Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Down There

Perhaps we had thought that God was after us, trying to catch us, watching from far off to see if we would mess up. But perhaps we got it wrong. God in Christ is never that far away, he’s with us; he has come to share unreservedly in all that we go through. He is always able to empathize with us in our weaknesses. He has been tempted in every way that as we are, yet without sinning.  He has taken upon himself all that we are. It’s who he is. He’s not far away spying on us; he’s down here with us in the mess, accompanying us, even in the confusion of our temptations.

Jesus' will was always to do the will of him who sent him. Yet incredibly he was tempted to do otherwise. Like us in all things but sin; he knows the reality of what it means to be pulled in the wrong direction. So much does Jesus love us, that our temptation to sin has become his temptation. And by identifying with us down there, Jesus has paved the way for us to share the righteousness that characterizes God himself, “so that in him we might become the very holiness of God." 

Some years ago in the flush of new fervor, a love for Christ I had never before experienced, I think I felt a bit rarefied and somewhat above the common fray. I remember one afternoon a temptation sneaking in, softly, suddenly, insistently. I was embarrassed, lost my balance. Imagine feeling such things again; I was supposed to be way beyond that now. And as I tried to pray through it, I sensed Jesus somehow saying to me, very quietly but definitely, “Would you be less than I am?” “Would you be less than I am?” which is to say, “I went through all of these things, I was tempted in every way as you are, I am, I will be with you, in you, through all of it. Trust me, rely on me alone. Don’t you want to be like me?” 

Our weaknesses, our temptations are a place of encounter with Christ. Down there we have the blessed opportunity to depend on him alone, to cry out in our helplessness and flee to him for refuge, hide in him. Then he can save us, for his power is always completed in our weakness.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by one of the monks.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Saint Joseph

Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife. For that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

As we celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Joseph our patron, we go to him as our great exemplar in faith and faithfulness. Perhaps brokenhearted, disappointed, surely confused, Joseph trusted God, and he trusted Mary. He let his life be turned around by God's desire to take our flesh. Saint Bernard will say that God had found in Joseph one to whom He could entrust His dearest secret. Joseph made a home for God in Christ. 
Statue of Joseph at the lavabo with orchids grown by Brother Adam.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Way Out

We remember a movie shown at the monastery a few years ago called Moonstruck. In one scene Rose is sitting in the parlor with her almost son-in-law Johnnie. She has become painfully aware that her husband Cosmo is unfaithful, and it’s killing her, eating her up inside. And she says to Johnnie something like, “Why do men cheat on their wives?” He closes his eyes, thinks for a moment and says, “Fear of death.” “That’s it,” Rose replies. Just then the front door opens and her husband walks in. Without missing a beat, she yells to him, “Cosmo, you’re gonna die anyway!” “Thank you, Rose, for that sentiment,” he says; as he walks upstairs to bed.

Perhaps our lives like Cosmo’s are marked by a continual flight from death but at the same time toward death. We just can’t avoid it. We’re stuck. And in the face of the inevitability of our death, our one time dying, and our daily dyings - the pains and sins and defeats we cannot control - we may want to run. But Jesus comes to show us a more excellent way; he shows us that death has no more power over us.

He tells us that the seed must fall into the earth to bear abundant fruit, and then, “When I am lifted up, I will draw everyone to myself.” Clearly his “lifting up” is his crucifixion. He will be raised up on a cross of humiliation, pain and death. His lifting up will be his self-gift to his Father for us. And when he says, “Where I am, there also will my servant be,” it is because he longs to draw us with him to the Father through the very narrow gate of his passion.

Jesus shows us that God dreams something extraordinary and beautiful for us. Jesus reveals that the cross, all of our crosses, are a way out. He longs to draw us into his own his loving self-offering as a way out of death - self-giving as a way that absolutely cancels death, smashes it to pieces forever. “For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross despising its shame,” because he knows that death is only a gateway, excruciatingly painful, but an utterly porous membrane that we can break through by means of love - the very gift of ourselves to him and to our brothers and sisters.

