Saturday, September 29, 2012

With the Angels

As we celebrate the angels we remember that as monks the praise we offer during the Liturgy and the Divine Office is our participation with the angels in their endless heavenly adoration.

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

The Death and the Assumption of the Virgin, about 1432, detail, Fra Angelico, Italian, tempera and gold on wood, 61.8 x 38.5 cm. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cosmas and Damian

In this morning's Gospel the Lord Jesus reminds us as he did today's Saints Cosmas and Damian in their own time, "Take nothing." For it is he himself who is all we need for the journey- our portion and cup and living bread, our constant companion, our one consolation.
Saint Lawrence Enthroned with Saints Cosmas and Damian and Donors, Fra Filippo Lippi (Italian, Florence ca. 1406–1469 Spoleto), tempera on wood, gold ground, central panel: overall, 47 3/4 x 45 1/2 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Lord Jesus, please have mercy on the souls of your servants!

Once a month during Ordinary Time, we celebrate the Office and Mass of the Dead, praying for our deceased brethren, relatives, friends and benefactors. Once again on this chilly, early autumn morning, it was our duty and privilege to pray these prayers.
In his Rule Saint Benedict admonishes the monks, "keep death daily before your eyes." The Abbey cemetery is located outside the south cloister and provides a fitting memento mori. As we pass through this cloister, back and forth all day long, we can look out at the crosses marking our brothers' resting places. They are still with us. Death is not fearsome but part of our monastic rhythm,  a gateway to deeper intimacy with Christ Jesus who died and rose for love of us.

Requiem aeternam, Domine, dona eis.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


But what do I care about heaven, when I myself have become heaven?

These beautiful words of Saint John Chrysostom remind us of the great dignity that is ours as God's own children and of the responsibility that such dignity requires. These words become intensely real when we receive the Blessed Sacrament each morning during Mass. We try to be mindful of this reality all day long.
Two monks are pictured in an etching by Margaret Walters, (1924 - 1971), completed for Saint Joseph's Abbey.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wayside Shrine

We recently erected this wayside shrine in a grove of oak trees behind the Trappist Preserves warehouse, a place to pause in prayer on our way to and from work.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Along the Way

We share insights from Father Timothy's homily for the Twenty-fourth Sunday of the Year.
Along the way Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” In order to be able to answer this question, we have to know him. And to know him, we have to not only listen to his words but follow him along his way.  And we must allow him to determine what that way is. It cannot be a road of our making.
When we do veer off on our own road, we have to be open to hearing Jesus’ rebuke, “Get behind me.” I don’t think he’s only saying to Peter, “Get out of my way. This is the way I have to go, and you’re being an obstruction.”  He’s saying, “Peter, you are no longer on the path I am treading for you as I go before you, you need to get back on the path behind me as my follower.”
Peter does get behind Jesus. He continues to follow him, even though he continues to make plenty of mistakes. He’s still there to see the Resurrected Lord, and to receive the Spirit at Pentecost, and with renewed understanding to boldly proclaim the Crucified Messiah in those wonderful speeches we have in the Acts of the Apostles. And strengthened in the power of the risen and glorified Jesus he now knows intimately. And he continues to proclaim him, until finally he comes to the same fate as his Master.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Hail, O cross, consecrated by the body of Christ; his members have made your wood more noble than precious pearls.
“I no longer call you servants,” says Jesus, “rather now I call you friends, for I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” Everything the Father has and is belongs to Jesus. And he tells us that he wants to give it all to us- this everything of God’s love.

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.” In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks these words before his hour- the hour of his crucifixion, death and resurrection. It is this hour that will make everything clear. For this hour, this event with all of its unbearable horror and great mystery, is the hour of Jesus’ glorification. His friends are not yet ready for the truth of this hour.

It is only in the aftermath of Jesus’ hour that the Spirit will reveal to us all truth, the astonishing truth that God has brought us unending life and hope through Jesus’ crucified and disfigured humanity;  all because love is worth it. Certainly this is reason enough to give thanks, rejoice greatly and celebrate today’s feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The transept of the Abbey church in a photograph by Brother Daniel. This cross,  venerated by the monks on each Good Friday, has a tiny reliquary with a fragment of the True Cross. Adorned as it is with flowers and candle, it will remain in the transept for today's Feast and tomorrow's Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

God's Munificence

We share reflections from our Father Gabriel's fine homily from this past Sunday.
Streams will burst forth in the desert,        
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water.
These words from Isaiah proclaim the overwhelming munificence of God in dealing with his beloved creation. We see it at work in Christ's healing of the deaf man in the region of the Decapolis. Throughout this scene the man himself remains silent, and it is the friends who brought him that ask Christ to heal him. Yet the miracle itself takes place in an intensely personal setting. Jesus takes the man off by himself, “away from the crowd” as Mark says, and it is there that he performs a solemn but intimate ritual, praying with eyes raised to heaven and witnessing to his own emotion by his groaning. Here we have the outpouring of God's love concentrated on one of his children,  thanks to Jesus' loving ministry.

