Friday, May 31, 2019

The Feast of the Visitation

With self-forgetful love the Virgin Mary  travels far to visit her cousin, now in her sixth month. A pregnant Virgin embraces one thought to be forever barren, for once again God has reversed the way things are supposed to be. God interrupts, and two lives are blest and transformed. Mary bears God’s son, Elizabeth his forerunner. As Mary sings her thanksgiving, Elizabeth feels the child within her bouncing with joy.

Perhaps too often we have forgotten how to wonder, how to be amazed at the great things God is doing for us even now. Perhaps too often we have forgotten that nothing is impossible with God. 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Ascension Day

In the paschal mystery of Jesus and of our redemption there are three ascensions to which Jesus himself refers in the crucial chapter twelve of the Gospel of John when he says, “Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.  And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”  The first ascent is that in which Jesus ascends, is lifted above the earth on a cross, yes, in crucifixion and death on Calvary.  The second ascension is when the Father raises Jesus from the dead in the resurrection on Easter morning.  The third ascension we celebrate this morning: the Father who raised Jesus from the dead is now lifting  him up and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality and power, and every name that is named; and the Father puts all things beneath his feet and gives him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.  Do you experience him drawing you to himself?

The Epistle to the Ephesians speaks of our being included in this great mystery of the Ascension of Jesus into heavenly glory - “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved) raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus...” God, who transcends our time and space not only draws us to Himself in Christ, but also establishes us in the heavenly places. Michael Casey tells us that by virtue of Christ's ascension “the Word made Flesh is no longer subject to spatio-temporal limitations; he is universally present and accessible—most of all at the level of spirit in the hearts of believers.” Thus, today's solemn feast belongs to all of us who are baptized into the body of Christ Jesus, that is, the Church in pilgrimage and in glory.

There are many ways and means that have been given to the Church to put us in touch with this exalted state we have been called to share with Jesus: prayer, the reading of scripture in lectio divina, theological studies, the sacraments, especially Baptism, the Eucharist and Reconciliation.  These ways are all means to help us come to realize who we are in Christ Jesus, our exalted Lord who humbled himself to share in our humanity that we might share in his divinity and in the exaltation of his humanity at the right hand of the Father.  We often experience being drawn to prayer: drawn by and to the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. The classic definition of prayer from John of Damascus is “the ascent of the mind to God,” using the very word “ascent” of today's feast to define the word “prayer”; prayer is a way in which we participate in the mystery of the ascension.  Prayer is a response to being drawn to our Savior, who has been lifted up and ascended to heavenly glory. 

The Eucharist is the greatest of prayers. In the Eucharist we receive the ascended and glorified body of Christ.  The more we are drawn to the exalted Lord Jesus in our prayer, in the Eucharist, in our daily ordinary, obscure and laborious lives, the more everyone is drawn to everyone else in love, and earth ascends into heaven. 

Excerpts from Father Luke's homily. The Ascension of Christ, historiated initial ‘C’, Italian, 15 century, State Library of Victoria.                                                                            

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Brother Michael's Solemn Profession

On this past Saturday friends and family of our Brother Michael gathered with his brother monks for the celebration of his Solemn Profession. We rejoice in the Lord, Brother Michael's warmth and goodness are a great gift for our community.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

His Beauty

Jesus tells us in this morning's Gospel from Saint John: Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. It is Jesus' delight and deep desire to be with us, among us, within us always. 

The incomprehensible beauty of this reality is made real for us in the Sacred Liturgy. As the document from The Pontifical Council for Culture reminds us, The beauty of the love of Christ comes to meet us each day not only through the example of the saints but more so through the holy liturgy, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist where the Mystery becomes present and illuminates with meaning and beauty all our existence. This is the extraordinary means by which our Savior, once dead and resurrected, shares His life with us, making us part of His Body as living members and making us participate in His beauty.  

Friday, May 24, 2019

My Friends

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. 
John 15

Imagine what it might be like to know yourself liked by God, truly appreciated, loved with great tenderness, understanding, compassion. Could God be at least as good as your best friend?  A friend knows your brokenness and your goodness and just loves being with you.  

