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December 6th: Reroofing

After more than twenty years of “wear and tear”, a number of our roofs are being replaced at this time. The extremes of cold and heat add to the stress on New Mexico roofs, and it’s a miracle the roofs have lasted this long
In any case, because of the roof work underway this week directly over our Giftshop and lobby, the Giftshop will be closed all of this week and possibly next.
Guests on retreat as well as day visitors are still welcome, and Forest Service Road 151 leading to the Monastery is dry and passable. At this time of year, though, four or all-wheel vehicles are highly recommended.
Advent greeting and prayers.
Abbot Christian and the monks

Advent and Christmas Newsletter

Community

While “community” may be a well-worn word in this day and age, that is no reason to stop using it or to cease pondering on its meaning. At the core of the word “community” is the idea of “communion,” a state of being that we hopefully all want to possess and which speaks directly to the nature of who we are as human beings: people who strive to bond in healthy ways with God and with other people.

Another word closely connected to community is “commune,” that is, to relate or interact, to be in contact with God and others. Every person has his or her own level of relating with others. In the 20th century categories, some people are “introverts” and some are “extroverts.” Neither one is better than the other; they are simply convenient formulae used to describe how a person relates to the world and to others.

This year I turn 70, and clearly the years remaining in my life are fewer than ever! I am in excellent health, but that doesn’t mean I won’t die! The reality of life’s brevity makes me ponder more on the “meaning of life,” and my place in the universe. The fact of the matter is that “what is past is prologue,” as Shakespeare wrote, and as for what lies ahead, I am deeply encouraged by the beautiful words of Saint Paul to the Philippians: “straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14).

For Benedictine monks, the matter of passing through life is best achieved by living with others, forming community, and helping one another along the ups and downs of life’s path. Again, Saint Paul expressed the idea so well in the phrase: “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). While this notion is certainly fitting for monks following the Rule of Saint Benedict, it is also something that every person should be aspiring to, living in a world surrounded by needs near and far that might be calling for attention and our care on many different levels.

Recently, during our annual Summer rainy season, two of our monks driving home on Forest Service Road 151 (the dirt and gravel road leading to the Monastery), encountered four visitors outside their vehicle who had hoped to come to the Monastery, but who were “stuck in the mud” in a ditch on the side of the road. The first thing one of the visitors asked the monks was, “do you have a tow truck?” The monks laughed, said we didn’t (as nice as it might be to have one!), but indicated that we do have a tractor and could get it and help the visitors get their car out of its predicament, and so it was accomplished.

I use the example as a way to say that we rely on others, that we are not islands, and we need to think creatively so as to be of greater help in “bearing one another’s burdens.” In a word, we all are part of a community, and as we depend on others, so they depend on us.

Many years ago, as I was getting ready to come and join the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, a friend said to me, “Christ went into the desert for only forty day; you want to go for a lifetime?” My reply was something like this: Christ went to the solitary combat of the desert alone; a monk of Christ in the Desert does so with others, in community, and yes, even for a lifetime.”

The chief occupation of a monk living in a monastery is the unofficial motto of Benedictine life: ora et labora, that is, “pray and work.” All that we do is supposed to be an expression of our faith in God, lived out under the Guidance of the Gospel, the Rule of Saint Benedict and our own particular “Book of Customs” in community. As every person is different, even in a like-minded community, there is no one cookie-cutter way of going to God.

During the Liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas, we reflect in a special way on the mystery of God becoming human, whose name is “Emmanuel,” that is, God-with-us. Our God became flesh in the context of community, the human race, and desires that all be saved in the same Lord Jesus Christ.

May our personal and communal journeys to God always be guided by the Holy Spirit of God, who with the Father and the Son is adored forever and ever. O Come, O come, Emmanuel!

A very blessed and joyful Christmas 2022 and New Year 2023 to all.

Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB

A MONASTERY CHRISTMAS

By Abbot Christian

 

The first thing that may surprise our families and friends about a Monastery Christmas is that we do not start decorating for the Solemnity until December 24th. No trees or decorations are visible in the church, refectory or corridors, inside or out, until the “Night Before Christmas.” Why is that? Christmastide technically begins, in the Catholic Liturgical Calendar, at First Vespers of Christmas, that is, the eventide of December 24th. By then, but not before, trees are decorated, lights are strewn, poinsettias are in place, and the festivities begin.

Our Christmas celebrations on December 24th include significant time in church, chanting the Divine Offices of Vespers, then a little later, Christmas Vigils and culminating in the celebration of Midnight Mass, as December 24th turns into December 25th. After Mass the monks as well as our resident guests and visitors are treated to a festive breakfast (yes, at 1:30 am!), including scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, muffins and more, then off to rest for the monks and guests, and the visitors typically return to their homes, presumably to rest as well.

