Monastery News

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May 26th: Peaceable Kingdom

Currently our “guard-donkey,” Matty, has thirteen Navajo-Churro sheep to watch over and protect. Natural predators exist in our canyon, and traditionally ranchers have used dogs, llamas and donkeys to guard their sheep. Human shepherds still exist, of course, but they are rarer in this day and age.

Our sheep and donkey have abundant pastureland to enjoy and remain hale and hearty, as seen in today’s photo below. They also have a spacious covered shelter in which to take refuge in the colder months or when it rains or snows.

Matty the donkey belongs to the breed called the “American Spotted Donkey,” and was born on our property the day before Thanksgiving nearly five years ago. Fortunately, she has never had an ailment or injury her entire life and is a very “mellow” creature.

Donkeys (also called burros) are typically hearty animals and we know have been on our planet for many millennia, surviving in a variety of climates.

Often considered “beasts of burden,” that is not the case with our donkey Matty, who lives a tranquil life in the midst of desert beauty. We have the sheep to harvest wool for spinning, used for weaving and other fiber arts projects. As far as we can tell, Matty’s very presence amidst the sheep automatically wards off predators.

With this comes our greetings and assurance of prayers. Please keep us in your prayers. Thank you.

Abbot Christian and the monks

May 19th: End of Easter Season

With the celebration of Pentecost Sunday, observed this year on May 19th, the Easter Season draws to a close and the liturgical season called “Ordinary Time” begins anew on Monday, May 20th. Ordinary Time, which extends until the beginning Advent, when we prepare for Christmas, begins on December 1st this year. That may seem like a long way off, but as it goes, Advent will be here before we know it.

Stately irises (see the photo below) continue to bloom in our cloister and Guesthouse gardens, and are being used to decorate the monastery church. In the coming days peonies in a variety of colors will be in bloom. They too are excellent for floral arrangement in the church.

During the coming weeks we will be celebrating the Solemnities of Corpus Christi (the Body and Blood of Christ) on June 2nd and the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 7th. Noteworthy liturgical commemorations of some great saints of the Church will include the Birth of Saint John the Baptist on June 24th, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29th and the Solemnity of Saint Benedict on July 11th. These are always festive occasions at the commencement of Summer.

Anyone following the Catholic Liturgical Calendar has much to celebrate in the course of the year, and we at the monastery do our best to “glorify God” at all times, as Saint Benedict encourages his monks to do. Hence, we have a rich life of prayer in common at the celebration of the Conventual Mass each morning and the chanting of the Divine Office in church throughout each day, beginning at 4:00 am Vigils and ending with Compline at 7:15 pm.

We keep you in our prayers and we are grateful for yours.

Abbot Christian and the monks

May 7th: Ladybug

Ladybugs in a garden are always a good sign. Why? Because they are natural predators of aphids, tiny insects that feed on plant sap, which ultimately does harm to plants. The ladybug has been called a “natural insecticide.”

Today’s photo is of a ladybug among the peonies that will soon be blooming in our cloister garden. She may have to do some searching for aphids, as our plants are, we believe, “aphid-free,” but she’s on the lookout nonetheless. Aphids are often invisible to the naked eye, but not to ladybugs!

We have been enjoying pleasant weather of late, though having intermittent gusty winds as well. The change from Winter to Spring is pretty much completed and being enjoyed, though less so by allergy sufferers among us.

With this comes our greetings and assurance of prayers. Please keep us in your prayers. Thank you.

Abbot Christian and the monks

May 3rd: Italian Iris

Nearly four decades ago a friend of ours brought us a bunch of blue iris bulbs from a monastery in northern Italy. The bulbs were planted here and around 1996 were transferred to our new cloister garden in the middle of our living quarters. 1996 was the year the cloister was blessed and dedicated.

The “Italian iris” have been doing well ever since, though in recent years the orange day lilies have been dominating the shared space with the iris. More clever gardeners than us would probably not let this happen, but we have never taken the time to equally distribute the iris and the lilies.

In any case, all the flowers that bloom in our garden each Spring and Summer are always beautiful. Soon paeonies of various colors will again be dominating the cloister flower beds. They are ideal flowers for making arrangements to place in our monastery church.

We are having very pleasant weather these days and of course are praying that needed rain might still arrive sooner than later. For the moment the situation is not dire, as early Spring snow and rains were helpful, but we always hope for more.

Maybe there is an analogy here with longing for the Lord in our lives. We can never get “enough” of God’s grace for our spirits, and need to remain receptive for the daily work of our Lord in our lives.

Be assured of our prayers and we are grateful for yours.

Abbot Christian and the monks

April 30th: Greenhouse Growing

Our new greenhouse is fully operable, under the watchful care of Father Zachary, assisted by others as time permits. We are growing vegetables and flowers there, which will be harvested throughout the Summer and Autumn months. Even in the winter we should be able to grow produce in the greenhouse.

We are especially indebted to the Catholic Foundation of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe for their assistance in making the greenhouse project possible.

The current warmer weather means other outdoor projects are being tackled, including irrigating pastures, shearing sheep, keeping the chicken house clean, gathering fallen branches and planting the lilies that decorated our church for the first weeks of Easter. As one Sister of the Love of God in England liked to say: “Keep on going on.” That’s what we try to do!

Our greetings and prayers as we continue the celebration of the Easter Season.

Abbot Christian and the monks

 

April 28th: Fifth Sunday of Easter

Currently we are getting some gentle rain, which of course is always welcome, as it reduces the risk of forest fires and nourishes the earth. In addition, the perennial Spring flowers, such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, benefit from the rain and are blooming nicely in the cloister garden.

Our Brother Chrysostom is now completing the “Monastic Formators Program” in Rome, which lasts almost three months. Brother will be returning here in early June. He has been living at the international Benedictine headquarters in Rome, the Abbey of Sant’ Anselmo on the Aventine Hill, with twenty-five other monks and nuns from around the world who are working in the area of forming new members in their respective monasteries.

Father Zachary is preparing for solemn vows in June, and he will be the fourth monk to make solemn vows here over the past four years. We are delighted with these solid additions to our monastic chapter of solemnly professed monks, and are expecting some men to begin their time of initial formation as observers and postulants soon. Please keep all of them in your prayers. Thank you.

As we continue our fifty-days celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection, we assure you of our continued prayers. Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Abbot Christian and the monks

April 24th: Spring Sustained

We are enjoying an abundance of new life in the Chama Canyon wilderness. Today’s photo shows one of the signs of this, three flowering trees and one “still on the way” in our cloister garden.

The warm daytime temperatures indicate that there is unlikely to be any more chilly temperatures at night, even though our buildings are heated in the colder months.

The Sacred Season of Paschaltide (Easter) continues, and we are now in the Fourth Week of Easter. We are still singing many “Alleluias” in the course of day at the Divine Office and at the Conventual Mass. Alleluia is the characteristic cry of Easter, translated as, “God be praised,” but fortunately left in its original Hebrew form: “Alleluia.”

We assure you of our daily prayers and of our gratitude for all who do good for us. Please keep us in your prayers. Thank you and God bless you.

Abbot Christian and the monks

April 15th: Spring’s Arrival

We are always delighted with the arrival of Spring. The fact that it coincides with the liturgical season of Easter is an added plus.

Today’s photo is from our cloister garden, the area where we monks have our rooms, technically called “cells”. The fountain in the middle of the courtyard, the six deciduous trees, the green lawn and the now-blooming flowerbeds, all make the garden a real oasis in the desert.

At another location on our property, our newly completed greenhouse has been planted and we await a wide variety of vegetables and flowers in the coming months.

The warmer weather also means various outdoors projects can be pursued, such as landscaping, clearing brush and fallen branches, as well as tending to our pastures and making needed repairs on some of our buildings.

At the same time, our daily round of prayer and hospitality continues, whatever the weather. The heart and soul of our life is striving to glorify God in whatever we do. Of course, that is the call for all, as the psalmist exhorts: “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.”

With assurance of our prayers and always grateful for yours,

Abbot Christian and the monks of Christ in the Desert

 

 

April 9: Easter Continues

We are still basking in the light of the mystery of the Lord’s Resurrection.

Flowers are blooming in the cloister garden, trees are beginning to bud, the grass is turning green again and the weather is decidedly Spring-like.

The monks are staying well, thanks be to God, and we carry on the usual routine of ora et labora (prayer and work), in the midst of desert beauty in the Chama Canyon wilderness. You are in our prayers and we are grateful for yours. Thank you for your support.

Happy Second week of Paschatide!

Abbot Christian and the monks

 

Blessed Paschaltide!

We continue our celebration of Paschaltide (Easter!), coinciding with the arrival of Spring in the Chama Canyon wilderness. The triumphant Alleluia is chanted throughout the day, both at Mass and at the Divine Office (Opus Dei).

Today’s photo is from our cloister garden, where daffodils are blooming like mad at present.

To all our families, friends, benefactors and oblates, a blessed and holy celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection!

Abbot Christian and the monks

Easter Octave 2024

Easter Day was on Sunday, March 31st, but the Church continues to celebrate this Great Day with an Octave, that is, eight days of rejoicing to prolong the joy of the Lord’s Resurrection. And after that, we still hold on to the Easter festivities right up to Pentecost Sunday, this year on May 19th.

In addition to our liturgical celebrations, we are enjoying Spring-like weather these days in the Chama Canyon, with plenty of sunshine and warm daytime temperatures.

To all our families, friends, benefactors and oblates, we extend our greetings in this Holy Season and keep you in our prayers. Please keep us in yours.

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Abbot Christian and the monks

Easter Sunday 2024

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Happy and holy Easter to all our families, friends, benefactors and oblates!

Abbot Christian and the monks of Christ in the Desert

Holy Week Schedule of Services 2024

Good Friday, March 29th: Afternoon Liturgy of Good Friday at  3:30 pm

Holy Saturday, March 30th/31st: Solemn Vigil and Mass of the Lord’s Resurrection at 12 Midnight

Easter Sunday, March 31st: Easter Day Mass at 11:00 am

March 4th: All You Winds, Bless the Lord

A sure sign that Spring cannot be far off in this part of the country is the arrival of regular daytime winds, sometimes gusting to twenty or more miles per hour.

The beautiful canticle from the Old Testament Book of Daniel, chapter 3, is an invitation to recognize how God is glorified in creation, including the sun and moon, rain and wind, ice and snow, to mention just a few of the many natural features of God’s handiwork, that is, the earth and all that surrounds it.

We continue the forty days of Lent with its usual focus on prayer, fasting and doing good. It tends to be a quieter time, with few big liturgical celebrations during these weeks.

We wish all our families, friends, benefactors and oblates a blessed continuation of this holy season leading to the great mystery of the Lord’s Resurrection and its annual accompanying celebration.

Be assured of our prayers and please keep us in your prayers. Thank you and God bless you.

Abbot Christian and the monks

 

 

February 20th: Brother Orchid

An easily overlooked but worthwhile black and white film from 1940 is called BROTHER ORCHID, starring Edgar G. Robinson. It tells the fictional tale of mob boss Little John Sarto, played by Robinson, who gives up his turf to another mobster, played by Humphrey Bogart. Five years later Sarto tries to take back his turf, but in the process he falls victim to a trap and left for dead. Fortunately Sarto survives the trap and flees, ending up at a monastery of monks, whose principal source of revenue is selling fresh flowers.

Taken in to the monastery by the Brother Superior, Sarto gradually begins to realize the futility of his criminal ways and makes some drastic life changes.

The film clearly carries some important Lenten themes and the name “Brother Orchid” is made evident by the end of the story.

Today photo is of a currently blooming orchid at our monastery.

Be assured of our prayers and we are grateful for yours.

Abbot Christian and the monks

February 14th: Lent Has Begun

The Holy Season of Lent has begun and we monks, along with all Christians, see it as a special time of prayer, fasting and good works. Saint Benedict says a monk’s life should always have about it a “Lenten character,” implying some degree of asceticism and sacrifice year round, but especially so during the forty days of Lent. Why do we do this? In order to draw closer to God and to to build up the Body of Christ on earth.

The reception of ashes on Ash Wednesday takes place during our morning Conventual Mass, which ended at about 7:00 am. At our meeting at 8:30 am, we listen to a chapter of the Rule of Saint Benedict and finalize the morning work, then we each receive from the Abbot a book from the Bible for our Lenten “lectio divina,” or “holy reading.”

This year we  monks will be reading, meditating, praying from and contemplating on the New Testament “Letter to the Hebrews.” We invite all who read this to do likewise. The Letter to the Hebrews is a wonderful text with the general theme of salvation won for us by Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, who gives us grace to avoid sin and to draw nearer to God in holiness. That is our Lenten task, a kind of pilgrimage toward our proper and lasting home in God’s Church now and in Heaven for ever.

A blessed and holy Lent to all. You are in our prayers and we are grateful for yours.

Abbot Christian and the monks

February 11th: Surprise Snow

Over the night of February 10th–the Lunar New Year 2024–we received a generous amount of snow in the Chama Canyon Wilderness. We are grateful for any amount of moisture in the desert Southwest. Last night’s snowfall measured in at about half a foot. This morning we got to use use our recently acquired snow blower on our brick walkway between church and the reception building (lobby, Guestmaster’s Office, Giftshop, Art Gallery and Guest Refectory). We also cleared the way for nice snow-free paths from the church to the Guesthouse and Ranch House (part of our Guesthouse). Today’s sunny skies will likely melt any residue snow along the paths.

Thankfully we are staying well and enjoying the “change of scenery,” which won’t last too long, as we are already presumably past the coldest temperatures of Winter.

With this comes our warm regards and prayers for all of our families, friends, benefactors and oblates. A blessed week ahead.

Abbot Christian and the monks

January 31st: Chapter Room

Every day, rain or shine, we monks gather in the chapter room at 8:30 am. There we hear announcements from the Abbot or if another monk has an announcement, such as a request for help in a work project or a request for prayers for someone in need, a family member or friend, for example. Following announcements, if there are any, we finalize the work details of the day.

The Abbot then reads the chapter, or a portion of the chapter, of the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict assigned for that day, and makes a brief commentary. The name “chapter room” or “chapter house” derives from the place where monks hear a “chapter” of the Holy Rule read to them each day. It is an important element for keeping in mind the Rule of Saint Benedict that we follow as monks in community.

After the Abbot’s commentary on the Rule, we listen to the names of the monks and nuns of our Subiaco Cassinese Congregation who have died on that day, some stretching back to over a century, and others as recent as last year. We then sing Psalm 129, the “De profundis,” which begins, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,” a fitting prayer for remembering all the faithful departed. The gathering concludes with chanting the prayer “May the angels lead you into Paradise,” then we go to church and pray the Office of Terce, the first of the “Little Hours.”

The morning “work meeting,” as we call it, in fact encompassing a number of elements, normally lasts about fifteen minutes. Today’s photo is of our chapter room, before or after our meeting, with the lights turned off!

We keep you in our daily prayers and are grateful for yours.

Abbot Christian and the monks

January 27th: Beauty in Simplicity

Men, including monks, are not always famous for “clutter-free” environments, but we try to do so here, with some areas in the Monastery better at this than others. For us, the corridors within the cloister, connecting our various buildings, are an opportunity to promote ordered spaces, which hopefully fosters peace, freedom of movement, even joy, as well as the possibility to focus on where one is going and not being distracted by “junk” along the way.

Especially as a community composed of young monks and elders, we need to be careful to avoid stumbling going from one space to another. Throughout the day we go to church, refectory, chapter room, mail room, laundry, etc., and the corridors are the conduits for doing so. Their ordered simplicity keeps us on the right path.

Saint Benedict calls the Monastery a “House of God” (Domus Dei in Latin). Keeping that concept in mind should inform how we treat what we have.

We in the Northern Hemisphere are hopefully not too far from the arrival of Spring, a traditional time of “cleaning,” and an opportunity to think about what we might not need and pass on to others what could be useful to them, and superfluous to us. Thrift stores, Goodwill and the like, are such places that might gladly receive our goods. As the old saying goes: “One man’s scrap is another man’s gold.”

With this comes our greetings and prayers. We are grateful for yours as well.

Abbot Christian Leisy and the monks

 

January 25th: Good Chefs

While we’re neither a hotel nor a spa, we do routinely enjoy healthy and savory meals, prepared by our monks. In today’s photo, Brother Chrysostom (who wears many hats here), and Father Zachary (who also wears many hats here), are preparing lunch, stuffed peppers. We rotate the cook each day, normally having only one cook on weekdays and two on Sundays. Father Zachary is our Kitchen Manager, preparing the menus, the shopping list for each week and often lends a hand to the cook on various and sundry occasions.

We also have brothers who often bake bread, rolls and pies.

We try to honor the natural talents of our monks but also know that cooking and baking is something that can be learned. One of the aprons in our kitchen reads “Real Men Don’t Use Recipes.” On the other hand, it is not considered an error to consult a cookbook. We have a good collection of these.

As Julia Child, the famous chef, always used to say: bon appetit!

Abbot Christian and the monks

"Let everyone that comes be received as Christ."

— The Rule of St. Benedict

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