As friends of God, we can marvelously exchange our everything with God’s everything - our need with the fullness of his loving mercy. Our friendship with God in Christ through the Spirit is ultimately fulfilled in our promise to love one another as we have been loved and to create households and communities of friends, where we try to love as God loves.

Photograph by Father Emmanuel.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Friend

Jesus wants to be a friend…This discernment is the basis of all else. In the risen Lord’s dialogue with Simon Peter, his great question was: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” In other words, do you love me as a friend? The mission that Peter received to shepherd Jesus’ flock will always be linked to this gratuitous love, this love of friendship.

The life that Jesus gives us is a love story, a life history that wants to blend with ours and sink roots in the soil of our own lives. That life is not salvation up ‘in the cloud’ and waiting to be downloaded…The salvation that God offers us is an invitation to be part of a love story interwoven with our personal stories; it is alive and wants to be born in our midst so that we can bear fruit just as we are, wherever we are and with everyone all around us.

Excerpts from the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, Christus Vivit.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

His Voice

We all recognize the voice of someone we love; and we can recall what that voice that stirs up in our hearts - joy, peace, expectation, longing.

This morning we hear the voice of the Lord Jesus our Shepherd. He assures us that we belong to him, we belong to God, no matter what. We have been given to Jesus by his Father. As we belong to the Father, so we are the Father’s gift to the Son; we are and will always be God’s children in the Spirit. “No one can take you out of my hand, no one,” says Jesus. This is our truth, our reality. Jesus whispers this truth, calling us by name. But too often, so often there are other voices that beckon us, competing with Jesus’ voice for our attention - desires, temptations, the things we think we need.

But the Shepherd keeps calling; he won’t stop.  He is always drawing us, calling us away from all the other stuff that cannot possibly satisfy us. He wants us to come to him for everything we need. And in the Holy Eucharist, he will give us everything – all that he is. He sets the table and invites us to sit, rest, eat and drink. We belong to God. God is for us, God is with us, he wants to refresh us. Please, let us remember how hungry and thirsty and weary we are and come to him. 

The Abbey garth photographed by Brother Brian.

Saturday, May 11, 2019


Consuming Jesus’ Body and Blood is indeed an unmanageable truth. And as we hear in today’s Gospel, those disciples who take him literally are scandalized. Still, it is true. We do in fact and in faith consume the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ Jesus in the Eucharist
It was not that long ago, that Jesus fed that crowd with an abundance of bread. And as Jesus fed all those people on the hillside, we like to imagine that he understood for the first time that it would never be enough for him, merely to feed those he loved even with such abundance. Perhaps it was after that very busy afternoon of blessing and doling out all that bread that Jesus dreamt of himself becoming Bread for us, realized that he himself was meant to be our Food, for he knows he is indispensable for us.
Jesus becomes bread so that he can be dissolved in us, surrender himself to us completely. It's what he did on the cross; it's what he does in the Eucharist each day. That’s what love does; it gives itself away. And so once again we come to him, to whom else shall we go. Each morning  we are invited to give ourselves, as he gives himself and to get caught up in the self-forgetfulness that God is.

The Abbey bell tower photographed by Brother Brian.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Saint Damien

So fully does Damien of Molokai take on the mind and heart of Christ, so devoted is he to the lepers, that soon, because of his fearless ministry, he will become a leper himself. In Saint Damien’s total self-gift, we have a true icon of Jesus, Jesus who constantly gives himself away to us in love and self-forgetfulness. It's what he did on the cross, it’s what he does each day in the Eucharist. He draws us into the life of God; we are "spliced" into the very life of the Trinity, into the self-forgetfulness that God is.

Jesus wants to be our food, for he knows he is indispensable for us. “My Flesh is true food,” he tells us. “And my Blood is true drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him.” Jesus becomes bread and wine so that he can be dissolved in us, surrender himself to us completely.