On the morning of December 25th we pray the Office of Lauds and celebrate Mass of Christmas Day later in the morning, at 11:00 am. In the afternoon, after the Office of None (the Ninth Hour), we have our principal meal of the day, usually something quite special and delicious, though a surprise every year, and prepared by our monks, as are all our meals in the Monastery.

While many people start taking down Christmas decorations and lights within a day or so after Christmas, we monks maintain the mood of comfort and joy which the Christmas Season always brings, for the succeeding “Twelve Days of Christmas.” We cannot be stopped or even slowed down, as we rejoice in the reality and mystery of God-with-us, Emmanuel, who has come that we might have life and have it in abundance.

We suggest to all to consider the “monastery pattern” regarding the celebration of Christmas this year. It may take some adjusting to, but hopefully worth every minute of it, to celebrate with less commercialism, and place the emphasis on the true meaning and spirit of Christmas, when Christ entered time to bring us to eternity.

Some wonderful words from the Norwegian-Danish novelist Sigrid Undset, who lived from 1882 to 1949, come to mind here:

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans—and all that lives and moves upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused—and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.”

Farolitos at Christmas Time

A Community of Writers and Poets Convene in Houston

By Brother Chrysostom

This summer I attended one of the two writers’ residencies for the Master of Fine Arts in Creative writing from St Thomas University. About 50 students were present representing many States and one joining us from Ireland. I was the one of two religious students in attendance. The other was Fr Phil who is a fine poet. We were called on frequently to give blessings before seminars and meals.

I had the pleasure of finally meeting Prof James Matthew Wilson in person. It was his encouraging conversation more than a year ago that convinced me that Abbot Christian was sage in his urging that I pursue this line of study. Prof Joshua Hren, with whom I had taken four courses over the last year, was also present and was pleased to receive a hand delivered Monastery of Christ in the Desert Newsletter.

The residency began with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal DiNardo in the beautiful Chapel of St Basil on the campus of St Thomas University. He praised Catholic writers and poets in his short homily and reminded us that there are many ways in which the faith is passed along.

Temperatures were high in Houston in late June. I was thankful for the convenience of air conditioning in the classrooms, lecture halls, chapel, and dormitory rooms. Our days followed a rigorous schedule. Breakfast was followed by a joint seminar covering Catholicism East and Far East with poets and writers from 9:30-11:30. The following works were explored: “The Jeweler’s Shop” by John Paul II; the poetry of Czeslaw Milosz; “Silence” by Shusaku Endo; and “Miracles” by Sono Ayako. Following the seminar, I attended Mass at St Basil Chapel with classmates before heading to lunch.

Poets and writers would separate in the afternoon between 3:00-5:00 for workshops. In my workshop for writers, we critiqued each other’s manuscripts. This time face to face rather than via zoom, which was so refreshing! I was able to complete two more short stories over the nine days. After the workshops, students, lecturers, professors would meet at the Link Lee Mansion on campus which houses the President’s Office and other administrative offices for a sumptuous dinner of southern cuisine.

After dinner we would convene in the Jones Auditorium on campus for a two hour lecture starting at 7:15. We heard readings from such Catholic writers as Dana Gioia, (who is wearing a tie and standing on the stairway below in picture,) Robert Royal, Cynthia Haven, Catharine Savage Brosman, Kevin Doak, and Natalie Morrill.

To say that I was exhausted at the end of my ten days at the residency would be a gross understatement. There was not much time, or desire, on my part to do much sightseeing. The heat was a major deterrent, as I said at the beginning. I did, however, find time to visit the nearby Rothko Chapel and walk around the campus and the surrounding neighborhood in the ‘cool’ of the evening.

Notwithstanding, what made the time spent at the residency extraordinary was the literary conversations, the strengthened friendships, the communal worship, and the sense of belonging to a community of Catholic writers who are continuing in the tradition of such great writers as Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and Thomas Merton. I hope one day to share the fruits of this learning with our readers and others.

Professor Wilson, Professor Hren, Second and Third from Left and Creative Writing Graduate Students

Chicago Christmas Carol

By Brother Chrysostom

The theme of this newsletter referenced community. While at the writers’ residency this summer I learned about flash fiction (a short story consisting of less than 1500 words). I wish to share with you a Christmas themed piece that showcases a community that I love and that shaped me, Chicago. I have learned as a monastic that it is what we bring from the communities that formed us to the monastery that creates the vibrancy of intimacy between monks. I hope the story achieves a threefold purpose: 1) sharing the fruits of a Creative Writing MFA with supporters of our Educational Appeal, 2) sharing Chicago with a wider audience, and 3) building a monastic community where art and letters complement evangelization. I hope you enjoy it. Merry Christmas.

