Friday, April 29, 2016

Mercy and Joy

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said that, “joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” Certainly joy is the fruit of real confidence in God's ineffable mercy. This is our joy as monks- we see over and over again our foolishness and sinfulness, but we learn to rejoice because Christ's mercy is always available. This is certainly reason enough for us to rejoice always, for as Saint Paul says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

So amazed is Saint Catherine of Siena at the endless mercy of God that she will call God “crazy.” In her Dialogues she writes, “O eternal beauty! O eternal goodness, O eternal mercy! O crazy lover! You have need of your creature? It seems so to me, for you act as if you could not live without her. Why are you so crazy? Because you have fallen in love with what you have made! You are pleased and delighted over her, as if you were drunk with desire for her salvation. She runs away from you and you go looking for her. She strays and you draw closer to her.”

Saint Catherine of Siena Exchanging Her Heart with Christ, Giovanni di Paolo, Italian, Siena 1398–1482, tempera and gold on wood, 11 3/4 x 9 1/2 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016


“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.
“I have told you this so that
my joy might be in you and

your joy might be complete.” John 15

Early in the Gospel of John the first disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus responds, “Come and you will see.” The disciples follow Jesus and see where he is staying, and they stay with him that day. The disciples, all of us, are invited to stay with Jesus always, in all things.

The key word is the Greek μένω (menó) meaning to stay, abide, remainThis same word recurs here in these latter sections of the Gospel of John, as Jesus tells us, “Remain in my love.” We might translate it: “Stay with me; stay in my love. Let it console you, empower you. Abide in this love, allow it to transform you, so that you love as you have been loved.

Photo of the Abbey breezeway and cellarer's building by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016



We came upon these archival images of monks at work from our founding monastery of Our Lady of the Valley in Rhode Island. In our own ordinary daily tasks we are encouraged by the example of our holy forebears. And we pray that we, like them, may be faithful in all things.

And if the circumstances of the place or their poverty
should require that they themselves
do the work of gathering the harvest,
let them not be discontented;
for then are they truly monastics
when they live by the labor of their hands,
as did our Fathers and the Apostles.
Let all things be done with moderation, however,
for the sake of the faint-hearted. 
from the Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 48.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Holy Allowing

When, despite our foolishness, our sinfulness, all our resistances, we dare to say yes to the Lord, we are blessed indeed. For then we come to inhabit a place where all things are possible, a place where we can even rejoice in our nothingness as Our Lady did. As always it is a matter of letting ourselves be loved and daring to believe, to trust in Another’s love and desire. Perhaps we could call it- holy allowing. Those who are in love have always known that. They know enough to trust in the foolishness of another’s fondness and partiality. How good it is to put everything else aside each morning and go to him, up to the altar of God to receive this Best Gift of his Body and Blood, which each day reminds us who we are- deeply loved sinners, from whom Jesus our Lord will never ever depart.

A rendition of the sanctuary of the Abbey church in an etching by Margaret Walters, (1924 - 1971). 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Maria Gabriella

Blessed Maria Gabriella, a Trappistine of the monastery of Grottaferrata in Italy, died on this day in 1939 at the age of twenty-five, less than two years after her simple profession, having given her life for Christian unity. While not all of us are called to give our lives as Maria Gabriella did, we are all called, by the logic of our vows and of the Christian life in general, to the same totality of self-gift in love, to the same sensitivity, availability and responsiveness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. In union with Maria Gabriella let us pray for the unity of Christians. And through her intercession may we too have some share in her interior freedom, courage and generosity.

Meditation by Father Timothy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Loving kindness

To be open to a genuine encounter with others, “a kind look” is essential. This is incompatible with a negative attitude that readily points out other people’s shortcomings while overlooking one’s own. A kind look helps us to see beyond our own limitations, to be patient and to cooperate with others, despite our differences. Loving kindness builds bonds, cultivates relationships, creates new networks of integration and knits a firm social fabric. In this way, it grows ever stronger, for without a sense of belonging we cannot sustain a commitment to others; we end up seeking our convenience alone and life in common becomes impossible...Those who love are capable of speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation, and encouragement. These were the words that Jesus himself spoke: “Take heart, my son!” Mt 9:2; “Great is your faith!” Mt 15:28; “Arise!” Mk 5:41; “Go in peace” Lk 7:50; “Be not afraid” Mt 14:27. These are not words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn. In our families, we must learn to imitate Jesus’ own gentleness in our way of speaking to one another.

