Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holy Family

On this very snowy morning, on this Feast of the Holy Family, our monastic "family" was absorbed in all the activities that make the community run smoothly. While one group cleared the paths and entryways of snow, others were preparing the noon meal, still others caring for the infirm, while others were praying quietly.

We were reminded of these words of the early Cistercian abbot, Baldwin of Forde:
Since they have one heart and one soul and all things in common, there is concord and unanimity throughout, and they always put the general profit and the common good before their own individual convenience…The greater their love, the stronger is their bond and the more perfect is their communion: and conversely, the greater their communion, the stronger their bond and the more perfect their love.
Photographs by Brother Anthony Khan and Brother Brian.

Friday, December 28, 2012


We share recent photographs of the brothers in formation and their directors, taken by Brother Brian on the occasion of Brother John's Simple Profession.

From left to right: Fr. Luke, Novicemaster; Br. John, Simply Professed; Fr. James, Junior Director; Br. Peter, Novice; Br. Stephen, Simply Professed; Br. Daniel, Submaster of Novices; Michael, Observer.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

God With Us

In 1941 W. H. Auden wrote “For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio.” The poem is a series of dramatic monologues spoken by characters in the biblical Christmas story along with choruses and a narrator. The characters all speak in modern diction, and the events of the story are portrayed as if they occurred in the contemporary world. Simeon’s meditation in the poem in part goes as follows: “And because of His visitation, we may no longer desire God as if He were lacking; our redemption is no longer a question of pursuit but of surrender to Him who is always and everywhere present. Therefore, at every moment we pray that, following Him, we may depart from our anxiety into His peace.”
There really is no such thing as “as if” when it comes to what we are celebrating on this night. Emmanuel, God with us, is really and truly with us tonight, today in our lives. Christian reflection through the centuries always comes to Simeon’s conclusion- the birth of Christ, “His visitation,” changes the entire human agenda, changes it from pursuing a missing, an absent God to surrendering to an “always and everywhere present God.”
The Incarnation, God becoming human, is really a landmark, cosmic, ontological  shift which changes everything. When God was missing (or presumed missing) we could always ask questions like, “Where is God in all this anyway?” with its presumed answer of “nowhere.” Or we could scream out, often hysterically, “How long, O Lord, how long?” to some distant, remote deity. After all one can always deny or scream at or blame a distant, missing god (who may or may not really be there anyway). But if God is “always and everywhere present,” what then?
Brothers and sisters, this is what we’re all about tonight- learning to continue to surrender to our “always and everywhere present God.” And this year that always and everywhere includes Friday, Decmber 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. That was the day that I began to reflect and put together my thoughts for this homily. I was doing just that when I received the news of that tragic event. To be honest, I couldn’t continue. Whatever I was thinking and trying to say, seemed so meaningless at that moment. So, I went for walk. The following day when I returned to my reflections on today’s Feast, it was still a struggle for me. I found myself wanting to avoid this horrendous tragedy; to put it out of my mind and get on with my Christmas homily. But would it really be a Christmas homily if I bracketed all the very real human tragedies in our world today?
We who worship Jesus on this holy night, we who listen again to the song which the angels sang, we who begin to glimpse the reality that in Jesus heaven and earth really do come together, we now have the responsibility to sing this song for ourselves, and so to discover what it might look like in practice for Jesus really to be the Savior, the King, the Lord in this so sad, and often tragic world of ours. The Christmas message is about the reality of God becoming flesh- part and parcel of our reality, with all the suffering and puzzlement that goes with it.
I just mentioned that on first hearing of the tragedy in Newtown I tried to avoid it, so I could get on with my Christmas homily. What I came to realize was that it was right there in the midst of all that pain and heartache that God was being born. And I pray to God that in saying this I am not putting some "theological veneer" over the whole painful, tragic mess. A Jewish rabbi ,who was present in the fire house where family members were gathering in the midst of the chaos of that day, was interviewed by a reporter. He said the following: “There’s no theological answer to this. What you have to do is be with them, hug them and cry with them.” Isn’t that why God became human, so that He could be with us, embrace us and cry with us? The images that I saw in newspapers or on the internet of so many people doing just that, embracing and crying with each other, became for me a sort of living icon of God’s Incarnation. And I am more convinced now than I was before December 14, that because of God’s Incarnation God’s embrace is wider, broader, deeper than any evil. And God’s tears can quench the flames of any hell.
And so brothers and sisters, let us praise this Jesus tonight from a full heart, full with all that we carry within it, and from a glad heart. And let us celebrate His birth with everything we’ve got. And then in our own unique ways, big and small, let’s go and bring God’s glory in heaven to his people on earth. The angels sang their song. And they did a pretty good job of it. Maybe it’s time we learned to sing it back to them.
Excerpts from Abbot Damian's Homily for this year's Christmas Mid-night Mass. Photograph of a detail of the Abbey Creche taken by Brother Jonah.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Come Down

