Saturday, June 30, 2018


This morning 
the papery red poppies 
in the lavabo garden.
Their fragile heavy heads 
wavering, bobbing and swaying.
Not only the breeze but
a bee wiggling in each black center.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Peter and Paul

   As we celebrate the saints today, they probably smile a bit sheepishly; their heads lowered. We imagine them embarrassed by all the hoopla, all the while pointing quietly to the wounded Jesus. “It’s not about us,” they say. “It’s all about what his tender mercy could accomplish in us.” Peter and Paul ultimately know themselves as forgiven failures, mercied and transformed by Christ in his most compassionate attentiveness. Both of them would probably admit to us that they could be a bit overconfident, too self-assured; they come to us this morning with nothing to boast about.
   Peter says he’s ready to die with Jesus; then betrays him in a heartbeat to save his skin. “Wait a minute; you’re one of that Galilean’s followers,” says the maid in the high priest’s courtyard. “I’d know that accent anywhere.” “Get out of here,” Peter mutters. “I don’t who you’re talking about,” Meanwhile Jesus is right next door being slapped and humiliated.
   Paul so sure of himself, so sure of the truth, so well-schooled in the Law, it’s the armored tank he’s been using to mow down followers of Jesus the blasphemer. As Peter crashes into self-knowledge making Jesus’ prediction of betrayal come true; Paul is knocked off his horse, insisting that he does not even know who Jesus is. Jesus assures him, “I am Jesus the one you’ve been persecuting.”
   Jesus did not give up on Peter or Paul and he won’t give up on us. He is a relentless rescuer, the God who saves us, even chases after us. He rescues us from all our distress over and over again, because he loves us. And even when we are dead in our stubborn sinfulness; he brings us to life, not because of our virtuous deeds but because of his tender mercy. All is grace, not merit but graciousness, a love that reaches down to every human misery. We do not feel humiliated, but restored, transformed.*
   And so with Peter we listen as Jesus whispers this hauntingly beautiful question to each of us, “Who do you say that I am? Who am I for you?” Perhaps when we come to understand ourselves as sinners desperately loved by Christ. Then we can say with Peter, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. To whom else shall we go?” And with Paul, “All I want is to know you, Lord Jesus and the power flowing from your resurrection. Everything else is rubbish.” You are all that I desire. You are my love, my fortress, my stronghold, my rescuer, my rock, the God who shows me love.
   The tender love and relentless rescue of Jesus make our foolish failures almost worth it. With Peter and Paul we are meant to be icons of this rescue, our very selves, revelations of what Christ’s ongoing merciful rescue can accomplish if we give him the least bit if access to our broken hearts.

* See Dives in Miserdicordia, Saint John Paul II.  Photograph by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Jesus reminds us today:
"Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Just so, every good tree bears good fruit,
and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,
nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down
and thrown into the fire.
So by their fruits you will know them."

We can discern the presence of God's Spirit in our lives by the fruits of our behavior. In his Letter to the Galatians Saint Paul names the fruits of God's Spirit - 
love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.

The reverence and deference we are invited to in this oft heard admonition of Jesus astound us still. We are to see ourselves mirrored in one another. And when we reverence one another, we reverence Christ Jesus. We are his Body.

Photograph of the Abbey meadows by Brother Brian.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist

Something utterly unprecedented in God’s graciousness was about to occur, something so exceptional in Israel’s history, that a forerunner would be essential, someone to prepare the hearts of the people for God’s radical inbreaking. John is that man. His call to repentance, to absolute honesty, justice and care for the poor will prepare Israel for the immense reversal that will take place in the person of Christ Jesus. For Jesus will indeed be the Messiah, but not the one everyone expected.

And this morning we look back at the infancy and early childhood of John and notice with him the Lord calling him even “from his mother’s womb.” John will kick and stir in the long-barren womb of his mother Elizabeth at the nearness of Christ in Mary. And miraculously when his father names him John, the name given him by an angel, his mute father’s tongue will be loosed. And so today the local folks all wonder, "What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.” We might also imagine what they said, as they saw him as a young man sneak off to the desert, and then preach and baptize with such urgency. “Not surprising at all; I always saw it in him,” they might say. “He was always different, not like the other kids; a kind of fire in him; a thoughtful kid; he liked to pray…” Maybe like things our friends and family said when we came to the monastery.

