Friday, March 23, 2018


Often our prayer is extremely simple, a whisper, a sighing from deep inside that expresses at a very deep longing for God but expressed in our just being there in faith and with faithfulness. Our only work is availability, absolute openness to the all that God is. God is always longing to be with us. God thirsts to be thirsted after, as Saint Augustine wrote. 

Photograph by Brother Brian

Thursday, March 22, 2018


Praise is what allows us to get over ourselves, to enter into the logic of ‘overflow,’ a dynamic movement toward God and others characterized by a kind of self-forgetfulness.

Self-forgetfulness allows us to get out of the way so that we may be inundated with God's lavish mercy and graciousness. During the Liturgy, we step out of ourselves and into God, allowing God to be all in all.

Our Brother Jerome in a photograph by Brother Brian. Quotation by Richard Gaillardetz.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Down There

Perhaps we had thought that God was after us, trying to catch us, watching from far off to see if we would mess up. But perhaps we got it wrong. God in Christ is never that far away, he’s with us; he has come to share unreservedly in all that we go through. He is always able to empathize with us in our weaknesses. He has been tempted in every way that as we are, yet without sinning.  He has taken upon himself all that we are. It’s who he is. He’s not far away spying on us; he’s down here with us in the mess, accompanying us, even in the confusion of our temptations.

Jesus' will was always to do the will of him who sent him. Yet incredibly he was tempted to do otherwise. Like us in all things but sin; he knows the reality of what it means to be pulled in the wrong direction. So much does Jesus love us, that our temptation to sin has become his temptation. And by identifying with us down there, Jesus has paved the way for us to share the righteousness that characterizes God himself, “so that in him we might become the very holiness of God." 

Some years ago in the flush of new fervor, a love for Christ I had never before experienced, I think I felt a bit rarefied and somewhat above the common fray. I remember one afternoon a temptation sneaking in, softly, suddenly, insistently. I was embarrassed, lost my balance. Imagine feeling such things again; I was supposed to be way beyond that now. And as I tried to pray through it, I sensed Jesus somehow saying to me, very quietly but definitely, “Would you be less than I am?” “Would you be less than I am?” which is to say, “I went through all of these things, I was tempted in every way as you are, I am, I will be with you, in you, through all of it. Trust me, rely on me alone. Don’t you want to be like me?” 

Our weaknesses, our temptations are a place of encounter with Christ. Down there we have the blessed opportunity to depend on him alone, to cry out in our helplessness and flee to him for refuge, hide in him. Then he can save us, for his power is always completed in our weakness.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by one of the monks.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Saint Joseph

Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife. For that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

As we celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Joseph our patron, we go to him as our great exemplar in faith and faithfulness. Perhaps brokenhearted, disappointed, surely confused, Joseph trusted God, and he trusted Mary. He let his life be turned around by God's desire to take our flesh. Saint Bernard will say that God had found in Joseph one to whom He could entrust His dearest secret. Joseph made a home for God in Christ. 
Statue of Joseph at the lavabo with orchids grown by Brother Adam.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Way Out

We remember a movie shown at the monastery a few years ago called Moonstruck. In one scene Rose is sitting in the parlor with her almost son-in-law Johnnie. She has become painfully aware that her husband Cosmo is unfaithful, and it’s killing her, eating her up inside. And she says to Johnnie something like, “Why do men cheat on their wives?” He closes his eyes, thinks for a moment and says, “Fear of death.” “That’s it,” Rose replies. Just then the front door opens and her husband walks in. Without missing a beat, she yells to him, “Cosmo, you’re gonna die anyway!” “Thank you, Rose, for that sentiment,” he says; as he walks upstairs to bed.

Perhaps our lives like Cosmo’s are marked by a continual flight from death but at the same time toward death. We just can’t avoid it. We’re stuck. And in the face of the inevitability of our death, our one time dying, and our daily dyings - the pains and sins and defeats we cannot control - we may want to run. But Jesus comes to show us a more excellent way; he shows us that death has no more power over us.

He tells us that the seed must fall into the earth to bear abundant fruit, and then, “When I am lifted up, I will draw everyone to myself.” Clearly his “lifting up” is his crucifixion. He will be raised up on a cross of humiliation, pain and death. His lifting up will be his self-gift to his Father for us. And when he says, “Where I am, there also will my servant be,” it is because he longs to draw us with him to the Father through the very narrow gate of his passion.

