Friday, October 31, 2014

Everything Is Nothing

Like Saint Paul and all the saints, we very often long to depart to be with Christ. Daily we try to set our minds and hearts on things that are above where Christ is. For truly we have died, our lives are hidden now with Christ in God. Don’t we consider everything to be nothing at all compared with knowing Christ Jesus, our Lord? Isn’t knowing him the best thing of all? Isn’t it because of him that we set everything else aside? Don’t we consider everything else a pile of rubbish, so that we can get to know him even more? Don’t we want to know only Christ and the power of his resurrection? Aren't all of us sharing in his sufferings even now and so becoming like him in his death? And isn’t it worth it, if somehow we may attain the resurrection from the dead? True, we haven’t yet reached the goal; but we are pressing on to make it our own, because Christ Jesus has made me each of us his own. And so each morning we go up to the altar of God, the God of our joy, and receive his risen flesh and blood, our promise of everlasting life and peace and joy.

Photo by Charles O'Connor. Reflection on Saint Paul's Letter to the Philippians 3.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lectio Divina

Careful lectio divina greatly strengthens the brothers' faith in God. This excellent monastic practice, by which God's Word is heard and pondered, is a source of prayer and a school of contemplation, where the monk speaks heart to heart with God. For this reason, the brothers are to devote a fitting amount of time each day to such reading...Tradition greatly values lectio divina done in common.
Photographs by Brother Brian. Lines from The Constitutions of the Monks.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Jesus reminds us this morning to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind. An invitation, broad, practically immeasurable and magnificent. As Father Emmanuel reminded us, what was new was that Jesus coupled this great commandment with another: to love our neighbor as ourself. Two great commandments, indeed three; the totality of the Christian message. All-encompassing, for love is one. Loving God, loving neighbor, loving self are all of a piece. Hidden within this teaching is the reality that God in Christ first of all loves each of us with all his heart, all his soul and all his mind. This is truly breathtaking. Imagine what it might be like to live continually with this knowledge: that God loves me, likes me, delights in me. Loving God and neighbor would then be obvious and wonderfully appropriate responses to such love.
Photographs by Brother Brian.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Earth on Fire

In today's Gospel we hear Jesus cry out  for our love and faithfulness:

“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!

Saint Paul seems to understand the desire of the Lord. He prays that we may understand 

what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
(and) be filled with all the fullness of God.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Beauty of God

God is love. Love is never ugly, and God’s love is always creating beauty in place of irregularity and unevenness.1 And at best we come to see and understand that fragmentation and precariousness ultimately belong to the phenomenon of beauty, because through fragmentation the beautiful ultimately reveals the promise it contains.2 The crucified and risen Jesus reveals that beauty may be hidden behind fragmentation and woundedness: the beauty of love seemingly concealed but really present.

Photograph by Brother Jonah. 
1. Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, ed. Allan Fitzgerald, p. 704.
2. Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord, vol. I, trans. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, p. 460.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Jesus’ answer to the disciples of the Pharisees in today's Gospel, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”, is remarkable for its clarity and good sense. He is able to respond to the conundrum presented by the Pharisees with such a limpid and liberating interpretation of the law, because of his standpoint at the heart of the covenant. It is where he lives. His understanding and sovereign freedom come from living the covenant at its core.

Just as the coin bears the image and inscription of Caesar and so belongs to him, so does man who bears the image of God and have his word inscribed in his heart belong to God and so ought to give his life wholly to him.  Jesus’ response is so right because it is in accord with his experience. He receives everything from the Father and gives everything back to him in total conformity to the mission the Father has entrusted to him. He is handed over wholly to the Father’s will.

The Greek word translated as “image”, for the “image” on the coin, is “icon”. Jesus is the archetypal icon of God, since he “bears the very stamp of his nature” and “reflects his glory.” He is the face of the Father present in human history. It is not his own glory that he radiates but his Father’s. It is his own only in so far as it comes from the Father. Therefore Jesus is the icon of God only in so far as he does not determine his life but lets his Father shape it.

God must be free to shape and mold us, so that we too may become radiant vessels of his glory. If we are to be icons of Jesus, if through us individually and as a community, his face is to shine and be visible to others, then as he allowed the Father to give form to his life, so must we allow Jesus to shape our lives through the action of his Spirit. As monks, this can happen no place else than at the heart of our conversatio, our way of life.