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

Friday, March 16, 2018


We become humble, not because we see ourselves - one way or another, that always leads to pride because false humility is just another aspect of pride, perhaps the most difficult to conquer - but only if we see God and his humility.  Alexander Schmemann

When our hearts are broken open, suddenly aware that God in Christ has lowered himself  for us and wants to care for us, wants to wash our feet and cleanse and free us by the flood of blood and water gushing from his broken heart, then we can fall in reverence and wonder and see at last who we are, and who he is for us.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Two Notes

Recently discovered correspondence between two monks:

One writes: “What shall I say? I feel so frustrated but not abandoned, pressed on all sides in a million ways, as we continue here in his school of love. I am perplexed, but not in despair. And I hope, I believe I am trying more ardently, faithfully, unremittingly to hold Jesus as my treasure in my crumbly clay self. I falter, I fear, I doubt, but he is so often so gracious to me in prayer, so sweet, as is his Virgin Mother.”

His senior responds: “Your self-reflection reveals two important things. First, your total Christ-centeredness, even while aware of your own lacunae and dark pulls. The other thing is your sense that life is a walk on the tightrope of faith, with an abyss gaping beneath you. But, despite occasional vertigo, which is inevitable considering the circumstances, your heart is certain you are held in Christ's firm grasp. I can't imagine a better place to be, all said and done!” 

Postcard from the Abbey archives.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Our Need

We rejoice in the reality of a forever wounded God. And as Jesus will remind Saint Faustina, the only one who will be abandoned is the one who refuses to allow him to be merciful to them. Who would dare be so stupid or foolish? The access is too easy for us to do otherwise. It’s all there in and through him, all this mercy. The wounds of our sins remind us of our need for mercy. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


God is not remote from us. He is at the point of my pen, my pick, my paintbrush, my needle — and my heart and my thoughts.

Always seeking our attention, looking for any chance to draw us in love for him, for our neighbors and for our deepest selves, Jesus is indeed always very near.

Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Quotation by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Monday, March 12, 2018

From Above

"Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." The word Jesus uses here means both “from above” and “again”. To stay with Jesus in this conversation, it is necessary to hold on to both meanings. Nicodemus is faced with a choice. He can say to himself, what does Jesus mean by the kingdom of God, and ask him about it.  Or, faced with a word of two meanings, he could ask Jesus which sense he’s got in mind: “from above”, “again”, both, what’s he getting at exactly. In coming to speak to Jesus, Nicodemus has begun to move from darkness to light, to an encounter with the light which has come into the world. To ask these questions though would mean to leave the realm of intellectual dispute, it would require a surrender on his part, a movement into the unknown world of Jesus, which is a movement into the realm of the mystery of God, a movement into the realm of not-understanding, and of not being able to arrive at understanding unless it is given him gratuitously “from above”. Nicodemus’ choice is to ignore the question of the kingdom of God altogether, eliminate the sense of the word as “from above” and to interpret it as “again”: "How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother's womb and be born again, can he?" Falling back into the security of his world of familiar concepts and patterns of thought, he stalls the movement toward Jesus.

Jesus tries again, developing what he has already said. "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. He moves now from “seeing” the kingdom of God to “entering” it, by means of water and Spirit. The new thing that Jesus brings is the ability to see and enter into the kingdom of God by being born again of water as a result of a gift from above of the Spirit. He then encourages Nicodemus to let go of being content with what he can see and control and to be open to this new way of understanding.  “What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, 'You must be born from above.”

If Nicodemus is to move forward as Jesus counsels him, he will have to begin with love. Jesus knows Nicodemus because he loves him. We can only know a person when we love them. Through love, Nicodemus will discover the capacity to surrender and let go of the familiar. Through love, he will find the seed of insight,  that will give birth to hope, which will prepare him for the leap of faith into the realm of God, where he will find again a whole new love and hope. All of this will be wholly the grace of God, the God who gives himself entirely, and is love and nothing but faithful, ever-constant tender love through and through.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from Father Timothy's homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Lifted Up

“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, 
so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, 
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish 
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, 
but that the world might be saved through him.   John 3

Jesus tells us that he must be lifted up. Clearly his “lifting up” is his crucifixion. He will be raised up on a cross of humiliation, pain and death; and his lifting up will be his self-gift to his Father for us. And when he says, “Where I am, there also will my servant be,” it is because he longs to draw us with himself to the Father through the narrow gate of his passion. 

