Saturday, May 30, 2015

Paul's Words & Our Words

It strikes us that these words from the letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians might be words that we monks could address to one another each day as we gather for prayer:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Our Praying

Our Constitutions remind us to trust that our life, our praying have a "hidden, apostolic, fruitfulness." And so we are heartened by these words of the late Father André Louf as he describes the life of prayer:

That you have become a free human being, that your heart has begun to live and to sing, that the word of God is able to reverberate freely and frankly in your inmost center, is a source of light and power for anyone. What has happened to you is a fragment of salvation history, and has also happened to the Church and to the world. God has found a space here on earth where He can be Himself, where he can play and enjoy Himself.

Photographs by Brother Daniel. Lines from Teach Us to Pray by André Louf. 

Monday, May 25, 2015


The Holy Spirit is always the Spirit of connection. If we go back to the evening of Easter Sunday, we see the disciples hiding in fear behind locked doors, separated from others. Jesus comes to them and his presence breaks their disconnection from him and from all their brothers and sisters. His very presence is connection. His presence is mercy, compassion and forgiveness. And he breathes the Spirit into them enabling them to share this presence, to be this presence, to be this mercy, this reconnection with God. When the Spirit comes to us, we are really connected to God in an intimately and infinitely new way. By being flung into this great mystery of love between Jesus and the Father, we are being connected anew with all human beings in compassion and solidarity.

Pentecost is often referred to as the birthday of the church. This is because the gift of the Spirit is the foundation, the ground of the two great facets of Christian life: adoration and compassion. Because we are connected with Jesus’s own prayer to the Father, we are caught up in his loving and joyful adoration of God. That is why one of the things Christians most want to do when their faith is really coming alive, is simply to gaze into the mystery of God---to let themselves be swept over that waterfall into the depths of God’s love in contemplation. And the second thing people want to do when their faith is being enlivened is, in their own unique vocational way, to stand alongside all human beings, all their brothers and sisters, in the rich diversity of their experiences. They want to be with those who are rejoicing, or grieving, or lost, or in despair; wherever they are or however they are, to stand with them in adoration and compassion. It is the Holy Spirit who makes connections real in our lives.
On Pentecost we celebrate the power of God who makes connections, connecting us to God the Father through Jesus, connecting us to the world of diverse and sometimes horrific human experiences, connecting us to our deepest and truest selves, connecting us to the dispersed parts of ourselves that we may want to ignore or deny. We then become more healed as persons, as families, and as communities, and more driven to adore God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and to stand with all of God’s children.

Brothers Michael, Benedict and Jonah share a moment of fraternal joy. Excerpts from Abbot Damian's Homily for Pentecost Sunday.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Come, Holy Spirit

To the Spirit all creatures turn in their need for sanctification; all living things seek him according to their ability. His breath empowers each to achieve its own natural end.

The Spirit is the source of holiness, a spiritual light, and he offers his own light to every mind to help it in its search for truth. By nature the Spirit is beyond the reach of our mind, but we can know him by his goodness. The power of the Spirit fills the whole universe, but he gives himself only to those who are worthy, acting in each according to the measure of his faith.

Simple in himself, the Spirit is manifold in his mighty works. The whole of his being is present to each individual; the whole of his being is present everywhere. Though shared in by many, he remains unchanged; his self-giving is no loss to himself. Like the sunshine, which permeates all the atmosphere, spreading over land and sea, and yet is enjoyed by each person as though it were for him alone, so the Spirit pours forth his grace in full measure, sufficient for all, and yet is present as though exclusively to everyone who can receive him. To all creatures that share in him he gives a delight limited only by their own nature, not by his ability to give.

The Spirit raises our hearts to heaven, guides the steps of the weak, and brings to perfection those who are making progress. He enlightens those who have been cleansed from every stain of sin and makes them spiritual by communion with himself.

As clear, transparent substances become very bright when sunlight falls on them and shine with a new radiance, so also souls in whom the Spirit dwells, and who are enlightened by the Spirit, become spiritual themselves and a source of grace for others.

From the treatise On the Holy Spirit by Saint Basil the Great,

Friday, May 22, 2015

Brother Carl

Our Brother Carl Gossman, passed away peacefully to the Lord on this past Monday.