So it is that we celebrate today a kind of feast of sacred retrospection. Sacred retrospection. Tradition reflects back on the life of John the Baptizer and wonders at the holiness and uniqueness it sees even from his birth. We know this is a typical motif in Scripture and in accounts of many of the saints’ lives. And these stories were very often depicted in art. A favorite example is a relief of the infant St. Nicholas resting in his mother’s left arm. As she offers him her right breast to nurse him, Baby Nicholas raises both of his little hands, as if to say, “No thanks, Mom. I’m good.” Amazingly, it seems he has weaned himself; already quite a little ascetic and brimming with self-control even as a baby. The message is clear: Nicholas’ sanctity was obvious, even from any early age. Really? To the believing mind perhaps it’s not as ditsy as it sounds, but instead an unsophisticated expression of the truth which faith offers us.

Domenico GhirlandaioThe Birth  of the Baptist, fresco in  the Cappella Tornabuoni of  Santa Maria Novella, Florence. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Our Lady on Saturday

Mary gives her whole body unreservedly to God’s desire, God’s desire to come near, to be small and insignificant. For the truth of who God is for us requires a body, a heart under which he can rest, a supple heart that will throw things together and let them be. Her response to the angel’s invitation was, “Be it to me, let it be done in me. May God grow there under my heart; I will be God’s own serving girl.” 

Mary is generously open to the seemingly mismatched ways of God, with an attentive curiosity. “How will this be? Why me, a poor, unmarried girl from a backwater? Why?” The Mother of God shows us how to read the "why" and translate it into a "why not." Why not me? Why not now? Why not God with me, with us, here and now, here of all places?

The Annunciation, Fra Angelico, 1437-46, fresco, San Marco, Florence.

Thursday, June 21, 2018


So confident was Saint Aloysius in God's tender love, that one day as he was playing ball with the other young Jesuits, Saint Robert Bellarmine approached Aloysius and asked what he would do if he were told he was going to die the next day. "I would go on playing ball," said Aloysius.

So may we always trust in the Lord's merciful love and tender presence.

The Vocation of Saint Aloysius (Luigi) Gonzaga, Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) (Italian, Cento 1591–1666 Bologna), ca. 1650. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


Today once again Jesus invites us to be perfect - complete like God - with no gaps in our loving. And when we hear him say, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” we realize he is inviting us to be as compassionate as he will be on the cross. Our initial shudder at such a daunting invitation softens as we understand that his call is to a place of real freedom, the freedom to love because we know ourselves truly loved and beloved of God, beloved of our Father, just as Jesus himself is.

Understanding himself as so beloved, Jesus can lovingly, courageously, even joyfully suffer the shame and horror of his passion and cross. He freely goes down to this lowest, most painful place out of love. And his experience as victim of his passion is not a place where he gets stuck. He neither curses his oppressors nor relishes his victimhood. He forgives the perpetrators of his own execution. He is perfectly free to suffer, free to suffer because he knows it does not define him; it’s not his truth.

We too can afford to love as God loves; Jesus shows us our hearts are big enough. Our love can be perfect and complete because we are beloved like him. He empowers us to be lovingly vulnerable with him, in him. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Sunday, June 17, 2018


A small voice calling to us  - 
the still small voice of conscience 
to make the grace-filled choice.

A brief gesture -  
smile or kindness offered in time. 
Or short prayer.

Or outside 
the smallest flower, 
the tiniest bug or bird or blade of grass
is sudden hope and joy.

Doing a bit more this time,
going a big further, 
sitting still and listening a little longer,
doing the opposite - offering a smile 
instead of despondency and ill-temper.

Little choices. Small deeds that matter.

All good things, choices made
confident in his love, 
with us always, 
so ordinarily.

Then the kingdom happens:
God's way, 
God sway 
over the sad earth 
through us, for us, beyond us, within us.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

This Day

Oh, feed me this day, Holy Spirit, with
the fragrance of the fields and the
freshness of the oceans which you have
made, and help me to hear and to hold
in all dearness those exacting and wonderful
words of our Lord Christ Jesus, saying:
Follow me.

Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Lines from a poem by Mary Oliver.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Blessed Gerard

Living in community with brothers of different backgrounds, gifts and talents is, indeed, a gift but it also stretches our hearts open. And we recall the words of one brother some years ago, who said something like: "You know, you pray and work with a guy and you get to love him as your brother, even though maybe he's not the kind of guy you'd want to go duck hunting around the world with."