In these darkest days of the year, the shortest days, “as the year grows older and the chill sets in,” let us make a place for Christ, a place where hope can grow as he did in the Virgin womb of Mary. Let us open to him all places of fear and helplessness in our hearts and in our world, dare to open that darkness to the Divine Child of Hope, who longs to be near. A tiny hand reaches out to us; God is whispering a message that we need not fear. We can be unafraid, for we are dearly loved, even liked, by a God who dares to become a little Child.

Like the Virgin Mary, who allowed herself to be tenderly overshadowed by Mystery, a Mystery who loves us beyond all telling, let us step quietly, perhaps even a bit forlornly, into that place of trust in our belovedness.

Overshadow us, come down O Love Divine, and invade our space with your more than imaginable "benignness" and tenderness and compassion. Fill us with yourself; for left to ourselves, we will believe ourselves too small, too lonely, too afraid and forgotten.

Friday, December 21, 2012


Guests are always welcome to join us for the Christmas Liturgies. 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.
Christ the Lord is born on earth today for us.
Come let us adore him.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


With rain pelting the roof of the Abbey church during this morning's Advent Eucharist, we heard once again these astounding words from the Gospel of Matthew,

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.

With all the preparations for Christmas even in the monastery- songs, cards and little lights- how sobering to hear this Gospel. It reminds us just how Jesus is born, how Christ comes into our lives- in ordinariness- in what seems awkward, even incongruous. It is God's delight to make this reality, our reality, his holy dwelling place.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Our hearts and prayers are with the families of Newtown, Connecticut. We grieve with them. As Father Vincent reminded us in his homily this morning the senseless tragedy is a grim and very tangible reminder of our desperate need for a Savior. We draw close to Christ Jesus, who never ever abandons us. Only his wounded and resurrected love can help us cope with such horror.  Come Lord Jesus and do not delay. Please show us how to hope.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Brother Subprior

The juniors, therefore, should honor their seniors, and the seniors love their juniors. In these words Saint Benedict reminds his monks of the beauty of mutual respect. Here we see our Subprior, Brother Robert, in a photo by Brian Brian. Brother Robert is ever-attentive in the kitchen and in church to make sure that everything moves along smoothly. He notices what needs to be done and gently encourages our engagement and attention to one another's needs.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Eyes of Mercy

We are touched by the tenderness of the gaze of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as we recall her words to Juan Diego, "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?"
Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine
eyes of mercy towards us!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Brother John

On Sunday, December 9 Brother John Kim pronounced his simple vows during the weekly Chapter. We continue to be edified by John's goodness and generosity in sharing his many gifts with us. Born and raised in South Korea, John came to us after a brief career as a teacher of English. We share a portfolio of photographs taken by Brother Brian.


