Abbot's Notebook

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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...

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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,...

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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...

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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...

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Feast of Saint Scholastica, February 10, 2020

Gospel: Luke 10:38-42 Brothers and Sisters in Christ, The familiar and famous words of Jesus to Martha, sister of Mary and Lazarus of Bethany, deserve special attention on this day, the Feast of Saint Scholastica, sister of Saint Benedict, and the day on which our...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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Mount Athos Pilgrimage: Part VII

This pilgrimage report needs to end! The Athos sojourn itself was completed right around this time of year, forty years ago, so it is high time to complete my recounting of the adventure. Thank you for your patience for the final installment of the pilgrimage. A very...

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Mount Athos Pilgrimage: Part VI

On Mount Athos the Julian Calendar is followed, rather than the Gregorian Calendar, which most of the world uses. What does the difference in calendars mean in practice? First a little history. The familiar Gregorian calendar was promulgated in October of 1582, by the...

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Mount Athos Pilgrimage: Part V

Dear Friends, Brother Xavier McGough and I spent most of our Mount Athos Pilgrimage of 1979 at the monastery  of Simonos-Petra, a thriving community at that time, numbering about fifty monks, most of them young. I understand that today, forty years later, there are...

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Mount Athos Pilgrimage: Part IV

Dear Friends in Christ, Something that struck me while on Mount Athos in Greece from September 3 to October 11, 1979, was that the monks we met were there simply for monastic life and nothing else. That may seem like an obvious enough observation, but the focus on...

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Mount Athos Pilgrimage: Part III

Dear Friends in Christ, Just two days into our Mount Athos pilgrimage, on September 5, 1979, Brother Xavier and I visited the Skete of Saint Daniel (“Danieleon” in Greek), a skete being a small establishment of monks. The Saint Daniel group of five monks were all icon...

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Mount Athos Pilgrimage: Part Two

Dear Friends in Christ, The last “Abbot’s Notebook” entry found Brother Xavier McGough and myself in London, England, en route to Mount Athos in Greece. This was taking place at the end of July and the beginning of August,1977, when I was 26 years old. Besides staying...

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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...

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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,...

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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...

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