Sunday, September 27, 2015

Clothing Ceremony

During last Sunday's Chapter, Brother Michael pronounced his simple vows and was clothed in the black scapular and leather belt of the professed. We rejoice with him. The ceremony began with Dom Damian asking Brother Michael, "What do you seek?" Michael responded, "The mercy of God and of the Order." This brief dialogue reminded all of us that our life as monks is a life of total, loving dependence on Christ our Savior who constantly invites us to draw water in joy from the fountains of his mercy.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Church

I, Zechariah, raised my eyes and looked:
there was a man with a measuring line in his hand.
I asked, “Where are you going?”
He answered, “To measure Jerusalem,
to see how great is its width and how great its length.”

Then the angel who spoke with me advanced,
and another angel came out to meet him and said to him,
“Run, tell this to that young man:
People will live in Jerusalem as though in open country,
because of the multitude of men and beasts in her midst.
But I will be for her an encircling wall of fire, says the LORD,
and I will be the glory in her midst.”

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD.
Many nations shall join themselves to the LORD on that day,

and they shall be his people and he will dwell among you.

In this reading the Lord speaks through the prophet Zechariah of a Jerusalem to come that will be without walls, like open country. But, says the Lord, I will be for her as an encircling wall of fire and I will be the glory in her midst. The Church, the New Jerusalem, is this city without walls, at one and the same time welcoming to the world and generous to it with her gifts and yet without defenses against it, just like her Lord who went before her.  The Church is strongest and the most effective bearer of that glory where she can stand firm in that open and vulnerable space, confident that the Lord will see to it that no worldly force bring any harm to her, and secure that that glory which is the gift of his presence will always be with her, since she is not only his bride but his body as well.

Vintage photograph of the Abbey church of Our Lady of the Valley. Meditation by Father Timothy.

Friday, September 25, 2015


We were touched by these words from the First Letter of Peter which were read to us at Vespers a few evenings ago. They were of course intended as an exhortation to Christian slaves of the first century, but fitting words for all of us seeking to follow Christ with all our hearts.

...whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace. But what credit is there if you are patient when beaten for doing wrong? But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.

As we see each day in the newspaper so much sorrow, the anguish of refugees and other victims of violence, we try to bear patiently the little things that may complicate our lives. 

A photo from the early days at Spencer.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Jesus summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority
over all demons and to cure diseases,
and he sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God
and to heal the sick.
He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey,
neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money,
and let no one take a second tunic.” Luke 9

We are always amazed when we hear this Gospel. Take nothing. It can only mean that Jesus wants us to depend on him totally. He longs to be our support, our sustenance, our currency, our shelter by day and by night.

We share this vintage photograph of old Brother Stephen at our founding monastery of Our Lady of the Valley in Lonsdale, Rhode Island.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


In response to the disciples’ argument about who is number one, Jesus provides this remarkable teaching: “Whoever receives one child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives not me but the One who sent me.”
In the Greco-Roman society of antiquity, the only individuals with legal and social status lower than that of a child were a slave and a household slave child, who was the least of all, the nobody-par-excellence, the almost literally invisible one.  Jesus declares to his disciples then and now that to receive such a nobody in his name is to receive him, for in the encounter with the nobodies of our lives, there God is waiting for us. Think of the river of human beings fleeing the Middle East and flowing into western Europe,  these persons with only the clothes on their backs and the children in their arms. In receiving them, there God is waiting for us. On a personal level, think of the individuals we might prefer not to be part of our lives. In the movement toward recognition, forgiveness and reconciliation God is waiting for us. Not to encounter these persons, to avoid them is to avoid the Living God in the very place where he awaits us.
The most compelling piece of evidence for the truth of this teaching is Jesus’ own practice, his life, his ministry. When it came to poor people, victims of disease, prejudice, injustice, social and religious ostracism, victims of violence- Jesus embraced them all unconditionally.
In the end, he not only embraced them but he took their place as the last and least of the nobodies, when he became the victim whose life would be crushed on the cross; it was from within this experience of the victim, when his body was trashed, his human life extinguished, that he prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”– “They don’t get it.” This Praying Victim pushes us to recognize the cross as a place of profound religious experience.  If it is that kind of place for Jesus, it is meant to be that kind of place for us.
Excerpts from Father Isaac's Homily at this morning's Eucharist.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Love of the Bride

Medieval authors such as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux saw in the Bride of the biblical book of the Song of Songs an image of the the Church, the Virgin Mary as well as the individual soul. We have been reading Saint Bernard's Commentary on the Song of Songs, and were struck by these lines that remind us that the Lord Jesus, as Bridegroom of the soul, is always searching after us.

You would not seek him or love him unless you had first been sought and loved. Not only in one blessing have you been anticipated but in two: being loved as well as being sought. Love is the reason for the seeking, and the seeking is the consequence of the love as well as the proof...Since I love, I cannot doubt that I am loved, anymore than I can doubt that I love. Nor can I fear to look upon his face, since I have sensed his tenderness.

Photograph by Justin Munroe. Excerpt from Sermon 84 On the Song of Songs by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Triumph of the Cross

Peter’s confession is a breakthrough, a burst of light. Why is that he is able to proclaim with such boldness, “You are the Messiah”? And what keeps him on the road with Jesus despite his failure to understand Jesus when he begins to talk about his destiny?