Still In the face of the ultimate inevitability of our death, our one time dying, and our daily dyings, we may want to run away. But Jesus offers us the cross a way out. He longs to draw us into his own his loving self-offering as a way out of death as dead end- self-giving as a way that absolutely cancels death, smashes it to pieces forever. “For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross despising its shame,” because he knows that death is only a gateway to life in love. We need not be afraid.

Follower of Jean Goujon (French, ca. 1510–ca. 1565 Bologna (?)), after a composition by Marcantonio Raimondi, ca. 1555, marble with traces of gilding, 43 1/4 x 24 1/2 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Only Mercy

Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit, our confidence in being heard must be based on God’s mercy and his love for us. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is by mercy that we shall be saved.  Saint John Chrysostom

Photograph of relief at bottom of the high altar of the Abbey church by Brother Brian.

Friday, March 9, 2018


Today March 9 marks the 450th anniversary of the birth of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, who gave up a privileged life to enter the Society of Jesus and died at age 23 from the plague, which he contracted during his courageous and selfless care for the sick. 

To mark the anniversary, the Holy See has announced the celebration of a Jubilee Year of Saint Aloysius from March 9, 2018, to March 9, 2019. The jubilee is fitting as the Church focuses its attention on young people with the October Synod of Bishops in Rome on “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment” and the January 2019 World Youth Day in Panama.

We pray for vocations and that candidates for our monastery may grow so deeply in their faith and love for Christ that they will proceed with a courage like that of Aloysius. 

The Vocation of Saint Aloysius (Luigi) Gonzaga, Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) (Italian, Cento 1591–1666 Bologna), ca. 1650. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


It takes courage to gaze upon the wounded, passion-gashed Jesus. For he shows us who are and who we are meant to become more and more - wounded healers, mercy-doers, never poor victims of our sin and bad choices, never mere hapless victims of our sin-filled histories and misery, never wounded wounders, but wounded shock-absorbers, wounded healers, wounded merciers.  

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


Seeing these first snowdrops blooming outside the cloister reminds us that spring and Easter cannot be far away. We are filled with hope; He is our Hope.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Lenten Morning

In the chill of this Lenten morning, we recall God's unfathomable mercy.

For you do not cease to spur us on
to possess a more abundant life
and, being rich in mercy,
you constantly offer pardon
and call on sinners
to trust in your forgiveness alone.
Never did you turn away from us,
and, though time and again

we have broken your covenant,
you have bound the human family to yourself
through Jesus your Son, our Redeemer,
with a new bond of love so tight
that it can never be undone. 

from Euchristic Prayer I for Reconciliation

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Temple of His Body

In the Gospel of John, we always stand contemplatively before the figure of Jesus. And in this morning’s passage, we notice him as he calls the Jewish leaders to acknowledge the true meaning of the temple: it is the meeting place of God and the people, never ever a place for business. No wonder he is so driven to clear out what does not belong there. “What right have you to do this?” they authorities ask him. Jesus is Truth and he calls them to acknowledge the true mystery of the temple. 

“Destroy this temple,” he says, “and in three days I will raise it up.” And then we hear this most beautiful phrase whispered to us by the evangelist, “He was speaking of the temple of His Body.” The temple of his body. Jesus declares himself now and forever the meeting place between God and his chosen ones. He embodies the covenant, the forever joining of heaven and earth in his very Person. The evangelist then explains that the temple that will be destroyed and raised up is not the temple of stone but the temple of Jesus’ own body.

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” Jesus says this referring to his Hour, the Hour of his passion, death and resurrection. For it is most of all in that Hour of great sorrow and emptying, that he will truly become the place where we can encounter the most tender, self-emptying love of the Father for all creation. For in that Hour Jesus’ body will be broken open, destroyed by the horror of his passion and so become the life-giving temple of Ezekiel’s vision, the temple from which living, life-giving waters flow. Life and all love gush out of the sanctuary of his pierced heart and recreate Paradise. Here and now Jesus reveals himself as the place where the Father’s love abides and flows out. 