Aunt Jane is my mother’s older sister and my favorite aunt. Every early December after the first of the holiday specials–Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Santa Clause is Coming to Town–airs on ABC and CBS, Aunt Jane arranges for me and her to have our Chicago Christmas.

It is late Sunday morning. Mom and Dad have gone to 8:00 am Mass at Our Lady of Peace. They let me sleep in. I miss Frisky. He had to be put to sleep three days ago because the vet told us that his problems wouldn’t get any better. I am a big boy. I can understand. I am almost ten years old and I can stay at home alone while my parents go to Mass three short blocks away. When they come home, I want to stay in bed. They will get me out of bed and rush me to get ready because Aunt Jane is coming over soon.

I wash up quickly, put on my brown thick cord corduroy pants, my cordovan Buster Brown shoes, t-shirt, clean white collar shirt, and a crew neck sweater with bands of light brown and black. I make sure that my afro is neat and fluffy with my pick in front of the bathroom mirror. I hear the horn of Aunt Jane’s 1970 Blue Dodge Dart outside. Quick kisses and hugs from my mother and father and a rush to grab my loden coat, knit skull cap, scarf, and mittens heralds the metallic clang of the storm door closing behind me. I bound down the steps while humming the finale of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The soles of my Buster Brown shoes make scuffed tracks in the thin layer of snow to the back door of Aunt Jane’s car.

No sooner do I close the door and kiss the back of her neck, which has the chemical smell of the relaxer that her hairdresser uses, than the car is gliding down our neighborhood toward Lake Shore Drive. We are going downtown. Downtown! Snowmen, nutcrackers, and Santas populate the front yards of the neat bungalows we pass along the way. Strings of lights outline doorways and wrap around exterior ferns and trees. The lights excite me, but I know that the lights on State Street are better.

Aunt Jane finds parking easily on Madison Avenue and we get out of the car and walk a block or so to St Peter’s Catholic Church. Aunt Jane works for Catholic Charities downtown and attends Mass here most mornings before starting her work day. She loves this church with its high ceilings. The Franciscans in their brown robes and knotted rope belts and sandals are happy to see us. She likes the Franciscans, too. We make it in time for Mass. There are no Christmas decorations. The outside world with lights and decorations doesn’t know that Christmas is still a week and days away. They don’t care. They are going to have Christmas before the baby Jesus even comes at Midnight Mass! I kneel down before Mass and say a prayer for Frisky. One of the Franciscan priests comes over and hugs Aunt Jane as I pray. I want to ask him if dogs go to heaven, but I don’t.

After Mass we file out of church into the cold with some other people and make our way to Marshall Fields & Company. I can read street signs. We take a left down Clark Street and then up Washington Street. Aunt Jane wants to show me the Picasso in Daley Plaza. It reminds me of a dragon, but the large Christmas tree close by makes it less scary. The large jutting clocks on the corner of the Marshall Fields & Company department store look so heavy. I don’t want them to crush me. The illuminated faces on the clock have hands that mean something to me. I can tell time. It was 12:20 pm.

We pass through a heavy revolving door into a Christmas palace. A large Christmas tree higher than my house stands in the middle of the store. Gold, silver, red, and blue bulbs hang off branches. There are also rocking horses, tin soldiers, teddy bears, clowns, elves, and other presents decorating the biggest Christmas tree I have ever seen. Aunt Jane holds my hand tightly and we wind through the cosmetic section, the chocolate section, and the handbag section to one of the many wooden escalators that will take us up to the Walnut Room. We pass my favorite floor, the 4th floor, that has toys. But, I don’t care.

There is a long wait in line to eat lunch. My legs are getting tired, but we are finally seated at a table next to the top of the huge Christmas tree that we saw when we first came in. A model train is making its way around a track above our heads. We order hamburgers which came with special French fries that were almost like fat potato chips. I don’t like my hamburger because the bun has butter on the inside. “Herbert, eat your hamburger, the butter is supposed to make it moist,” Aunt Jane said. I eat my hamburger, but I want a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with cheese.

After lunch, Aunt Jane goes shopping in the ladies’ section which goes up several floors. I ask if I could go to the 4th floor and look at the toys. Aunt Jane agrees, but tells me to wait for her down there. I have fun looking at the space ships and castles. The large die cast toy cars are my favorite. Buried within the mound of Gund animals of different sizes is a dog that looked like Frisky. I like it. But I want a real dog. I so hope Santa would bring me the Batmobile with the launching rockets that I want.

When we leave Marshall Fields & Company the large three faced clock on the corner of Randolph and State reads 3:30 pm. As the sky grows darker and the Christmas lights along State Street grow brighter, Aunt Jane and I join the procession of Christmas window gazers who joyfully file by animated windows of Christmas scenes for the next five blocks. Large department stores like Carson Pirie Scot, Sears, Montgomery Ward, Wiebolt’s, and Goldblatt’s each Christmas season deck their windows with Santas, reindeer, snowmen, and elves.