Jesus shows us that God dreams something extraordinary and beautiful for us. Jesus reveals that the cross, all of our crosses, are a way out. He longs to draw us into his own his loving self-offering as a way out of death - self-giving as a way that absolutely cancels death, smashes it to pieces forever. “For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross despising its shame,” because he knows that death is only a gateway, excruciatingly painful, but an utterly porous membrane that we can break through by means of love - the very gift of ourselves to him and to our brothers and sisters.

An etching of the Abbey by Margaret Walters, (1924 - 1971).

Friday, March 16, 2018


We become humble, not because we see ourselves - one way or another, that always leads to pride because false humility is just another aspect of pride, perhaps the most difficult to conquer - but only if we see God and his humility.  Alexander Schmemann

When our hearts are broken open, suddenly aware that God in Christ has lowered himself  for us and wants to care for us, wants to wash our feet and cleanse and free us by the flood of blood and water gushing from his broken heart, then we can fall in reverence and wonder and see at last who we are, and who he is for us.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Two Notes

Recently discovered correspondence between two monks:

One writes: “What shall I say? I feel so frustrated but not abandoned, pressed on all sides in a million ways, as we continue here in his school of love. I am perplexed, but not in despair. And I hope, I believe I am trying more ardently, faithfully, unremittingly to hold Jesus as my treasure in my crumbly clay self. I falter, I fear, I doubt, but he is so often so gracious to me in prayer, so sweet, as is his Virgin Mother.”

His senior responds: “Your self-reflection reveals two important things. First, your total Christ-centeredness, even while aware of your own lacunae and dark pulls. The other thing is your sense that life is a walk on the tightrope of faith, with an abyss gaping beneath you. But, despite occasional vertigo, which is inevitable considering the circumstances, your heart is certain you are held in Christ's firm grasp. I can't imagine a better place to be, all said and done!” 

Postcard from the Abbey archives.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Our Need

We rejoice in the reality of a forever wounded God. And as Jesus will remind Saint Faustina, the only one who will be abandoned is the one who refuses to allow him to be merciful to them. Who would dare be so stupid or foolish? The access is too easy for us to do otherwise. It’s all there in and through him, all this mercy. The wounds of our sins remind us of our need for mercy. 

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


God is not remote from us. He is at the point of my pen, my pick, my paintbrush, my needle — and my heart and my thoughts.

Always seeking our attention, looking for any chance to draw us in love for him, for our neighbors and for our deepest selves, Jesus is indeed always very near.

Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Quotation by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Monday, March 12, 2018

From Above

"Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." The word Jesus uses here means both “from above” and “again”. To stay with Jesus in this conversation, it is necessary to hold on to both meanings. Nicodemus is faced with a choice. He can say to himself, what does Jesus mean by the kingdom of God, and ask him about it.  Or, faced with a word of two meanings, he could ask Jesus which sense he’s got in mind: “from above”, “again”, both, what’s he getting at exactly. In coming to speak to Jesus, Nicodemus has begun to move from darkness to light, to an encounter with the light which has come into the world. To ask these questions though would mean to leave the realm of intellectual dispute, it would require a surrender on his part, a movement into the unknown world of Jesus, which is a movement into the realm of the mystery of God, a movement into the realm of not-understanding, and of not being able to arrive at understanding unless it is given him gratuitously “from above”. Nicodemus’ choice is to ignore the question of the kingdom of God altogether, eliminate the sense of the word as “from above” and to interpret it as “again”: "How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother's womb and be born again, can he?" Falling back into the security of his world of familiar concepts and patterns of thought, he stalls the movement toward Jesus.

Jesus tries again, developing what he has already said. "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. He moves now from “seeing” the kingdom of God to “entering” it, by means of water and Spirit. The new thing that Jesus brings is the ability to see and enter into the kingdom of God by being born again of water as a result of a gift from above of the Spirit. He then encourages Nicodemus to let go of being content with what he can see and control and to be open to this new way of understanding.  “What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, 'You must be born from above.”

If Nicodemus is to move forward as Jesus counsels him, he will have to begin with love. Jesus knows Nicodemus because he loves him. We can only know a person when we love them. Through love, Nicodemus will discover the capacity to surrender and let go of the familiar. Through love, he will find the seed of insight,  that will give birth to hope, which will prepare him for the leap of faith into the realm of God, where he will find again a whole new love and hope. All of this will be wholly the grace of God, the God who gives himself entirely, and is love and nothing but faithful, ever-constant tender love through and through.

Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from Father Timothy's homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Lifted Up

“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, 
so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
For 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 life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, 
but that the world might be saved through him.   John 3

Jesus tells us that he must be lifted up. Clearly his “lifting up” is his crucifixion. He will be raised up on a cross of humiliation, pain and death; and his lifting up will be his self-gift to his Father for us. And when he says, “Where I am, there also will my servant be,” it is because he longs to draw us with himself to the Father through the narrow gate of his passion. 

Still In the face of the ultimate inevitability of our death, our one time dying, and our daily dyings, we may want to run away. But Jesus offers us the cross a way out. He longs to draw us into his own his loving self-offering as a way out of death as dead end- self-giving as a way that absolutely cancels death, smashes it to pieces forever. “For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross despising its shame,” because he knows that death is only a gateway to life in love. We need not be afraid.

Follower of Jean Goujon (French, ca. 1510–ca. 1565 Bologna (?)), after a composition by Marcantonio Raimondi, ca. 1555, marble with traces of gilding, 43 1/4 x 24 1/2 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Only Mercy

Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit, our confidence in being heard must be based on God’s mercy and his love for us. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is by mercy that we shall be saved.  Saint John Chrysostom

Photograph of relief at bottom of the high altar of the Abbey church by Brother Brian.

Friday, March 9, 2018


Today March 9 marks the 450th anniversary of the birth of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, who gave up a privileged life to enter the Society of Jesus and died at age 23 from the plague, which he contracted during his courageous and selfless care for the sick. 

To mark the anniversary, the Holy See has announced the celebration of a Jubilee Year of Saint Aloysius from March 9, 2018, to March 9, 2019. The jubilee is fitting as the Church focuses its attention on young people with the October Synod of Bishops in Rome on “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment” and the January 2019 World Youth Day in Panama.

We pray for vocations and that candidates for our monastery may grow so deeply in their faith and love for Christ that they will proceed with a courage like that of Aloysius. 

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

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


It takes courage to gaze upon the wounded, passion-gashed Jesus. For he shows us who are and who we are meant to become more and more - wounded healers, mercy-doers, never poor victims of our sin and bad choices, never mere hapless victims of our sin-filled histories and misery, never wounded wounders, but wounded shock-absorbers, wounded healers, wounded merciers.  

Photograph by Brother Brian.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


Seeing these first snowdrops blooming outside the cloister reminds us that spring and Easter cannot be far away. We are filled with hope; He is our Hope.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Lenten Morning

In the chill of this Lenten morning, we recall God's unfathomable mercy.

For you do not cease to spur us on
to possess a more abundant life
and, being rich in mercy,
you constantly offer pardon
and call on sinners
to trust in your forgiveness alone.
Never did you turn away from us,
and, though time and again

we have broken your covenant,
you have bound the human family to yourself
through Jesus your Son, our Redeemer,
with a new bond of love so tight
that it can never be undone. 

from Euchristic Prayer I for Reconciliation

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Temple of His Body

In the Gospel of John, we always stand contemplatively before the figure of Jesus. And in this morning’s passage, we notice him as he calls the Jewish leaders to acknowledge the true meaning of the temple: it is the meeting place of God and the people, never ever a place for business. No wonder he is so driven to clear out what does not belong there. “What right have you to do this?” they authorities ask him. Jesus is Truth and he calls them to acknowledge the true mystery of the temple. 

“Destroy this temple,” he says, “and in three days I will raise it up.” And then we hear this most beautiful phrase whispered to us by the evangelist, “He was speaking of the temple of His Body.” The temple of his body. Jesus declares himself now and forever the meeting place between God and his chosen ones. He embodies the covenant, the forever joining of heaven and earth in his very Person. The evangelist then explains that the temple that will be destroyed and raised up is not the temple of stone but the temple of Jesus’ own body.

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” Jesus says this referring to his Hour, the Hour of his passion, death and resurrection. For it is most of all in that Hour of great sorrow and emptying, that he will truly become the place where we can encounter the most tender, self-emptying love of the Father for all creation. For in that Hour Jesus’ body will be broken open, destroyed by the horror of his passion and so become the life-giving temple of Ezekiel’s vision, the temple from which living, life-giving waters flow. Life and all love gush out of the sanctuary of his pierced heart and recreate Paradise. Here and now Jesus reveals himself as the place where the Father’s love abides and flows out. 