Life in the monastery is meant to accomplish the very same self-forgetfulness in the monks. Like Jesus in his passion, like Damien in the leper colony of Molokai, we are trying to learn how to give ourselves away with ease, without reserve or fear.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

New Cistercian Martyrs

Not long ago, in March of 1996, Dom Christian de Chergé and six monks from the Abbey of Tibhirine in Algeria were kidnapped and found dead two months later. This morning we celebrate our newly Blessed Cistercian brothers. We are at once humbled and inspired by the passion of their perseverance, the passion of their self-offering.

But we must be clear. For even as he anticipated the possibility of his own death, Dom Christian feared that his dear Muslim friends would be blamed for his murder. He absolutely did not want this.

The only grace he eagerly awaited was at last in heaven to see as God sees – to see the children of Islam all shining with the glory of Christ, all differences at last brought into communion and divine likeness by the joyful Gift of the Spirit. 

As each morning we receive Holy Communion, we pray for this same compassionate communion among all people, that the differences we so often cherish may be erased by a love beyond understanding. For our reluctance, let us beg God’s mercy.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Jesus Showed Himself In This Way

John begins today’s gospel (John 21:1-19) by telling us that Jesus “showed himself in this way.” Throughout this post-Resurrection story, the Evangelist gives a lot of small, seemingly unnecessary and even strange details, when he could have said just as easily: “While the disciples were fishing, they saw Jesus on the shore. This was his third appearance.” But John didn’t. Instead, he focuses on the details in which Jesus showed himself; so maybe we should too.  

First, the context: The disciples have returned home. Discipleship, the upper room, the cross, the empty tomb, the house with its locked doors are all now things of the past for them, and (more importantly) these seven disciples seem to have lost sight of “resurrection” in their lives. They’ve moved back to the familiar waters of the Sea of Tiberias, to the place where it all began. They’ve traveled some 70 or 80 miles from the place of Jesus’ resurrection and given themselves to their old routine of fishing. They’ve returned to the same boats, the same nets, the same water, the same work. And that’s when and where Jesus now “shows himself”—precisely in the ordinary circumstances and familiar routines of their lives.

So, what about us? It’s now two weeks after Easter Sunday, and I suspect we’ve all returned to the routine of our lives. But according to this morning’s Gospel, that’s just where we can expect Jesus to reveal himself to us. “Resurrection” does not happen apart from the routines of life but in them. Resurrection is not about escaping life but about becoming alive. This, I believe, is what comes across in the little details John gives us in this morning’s scene. So, let us consider a few of them.

First, we are told that Peter decides to go fishing. He knows how to do that. It is familiar and comfortable. It takes him back to life before Jesus. The others are quick to join him. But perhaps Peter is not really trying to catch fish as much as he is fishing for answers. Simply going back to his former life isn’t the answer.

  We know from our own experience that we can leave the places and even the people of our life, but we can never escape ourselves or our life. Wherever we go, there we are. Peter may have left Jerusalem, but he cannot so easily get away from three years of discipleship, the last supper, the arrest, a charcoal fire, denials, a crowing rooster. He cannot leave behind the cross, the empty tomb, the house with its doors locked tight, the echoes of “Peace be with you.”

So, he fishes. Peter fishes for answers. “What have I done? What were those three years about? Who was Jesus? Where is he? Who am I? What will I do now? Where will I go? What will happen to me?” Peter is searching for meaning, a way forward, a place in life. We find him “dark night fishing,” and that’s not just because nighttime is the best time to fish on the Sea of Tiberias.

We all have spent time “dark night fishing”—asking the same questions as Peter, looking for our place in life, seeking peace and some sense of understanding, meaning. More often than not “dark night fishing” happens in the context of our failures, losses, and sorrows. It happens when we come face to face with the things we have done and left undone. We have all been there, fishing for answers in the darkness . . . and coming up empty.

