Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Our Inheritance

Peter began to say to Jesus,
'We have given up everything and followed you."
Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters
and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.

But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first." Mark 10

Eternal life is not simply a matter of entitlement but of allowing oneself to be possessed by Jesus who is himself our rightful inheritance.  Jesus wants to give us everything; he wants to give us his very self in the now that is the Kingdom. For the eternal life we long for is not a commodity for the future but a relationship, a relationship of love with the living God present in Christ, here and now. “Make haste and do not delay,” Jesus might have said. “I am worth all you will leave behind.”

Initial from an ancient Cistercian manuscript.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Into the Kingdom

"Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God."
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
"Then who can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said,
"For men it is impossible, but not for God.

All things are possible for God."

Jesus threads the needle of the kingdom, drawing us through if we are willing to acknowledge that we small and poor and mercy-hungry. Only the humps of our pride and self-assurance will keep us from getting through.

Initial from an ancient Cistercian manuscript.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Consider the Lilies

An alternate translation of today’s Gospel reads in part: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. ”

Clearly Jesus is teaching us about the place that our material well-being should occupy in our lives. At first blush, it would seem that he is offering a stark choice between two, mutually conflicting alternatives: God or mammon. You cannot serve both; you have to choose one. And to choose God, we need to stop worrying about how to provide for ourselves. As a solution this seems suspiciously simple and, as a life plan, a little naive and even foolhardy.  Rather than presenting us with a simple choice, Jesus is saying something more profound.

He is warning us against adopting a fundamentally flawed view of the world, warning us not to put God and our material needs on the same footing.  He is reminding us that God is not just the greatest of all beings; he is totally beyond all created reality. He brought everything that is into being and he holds everything that is in existence.  God is not a part of creation; he completely transcends all space and time.

If we were to “serve” both God and wealth, that is , if we were to give the same importance to our material needs as we give to God, we would in effect, be diminishing God: we would be reducing him to the level of the material universe. Conversely, by trying to serve both God and mammon, we would be elevating the material world- our own well-being and ambition- to  the level of the divine.  We would be usurping the role of Providence by making ourselves masters of our own destinies, and if we were successful at it, we might very well convince ourselves that we have no need of God.

But in this passage Jesus places us firmly in the created world.  By comparing us to birds and flowers, Jesus reminds us that we are creatures just as they are – even if we are of a more privileged variety - and that we are equally dependent on divine providence for all our needs.  

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from Father William's homily at this morning's Mass.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Like a Child

Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.

If we are honest, any or all of us can probably recall a day or two at a playground or schoolyard, when we were a bit nasty and competitive. Jesus is not romanticizng childhood. But maybe he is pointing to the reality of openness and a kind of naivete in little children that makes them receptive to what is new.

Friday, February 24, 2017


A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy,
such as he who fears God finds...

But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate."

Both the First Reading from the Book of Sirach and today's Gospel reading from Saint Mark call us to be faithful as friends, as spouses. As in any family living in community can be challenging. So many personalities, and we often bump into one another no matter how hard we try to be kind and deferential. Still even when we feel hurt, we promise not to give up on one another, imitating God who is always faithful no matter how we may fail.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Saint Polycarp

As Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, "Be strong, and show yourself a man, O Polycarp!" No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, (the proconsul) sought to persuade him to deny (Christ), saying, “Have respect to your old age,” and other similar things, according to their custom…But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven said,  “Away with the Atheists.”  Then, the proconsul was urging him and saying, “Swear, and I will set you at liberty, reproach Christ.”  Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”

The martyrs are our holy forebears in our struggle to hold fast to Jesus amid all dangers and temptations to do otherwise. Pray for us, Saint Polycarp that like you we will be faithful unto death.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Simon Peter said in reply, 
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, 

but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 

Even after Peter denied him, Jesus did not give up on him, 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.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
"If anyone wishes to be first, 
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."

Some of the older monks tell us that years ago a list of assignments for various duties in the monastery was posted each week near the entrance to the refectory. And at the top of the list was this phrase: "To serve is to reign."

Photographs by Brother Brian.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Our Prayer

When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private,
"Why could we not drive the spirit out?"
He said to them, "This kind can only come out through prayer."

Jesus reminds us that our prayer is efficacious, it works; it dispels evil, draws the world closer to him, who is all holiness, beauty and peace.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

To Disarm With Love

Jesus said to his disciples: "You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well. Mt 5

In his homily this morning, Father Peter recounted a familiar story from the life of Mother Teresa. It seems that one day she approached a wealthy man begging a contribution for a new home she wanted to build for orphaned children. The rich man who disdained her and her work, spat at her. Undaunted Mother wiped her face and is reported to have said something like, “Thank you; that was for me. Now what about something for my poor children?” Astounded by her response, the man is said to have had a change of heart and immediately to have made a large donation. 

Jesus is not calling us to be doormats because of humility, but inviting us to disarm with love. As Saint Gregory the Great will say, "Those who love more can do more."

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Like Mary

The great theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar's reminds us that a loving receptivity to the Word of God like that of the Virgin Mary is the true purpose of the contemplative life in the Church. He says, “The highest priority belongs, without exception, to our readiness to serve the divine love, a readiness that has no other end than itself, and that appears senseless to a world caught up in so many urgent and reasonable occupations.” 

Photograph of Madonna in Abbey retreat house garden by Brother Brian.

Friday, February 17, 2017


Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me."

Jesus invites us this morning to deny ourselves- to realize that we do not know who we really are. We come to understand that we will find our true selves, our true identity, only in the light of his grace. And in his light we see that we are only poor sinners, saved, rescued by his loving mercy. 

Photograph of monks in chapter by Brother Brian.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Hopelessly in Love

In the foolishness of love, God in Christ has lost himself and given himself away to us. He can’t help himself. God is helpless, hopelessly in love. It’s no wonder Catherine of Siena will cry out to him: O eternal beauty! O eternal goodness, O eternal mercy! O crazy lover! You have need of your creature? It seems so to me, for you act as if you could not live without her. Why then are you so mad? Because you have fallen in love with what you have made! You are pleased and delighted over her within yourself, as if you were drunk with desire for her salvation. She runs away from you and you go looking for her. She strays and you draw closer to her. Whamt shall I say? I stutter, “A-a,” I don’t know what else to say.

Photogrsph by Brother Brian. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

God's Plans

We belong to God. And so the event of Jesus’ lifting up has obliterated all impossibility. Now nothing is impossible. Jesus crucified and risen draws us into the beauty of God’s desire for our good, our peace, our freedom. Death no longer has the last word in His life or in ours. Jesus has smashed down death by death, so that we can hear the Father say over and over to us, “I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, and I will change your lot.” Jeremiah 29.11-14

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

God is Love

God is on our side. The compassion of Jesus envelops us and so we need not be afraid ever again. The wounded, risen Jesus makes the tenderness of the Father available to us at every moment. God will use anything at all to get our attentionGod is Love. God wants to give Himself away to us; this is what love  always does. 
Photograph by Brother Brian.

Monday, February 13, 2017


God writes the story of our lives with the pen strokes of our own free choices...Many diverse things are good; that good is plural. Even for the same person, there are often two or more choices that are both good. Good is kaleidoscopic. Many roads are right. The road to the beach is right and the road to the mountains is right, for God awaits us in both places. Goodness is multicolored. Only pure evil lacks color and variety. In hell there is no color.

Thoughts on discernment by Peter Kreeft. Photograph by Brother Brian.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

How to Offer Our Gift

In his Sermon 71 on the Song of Songs our father Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, paraphrasing Jesus in today's Gospel, says that the man who knows that his brother has anything against him would offer his gift at the altar in vain and that God would not look upon the sacrifice of Cain because he did not walk righteously with his brother. The gift and sacrifice to which Bernard refers is our monastic observance thought of as a gift offered to God.  A monk living in this particular vanity of being unreconciled is, for Bernard, a disobedient monk living out self-will in opposition to the will of God. Therefore the monk's gifts to God instead of smelling like lilies, just plain stink. Bernard says to us, “I fear there may be some among us whose gifts the Bridegroom does not accept because they lack the fragrance of lilies, it will not be acceptable to him, and he will find no fragrance in my fasting, since its odor is not that of the lily of obedience, but the weed of self-will.  And the same thing, I feel, may be true not only of fasting but of silence, vigils, prayer, spiritual reading, manual labor, and indeed of every detail of the monk's life when self-will is found in it instead of obedience to his masters.” Indeed self-will and disobedience are manifested when we rationalize away our obligation from the Master Jesus to reconcile with one another. 

Our Master Jesus, who has won our salvation by his sacrifice of self, tells us this morning to put aside all our anger, our insults and alienation from one another to offer a sacrifice with a pleasing aroma to God—the sweet fragrance of love. He calls us to reconciliation, to respect for the dignity of persons, to faithful love and to truthful living. When Jesus speaks in the words over the chalice this morning and says that his blood is shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven, he is not only referring to God's forgiveness of our sins, but also to the strength given to each of us in the sacrament of his body and blood to forgive those who sin against us and to seek reconciliation with those we have sinned against. The New Law is the grace of the Holy Spirit given to the faithful through faith in Christ. It works through charity; it uses the Sermon on the Mount to teach us what must be done and makes use of the sacraments to give us the grace to do it. “If you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water—to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.” 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from this morning's homily by Father Luke.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

World Day of the Sick

On this memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, we rejoice because Mary is gateway to all the compassion that Jesus longs to be for us. Through her intercession we pray for all the sick, for all who are in need, for all refugees. We are assured of Our Lady's attentiveness.

Like Saint Bernadette, we stand beneath the watchful gaze of Mary. The humble maiden of Lourdes tells us that the Virgin, whom she called “the Lovely Lady”, looked at her as one person looks at another. Those simple words describe the fullness of a relationship. Bernadette, poor, illiterate and ill, felt that Mary was looking at her as a person. The Lovely Lady spoke to her with great respect and without condescension. This reminds us that every person is, and always remains, a human being, and is to be treated as such. The sick and the those who are disabled, even severely, have their own inalienable dignity and mission in life. They never become simply objects. If at times they appear merely passive, in reality that is never the case.

After her visit to the Grotto, thanks to her prayer, Bernadette turned her frailty into support for others. Thanks to her love, she was able to enrich her neighbours and, above all, to offer her life for the salvation of humanity. The fact that the Lovely Lady asked her to pray for sinners reminds us that the infirm and the suffering desire not only to be healed, but also to live a truly Christian life, even to the point of offering it as authentic missionary disciples of Christ. Mary gave Bernadette the vocation of serving the sick and called her to become a Sister of Charity, a mission that she carried out in so exemplary a way as to become a model for every healthcare worker. Let us ask Mary Immaculate for the grace always to relate to the sick as persons who certainly need assistance, at times even for the simplest of things, but who have a gift of their own to share with others.  

Excerpts from Pope Francis'  Message for the Twenty-fifth World Day of the Sick: 2017

Friday, February 10, 2017


We recall a scene in Our Town, the iconic American play of the 1930’s. Near the end a young wife named Emily dies in childbirth. And from the grave she asks the Stage Manager, the godlike narrator who presides over the action of the play, if she may go back in time, back into her life for just one day. He discourages her. Emily insists, and she is allowed to return to an ordinary morning when she was a teenager. She views it from afar and relishes its quiet, familiar beauty. But very soon she is overwhelmed by it all. It’s too much for her, and she cries out to the Stage Manager, I can't. I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another. I didn't realize. So all that was going on, and we never noticed. Oh, earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it- every, every minute? The Stage Manager replies: No. The saints and poets, maybe they do some.

Our earth is wonderful, indeed, for Jesus has come to stay with us, first at Nazareth with Joseph and Mary and here with us now, longing to meet us in all of our everydayness.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

What God Wants

God only wants to be ordinary. It is why Jesus has come, God with us, near us, in us. The ordinary is charged forever with his kind, incessant presence. God longs to be ordinary, not taken for granted, but here, always here with us. Why else would he choose to be a child, why else a carpenter and a wandering teacher? Why else allow himself to be done in by thugs and jealous bureaucrats? Why else choose to be hidden in a morsel of bread on our altar?
Photograph of the ancient Allen barn at the Abbey by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Grace Preceding

Christ Jesus makes the first move; he wants to reveal himself, engage us. Christ Jesus. is pursuing us. Grace precedes us, opens the way. If you want to give yourself to him, He wants it more than you do. Tell him what you want. “His desire precedes your own,” says Saint Bernard- his desire makes my desire possible We must people with great desires, wanting the more that He longs to give us.


How God wants to be ordinary. Christ’s life reveals this so plainly. And in all the accounts of his healings, what Jesus is doing best of all is returning these once sick and separated individuals back to the ordinary. Jesus’ healing restores them to family, kinsfolk, and friends. They are no longer isolated because of their maladies. Think of the lepers, the deaf and blind and crippled. Healed by Jesus' compassion, they can simply blend in again. Jesus has given them back to ordinariness, blessed ordinariness. It is after all where he always comes to meet us. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Jesus Loved

When we hear Jesus say, "I can only do what I see the Father doing," could it be that he thinks of Joseph as well as his Father in heaven? And when his heart is on the point of breaking and he says, "Into your hands I commend my spirit," could it be that he is doing what Joseph did at Nazareth and imitating Mary at her Annunciation- placing his life in God's hands? Jesus' heart formed at Nazareth, empowered by the Father's love, by the love of Joseph with Mary, will hand himself over for our redemption.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Hidden Life

