectio divina done in common.
Photographs by Brother Brian. Lines from The Constitutions of the Monks.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Jesus reminds us this morning to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind. An invitation, broad, practically immeasurable and magnificent. As Father Emmanuel reminded us, what was new was that Jesus coupled this great commandment with another: to love our neighbor as ourself. Two great commandments, indeed three; the totality of the Christian message. All-encompassing, for love is one. Loving God, loving neighbor, loving self are all of a piece. Hidden within this teaching is the reality that God in Christ first of all loves each of us with all his heart, all his soul and all his mind. This is truly breathtaking. Imagine what it might be like to live continually with this knowledge: that God loves me, likes me, delights in me. Loving God and neighbor would then be obvious and wonderfully appropriate responses to such love.
Photographs by Brother Brian.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Earth on Fire

In today's Gospel we hear Jesus cry out  for our love and faithfulness:

“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!

Saint Paul seems to understand the desire of the Lord. He prays that we may understand 

what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
(and) be filled with all the fullness of God.