Monastery News

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March 4th: Lenten Conferenes

We have just had two evenings of Lenten conferences via Zoom, given by Sister Margaret Michael Gillis, a Daughter of Saint Paul. Sister came here a few years ago for conferences on Saint Paul, but this year we had to settle for “almost here” via Zoom.

Sister Margaret Michael spoke on March 2nd on the theme of “Rich in Hope,” based on Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans, chapter 15, verse 30.

On March 3rd, Sister used a verse from Saint Paul’s Letter to Ephesians, chapter 3, verse 21 as the springboard for her conference, “To Him Be Glory.”

We appreciate Sister Margaret Michael for her good words and ready humor in the midst of this annual Lenten journey with Christ in the desert.

Sister serves in Saint Louis, Missouri as Postulant Director for her Pauline religious community.

February 3rd: Stella Caeli

Every day after our midday meal we monks chant the hymn, “Stella Caeli,” to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
This Latin song is anonymous, but comes from the 14th century, composed during the time of the Black Death in Europe. Possibly Portuguese Poor Clare nuns composed it.
The Stella Caeli invokes the help of Mary to drive away the pestilence of plague and the harm it causes, that all people may be unharmed in time of distress.
Of course the hymn is particularly appropriate as our world continues to deal with covid-19, the healing of those who have been infected and the vaccine against it to as many people and as soon as is humanly possible.
We also recall those who have died, that they may be led by the angels to Heaven.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, all the angels and saints, intercede on our behalf before the God of all.

March 2nd: Renewal of Vows

On Sunday evening, February 28th, our Brother Martin de Porres renewed for another year his simple or temporary vows in the presence of Abbot Christian and the community. This simple ceremony takes place in our chapter (meeting) room.

In addition to doing studies online, Brother Martin de Porres takes care of our poultry flock and assists with various maintenance projects.
Brother Martin de Porres is faithful to the common life, especially daily Mass and the Divine Office.
Please pray for Brother Martin de Porres and all our brothers who are in the time of formation here, leading to solemn vows.

March 1st: Heaven Help Us

An important element of Catholic practice is devotion to the saints. The saints are those who have completed their earthly sojourn and now enjoy the rewards of eternal life in Heaven. That is undoubtedly an enormous number of souls. Over the ages some have been singled out by name as special patrons, inspirations and intercessors for those still alive.

We do not worship the saints–that is something reserved for God alone–but we venerate and honor the saints. We also pray to them, to intercede on our behalf for guidance and help from God for ourselves or others.

Pictured below is an image (icon) in our monastery church of the great Old Testament miracle-working prophet Elijah the Tishbite, who lived about nine hundred years before the birth of Christ. His life and work are recorded in the First and Second Book of Kings in the Bible.

We look to all God’s saints, not as having been perfect on earth, but as having lived holy lives as faithful followers of God until death. Some died as martyrs for the faith, but not every saint did. We should all aspire to follow the example of the saints of God. May they pray for us.

Blessed week and assurance of our prayers.

Abbot Christian and the monks

February 28th: Praise the Name of the Lord

Psalm 112 (Greek numbering) proclaims: “From the rising of the sun to its setting, praised be the name of the Lord.”

The grandnephew of one of our monks seems to be doing just that, on a recent eve at the Florida coast. His gesture in the midst of God’s creation says it all.

We at the monastery continue to carry all of our families, friends and benefactors in our daily prayers. Despite both our Guesthouse and Giftshop being closed for nearly a year, which are our principal sources of income, the goodness of many keeps us afloat. We are deeply grateful to all who support us.

We continue to pursue avenues for selling our weavings, soaps, hand lotions and the like, and will begin selling again at the Espanola Farmers Market when it opens again in the Spring.

This week a dozen of the elder monks will get their second dose of covid vaccine. Gradually the rest of the community will as well.

Blessed week ahead.

Abbot Christian and the monks

February 27th: O Sun and Moon

Christians do not worship the sun or the moon, or any of creation. That is called “pantheism.” However, we do worship the Creator of all things, Who is God.

Each day at the beginning of our midday meal during Lent, we chant words from Sacred Scripture that begin: “O sun and moon and all creation, praise our God for his name is exalted over all.”

Because God is the Author of things visible and invisible, whatever God has created glorifies God by its very existence, including the sun and the moon, elemental parts of the universe.

The two photos below are from the mural in our refectory, depicting the “greater light,” as the Book of Genesis calls the sun, and the “lesser light,” the moon.