Born Carl Anton Alfons Gössman in Nürnberg, Germany, on October 12, 1925, he attended schools in Germany, England and the United States. Carl held British citizenship and became a naturalized American citizen in 1969. He was a technical assistant at the Nürnberg Trials after World War II and later worked in  New York.

Brother Carl entered the Abbey in 1957 and pronounced his solemn vows in 1965. Over his fifty-eight years in the monastery, Brother Carl served primarily as the abbot's secretary and the  abbey porter. 

Brother Carl read extensively in German and English, and was noted for his particular interest in spirituality and history. With gratitude for the gift of his presence among us, we monks commend Brother Carl's soul to your prayers. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Place to Be

There is a one sentence description of Judas in today's reading which is very powerful: “Judas turned away from this apostolic ministry to go to his own place.”  He turned away from where the living exalted Lord would be found to go to where only despair and death awaited.  The second reading and the Gospel describe the Church in a way so different from the cold, frozen eternal deathlike existence that Dante would later describe for Judas.  Judas turned away from a united community of love and joy in God to go to his own place of lonely misery.

The first letter of St. John, roots the love of the community members in the fact that God first loved us and that by remaining in love of God and neighbor, love is brought to perfection in us.  This is not seeking our own place, like Judas did, but seeking the place God has given us in his plan of salvation in Jesus, the Savior of the world.  Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God.  What better place is there to be?!

The “place” that God is giving to us is a place that is in the world, but one that does not belong to the world.  Here, by “world” the author of the Gospel of John means all forces that are opposed to God, to the work of Jesus and his Holy Spirit.  The world hates us in this place that God has given us.  It is the place of divine communion and joy.

We experience this “place”, this joy, this protection profoundly in the celebration of the Eucharist. Our communion in this sacrament further consecrates each of us and all of us together.  Beyond simply protecting us in the safe place of the Father's love for us, our communion in both God's Word and Sacrament consecrates us to the mission of spreading the Gospel of God's love in Christ into that place to which Judas turned in despair, to which we turn in faith, hope and love--that place called “the world.”

The Abbey belltower viewed from a distance; photograph by Brother Casimir. Excerpts from Father Luke's Sunday Homily.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Our life is hidden in Christ. and so His Ascension to the Father's right hand is our ascent as well, for we are His Body. And where the Head has gone, so will His Body.  Indeed, to be alive in Christ, we must remember where we are, where we belong. No wonder that the Fathers of the Church will speak of our sinfulness as forgetfulness. We are meant to live mindfully, with remembrance in our hearts of our great destiny and our dignity as God's own children with Christ. As we chant so often, "You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Alleluia!"

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Learning How to Love

The most important thing in life is how well we have loved. As St. Paul says so eloquently in the often quoted passage from First Corinthians 13, “If I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything that I own, and if I hand over my body to be burned but do not have love, I gain nothing.” The person without love doesn’t know God. It’s only by loving that we can come to know God. St. John tells us, “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” What a remarkable statement! God’s very being is love: one without love is without God. “The revelation of the nature of God’s love,” writes Luke Timothy Johnson, “is found in the free gift of his Son to us, so that we may share life with God and be delivered from our sins.”

During this month of May we honor Mary, Mother of God and the Mother of us all. Not only was she the mother of Jesus but also his most faithful disciple. Because of her it is easy to believe in an all good and loving God. Let us ask her to intercede for us and to help us to learn how to love as Jesus has commanded us. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at  the hour of our death. Amen.

Photograph by Brother Brian of Brother Anthony, Father Dominic and Brother Stephen on his Profession Day. Reflection by Father Emmanuel from Sunday's Eucharist.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Solemn Profession

This morning as we prepare for the Solemn Profession of our Brother Stephen Shanahan, we ponder the following words:

Now let me assure you of this: Jesus loves us more, infinitely more, than we desire, more than we dare to dream of. Sometimes our dreams seem bold, almost absurd; nevertheless, they are far below reality... It is this very magnitude of God’s love that so frequently disconcerts us. We think: ‘It is an exaggeration to say God loves me like that. If not even I can love myself that way, how is it possible that God does so?... Through what strange phenomenon, through what inexplicable illusion do we Christians disquiet ourselves, knowing with the certainty of faith that a loving God bears us in His arms and surrounds us with His divine tenderness?