Saturday, December 8, 2012


In her response this morning Mary surrenders to God’s desire with a serenity and, it would seem, even a kind of a quiet joy. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." In the first reading we heard God’s very first recorded question. God says to Adam: “Where are you? Where are you, Man?” For Adam is hiding after all, naked and embarrassed at his lost innocence, hidden there in the underbrush. “Where are you?” Mary’s reply, centuries later, is the healing antidote to Adam’s fearfulness and furtiveness. She is utterly present. Mary stands right in the middle of the garden, small, delicate, defenseless but truly courageous. She comes forward, unembarrassed by her nothingness, and she says simply, “Here I am, you called me. Behold I am your handmaid. May it be done to me.”

And so Mary models for us our human capacity to be God-bearers, God-collaborators, at a very visceral level- every fiber of our being, our very bodies, totally available for God, for what God wants. “May it be done to me," she says as she steps quietly into mystery, into God’s arms. Such abandonment is always disorienting. And as Mary perhaps suspects at this moment of her Annunciation, her yes (like ours when we dare to say it) will be her undoing; things are going to fall apart. Still she names herself handmaid, not understanding fully, but believing that love is worth it, believing that God is trustworthy. She is grace-fully confident that God never deceives or manipulates but simply waits, always waits. Forever and ever and over and over God invites and waits- awaits our response most patiently. God pursues, even allures, proposes gently, modestly; but he is never ever coercive or pushy. Perhaps our response is not always as quick as Our Lady’s, but God always waits for us; and the offer always stands, for God cannot, will not withhold his compassion.

Most of all in this tale of Annunciation, we witness the surrender of love, the surrender of mutual desire that happens in any real relationship. Most truly it is Mary and God who are both losing themselves in each other. If we take the Incarnation seriously, this is perhaps exactly what is so scandalous about God becoming human. God has lost himself in love, given himself over to us completely. God in Christ through Mary is now subject to the laws of nature, of human flesh, its smells, its aches and heartaches, its narrowness and limitations, its unpredictableness.  
In defining this dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, Pius IX proclaimed, indeed it was wholly fitting that so wonderful a mother should be ever resplendent with the glory of most sublime holiness and so completely free from all taint of original sin. We  celebrate this solemn feast not only out of our loving obligation to the Mother of God, a sort of family duty as Catholic Christians. That’s nice enough, but  Our Lady would want something more for us. For we also celebrate what her privilege means for our human flesh. We are not like her ever resplendent with the glory of most sublime holiness. Far from it, but our destiny and potential are foretold in her privilege. Foretold in her privilege. We are meant for more, to be more. This is what Mary shows us. For her work is always to be transparent to Christ, to point to him, to his most beautiful body, as it once was on earth, as it is forever in heaven, as it is here and now on earth in his body that we are becoming.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent Morning

On this Advent morning in the reading at Mass, the prophet Isaiah presents us with his vision of a real place where all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for us:
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord God will wipe away
the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken.

In the proclamation of the Gospel we see this place of fulfillment. It is Christ Jesus our Lord.
Great crowds came to him,
having with them the lame,

the blind, the deformed, the mute,
and many others.
They placed them at his feet,

and he cured them.
The crowds were amazed

when they saw the mute speaking,
the deformed made whole,
the lame walking, and the blind able to see,
and they glorified the God of Israel.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

First Sunday of Advent

"Be vigilant at all times," Jesus tells us on this First Sunday of Advent. Perhaps one good reason that he so urgently exhorts us to be attentive is that the mode of his approach is most often so unassuming, ordinary, unremarkable, and almost forgettable. We need to keep alert or we’ll miss out. The hour is now, God’s time is now. But we must be aware that his coming, his advent toward us is usually in silence and obscurity. Hidden first of all in the warm womb of a pregnant virgin mother, he then lives a hidden small town life as a carpenter and wandering preacher. Then in the excruciating hour of his death on the cross, all his beauty and power will be hidden, smeared and obscured by the blood and spittle and scorn of his passion. And finally even in his joyous resurrected return to his disciples; he will sneak in through locked doors to whisper, “Peace” and to ask quietly for something to eat.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Father Kizito

