Monastery News

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March 28th: Newly Professed

Last Saturday, March 25th, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, our Brother Chrysostom pronounced his solemn vows of obedience, stability and conversion of life, as a monk of Christ in the Desert. This he did during Mass in our church in the presence of Abbot Christian and the monks of this monastery.
Some sixty relatives and friends of Brother Chrysostom and the monastery joined us for the profession Mass and afterwards enjoyed a festive and delicious meal, catered by “Whole Hog Caterers” of Santa Fe. The meal was accompanied by lively exchange and even a singalong!
Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Brother Chrysostom has found his permanent niche in the midst of desert beauty as a contemplative monk in the Chama Canyon wilderness. He serves our community in a number of capacities, including as Guestmaster and Director of Development.
Ad multos annos, Brother Chrysostom.
Abbot Christian and the monks

March 25th: The Annunciation of the Lord

One of the most beautiful feasts in the Church’s Liturgical calendar is the Solemnity of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary by the Archangel Gabriel, that she is to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. The Annunciation marks the beginning of our salvation in Jesus Christ, and the Church rejoices greatly on this day.
For us monks of Christ in the Desert, the day also marks the Solemn Profession and Monastic Consecration of our Brother Chrysostom. Family and friends are on hand to celebrate with us. Brother has been a part of our community for over five years, and ready to “make the leapt of faith,” to commit himself “for life” to the Benedictine monastic life at Christ in the Desert. He has many talents and contributes much to our common life. Please keep him in your prayers.
We have been getting a fair amount of rain, sometimes mixed with snow, over the past days. While making the road in to the Monastery, Forest Service Road 151, muddy at times, the moisture is welcome for reducing the risk of forest fires and renewing the face of the earth as Spring has now sprung.
Today image is from the church of San Jose, in Los Ojos, New Mexico, just north of us on the way to Chama. The window is some ten feet tall and is over one hundred years old.
With assurance of our prayers for a blessed Solemnity of the Annunciation and a fruitful continuation of Lent,
Abbot Christian and the monks

March 19th: Solemnity of Saint Joseph

This year the annual liturgical commemoration of Saint Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster-father of Jesus, will be kept on March 20th, rather than on March 19th, the usual date of his feast.
The reason for transferring the solemnity of Saint Joseph to March 20th is that March 19th this year falls on a Sunday, which has to be focused on the Fourth Sunday of Lent.
In any case, we gladly celebrate Saint Joseph and recount his important role in the Holy Family of Nazareth, composed of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Saint Joseph is often called. “the Silent,” because no words spoken by him are recorded in the Bible. As such, Joseph is a model of attentive listening to God, of actions rather than words, and of humble work for the good of others.
Saint Joseph is the designated Patron of the Universal Church and is considered to be a powerful intercessor in Heaven for various and sundry needs of those who are still on earth.
Saint Joseph the just and silent man, pray for us!
Abbot Christian and the monks

Today’s icon of Saint Joseph and the Child Jesus was written at Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Redwood Valley, California, where some of our monks have studied iconography.

March 16th: Spring’s Arrival

This week Abbot Christian is at Sacred Heart (Thien Tam) Monastery in Kerens, Texas, founded in 2009 in the Diocese of Dallas and part of the Subiaco Cassinese Congregation.
Monks from Christ in the Desert were the original founders of Thien Tam Monastery, some of whom are now deceased, including the founding Prior, Father Dominic Nguyen, who died last year on Christmas Day.
The Monastery of Thien Tam is composed of fourteen monks, who live a life of prayer and work, and whose members were born in Vietnam or who grew up in Vietnamese immigrant families in the United States. The monks range in age from their mid-twenties to their eighties, and their work includes a farm of cattle, chickens and other poultry, as well as a large fruit orchard.
People come on retreat to the monastery and even large groups can be accommodated in buildings on the property.
This week the regular canonical visitation is taking place at Thien Tam. Abbot Cuthbert Brogan, OSB, of Farnborough Abbey, England, is the main visitor and Abbot Christian is the co-visitor.
The aim of a canonical visitation is to assist a community in strengthening the good and improving on whatever may be lacking in the monastery. Every Benedictine monastery has a canonical visitation every three or four years.
Today’s photo was taken by Abbot Christian in the Thien Tam Monastery’s orchard. It calls to mind what Henry David Thoreau once wrote: “It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see.”
With assurance of prayers and always grateful for yours,
Abbot Christian and the monks