May God continue to surround Brother Stephen with his love.

Lines  from Only Jesus by Luis M. Martinez, D. D., trans. Sister Mary Daniel, B. V. M. , B. Herder, St. Louis, 1962. Photographs by Brother Brian.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Two Words

In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus uses two very significant two-syllable words. The first is “as”. "This is my commandment: Love one another as I love you." Jn 15:12 The cause of our Easter joy is that the strength of Jesus’ victory over sin and death is such that he has bestowed on us the capacity to love one another “as” he loves us. The second word is “if”. "You are my friends if you do what I command you." Jn 15:14 If we take up this challenge to love, we are caught up with him in the delight of fellowship and communion. We are his friends. And we abide in that communion still if when we fail we humbly accept him as reconciling love by acknowledging our sins and asking his forgiveness.
Reflection on today's Gospel by Father Timothy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Gift of Peace

Each day at Mass before exchanging the kiss of peace, we commemorate Christ's gift of peace to his apostles and to us, a peace which makes sense and which, above all, grows in the context of a loving, brotherly community. But it is also the peace that can calm our troubled and fearful hearts as we each struggle against our own negative tendencies and against all those circumstances of life that seem to work against our best efforts. It is the deep down peace that we can count on when, with Christ, we are able to say that we are trying to "do just as the Father has commanded me."

Reflection for today's Gospel by Father Gabriel.

Monday, May 4, 2015

To Christ, With Christ, In Christ

Only God can bridge the gap between himself and us, and he does this through the gift of the Holy Spirit, who leads us to Christ. As Pope Francis points out, getting to know Christ better involves learning to think as Christ does- to join him in seeking what he seeks and loving what he loves.

Just as the branches “remain” in the vine, and the vine in the branches, so our heart is rooted in the mystery of God. We have a life which wells up in us from a source too deep for us to plumb. We have a heart that is not just created by God and then abandoned to us for us to make the most of; we have a heart which is constantly being created and sustained by the newness of the life of God, just like fruitful branches on a vine.

The Good News is that Christ-in-us draws us into himself. In the Holy Spirit, we share in Christ’s personal existence, which is the Life of our life. The vital exchange between God and us established on that first Pentecost continues throughout time. This does not mean that we merely think of Christ or lovingly cherish his image; what exists in us is the living reality of Jesus. As St. Paul confesses, “Our life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Each personal encounter with Christ means allowing him to live and work in us. Even more he invites us to love as he loves. There is no deeper love than to go to the point of giving oneself for God and for others, holding nothing back of ourselves for ourselves. Whoever lives a life rooted in God chooses to love in this way. A heart resolved to love will radiate goodness without limits.
For our part, I suggest three things as our response to Christ living and “remaining” in us:

The only sure way to renew a real friendship with Christ, is to “remain” in him. He alone, the “true Vine,” will keep us from becoming all “straggly and tangled, turned in on ourselves and getting in our own light.” Without him we can do nothing. With him we need not fear the future, for in the Risen Christ all things are “gathered up, things in heaven and things on earth.” Our life, our world, our “remaining,” are ever in his hands, and his is a tenderness that never disappoints.        

Photo by Brother Brian. Excerpts from Sunday's Homily by Father Dominic.                                                              

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Unity in Diversity

We are heartened as we read these words of Saint Bernard. Written centuries ago they still describe beautifully, accurately  life in our Abbey. Many monks serving the Lord Jesus with one heart and one mind in so many different ways. 
The monastery is truly a paradise, a region fortified with the rampart of discipline. It is a glorious thing to have men living together in the same house, following the same way of life. How good and pleasant it is when brothers live in unity. You will see one of them weeping for his sins, another rejoicing in the praise of God, another tending the needs of all, and another giving instruction to the rest. Here is one who is at prayer, another at reading. Here is one who is compassionate and another who inflicts penalties for sins. This one is aflame with love and that one is valiant in humility. This one remains humble when everything goes well and the other one does not lose his nerve in difficulties. This one works very hard in active tasks while the other finds quiet in the practice of contemplation.