Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned 
you have revealed them to the childlike. Luke 10

Jesus' words in this morning's Gospel remind us of his words in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” These are the "childlike" who know their need for God and look to God for everything. These were the ones who followed Jesus around, and hung on his every word. They have experienced that life isn’t fair. They have nothing; and they are nothing; but Jesus gives them hope. He calls them blessed, not because he’s trying to put them down, but because they are not self-sufficient, but desperately know their need for God. 

Jesus turns to them, to us, and says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.” There is room in his mercy-filled heart for everyone, no one is excluded. But there’s a catch, we need to be aware of the truly good news of our insufficiency, our incompleteness, our sinfulness, our poverty, which make us available to receive all that Jesus has to offer us- which is everything, his entire self. In the end God does not want our virtue, he wants our weakness, our need which make us totally available to the mercy he wants to be for us.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Advent Mercy

In this morning's Gospel we hear about Jesus coming to judge the living and the dead. But we need to know that his judgment will not be a judgment of vindictiveness, but a judgment of truth. Jesus is the truth. He knows us through and through: all the choices we have made for good or for bad; all the circumstances that influenced our decisions; all our efforts or lack of them to turn to his mercy. We already anticipate his judgment in the Sacrament of Confession when in his presence truth speaks to Truth. But when his truth meets our truth, judgment reveals mercy. Mercy is a close ally of truth, and when they come together, they give birth to hope. And hope does not disappoint us – it is the light of the Lord.

Isaiah has that wonderful saying, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks….” Our monastic life of vigils, fasting, silence, and especially the common life is designed to beat our swords – that is, our passions – into plowshares so that peace may be sown among us. Our goal is perfect charity, a charity that reaches out to those who might be left behind. The Gospel speaks of two men in the field and two women grinding at the mill. Let us not refuse to join those in the field or those grinding away at life’s daily tasks. May our charity become like bands of love, reaching out to make sure no one is left behind. This is what the Lord wants of us.

Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The Lord is near, especially in the Holy Eucharist. As we begin a new liturgical year, let us set out, following the Spirit’s lead, and walk in the light of the Lord – believing and hoping and loving – reflecting the light of Christ so that his salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


As he was entering a village, ten persons with leprosy met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed. 
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. 
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?" 
 Luke 17

Nine lepers celebrate new skin, one leper celebrates the Creator and Restorer of new skin. If gospel statistics are any indication, then ninety percent of us live life at skin level. Jesus offers us so much more. He desires more for us, than we often desire for ourselves. His final question in today's gospel: “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?" is not a rebuke. It is an invitation. An invitation which Jesus extends to us today. Let us not hesitate to open our hearts in gratitude, begging his healing, peace and forgiveness.

Photo by Brother Brian. Meditation taken from Abbot Damian's words at this morning's Thanksgiving Day Mass.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The End

By means of the cycle of the liturgical year, the Church in her wisdom sets before our eyes very vividly the reality of the unavoidable end of our lives and of the history of the world, and the expectation of good things to come: The day is coming, says the prophet Malachy to us, blazing like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble… But for you who fear my name, the sun of justice will arise with healing in its wings.  We do well to contemplate this reality of the day of reckoning with our minds and hearts, through the words and teachings of the Lord Jesus himself.  The great challenge is to decide what will be our attitude in the face of this impending reality of the End of Time, when we believe that the Lord Jesus himself will come in glory, to judge and save.

Jesus’ “eschatological discourse” in today's Gospel according to Luke takes place in the temple in Jerusalem, where many people are enthralled with admiration, looking at the impressive solidity of the temple and the very costly stones and offerings that embellish it.  It seemed to the Jews that the temple would last forever, because it was the grandest building they had ever seen, and also because it had been granted to them by God himself.  And yet Jesus says that all that magnificence will come tumbling down one day.  For the Jews this was a great tragedy that announced the end of the world.  Jesus takes the occasion to describe a number of historical and natural catastrophes, like earthquakes and wars, that point to the world’s end.  But then comes the most important part of the sermon, when Jesus warns his disciples sternly, saying: See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, “I am he,” and “The time has come.” Do not follow them!

