Thursday, June 29, 2017

Saints Peter and Paul

As we celebrate the great Apostles Peter and Paul, we recall the words of an ancient Latin hymn for this feast, Aurea Luce.

O happy Rome!
Ruddied by the noble blood of these princes;
It is not your praise,
But their merits which excel
All the beauty of the earth.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

After the Storm

Last evening during Compline a terrific downpour, and then when we left the church for bed, we noticed a giant rainbow, sign of hope, joy and covenant. And we recalled God's words to Noah, "I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth." Genesis 9.13

Photograph by Charles O'Connor.


God is constantly “acting on our behalf, out of love for us;” drawing us into our truest identity. And since God preserves the universe in being, we believe that he acts in and with every creature in each and all its activities. This is not to say we are stuck in some plan, some occult predestination, but that God is always, always calling, beckoning us, drawing us to himself, longing to fill us with himself, drawing us into the Trinity. We name this Divine Providence.*

We are all invited to look back and notice the finger of God, to reflect on our own lives with a kind of road-back-to Jerusalem-from-Emmaus insight- “It was the Lord all the time, though I did not recognize him. It was you Lord, calling, using anything at all to bring me to you, to my truth, to the secret for which I was made.” It was, it is God’s finger in my life day in day out.

In the end each of us can say with Isaiah, “The Lord called me from my mother’s womb; he pronounced my very name…” Divine Providence has been at work in our individual stories, our histories, through all the blessings and reversals. These graces must be named and celebrated as God’s work in us, through us, for us. 

* See The Catholic Encyclopedia. Photograph by Brother Brian.

Monday, June 26, 2017

As a Child

Jesus tells us that “Whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it. Here is what Saint Thérèse of Lisieux had to say about being a child before God at the end of her life, in her Last Conversations: “It is to recognize our nothingness, to expect everything from God as a little child expects everything from its father; it is to be disquieted about nothing, and not to be set on gaining our living…To be little is not attributing to oneself the virtues that one practices, believing oneself capable of anything, but to recognize that God places this treasure in the hands of his little child to be used when necessary; but it remains always God’s treasure. Finally, it is not to become discouraged over one’s faults, for children fall often, but they are too little to hurt themselves very much.” 

Let us then show ourselves always ready to accept God’s kingdom, to receive the embrace and blessing of Jesus, by acknowledging our faults and our need for his mercy. 

See Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Her Last Conversations, trans. John Clarke, pp. 138-39

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Passing Beauty

Each morning we pass these wildflowers, called white campion, on the edge of one of the Abbey pathways. The delicate articulation of their petals recalls the adage, "God is in the detail." 

And indeed the following words from the Book of Wisdom remind us to leap ahead from beauty to Beauty: far more excellent is the Lord than these;
for the original source of beauty fashioned them.
For from the greatness and the beauty of created things
their original author, by analogy, is seen.

Once after noticing a wildflower, the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins noted in his journal, "I know the beauty of our Lord by it."

Friday, June 23, 2017

Sacred Heart

Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High.
Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven.
Heart of Jesus, glowing furnace of charity.
Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills.
Heart of Jesus, patient and rich in mercy.
Heart of Jesus, rich to all who call upon Thee.

Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance.
Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation.

The compassionate Jesus will always be the God with a broken, open, wounded heart. And so the invitation is to honestly even joyfully take ownership of our very real need for his mercy. Our sinfulness can never estrange us from him, but instead lead us right into his broken heart, for he wants to heal and console us, if we will allow him.

Jesus notices us, lost in our isolation and confusion, all the stuff that does not fit, and he rushes toward us without delay to take us to himself, even into his wounded side as refuge. God in Christ has lost himself in love for us. Let us open our hearts to him.

Face of Christ by Georges Rouault. Excerpts from the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Numerous bunny rabbits have been sighted hopping around the monastic enclosure this year. We are glad to know they feel safe among us in this place.
Praise be to Thee my Lord with all Thy creatures!
Saint Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Living Bread

We live as hungry people in a hungry world. Everyone is looking for something that will sustain and nourish life, something that will feed and energize, something that will fill and satisfy. Everyone is looking for bread. The problem is not so much that we are hungry, but the kind of bread we eat.

Think about the varieties of bread being eaten in our lives and in the world today. In Syria all sides are eating the bread of violence and war. Here in our country, Republicans and Democrats share the bread of negativity, hostility, and name-calling. Closer to home, many of us eat the bread of having to be right and get our way. We eat the bread of hurt feelings and resentment. Sometimes we eat the bread of loneliness, fear, and isolation. There are times we eat the bread of sorrow or guilt. Other times we eat the bread of power and control. Sometimes we eat the bread of revenge or one-upmanship. We eat all kinds of bread. But the bread we eat reveals something about the nature of our appetites.