Detail of a Deposition by Fra Angelico.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Pictures Become Windows - 2

    It is a marvelous thing to stand in a transfigured moment. Those transfigured moments are all around and not as rare as we might think. Every one of us could tell a story about stepping back from the picture of our life, seeing with new eyes, listening with different ears, and discovering a window that opened into another world and another way of being.
    Like Peter, we are tempted to build dwelling places for those moments. But booths, dwelling places, picture frames will only keep us in the past. To the extent that we cling to the past, we close ourselves to the future God offers us. So it is that Jesus, Peter, James, and John came back down the mountain. They could not stay there, but neither did they leave the mountaintop experience. They took it with them. It is what would carry them through the passion and crucifixion to the resurrection.
    Transfigured moments change us, sustain us, prepare us, encourage us, and guide us into the future regardless of the circumstances we face. They show us who we are. They provide the truest horizon. We are called to be the transfigured people of God. Let us open our eyes and see a transfigured world, open our ears and hear the transfiguring voice, open our hearts and become a transfigured life.
    “Is this all there is?” This question may be our experience of God’s longing for us, a reminder that the window never closes. The transfigured Christ wants us to know that every picture we have of life and of him is truly an open window. The Good News is that he himself is the window, the lens, through which we are to see and live our lives. He is the portal that makes transfigured moments possible. According to the Father’s salvific design for us, the power that transforms pictures into windows is the life, death, and resurrection of his Son. 

Detail of an ancient Cistercian grisaille window from the Abbey of Obazine. Meditation by Father Dominic.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Pictures Become Windows - 1

    There are times when we may look at our lives and want more. We experience a restlessness, a searching, longing for something else. “Is this all there is?” This is common enough even in a monastery. It may be that we see only the surface of things, as though we were looking at a picture - rather than through a window to what is really beyond. 
    As we hear or read the account of the Lord’s Transfiguration, Jesus invites us along with Peter, James, and John beyond an everyday familiarity with him. With the disciples, we too have seen Jesus cast out demons, heal Peter’s mother-in-law, and cure the sick of Capernaum. He has cleansed the leper and made a withered hand new and strong. Paralytics now walk, the blind see, and thousands are fed. All amazing enough, but do we see beyond the surface of who Jesus is and what he is really teaching and doing? 
    On the mountaintop, we see Jesus transfigured “his clothes dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.” There is the overshadowing cloud, and the Father speaking of his beloved Son. Peter wants to build dwelling places. “It is good for us to be here,” he says. He wants to preserve the moment. It is as if he wants to take a picture. Pictures are static. Pictures have to become “windows” through which we can move into the depths of God’s life, God’s light, God’s love.
    There on the mountaintop Peter, James, and John were transformed; they could see Christ as he had always been. Their eyes were opened. Their ears were opened, and they heard the voice that has never ceased speaking from the beginning. The transfiguration is as much about them as it is about Jesus. For we know that to really see Christ is to begin to get a glimpse of ourselves.
    So it is for us on our Lenten journey.  It is all right there in front of our eyes. We do not need to see new things. We need to see the same old things with new eyes. We do not need to hear a different voice. We need to hear the same old voice with different ears. We do not need to escape the circumstances of our life. We need simply to be more fully present to those circumstances. When this happens life is no longer lived on the surface. These are transfigured moments when the picture of our life becomes a window into a new world, and we come face to face with the glory of God. Then by God’s grace, his touching us inwardly, we experience as sheer gift the world transfigured and creation filled with divine light. Circumstances haven’t changed. We have changed, and that seems to change everything.

Detail of an ancient Cistercian grisaille window from the Abbey of Obazine. Meditation by Father Dominic.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Prodigal Son - 4

In the words of Saint Catherine of Siena, God has fallen in love with what he created. And in Christ Jesus, our Lord God has given us all that he is. Indeed, God, our Father has given us his Word. He says to us, “All I have is yours.”  This is another name for Jesus.  

It is finally on the cross that God’s reckless, measureless love is made perfectly clear. Because he could not bear to have us oppressed by sin and pain and death, God in Christ dies on the cross and all is reversed, for, in his Resurrection, God's unbounded love has the last word. We remember the Resurrection icon - Christ grabbing Adam and Eve by the wrists - yanking them out of their graves like a frantic mother pulling her children from a burning building. This what love does.

When we were lost and could not find our way home, God loved us more than ever and sent us Jesus his Son. He became lost on our behalf, squandering his precious life on the cross, while always trusting in the Father's love. He rose and returned to his Father and has taken us with him. We must rejoice for we were lost and have been found by God in Christ forever. Indeed, in the wounded risen Christ, God rushes toward us to bring us home and buries his beautiful face in the dirty crook of our necks.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Prodigal Son - 3

So, two lost sons learning how to return home, learning how to love - one son learning how to love responsibly, the other son learning how to let himself be loved. Most importantly both must learn what it means to be a son - to learn love and respect and responsibility. This is after all what it means for each of us to be children of the God who is love beyond measure - we must relish all the love lavished upon us and love in return. 

