Monastery News

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July 31st: The Long and Winding Road

Regrettably, over the past few months two of the cars in our small fleet have had to retire and need to be replaced.
Equally regrettable, since we are without steady income with our Guesthouse still closed, we do not have funds to replace the two cars.
We are looking for two different types of cars, and want to ask if any of our friends might be able to donate a vehicle.
We need a 4-wheel drive car, preferably under 100,000 miles. This vehicle would be used mainly for traversing Forest Road 151 out of and into the monastery, for medical and shopping trips.
The second car would not need to be 4-wheel drive, and would be used more for use in town.
May Saint Joseph and Saint Christopher intercede for this special appeal
Any replies to this request can be addressed to Special Vehicle Appeal at: webmonk@christdesert.org
We are willing to drive to pick up the gift of a car (or two!).
Thank you from the heart for your consideration.
Abbot Christian

July 30th: Navajo-Churro Rugs

Our monks continue to produce beautiful hand-woven rugs, made from 100% Navajo-Churro wool. We who are not weavers greatly admire the craftsmaship of our brothers and tip our hats to them.

A little later this summer we will have a number of rugs available for sale in our Giftshop. Consider it an incentive to visit us and find our weavings and other ideal gifts for Christmas giving!

We continue to be open to day visitors, seven days a week. Visiting hours are from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Sunday Mass at 9:15 am.

Greetings, prayers and thanks to all our families and friends.

Abbot Christian and the monks

July 29th: I’ll Follow the Sun

In the 1960s, a “British-invasion” musical group sang a song called, “I’ll Follow the Sun.” The sunflower does just that, and in Spanish the name of the flower is “girasol,” literally, “turning toward the sun.”

Our rainy season is usually at this time of year, and a variety of wild sunflowers begins to appear along the road to and from the Monastery, technically called “Forest Service Road 151.”

This year, with less rain in the Chama Canyon, there are fewer of the sunflowers, though hopefully more will bloom in August.

The spiritual lesson from the sunflower might be the importance of constantly turning to the Lord, through thick or thin, rain or shine. Never give up, in other words.

This past year and a half has been among the most challenging time in many people’s lives. The call is to stay calm and carry on, as a British era well before the 1960s expressed it. It is still a valid reminder.

The photo below was taken on July 28th, some miles from the Monastery, but on Forest Service Road 151.

Greetings to all and assurance of our prayers.

Abbot Christian and the monks

July 28th: Whistle While You Work

Our monastic refectory sometimes doubles as a space for addressing envelopes for the many thank you letters from the Abbot to our benefactors.

The kind assistance we are receiving for our recent medical appeal is encouraging and very much appreciated and a great comfort for the usual and unexpected health issues which we face each year.

Many who contribute also ask for prayers, and these we remember in our public and private times of prayer.

May the Lord reward with many graces all those who do good to us.

Abbot Christian and the monks

July 27th: Cakes that Inspire I

Last Sunday our cook for the day, Brother Dominic, came up with a unique creation. Might we call it a “Neapolitan cake,” taking inspiration from Neapolitan ice cream?

Brother Dominic was serving thirty of us monks, and wishing to satisfy our various tastes, opted for a single cake (see the photo below), but with a strawberry section, a lemon section and a carrot-cake section.

It all melded beautifully in the oven, was frosted, and a good time was had by all. Some brothers chose just one of the three sections and some took a slice of each of the three flavors.

We are blessed with good and creative chefs among the brethren.

Lord, give us this day our daily bread, both supersubstantial and ordinary.