In each of our lives too that insistent love of God has been bearing down upon us, right from the beginning at the moment of our creation in his image and likeness; an image impressed even more deeply at the time of our Baptism. Set in the midst of our brothers and sisters, we are called to share in God’s creative process by being for them a context and a contributing force in the great adventure of God’s own work of gradually filling out the image of his Son in them as well as in ourselves.

How can we correspond to God's ongoing initiative in our lives in a way that is at least humanly proportionate to the magnitude of the gift? In the past we have been dedicating ourselves to the service of God and done our best to be faithful to the graces that have come our way. But perhaps we still lag behind in opening ourselves more fully to the driving force of God's love which awaits an even more fitting response. Do we depend too much on what we think we are capable of, instead of buying into God's idea of what he can and wants to do with us? As Saint Ignatius says, “Few suspect what God would do in their souls if only they would let him do it.”

Paradoxically sin is no excuse for not drawing closer to God, for he has built into us the capacity for reconciliation. Indeed in John’s Gospel the Father’s forgiveness of sin is seen as the great revelation of the depth of his love for us. “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.” Nothing can stop the onrush of God’s reaching out to us.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Monastic Refectory

Here we see Spencer's refectory.  Fathers Abbot and Prior and Br. Subprior sit at the head table below the crucifix at the western end. The rest of the monks sit in order of seniority, according to their date of entrance. Each of our places in the refectory is marked with a wooden name tablet and a large linen towel which serves as placemat and napkin. Our dinner usually consists of a portion of cooked pasta or potato, a small selection of other cooked vegetables, a fresh salad, fruit and perhaps a dessert (except on Fridays and weekdays during Lent). This is the monk's main meal and is always taken in silence and accompanied by reading.
photograph by Brother Anthony Khan

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Our Lady's Birthday

All through the lawns and along the Abbey pathways the weed called broadleaf plantain grows in profusion. We were amazed to find it pictured at the very bottom of this painting of The Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Gerard David. We learned that the broadleaf plantain has long been used medicinally. The "bruised" leaves supposedly have a healing effect when placed on small cuts, insect bites, stings and blisters. Fittingly then the artist paints the plantain below the Christ Child as a reference to the healing that he comes to bring us. As we celebrate Mary's birthday we recall that she is the gateway for us to all the healing that only Christ can give.
The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Gerard David (Netherlandish, ca. 1455–1523), oil on wood, 20" x 17.”  The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thee Will I Love

During Communion at Sunday's Eucharist, the Abbey schola sang the following hymn with lyrics by Angelus Silesius which are clearly indebted to Saint Augustine:

Thee will I love, my strength, my comfort.
Thee will I love, my Jewel fair,
Love Thee in thought and word and action,
All other loves for Thee foreswear,
Love Thee with all that in me lies,
For Thee till death shall close my eyes.

Sad is my heart, so late to find Thee.
Would I had known Thee long ago,
Known all my life Thy blessed beauty,
Seen through the years Thy blessings grow.
Ah, dearest God what cruel fate,
That I should love Thee thus so late!

In the silence and solitude of the cloister the monk may sometimes be haunted by memories of past sins and unfaithfulness. And perhaps like Augustine and Angelus, he may regret time he has lost or wasted. But Christ Jesus is greater than our hearts, and always eager to forgive and heal with his unquenchable mercy all our sins, hurt memories and regrets. His kind mercy is the "now" in which he invites us to dwell.
Head of Christ, 15th century, Champagne, France, Limestone,  10 1/2 in. (26.7 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Infirmary

A small group of our sick and elderly monks reside in the Abbey infirmary, a wing of the monastery complex facing the southern hills. They are with us witnessing in perseverance and prayer.
In Chapter 36 of his Rule for monks Saint Benedict reminds us that, “the sick are to served out of honor for God” and that “care of the sick must rank above and before all else, so that they may truly be served as Christ, (who) said, “I was sick and you visited me,” and, “What you did for one of these least brothers you did for me.” Benedict exhorts the abbot to take “the greatest care” and be “extremely careful that they suffer no neglect."