We remember some years ago chatting with a wizened old missionary; he had worked for years in Belize. On the road constantly in his dilapidated jeep; numerous Masses at different mission stations all day on a Sunday and often having to transport sick Mayan children to the hospital in the middle of the night during the week. He had so many stories; finally, he smiled and said, “You know, there's one thing Saint Paul didn’t say about love - it’s also very often quite inconvenient!”

What could we add from our own experience? Love is self-forgetful; love is always toward the other. Love by its nature longs to express itself; it is not neat and tidy; it cannot be contained. What is more, love longs to be loved in return. Love is not self-sufficient but in need of the other. When we love, we are vulnerable, easily hurt, easily elated. How amazing then that God is love.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Prodigal Son - 2

A pause. Enter the sweaty, hardworking son. The rage and jealousy, and righteous anger are almost palpable. He is full of kid’s justice - what we all said as children - "Dad, that’s not fair!” How it cut our parents to the quick. Now the younger son certainly needed to learn that love entails responsibility. But this older son will have to learn that dutiful love must always be accompanied by mercy. And if we'd been around a couple of days earlier, we might have heard a discussion between this guy and his wife concerning their son. It went something like this - “He’s being irresponsible. I expect more of him. He shouldn’t forget; he should know better.” His wife’s response - “Honey, take it easy, he’s only five years old.”

Imagine how hard he is on himself when he makes a mistake – “I should have known better.” Or when something goes wrong – "I got what I deserved.” For weeks since his brother left, he’s been nursing a grudge as big as Gibraltar, going off to work each morning with a giant chip on his shoulder. He’s very good at balancing the books. He’s soon to be appearing in another parable, where we’ll hear him say - “Pay me what you owe!” Confident in his dutifulness, and in all he has accomplished; he is the very good, reliable son. 

Now the younger son was right, perhaps he no longer deserves even to be called son. Love alone makes him worthy. But this older son is even more deluded, for he thinks he deserves something because he’s been slaving for his father for years. But he’s not a slave but a son like his brother. But somehow he feels he has to defend his father’s rights and reputation. He’s embarrassed at the weakness that his Father reveals in such extravagant love. He can’t deal with it. “The fatted calf? C’mon.”

And then there’s this little phrase, almost too painful to hear – “Why you never gave me so much as a kid goat to celebrate with my friends.” The father might have added - “You never asked me; I’d give you anything. Please tell me what you want.” This guy’s been so busy doing the right thing, he’s lost sight of his deepest desires (there’s true blindness for you.) He’s totally clueless, has no sense of all the love that’s available for him. He too is lost, really desperate, though he doesn’t know it yet. But let’s not be too hard on him; his father’s certainly not. “Please, please come in,” he says. “You are always with me. All I have is yours.” (Such an incredibly beautiful phrase that really sums up the whole parable.) Perhaps this older son will learn love in a new key today; learn that love is extravagant, even reckless - far beyond the bounds of justice and our own too small equations.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Prodigal Son - 1

Spencer (32).JPG
This is a story we know so well, the story of the foolish extravagance of the Father’s love - the story of the Father who loved too much.

There was a very prosperous man with two sons so the story begins. Soon we see the younger coming to his father with a misguided request. “Please give me my share. I want what’s coming to me. I’ve got to get out of here. This farm’s too small for me. I’ve got some big plans.” It’s so clear he’s making a really dumb move. He’s clearly been loved, perhaps to excess, even spoiled. He’s probably experienced his father’s love repeatedly, and he’s been empowered by that love, so freely given. The boy is self-assured but blinded to love’s responsibilities. He trusts in a father who’s probably indulged him and trusted his initiative in the past. Imagine the love that allows this boy to take such a risk- even one as hair-brained as this one. And so he’s off with his share of the estate- in Hebrew law, one-third of the estate since he is the younger son. It’s an incredibly large amount of money. He’s full of ideas, big plans. And he wastes it all.

