Thursday, September 28, 2017

At the Chapter

I go with my heart and mind to your silent cloisters, from which the prayer for the Church and for the world continues ceaselessly. And I thank the Lord for the irreplaceable presence of the monastic communities, which represent a spiritual richness and a constant call to seek first of all “the things above”…

Your contemplative life is characterized by assiduous prayer, an expression of your love for God and reflection of a love that embraces all humanity. Following the example of Saint Benedict, you do not place anything before the opus Dei: I urge you to give great importance to meditation on the Word of God, especially the lectio divina, which is a source of prayer and school of contemplation. To be contemplative requires a faithful and persevering journey, to become men and women of prayer, ever more pervaded by love for the Lord and transformed into his friends.

…your monasteries continue to be privileged places where you can find true peace and genuine happiness that only God, our safe refuge, can give.

From the very beginning, the Cistercians of the Strict Observance have been characterized by a great sobriety of life, in their conviction that it was a valid help in concentrating on the essential and in reaching more easily the joy of the spousal encounter with Christ.

God manifests himself in your personal solitude, as well as in the solidarity that joins the members of the community. You are alone and separated from the world to advance on the path of divine intimacy; at the same time, you are called to make known and to share this spiritual experience with other brothers and sisters in a constant balance between personal contemplation, union with the liturgy of the Church, and welcome to those who seek moments of silence so as to be introduced into the experience of living with God. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, model of every consecrated life, accompany…the path of the Order with her maternal intercession. 

Photograph of Pope Francis meeting our Abbot Damian at the recent General Chapter. Excerpts from the Address of the Holy Father to the participants in the General Chapter of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, on 23 September 2017.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


This morning Jesus gives the Twelve a share in his power and authority and sends them out to preach the kingdom and to heal. He also tells them to take nothing with them on the journey. Clearly he thought that by taking nothing along the gift of his power and authority would be most sustained and transformative in the lives of his apostles, and be most likely to find open and receptive hearts as they passed it on. 

May the example and prayers of the great apostle of charity, Saint Vincent de Paul, assist us in our weakness to embrace the link between freely-chosen poverty and a life of charity, so that passing on the good news in its fullness, Christ’s power may reign in our hearts and give life to those whom we encounter. 

Painted initial from an early Cistercian manuscript. Meditation from today's Mass by Father Timothy.

Monday, September 25, 2017

True Wisdom

Just as in last Sunday's Gospel, the servant forgiven his whole astronomical debt could not see to forgive the small debt of his fellow servant, so with today's pericope, the workers who were hired at the first hour at the current just wage could not rejoice at the generosity of the landowner who desired that all his workers go home with enough to support their families no matter how long they worked that day. There is, unfortunately, plenty of jealousy and envy even among Christians in this life - in our families, our work places and religious communities.  

The Latin Bible that Saint Benedict used  at verse 11 of our gospel passage reads: “and receiving it they murmured against the master of the house, the paterfamilias.”  Murmured.  Grumbled. I believe that these few words of verse 11 struck close to the heart of  our father St. Benedict.  In chapter 34 of the Rule, for example, he cautions the monks against the evil of murmuring or grumbling, when the Abbot or a delegated superior, acting like a paterfamilias, shows some special kindness to a brother in his weakness - whether his weakness be a physical or moral one.  In chapter 23 of the Rule, Benedict legislates that if the evil of murmuring persists, it will eventually lead to the guilty monk's being excommunicated. This punishment fits the crime, since the monk himself has already excommunicated his own self from the body of Christ that is the community by his murmuring. 

In commenting on today's parable, Pope Saint Gregory the Great echoes Our Lord's call to service with these words of wisdom: “Let everyone reflect on what he is doing, and consider whether he is laboring in the Lord's vineyard. No one who seeks his own will in this life has come to the Lord's vineyard. The Lord's laborers are those who think not of their own concerns but of the Lord's, who live lives of devotion and charitable zeal, who are intent on  gaining souls, who hasten to bring others with them to life.” He concludes this thoughts with his interpretation of the different hours that the laborers were called: “Even though you have not been willing to live for God in your childhood and young adulthood, at least come to your right mind in the final time of your life. Come to the ways of life, even though you will not labor much now, and are late.”  

We all know that it is never too late to stop murmuring, to stop obsessing about ourselves, and to love God with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind and our whole strength, and our neighbor as ourself.  Living this way in Christ with the strengthening graces of the Eucharist, God's thoughts become our thoughts and God's ways our ways.

Excerpts from Father Luke's Sunday homily. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Toward Us

To desire God is to possess him, for it is God who desires us first and without ceasing.