The community mourns the passing of our Father Kizito. Born Earl Anthony Thompson in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1940, Father Kizito served the monastery as infirmarian, cellarer and porter. He passed to the Lord on Wednesday, November 28 at 4:10 in the afternoon. As soon as Father Prior received the sad news, two of the brothers went to the church and began tolling the bells of the Abbey for the deceased.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

This Morning

Morning light dapples the wall of the upper dormitory landing in this photograph taken by Brother Joseph.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Behold Your King

After Jesus has fed the five thousand the Gospel writer tells us, “When the people saw the sign which he had performed, they said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take him by force to make him king, withdrew again to the mountain by himself alone." As we celebrate Christ as King today, it is wise and wonderful to remember this scene. For “King” may be a title we need- to remind us of the place we want Jesus to have in our lives, in our hearts- but if we are not clear about who Jesus really is, he may elude us and withdraw. King is a dangerous title after all, all about domination and power. And it is simply not a title Jesus chooses for himself. In the trial scene in John’s Gospel, Pilate asks Jesus, “Then you are a king?” Jesus’ response, “You say I am a king,” is not an affirmation like, “You’ve said it!” Scholars tell us that it is probably something like, “Call me a king, if you so desire.”

Such is the humble majesty of Jesus in John’s Gospel that even here as he is being interrogated as a criminal by Pilate; it is Pilate himself and not Jesus who seems to be on trial, it is he who puts Pilate on the spot. Jesus goes to his passion and death in sovereign freedom. Jesus speaks of truth and about a place, a place called the kingdom, where God’s truth has absolute precedence. It is this place, this kingdom that Jesus enfleshes with every fiber of his being. He embodies the kingdom that he himself proclaims. He enfleshes the humility of God’s love that the kingdom is, for God’s loving-kindness has taken flesh in him.

Jesus has not taken our flesh to bully us or make power plays or exercise domination as worldly kings might do, who try “to make their importance felt.” There’s no drama. He says simply, "My kingdom does not belong to this world.” From the very beginning of his ministry he has absolutely refused to be Super-Jesus. Ignoring Satan’s prodding when he is tempted, “C’mon, you can do it. Change these stones into loaves of bread. Jump off the top of the Temple,” he says emphatically, “No! Be gone.” Jesus has come to serve, to heal, to console and feed us and to wash our feet.

Detail of The Redeemer, Michelangelo, 1521, Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Rome.Essay includes insights from Gerard Sloyan, Interpretation: John and James Alison, Undergoing God. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Grace Abounds

No one shows greater mercy than he who lays down his life for those who are judged and condemned. My merit therefore is the mercy of the Lord. Surely I am not devoid of merit as long as he is not devoid of mercy. And if the Lord abounds in mercy, I too must abound in merits. But what if I am aware of my many failings? Then, where failings abounded, grace abounded all the more. And if the mercies of the Lord are from eternity to eternity, I for my part will chant the mercies of the Lord forever.

Quoting this passage from Saint Bernard, Father Luke reminded us in his Sunday homily that we have every reason to be filled with hope even as we look ahead to our individual “ends” and ultimately to the end of the world. If we seem to be “flunking” out in the school of life and falling flat on our faces as we try to run in the way of his commandments, God only loves us more and more. For when he looks with love on the Son of God, he sees all of us in his beloved Son. We too are his beloved ones.

As we celebrate this Thanksgiving Day, we have every reason to hope and to be filled with gratitude for all that God in Christ is accomplishing for us, through us, with us and in us.

Lines from Sermon 61 0n the Song of Songs by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Photograph of an ancient elm on the Abbey grounds by Brother Daniel.

Monday, November 19, 2012

True Joy

Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God, the constant gladness of being devoted to you, for it is full and lasting happiness to serve with constancy the author of all that is good.

