Wednesday, October 31, 2012


As we celebrate the holiness of those who have gone before us on this Solemnity of All Saints, we share a recent reflection by one of our candidates. He shares his experience of some aspects of the monastic way to holiness:
I spent mid-semester break with the Trappist monks of Saint Joseph’s Abbey.  It was good to "come away and rest awhile" in an atmosphere of silence and contemplation. While looking out into the rolling hills and meadows of the Abbey the Sunday I left, this thought occurred to me:
The sun shines differently on Sundays
I don’t know what it is
but it has been this way since I was a child
maybe even since the beginning...
it casts a graced light on things
as if to see
with the eyes of God
the inner glow of all the things
(no greater meaning than simple presence)
to see as on that first day
that all is indeed very good.  
The Sabbath is a gift.  God gave this grace for us to partake of the rest which only he gives.  It is a time to remember that we are more valuable than what we do and that we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves.  In this rest we find our meaning, our freedom and our place in giving thanks.  Saint Bernard of Clairvaux likened contemplation to the Sabbath, when all creation sighs an "Alleluia"and moves into the life of God to rest and enjoy the good things of his Creation.
One of the monks told me that what is "neat" about the life of contemplation is that you get to notice things, things we often overlook and take for granted in our carelessness.  He was telling me about one of the hermits in the community who has been a monk for over fifty years and who loves to watch the squirrels.  As we were walking he noticed a small shy drape of ivy sneaking up the stone wall.  Delighted, he pointed to it and said softly, "Look! a little poem!"
Christ said that we had to become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven.  These "noticings" are part of the simple awareness of contemplation that recognizes in the world around us traces of heaven.  It is a Eucharistic awareness that the world of which we are a part overflows with the life of God.  It is a deep and intimate knowledge that the Incarnation is not just something that happened two thousand years ago, but something that continues.  Once Christ took on flesh and his blood was spilled on the earth, he transformed it, just as he transforms the bread and wine into himself every day.
This awareness can make all that we do prayer, it can make all things acts of worship; this is what it means to "pray unceasingly,"as St. Paul says.  With this awareness we can read the "Book of Nature" and find in everything the subtle secrets of our Savior, the quiet theology and testimony of critters, trees, wind and leaves. 

Monday, October 29, 2012


We are praying for the safety of travelers and all who are vulnerable, as Hurricane Sandy gets closer to our region.

All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
All you powers, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.
Every shower and dew, bless the Lord;

praise and exalt him above all forever.
All you winds, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Dew and rain, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

Daniel 3

Saturday, October 27, 2012


To be fully human is to be recreated in the image of Christ’s humanity; and that humanity is the perfect human “translation” of the relationship of the eternal Son to the eternal Father, a relationship of loving and adoring self-giving, a pouring out of life towards the Other. Thus the humanity we are growing into in the Spirit, the humanity that we seek to share with the world as the fruit of Christ’s redeeming work, is a contemplative humanity.

In an analogous way we can say that we begin to understand contemplation when we see God as the first contemplative, the eternal paradigm of that selfless attention to the Other that brings not death but life to the self. All contemplation of God presupposes God’s own absorbed and joyful knowing of himself and gazing upon himself in the Trinitarian life.

To be contemplative as Christ is contemplative is to be open to all the fullness that the Father wishes to pour into our hearts. With our minds made still and ready to receive, with our self-generated fantasies about God and ourselves reduced to silence, we are at last at the point where we may begin to grow. And the face we need to show to our world is the face of a humanity in endless growth towards love, a humanity so delighted and engaged by the glory of what we look towards that we are prepared to embark on a journey without end to find our way more deeply into it, into the heart of the Trinity.

Christian solitude is the way in which we allow God to challenge and overcome our individualism. In solitude we are led to recognize the strength and resilience of our selfishness, and the need to let God dissolve the fantasies with which we protect ourselves. (What an awful waste it would be to come to a monastery and then spend our lives protecting ourselves.) In the desert there is no one to impress or persuade; there it is necessary to confront your own emptiness or be consumed by it. But such solitude is framed by the common life in which we have begun to learn the basic habits of selflessness through mutual service, and in which we are enabled to serve more radically and completely, to be more profoundly in the heart of common life in Christ’s Body, because our private myths and defensive strategies have been stripped away by God in silence.