Now we hear that phrase - “dissolute living” - everything gone; he’s spent it all, every last tiny coin. All squandered. What’s worse, there’s a famine. It’s very bleak. And then, praise God, the boy gets desperate. O blessed desperation! Jesus tells us he's happy to feed pigs. Pigs! And so he makes himself totally unclean! Notice him, starving yet somehow too embarrassed even to snack on a few husks. And then this odd phrase: “No one made a move to give him anything.” Is he ever hungry, starving; but even more, it seems, he is longing for someone to notice; he’s yearning to be loved back to life. “No one made a move to give him anything.”

And then he has a new, brilliant idea. We might call it creative humility. “I need only be a servant, and then I won’t go hungry. I don’t deserve anything. I have sinned, messed up totally, but I will return. How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough.” See the exquisite freedom of those who can recall ever so slightly that they are loved, they have experienced themselves as beloved; see the confidence that undergirds a change of heart. “Yes, I will arise and return to my father.”

And then all mercy, the father’s joy, his dear old face buried in his son’s unwashed neck. He’ll hear none of the boy’s protestations, or if he does, he responds only with extravagant love. The son wants to be treated as a slave but instead, he will be treated as an honored guest - as the son he never ceased to be. “I just love you so much, and I am so happy to have you home with me again.”

Sunday, February 25, 2018

This Morning

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
from the cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." Mark 9

This morning the Father’s voice is heard on the mountaintop as Jesus is transfigured. His disciples gaze upon the blazing beauty of their Lord, a beauty previously hidden from them. And we eavesdrop, as the Father names his Son beloved. Baptized into Christ, we have been baptized into this belovedness. This is our blessed truth, our indelible dignity with Jesus, in Him, through Him. We hear today with Jesus the voice of the Father’s eternal love and good pleasure, the pleasure of the Father in the Son with the Spirit. This is our truth, we are beloved in Him. Far beyond our foolishness and frailty and sins and tendencies toward sin, our belovedness in Christ is a dazzling reality that nothing can eclipse. Nothing can separate us from the Father's love. As Jesus prepares for his self-offering on the altar of the cross, we are given a glimpse of his resurrected radiance, the radiance of the Father's love for his beloved Son which is ours in Him.

photograph by Brother Jonah

Friday, February 23, 2018

An Understanding

I understood Christ's passion as the greatest and overwhelming pain. And yet it was revealed to me in an instant, and it quickly became a consolation. For our good Lord would not have the soul frightened by this ugly sight...because of the tender love which our good Lord has for all who will be saved, he comforts readily and sweetly, meaning this: It is true that sin is the cause of all this pain, but all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well. These words were revealed most tenderly, showing no kind of blame to me or anyone... Julian of Norwich

Taught so well and so often that difficult was better - no guts, no glory; no pain, no gain - the readiness of Christ's forgiveness may embarrass us. Like Saint Peter when Jesus wants to wash his feet, the sense of Jesus' condescension is disorienting. But his passion is all love and mercy. This is what Julian of Norwich will name in another passage as Jesus' "courtesy."  We are unworthy; his love alone makes us worthy.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Ordinariness is where the Lord most always comes to meet us. God in Christ has come to be ordinary. Why else would he choose to be a child, why else a carpenter and a wandering teacher? Why else allow himself to be done in by thugs and jealous bureaucrats? Why else choose to be hidden in a morsel of bread on the altar? The ordinary is where God encounters us. God loves what is small and ordinary.

In the words of Luis Maria Martinez, “The divine Word belittled himself and he has remained pledged to smallness…he loves smallness…Jesus seeks smallness because he knows very well that there is nothing so truly great upon earth as that which is insignificant…small is the manger, small is the boat, narrow is the cross…He clothes the small with the immensity of his love, and to the little ones he entrusts great missions…” 

Vintage photograph of Father Adrian and Brother William in the early days at Trappist Preserves.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Mind of Christ

Today the Church presents us with a very short but rich version of Jesus’ sojourn in the desert. He has just been baptized, and with the impulse of the Spirit, his Father has sent him into the desert. In the silence, Jesus can turn over and over in his mind the words his Father had pronounced with such solemnity: “You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased.” These words are the treasure that Jesus will hold fast these forty days, nourishing him like no bread could do. Jesus wants us to understand that these words are intended for us as well, who by the Spirit have been baptized into him. For the Father speaks to us as he did to Jesus: “You are my beloved sons and daughters; with you, I am well pleased in my Son, Jesus Christ.” 