Abbot Christian and the monks

July 26th: Four O’clocks

Another welcome summer feature in our high desert setting are “four o’clocks,” a wild flower growing in various places around our property. This flower typically blooms for only a few hours each day.
The four-o’clock’s beautiful bell-shaped purple flower can’t really be counted on for flower arrangements, because of its erratic blooming and the flower’s very short stem.
Though in our pastures where the sheep and donkey graze, the four o’clocks are ignored. That seems to add to the proliferation of this perennial in our fields.
As July 2021 is coming to a close, we are getting some rainfall almost every day, for which we are grateful.
We continue to keep you in our prayers and we count on yours.
Abbot Christian and the monks

July 25th: An Amazing Yucca Plant

Some 15 feet tall, the majestic yucca currently in bloom outside our church is a sight to behold. This is the first year it has bloomed, and we are impressed with the size and beauty of the plant.
There is a second yucca near this one, but it is not as tall or majestic as its neighbor.
The wonders of God’s creation never cease to amaze us. There is no end to the variety and beauty of rock formations and flora that surround us here.
May all have a blessed Sunday, celebrating the Lord’s Resurrection and a peaceful week ahead. Be assured of our prayers. Please pray for us. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

July 24th: Chama Canyon Beauty

With recent rainfall, even if sporadic, the Chama Canyon Wilderness is blooming with Russian sage and yucca plants.

While the purple-flowered sage can be used in salads, in making dyes, as well as possessing medicinal properties, we have the plants primarily for ornamental purposes and for flower arrangements in church. The sage flowers last several days in water.

The yucca flowers remain outdoors, and while beautiful to behold, cannot be cut for flower arrangements. The delicate white flowers extend from spiney sword-shaped leaves and a tall stem.

As the photo below displays, we are greatly blessed to live in the midst of desert beauty.

With many greetings and continued prayers.

Abbot Christian and the monks

July 23rd: Flight Into Egypt

Benedictine monks typically take their meals each day in silence. At Christ in the Desert we do likewise, but at the midday meal we listen to a brother reading first a portion of Scripture, then from a book selected by the Abbot or recommended to him by one of the monks.

At the end of the meal we listen to a portion of the Rule of Saint Benedict, then from the Lives of the Saints who will be remembered the next day in the liturgy.

At table we are currently listening to an enjoyable book called, “Fleeing Herod: A Journey Through Coptic Egypt with the Holy Family,” by James Cowan and published by Paraclete Press.

Scripture tells us that the Holy Family, that is, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, fled for a time to Egypt, to avoid persecution at the hands of the tyrant King Herod.

The holy image below, painted on a piece of Egypyian papyrus, is of the Holy Family and hangs in our corridor on the way to church. It is a reminder of the challenges and often tragedies of displaced and immigrant peoples.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, displaced from your homeland, the Holy Family of Nazareth, pray for all displaced and immigrant peoples.

Abbot Christian and the monks

July 22nd: Second Wave

After a hiatus of several weeks, our rose bushes are blooming once again. In addition to adding beauty to our cloister garden, the yellow, red, white and pink roses provide lovely flowers for decorating our Monastery church.

In answer to prayers, we received a prolonged torrential rainfall on Wednesday afternoon, July 21st. It is amazing what such a fast arriving and departing rainfall can do. It seems to quickly “wake up” the parched land and cause grass to spring up.

We need more rain, but are grateful for any amount that falls. The rain also cools down the daytime temperatures, of course, and that is appreciated too.

We are working as quickly as we can to acknowledge and thank the many who have generously responded to our recent appeal for medical needs of the Monastery.

From the heart, thank you and prayers to all who show us kindness. As Carmelites like to say: May God reward you!

Abbot Christian and the monks

July 21st: Awaiting Rain

While areas around us are now getting rain, we are still lagging behind. As the photo below shows, clouds are regularly forming above us, but have yet to pour forth the desired moisture.
Hence, our prayers for rain continue and hope springs eternal.
The brethren are doing well and keeping healthy. Our current age range is 24 to 94. We strive to form a family of young, old and in between.
At this time many outdoor projects, such as tending gardens and grounds and maintenance of buildings, are under way.
Greetings and prayers for all.
Abbot Christian and the monks

July 20th: First Rose of Sharon

Though they are not usually in bloom until August, the first Rose of Sharon has appeared in our Saint John Paul II Meditation Garden, located between the Monastery church and the Guest Reception building.

Rose of Sharon work well as cut flowers and will be used in our church at the icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

While eastern New Mexico has gotten a fair amount of precipitation over the past several weeks, western New Mexico is lagging far behind in rainfall. We continue to pray for rain and for all those effected by the drought.