Christ Preaching, 1652, Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch, etching, .
Excerpts from Abbot Damian’s recent Sunday Chapter Talk weaving passages from Archbishop Rowan Williams' address to the Synod of Bishops.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Growing patiently beneath the Abbey bell tower, our ginkgo tree shouts its praise in blazing yellow for a few glowing days each year at the end of October. Soon its fan-shaped leaves will litter the the northeast corner of the monastery's enclosed garden.

A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him. It "consents," so to speak, to His creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree.

Photographs by Brother Anthony Khan.
Lines from Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 29.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Have No Fear

As today the Church remembers Blessed John Paul II, we were heartened to read his paraphrase of Our Lord's own words: "Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence."

Friday, October 19, 2012

Two Calendars

For us as monks, the liturgical calendar becomes one with the seasonal calendar. And typically the height of autumn color coincides with the memorials of Saints Teresa of Avila, Hedwig, Ignatius of Antioch, Luke and the North American Martyrs, whom we feasted this week.

Photographs by Brother Anthony Khan.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

As Wheat

We may have been accustomed in the past to refer to the daily "grind" of our life; and certainly the routine of the monastery, as the routine of any committed life, may be wearisome. And so we were heartened this morning, as we heard once again those poignant words of Saint Ignatius of Antioch as he approached his martyrdom in the arena. “I am God's wheat and I shall be ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may become the pure bread of Christ.” The “grind” is good; it is an opportunity for self-gift, a way to become Eucharist, a chance to be Bread as Christ is Bread.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


As the Lord Jesus calls the rich young man in today's Gospel, so he beckons each one of us to come away with him, to get caught up with him in God's dream for the kingdom. As our Father Peter reminded us in his homily this morning, for each of us responding to that invitation will mean a recognition of our attachments and then a willingness to let go of whatever encumbers us on our way with Jesus. His invitation is ongoing; as is the challenge to surrender everything.

Etching by Margaret Walters, (1924 - 1971).

Friday, October 12, 2012

Monastic Experience Weekend

Once again on this past weekend  we hosted a Monastic Experience Weekend.  We were privileged to have four men with us. In addition to praying the Office in choir, these candidates had opportunities to work and speak personally with the monks. There were conferences on monastic life. And on Saturday evening Brother Francis shared the story of his vocation. The four candidates were invited to join the us for Sunday Chapter, the Hour of Sext and Sunday dinner in the refectory.

Here we share excerpts from Father Prior's Sunday Chapter talk:
Divine Providence means that the love of God for us is alive and ever new, and that the whole world is drawn into the orbit of his constant care for us. His love embraces the whole world, past and present, in every passing moment of its existence and activity. Everything that happens comes to me from God, from his love. And it calls me. It challenges me. It is his will that I should live and act and grow in it and become the person he intends me to be. And the world is to be perfected into that which it can become only through us. Providence is created from the newness of the freedom of God and also from our small human freedom. Not just anywhere, but here. Not just at any time, but now. It is a mystery of the Living God, and we will experience it to the extent that we surrender ourselves to it, not letting it merely pass over us but cooperating with it. Divine Providence is a matter of our being called, God drawing us into his providential creation, calling us to use our freedom and participate in the coming of the Kingdom. Our engagement and response is a vital element of Divine Providence. Vocation means that we are included in God’s loving care of the universe and of our own lives. We cannot separate our vocation from God’s Providence! Just as Jesus did, we must stand within the living activity of God.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hills in Autumn

Gazing at the Abbey landscape we remember these words from the Litany of the Sacred Heart,
Heart of Jesus, Desire of the everlasting hills!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Gentle Francis

Here is “Dog,” one of our monastery cats, so named because she comes when you call her. She arrived one day as a youngster, incredibly affectionate and attentive. Dog enjoys hunting, eating and being petted. As we remember gentle Saint Francis, today we sing with him,
Praise be to Thee, my Lord, with all Thy creatures.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Angel Guardians

This morning in the darkness of Vigils, we listened to these words of Saint Bernard:

He has given his angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways. These words should fill you with respect, inspire devotion and instill confidence; respect for the presence of angels, devotion because of their loving service, and confidence because of their protection. And so the angels are here; they are at your side, they are with you, present on your behalf. They are here to protect you and to serve you. Even though we are children and have a long, a very long and dangerous way to go, with such protectors what have we to fear?
from a sermon by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (Sermo 12 in psalmum Qui habitat)