The reality of the desert also includes the obstacles that Jesus faced, some of which we will also face this Lent. First, there were the needs of his body. Jesus, like us, was flesh and blood, and being in the desert for forty days certainly tested his physical endurance. Second, there was the presence of Satan, the same evil spirit that had hounded the People of God from the beginning. He has not gone away but seeks every chance to deceive us. Third, there were wild beasts, those irrational forces that permeate our world, bringing new forms of hatred and violence. Finally, there was the clear awareness of the risk he was taking. Jesus would not have us be ignorant of these obstacles; truly we cannot have the mind of Christ without trials. 

And to understand the mind of Christ we must embrace the urgency of his mission. If the Spirit has brought Jesus into the desert to ponder his Father’s words, he will bring him back from the desert to announce that the “time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” At the beginning of another Lenten season, the Church wants us to hear Jesus’ words and to change our minds from what is deceitful, away from those beasts lurking in the hidden parts of our hearts. 

Excerpts from Father Vincent's Homily for the First Sunday of Lent.

Friday, February 16, 2018

His Compassion

At the sight of the crowds, Jesus' heart is moved with pity. This is literally in Greek his inward parts, the guts. With every fiber of his flesh and blood and divinity, Jesus expresses this compassion that God feels for us. Our sufferings, and pains and the trap of our sinfulness wrench Jesus’ guts, he feels it all in his innards - a “visceral” love. Jesus is moved; he is the mercy of God enfleshed. And this mercy gushes forth from his heart; he can’t hold it back; his mercy expresses itself as he cures “every disease and illness.” And even now his heart is brimming over with tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy for us, because, he sees that we are “troubled and abandoned.” Jesus sees into our hearts, knows all the stories we are, the stories we bring. He sees our confusion, pain, and incompleteness, our sinfulness, and his heart is magnetized by our need for him. 

Photograph of the lancet window in the transept of the Abbey church by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


In his Confessions, Saint Augustine will say to God: “You were within me and I was outside of myself, and I searched for you in that exterior world.” How often is our treasure in that “exterior world?”

Have you ever had the sense that you just are not good enough? Have you ever spent time comparing yourself to others? Have you ever spoken or acted in a particular way in order to get someone’s approval? How much of your sense of self-worth or value is tied to what others say or think about you? Have you ever tried to prove yourself by working harder and longer? Have you ever put up a good front, pretending to be someone you were not, just so you would fit in and be accepted? If you recognize any of these attitudes in your life, then you probably know what it is like to search “in that exterior world.”

Searching in that exterior world can be risky and heart-wrenching because you will eventually realize, as Augustine did, that you are not who you thought you were. This is who I thought I was and wanted to be. This is the recognition, praise, and approval I have longed for and searched for. And yet, it is not really me. As painful and humbling as such an experience can be, it is also a grace-filled experience.  Such experiences are opportunities to discover that who we are in God - and not in the eyes, opinions or praises of others - is who we most truly are. Such experiences can become the first step in our journey home, home to our true self. This is what Lent is really all about.

Lent is not a journey from bad to good or from sinner to saint. It is the journey of coming to ourselves and returning home to who we really are. And so we all need to be careful that the very things we choose to give up or take on or do for Lent, don’t become our Lenten treasures to which we give our hearts. Let us never forget that our practices and disciplines are fundamentally about teaching and helping us to give our hearts to God and to each other. They are not the means of gaining God’s acceptance, approval or love, for we cannot gain these things. We can only accept and receive them. God’s love and acceptance is already ours or we would not exist.

My brothers and sisters, where we begin our Lenten journey is not as important as where it takes us. In the same way, what we give up, take on, or do for Lent is not as important as what those things do for us. May we all come to the end of Lent with completely empty hands. Empty because we have learned throughout the course of Lent to open ourselves more and more to the completely free gift of God’s unqualified love, approval and acceptance. 

