Monday, June 29, 2015

Saints Peter & Paul

   As we celebrate the saints today, they probably smile a bit sheepishly; their heads lowered. We imagine them embarrassed by all the hoopla, all the while pointing quietly to the wounded Jesus. “It’s not about us,” they say. “It’s all about what his tender mercy could accomplish in us.” Peter and Paul ultimately know themselves as forgiven failures, mercied and transformed by Christ in his most compassionate attentiveness. Both of them would probably admit to us that they could be a bit overconfident, too self-assured; they come to us this morning with nothing to boast about.
   Peter says he’s ready to die with Jesus; then betrays him in a heartbeat to save his skin. “Wait a minute; you’re one of that Galilean’s followers,” says the maid in the high priest’s courtyard. “I’d know that accent anywhere.” “Get out of here,” Peter mutters. “I don’t who you’re talking about,” Meanwhile Jesus is right next door being slapped and humiliated.
   Paul so sure of himself, so sure of the truth, so well-schooled in the Law, it’s the armored tank he’s been using to mow down followers of Jesus the blasphemer. As Peter crashes into self-knowledge making Jesus’ prediction of betrayal come true; Paul is knocked off his horse, insisting that he does not even know who Jesus is. Jesus assures him, “I am Jesus the one you’ve been persecuting.”
   Jesus did not give up on Peter or Paul and he won’t give up on us. He is a relentless rescuer, the God who saves us, even chases after us. He rescues us from all our distress over and over again, because he loves us. And even when we are dead in our stubborn sinfulness; he brings us to life, not because of our virtuous deeds but because of his tender mercy. All is grace, not merit but graciousness, a love that reaches down to every human misery. We do not feel humiliated, but restored, transformed.*
   And so with Peter we listen as Jesus whispers this hauntingly beautiful question to each of us, “Who do you say that I am? Who am I for you?” Perhaps when we come to understand ourselves as sinners desperately loved by Christ. Then we can say with Peter, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. To whom else shall we go?” And with Paul, “All I want is to know you, Lord Jesus and the power flowing from your resurrection. Everything else is rubbish.” You are all that I desire. You are my love, my fortress, my stronghold, my rescuer, my rock, the God who shows me love.
   The tender love and relentless rescue of Jesus make our foolish failures almost worth it. With Peter and Paul we are meant to be icons of this rescue, our very selves, revelations of what Christ’s ongoing merciful rescue can accomplish if we give him the least bit if access to our broken hearts.

* See Dives in Miserdicordia, Saint John Paul II.  Photograph by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

That like Saint John the Baptist we may leap with joy at the presence of the Lord, allowing ourselves to be filled with the ineffable peace of Jesus...

That we will make Saint John's prayer our own, "He must increase, I must decrease," having no anxiety over our own failings and shortcomings, but setting our gaze on Jesus and his deifying light...

For the poor, homeless and unemployed, that the Dawn from on high may break upon upon them, bringing them the mercy and charity of Our Lord...

For all who experience a mysterious stirring in their hearts, drawing them to the monastic life, that the prayers of Saint John the Baptist, the desert dweller, may accompany them on their journey to the Lamb of God...

That people everywhere will have an unfailing respect for all persons from natural conception to natural death...

For our friends, family and guests...

From prayers offered at today's Eucharist by Brother Charbel. Photograph by Brother Brian.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Respect & Wonder

Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’

In his new encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls us to respect all of creation and to recognize the earth as the “common home” of all people, rich and poor alike. We are to develop the capacity to recognize in the created goods we encounter their own proper value and to let it be; to enjoy them and to make use of them, not only in a way that does not harm them, but allows them to flourish. Respect for creation involves a freedom from acquisitiveness and a capacity to wonder.

This respectful, hands-off approach is akin to the monastic practice of apatheia or freedom from care, one of the principal goals of monastic discipline. Apatheia means being completely open to divine grace and love. The monk who has attained apatheia, is poised for contemplation, ready to enter into the true nature of created things and know God.