This moving collect prayer for the Thirty-third Sunday of the Year reminds us that serving God is our joy. We may have thought in the past that surrendering our will would entail unbearable hardship. We come to discover that choosing to obey and to serve grants joy and freedom. Jesus said, "I have not come to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me." Pleasing the Father was Jesus' delight. May it be ours as well.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Our Lady on Saturday

We celebrate the Mass and Office of Our Blessed Lady again on this Saturday. She is everywhere in the Abbey, her images and icons in sacred spaces and in the workplaces. Mary protects us and accompanies us; we trust in her powerful intercession.

We place ourselves in your keeping, Holy Mother of God. Refuse not the prayer of your children in their distress, but deliver us from all danger, ever Virgin glorious and blessed.

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Last Cut

The monks rent out a few of the Abbey fields to local farmers to cut for silage. In late autumn they took their final cut of the season.

Photographs by Brother Daniel.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Merciful Compassion

We share excerpts from this Sunday's homily:

Context is everything. And clearly in this morning’s Gospel, the simplicity and generosity of a poor widow is contrasted with the ostentation and greed of Scribes, who “devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext recite lengthy prayers.” Jesus is always on the side of the poor. And today it seems he is speaking out against the “temple establishment” who have “manipulated” this widow into parting with the pittance she has to live on. Jesus is truly God with us, who as the Psalmist sings: always, always defends the orphan and the widow. He is the tender mercy of the heart of God, a heart always magnetized by poverty and littleness.

So then, we may wonder, is this poor widow to be imitated for her generosity or pitied as the hapless “victim of religious exploitation?” We can imagine her focus is simply on doing the right thing. Being generous is natural for this woman, and she wants to be in the mix, to do the communal act, get in line with the others and throw in her two cents (literally.) It won’t make a big clang in the collection box like the offerings of the well-heeled; and she could stay on the sidelines and most people would pity her and understand, but she chooses to do otherwise. Duty, generosity are her way of being, and giving to God is everything for her. She freely chooses to give her all. She freely chooses to give from her poverty. And it is this exquisite choice that makes what she does, what she gives, so precious and ultimately so imitable. And of course Jesus notices. How could he not, he himself is the extravagant outpouring of the Father’s love for us?

Jesus really understands the widow’s gift and her predicament. Jesus notices the widow’s offering perhaps because it is his story too. Hounded, harassed and eventually condemned by the local religious authorities, he too will freely choose to give over “all he has to live on,” his very life blood and his precious body, because love is more important. Love and giving from the heart, real generosity always have the quiet power to overthrow oppression.

We are reminded today that it’s never ever about the entitlement of a know-it-all Scribe, but always about compassion. The Gospel reveals to us a Jesus who sees with perfect clarity- names the pretensions, sees most clearly the unfairness, the injustice and above all notices the generosity of one who gives without counting the cost. Even now, our generosity, the little things we do no matter how unremarkable give him pleasure. Our task is to keep noticing with the compassionate merciful eyes of Christ, to have his compassionate mind in us, and so to get on our way to becoming compassion for one another.

Initial quotations from: Donohue & Harrington, Sacra Pagina: Mark, p. 365

Friday, November 9, 2012

First Snow

A monk ambles through the south cloister after our first snow of the season.
Photograph by Brother Anthony Khan.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tuesday Morning

Frost on the grass in the light of the rising sun
made millions of prisms,
diamonds everywhere this morning.
We pray for our nation on this Election Day .
Two cars are available
all day for the monks to take trips
to our polling place in downtown Spencer.

Friday, November 2, 2012

All Souls

An older Italian man, the father of one of the monks used to say that, "Life is just a glance out the window." Indeed as the Psalmist says, "How fleeting is my life." Father Abbot reminded us this morning that, notwithstanding our confidence in the Lord's promise to take us to himself, death remains for each of us a great mystery. We pray for our deceased brethren, relatives, friends and benefactors on this All Souls Day. We hope to join them one day in Paradise.