March 6th: Some Signs of Spring

While Spring is not yet in full force, some subtle but sure signs of a change of seasons are appearing now in the Chama canyon wilderness where we live.
Warmer day and night-time temperatures are now occurring, and even some crocuses are catching our attention.
We journey now through the Season of Lent, with the hope that “exile ends in glory,” as the saying goes. The daily turning to the Lord, like flowers reaching for the sun, is a theme of this time of year, as we look forward to celebrating Holy Week and the “Festival of Festivals,” Easter, which we often call “Paschaltide.” Implied in that word is “passing,” from death to life.
With assurance of our prayers for the needs and intentions of all of our families, friends, benefactors and oblates. Please keep us in your prayers. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

March 3rd: God’s Healing Spirit

Scripture is replete with references to the spirit of wisdom, as a source of healing, comfort and encouragement from God, for those who pursue wisdom. A beautiful passage from deutro-canoncial Book of the Wisdom of Solomon, included in the Catholic Bible, seems to say it all: “I loved wisdom more than health or beauty, and I chose to have her rather than light, because her radiance never ceases” (chapter 7, verse 10). The splendor and worth of divine wisdom is a major theme in the Book of Wisdom.

Today’s photo is of a wooden sculpture, approximately 12″ tall, crafted by a retired priest-friend of ours. It is entitled “Healing Spirit,” and seems to capture the theme of a harp-bearing messenger of God bearing the gift of wisdom to those who are open to receiving it. The Liturgical Season of Holy Lent we are now in is an ideal time to pursue more ardently the “the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Paul’s Letter to the Colossians 3:1).

May we seek wisdom and find her in our daily round of prayer and work, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Be assured of our prayers and please keep us in yours. Thank you. A Blessed continuation Lent.

Abbot Christian and the monks


February 23rd: Holy Lent

Ash Wednesday this year was not a “fair weather” day. For us, it included snowfall and winds. We understand that much of the nation on Ash Wednesday felt the effects of another “winter blast,” keeping Spring at bay. Nonetheless, for us the day included the Divine Office as usual and the Conventual Mass as light was returning to the Chama canyon. The imposition of ashes, a hallmark of Ash Wednesday Mass, took place at the usual time, after the Gospel and homily of the day. Monks and guests bore the marks that call to mind that “we are dust and to dust we shall return.” Morbid thinking? Hardly, as it points to the reality that life on earth is short, and the importance of living in the present and giving all to God and neighbor, as we are called to do each day.
May this Lent, (the word is derived from the same origin as our word “length” and “lengthen”), be an opportunity to “expand our horizons” as we heed in the call to follow in the footsteps of the Master. We are to “bear one another’s burdens,” as Saint Paul describes it, in our journey to Easter in forty days and to the Easter of eternity in heaven.
A blessed and holy Lent to all!
Be assured of the prayers of the monks of Christ in the Desert and please keep us in your prayers. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

February 20th: Faithful Followers of the Lamb

Prior Bonaventure and Brother Andre have a combined total of some fifty years of “prayer and work” in the Chama Canyon wilderness as Benedictine monks. Neither is celebrating a particular anniversary this year, but the nice photo recently taken in the sacristy before the Conventual Mass elicits recognition of these two valued confreres.
Brother Andre is a “Connecticut Yankee,” and Prior Bonaventure hails from Vietnam. Both enrich our lives with their particular flare for humor, good zeal and faithfulness to the monastic life.
Ad multos annos, Prior Bonaventure and Brother Andre! We’d be the poorer without ye!
Abbot Christian and the monks

February 17th: True Winter

Sometimes in February we enjoy what is called a “False Spring.” That is, daytime temperatures might rise to 50 degrees or more, and then winter returning in the month of March. This year, no “False Spring” so far, and in fact we are experiencing “True Winter,” meaning cold nightime temperatures and some amount of snowfall. Of course, we welcome moisture in any form, to help end the drought in the great Southwest, so we’re not complaining. But we will welcome spring once it gets here.
We are now just days away from Ash Wednesday and great the Liturgical Season of Lent. May our hearts be ready to intensify our faith, hope and love during Lent, in the knowledge that we have been redeemed in the Blood of Christ, Who died and rose that we might have life eternal.
With this come the greetings and prayers of the monks of Christ in the Desert. May the Lord bless all who read this, and all humankind for that matter! At this time we especially pray for the victims and survivors of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.
Please keep us in your prayers. Thank you. We are doing fine and staying healthy, thanks be to God.
Abbot Christian and the monks