Small wonder that the monastery is called a school of love, for we all need to keeping learning how to open our hearts to one another. We are especially mindful of our fraternal connectedness today, as we celebrate the memorial of Blessed Gerard, blood brother of Saint Bernard. Gerard followed Bernard to Clairvaux where he became his cellarer. He was Bernard's confidant and assistant. Deeply grieved at Gerard's death, Bernard lamented his passing in these tender words: 

... a loyal companion has left me alone on the pathway of life: he who was so alert to my needs, so enterprising at work, so agreeable in his ways. Who was ever so necessary to me? Who ever loved me as he? My brother by blood, but bound to me more intimately by religious profession. Share my mourning with me, you who know these things. I was frail in body and he sustained me, faint of heart and he gave me courage, slothful and negligent and he spurred me on, forgetful and improvident and he gave me timely warning. Why has he been torn from me? Why snatched from my embraces, a man of one mind with me, a man according to my heart? We loved each other in life: how can it be that death separates us? And how bitter the separation that only death could bring about! While you lived when did you ever abandon me? It is totally death's doing, so terrible a parting...How much better for me then, O Gerard, if I had lost my life rather than your company, since through your tireless inspiration, your unfailing help and under your provident scrutiny I persevered with my studies of things divine. Why, I ask, have we loved, why have we lost each other? 

Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Lines from Sermon 26: On The Song of Songs.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

On a Hillside

Once upon a time on a verdant hillside in Galilee, a little boy's picnic lunch of five loaves and two fish was transformed by a Word of love into a huge banquet with baskets and baskets of leftovers. This is a story of the overflowing abundance and the immeasurability of God’s love and compassion. And as Jesus feeds the multitude with bread and fish, God's dream of the kingdom is enacted. The reign of God has become a reality in Christ Jesus. In him heaven is wedded to earth forever, and so a banquet is definitely called for. God's Promised One is presiding at the banquet in the kingdom, feeding the poor and lowly with as much as they want. He has invited us to join them. 
Photographs by James O'Kane.

Sunday, June 10, 2018


Absolutely focused on his Father's will, Jesus leaves behind the love and security of family, as well as a good-paying job as a carpenter. He launches out on his own with a ragtag collection of friends to preach and wander the countryside. Small wonder that when he comes home for a short visit, his relatives fear he has gone out of his mind. 

And one day as he begins to preach in his own neighborhood, someone whispers to him, "Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you." It is then that, most amazingly, Jesus gazes at those around him, those who follow him and listen to him and take his words to heart, and he names these people his mother and brothers.

Following Jesus and seeking to give ourselves unreservedly to him and his way, we have become his blood relatives, even members of his own body. Jesus has inaugurated the kingdom of God, a place where we are to live always, as if God were in charge, a place of new interrelationship and mutual compassion. 

Recent photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation inspired by Father Peter's Sunday homily.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Two Hearts

The loving heart of Jesus is opened up for us by a cruel spear, a spear wielded by a soldier whom Christian tradition calls Longinus.  When he was given his orders that day, crucifying a man was probably just a routine part of his job as a Roman soldier assigned to keep the peace of the Empire - a task like polishing his armor.  It is possible to imagine that his own heart had been hardened to the point of the ultimate inhumanity it is to crucify someone, torturing a person to death.   Yet, what Longinus would have then called Fate and we would call Divine Providence had placed his hardened heart and the divine-human heart of Jesus just the length of a spear apart from one another.  His hardened heart is literally near to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and near to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.   The Tradition tells us that when he thrust his spear into the side of Jesus to insure he was dead, a flood of blood and water flowed out upon him from the heart of Jesus. Thus, Longinus, already starting to be moved by what he was witnessing around him, was, as it were, baptized in this bath of salvation flowing from the side of Christ.  The traditional story says the bath healed him of an eye disease so that his full vision was restored, and, more importantly, healed his hardened heart so much that he eventually became a Christian missionary who would himself die in witness of his own love for Jesus, the Son of God and Man, who loved him and all of us to the end.

The cleansing and enlightening waters of Baptism in which all Christians, like St. Longinus, have been bathed call us now to drink from the chalice of salvation filled with the precious blood that flowed from the side of Christ—flowed from the wound caused by Longinus' spear.  Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.  We might notice our own spiritual vision becoming more acute.  We might notice our own wounded hearts healing and becoming ever softer, more human, and, therefore, more divine. 

Saint Longinus, Gianlorenzo Bernini. Excerpts from Father Luke's homily for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Sacred Heart

My heart is overwhelmed,
my pity is stirred. Hosea 11

Our sinfulness cannot estrange us from God, if we acknowledge it, it becomes the very great, greasy shoot which can lead us right into Christ's mercy-filled heart, his broken Heart as Refuge. Today here and now he notices us and rushes toward us without delay rejoicing to be merciful.