We recall that in years past, the days in February were designated on Catholic calendars as dedicated to the hidden life of Christ. After the twelve-year-old Jesus is found in the Temple seated among the elders, we hear no more of him until his ministry begins. What happened during those many years of ordinariness in Nazareth? We are told in Luke’s Gospel only that Jesus went home with Mary and Joseph and was obedient to them growing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

If we are to be "imitators of God as his own dear children," it is possible because in his ordinary life at Nazareth Christ Jesus first imitated Mary and Joseph. The Word learned to speak words from listening to Mary and Joseph. The Creative Word learned the trade of carpentry from Joseph. Scholars believe that for some of the years of Jesus’ so-called hidden life he probably went off to work with Joseph as an itinerant carpenter in the grand city of Sepphoris, which was being renovated at the time. It was a trip of about three and half miles northwest of Nazareth. We like to imagine Jesus with Joseph going off each morning and chatting, the two of them carrying their tools and the lunch that Mary had packed for them.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

To Be Salt and Light

Today’s Gospel reminds us that it is essential for us as Christians to be seen and heard. We are not Christians just for ourselves. Christianity is meant to change the world. No matter what our state in life, we have a mission. 

Jesus expresses this in the use of the images of salt and light. Salt had two purposes in ancient cultures. It was a purifier, as well a seasoning and a preservative. And at the time of Christ, it was a precious commodity. As Christians we are called to give a distinctive ‘taste’ to the world, working to renew it and to lessen its social and moral decay. The Gospel mentions that when salt loses its flavor it is worthless and good for nothing. So how do we keep our flavor? We are here (in the monastery) to be beacons of light, to keep the flavor in the salt because without that the Good News of Jesus Christ would be obscured by the darkness of evil and sin, ignorance and prejudice, selfishness and indifference. 

“You are the light of the world,” Jesus tells us. How can that be? I am nothing special. It means that the light of the Good News of Jesus Christ is to shine out through us, through our words and actions, and in our daily lives. It is a light to be seen and not hidden. However light exposes us, it makes us visible and vulnerable. Many of us prefer the easy way out, to live in the shadows so that we will not be seen rather than be seen and expose ourselves to the possibility of rejection, persecution or even martyrdom.

Jesus also uses the image of a city built on a hillside. There is no way that you cannot see it.  It can be seen from a great distance. He also speaks of a lamp on a lampstand. There is no point in lighting a lamp and then covering it up. The light of Christ that is in us wants to shine brightly. There is only one reason for us to be salt and light for others and that is so that people may be drawn to Christ. Our only aim in living out the Gospel is to point people in the direction of God who loves us and in whom is our ultimate happiness. 

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from this morning's homily by Father Emmanuel.

Saturday, February 4, 2017


To enter into the place of our deepest desires contemplatively, is to enter into a place of mystery, loss of control and abandonment to God; a place of deep peace and truthfulness where we touch infinity and our true identity. We are willing to give ourselves away to Christ in love; to risk everything. It changes everything we do, how we see things. We cannot remain unchanged once we know. We listen. Dream and possibility unite. We discern to be sure that our desire is anchored in Tradition and the reality of who we are. 

Includes some insights from Philip Sheldrake. Photograph by Brother Brian.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Deepest Desires

Our deepest desires give us insight into what God may be asking of us. Our many wants give us clues. Underneath them all is one deepest desire. This is what keeps coming up in prayer, in quiet; you can’t get away from it. No one can talk you out of it. It is your truth, what you were made for, what fills you with joy and cannot be denied, a deep “contentment beyond transient pleasure.” It is consoling, joyful even as it challenges and may be frightening. Responding to God’s call, means allowing Jesus to “help us leave ourselves and our false security behind.” Citations from Befriending Our Desires by Philip Sheldrake.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Only Love

Only love is worth all we have to offer. “The Christian vocation is first and foremost a call is love, a love which attracts us and draws us out of ourselves, decentering” us and triggering “an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God.” from Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 6.

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

God’s Desire

The Spirit of God is always inviting us to allow ourselves to be attracted, fascinated by Christ and his way of doing things. God’s desire is first. God always makes the first move toward us. God in Christ is constantly seeking intimate relationship with us. And what Pope Francis will call “leaving ourselves behind,” is only worth it if there is something much more beautiful we are being offered. God is not coercive; he invites, even allures. God is gentle, even if sometimes emphatic. God’s will for us is not meant to be opaque or obscure but revealed in our deepest longings and attractions. We have come to the monastery because at some point we realized our desire for hiddenness- our desire to be hidden in Christ. We come to realize that Christ wants this more than we can comprehend.

Photograph by Brothrer Brian.