Tuesday, October 31, 2017

On Halloween

Halloween at the Abbey is always long-awaited. After singing First Vespers of All Saints, we rush (albeit with quiet monk-like decorum) to the monastic refectory for a festive supper of Brother Patrick's homemade pizza. Brother spends the day making the sauce, chopping up peppers and onions and kneading his own dough to create a selection of incredibly delicious giant pies. It is a special meal when speaking is allowed. But when the clock nears 7:15, it's time to pitch in for a quick but thorough clean-up and then head up to church to sing Compline.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Monks On A Sunday

Sunday is dedicated to the mystery of the Resurrection. It is a day of joy and freedom from work so that the brothers may come together to share the Eucharist more fully and intensely, and zealously apply themselves to lectio divina and prayer.

Lines from the Constitutions of the Monks. Photographs by Brother Brian.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Our Humanity

Coming to terms with life means embracing the essence of our humanity, which is vulnerable. Life implies death. Loving one another implies the possibility of humiliation or rejection. This is reality. But to live in fear is not to live at all. And so we must be vulnerable so that we are free from fear, free to love. Jean Vanier

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


As Paul teaches the Romans, sin has been dethroned, its power has been broken. Through the victory of the Cross, grace has been set up in its place. When we come before God we are to present ourselves as persons in whom this reign of grace is a living reality, that is, as people who have truly passed from death to life. Paradoxically, we enjoy the freedom and privileges of the citizens of this kingdom precisely to the degree that we submit ourselves as obedient slaves. Since sin, although vanquished, continues to assert its power, even with great insistence, and sometimes gains ascendancy, let us with contrite hearts and confidence in the divine mercy humbly acknowledge our sins.

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


In the darkness of this morning's Vigils, we listened to these consoling words of Saint Hippolytus of Rome:

…as the Word shows his compassion and his denial of all respect of persons…he enlightens them and adapts them…like a skillful physician, understanding the weakness of men. The ignorant he loves to teach, and the stumbling he turns again to his own true way. And he is easily found by those who live by faith; and to those of pure eye and holy heart who desire to knock at the door, he opens immediately, for he does not turn away any of his servants as unworthy of the divine mysteries. He does not esteem the rich man more highly than the poor, nor does he despise the poor man for his poverty…But he searches for all and desires to save all, wishing to make all the children of God and calling all the saints unto one perfect man...

For although the Word of God was without flesh, he took upon himself the holy flesh by the holy Virgin. And he prepared a robe which he wove for himself like a bridegroom in the sufferings of the cross, in order that by uniting his own power with our mortal body and by mixing the incorruptible with the corruptible and the strong with the weak, he might save perishing man. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Lines from The Treatise on Christ and Antichrist by Hippolytus of Rome.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

What Belongs to God

I am the Lord and there is no other,
there is no God beside me.
It is I who arm you, though you know me not,
so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun
people may know that there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, there is no other. Is 45

What belongs to God? Everything - all that we are, all that we have, all that we. Everything. All is gift. The sea, all living things, all times and seasons - he holds everything in his hand. "You are mine," he says to each one of us.

At that, he said to them,
"Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God."
Mt  22

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Our Lady on Saturday

As we celebrate the Virgin Mary again on this Saturday, we ponder these words from a sermon by our Cistercian father, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux:

You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response, we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

Photograph by Brother Brian. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Saint Ignatius of Antioch

All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing. It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth. For what shall a man be profited, if he gain the whole world, but lose his own soul? Him I seek, who died for us: Him I desire, who rose again for our sake. This is the gain which is laid up for me. Pardon me, brethren: do not hinder me from living, do not wish to keep me in a state of death; and while I desire to belong to God, do not give me over to the world. Allow me to obtain pure light: when I have gone there, I shall indeed be a man of God. Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of my God. If anyone has Him within himself, let him consider what I desire, and let him have sympathy with me, as knowing how I am straitened. My love has been crucified, and there is no fire in me desiring to be fed; but there is within me a water that lives and speaks, saying to me inwardly, Come to the Father. I have no delight in corruptible food, nor in the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.