Whenever anyone worships God, we are in some way acting on behalf of all humanity and all creation, the handiwork of our Creator-God, infinite and eternal.

February 26th: The Bell Tower

For over fifty years, our church bell tower has stood as emblematic of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert. More than a symbol, though, it has been and still is a clear reminder to the monks of the reason for our being here: to be men of prayer.
Throughout the day, seven days a week, rain or shine, the tower bell calls us monks to the praise of God at the Conventual Mass and Divine Office in the monastery church.
While we still are unable to welcome day visitors and retreatants here, we keep all of you in our hearts and prayers. Fervently pray each night at Vespers we pray “in solidarity with our brothers and sisters throughout the world.”
May the Lord lead us on in these uncertain times to the peace which only God can give. We pray for an end to the pandemic and for all who have suffered the loss of loved ones. May the angels lead them into Paradise!
Abbot Christian and the monks

February 25th: Socially Distanced Monks

Thanks be to God, we remain covid-free here, but continue to take necessary precautions. We are grateful to be able to continue gathering for the Conventual Mass and Divine Office throughout the day. In choir and in the refectory we spread ourselves out to minimize contact and hand sanitizer dispensers are evident throughout the Monastery.

Thirteen monks have now received the first vaccination and the second one will be administered next week. The younger brothers will begin being vaccinated shortly thereafter.

In the photo below, top row is Brother Chrysostom. Next row down in Father Jeffrey. Front row is, from left to right, Brother Benedict Hall, Brother Jude, Brother Andre.

We keep all of you in our hearts and in our prayers. Please pray for us. Thank you.

Abbot Christian and the monks

February 24th: Helping Hen

Whenever they can, our chickens like to “get into the act,” and assist where they can. As shown below, even Brother Boniface has an occasional helping hen for his various and sundry community projects at the computer.

As a child, famed American author Flannery O’Connor taught one of her hens to walk backwards. We haven’t advanced that far with our flock yet, but who knows what the future holds?

The most practical help our hens provide at present is the “free range, farm fresh” eggs they supply us with each day, rain or shine.

February 23rd: Melting Snow

The weather has turned pleasant once again, the snow has melted, but Matty the donkey keeps busy shuttlingly our hens to various parts of the Abbotsfield, where the chickens run free most of the day.

Afternoon temperatures are now in the 50s, and down to the 20s at night. We often experience “false Springs,” in February, with colder temperatures returning, along with rain and snow, in March and April. Moisture in any form is always welcome in the desert Southwest.

Greetings and prayers.

Abbot Christian Leisy and the monks of Christ in the Desert

February 22nd: “You Are Peter”

Today the Church recounts the special role of Saint Peter the Apostle. As the head of the Apostles of Jesus, Peter was entrusted by Jesus with the mission of guiding the flock of the Lord. The Lord said, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church” (Gospel of Saint Matthew 16:18).

As members of Christ’s Body on earth, the sheep whom Jesus guides, some are entrusted with guiding the flock and striving for unity among the fold. That was the task of Saint Peter and carried on to the present in the person of our current Pope Francis.

The stained-glass window below, in the church of San Jose, in Los Ojos, New Mexico, illustrates the moment when Jesus entrusted to Saint Peter the role of Chief Shepherd of the Universal Church and when Saint Peter was handed the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Saint Peter the Apostle, pray for us.

Abbot Christian and the monks of Christ in the Desert

February 21st: Christ in the Desert

Each year on the first Sunday of Lent the Church turns our attention to the mystery of Christ’s forty days in the Judean desert. There the Lord battled against Satan’s allurements and fortified himself for his sacred ministry, leading up to his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

The image below is by the Russian painter Ivan Kramskoi, completed in 1872. It captures splendidly the strength of the Lord in his wilderness exodus and his confidence in combating the Devil.

For a further reflection on the “Christ in the Desert” theme, see the Homily Page for this Sunday on our website.

Blessed Sunday and week ahead.

Abbot Christian and the monks

Christ in the Wilderness - Ivan Kramskoy - Google Cultural Institute

February 20th: The Way of the Cross

Each Friday afternoon during Lent, at 4:00 pm, we monks gather to pray the Way (also called the Stations) of the Cross.

This ancient sacramental of the Church is a reinactment in prayer, and the action of walking, the way that Jesus followed to his death on the hill of Calvary on the first Good Friday. The Way of the Cross we pray and walk takes about 40 minutes.

We have the fourteen Stations of the Cross depicted in metal which hang on the wall of the corridor that leads from our chapter room to the church.