During dinner in the monastic refectory, we are listening as a brother reads to us from the Holy Father's Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. As day by day we seek to live and pray and work together in harmony here in our monastic household, Pope Francis' words strike the perfect note

 Photograph of Brothers Jude and Amadeus by Brother Brian. Lines from Amoris Laetitia, 100.

Monday, April 18, 2016

For the Church

The Lord’s merciful action forgives our sins and opens us to the new life which takes shape in the call to discipleship and mission. Each vocation in the Church has its origin in the compassionate gaze of Jesus…The call of God comes to us by means of a mediation which is communal. God calls us to become a part of the Church and...the vocational journey is undertaken together with the brothers…whom the Lord has given to us…The ecclesial dynamism of the call is an antidote to indifference and to individualism. It establishes the communion in which indifference is vanquished by love, because it demands that we go beyond ourselves and place our lives at the service of God’s plan, embracing the historical circumstances of his holy people.

We came upon these words of our Holy Father Pope Francis from his message for the 53rd World Day of Prayer for Vocations. And we were reminded once again that our lives as monks belong to the Church. Though our lives are hidden here in the monastic enclosure, our focus must always be outward, toward and for all God’s people, in solidarity with them in their joys and hopes, their griefs and anxieties. All that is genuinely human raises an echo in our hearts. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Allow It

“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.

We belong to Christ. Beyond our failings, our resistances, even our sometime ambivalence and distractedness, we belong to Christ Jesus. He wants us for himself, like a shepherd he wants to carry, care for and direct us. 

We recall Jesus' words to John the Baptist at the Jordan: "Allow it for now." How to learn to allow Christ to be shepherd for us? How to learn to be more and more attentive to his call?

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

To Realize

We were struck by the power of these words from the collect from this morning’s Mass:

Almighty ever-living God,
let us feel your compassion more readily
during these days when, by your gift,
we have known it more fully...

During these days of the Easter Season, we celebrate above all the compassion of our God who came to rescue us from all traps and dead ends. In the tender condescension of his mercy, Jesus died for us in bitter shame and anguish and was raised so that we might always know that compassion and forgiveness are always ours. He has trampled down death by death. Truly in the Resurrection of Jesus we know most fully the compassion of God, and yet we long to feel this compassion more readily- to know and believe in the depths of our hearts that Jesus died and rose so that we would never suffer the burden of believing ourselves unloved, forgotten or un-forgiven. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Bread of Life

So they said to Jesus,
“Sir, give us this bread always.” 
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”  John 6

Jesus reveals himself as the True Bread that has come down from heaven. He wants to fill us with himself, satisfy all our longings. Our work is to remember always that we are hungry, even desperate for the food, the sustenance that he is.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


   In this morning's homily Father Isaac invited us to experience imaginatively what encountering the newly risen Jesus might have been like for his disciples. After the brutal passion and horrific execution of Jesus and the seeming end to the whole story with his entombment, what could it have been like to experience an unprecedented encounter with the now risen Jesus- unexpectedly, vividly, undeniably present, self-possessed and engaging? You cannot talk yourself out of the truth of his risen presence with you, and yet how stunning, frightening, bewildering such an encounter must have been. Such is the radical character of the event we name the Resurrection of Jesus.
   Truly the Resurrection changes everything for Jesus as well as for each of us as members of his Body. Death no longer has the final word. Even now we live continually in the presence of Jesus the Risen One. And he desires that we be with him for all eternity. This is our reality, our destiny, our hope as Christians.
Photographs by Brother Brian.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


In celebrating Christ’s resurrection, we are celebrating the fact that God has made the impossible possible for us. 

The resurrection has made it possible for us to live, together, in God’s love, to overcome all differences of language, ethnicity, station and culture and be united in the body of the Church.

The resurrection has made it possible to break the cycle of sin and violence, by enabling us to resist responding to hatred with aggression, to turn the other cheek and even offer a good word.

The resurrection has made it possible to be holy, as our heavenly Father is holy, to love others as God loves.