Photograph of the Abbey church by Brother Brian. Lines composed by Saint Ignatius of Antioch just before his martyrdom.

Monday, October 16, 2017

You Yourself

O Lord, you yourself are that Spring, always and forever to be desired, always and forever to be drunk from. Christ our Lord, give us this water as the Samarian woman once asked you, so that in us also it can be a spring of living water welling up into eternal life. It is an enormous gift I am asking – everyone knows that – but you, King of glory, have given great gifts in the past and made great promises. Nothing, after all, is greater than you; and yet you have given yourself to us and given yourself for us.

Therefore we beg you that we should come to full knowledge of the thing that we love; for we pray to be given nothing other than you yourself. You are everything to us, our life, our light, our health and strength, our food, our drink, our God. Jesus, our Jesus, I beg you to fill our hearts with the breath of your Spirit. Pierce our souls with the sword of your love... 

Photograph by Brother Brian of Lac Marie on the Abbey grounds. Lines from the Instructions of Saint Columban.

Sunday, October 15, 2017


Christ Jesus wants more of each of us. What the more is, each of us probably knows somewhere, way down in the depth of our own heart. Each of us will be asked now or later on to give the more we are capable of offering, all that we have to live on. Perhaps for some of us, a bit of dawdling might seem the cushion we need when life gets to be too much. But Jesus asks us for a bit more. Clearly, we hear the divine impatience with anything that might impede Christ Jesus’ access to our hearts. He wants us to come to him for everything we need. His loving regard is healing, drawing us, calling us away from all the stuff to become “all fire” in him, poor with him even unto the cross.

He wants everything. And in the Eucharist, he promises to give us everything— his very self. For he is our inheritance, our hope, our fulfillment, well worth all he asks of us now. Riches, accomplishments- whether spiritual or material- are nothing in comparison with him. 

Crucifixion from Miserere by Georges Rouault.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

God's Faithfulness

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal love.

Even as we switch back and forth between our infidelities to God, he patiently reaches back to us, each time calling us to himself. God's love cannot be undone by our ongoing infidelities. All he waits for is that split-second turning of our hearts back to him, and in order that this tiny miracle of turning may take place, his grace is there to see us through. But what about our constantly falling back? Are we able to look beyond our ongoing disappointment in ourselves and more importantly, are we able to believe in the dynamism and the completeness of his each forgiving?

Living as best we can through the reality of these infidelities, we eventually come to understand and taste the meaning of those words of Christ, "Without me, you can do nothing." We have to accept the humiliations of those many failings, small or great, because Christ uses them to convince us that our modest efforts have to be harnessed to his own powerful might and that ultimately we have to turn over the brunt of the battle to him. His love will not be outdone by those infidelities; he looks beyond them because he revels at the thought of what he will bring about in us through his own great love.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from Father Gabriel's homily for the Twenty-seventh Sunday 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Saint John XXIII

On Christmas Day in 1958 very early in his papacy, Pope Saint John XXIII visited Queen of Heaven Prison in Rome. We love to remember his most kind words to the inmates who had gathered to see him that day - “You could not come to me, so I came to you.”

Perhaps Jesus says something similar to us in his Incarnation.  “You could not come to me, so I came to you.” As we celebrate Saint John XXIII today, may we, who are often prisoners of our own foolishness and sinfulness, welcome the Lord who is with us, always closer to us than we realize.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Columbus Day