Reflection by Abbot Damian.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


To receive mercy, to be receptive to the mercy Jesus longs to lavish upon us, we must know our need; we have to be satisfied to be somehow inefficient, to do all we can to be attentive but most of all to depend totally on Christ’s kind favor; simply depend on and trust in his gracious mercy and loving-kindness. Christ only wants our weakness, frail flesh where he can dwell. Christ Jesus longs to take our flesh to himself as he did in Mary's womb. There He embraced our reality, our story, took it to himself - the utter inefficiency of our ordinariness. We can be receptive to his compassion if we dare embrace our incompleteness.

God’s compassion for us, will lead him straight to the cross. He submits because he trusts that he is the Beloved of the Father. Like us, with us, for us, it is he himself who will be “harassed and torn apart.” There suspended on the cross, bullied and hounded, his heart will finally be torn open so that an unending torrent of compassion may gush upon us, heal and anoint us.  

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Leper

In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus dares to touch an unclean leper; he stretches out his hand to him, as he will on the cross, and he heals him. The compassion of God has invaded the earth; the kingdom is happening in and through Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus proclaims and enacts the kingdom, with compassion and healing down to his very fingertips. Jesus restores this man to family, kinsfolk, and friends. He restores him to connectivity and relationship. He no longer needs to be isolated or shunned. Compassion will not allow that. Such is the truth of our belovedness in Christ - we all belong to God and to one another; no one is to be excluded or isolated. Jesus enacts what he will pray for, what he will die for - that all may be one in love and in compassion. This is the costly, exquisitely compassionate way to be kingdom.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Reflection with thanks to Father Isaac.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

His Notice

His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread
to satisfy them here in this deserted place?”
Still he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”
They replied, “Seven.”
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them,
and gave them to his disciples to distribute,
and they distributed them to the crowd.
They also had a few fish.
He said the blessing over them
and ordered them distributed also.
They ate and were satisfied.
They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets.
There were about four thousand people. Mark 8

Jesus notices our hunger and longs to give us what we need. We can tell him what we want. Always attentive to our desperation, he longs to fill us with himself. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Thursday, February 8, 2018


A Syrophoenician woman will interrupt Jesus this morning. She’s an outsider on two counts: a non-Jew and a woman now alone with a man.*  And she knows that she of all people has no right to make demands on Jesus, so she does what she has to do- she falls at his feet, and she begs. She’s got nothing to lose; she’s lost it all already, she’s desperate, her life is in shambles.

Jesus seems uninterested and insists that he has come only for the children of Israel, not for dogs. She is undaunted by his very blunt metaphor.

“Fine, then, call me a dog if you want. But even dogs get the scraps. Please, Lord, give me a scrap, just a scrap of your mercy.”

Jesus is outdone by her forthrightness, won over; his heart stirred by her anguish and her need. He is transformed in the encounter. And he reveals himself as amazingly, humanly relational.

What do you want? Perhaps the message this morning is to take this woman’s lead and be a bit insistent, even desperate. Jesus is never ever unaffected or unresponsive.

* See Donahue & Harrington, Sacra Pagina: Mark, p. 237.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Here is Saint Bernard’s description of the “claustral paradise” 

“The monastery is truly a paradise, a region fortified with the rampart of discipline. It is a glorious thing to have men living together in the same house, following the same way of life. How good and pleasant it is when brothers live in unity. You will see one of them weeping for his sins, another rejoicing in the praise of God, another tending the needs of all, and another giving instruction to the rest. Here is one who is at prayer, another at reading. Here is one who is compassionate and another who inflicts penalties for sins. This one is aflame with love and that one is valiant in humility. This one remains humble when everything goes well and the other one does not lose his nerve in difficulties. This one works very hard in active tasks while the other finds quiet in the practice of contemplation.”

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpt from Saint Bernard's Sermon: in Div 42.4.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

To Him

Day after day atrocities beyond imagining all over the world. And so again this morning, every morning, 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, longing for his touch. Like all those who come to the door in this morning’s Gospel, we come to the door of his wounded, open heart seeking refuge, healing, true peace. To whom else shall we go? Impeded, and broken like Job, perhaps even sometimes on the verge of giving up hope, not knowing how to speak our need and real longing, and perhaps now inured to tragedy, still, we come back to this 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; that he is with us, he himself praying, 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 God in Christ that brings healing to our world. We go to him, we accompany one another. We never go to him alone. He who is most kind Physician begs us to open ourselves to him. He longs to meet us at the door of our sorrow.

Christ Crucified, Diego Velázquez, 1632, 98 in × 67 in, oil on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid.