Monastery News

If you would like to make sure you are kept up-to-date with our news, we encourage you to sign up for our newsletter.

May 14th: Henny Penny and the Gang

Our flock of sheep has almost doubled with the birth of ten new lambs this Spring, bringing us up to twenty-three lambs. Our poultry flock also has grown with the hatching of seven chicks a couple of weeks ago. Some of the newly hatched are pictured here with their attentive and protective mom, Penny.

We now have forty-five chickens, providing us with about thirty eggs a day. At present that is more eggs than we can consume, so we are sharing the bountiful harvest with others.

Our farmyard, consisting of several fenced pastures, is now being irrigated regularly, as the weather warms and the grass emerges anew. The Abbotsfield and Prior’s Pasture are getting additional fencing to encourage a better rotation of where the sheep and guard-donkey Matty can graze. The chickens have their own spacious yard to roam and run in all day long, but at night they are put in their coop, dedicated to Saint Brigid of Kildare. Coopside no preditor can reach them.

May the Lord increase our love for one another and all God’s creatures, great and small!

Abbot Christian and the monks

May 13th: Chama Canyon

The ever-changing light on the cliffs that surround us are a constant reminder that the God of all, Creator of heaven and earth, is near us as a Rock of refuge and a sure stronghold.

These past many months have been a time of upheavel, distress and untold hardship for people young and old, rich and poor, from all walks of life, everywhere on earth.

People of faith are being challenged to continue believing, trusting in God’s presence, even when it might seem absurd to do so. Scripture and human experience teach us that in hardship we are not abandoned by the God who loves us, and never to lose hope.

May the current trend to some return of “normality” encourage us to “never give up,” even in midst of distress. Jesus’ words at the time of his Ascension, recorded at the end of the Gospel of Saint Matthew (chapter 28, verse 20), should animate and encourage us all: “Behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

With our continued prayers and in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world,

Abbot Christian and the monks

May 12th: Lectio Divina

An important part of a monk’s day is what is called “lectio divina,” Latin for “sacred reading,” usually understood as prayerfully reading Sacred Scripture (the Bible), slowly meditating on a text and listening to God’s voice.

At Christ in the Desert we dedicate an hour each day, from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm, to the practice of lectio divina. In the Rule of Saint Benedict, this activity is intended to nourish and enrich the life of the monk, animate his life of prayer and service, letting one’s lectio overflow to all that the monk thinks, says and does. That is the ideal, of course, and likely never perfectly attained in this life! But we never give up on the project.

The focus of lectio divina is not on acquiring knowledge, per se, but listening to God, who speaks to humans in the inspired texts of Scripture.

Lectio divina is not just for monks, but for all who seek the path of living in and for Christ. There are many good books and material online about lectio divina, but the essence of it is simply to opening the Bible, reading a portion of it, and dwelling in the presence of God while pondering God’s saving deeds in former times and in the present, in our personal and communal lives.

Abbot Christian and the monks

May 11th: Paschal Candle

Since the Easter Sunday morning Vigil and Mass on April 4th, the Paschal (or Easter) Candle has been in a prominent place in our church and lit for all the major Offices (community prayers) and daily Mass.
Over these past weeks of being lit, the Easter candle has been reduced to about half its original height. It will continue to be near the altar and lit until the end of Pentecost Sunday on May 23rd. That day marks the end of the Easter Season (or Paschaltide) and we return to “Ordinary Time,” as it is called, in the Liturgical Year, on May 24th.
What is the significance of the Easter Candle? Primarily it is a reminder that Christ is our true Light, a Guide for our way, as is a candle in a dark space or used to illumine an obscure path. We are all pilgrims, on a journey to God’s House, and the Redeeming work of Christ is our sure and unending Light needed to reach our goal.
We have kept the Easter Candle decorated with flowers; first with Easter lilies, then with forsythia, then with irises and lilacs, and soon to come with peonies. Mother Nature has been in perfect sync with our floral needs.
Happy continuation of Easter to all and a promise of remembrance in our daily prayers.
Abbot Christian and the monks

May 9th: Daily Harvest

Health experts seem to argue endlessly about the benefits and detriments of eating eggs. All things in moderation, our Holy Father Saint Benedict taught his monks.
Our forty-five hens produce about thirty eggs each day. The colors range from power blue to brown, white to pink.
Each morning at breakfast here, hard boiled eggs are available and once a week at the midday meal we serve scrambled eggs or omelettes.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? We don’t know or really care, but we definitely appreciate both our chickens and the eggs they produce each day.
With assurance of our continued prayers and grateful for yours,
Abbot Christian and the monks

May 8th: Little Lamb

This Spring two of our ewes, Gloria and Amelia, gave birth to healthy twins. Gloria indicated she could only handle one lamb, so brothers took over the roll of raising the lamb, pictured below, whom we named Shadow. After a few weeks with personal assistants, Shadow is now being reintegated into our flock of twenty-three, ten of whom are youngsters. Shadows’s brother, Whitey, is also doing well.
The identical twins of Amelia are thriving in the midst of desert beauty.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
Our Guesthouse and grounds remain closed for the foreseeable future, sad to say. We keep praying for a change in policy, but only when it is really prudent to do so.
Blessed Sunday in Easter.
Abbot Christian and the monks

May 7th: Irises

Though more modest than our majestic flowering fruit trees, beautiful irises are also appearing on our property at this time.
In Christian culture, especially during the Middle Ages, the iris was associated with Our Lady of Sorrows, as the long, pointed leaves of the iris are like swords. For this reason the iris came to be called “The Virgin’s Flower.” Its blooming in May also connected it to Mary, since the month of May is especially devoted to her.
The iris too is the symbol of the city of Nazareth, where the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph dwelled.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for those who have fallen ill, those who are vulnerable,  those tending to the sick. May the angels lead into Paradise those who have died.
Abbot Christian and the monks

May 6th: More Life

It’s almost hard to keep track of all the flowering trees scattered around our property!

Pictured below is a gloriously blooming crab apple in our Saint John Paul II Silent Meditation Garden located between our church and the guest reception building. Next to the crab apple tree is a Rose of Sharon bush, which won’t come into full flower until August.

While we are certainly lacking sufficient rainfall in the great Southwest, we did receive some amount of snow as Spring arrived, making for an especially beautiful array of flowering trees and bushes just now.

We are now drawing close to Ascension Thursday, a week from today. We monks are allowed to keep the Solemnity of the Ascension forty days after Easter, a Thursday, and not transferring it to Sunday.

The next great feast after the Ascension is Pentecost Sunday, this year on May 23rd.

May the Lord prepare our hearts for the coming of the Holy Spirit once again this year.

Abbot Christian and the monks

 

May 5: Lilacs Bloom

May is the month traditionally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. One of the flowers typically associated with May as well as with Mary, is the lilac. It’s color and fragrance are a pleasure to behold.
Our most hearty lilac bush is at our Saint Benedict Ranch House, now part of our guest facilities. Originally the building was used by our founders from 1964 until the early 70s as the main place for common activities.
One room at the Ranch House was the chapel; another was the refectory; a third room was the kitchen and one was a guest room. Today three of the rooms are arranged for double occupancy for guests and one room is divided into a small sitting room and bathroom.
As Spring continues full force in the Northern Hemisphere, we think of those in the Southern Hemisphere where Autumn is unfolding.
We offer our prayers for all those in need at this time and for the special intentions of our relatives, friends, benefactors and oblates.
Abbot Christian and the monks

May 4th: Do Monks Exercise?

It appears our hens get outside for aerobics or whatever, but do monks? The answer depends on the age, health and interest of the individuals.
We have a weight room, with good equipment that is regularly used by some of the monks. We have a rowing machine and that too gets regular use. Beyond that, brothers can be seen on bicycles and horses, as well as out jogging, brisk walking and the like.
There is time in the course of the day for exercise and it is encouraged though not mandatory. Our basically fat-free diet hopefully contributes to physical health as well.
Monks, as much as anyone else today, are aware of the correlation between mental and physical health and hopefully strive to bring those into harmony.
We continue to pray for an end to the pandemic, healing for those who have been affected by the tragedy and eternal life for those who have died.
Abbot Christian and the monks

May 3rd: The Jesus Prayer

Several times a day, going to or coming from church, we monks pass by an image of the Risen Christ in our main corridor that links our living quarters and church.
Surrounding the icon Christ, pictured below, are the words of what is called “the Jesus Prayer,” that is, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
For centuries, Christian monks have been encouraged to repeat this short prayer over and over, so as to be more attentive to God’s presence at all times in one’s life. It is a way too for keeping one’s mind in a wholesome and holy place, rather than dwelling on useless or destructive thoughts.
Of course the Jesus Prayer is not the exclusive domain of monks, but intended for all who seek the face of the Lord in their daily lives.
May this new week find us all more focused on God in our lives, and less turned in on self and one’s problems.
Abbot Christian and the monks

May 2nd: Meet Our Prior (If You Haven’t Already)

Our Prior Bonaventure Nguyen has the  distinction of being born on May 10th, 1980. The distinction? 1980 was the year that Benedictines around the world, and really the whole Church, celebrated with great joy the 1,500th birth of Saint Benedict of Nursia, who lived from 480 to 547 AD.
Father Bonaventure of Christ in the Desert has served in the office of Prior, that is, second superior in the monastery after the abbot, since early 2019.
The Prior coordinates the daily work assignments of the brethren, oversees any trips outside the monastery (medical, dental, shopping, etc.), as well as assigns the service of the monks relating to the Liturgy, such as Mass celebrants, servers, and readers. He also makes the refectory assignments, such as table setters and servers, table reader, dishwashers and general clean up.
On many levels the service of the Prior in a monastery is very practical and even mundane, but Saint Benedict in his “Rule for Monasteries,” around which Benedictine monasteries are  structured, considers the office of Prior an important one. Most abbots will admit they rely heavily on the presence and work of the Prior.
Prior Bonaventure Nguyen is a calm and collected soul, well-suited for the job to which Abbot Christian has assigned him.
Prayers for our Prior and all our monks are welcome and appreciated.
You are in our prayers as well.
Abbot Christian and the monks

May 1st: Spring Cleaning 

If you look closely at today’s photo, you can see two of the “We Do Windows” crew from Santa Fe at work, who have been cleaning our church windows, inside and out. The crew completed the project on April 29th, and we are very grateful.
Our monastery church, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, has served as the focal point of our buildings and the place of worship for the  monks of Christ in Desert and its guests for over fifty year.
We do our best to maintain the church and our other buildings for present use and for those who will come after us. Some of the maintenance projects we can do ourselves and some is best handled by professionals.
Heartfelt thanks to all who generously support us in our ongoing general operation expenses and for extraordinary expenses as well.
Gratefully in the Risen Lord,
Abbot Christian and the monks

April 30th: Trees and Bees

Our flowering fruit trees are at their peak and the bees are flying en masse to the flowers. We have two thriving bee hives and hope to be harvesting honey in the fall.
Our honey is usually a tasty blend of the flowering fruit trees, clover, alfalfa and wild flowers.
The “last of the prophets,” Saint John the Baptist, the Forerunner of the Lord as well as principal heavenly patron our Monastery, lived in the desert, Scripture tells us, and  a diet that included locusts and wild honey. While we don’t indulge in locusts (grasshoppers), we certainly do in honey!
With this comes the promise of our prayers for all the needs and intentions of our families, friends, benefactors and oblates.
Abbot Christian and the monks

April 29th: To Life!

Not only is our sheepfold teeming with new life, with ten new lambs, but also our poultry flock. Ten new chicks have been born in past two days, with more on the way. The photo below shows one of the two nests of brooding hens and hatching chicks.

Our flock has now increased to fifty-five chickens and we are averaging thirty eggs per day from the forty-five laying hens.

Brother Martin de Porres tends to the chickens and is in expert in the various aspects of poultry husbandry.

Continued prayers and greetings from the Chama Canyon Wilderness.

Abbot Christian and the monks.

April 28th: Sheared Sheep

Some of our sheared sheep are pictured here, along with their unsheared offspring.

At the far right in the picture is Amelia with her recently-born twins. We decided not to shear Amelia this round, to reduce the anxiety of a “whole new look” for the twins to get used to, still working on bonding with their mother and her full-length coat. But Amelia will be sheared a little later in the year.

With this comes our assurance of prayers. We count on yours as well.

Abbot Christian and the monks

April 27th: Sheep Shearing Day

Our flock of thirteen ewes was sheared on Monday morning this week, April 26th. The picture below of some of our sheep was taken before the shearing, but all went well and the many bags of fleece will now be processed at a woolen mill and turned into sceins of yarn that we will eventually sell.

The two professional sheep-shearers, neighbors from the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, completed their work in less than four hours. They work completely with non-electric hand-clippers, the traditional method used by shearers for centuries. Their speed and accuracy is impressive and admirable.

Needless to say the fairly newborn lambs, now ten in number, will only be sheared when they are older, later this year.

Greetings and prayers from Abbot Christian and the monks

April 20th: From Our Weaving Workshop

We still have 2 rugs left to present for purchase from the Monastery Workshop. Each rug is made with prayer and care by one of our monks. The wool, both warp and weft, is 100% Navajo-Churro and hand-dyed.

The rugs for sale are one-of-a-kind and nearly identical in size, each approximately 58″ x 36.”

The price of each rug is $950.00, which includes UPS postage within the USA. Sorry, we can’t ship outside the USA.

The rugs are being sold on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the date and time the order is received.

The rugs for sale are numbered 4 and 5. See the photos below.

If you would like to purchase one or both of the two rugs, please email Brother Chrysostom at: development@christdesert.org

Indicate which rug(s) you wish to purchase. You will be notified by Brother Chrysostom to make your payment via credit card on our secure website at www.christdesert.org, Donation Page. We will only accept payment via our website.

Thank you for supporting our efforts to make our beautiful rugs available to the public for the first time.

Abbot Christian and the monks

April 25th: Easter Continues

The Easter Season, also called Paschaltide, extends from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday, fifty days in all. With Easter this year on April 4th and Pentecost on May 23rd, we are already almost halfway through Paschaltide. Tempus fugit.

With the desiduous trees in our canyon coming into bloom and leaf, our pasture land too is turning green, aided by our extensive irrigation system. Our sheep, now numbering thirteen adult ewes and ten lambs, as well as Matty the guard donkey, all seem to be enjoying the tender grass now springing up in abundance.

The photograph today, taken just after sunset on April 23rd, captures fleeting clouds that evoke some sort of exotic creature flying by in the sky.

With our prayers for a blessed Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepard Sunday. Please keep us in your prayers. Thank you.

Abbot Christian and the monks

April 24th: Whistle While You Work

Yesterday a professional crew of window washers from Santa Fe came to clean our church windows. They worked valiantly for several hours and nearly finished the job, but will need to return another day to complete the project.

The name of the Company, fittingly enough, is “We Do Windows.” Over the decades we have had an occasional “wannabe monk” who has been an “I don’t do windows” personality. Of course such persons never go too far along before clashing with one or more authority figure in the monastery. And needless to say, they are usually gone in not too long a time.

A benefactor sponsored the present window cleaning project, for which we are deeply grateful. While we can do such work, the speed and thoroughness of a professional crew can’t be beat. The last time we had such was some decades ago, so we felt it was time accept the offer that professionals tackle our windows. And yes, as is fairly typical today, the workers softly played their music, even though inside the church. Beggers can’t be choosers!

Abbot Christian and the monks

"Let everyone that comes be received as Christ."

— The Rule of St. Benedict

If you have two minutes to fill in our website feedback form, we would love to hear what you think...