This week we used as the formal guide for the Stations a mediation written by Saint Alphonus Liguori, Italian priest and founder of the Redemptorist Order. Alphonus lived from 1696 to 1787. We use other meditations as well, prepared in booklet form, on a rotation basis.

For our Way of the Cross, one of our priests is the leader of the service, one monk carries a crucifix and two others carry candles.

February 19th: Hymn at None

Each day at mid-afternoon, at the beginning of the Little Hour of None, we sing the following ancient text, possibly composed by Saint Ambrose in the late fourth century.

O strength of all creation, Lord,
You guide the day throughout its course,
With constancy you keep us all,
Throughout the changing light of day.

It is a reminder that God is Ruler of all, and as another hymn we sing expresses it:

You send the beauty of the dawn,
And then the burning heat of noon.

Sometimes we chuckle at the reference to “the burning heat of noon,” when the weather outside in winter may be sunny, but very far from “burning heat.”

In midst of desert beauty we carry out our lives of prayer, work and reading, year in and year out.

God bless you and be assured of our prayers.

Abbot Christian and the monks

February 18th: Boiler Installed!

To our great delight, the new boiler has arrived and been installed! The crew arrived from Santa Fe the morning of February 17th and were finished by nightfall.

We now have reliable hot water again for the kitchen, for heating the church, refectory, infirmary room, laundry and classroom.
The generosity of benefactors has made possible the purchase and installment of the boiler, which cost $38,000.00. To all who have assisted and prayed for the success of the project, we offer our heartfelt thanks and assurance of our prayers.
Brother Andre is photographed below in the boiler room, happy as a clam, as are the rest of us, in the midst of desert beauty in the middle of winter.
Abbot Christian and the monks

February 17th: Charity Begins at Home

Matty the guard-donkey is always ready to lend a hand (or back) when hens seek out transport from point A to point B, especially when it is snowing. Pictured below with Matty is Stella the hen.

Like many parts of North America, we have received our fair share of unseasonably cold weather and snow. We are certainly not snowbound, but have chosen to postpone the weekly shopping trip and some medical appointments for the moment. It appears the present storm is moving on shortly.

In the meantime, rain or shine, snow or sleet, we keep you our friends and families around the world in our thoughts and prayers. Please keep us in yours. Thank you.

Abbot Christian and the monks.

February 16th: Heartfelt Thanks

At this time we are thanking our friends for their kindness in assisting us with our annual education appeal and our boiler-replacement project. In both cases, we are humbled by the tremendous help we receive.

To get the thank you letters, prepared and signed by the abbot, mailed in a timely manner, the brethren gather to address, seal and stamp the envelopes. We use the refectory for the work because of the many tables in the room.

Heartfelt thanks and prayers for all who do good to us.

Abbot Christian and the monks

February 15th: Car Wash

We’ve acquired a necessary tool for washing the mud off our cars. Living as we do down a thirteen mile “driveway,” consisting of dirt and gravel, cars returning from trips to the doctor or for shopping are often in need of “first aid” to restore them to a more presentable state.
Below Prior Bonaventures tackles the job with aplomb, a task to which he is no stranger.

February 14th: Birds of a Feather 

Our forty-five hens continue to flourish and even entertain us with their peculiar ways. They are producing plenty of eggs these days and the increase in number is coinciding with the longer days.
The variety of sizes and colors of the eggs that we gather each day–two dozen or more–is enjoyable to see. Colors range from brown to greenish-blue to white and tan.
Fortunately, the hens have stayed safe from predators during the day and at night they are safely cloistered in their coop.
At daybreak they are released into the spacious Abbotsfield for some nine hours of free ranging and hanging out on perches at their disposal around their field, as pictured below.

February 13th: Boiler Project Update

We continue to be humbled and delighted by the goodness of friends in contributing to our boiler-replacement project. See our last posting on the progress on this News Page, dated February 6th.

We are drawing ever-closer to our goal of $38,000.00 for the necessary replacement of our nearly quarter-century old boiler, which provides hot water for heating our church, refectory, infirmary room (where our 89 year old Father Bernard resides), as well hot water for the kitchen, laundry and more.

We have thus far raised almost $29,000.00, meaning we need still to raise $9,000.00.

Arrival and installation of the new boiler is scheduled to begin on February 17.

We are touched and delighted beyond words for the outpouring of TLC for your monks in the desert. May God reward abundantly those who do good for us.

If you can assist, please see our webpage and go the the donation page.

Thank you and be assured of our love and prayers.

Abbot Christian and the monks

"Let everyone that comes be received as Christ."

— The Rule of St. Benedict

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