Painted initial from an early Cistercian manuscript. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Martyrs of Korea

In today’s Gospel, Jesus compares the people of his time to “children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’” Life in Christ requires the docility, spontaneity and trust, in short, enough of the sense of play, to let God be the author of the game, and to join in as he calls it out to us in the course of our daily lives; knowing that he has nothing but our good in mind and the desire to have us share in his joy and fullness of life. The Korean martyrs, whom we remember today, are outstanding examples of believers who stuck to playing God’s game right through the most difficult circumstances and the fiercest opposition. In persecutions lasting over 100 years, over 10,000 Koreans gave their lives, giving the young church in Korea the fourth largest number of saints in the Catholic world. May their prayers help us to overcome all obstinacy and hardness of heart as we acknowledge our sins…

Painted initial from an early Cistercian manuscript. Meditation from today's Mass by Father Timothy.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


    This morning’s parable is full of outlandish details. The first servant owes his master what would be about $600,000, equivalent to 160,000 days wages in Jesus’ day. His fellow servant owes him just 100 denarii - about $20; that was 100 day’s wages. That’s a lot too, but there’s no comparison. The message is clear. And we cringe when that dumb servant who’s been forgiven so much can’t forgive the smaller debt owed him. We know he is a fool who doesn’t know enough to do as has been done to him. Empowered by the compassion of his master, he sees himself as entitled now to push other people around. He doesn’t get it. 
    This parable is ultimately a wisdom tale, begging us to choose rightly. With a grateful heart, aware of all that God gives and forgives, we are invited to gratefully go and do likewise - to love as God loves, to forgive as God forgives - without measure. And when so much mercy has been lavished upon me over and over again, since Jesus places no limits on his forgiveness, how can I not forgive, not love, not show mercy and compassion? That would simply be ungrateful and so foolish.
    When it comes to love and compassion, mercy and forgiveness, God always overdoes it. That's how love operates; it expresses the "economy of gift, the logic of abundance." When we ask for forgiveness, God says, “I remember your sin no longer”? There is no proportion in it. It is pure gift. And the reality of this excess and superfluity, this too-muchness of God, runs through the whole of salvation history. And it all reaches its perfection in Jesus. This too-muchness of God is perfectly expressed in him, in his signs and words, in his passion, dying and resurrection. It is Jesus who reveals this boundlessness and immeasurability of God's love and compassion and forgiveness.
    And so once again this morning Jesus will fill us with an infinity of compassion, more than we deserve, in the Eucharist; squandering himself, becoming our food so that he can be dissolved in us. It's what he did on the cross, giving everything, even forgiving his tormentors. It's what lovers do; loving without measure, losing themselves. Jesus assures us that kind of self-forgetfulness is possible for us - with him. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from this morning's homily with some insights from Gerhard Lohfink, Jesus of Nazareth, pp. 242ff.

Friday, September 15, 2017

With Her

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

If ever you have silently accompanied someone you loved as they lay sick and dying, and had to trust that your quiet presence alone would somehow suffice, then you understand the power and beauty of Mary's presence with Jesus in his agony and death. Loving presence means everything. 

As he died on the cross, Jesus gave us his Mother to be our Mother as well. Now and always she lovingly accompanies us in all that we suffer.

We remain at the cross with Mary meditating in sorrow but also in hope. Jesus now risen from the dead has turned our mourning into gladness. We promise to be hope for one another in him.

Virgin and the Man of Sorrow, detail, Simon Marmion, c.1485, oil on panel, Groeninge Museum, Bruges, Belgium.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Precious Cross

Hail, O cross, consecrated by the body of Christ; his members have made your wood more noble than precious pearls. 

“I no longer call you servants,” says Jesus, “rather now I call you friends, for I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” Everything the Father has and is belongs to Jesus. And he tells us that he wants to give it all to us- this everything of God’s love.

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.” In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks these words before his hour- the hour of his crucifixion, death and resurrection. It is this hour that will make everything clear. For this hour, this event with all of its unbearable horror and great mystery, is the hour of Jesus’ glorification. His friends are not yet ready for the truth of this hour.

It is only in the aftermath of Jesus’ hour that the Spirit will reveal to us all truth, the astonishing truth that God has brought us unending life and hope through Jesus’ crucified and disfigured humanity; all because love is worth it. Certainly this is reason enough to give thanks, rejoice greatly and celebrate today’s feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The transept of the Abbey church in a photograph by Brother Daniel. This cross,  venerated by the monks on each Good Friday, has a tiny reliquary with a fragment of the True Cross. Adorned as it is with flowers and candle, it will remain in the transept for today's Feast and tomorrow's Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Do Come

I give you thanks that you have become for me a day without evening and a sun without setting; for you have no place to hide, as you fill the universe with your glory! You never hide from anyone, though we hide from you always, unwilling to enter your presence. Where, after all, would you hide - you who can find no resting place? And why would you hide - you who never reject or turn aside from a single one of your creatures?

