Saturday, October 31, 2015

Brother Matthias

During last Sunday's Chapter Brother Matthias received the novice's habit. An accomplished artist, Matthias comes to us from Pittsburgh after working for several years as a professional chef and caterer. We rejoice to have Matthias our brother in community. 

O God, in that unutterable kindness by which you dispose all things sweetly and wisely, you gave us clothing, so that a triple benefit might be ours: we are covered with dignity, kept warm and protected in body and soul. Father, pour forth the blessing of your Holy Spirit upon us this morning and upon these clothes which your son here before us has asked to receive, so that he may serve you faithfully in the Cistercian way of life.

Photographs by Father Emmanuel.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


After spending the night in prayer on a mountain top, Jesus calls his disciples to himself  and chooses Twelve, whom he names Apostles. 
Jesus calls us to himself, chooses each of us us for our own mission. Like the Twelve, we are meant to do our part to make God's kingdom a reality, so that the Lord Jesus and his way of loving and acting may inform our thoughts and actions moment by moment. 
Photographs by Brother Brian.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


A large, probably admiring crowd is traveling with Jesus this morning, happy and proud to be in the entourage of the wonder worker who has captivated their imaginations and their hearts. But soon the euphoria is interrupted by an annoying blind beggar, crying out. Many in the crowd tell him to quiet down; he’s disrupting things, really ruining the mood. But the guy refuses to be silenced, and he shouts out all the more insistently, begging for Jesus, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Praised be to God, Bartimaeus knows what he wants. He may be blind, but he has clear insight- in his plea he calls Jesus Son of David, recognizing Jesus’ royal lineage as well as his reputation as healer.

Actually this passage often strikes us as one of the more humorous ones in all the Gospels, for at this point Jesus calls for him and asks the blind man, who probably has stumbled toward him, hands feeling the air, “What do you want me to do for you?” At this point in his ministry Jesus has this marvelous reputation as a healer. The man is blind. Why else would he be crying out to Jesus? Isn’t it obvious? But apparently Jesus wants him to say it, “I want to see.” Jesus wants him to say it, wants us to blurt out our desire, our deepest longing. “What do you want? What do you want me to do for you? Tell me. How can I help? I am here for you always, always; please let me in. Say it; let me hear your voice, for your voice is lovely.”

Many of us accustomed to praying might be apt to say, “But Jesus knows; he knows everything. He knows what I need, what I want; I don’t have to tell him.” True enough, but when we say it, we get to hear it; we hear ourselves, hear our neediness, our poverty and know our real, desperate need for Christ. Prayer is relationship; there are times to be quiet, times to sit together, times to talk a blue streak to someone you love, whom you know will listen compassionately. Jesus must be at last as good as that. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. *Insight from Sacra Pagina: Mark.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


We know that the closer we get to Jesus, the more clearly we see who we are. Always with the realization of God’s nearness there is neither boasting nor complacency but awe and reverence and very often bitter self-knowledge. We see more clearly who we are. And so the response of a grateful, awe-filled heart is often, quite appropriately- I am not worthy. Noticing the blessing, the undeserved abundance, we see clearly who the recipient is. It is any of us, who may be blest by God's gracious presence not because of what we may have accomplished but because of who God is- all love. It’s never been about worth, but always about love, and the sweet condescension of his mercy, the tenderness we never really deserve.

Photo by Brother Brian.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Twenty-ninth Sunday

In the verses just before this morning’s Gospel, Jesus has tried to explain to the apostles what is going to happen to him.“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.” It is sobering and painful to hear; and they are amazed and afraid. But it’s clear that they really don’t understand yet, they don’t realize who it is they’re following. And so this morning James and John ask to sit beside Jesus one on his right and the other at his left when he is throned in glory. Tragically the only enthronement Jesus is going to receive will be on a cross of agony and humiliation with a thief on his left and his right.

That’s why it’s always so embarrassing to hear those two naive, very ambitious apostles say a bit too enthusiastically that they are ready to drink the same cup as Jesus, undergo the same baptism. Their “confident but foolish” response: “Yes we can.” Certainly Jesus wants the disciples, all of us, to get caught up with enthusiasm in the dream of the kingdom, what it is, what it means. But the key is to become more and more fascinated with him and his way of doing things; and to want to go and do likewise. It is not about entitlement. Jesus has come to serve, not to be served. And these two apostles don’t seem to get that part yet. Like James and John we too are on the way, still growing in relationship with Jesus. There’s so much more he wants to explain to all of us.

