Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How much

In an ecstatic turn of phrase in a closing meditation of his Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius Loyola, asks the retreatant to ponder, "how much the Lord desires to give himself to me." Certainly this arises out of Ignatius' own experience of Christ's love for him. In Ignatius' expression we hear an echo of Saint Augustine's words centuries earlier, "God thirsts to be thirsted after." 

Detail of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1620-22, Norton Simon Art Foundation.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Our Father Immediate Dom Jean-Marc ChenĂ© of Bellefontaine Abbey in France is with us for the biennial visitation of our community. As the Cistercian Constitutions state:

The Father Immediate is to watch over the progress of his daughter houses. While respecting the autonomy of the daughter house he is to help and support the abbot in the exercise of his pastoral charge and to foster concord in the community. If he notices there a violation of a precept of the Rule or of the Order, he is to try with humility and charity and having consulted the local abbot, to remedy the situation.

Each of the monks will have an opportunity to meet with Dom Jean-Marc to speak about his sense of the current state of the monastery. After he has visited with each monk and consulted with the Abbot, Dom Jean-Marc presents his summation, called the Visitation Card, to the entire community and gives his impressions of the graces we have received and those areas of our life that may need improvement. Tomorrow morning we will celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit begging the Lord's enlightenment as we begin this important process.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Silence is counted among the principal monastic values of the Order. It assures solitude for the monk in community. It fosters mindfulness of God and fraternal communion. It opens the mind to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and favours attentiveness of heart and solitary prayer to God. Therefore, at all times but especially during the hours of night, the brothers are to be zealous for silence, which is the guardian both of speech and of thought.

We long for the power of Christ's quiet over our chaos and inner babble. Not a dull, sluggish quiet, but a quiet for listening, a quiet that even within the walls of this monastery allows us to hear the cry of the poor. A very delicate quiet for waiting and listening, for he himself is our quiet,our rest and safe haven.

Opening lines from The Constitutions of the Order

Monday, July 23, 2012


In Sunday's Gospel we heard that Jesus' heart was deeply moved with pity for the crowd- literally in the Greek his very insides were moved with compassion. As we pray for the victims  of the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado and their families, we too like Our Lord are moved deeply. We are helpless, and all we can do is pray; we pray for an end to violence, we pray for healing. Our hope in Christ's efficacious compassion overcomes our weariness and frustration in the face of such horror and violence. As the poet William Butler Yeats once wrote, “Too many things are occurring for even a big heart to hold.” Indeed, we have to go to Christ's heart to make sense of tragedy.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Leaving Everything Behind

We recently saw a newspaper ad for an expensive resort,  in the picture a couple were embracing tenderly on a beach. The heading read: Leaving Everything Behind. Yet  Discovering So Much. Perhaps these words would also make the perfect title for a vocation brochure. Leaving everything behind for the sake of Christ Jesus our Lord and his kingdom, we are promised the hundredfold. He is the return, the hundredfold of love and tenderness and peace, all we long for. He reminds us as the father reminds the jealous son in the parable, "You are always with me, and all I have is yours."

Photograph of Abbey fields by Brother Casimir

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Monastery Cellarer

Our cellarer, Father Vincent, has charge of all the temporalities of the monastery and all work assignments. He exemplifies well these words from Saint Benedict's Rule:

As cellarer of the monastery let there be chosen from the community one who is wise, of mature character, sober, not a great eater, not haughty, not excitable, not offensive, not slow, not wasteful, but a God-fearing man who may be like a father to the whole community. Let him have charge of everything. He shall do nothing without the Abbot's orders, but keep to his instructions. 

from Chapter 33 of The Rule of Saint Benedict

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

One Flower

Many flowers, many gardens in different spots at the Abbey. We appreciate especially this tiny petunia at the foot of a stairway.

I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. Luke 12:27

Monday, July 16, 2012

Our Retreat

As we began our retreat last week Father Damian invited us to go to the well with Jesus and the Samaritan woman. And he quoted the Catechism on prayer.

"If you knew the gift of God!" The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God's desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.

"You would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." Paradoxically our prayer of petition is a response to the plea of the living God: "They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water!" Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God.

As we return to the regularity of the monastic horarium, we pray that we will continue to be ceaselessly aware of God's desire, God's thirst for us.

Photograph of the Abbey church by Brother Casimir. Lines from The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2560, 2561. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

In the Monastery

The Lord Jesus comes quietly into the grey inefficiency of our ordinariness. And so in the monastery we learn how to be patient in prayer, satisfied with waiting on the Lord's kind favor, his timing. This coming week is set aside for our community retreat, a special time of intense prayer and silence, when we try to make ourselves more available for Christ.

An etching by Margaret Walters, (1924 - 1971), is shown above. A very promising young American student at Atelier 17 in Paris, Walters' artistic career was tragically cut short when she was murdered in a mugging in Boston in 1971 at age 47. Her killer, a 16 year old boy, was released from prison in 1996 with the blessings of her sister. Margaret Walters was a friend of the Abbey and completed a series of etchings for a booklet of meditations by the prior, Fr. Mark Delery, in the late 1960's.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

July Fourth

The Beatitudes from today's Gospel of St. Matthew are not the U.S. government standard way of proceeding but ours as Catholic Christians marked deeply by Christ’s cross. The life of Gospel values which Jesus presents to his disciples as a plan for God’s Kingdom is intrinsically counter-cultural, still is, and always was. We rejoice when there is a confluence between Jesus’ ideals of care for the poor and justice for the oppressed and the policies and practices of our nation. When there is not, we promise always with him to prefer the poor and the needy, to protect their rights and do all we can to alleviate their suffering.

As monks our woundedness and poverty is everything; it’s all we’ve got to show- all we’ve got to offer Christ, offer the Church, even perhaps what we as monks can offer our country- the reality of total dependence on the mercy of God from moment to moment.  Ours is certainly not the crushing poverty of the totally dispossessed and homeless, we dare not compare it. Still it’s all we’ve got- all the stuff we’ve got no choice about. And we believe it’s the very place where blessing and mercy can intrude and take root- poverty as blest by God’s loving regard. We are truly blessed, when our poverty is blest as emptiness filled to overflowing with Christ’s peace and most affectionate compassion. This is everything for us as monks. And what is more, we believe that our true blessedness depends upon our willingness to become ourselves mercy-doers, mercy-makers for all who are poor wherever we notice them.
Photograph by Brother Daniel.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Saint Thomas the Twin

On a balmy summer morning we hear once again an Eastertide Gospel. Thomas' questioning leads to his intimate encounter with the wounded and resurrected Jesus. The wounds in the Body of Christ are places for our intimate encounter with the risen Lord.

"Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe."
Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

Photo of the candidates' Cottage by Brother Brian.