Love of Silence

Silence is considered an important monastic practice. Much ink has been spilled on the topic, including entire books, but is silence something just for monks to value? By no means! Into every life some silence should fall. Why? Because we are rational creatures, who...

Further Monastic Musings

The monastic life requires a spirit of sacrifice at the beginning, but really throughout the entire journey to God. What is sacrifice? At its root are the words: “to make holy.” In ancient pagan practice, sacrifice meant offering incense, food, possessions, animals,...

Ash Wednesday

Scripture Readings: Book of the Prophet Joel 2:12-18; Second Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Gospel According to Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18. The readings for Mass today set the tone for the entire season of Lent which we now begin. Keep in mind the word “Lent” comes from the same...

Contemplative Community

At Christ in the Desert we live our monastic life in community. There are times and places for solitude and privacy during each day, but much of what we do, be it prayer in church, our work, indoors or outdoors, meals in the refectory and recreation some days, we do...

More Monastic Musings

Here I would like to write something about what Thomas Merton calls “monastic renunciation.” This theme is presented in Merton’s 1964 monastic brochure written for the Trappist monks of Snowmass, Colorado. The brochure is called “Come to the Mountain,” and is...

Monastic Musings

I have been rereading a publication from 1964, the year that the Monastery of Christ in the Desert was founded. The booklet, or really an expanded vocational brochure, is called, “Come to the Mountain.” The text is by the famous Trappist monk and author, Thomas Merton...

A Christmas Message

Christmas has come! Our hearts greatly rejoice! Our Redeemer is born! Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will. An otherwise whimsical Charlie Brown Christmas card I received this year contains a splendid message that reads: “If there ever...

An Advent Reflection

We began the holy season of Advent this past Sunday and a new Liturgical Year has begun. The message we will be hearing throughout Advent is this: prepare your hearts, for our God is sending a Savior, Emmanuel, a name which means, God-with-us. The firm conviction that...

Navajo-Churro Sheep

Why Navajo-Churro sheep? Let me begin by saying we consciously chose to have this breed of sheep on our property, to raise and care for, to shear for wool to spin for us to use in weaving, as well as to sell. Our founding monks had the same breed for some years in the...

Mount Athos: Part One

Dear Friends in Christ, This year marks the fortieth “anniversary” of the transformative pilgrimage I made with the late Brother Xavier McGough of our monastery, to the Holy Mountain of Mount Athos in Greece. I promised the monks we met and befriended there in 1979...

On Obedience

Dear Friends in Christ, An important aspect of the monastic way, but really a part of every living and loving community, family and relationships, is obedience. Saint Benedict, the sixth century author of the “Holy Rule,” or way of life, that we Benedictines embrace,...

Trappist Hermit

Dear Friends in Christ, As a high school seminarian, from 1969 to 1971, when I was 16 to 18 years old, we students sometimes made retreats at the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe, about forty miles from where we lived and studied at Mount Angel Seminary. While...

Our Calling

Dear Friends in Christ, It has been said that if we spent less time comparing ourselves with others, we would have fewer rivals. And there is the rhetorical question: why do we spend so much time living in the comparison? In making comparisons with others, we may in...

Transition Time

Dear Friends in Christ, In a previous Notebook essay, I wrote about being at a public high school in Portland, Oregon, James Madison High, for my freshman and sophomore years. I was happy there, where I finally had men teachers, one of whom I especially admired, Mr....

My School

Dear Friends in Christ, Recently I received some welcome news about the Catholic grade school I attended in Portland, Oregon, dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo. Located on the corner of 42nd and Emerson Streets, right next to the parish church of the same name, both...

Perfectly Ordinary

Dear Friends in Christ, At the heart of the teaching of our Holy Father Saint Benedict is attention to ordinary things. The mundane matters of daily life for a monk, such as resting, rising, working, praying, reading, greeting guests, are all potential material for an...