February 11th: Renewal of Temporary Vows

On the evening of February 9th, our Father Seraphim renewed for one year his temporary monastic vows of obedience, stability and conversion of life. He did this in the presence of the abbot and community of Christ in the Desert
Father Seraphim is our main organist at the daily Conventual Mass and Divine Office, as well as principal horse wrangler (at present we have four horses for pleasure riding and work). In addition, Father Seraphim makes fine soaps, lotions, lip balm, candles, cologne and perfume, products that we sell in our Giftshop here at the monastery.
Like Father Seraphim, a number of our monks wear several hats, which greatly helps in keeping the monastery running (at least relatively!) smoothly. The varied work assignments, both indoor and outdoor, seems to suit most individuals well.
In today’s photo, Father Seraphim is pictured beneath the mural in our refectory, between the images of Saint Scholastica, the sister of Saint Benedict, and Saint Clare, collaborator of Saint Francis of Assisi. The Feast of Saint Scholastica is February 10th, which coincides with the date of Father Seraphim’s first profession of vows in 2020.
Be assured of our prayers for the needs and intentions of all our families, friends, neighbors and benefactors. Please keep us in your prayers. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

February 8th: Abbots Meeting

From February 3rd to 6th, Abbot Christian attended the annual meeting of North American Benedictine abbots, held this year at Saint Bernard Abbey, Cullman, Alabama. There were twenty-five abbots present, coming from the United States, Mexico and Canada.
The topic of the two full days of lectures was “The Care of the Sick,” which is a special concern of Saint Benedict in his Rule for Monasteries, being the subject of chapter 36 of the Holy Rule.
At the same time the abbots met, about forty North American Benedictine Prioresses from the USA, Canada and Mexico gathered at Sacred Heart Monastery, a couple of miles from Saint Bernard Abbey.
The joint lectures, attended by abbots and prioresses on Saturday and Sunday and held at Saint Bernard Abbey, were given on Saturday by Br John Mark Falkenhain, OSB, of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana. He spoke on the topic of understanding mental health concerns and the discernment of candidates.
On Sunday the lectures were given by a panel from Mount Saint Scolastica Monastery, Atchison, Kansas, and consisted of Prioress Esther Fangman, OSB, and two health care providers from Saint Scholastica’s, Renee Porter and Stacey Handke. They spoke on the various needs and challenges of caring for elder members in our monasteries, including dementia, the dying process and the covid crisis.
All the abbots and prioresses attended Mass at Saint Bernard Abbey on Saturday and Sunday, and had some meals in common. On Sunday evening all attended Vespers and supper at Sacred Heart Monastery.
In addition to the valuable lectures given, the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with other leaders of Benedictine monasteries was a positive addition to the meeting in Alabama.
Today’s photo was taken inside the church at Saint Bernard Abbey, Cullman, Alabama.
Be assured of our prayers and please keep us in yours. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

February 3rd: The Mind’s Journey to God

Saint Bonaventure, the great medieval Franciscan theologian and Doctor of the Church, wrote a treatise on the journey to God, saying that we learn the ways of God by examining the world, and we proceed to awareness of the truth of God in and through our minds. The five senses are engaged in this work of the spirit, and the human “mind,” as well call it, is crucial in the process of going to God.
That being said, we all know that distractions are a constant battle in our efforts to concentrate and contemplate the things of God. How easy it is to be sidelined by a million and one “matters on the mind,” and the desire to overcome at least some of the distractions probably appeals to us all.
A recently published book on the topic of “distractions” is now making the rounds at our monastery, and is worth recommending. The book is titled, “The Wandering Mind: What Medieval Monks Tell Us About Distraction,” by Jamie Kreiner, a professor of history at the University of Georgia. The book is published by Liveright Publishing Corporation.
Saint Gregory the Great, monk and then pope, spoke of his distractions this way: “The ship of my mind is being battered by cyclones.” Even before Saint Gregory, who wrote the earliest life of Saint Benedict, the “Desert Fathers and Mothers,” as we call them, battled for the gift of “mindfulness,” whereby the mind could be more concentrated on the things of God than the things of the world. For the early monks and nuns, the “world” was normally understood as “entanglements,” in property, work, legal disputes, gossip, news. Creation itself was not considered bad, and in fact the Book of Genesis tell us that all God created was “good.” Sorting through the useful and the useless was a preoccupation of early monks and nuns, but also modern ones as well.
Jamie Kreimer’s book sheds some excellent light on the matter that has been a concern of monks since the third century. What monks have learned over the course of the centuries has a serious bearing on we “moderns,” since in fact some things never change, such as distractions.
In today’s photo, a “modern monk,” Brother Andre, is shown working diligently on one of his many crafts, in this case, a woolen scarf. What goes on in the silence of his mind is his alone, though he presumably strives to live in the present and “seek the things that are above,” as Saint Paul encourages the church of the Colossae (Colossians 3:1). May we all do likewise!
Be assured of our prayers and please keep us in yours. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

January 30th: As a Deer

The opening words of Psalm 42 (41 in the Greek Septuagint numbering) are:

“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for you, O God.”

This refrain seems to be a favorite of many who regularly pray the Psalms. We monks chant Psalm 42 every Monday morning at the Office of Vigils. It’s a good reminder at the beginning of the week.
Living as we do along the banks of the Chama River, we regularly see deer taking refreshment at the river, so Psalm 42 resonates well with our experience.
Today’s photo is of the logo of a company, called EKTOS (a Greek word for “outside”), that produces camping and general-use woolen blankets. The company is based in Livingston, Texas, and its logo captures well the sentiments of Psalm 42.

Just as God’s creatures, wild and tame, are instinctively attracted to the source of life itself, water, so should we humans long at all times for God’s life-giving Word and grace.

We continue to enjoy a fairly mild winter, and are praying for precipitation in the form of snow or rain.

Be assured of our prayers and please keep us in yours. Thank you.

Abbot Christian and the monks

January 20th: Monastery Meals

They’re not on wheels, nor prefabricated, but our meals are made with care and prayer by our monks on a daily basis. One cook on weekdays and two on Sundays and Solemnities create an array of simple but nourishing meals for our monastic community and the guests who are on retreat.
At present our main cooks number five, who rotate throughout the days of the week and on Sundays. A number of other monks are ready and able to be assistant cooks for Sundays and Solemnities.
What do we eat? Most commonly our meals are comprised of one or more of the following: chicken, turkey, fish, pasta, vegetables, rice, eggs, cheese, beans, bread and fruit. Our usual drink at the midday main meal is water, with tea, coffee and cocco also available at breakfast and the evening meal. Breakfast also includes juice and milk.
Our monastic cooks are not professional chefs, but sometimes monks and guests comment that a meal has been of “restaurant quality” or “better than a restaurant.” That is not our goal, but it is nice to hear.
In today’s photo, Father Vincent is diligently preparing another wholesome meal for the nourishment and enjoyment of our community and guests.
“Bon appetit,” as the late Julia Child liked to say.
With this comes our prayers and we are grateful for yours.
Abbot Christian and the monks

January 17th: Serious Snow

We are reveling in the reality of the arrival of snow in the great Southwest. At long last some serious precipitation is occurring and it is good news in the face of ongoing drought conditions in this part of the globe.
What is coming our way is presumably fallout from the West Coast storms of late, but in our case only in the form of snow and not flooding or mudslides.
Our roof replacement on the building south of our monastery church is now complete, so as the song goes: let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Life goes on and our daily round of prayer and work proceeds uninterrupted. The monks are fine, so too the livestock and poultry in our care. Adequate food, shelter and clothing (of a different kind for the animals) are part and parcel of our existence, and we are grateful for the blessings the Lord bestows each day.
From a snowy Chama Canyon comes the promise of our prayers and our thanks for all who do good to us.
God’s peace and blessings in abundance.
Abbot Christian and the monks