Lord, let me know my end, the number of my days,
that I may learn how frail I am.
To be sure, you establish the expanse of my days;
indeed, my life is as nothing before you.
Every man is but a breath.

Lines from Psalm 39.
Photograph by Brother Daniel.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


As we celebrate the holiness of those who have gone before us on this Solemnity of All Saints, we share a recent reflection by one of our candidates. He shares his experience of some aspects of the monastic way to holiness:
I spent mid-semester break with the Trappist monks of Saint Joseph’s Abbey.  It was good to "come away and rest awhile" in an atmosphere of silence and contemplation. While looking out into the rolling hills and meadows of the Abbey the Sunday I left, this thought occurred to me:
The sun shines differently on Sundays
I don’t know what it is
but it has been this way since I was a child
maybe even since the beginning...
it casts a graced light on things
as if to see
with the eyes of God
the inner glow of all the things
(no greater meaning than simple presence)
to see as on that first day
that all is indeed very good.  
The Sabbath is a gift.  God gave this grace for us to partake of the rest which only he gives.  It is a time to remember that we are more valuable than what we do and that we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves.  In this rest we find our meaning, our freedom and our place in giving thanks.  Saint Bernard of Clairvaux likened contemplation to the Sabbath, when all creation sighs an "Alleluia"and moves into the life of God to rest and enjoy the good things of his Creation.
One of the monks told me that what is "neat" about the life of contemplation is that you get to notice things, things we often overlook and take for granted in our carelessness.  He was telling me about one of the hermits in the community who has been a monk for over fifty years and who loves to watch the squirrels.  As we were walking he noticed a small shy drape of ivy sneaking up the stone wall.  Delighted, he pointed to it and said softly, "Look! a little poem!"
Christ said that we had to become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven.  These "noticings" are part of the simple awareness of contemplation that recognizes in the world around us traces of heaven.  It is a Eucharistic awareness that the world of which we are a part overflows with the life of God.  It is a deep and intimate knowledge that the Incarnation is not just something that happened two thousand years ago, but something that continues.  Once Christ took on flesh and his blood was spilled on the earth, he transformed it, just as he transforms the bread and wine into himself every day.
This awareness can make all that we do prayer, it can make all things acts of worship; this is what it means to "pray unceasingly,"as St. Paul says.  With this awareness we can read the "Book of Nature" and find in everything the subtle secrets of our Savior, the quiet theology and testimony of critters, trees, wind and leaves. 

Monday, October 29, 2012


We are praying for the safety of travelers and all who are vulnerable, as Hurricane Sandy gets closer to our region.

All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
All you powers, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.
Every shower and dew, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.
All you winds, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Dew and rain, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Daniel 3

Saturday, October 27, 2012


To be fully human is to be recreated in the image of Christ’s humanity; and that humanity is the perfect human “translation” of the relationship of the eternal Son to the eternal Father, a relationship of loving and adoring self-giving, a pouring out of life towards the Other. Thus the humanity we are growing into in the Spirit, the humanity that we seek to share with the world as the fruit of Christ’s redeeming work, is a contemplative humanity.

In an analogous way we can say that we begin to understand contemplation when we see God as the first contemplative, the eternal paradigm of that selfless attention to the Other that brings not death but life to the self. All contemplation of God presupposes God’s own absorbed and joyful knowing of himself and gazing upon himself in the Trinitarian life.

To be contemplative as Christ is contemplative is to be open to all the fullness that the Father wishes to pour into our hearts. With our minds made still and ready to receive, with our self-generated fantasies about God and ourselves reduced to silence, we are at last at the point where we may begin to grow. And the face we need to show to our world is the face of a humanity in endless growth towards love, a humanity so delighted and engaged by the glory of what we look towards that we are prepared to embark on a journey without end to find our way more deeply into it, into the heart of the Trinity.