With insights from Father Timothy and Everett Ferguson. Photograph by Brother Brian.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Mind of Christ

Always we are invited to have the compassionate mind in us, which was also in Christ Jesus. And a huge part of our life in the monastery is coming to understand each other, to learn the stories and learn greater compassion. 

Some years ago we heard the story of a parish conducted by an active religious order. In the community there was one priest who was the bane of the brethren, judged by all (but especially the younger men) as lazy and inefficient, always disheveled; clearly an embarrassment to the apostolate of this eminent Order. He slept in late and could only manage to preside each day at the noon Mass, then have lunch and go back to his room. They never saw much of him. And soon they never saw him at all. He didn’t show up for his Mass one day; and the rector found him dead in his cluttered, stuffy room. After he died the doctor told the rector of the rare, incapacitating disease this priest had endured for years; the bone-numbing fatigue that was part of it. The rector recounted the priest’s daily routine- the single Mass, the drowsy lunch, the laziness. “Oh no, not laziness, Father,” the doctor assured him. “The little he was able to do was truly heroic.”

Maybe we come to understand. So much has happened. So many stories, the stories that we are, that we carry within us, stories that have formed and sometimes burden us still; so many triumphs and sorrows that have marked us. Only Jesus sees and really understands. He always notices. And slowly but surely we are invited to begin doing likewise. 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.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

God's View

The Gospel this morning offers us God's view of things. God sees a teeny seed, watches it grow in secret and knows well its potential. God sees what we may miss or ignore. Jesus invites to life in God's kingdom where we are seen and incessantly, lovingly noticed by the God who has great faith in us and our potential.

As Father Aquinas reminded us this morning, the growth of a seed is certainly miraculous. And when seed and soil with water and warmth cooperate the potential within the seed may be realized. So all of us cooperating together in charity and understanding build up one another and bring forth life and make possible the realization and flourishing of the kingdom of God. 

Photo  taken in the Abbey meadows by Brother Brian

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sacred Heart

As we celebrate the Sacred Heart, we ask the Lord Jesus to make our hearts like his own. And we pray these words taken from the writings of our Cistercian Father, Baldwin of Forde (d. 1191):

O Lord, take away my heart of stone, my hardened heart, and grant me a new heart, a heart of flesh, a clean heart! O you who purify the heart and love the clean heart, possess my heart and dwell in it, containing it and filling it, higher than my highest and more intimate than my most intimate thoughts. You who are the image of all beauty and the seal of all holiness, seal my heart in your image and seal my heart in your mercy, O God of my heart, the God of my portion in eternity. Amen.

The Sacred Heart, by Odilon Redon.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Corpus Christi

O precious and wonderful banquet that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more indispensable worth? Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food. What could be more wonderful than this? No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are washed away, virtues increased and the soul enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all. Ultimately no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that incomparable love for us which Christ revealed in his passion.

It was to impress the magnitude of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper. As he was about to leave the world to go to the Father,…he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion. It was the fulfillment of ancient symbols and the greatest of all his miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.

Photograph by Brother Casimir. Lines from Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Our Experience of God

God reveals himself to us, above all, through his interaction with us.  It is through our lived experience with God that we come to know God. And when we reflect on our own life with God, we discover the loving Father who created us and sustains us; we experience the saving and healing love of Christ in his Church; we aware of His indwelling Spirit whose work in us and among us shows us the illusion of our independence, as well as the reality our divine destiny. All we know about the nature of God we have learned through our life with Him.  God’s revelation of himself is therefore really and truly his gift of himself, who is Love.  And the Divine Love desires nothing more than to be loved and to live united in love with us.  

Reflection by Father William. Photos by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


We were struck once again by Jesus' reply to  smarmy Pharisees trying to trip him up in this morning's Gospel:

Bring me a denarius to look at.”
They brought one to him and he said to them,
“Whose image and inscription is this?”
They replied to him, “Caesar’s.”
So Jesus said to them,
“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”
They were utterly amazed at him.

We too are amazed. For the response of Jesus the Lord reminds us that everything, everything; all that we are, all that we have comes from God and belongs to God. And we recall the prayer of Saint Ignatius Loyola:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.