In the Pharisees of today’s Gospel, we see a form of life that no longer conformed to the original form of the covenant but had in many ways hardened into a human form. Reduced in its capacity to be an icon of God’s glory, Pharisaism often tragically blinded its adherents to Jesus and his message. It had for these people become an idol.

Each of us has been entrusted with a mission to be in Jesus an icon of God. Each of us also has his idols, which dim our vision and in some matters make us blind. Our Cistercian way of life is a sure path I believe that if fully embraced strips us of our idols and allows the Holy Spirit to shape our lives so that they become less and less a self-construct and more and more an authentic and credible icon of God’s triune love. May he bring this about in us.

Photograph of our community on the day of the abbatial election this past June. In the center of the bottom row, we see Dom Damian our Abbot, along with Mother Maureen Abbess of Wrentham and Dom Jean-Marc Abbot of Bellefontaine,  who joined us for the election. 
Excerpts from this morning's homily by Father Timothy.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ignatius of Antioch

Ignatius of Antioch, old but self-possessed, goes off to Rome and martyrdom in the arena; ardent, focused, burning with love for Christ. He begs not to be deterred from his goal:

All the way from Syria to Rome I am fighting with wild beasts, by land and sea, night and day, chained as I am to ten leopards (I mean to a detachment of soldiers), who only get worse the better you treat them. But by their injustices I am becoming a better disciple, “though not for that reason am I acquitted.” What a thrill I shall have from the wild beasts that are ready for me! I hope they will make short work of me. I shall coax them on to eat me up at once and not to hold off, as sometimes happens, through fear. And if they are reluctant, I shall force them to it. Forgive me— I know what is good for me. Now is the moment I am beginning to be a disciple. May nothing seen or unseen begrudge me making my way to Jesus Christ. Come fire, cross, battling with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs, crushing of my whole body, cruel tortures of the devil— only let me get to Jesus Christ!
Not the wide bounds of earth nor the kingdoms of this world will avail me anything. “I would rather die” and get to Jesus Christ, than reign over the ends of the earth. That is whom I am looking for— the One who died for us. That is whom I want— the One who rose for us. I am going through the pangs of being born. Sympathize with me, my brothers! Do not stand in the way of my coming to life— do not wish death on me. Do not give back to the world one who wants to be God’s; do not trick him with material things.
Odilon Redon, The Sacred Heart. Lines from Saint Ignatius: Letter to the Romans .

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


The Gospel everywhere urges us to allow the irresistible tenderness of Christ to invade our person and take over our every thought, feeling and action. Realistically, however, none of us can by nature be as selfless as Christ, the Good Samaritan who has only to glance at a wounded or needy person to shudder with mercy. The problem is not so much that of willfully imposing on ourselves a strict consistency between faith and action; it is more a matter of allowing the power of the Christ, who has given himself to me with love, to have its full effect in my person. 

Photograph by Charles O'Connor. Reflection by Father Simeon.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Christ Jesus wants more of me, more of you. What the more is, each of us probably knows somewhere, way down in the depths of our own heart. The candidates and those in formation are well aware of what they have to lose, what’s at stake. And certainly our brethren in the infirmary, those whose health is precarious, know what they have to lose and why it’s worth it. Something big is in the balance- life on high with Christ Jesus our Lord. Perhaps for those of us in the middle a bit of dawdling may be the cushion we need when the monastic life seems to be too much for us. But Jesus asks us for more. Jesus is impatient with anything that might impede his access to our hearts. And he wants us to come to him for everything we need. 

Photo by Brother Brian.

Friday, October 10, 2014


This weekend we will once again host a group of candidates for a Monastic Experience Weekend. We are always edified by their openness and their real desire to understand how God's invitation is being communicated to them. We often invite them to ponder these words from the Prophet Jeremiah:

I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, and I will change your lot.     Jeremiah 29.11-14

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Prayer & Work

We came upon this description of our monastery written by a visitor some years ago, perhaps a bit too poetic, but...

The great stone church was filled with chanting, the monks like bees lovingly droning out the psalms. And sometimes when the windows were open the chanting got mixed up with the chirping of birds and squirrels; together monks and tiny beasts beating out their praise. 