Photographs by Brother Brian of the Abbey woodlands.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

All Things Are Passing

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing;
God only is changeless.
Patience gains all things.
Who has God wants nothing.
God alone suffices.

We are always heartened by these words of Saint Teresa of Avila. 
As autumn days grow cooler with 
first frosts at night, we notice that 
some flowers continue to bloom. 
Patience gains everything.

         Brother Brian's Photos of Brother Gabriel's garden.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Gift of Community

It is important that Christ specifies that the very things given up will be replaced in this present age a hundred times by the very things sacrificed initially. The list given by Mark is not some bonanza of good things. Each category represents some crucial element in human life: mothers, brothers and sisters, a house, lands. What is important is that each comes back- as a gift- in the context of that community of believers where each member cares for the other and is in turn cared for by all. Wondrous to tell, this constituted the gradual but true beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth- already in those days of Christ's presence on earth. 

The history of the Church is the continuation of this gradual building up  of the Body of Christ. Our own vocation occupies a special place in this history, for our lives unfold in a community to which we are committed for life and whose members in a sense belong to one another in a relationship of mutual dedication.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Reflection by Father Gabriel.

Monday, October 12, 2015


Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.

We came upon this prayer by Saint Ignatius and wondered, certainly as a Jesuit the generous heart of Pope Francis was formed, informed by the sentiments that Saint Ignatius begs for himself and his Society in this prayer. And clearly it is not a prayer for Jesuits only, but one we can all recite with devotion.

Photograph of Abbey woodlands.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Keeping the Word

While Jesus was speaking,
a woman from the crowd called out and said to him,
“Blessed is the womb that carried you
and the breasts at which you nursed.”
He replied, “Rather, blessed are those
who hear the word of God and observe it.”

The Greek word for "observe" is phulassontes meaning to "keep eye an eye on"as when the shepherds of Bethlehem were "keeping" their flocks with unwavering vigilance. Jesus is saying that when we keep his words, guard them, treasure them, we are like his mother. Like Mary we want to watch over the Word with love and a tender, open heart; to attend to the Word and his desires for us.
Madonna and Child by Eric Gill.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Praying Like Jesus

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your Kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”

Imagine being taught to pray by Jesus himself. Perhaps it was early one morning, a disciple sneaks away and comes upon the Lord off on his own. Perhaps intrigued once again by Jesus' relationship with his Abba, this disciple wants what Jesus enjoys. His request is one which we want to utter all day long- "Lord, teach us to pray. How can we even begin to pray if you do not pray within us."

Photograph by Brother Anthony Khan.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Three fine men joined us for the autumn Monastic Experience Weekend. With sincerity and open hearts they come like others before them seeking God's will, seeking to discover the deepest desire and longing in their own hearts. And so we were reminded of Pope Francis' words in a recent address. He says in part:

To offer one’s life is possible only if we are able to leave ourselves behind. Belief means transcending ourselves, leaving behind our comfort and the inflexibility of our ego in order to center our life in Jesus Christ. This “going forward” is not to be viewed as a sign of contempt for one’s life, one’s feelings, one’s own humanity. On the contrary, those who set out to follow Christ find life in abundance by putting themselves completely at the service of God and his kingdom.

Jesus says: “Everyone who has left home or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” Mt 19:29. All of this is profoundly rooted in love. The Christian vocation is first and foremost a call to love, a love which attracts us and draws us out of ourselves, “decentering” us and triggering “an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God” Deus Caritas Est, 6.

Responding to God’s call, then, means allowing him to help us leave ourselves and our false security behind, and to strike out on the path which leads to Jesus Christ, the origin and destiny of our life and our happiness. Never be afraid to go out from yourselves and begin the journey! How wonderful it is to be surprised by God’s call, to embrace his word, and to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, in adoration of the divine mystery and in generous service.

We always pray for our candidates, that they may grow in ardor, courage and confidence.
Photograph of monastery woodlands by Father Emmanuel.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Thérèse with Francis & Thomas

Today as we celebrate Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, we recall Thomas Merton’s love for this saint called “The Little Flower.” Merton even speaks at one point of wanting “to be her monk.” Merton’s writings continue to speak a truth and a vision that is dear to us. And so we were pleased that Pope Francis mentioned Thomas Merton in his address to the US Congress last week.

A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a “pointless slaughter”, another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: “I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.

Like Thomas Merton whom he acclaimed in this address Pope Francis is himself an exemplary promoter of peace and very devoted to Saint Thérèse. His visit to our nation filled us with hope and joy.