This warning of the Lord is crucial for us, because it means that the end of the world will not occur mechanically, enforced by some law of destiny allegedly inscribed in the stars and proclaimed by all kinds of charlatans and impostors.  No!  The end of the world will occur only with the coming of the one and only Jesus, Lord of history and creation, and the moment of this coming depends entirely on the freedom of God’s gracious will, which always seeks our good, and not on any impersonal process of history or nature. As Malachy prophesies, those who fear God’s name have nothing terrible to fear as they await the end of the world.  The coming of the Lord Jesus, the one who loves us and has shed his blood for us, can never be a reason of fear for the Christian.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from a homily by Father Simeon.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Christ as King

Someone very gentle and loving is trying to lead us forward in hope; Someone who leads by falling down, being spat upon, shoved and tortured. Not to teach us how to be doormats; that is not what His kingdom is about. It is about refusing to fight evil with evil, about absorbing hurt because of hope and trust in One who is at our side, even within us. It is all about witnessing to the reality that pain and fear and suffering are powerless to define who we truly are. They are simply not our destiny. We belong to Christ Jesus our Master, our King.

Includes some insights from James Alison. Photograph by Brother Daniel of Renaissance glass fragment in an Abbey window.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


Brother Jude has served the brethren as community cook for more than twenty years. And his kitchen is a place of warmth and hospitality, where the brethren can always find a warm cookie and a kind word. Jude loves to quote Saint Elizabeth of Hungry, who once said, "We must make people happy."

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

At the Door

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. Rev 3

As Christ Jesus draws near, we recall his words to the woman at the well. “If only you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘you would have asked him instead and he would have given you living water.” If only we knew. If only we understood Jesus’ desire to refresh us. For even as he invites us to come to him with our thirst, it is he who is thirsting for us to thirst for him. His thirst is his unending desire for us. Christ Jesus is at the door waiting to heal and console and mercy us. Let us open to him, realizing our real need for the living water that he is. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

His Name

When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified…Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues...and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky…they will seize and persecute you…and they will have you led before kings and governors, because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking… Luke 21

With vivid apocalyptic imagery Jesus points to the precariousness of our earthly existence. Empowered by his love and presence, overshadowed by the powerful invocation of his Holy Name, we move forward in hope and peace, faithful in little things, seeking to do the ordinary well. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Saint Martin of Tours

In this two-tiered manuscript painting of The Legend of Saint Martin, the story begins on the bottom level. There the Roman soldier Martin cuts his military cloak in half to share it with a shivering beggar. The upper tier shows Martin asleep, his dream illustrated in a semicircle above him. Jesus appears wearing the very cloak Martin has shared. And he thanks Martin for his generosity. Our Lord's message is clear, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." We want to notice the needy one in our midst; Christ Jesus assures us that He is the Needy One.

St. Albans Psalter, English, early 12th century, Dombibliothek Hildesheim, Germany.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dedication of the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano at Rome

The Liturgy of the Word this morning seems a dazzling blast of images. We are invited to open our hearts to the fullness of the mystery revealed to us in three remarkably symbolic texts that gather meanings- words are used, but the realities are really beyond words. Such is the nature of symbol. How to describe the embrace of one we love, a meal shared, a small kind word or a smile that can erase a hurt, the vision of a sunrise through morning mists or the experience of sitting quietly beside someone as they lay dying? How to describe the nearness of God in Christ through the Spirit in our Church? How to describe what we experience as real but really indescribable? 
If ever you have experienced a friend as refuge, safe haven; their kindness and presence as home and even sanctuary, then perhaps you will begin to understand what Jesus is saying this morning when he refers to his body as temple. 