January 13th: Care For God’s Creatures

Winter brings its own demands and one of them is keeping our livestock fed and in good health. At present we have and care for four horses, twenty sheep, one donkey, forty-five chickens and a host of bees. Among four monks the animals are kept fed, watered and inspected on a daily basis.
Horses and donkeys grow heavy winter coats that keep them warm. The extra hair disappears with the arrival of warmer weather.
Chickens are endowed with approximately ten thousand feathers each, year round, so they actually fend better in winter than summer. In the summer they cool off with dust and dirt baths.
Sheep have an extremely thick coat of wool and relish in the sunlight even on the coldest days.
And bees know how to hibernate throughout the winter.
Last but not least, we also have two cats and a dog.
We treasure all of our two and four-footed creatures, as well as the winged wonders called bees.
All God’s creatures, great and small, are part and parcel of our monastic life in the desert, throughout the year.
In today’s photo, Father Seraphim is pictured with our pinto steed named Poncho.
With assurance of our prayers and grateful for yours,
Abbot Christian and the monks

January 11: Raffle Winners

Our twice-annual fundraising raffle drawing, under the direction of our Brother Jude, took place this past Sunday, January 8th, 2023.
The eight winners, each receiving $500, are as follows:
M.G. — Austin, TX
D.Q. — Espanola, NM
T.G. — Albuquerque, NM
B.T. — Springer, NM
G.S. — El Paso, TX
K.K. — Batavia, IL
V.N. — Gaithersburg, MD
E.S. — Albuquerque, NM
The grand prize winner, receiving $1,000 was:
J.M. — Houston, TX
Thank you to all who participated in the raffle, which assists us greatly with general operating expenses as we still strive to recover from income loses over the more than two years our Guesthouse and Giftshop were closed, from Spring of 2020 to Spring of 2022.
Be assured of prayers for the needs and intentions of all our families, friends, neighbors, benefactors and oblates. Please keep us in your prayers. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

January 6th: Epiphany of the Lord

We have reached the twelfth day of Christmas, when the Church traditionally celebrates the Epiphany (that is, Manifestation) of the Lord to all the nations. See our “Homily Page” on our website for more details about this great feast.
Many parts of the world now celebrate the Epiphany on the Sunday following January 6th, so that more of the faithful can participate in the Mass of the day.
At the Monastery we keep January 6th as the day of the Epiphany.
Today’s photo is from our Nativity display in our church, which now includes the “Wise Men from the East,” who came from afar to worship the Holy Child Jesus.
With this comes assurance of our prayers for “peace on earth,” and the end to war.
Blessed and happy Feast of the Epiphany!
Abbot Christian and the monks

January 4th: Winter Light

Thus far, winter has been fairly mild in the Chama Canyon Wilderness where the Monastery is located. Of late, though, we have gotten some precipitation in the form of snow, as illustrated into today’s photo, a view from across the Chama River. We have had freezing temperatures at night, but “warming up” to the mid-40s by midday. Along with the weather change from the summer and autumn, the atmospheric light of winter possesses a distinct tone of its own. It’s all good and all from God. We certainly enjoy some of the most beautiful panoramas on planet earth. At least that is our humble assessment of the situation.
Our Guesthouse is closed this month, as well as our Giftshop, but we prepare for reopening of both in February. We have made significant additions to the selection of books for sale in our Giftshop, and are proud of the work underway to enhance the experience of staying in the Guesthouse and visiting the Giftshop.
Day visitors are welcome to see and pray in our church during this month.
May the new year be a time of renewal, good resolutions and even relaxation after the festivities just past associated with the Birth of the Redeemer.
With assurance of our prayers and we are grateful for yours,
Abbot Christian and the monks

January 2nd: Happy New Year 2023!

With the passing of the Winter Solstice, egg production by our flock of hens has increased exponentially, from just a few eggs per day to nearly two dozen. We and our guests enjoy our “homegrown” eggs, either hard boiled or scrambled.
Speak of guests, we have closed our Guesthouse for the month of January, to give the monks a bit of an extended retreat, but also to attend to maintenance issues that have arisen over the past months. Roof repairs continue on our main buildings as well. Typically in the Chama Canyon, January is cold and often snowy and sometimes the road in, Forest Service Road 151, can become dicey. With all this in mind, the month of January will be a quiet one for the monks of Christ in the Desert.
Day visitors are still welcome this month, to visit the church and grounds, but again, beware of road conditions before trekking across Forest Service Road 151.
May one and all, our families, friends, neighbors, benefactors and oblates, have a peaceful and restorative New Year of our Lord 2023.
You are in our prayers and we are grateful for yours.
Abbot Christian

"Let everyone that comes be received as Christ."

— The Rule of St. Benedict

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