Jesus is the kind shepherd who searches for the lost ones. Our job to let ourselves be found. Like the Father in the story of the lost son, Jesus constantly abandons all dignity and decorum and entitlement and runs after us. And if we are wise enough not to elude him, or hide out, he takes us to his heart, even within his heart.

The Sacred Heart, by Odilon Redon.

Thursday, June 7, 2018


With ever grateful hearts, 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. When so much mercy has been lavished upon us over and over again, how can we not forgive, not love, not show mercy and compassion in return? That would simply be ungrateful and so foolish. As Paul reminds the Corinthians, “Christ's love compels us.” Literally, it grips us, grabs us, presses in on us. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

God's Own Self

As St. Paul says to the Romans: “Where sin has increased, grace has abounded all the more.” How do we know the love of God? Because he loved us first, while we were yet sinners. God never lets our failures in trusting him prevent the accomplishment of his loving plans on our behalf. God never fails us. Through all their foibles and failures God brought our Jewish forbears to the Promised Land. Jesus closest friends and disciples failed him and fled, but he was raised and came back to them loving them anyway. God’s dreams for us never suffer defeats. They just become roundabout and circuitous in their fulfillment. We may take many wrong terms in our life journey, but God somehow transforms them into avenues of encounter with him. Avenues all with the same name - Mercy. In other words, God never allows us to be satisfied with anything less than himself.
And this is at the heart of the Eucharistic mystery we celebrate in a special way on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi - God’s own self, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross effected a permanent change in our relationship with God. We can now trust God with Jesus’ own trust. In giving us himself, Jesus gives us his own fidelity to God his Father. Our participation in Jesus’ sacrifice brings each of us into real communion with God. Real presence brings about real communion. And real presence involves real responsibility. We celebrate today our real participation in the mission that Jesus inaugurated when he said, “Take, eat, this is my body. Take, drink, this is my blood.”
When we take and eat and drink we are proclaiming loud and clear “All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.” We will be his presence to and for one another. Loved by God in spite of our sins and infidelities, we commit ourselves to love others - all others - as we have been loved. With Christ as our body and with his blood coursing through our veins, we go forth to continue his saving and transforming work. 

Photographs by Brother Brian. Excerpts from Abbot Damian's Homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

His Body

    Perhaps as Jesus fed all those people one day from five loaves and a couple of fish, he understood for the first time that it would never be enough for him, merely to feed those he loved - even with such abandon and abundance. Perhaps it was after that busiest day of blessing and doling out all that bread that Jesus dreamt of himself being Bread for us, realized that he himself was meant to be our Food. In the universe of the Bible, bread is the one food that no one can do without. No wonder then that Jesus will understand himself as bread, for he knows he is indispensable for us.
    Jesus becomes food so that he can be dissolved in us, surrender himself to us. It's what he did on the cross, giving everything, all that he is. This is what lovers do - loving without measure, losing themselves in the other. When you love completely, you lose yourself. It is what you want most, but it will mean your undoing, even somehow your disappearance into the other. That's what eros means. You are no longer your own.
    So it is that in the Eucharist Jesus draws us into the life of God; we are "spliced" into the very life of the Trinity, the breathtaking self-forgetfulness that is God; each Person truly himself by giving himself away. The Eucharist accomplishes this blurring of boundaries, as Jesus gives himself to us,
    A few years ago, we heard about an American priest, who spent the summer filling in at church in a little village in Bavaria. The Feast of Corpus Christi came. There was a procession through the streets; he carried the monstrance with the sacred Host. Little girls tossed flowers; there was endless singing and clouds of incense. The next morning a young reporter from the local newspaper came to interview him. "Why Father," he asked, "were you carrying that beautiful little mirror through the streets yesterday? What was the significance?" My friend had to explain. Not a mirror at all, but perhaps a Mirror indeed. What did that German reporter know that perhaps we've forgotten? The fragile Bread is truly a Mirror in which we can see each other and ourselves - fragile, vulnerable, and truly worthy of reverence by one another.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Friday, June 1, 2018


Philosopher, apologist and martyr, Saint Justin tells us that his study of philosophy led him to faith in Christ. The study of Scripture and the conviction of the early Christian martyrs led Justin from the darkness of human reason to the light of faith. His rock-solid faith became the impetus and example for Christian generations to come. Before his martyrdom Justin was asked by the Roman prefect, "Do you think that by dying you will enter heaven and be rewarded by God?" Justin answered, "I do not think. I know."

May Justin be a model for us who profess the same faith and hope for the same reward.

Meditation by Father Emmanuel.