Saint John Lateran is the pope’s own church, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome where he presides as the Bishop of Rome. We celebrate this anniversary as a feast of the universal Church, since it is the Holy Father’s own cathedral, and therefore the spiritual home of all believers. See readings for today's Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, Lectionary: 671 at http://www.usccb.org.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


We pray for a peaceful, just and grace-filled Election Day. As one columnist recently reminded us: God is ultimately the Lord and Master of history. And Christ Jesus our Lord is always inviting us to make things better for each other, and especially to protect those who are most vulnerable. God acts in history, and he will use anything at all to get our attention. He chastises and rescues and intervenes in ways unimaginable, when we choose to cooperate with him. What is God's message to us at this critical moment?

For the grace of God has appeared, saving all
and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires
and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
as we await the blessed hope,
the appearance of the glory of the great God
and of our savior Jesus Christ,
who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness
and to cleanse for himself a people as his own,
eager to do what is good.   Titus 2

Recent photograph of the Abbey woodlands by Brother Brian. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

We Belong to Him

Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?For all seven had been married to her.  Luke 20

This frustrating Gospel scenario in which the Sadducees taunt Jesus becomes a brilliant foil for the poignant and affecting story of the martyrdom of the seven Maccabee sons and their holy mother in today's First Reading; these seven very real brothers; how unlike the seven fictional brothers of the Sadducees’ tale who are dropping like flies! Today’s First Reading is only an excerpt of the heart-rending story of those brave Jewish martyrs, a family tortured for refusing to break their covenantal “marriage” bond with the God of Israel, embodied in the dietary laws to which they adhered. For them eating pork would be not only idolatrous, but even more adulterous. They understand themselves as entirely dedicated to God. This is essential to who they are.  They are convenanted to God. They embrace this Mystery with courage and clarity; they will not waver. How like their blessed descendant Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus our Lord, whose food and deepest desire was to do the will of the Father who sent him. Imagine how Jesus’ young heart must have been stirred when he first heard the story of his Maccabee forebears.

Like his ancestors, Jesus knows that God expects more of us. We belong to him. And he has prepared a place for us. This is our destiny. Jesus wants us to be with him in God forever. And so with quiet power and self-assurance he proclaims, “God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.” These words are not only a statement of doctrine, but more- of self-revelation, for Jesus is himself the Resurrection and the Life. Resurrection is not a far off event but a Person, a Person who longs for us even now, and is continually drawing us into more abundant life with him, through him and in him.

Photograph of the Abbey cemetery by Brother Brian. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Our Lady on Saturday

Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.

Jesus became poor through Mary's poverty and littleness. We pray that with and through Mary we may more and more become poor with the poor Christ, so that he may enrich us with the immense, abundant littleness that God is.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Lost & Found

“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home,
he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  Luke 15

We rejoice because though we are sinners, we have been sought out and found by Christ Jesus. Indeed Jesus is always searching for us in our lostness. And the lostness of our sinfulness signals our availability for Jesus who is all Mercy. Why then hide or reproach myself endlessly, needlessly? Will I instead allow the Lord Jesus to forgive me and carry me? Holy allowing is essential. After all as Paul reminds us in his Letter to the Philippians,

… whatever gains I had,
these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ.
More than that, I even consider everything as a loss
because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

We rejoice, for we are “known” and loved beyond our imagining.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

With All The Saints

Why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this feast day mean anything to the saints? What do they care about earthly honors when their heavenly Father honors them by fulfilling the faithful promise of the Son? What does our commendation mean to them? The saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning.
Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles, the great host of martyrs, the noble company of confessors and the choir of virgins. In short, we long to be united in happiness with all the saints. But our dispositions change...The saints want us to be with them, and we are indifferent...
Come...let us at length spur ourselves on. We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory.
When we commemorate the saints we are inflamed with another yearning: that Christ our life may also appear to us as he appeared to them and that we may one day share in his glory...That we may rightly hope and strive for such blessedness, we must above all seek the prayers of the saints. Thus, what is beyond our own powers to obtain will be granted through their intercession.
Hearing these words of Saint Bernard in the dark of Vigils this morning, we were reminded that we are relationship, continued connectedness, with all the holy ones who have gone before us, relatives and dear friends whom we remember and who remember us with love.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpt from a sermon by our Cistercian Father, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.