The resurrection has made it possible for us discard the myths of individuality, independence and self-sufficiency and to live with and for each other.

The resurrection has made it possible for us to lead this impossible and unnatural life of ours in the monastery- to love the brothers and the place, to prefer nothing to the Work of God, to live to sing his praises and to cherish his Word always.

The challenges that all this possibility represents might indeed inspire awe and fear, but let us remember and rejoice that God has raised his Son from the dead, and given us the Spirit of his Love, who casts out all fear, and who makes everything possible. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by Father William.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Annunciation

Mary's glory as a human person is that she has been emptied of all that could interfere with God's presence and action in her. Sadly, we human beings are often so full of our false selves that we are insensitive to the more subtle action of the divine Spirit of God working within us and through others.  God has fashioned Mary, by the foreseen merits and grace of her Son's paschal mystery, into the perfect human exemplar. Mary is the perfect human person because she has co-operated in God's artistry in perfecting her human capacity for God to the point where not only does God have full reign to live within her spiritually, but even now, in the Annunciation, to himself grow within her womb physically.  The divine Person of the Word becomes flesh in the womb of Mary and begins to dwell among us as perfect man. Our redemption has begun. We pray that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ was made known by the message of an angel, may, by his Passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of his Resurrection.

Until that final Resurrection, we live by the Bread of Eternal Life given to us in the Word of God and in the Eucharist.  At communion time we are, like Mary, filled with the body and blood, soul and divinity of our incarnate Lord Jesus Christ.  May all of our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord in our words and in our way of life.  

Reflection by Father Luke. The Annunciation, Hans Memling (Netherlandish, Seligenstadt, active by 1465–died 1494 Bruges), 1465–75, oil on wood. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Brother John

We rejoice with our Brother John Kim as he makes his Solemn Profession this morning in the Abbey church. Faithful and most generous at work, gifted with many practical skills and artistic gifts, John cares well for his brothers in community as he seeks to honor the Lord Jesus in all things. 

By monastic profession a brother is consecrated to God and joined with the monastic community that receives him. At this time the consecration received in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation is renewed and given vitality. The brother binds himself in faithful stability to a sincere conversion of life through ready obedience until death.

By the vow of stability within his community a brother obliges himself to make constant use of the means of the spiritual craft there, trusting in the providence of God who has called him to this place and to this group of brothers.

By the vow of conversatio morum or fidelity to monastic life a brother who, in the simplicity of his heart, seeks God by the following of the Gospel, binds himself to the practice of Cistercian discipline. He retains nothing at all for himself, not even authority over his own body. He renounces the capacity of acquiring and possessing goods for himself. For the sake of the Kingdom of heaven, he makes profession of perfect continence and celibacy.

By the vow of obedience a brother desiring to live under a rule and an abbot promises to fulfill all that lawful superiors command in accordance with these Constitutions. In thus renouncing his own will he follows the example of Christ who was obedient until death, and commits himself to the school of the Lord's service.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines from The Constitutions of the Monks. 

Friday, April 1, 2016


Christian de Chergé, the Prior of Tibhirine monastery, who was martyred in 1996 with his six Trappist brothers, once told the story of his First Communion. He remembered saying to his mother, “I don’t understand what I am doing.” She answered simply, “It’s okay, you don’t have to understand it now, later you will understand.”                     

Take and eat. Take and drink. Jesus did not give us a theological discourse at the Last Supper. He simply gave us a ritual and asked us to celebrate it regularly, irrespective of our theological understanding of it. We too are not expected to fully understand.

The British theologian Ronald Knox speaking about the Eucharist, said this: “We have never, as Christians, been truly faithful to Jesus, no matter our denomination. In the end none of us have truly followed those teachings which most characterize Jesus- We have not turned the other cheek. We have not forgiven our enemies. We have not purified our thoughts. We have not seen God in the poor. We have not kept our hearts pure and free from the things of this world. But we have been faithful in one very important way- we have kept the Eucharist going.”

One of the last things Jesus asked us to do before he died was to keep celebrating the Eucharist. And this we have done, even though perhaps we have never grasped fully the ramifications of our action. Still we have been faithful, and that is essential. It is just as Madame de Chergé said. We do not have to understand. 

Photograph by Brother Casimir. Meditation by Fathar Abbot Damian.