But there is an appetite that we may not be explicitly conscious of, but is nonetheless the most basic and powerful of all. Only God can complete us, only he can make us happy. That is how we are made. It is a consoling truth that hunger for God, once it seizes us, does not disappear easily; for that we can be grateful to God. Indeed, he will continue to intensify this hunger, if only we respond to it.

In the Gospels people come to Jesus hungry. They want to feed themselves with bread. Jesus wants to feed them with God. “Do not work for the food that perishes,” he tells them, “but for the food that endures for eternal life.” The Good News we celebrate is precisely this: the food that endures is Jesus himself. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” He is the bread that is broken and distributed for the life of the world. He is the bread that is broken, and yet never divided. He is the bread that is eaten, and yet never exhausted. He is the bread that consecrates those who believe in him, and eat him.

Excerpts from Father Dominic's homily for Corpus Christi.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Corpus Christi

He is The Bread sown in the Virgin, leavened in the flesh, molded in His passion, baked in the furnace of the sepulchre, placed in the churches, and set upon the altars, which daily supplies Heavenly Food to the faithful. Saint Peter Chrysologus

In the Most Blessed Sacrament Christ Jesus graciously hands himself over to us in self-forgetful love, longing to be dissolved within his own creatures as our food, our life, our sweetness and abiding consolation. Too often we run after food, that we mistakenly believe can fill the deep hunger and void within us. Jesus sees clearly our need, our longing and his desire to fill us answers our deepest desire. Let us go to Him eagerly, hungrily; knowing that He indeed is Heart of all our desiring, He alone is able to satisfy us.

Friday, June 16, 2017


We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, 

that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the Body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Cor 4

The vessels that Paul is referring to in this passage were apparently very fragile clay containers used for lowly purposes, and they were prone to cracking and easy breakage. Amazingly Paul says that is what we are. Truth be told, our own experience often verifies that, indeed as Paul would insist, we are fragile- too prone to sin and self-absorption.

The good news is that this knowledge of our weakness combined with a desire for God's grace-filled healing makes us perfect candidates for God's overwhelming, loving presence and action in our lives. With Saint Paul then we can rejoice in our weakness because it grants us availability to the grace that God in Christ always longs to lavish 
upon us.

We long to be more and more transparent to the  powerful presence of Christ Jesus within the earthen vessels that we are.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

His Body

Your hand holds up the world
and the universe rests in your love.
Your life-giving body is the heart of your Church;
your sacred blood protects the Bride. 

Supplication to God by Cyrillonas, Syrian, 4th century. 

Corpus from a Crucifix 
Italian, Doccia, ca. 1745-50 
Hard paste porcelain, h. 25 3/8" (67 cm) 
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 
Used with permission. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”
   John 15:12-17    
What might it be like to know myself liked by God, truly appreciated, loved with great tenderness, understanding, compassion? Could God be at least as good as my best friend, a friend who knows my goodness as well as my sometime cantankerousness and angularity and still just loves being with me?  What might it be like to imagine a God like that?

Photograph by Brother Jonah.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Trinity Sunday

It is God's radical love that gives our world its importance. It is the same love that gives all of us our essential dignity. God's love is all the more significant because it is fully aware of the sin, brokenness and stupidity that are part of who we are. At the center of the mystery of God is his everlasting love and fidelity to us. Given our often shabby response, this radical love  may be difficult for us to understand.

In his ceaseless love for us, God sent us his beloved Son. In his faithful love the Son faced the ultimate infidelity and was put to death by those he dearly loved. But God raised his Son and sent us his Spirit so that we might share the very life of God.

As we honor the Blessed Trinity, we celebrate the awesome stubbornness of God's extravagant love for us. We can depend on this love always and everywhere. It is a love that sets no limit to forgiveness and mercy. Loved so boundlessly, so extravagantly, we must go and try to do likewise.

Excerpts from Father Aquinas' homily.

Friday, June 9, 2017


Today we remember Saint Ephrem a fourth century scholar from Syria. Although he later retired to a cave on the outskirts of the city, he was a well-respected preacher in Edessa. Ephrem's concern was always to oppose local heretics, who spread their false teachings by setting them to popular tunes. So it was that in defense of the faith, very creatively Ephrem began to compose his own poetic lyrics to be sung to the same tunes. He then trained a choir of local women to chant these tunes during the liturgy. It is said that this is the beginning of organized hymn singing as a part of worship and as a means of religious instruction. Saint Ephrem became known as the "Harp of the Holy Spirit.”

Supported by the prayers of Saint Ephrem, we promise to use all our talents, all that we have and all that we are to praise our Lord.