Jesus’ question calls Peter and the disciples to make a judgment, and Peter as their spokesman makes it. It is the courage of his public proclamation, “You are the Christ”, that is the condition for the possibility of all else that follows in his life on the “way” with Jesus. Peter has a long way to go before his sight comes to full clarity, but this decision continues him on his way. Up until now, he and his fellow disciples, although they have gone so far as to make the commitment to follow Jesus, have nevertheless remained among the crowd of those who have been floating various opinions about the identity of Jesus. But now Peter’s proclamation, has set them apart.“You are the Messiah”

To be on the way as a Christian means that it is not enough to know or profess the truth, the truth must also be done. There are times when this is quite difficult. But the way of Jesus is not a dreary way of resignation. By walking with Jesus we create the condition for the possibility of him initiating us into his world, into what he loves. By putting on his mind we become like him, we learn to love what he loves, delight in what he delights in, and share in the joy that is his in the Father and the Holy Spirit.

As we celebrate today the Triumph of the Cross, we rejoice because by his passion, death and resurrection Jesus has not left us alone and unaided but has given us his Spirit and his Church, who with her sacraments, teaching and example of her saints, shows us the way to go and provides us the nourishment necessary for the journey. The cross of Christ is truly the way to life.

Picture by Brother Brian. Reflection by Father Timothy.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Saints And Poets, Maybe

We recall a scene in Our Town, that iconic American play of the 1930’s. Near the end a young wife named Emily dies in childbirth. And from the grave she asks the Stage Manager, the godlike narrator who presides over the action of the play, if she may go back in time, back into her life for just one day. He discourages her; she insists. And she is allowed to return to an ordinary morning when she was a teenager. She views it from afar and relishes its quiet, ordinary beauty. But very soon she is overwhelmed by it all. It’s too much for her, and she cries out to the Stage Manager: I can't. I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another. I didn't realize. So all that was going on, and we never noticed. Oh, earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute? The Stage Manager replies: No. The saints and poets, maybe they do some.

Our earth is wonderful, indeed, for Jesus has come to stay with us. His mercy finds us here over and over again. Eternity is always interrupting, if we dare notice. The amazing yet ordinary things- the beauty, the sorrow in human experience and in all of creation- beckon to us and draw us to him, who is constantly seeking opportunities to engage us. And the more needy we are; the more impossible our impediments, the greater the opportunity for Jesus’ graced entrĂ©e.

Day after day atrocities beyond imagining all over the world. And so again every morning, we bring each other, we bring the world in its suffering and despondency and seeming hopelessness to Christ, longing for the intrusion of his grace. Not knowing how to speak our need and longing, and perhaps deafened by too much tragedy, still we bravely pray with hope in our hearts. Christ Jesus assures us that he hears, he understands; that he is with us, he himself praying, articulating our desire in words beyond words. This is what our prayer is best of all: our desire groaned by Jesus for us, within us. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

On Our Lady's Birthday

Exercising a motherly care for her poor children in all things and through all things the Virgin Mother calms our trembling fear, enlivens our faith, supports our hope, drives away our distrust, encourages us in our hesitancy.

Adam, you were afraid to approach your Father; you were terrified at the mere sound of his voice and tried to hide amid the trees. And so he gave you Jesus as your Mediator. What shall such a Son not be able to obtain from such a Father? Undoubtedly he will be heard because of his reverence, for the Father loves the Son.

Surely you are not afraid to approach Jesus as well? He is your Brother and your flesh, tempted  in all things as you are, yet without sin, so that he might have compassion. And this Brother has been given to us by Mary. 

Our hearts are never far from Our Lady. We trust always in her real interest in us and our needs. And each of us monks is dedicated to her.

Quotation by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon for the Nativity of The Blessed Virgin Mary, 7.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


In this morning’s Gospel as Jesus heals the deaf and speech-impaired man, we watch as grace intrudes, amazing grace, mercy in abundance expressed in the infinitely tender touch of Jesus. Jesus is God’s word in opposition to all sickness and evil and pain. Jesus enfleshes the words of the prophet Isaiah from the First Reading: “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God; he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf unstopped…then the tongue of the mute will sing.” This morning these words are fulfilled in our hearing . The Kingdom is now, here among us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

He reverses and restores, breaking through dead ends with hope and the promise of a new way through. This is what Jesus wants, this constant eruption of the Kingdom. Jesus’ healing restores this man to his family, his kinsfolk, and his friends. He is no longer isolated by his malady. Jesus gives this man back to ordinariness. He will be able to hear a friend say hello, hear her laugh; hear a breeze blow through the trees. He will at last be able to speak clearly, tell someone a story; whisper I love you. He can simply blend in again. Jesus has given this man back to ordinariness, blessed ordinariness. It is after all where he always comes to meet us.

God only wants to be ordinary. It is why Jesus has come, God with us, near us, in us. The ordinary is charged forever with his kind, incessant presence. God longs to be ordinary, not taken for granted, but here, always here with us. Why else would he choose to be a child, why else a small town carpenter and a wandering teacher? Why else allow himself to be done in by thugs and jealous bureaucrats? Why else choose to be hidden in a morsel of bread on our altar?

Excerpts from this morning’s homily.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Gregory the Great

As the Church celebrates the holiness of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, we recall his longing to return monastic life all during his papacy. Devoted to the solitude and silence of his Benedictine monastery on the Caelian Hill in Rome, he nonetheless responded generously and readily when appointed to the papacy. As monks we want to follow the Lord with open hearts, ready for all that he asks of us day by day.
Inspired by this morning's meditation by Father Nickolas of Collegeville.  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience. - Pope Francis, Laudato Si’

Pope Francis has asked that September 1st be designated as a new annual commemoration - World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. In his encyclical Laudato Si’ he states: “The life of the spirit is not dissociated from the body or from nature, but lived in communion with all worldly realities. The ecological crisis, is a summons to a profound spiritual conversion and to a way of life that clearly shows that we are believers. It is a time to reaffirm our personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care, and to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his pardon for the sins committed against the world in which we live.”

Praise be to Thee, my Lord, with all thy creatures, above all brother sun who illuminates the day. - Saint Francis of Assisi, Hymn of the Creatures