With our greetings and prayers for good health and safety in this Summer season.

Abbot Christian and the monks

July 19th: Domesticated Stock

Our hens have become fairly tame, are easy to catch and seem to enjoy being held. At times they even vie for attention.

Pictured here with Abbot Christian are Pauline and Flo. Our forty-five hens were raised at the Monastery, purchased when then were just a few days old. Since it was winter when the chicks arrived, they were given quarters with heat lamps until they were several weeks old. They were also fed special feed for chicks.

Our flock is very “free range,” the lap of luxury for chickens, which they take for granted, and produce hearty and healthy eggs for daily fare for the monks’ table.

Blessed new week.

Abbot Christian and the monks

July 18th: Yuccas Bloom

For the first time, two yucca plants outside our Monastery church are blooming in the full summer sun. For several years the plants have been growing in size, but this is the first year they are producing flowers. It is an impressive sight.

With stems some ten feet tall, the distinctive white blossoms of the yucca last for many weeks once they bloom.

The yucca is the state flower of New Mexico, though it can be found in many parts of North America.

Below the church, and visible in the photo here, are two of our horses, Canela and Poncho, part of our peaceable kingdom.

Greetings and prayers.

Abbot Christian and the monks

 

June 17th: Monastery Doors IV

Another set of important doors on our property are those that lead to the main residence area for the monks, what we call “the cloister.”

The cloister doors were built nearly twenty-five years ago, and apart from occasional oiling to refurbish the wood, they have stood the test of time and served their purpose well.

As in most households, some parts of our property are for reserved for the monks and not open to the public. This is not a matter of shunning, but of allowing us to have quiet areas to ourselves, for some amount of privacy and prayer.

The cloister doors open to a covered walkway where we regularly assemble for procession into church for Sunday morning Mass and Sunday evening Vespers. The Latin term for our assembling for the procession into church is “statio,” which literally means “standing,” and from which our word “station” is derived.

The hardware for our cloister doors was crafted by Tom Joyce, an internationally recognized blacksmith and MacArthur Foundation fellow from Santa Fe. Tom also made the beautiful handrailing for the staircase leading down to the cloister proper, where most of our monks have their rooms (we call them “cells”).

Christ called himself “the Door” (see Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 9) and it is Christ who is our sure Way to God’s House.

Blessed weekend!

Abbot Christian and the monks

July 16th: Monastery Plants

Some thirty of our house plants spend the summer outdoors, gracing our cloister walk, near where most of the monks live. Another dozen plants remain inside year round, adding interest and beauty to the corridor leading to church.
This inside corridor has full sunlight and is close to where three of the senior monks live, hence they can enjoy the flora as do the younger monks in our other residence area.
All that our plants seem to require is sun and water and they thrive where they are placed.
The “silence and stability” of plants can be a reminder to monks of the essence of monastic life, focused as it is on listening “with the ear of the heart,” as Saint Benedict asks of his monks, and being set in one place, not for its own sake, but in order to experience transformation in Christ.
May we all bloom where we are planted, as the saying goes.
Greetings and prayers.
Abbot Christian and the monks

July 15th: Year of Saint Joseph

Pope Francis has designated 2021 as the “Year of Saint Joseph,” the husband of Mary and the foster-father of Jesus.
Often called “Joseph the Silent,” because no words of his are recorded in Scripture, but we do know of his just deeds and devotion to the Holy Family, composed of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
The holy image of Saint Joseph and the Child Jesus below is from Holy Transfiguration Byzantine Catholic Monastery in Redwood Valley, California. That is where two of our monks recently studied iconography.
Saint Joseph the Silent and the Just, pray for us.
By the way, we are now getting summer rains in the afternoons, and are most grateful for the answer to prayers.
Abbot Christian and the monks

