Saturday, October 29, 2011


Since He loves us first, out of His great tenderness; we are bound to repay Him with love; and we may cherish exultant hope in Him. 'He richly blesses all who call upon Him.' Yet He has no gift for them better than Himself. He gives Himself as prize and reward: He is the refreshment of the holy soul... 'The Lord is good to those who seek Him.' What will He be then to those who gain His presence? But here is a paradox, that no one can seek the Lord who has not already found Him. It is Your will, O God, to be found that You may be sought, to be sought that You may all the more truly be found.

from On Loving God by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven." Blessed indeed are those who know their need for God. Our desperate need for Mercy is always grace, a very real opportunity to fall backwards into Christ’s compassionate embrace. It is always disconcerting but an exquisite refuge and relief. On this Solemnity of All the Saints, we celebrate the desperation that led them to put everything else aside for the love of Christ.

Friday, October 28, 2011

In Simplicity & Ordinariness

Like members of any family the monks share the household chores that keep the monastery running smoothly. Here Brother Simeon and Father Timothy clean the monastic refectory.

The quietness of mind cultivated by silence is also the fruit of purity and simplicity of heart. For this reason the monk, in a spirit of joyful penitence, is to embrace willingly those means practised in the Order: work, the hidden life and voluntary poverty, together with vigils and fasting.

from The Constitutions of the Monks

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Late October

Subtle color. Transitions perhaps too easy to overlook.
God's finger in nuances.

This portfolio of autumn images by Brother Casimir.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Autumn After Irene

This Fall is different. We are told that the torrential rains and gale-force winds of Hurricane Irene played havoc with the way that the leaves normally change color. Many of the sugar maples that are usually so vibrant simply lost brown leaves. Hurricane Irene was brutal. Many tree limbs were broken; the Abbey's library basement flooded, and we watched volumes of Plato and Merton floating by side by side. And now we are experiencing the last of Irene's meddling. Nonetheless a fine range of subdued but lovely golds and a few patches of deep red are noteworthy. It just takes a bit more effort to notice.

Above a photo of Lac Marie on the Abbey property.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Abbey Chapter House

At Spencer, as all through the ages, great care was taken that the monastic buildings would be beautiful, to reflect the glory of God and draw the monk heavenward. The harmonious disposition of spaces was meant to express Saint Benedict’s vision of a harmonious community as presented in his Rule. And indeed for us Cistercians this would mean in addition a certain austerity and visual sobriety expressed in unadorned interior spaces and non-figurative grisaille glass. Great attention was given to proportion and the effects of light on bare walls. Our Cistercian forebears believed the monastery should be a cloistered paradise- where the monk could regain the innocence of Adam and Eve in Eden before the Fall.

All great architecture has its antecedents. The barn at Great Coxwell in Oxfordshire, England located on one of the Cistercian Abbey of Beaulieu’s most significant granges, is dated to the late 13th or early 14th century. It seems to have been the inspiration for Spencer’s church and chapter house. The exterior with pitched roof extending down to low side walls is certainly reminiscent. And our chapter house’s open timbering on the interior seems to echo the interior of the Great Coxwell barn.

The Great Coxwell Barn

Friday, October 7, 2011

Our Lady of the Rosary

This morning as we concluded Lauds the window of Our Lady was blazing in the glow of the sunrise; Mary illumined by the Radiant Dawn, the Sun of Justice, who is Jesus her Son. Baptized into Christ Jesus our lives are meant to glow with His presence. The mysteries of the Holy Rosary- joyful, sorrowful, glorious and luminous- are the mysteries of our own lives. As we pray the Rosary we beg Our Lady to draw us closer to Him who is Our Light.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gentle Francis

We are told that Saint Francis decreed that his friars must 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 Tiepolo.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


We are always consoled by these words of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux:

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.