On this Columbus Day, we pray for the evangelization of peoples, that all may come to know the one true God, who brought them into being, loves them, who in his Son has handed over his life for them, and who wishes nothing more than to bestow on them the gift of eternal life. In the Good Samaritan, Jesus gives an example of the kind of disposition and behavior his disciple, the bearer of his Good News, should have toward the neighbor. The one who first of all gives himself permission to see and be touched by the distress of a stranger and then lets himself hear its summons to go out of his way, to be inconvenienced for their sake. Let us pray that we may be cleansed from our selfish tendencies and blindness, that we may be granted eyes to see and ears to hear and so become true bearers of the Word of Life.
Photographs by Father Emmanuel. Meditation by Father Timothy. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Our Lady of the Rosary

This morning as we concluded Lauds the window of Our Lady was blazing in the glow of the sunrise - Mary illumined by the Radiant Dawn, the Sun of Justice, who is Jesus her Son. Baptized into Christ Jesus our lives are meant to glow with His presence. The mysteries of the Holy Rosary- joyful, sorrowful, glorious and luminous- are the mysteries of our own lives. As we pray the Rosary we beg Our Lady to draw us closer to Him who is Our Light.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Praying in the Monastery

Nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God. Accordingly, the Liturgy of the Hours is to be celebrated by the community which, in union with the Church, fulfills Christ's priestly function offering to God a sacrifice of praise and making intercession for the salvation of the whole world.  The Liturgy of the Hours is a school of continual prayer. By constantly cultivating mindfulness of God, the brothers extend the Work of God throughout the whole day. The abbot is to see to it that each one has ample leisure to give himself to lectio and prayer. Furthermore, all should take care that the monastic environment is favorable to silence and quiet. 

Photographs by Father Emmanuel. Lines from the Constitutions of the Monks.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


We are told that Saint Francis decreed that his friars must not have pockets in their habits. How he wanted them to be poor with the poor Christ! How to depend on Jesus alone for all we need? How to cling to Him, a Treasure always ready to hand and heart?

Detail of Saint Francis Of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata by Giambattista Tiepolo.

Sunday, October 1, 2017


In this morning's Gospel after bluntly refusing his father’s request to work in the vineyard, the first son changes his mind and joins the others in the vineyard. What happened? Why did he change his mind? It was because of an encounter, or rather a series of encounters: with his conscience, with community, and with his father. 
Conversion of heart always begins with some kind of encounter. The father’s request: “Son, go out and work in the vineyard today,” triggers the son’s first encounter – with his conscience. You know it well: that inner voice that tells us “to love and to do good and to avoid evil.” Imagine the encounter going something like this – Conscience: “You know the commandment: honor your father. You just dishonored him.” Son: “Don’t start lecturing me.” Conscience: “You do this, and should I keep silence?” Son (muttering to himself): “Oh, just go away.” But conscience won’t go away. It remains even if we try to muffle it – that’s its nature: it must witness to the truth. When we do good, it multiplies our peace; when we do evil it demands we set things right and holds out the hope of mercy.
The parable continues with the son’s next encounter – with community. He leaves behind his own will and isolation in a kind of self-emptying and joins the others in the vineyard. He enters a little community where there is a shared purpose and a shared work to perform, a mission, even if a humble one. He is dependent on others. He must be there for others. He learns the meaning of encounter because he has to live and work with others. This little community will stretch his heart, which is what conversion is all about.
Finally, the son comes full circle and encounters his father, who presumably comes to the vineyard at some point. The son had finally done the father’s will, but not without some pain. That is the way it is sometimes, especially for men. We don’t immediately see any good in the requests made by our fathers, and the same goes for our monastic superiors. But as we mature, we begin to see things differently. We realize that behind their requests, God had opened a door for us. We begin to see that going out into the vineyard is really an opportunity for a gift of self, which is a form of love.
Excerpts from Father Vincent's Sunday homily.

With the Angels

It is good for us to celebrate the angels today, for as monks the praise we offer during the Liturgy and the Divine Office is our participation with the angels in their endless heavenly adoration.

In the presence of the angels, I will sing your praises Lord.

The Death and the Assumption of the Virgin, detail, Fra Angelico, about 1432 Italian, tempera and gold on wood, 61.8 x 38.5 cm. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.