That’s the next detail that we are told: “That night they caught nothing.” Their nets are empty. The empty net is not only descriptive of their fishing efforts; it’s descriptive of the disciples themselves. They are as empty as their nets. We know what that’s like. We work, we do our best, but we still come up empty. In those moments we have come to the limits of our self-sufficiency. We have nothing to show for our efforts, and nothing left to give. We’re empty.

But that’s just when Jesus, still unrecognized by the disciples, shows up and asks: “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” That’s not so much a question as it is a statement. Jesus is not asking for a fishing report. He is commenting on the reality and emptiness of Peter’s and the other disciples’ lives. Perhaps Peter is living in the pain and the past of Good Friday. He is fishing on the “Good Friday side” of the boat, and the net is empty. There are no fish, no answers, no way forward. The nets of dark night fishing contain nothing to feed or nourish life.

If now just two weeks after Easter we too have gone back to our ordinary lives and feel empty, maybe we should wonder if we have been fishing on the wrong side of the boat. We know that when we become lost, confused, afraid, unable to deal with what life throws at us, we tend to run away. We try to go back to the way it was before – to something safe, something familiar, pre-Triduum. Often, we revert to old patterns of behavior and thinking. Even when we know better and do not want to go backwards, it seems easier than moving forward. Maybe this is what Peter and the disciples were doing, and why they were fishing unsuccessfully on the wrong side of the boat.

Notice now that Jesus doesn’t suggest that they abandon their nets again, as they had done when he first called them. No, he is about to show them that their present emptiness is not the end or a failure but a beginning. Jesus shows up when the nets are empty; they are the very places where he reveals himself. Only nets empty of self-sufficiency can be filled with a “catch” that is sheer gift, nourishing, life-giving.  This why he tells them from the shore: “Cast your net to the right side of the boat and you’ll find something”—we might think of it as the “resurrection side” of the boat. One commentator has suggested that this movement of the net from one side of the boat to the other symbolizes the disciples’ own experience of resurrection, a movement from death to life in an ordinary circumstance of ordinary life.

“Jesus showed himself in this way”: Jesus revealed himself in the empty nets that were suddenly filled with large fish (153 of them!), in the darkness that gave way to morning light, in a charcoal fire of denial that became a fire of welcome and invitation, in a last supper that became a first breakfast, and in three disavowals that were forgiven with three affirmations of love. (No doubt Jesus knew that Peter loved him, but Peter needed to know that he loved Jesus. Peter needed to understand that he was not bound to or identified by his past.)

Perhaps this, then, is the meaning of the “third appearance” of the Risen Lord to his disciples. At an unexpected moment, having retreated to their ordinary lives, the disciples recognize Jesus— “It is the Lord!” In their daily ordinariness they encounter, experience, something of the reality and power of the Risen Lord. A resurrection moment! Dark night fishing is over. This is again Easter. Good Friday is real. Pain, death, sin are realities of life. But the greater and final reality is Easter resurrection. The Good News this morning is about Jesus rising and appearing in the darkness and emptiness of the disciples’ lives, in the darkness and emptiness of our own lives.  Whatever darkness has overcome us, whatever darkness we might be going through today, that darkness is the circumstance in which Jesus will show himself to us. It is the very context for our resurrection and is the raw material from which new life will be fashioned. The resurrection happens not in some distant, heavenly future, but in the small details of our everyday life.

The last two words of this morning’s Gospel are simply: “Follow me.”  “Follow me and live as resurrected people. Follow me, and fish in a different place.” Follow me is the invitation for us two weeks after Easter to examine where we are fishing. On which side of the boat do we fish? On which side of the Cross do we live? Good Friday or Easter? 

This morning's homily by Father Dominic.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019


Come, ye faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought forth Israel into joy from sadness,
loosed from Pharaoh's bitter yoke Jacob's sons and daughters,
led them with unmoistened foot through the Red Sea waters.
'Tis the spring of souls today; Christ hath burst his prison,
and from three days' sleep in death as a sun hath risen;
all the winter of our sins, long and dark, is flying
from his light, to whom we give laud and praise undying.

Photos by Brother Brian. Verses from our Lauds hymn Gaudeamus pariter.