See Butler's Lives of the Saints, the July volume, for Saint Ephrem's complete biography. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017


The first and greatest commandment is love. Thanks to love, the spirit sees the original Love, namely God. For by our love we see God's love for us, as the psalm says, 'He teaches his ways to those who are gentle.'

Photograph by Brother Brian.  Lines from Evagrius of Pontus, Letter 56.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

If You Can Remember...

If you can remember what it was like if you were ever the new kid on the block, the new kid in the classroom, the new kid on the team and how you just wanted to fit in, be hidden... Or if you ever loved from afar and dreamed of being with a person who seemed too good, too beyond you and you can remember your clumsy efforts, how you just wanted to be close and somehow you just didn’t know how to do it... Or if ever you were all alone, far from home and had to eat in a restaurant all by yourself at a teeny table and longed for family, someone familiar, a friend, the warmth of home and table, then perhaps you get a glimpse of what God was trying to do in the Incarnation. It as if for ages God had been trying to get closer, longing to be with us, like us, longing to be ordinary and hidden in our midst. God has made, is always making the first move toward us. We could say that God in Christ is indeed always toward us. “Love consists in this, not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us and sent us his Son...” 

Window at the Abbey Cottage photographed by Ted DeSaulnier.

Monday, June 5, 2017

At Pentecost

In order to see, know and love as God does, we must first experience what it is like to be seen, known and loved by God. We can view Pentecost as the Feast of God’s self-implication, God’s total self-involvement with us. The Holy Spirit allows us to affirm that our human experience, all of it, is now God’s experience. We do not have to get away from or escape from ourselves to find God. God has found us right where we are and as we are.

Here is a true story that opened up this gospel truth for me. It is a very sacred story about a boy named Billy, who was an altar boy. The pastor of his church had ordered him to do public penance- to kneel at the altar rail throughout a Sunday Mass, to repent for failing to show up for an altar boy assignment. But it wasn't Billy's fault. His father had kept him home to help with essential family chores. Billy told his dad that he would probably get some sort of penance for missing his  assignment, and his dad told him to simply do whatever the pastor required. We can imagine the shame Billy must have felt as he went up the aisle one Sunday morning to be humiliated in front of the whole parish. His legs trembled as he knelt. He wished he were dead. Then suddenly his humiliation was transformed. He felt a hand on his shoulder, looked up and saw his father kneeling at his side.

The disciples gathered in the upper room on Easter day weren’t just fearful. They were also locked in by guilt and shame. They had abandoned Jesus in his final hours. And yet, here he was with them, offering them peace. It is as if he were saying, “I know your shame from the inside. I know what it’s like. I shared it as I was spit upon, stripped naked and hung on a cross for all to see. But now it’s OK. Here I am with you. Peace be with you. I love you anyway. And my love for you is unkillable.”

By his gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus empowers all of us to see as God’s sees, to love as God loves, to forgive as God forgives. And when we know what it is like to be seen, known, loved, forgiven by God, we can share that Pentecost experience with the world.

I bet that Billy had been taught by the sisters in his parish school and by his parents that God is love and God forgives. But I doubt that it ever was as real and life-altering for him as that morning when he felt a hand on his shoulder, looked up and saw his dad sharing his shame. Think of that the next time you pray before a crucifix and plead for the coming of the Holy Spirit. 

Excerpts from Abbot Damian's homily for Pentecost Sunday.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pentecost Sunday

The Gospel chosen by the Church for this Pentecost Sunday takes us back fifty days to the evening of the Resurrection. Jesus wounded and risen has snuck in on the frightened apostles, as if on tip-toe, very quietly to introduce God’s consoling presence in the Spirit.

The disciples are in hiding, confused and probably feeling tremendously guilty, especially Peter. What should they have done to save Jesus? What could they have done? In all ordinariness Jesus seeks those whom he loves. He shows them his wounds, and he says, “Peace.” And then he breathes the Spirit on them, gently, most intimately, the warm breath of God. 

Bestowing his Spirit Jesus empowers them to forgive, for through his passion and death he has absorbed all recrimination, all reproach. God’s forgiveness is now abundant and free. God in Christ breathes the Spirit as in the beginning of creation, for this is "the beginning of new life for all believers in the risen Lord."*

*see Gerard Sloyan

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Charles Lwanga

Saint Charles and his twenty-one companions served as pageboys to King Mwanga of Uganda.  Charles protected his fellow pages, aged 13 to 30, from the immoral demands of King Mwanga. On this day in 1886 he was burned to death for endeavoring to safeguard the faith and chastity of his young friends and for refusing to submit to Mwanga  himself.

O God, who have made the blood of martyrs the seed of Christians, mercifully grant that the field which is your Church, watered by the blood shed by Saint Charles Lwanga and his companions, may be fertile and always yield you an abundant harvest. 

Photograph by Father Emmanuel.