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.

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.

Thursday, August 31, 2017


Aware that the scribes and Pharisees have for some time now been plotting to kill him, unwavering in their conviction that they are in the right, Jesus chastises them for saying “If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have not joined them in shedding the prophet’s blood.” 

Whenever we catch ourselves thinking, “If I had lived at such and such a time or place, or had been in such and such a situation, I would never have…(fill in the blank)," we can be sure that we have gone astray. We have somehow lost sight of the fallen human nature we share with everybody else. Aware of our need for the divine mercy, let us acknowledge our sins.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by Father Timothy.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


"I will grant you whatever you ask of me,
even to half of my kingdom."
She went out and said to her mother,
"What shall I ask for?"
She replied, "The head of John the Baptist."
The girl hurried back to the king's presence and made her request,
"I want you to give me at once
on a platter the head of John the Baptist."
The king was deeply distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests
he did not wish to break his word to her.
So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders
to bring back his head. Mark 6

Afraid to embarrass himself in front of his guests, a drunken King Herod accedes to Salome's evil request. Jesus' cousin, the son of Elizabeth's dotage, who spoke the truth so fearlessly, the man whose preaching even fascinated Herod loses his head because of jealousy and foolish social pressure.

We pray that we may always keep our wits and our wisdom and never ever act out of jealousy or embarrassment.

Sunday, August 27, 2017


Once again this morning we listen with Peter 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, we can say with Peter, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. To whom else shall we go? 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 always and everywhere, moment by moment."

Thursday, August 24, 2017

God's Way

The Lord’s ways are simply not our ways of doing things. God likes to switch things around. Just imagine if God were only fair. Jesus goes to Jerusalem where he himself will be consumed by the jealousy and hatred of leaders, who refuse to see clearly that he is of God. They will spit on him and scourge and crucify him. But from the cross he will not condemn but forgive them. We might imagine what Jesus could have groaned from the cross - “This is so unfair.” Unfair indeed, but he never says anything of the kind. He never reproaches us. Instead while all the while trusting in his Abba’s love, he says only “I thirst;” he forgives his torturers, gives us his Mother, promises Paradise and cries out to his Father in desperation and trust. And finally he gives over his spirit, empties himself for us. God in Christ gives himself away to death and so reverses everything. Death is foiled. Our freedom is assured. God’s mercy triumphs; God gets to do things his way. Jesus swallows all the unfairness and replaces it with the tender mercy of his wounded risen body. He has promised each one whatever is just as payment, and in his divine economy this is always infinitely more than we deserve - his very Self, his sacred heart, his precious body and blood, which we may receive each day at his table. The best we can do is simply, joyfully, gratefully receive the Gift.
Detail of the carved border on the high altar of the Abbey church, photographed by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Incomprehensibly Merciful

 The day laborers in today’s parable were the lowest class of workers in Jesus’ day. They lived on the edge, always “at the mercy of chance employment; always on the brink of want.” And so unemployment for even one day would mean hardship for a man, his wife and hungry children. And the setting? It’s probably the grape harvest when the fruit had to be picked, before a coming storm or over-ripeness would make it all useless. This explains why the landowner keeps going back looking for help. He’s desperate to get the crop in. Even at about five o’clock with only an hour or so of daylight left, he goes back to the town square to hire. He can use the extra help even for a short time. And so we hear about five sets of hired day laborers. And our landowner has promised each one whatever is just as payment; this is probably one denarius, a decent day’s pay at the time.
   So it is that in the final scene when the foreman doles out the pay, that we are witness to the extravagant compassion of the landowner, (a cipher for the extravagant mercy of our God.) All the workers, even the last ones who worked for only one measly hour, receive a whole denarius. Aware of their need and the desperation of their situation; the landowner knows that less than a denarius will be not enough for a man and his family for a day. And he wants them all to go home happy and satisfied. Now that’s not fair; it’s excessive. But if we were part of that last crowd who had worked for only an hour, we’d be overjoyed at the landowner’s outlandish generosity.
   How often we murmur because things aren’t fair. And true enough it’s the constant plea of psalmist and prophet, “Why is it Lord that the way of the wicked prospers? Why is it that you let the sun and rain and all good things come to the just and the unjust?” It’s not fair. But the good news is God’s Kingdom is not about fairness or entitlement; never about “confidence” in our own accomplishments or sacrifices. It’s not ever about rewards but grace - not something earned but a gift freely given in love. God is not fair. He is abundantly, incomprehensibly merciful, way beyond our imagining. He knows we don’t always do enough, don’t always pull our weight or labor long and hard enough, that sometimes we loaf and dawdle and wait too long and make bad decisions. He sees it all, and he is merciful. It doesn’t mean that everything’s always OK, not at all. No, we mess up, and God is merciful. We may sometimes be unkind, impatient, stingy, and God is merciful and gives us another chance.
   Just imagine if God were only fair. Imagine if he gave us only what we really deserve. We’d be in big trouble. Certainly God looks into our hearts and notices the good we do, but the kingdom is all about his mercy, never about payback for a job well done. It is, on the contrary, completely, utterly, totally gift; gratuitous, absolutely surprising, way beyond what we are “entitled to.” Simple gratitude is the only response. For what gift or blessing do we have that we deserve? No, God is not fair, but all loving, all giving, all forgiving. The truth is we’re all latecomers, and God is always switching things around. It’s called mercy.

Insights from The Gospel of Matthew, II, William Barclay, and from Matthew: A Commentary, Robert Gundry.