Detail of a Deposition by Fra Angelico.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Pictures Become Windows - 2

    It is a marvelous thing to stand in a transfigured moment. Those transfigured moments are all around and not as rare as we might think. Every one of us could tell a story about stepping back from the picture of our life, seeing with new eyes, listening with different ears, and discovering a window that opened into another world and another way of being.
    Like Peter, we are tempted to build dwelling places for those moments. But booths, dwelling places, picture frames will only keep us in the past. To the extent that we cling to the past, we close ourselves to the future God offers us. So it is that Jesus, Peter, James, and John came back down the mountain. They could not stay there, but neither did they leave the mountaintop experience. They took it with them. It is what would carry them through the passion and crucifixion to the resurrection.
    Transfigured moments change us, sustain us, prepare us, encourage us, and guide us into the future regardless of the circumstances we face. They show us who we are. They provide the truest horizon. We are called to be the transfigured people of God. Let us open our eyes and see a transfigured world, open our ears and hear the transfiguring voice, open our hearts and become a transfigured life.
    “Is this all there is?” This question may be our experience of God’s longing for us, a reminder that the window never closes. The transfigured Christ wants us to know that every picture we have of life and of him is truly an open window. The Good News is that he himself is the window, the lens, through which we are to see and live our lives. He is the portal that makes transfigured moments possible. According to the Father’s salvific design for us, the power that transforms pictures into windows is the life, death, and resurrection of his Son. 

Detail of an ancient Cistercian grisaille window from the Abbey of Obazine. Meditation by Father Dominic.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Pictures Become Windows - 1

    There are times when we may look at our lives and want more. We experience a restlessness, a searching, longing for something else. “Is this all there is?” This is common enough even in a monastery. It may be that we see only the surface of things, as though we were looking at a picture - rather than through a window to what is really beyond. 
    As we hear or read the account of the Lord’s Transfiguration, Jesus invites us along with Peter, James, and John beyond an everyday familiarity with him. With the disciples, we too have seen Jesus cast out demons, heal Peter’s mother-in-law, and cure the sick of Capernaum. He has cleansed the leper and made a withered hand new and strong. Paralytics now walk, the blind see, and thousands are fed. All amazing enough, but do we see beyond the surface of who Jesus is and what he is really teaching and doing? 
    On the mountaintop, we see Jesus transfigured “his clothes dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.” There is the overshadowing cloud, and the Father speaking of his beloved Son. Peter wants to build dwelling places. “It is good for us to be here,” he says. He wants to preserve the moment. It is as if he wants to take a picture. Pictures are static. Pictures have to become “windows” through which we can move into the depths of God’s life, God’s light, God’s love.
    There on the mountaintop Peter, James, and John were transformed; they could see Christ as he had always been. Their eyes were opened. Their ears were opened, and they heard the voice that has never ceased speaking from the beginning. The transfiguration is as much about them as it is about Jesus. For we know that to really see Christ is to begin to get a glimpse of ourselves.
    So it is for us on our Lenten journey.  It is all right there in front of our eyes. We do not need to see new things. We need to see the same old things with new eyes. We do not need to hear a different voice. We need to hear the same old voice with different ears. We do not need to escape the circumstances of our life. We need simply to be more fully present to those circumstances. When this happens life is no longer lived on the surface. These are transfigured moments when the picture of our life becomes a window into a new world, and we come face to face with the glory of God. Then by God’s grace, his touching us inwardly, we experience as sheer gift the world transfigured and creation filled with divine light. Circumstances haven’t changed. We have changed, and that seems to change everything.

Detail of an ancient Cistercian grisaille window from the Abbey of Obazine. Meditation by Father Dominic.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Prodigal Son - 4

In the words of Saint Catherine of Siena, God has fallen in love with what he created. And in Christ Jesus, our Lord God has given us all that he is. Indeed, God, our Father has given us his Word. He says to us, “All I have is yours.”  This is another name for Jesus.  

It is finally on the cross that God’s reckless, measureless love is made perfectly clear. Because he could not bear to have us oppressed by sin and pain and death, God in Christ dies on the cross and all is reversed, for, in his Resurrection, God's unbounded love has the last word. We remember the Resurrection icon - Christ grabbing Adam and Eve by the wrists - yanking them out of their graves like a frantic mother pulling her children from a burning building. This what love does.

When we were lost and could not find our way home, God loved us more than ever and sent us Jesus his Son. He became lost on our behalf, squandering his precious life on the cross, while always trusting in the Father's love. He rose and returned to his Father and has taken us with him. We must rejoice for we were lost and have been found by God in Christ forever. Indeed, in the wounded risen Christ, God rushes toward us to bring us home and buries his beautiful face in the dirty crook of our necks.

Photograph by Brother Brian.