July 14th: Morning Treats

Brother Martin de Porres diligently monitors and tends our chickens with TLC, and Matty the donkey occasionally gets into the act as well, an ever-ready recipient of whatever might be in the offing.
Most often, Brother Martin proffers leftover lettuce and fruit, but mealworm is sometimes on the menu too.
For much of their waking hours, the sheep and donkey graze in our pastures, while the hens forage for insects and whatever else strikes their fancy, in the same grassy fields.
Up until now we have been “predator-free,” meaning our animals are staying alive and well. We do our best to keep unwanted visitors away.
At present we have twenty-five sheep, one guard-donkey, forty-five chickens and thousands of bees.
We keep you in our prayers and we are always grateful for yours.
Abbot Christian and the monks

July 13th: Monks Meals

On Sundays our midday meal is buffet-style. “Buffet” is a French word, of course, and we all know what it means, and the French call buffet-style meals “self-service.” As they say today, “go figure.”

In any case, our Sunday lunch is more informal and accompanied by recorded classical music or chant.

All our meals are in silence, except on big feasts and special occasions. Think Christmas, Easter and monastic professions, for example.

At the principal meal each day, served by the monks, a passage from the Bible is read from the readers’ stand, then a book of some edifying topic. No novels or comics, in other works.

The monastic refectory, where we enjoy our meals, is spacious and well lit with large windows on three sides.

Just as our spiritual life is especially nourished in the church each day, so our physical lives are sustained by simple but hearty meals, prepared by two monks each day on a rotating basis.

The monks in the photo below are Brother Boniface and Brother Savio.

Abbot Christian and the monks

July 12th : Solemnity of Saint Benedict

This year we are celebrating the Solemnity of Saint Benedict on July 12th. Normally the solemnity is kept on July 11th, but because that date was a Sunday this year, we transferred the celebration to July 12th.

In his Rule, Saint Benedict gives specific ways that one should follow to reach the goal of life in the kingdom of the Father. The path that Saint Benedict indicates includes the ways of obedience, humility, prayer and fraternal charity. These could be called the “essential lessons” or “required courses,” that will be given to those who enter the school of the Lord’s service. In a sense, Saint Benedict does not teach a developed theology of the spiritual life, as later saints and mystics do, but he does set forth important principles for learning the ways that lead to God and what should be avoided in order to stay near to the Lord.

The basis of all of Saint Benedict’s teaching is, of course, faith. Apart from faith the program of monastic life makes no sense. Faith in Christ and faith in His Church are fundamental for any progress in virtue. Making a commitment in faith, such as to the monastic way, creates an atmosphere where the whole of one’s life takes shape and has meaning. The beauty of the Rule from one thousand five hundred years ago is precisely that it has been shaping lives ever since the Rule was written, about the year 500 AD.

Jesus taught His followers: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Saint Benedict is reiterating the same teaching. We daily carry out the commands of Christ in the context of our living community, our superiors and all those who enter our life in one way or another. All of us are called to love, conducting ourselves in such a way that we can be conduits of God’s love, extending it to one another.

In addition to our words and deeds, Saint Benedict is clear that we must cultivate a deep interior life, realizing that we are a work in progress, but also always in the presence of God, rain or shine. Attentiveness to the Lord by full participation in the Liturgy of the Church (Mass and the Divine Office), praying in secret, doing lectio divina, are crucial for a life that is centered on Christ.

Communion with the Lord whenever and however we can promote it, for ourselves and one another, is really what the life is all about. Without any specific or rigid doctrine of prayer, Saint Benedict nonetheless encourages that the desire for God increase within us, day by day, year by year. But there is definitely a Benedictine spirituality presented by Saint Benedict; namely, the love of learning and the desire for God, as the late Benedictine scholar Dom Jean Leclercq expressed the notion.

It is a high purpose for which we have come to the monastery, to be partakers of God’s Kingdom, beginning even now in this life, and fully realized in the life to come.

Saint Paul expresses well what should be our aspirations, writing near the end of his letter to the Galatians: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.  Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule.”

As we commemorate today our holy Father Saint Benedict, may we all receive the grace to experience in our hearts the inexpressible sweetness of God’s love, which Saint Benedict highly recommends, for our eternal benefit.

Greetings and prayers to all our families and friends on this great day commemorating Saint Benedict.

Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB

"Let everyone that comes be received as Christ."

— The Rule of St. Benedict

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