Come then, holy Lord, pitch your tent in me; make me your abiding home, your dwelling forever. O good One, do not leave your servant...Remain with me, Lord; do not abandon me.

Lines from a hymn of Saint Simeon the New Theologian. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Most Holy Name of Mary

As we celebrate Mary today, we recall these words of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, our twelfth-century Cistercian father.

Whoever you are who perceive yourself during this mortal existence to be drifting in treacherous waters at the mercy of the winds and the waves rather than walking on firm ground, turn your eyes not away from the splendor of this guiding star, unless you wish to be submerged by the storm!...Look at the star, call upon Mary...With her for a guide, you will never go astray...under her protection, you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you will not grow weary; if she shows you favor you will reach the goal. 

Detail of the Abbey's copy of a Della Robbia Madonna in a photograph by Brother Brian. Lines from the Homily Super Missus Est, II, 17.

Monday, September 11, 2017


We pray, therefore, because you tell us to do so; we ask with confidence, because we have your promise; and forthwith you run to meet us and answer our prayer, finding in us a ground for your forgiveness, because you yourself have made us forgivable.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines from William of Saint Thierry, Meditation 3.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

At the General Chapter

Dom Damian our Father Abbot is away in Italy for the General Chapter of the entire Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance. The abbesses and abbots of our Order from around the world gather every three years to discuss the state of the Order and to hear about each other's monastery. As our Constitutions state:

They discuss there the salvation of their own souls and of those committed to them. They take measures regarding the observance of the Holy Rule and of the Order where there is something that needs to be corrected or added. They foster anew among themselves the benefit of peace and charity. They devote themselves to maintaining the patrimony of the Order and safeguarding and increasing its unity. 

When Father Abbot returns he gives us details of the meetings during our Sunday Chapters.

Friday, September 8, 2017

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. 

We monks love Our Lady. We go to her with all our needs and place ourselves in her keeping. Our hearts are never far from her, and we trust always in her real interest in us and our needs. And each of us monks is dedicated to her. As we celebrate Mary's birthday we recall that she is the gateway for us to all the healing that only Christ can give.

Your birth, O Virgin Mother of God, proclaims joy to the world, for from you arose the glorious Sun of Justice, Christ the Lord.

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Gerard David (Netherlandish, ca. 1455–1523), oil on wood, 20" x 17.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission. 
Quotation by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon for the Nativity of The Blessed Virgin Mary, 7.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Looking for Him

At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place. The crowds went looking for him, and when they came to him, they tried to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, "To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent." And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea. Luke 4

We too are searching for Jesus. And as we hear today's Gospel, we recall another story earlier in this Gospel. Jesus is twelve years and is lost. Mary and Joseph search with deep desire for the one whom they love. “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” 

“Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know?” We are haunted by Jesus’ question, for it seems Mary’s search is our own. With her we might well respond, “To whom else should we go? You are our refuge and consolation.” And so over and over again all day long we return to the church, the house of his Father, our own temple, to find Jesus our Lord. And best of all we encounter him each day at the table of the Eucharist. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. 

Monday, September 4, 2017


"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me. 
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Mt 16

In yesterday's Gospel, Jesus invited us to take up our own individual crosses, burdens of all kinds. As we follow him, he promises to carry these crosses with us. We are never alone. 
As we pray this day that all human labor be blessed, we remember especially all those whose work may be a cross too heavy to bear, those whose work involves any amount of prejudice or oppression.
 These images of monks assisting in building the monastery from the Abbey archives.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

Today has been designated by Pope Francis as Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. This year is marked by a joint message to us from Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew. They invite us to pray and reflect on how to live in a simple manner, using responsibly all the good things of the earth. Their message reads in part:

....the history of the world...reveals a morally decaying scenario where our attitude and behavior towards creation obscures our calling as God’s co-operators. Our propensity to interrupt the world’s delicate and balanced ecosystems, our insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources, and our greed for limitless profit in markets – all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation. We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead, we regard it as a private possession. We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs.

The consequences of this alternative worldview are tragic and lasting. The human environment and the natural environment are deteriorating together, and this deterioration of the planet weighs upon the most vulnerable of its people. The impact of climate change affects, first and foremost, those who live in poverty in every corner of the globe. Our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly implies the recognition of and respect for all people and all living creatures. The urgent call and challenge to care for creation are an invitation for all of humanity to work towards sustainable and integral development. 
As we continue to pray for the people of Texas and the Gulf Coast, we are acutely aware of the fragility and preciousness of all life
Creator of the universe, who have made all things good and given the earth for us to cultivate. Grant that we may always use created things gratefully and share your gift with those in need, out of the love of Christ our Lord.

Abbey photographs by Brother Brian.