And in the  garages and repair shops, in the sacristies and workrooms and offices, in the gardens and kitchens and sewing rooms, the sacred hum of computers and lawn mowers and conveyors, the gentle flurry of paintbrushes and scissors and potato peelers, all combined with the whoosh of tree branches and breezes rustling the leaves. A great music of praise, sacred business, sacred work done at the Lord's own bidding.

Monday, October 6, 2014

What prayer does not dare to ask

Almighty ever-living God,
who in the abundance of your kindness
surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you,
pour out your mercy upon us
to pardon what conscience dreads
and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. 

As we heard this collect at Mass and at Lauds and Vespers yesterday, we were struck by its brilliance and intensity. With trust in God's desire to fill us with blessings beyond our imagining, we prayed to be given what we dare not ask for. For the monk this is truly the reality of our life of prayer- our hearts are expanded in desire, a desire for God that God himself initiates. This God-inspired desire makes us long for God himself who is beyond our comprehension. God creates the desire, God grants the capacity, God himself is the Gift.

Photograph by Brother Anthony Khan.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Vineyard

The vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the House of Israel, and the people of Judah the plant he cherished. Isaiah 5

Both today's Gospel and the Old Testament Reading from the Prophet Isaiah highlight the consequences of infidelity to our covenant relationship with God, illustrated by means of the image of the vine. But while the consequences may be dire, it is important to remember that the image of the vine is, in itself, a powerful symbol of the privileged relationship we enjoy with God and of the great dignity he has bestowed upon us.

John makes this very clear in the fifteenth chapter of his Gospel. Here Jesus himself says, "I am the vine, you are the branches. Anyone who remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty." By virtue of our incorporation into Christ by baptism, we are united to him in a very real way- as real as that between a vine and its branches. 

The Christian vocation is essentially this: to grow with the whole vine and bear fruit. We do not know how we will be called to grow and adapt; we cannot predict the direction growth will take. All we have is the law of love and the exhortation to perseverance. We must welcome growth and change, all the while remaining firmly attached to the Source of life.

Excerpts from this morning's homily by Father William.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Saint Francis and the Leper

One day Francis realized that he was ready to embrace the leper, the one from whom he had fled as the most repugnant of outcasts. Small wonder that soon after this embrace, Francis will hide in a cave and cry his heart out, grieving over his sins. In the leper he has come too close to the trauma of bitter self-recognition. The reality to be avoided at all costs has become the scene of encounter, healing and freedom. In the leper Francis embraces the repugnant other, his true wounded self and the Lord Jesus.

How will I notice the poor one I am liable to miss? Who is the outcast, ignored or forgotten- in my world, in my prayer, in my heart, in my mirror- the part of me I want to keep at a safe distance. Who is this begging at the doorway, longing to enter? 

Christ Jesus is coming to us as the sore-covered beggar, bearing the wounds of his own cruel passion, the wounds of our many passions. Our willingness to consume him in the Eucharist each morning means that we are coming close to the pain and sadness and fear that no longer have any power over us, for our exposure to his mercy makes us free.

Love does cast out fear; God’s love for us casts out our fear. We simply have to fall backwards into him, into that confidence, that knowledge that we are beloved ones of God. This is the work of trusting, choosing to believe, to believe beyond believing. God is with us, on our side; we need not run away. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Angel Guardians

Consider, dearest brethren, how careful we ought to be to show ourselves worthy of such noble company and so to live in the sight of the holy angels that they shall see nothing in our conduct to displease them...There are many things which afford them pleasure and which they are glad to find in us, such as moderation, chastity, poverty freely chosen, frequent short prayers to God, prayers offered with tears of contrition and pure intention of heart.

Design by Charles Voysey. Lines by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


As we remember Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, we are captivated by Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head."  Any of us hearing the predicament of one we love would want to help. And today perhaps the Lord is asking to rest his head against our hearts, as the beloved disciple rested against his heart at the Last Supper.

How good to hear these words, as we remember Thérèse who longed to give herself to Jesus so completely. Like her we want our hearts to be places where he can rest his head; by our lives of prayer and praise we long to be places of rest and comfort for his body, the Church.