Christian solitude is the way in which we allow God to challenge and overcome our individualism. In solitude we are led to recognize the strength and resilience of our selfishness, and the need to let God dissolve the fantasies with which we protect ourselves. (What an awful waste it would be to come to a monastery and then spend our lives protecting ourselves.) In the desert there is no one to impress or persuade; there it is necessary to confront your own emptiness or be consumed by it. But such solitude is framed by the common life in which we have begun to learn the basic habits of selflessness through mutual service, and in which we are enabled to serve more radically and completely, to be more profoundly in the heart of common life in Christ’s Body, because our private myths and defensive strategies have been stripped away by God in silence.

Christ Preaching, 1652, Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch, etching, .
Excerpts from Abbot Damian’s recent Sunday Chapter Talk weaving passages from Archbishop Rowan Williams' address to the Synod of Bishops.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Growing patiently beneath the Abbey bell tower, our ginkgo tree shouts its praise in blazing yellow for a few glowing days each year at the end of October. Soon its fan-shaped leaves will litter the the northeast corner of the monastery's enclosed garden.

A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him. It "consents," so to speak, to His creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree.

Photographs by Brother Anthony Khan.
Lines from Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 29.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Have No Fear

As today the Church remembers Blessed John Paul II, we were heartened to read his paraphrase of Our Lord's own words: "Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence."

Friday, October 19, 2012

Two Calendars

For us as monks, the liturgical calendar becomes one with the seasonal calendar. And typically the height of autumn color coincides with the memorials of Saints Teresa of Avila, Hedwig, Ignatius of Antioch, Luke and the North American Martyrs, whom we feasted this week.

Photographs by Brother Anthony Khan.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

As Wheat

We may have been accustomed in the past to refer to the daily "grind" of our life; and certainly the routine of the monastery, as the routine of any committed life, may be wearisome. And so we were heartened this morning, as we heard once again those poignant words of Saint Ignatius of Antioch as he approached his martyrdom in the arena. “I am God's wheat and I shall be ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may become the pure bread of Christ.” The “grind” is good; it is an opportunity for self-gift, a way to become Eucharist, a chance to be Bread as Christ is Bread.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


As the Lord Jesus calls the rich young man in today's Gospel, so he beckons each one of us to come away with him, to get caught up with him in God's dream for the kingdom. As our Father Peter reminded us in his homily this morning, for each of us responding to that invitation will mean a recognition of our attachments and then a willingness to let go of whatever encumbers us on our way with Jesus. His invitation is ongoing; as is the challenge to surrender everything.

Etching by Margaret Walters, (1924 - 1971).

Friday, October 12, 2012

Monastic Experience Weekend

Once again on this past weekend  we hosted a Monastic Experience Weekend.  We were privileged to have four men with us. In addition to praying the Office in choir, these candidates had opportunities to work and speak personally with the monks. There were conferences on monastic life. And on Saturday evening Brother Francis shared the story of his vocation. The four candidates were invited to join the us for Sunday Chapter, the Hour of Sext and Sunday dinner in the refectory.

Here we share excerpts from Father Prior's Sunday Chapter talk:
Divine Providence means that the love of God for us is alive and ever new, and that the whole world is drawn into the orbit of his constant care for us. His love embraces the whole world, past and present, in every passing moment of its existence and activity. Everything that happens comes to me from God, from his love. And it calls me. It challenges me. It is his will that I should live and act and grow in it and become the person he intends me to be. And the world is to be perfected into that which it can become only through us. Providence is created from the newness of the freedom of God and also from our small human freedom. Not just anywhere, but here. Not just at any time, but now. It is a mystery of the Living God, and we will experience it to the extent that we surrender ourselves to it, not letting it merely pass over us but cooperating with it. Divine Providence is a matter of our being called, God drawing us into his providential creation, calling us to use our freedom and participate in the coming of the Kingdom. Our engagement and response is a vital element of Divine Providence. Vocation means that we are included in God’s loving care of the universe and of our own lives. We cannot separate our vocation from God’s Providence! Just as Jesus did, we must stand within the living activity of God.