Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Joy

 

Someone who loves you, Lord, makes no mistake in his choice, for nothing is better than you. His hope is not cheated, since nothing is loved with greater reward...Here is joy because fear is banished, here is tranquility...

Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines from Saint Aelred of Rievaulx.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Francis

We are told that Saint Francis decreed that his friars not have pockets in their habits. How he wanted them to be poor with the poor Christ! How to depend on Jesus alone for all we need? How to cling to Him, a Treasure always ready to hand and heart?

Detail of Saint Francis Of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata by Giambattista Tiepol

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Father Gabriel

Our Father Gabriel Bertonière passed quietly to Lord late last evening. He will be remembered as one who loved the brethren and this place. Gabriel was a gifted musician and master of Gregorian Chant, training many of the monks in proper chant style. And even into his later years, Gabriel sang like a choir boy. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on January 17, 1932, to John A. Bertonière, Sr., and Hazel Montaldo, he graduated from Jesuit High School there in 1948 and went on to study at Harvard University. Immediately upon obtaining his BA cum laude from Harvard with a major in English in 1952, he entered St Joseph’s Abbey, whose community had only recently transferred to Spencer after a devastating fire destroyed their monastery in Cumberland, Rhode Island.

 

Father Gabriel made temporary profession of vows in 1954 and solemn vows in 1957, and he was ordained a priest in 1958. In 1962 he was sent by the Abbot to Rome to continue his theological studies. While in Europe he visited the monasteries of Mount Athos in Greece in order to deepen his growing appreciation of the Eastern monastic tradition. Byzantine Christianity and worship would become vital to his spirituality. In 1963 Fr Gabriel received his Licentiate in Sacred Theology cum laude from the Oriental Institute in Rome. In 1965 he began a long period of absence from the monastery. During this time he lived at the monastery of Chevetogne in Belgium, prepared his doctorate at the Collegium Russicum in Rome, and taught there for the extension program of an American university. He completed his doctoral dissertation in 1970 cum laude and returned permanently to Spencer to resume his monastic life in 1988. He is the author of several books, most prominently, Through Faith & Fire: The Monks of Spencer 1825-1958. After his return to Spencer, Fr Gabriel generously served his brothers for many years in several essential capacities, most significantly as archivist, novice master, organist, and choirmaster. He also served for a number of years as chaplain to our Trappistine sisters at St Mary’s Abbey in Wrentham, MA.

The younger of two children, Fr Gabriel was predeceased by his parents, John and Hazel, and his sister, Yvonne. His dear and devoted cousin, Jonathan Montaldo, of Mantua, NJ, shares this reminiscence, which speaks volumes about the quality of Father Gabriel’s life: “Gabriel and I were once in the infirmary kitchen with others, including Fr. Matthew, and some monk remarked how close Gabriel and I seemed to be. Matthew said, ‘Close? They are thick as thieves.’ Yes, but I was only a follower. Only Gabriel knew how to pull the heist of living life full tilt.”

Father Gabriel’s wake and funeral Mass will be private.

Unprofitable Servants

But, brethren, from all that might be said of His character I single out one point and beg you to notice that. He loved to praise, He loved to reward. He knew what was in man, He best knew men's faults and yet He was the warmest in their praise. When He worked a miracle He would grace it with Thy faith hath saved thee, that it might almost seem the receiver's work, not His. He said of Nathanael that he was an Israelite without guile; He that searches hearts said this, and yet what praise that was to give! He called the two sons of Zebedee Sons of Thunder, a kind and stately and honorable name! We read of nothing thunder-like that they did except, what was sinful, to wish fire down from heaven on some sinners, but they deserved the name or He would not have given it, and He has given it to them for all time. Of John the Baptist He said that his greater was not born of women. He said to Peter, Thou art Rock, and rewarded a moment's acknowledgment of him with the lasting headship of His Church. He defended Magdalen and took means that the story of her generosity should be told forever. And though He bids us say we are unprofitable servants, yet He Himself will say to each of us, Good and faithful servant, well done.

 

And this man whose picture I have tried to draw for you, brethren, is your God. He was your maker in time past; hereafter He will be your judge. Make Him your hero now. Take some time to think of Him; praise Him in your hearts. You can over your work or on your road praise Him, saying over and over again, Glory be to Christ's body; Glory be the body of the Word made flesh; Glory to the body suckled at the Blessed Virgin's breasts; Glory to Christ's body in its beauty; Glory to Christ's body in its weariness; Glory to Christ's body in its Passion, death, and burial; Glory to Christ's body risen; Glory to Christ's body in the Blessed Sacrament; Glory to Christ's soul; Glory to His genius and wisdom; Glory to His unsearchable thoughts; Glory to His saving words; Glory to His sacred heart; Glory to its courage and manliness; Glory to its meekness and mercy ; Glory to its every heartbeat, to its joys and sorrows, wishes, fears; Glory in all things to Jesus Christ.

Excerpts from a homily by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Saint Thérèse

 

If you are willing to bear in peace the trial of not being pleased with yourself, you will be offering the Lord Jesus a home in your heart. It is true you will suffer, for you will feel like a stranger in your own house. But do not fear, for the poorer you are, the more Christ will love you.

We are always consoled by these words of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux; she reminds us that Jesus' power is made perfect in our weakness. God does not want our virtue, he wants our weakness. Even as we try to please him, we see and understand that we always come up short. Jesus is not a coach. He wants us to go to him in our poverty. 

This requires courage, humility, and quite often a good deal of embarrassment as perhaps we realize that we are not the spiritual athletes we imagined ourselves to be and are not making much progress in the spiritual life (as if such a thing were desirable in the first place.) It's all about Jesus' mercy. All I can offer him is my poverty and weakness. This delights Our Lord. Not because he wants to put us down, but because he delights to console and strengthen and transform our hearts into hearts of flesh, not hearts of stone, hearts full of love and compassion, hearts as broken as his own.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Saint Jerome


Saint Jerome, the fourth-century monk, renowned for his holiness and learning is also remembered for his bad temper and acerbic personality, especially when combatting heresy. Strong and outspoken he had many virtues as well as the unpleasant fruits of a fearlessly critical nature. 

Swift to anger but also swift to remorse, he was more severe on himself than on the shortcomings and errors of others. One pope is supposed to have remarked on seeing a painting of Jerome striking his breast with a stone, "You do well to carry that stone, for without it the Church would never have canonized you!"

Guido Reni, Saint Jerome, c. 1624, oil on canvas, 111.8 cm x 86.4 cm, National Gallery, London.  Meditation by Father Emmanuel.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

With The Angels

 

In the presence of the angels, I will sing your praises Lord.

As we celebrate Saints Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and all the holy angels and archangels, these messengers of God Most High, we recall that when we chant our praise to God, we join them. When we pray the heavens are thrown open, and we accompany the angels and saints in their endless praise. 

Detail of The Assumption by Fra Angelico.