Aunt Jane who is much taller than I sees it before I do. She puts her hands on the shoulders of my loden coat and leads me through the crowd closer to the corner of the store. At the last Marshall Fields & Company window before crossing Washington Street to Carson’s, there was a winter wonderland scene with children ice skating, throwing snowballs, and sledding down hills. In the corner of the snow scene is a lone boy and a dog playing catch. The boy doesn’t look like me at all, he has yellow blonde hair, but the dog looks just like Frisky! I smile at Aunt Jane and she hugs me. Hark the Herald Angels Sing is playing on a speaker at Carson Pirie Scot across the street. Snow is coming down. Aunt Jane takes my hand and leads me away from the Frisky in the window. She knows that Santa would have Max, a small wirehaired terrier puppy, under my Christmas tree soon.

 

Cloister Humor: Recently, the Brother who arranges for medical appointments was getting flustered both with the quality of our phone connection and with the receptionist at the optometrist’s office. When the word “glaucoma” couldn’t come to the Brother’s mind, he kept saying instead, “guacamole.” The receptionist wasn’t amused nor understood what the medical issue was. Finally, the Brother remember the word “glaucoma,” and the appointment was made.

In Loving Memory

by Abbot Christian

Father Luis Regalado

Our dear confrere, Father Luis Regalado, recently passed away, having celebrated his 79th birthday, on June 20th, 2022. He had suffered a massive stroke on June 26th, and was taken to the hospital, where he died while we monks were at Mass on the morning of June 28th.

Father Luis had been a professed monk of Christ in the Desert for almost 24 years and a priest for 38 years.

May the angels lead Father Luis into Paradise!

May Father Luis and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Abbot Christian and the monks

Monks Corner

Brother Charles Macharia Kariuki

What is your name and age?

Br. Charles Macharia Kariuki; I am 40 years old.

How long have you been a monk at MCD?

I have been a monk at the monastery for ten years. I was born in Rift Valley, Kenya, in a large city called Eldoret City. I have three sisters and I am the last born, and the only son in an active Catholic family. I learned about Christ in the Desert through its website in 2009.

What were some of your challenges as a monk at MCD during your time here?

The adjustment from active life as a real estate manager to contemplative life required patience and perseverance.

What changes have you witnessed during your time here at MCD?

It was a privilege to live and pray with the brothers at Poloquane in South Africa for the past three years. Now taking care of our elderly monks is a new act of charity which I embrace. And, serving as a cook for the monastery is a challenge, but I am ready!

Who is your favorite saint, and why?

Saint Vincent de Paul is dear to me. I am impressed with his charity. And, of course, my patron St. Charles Lwanga from Uganda, is my favorite saint!

Brother David s Conference

Brother Chrysostom

Brother David immersed himself in the community of the Navajo-Churro Sheep Association at their 2022 annual meeting held October 15-16 in Moab, Utah. Brother David gave a presentation entitled “Possessing: Places, Processes, Branding.” Br David shared about our own growing flock of sheep and some of the fine products that we have produced with the wool we have accumulated. His presentation addressed the different types of wools used by makers of clothing, rugs and blankets. Furthermore, he identified several mills in Colorado, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Michigan, Utah, and Iowa where were Association members can have their wool sent and processed into skeins. Did you know that Navajo-Churro Sheep produce about 4 to 5 pounds of wool per sheering? Most mills that process wool want about 35 lbs of wool minimum weight. So, you need at least seven sheep of the same color to meet the minimum. After a lengthy discussion about the processing of wool, Brother David gave helpful tips on next steps, such as branding, getting the word out, and consistency. Brother David’s presentation was well received; and, just one of the many presentations over the two-day meeting.

The two days of breakout sessions and presentations covered topics such as general nutrition for sheep, strategies on culling and selecting breeding rams, and how to choose, produce and sell sheep, wool, and meat. There was a Sheep Show and Inspection workshop (which hopefully bore no resemblance to that fine comedic movie Best in Show, from 2000). It was good for Br David to meet with Association members and gain exposure to their best practices, as well as showcase the growing capabilities of the monk weavers and animal husbandry specialists.

Brother David Promoting Sheep Products

Father Gregorio s Ordination

By Abbott Christian

On Saturday morning, September 3rd, 2022, our Brother Gregorio Carrizal Dolores, OSB, was  ordained a priest by Archbishop Jorge Carlos Patron Wong, of the Archdiocese of Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. Brother Leander and I attended the ordination at the Jalapa Cathedral.

Our monastery of Santa Maria y Todos Los Santos, to which Father Gregorio belongs, is located within the Archdiocese of Jalapa.

After the ordination Mass, some three hundred people enjoyed delicious food, fraternal conversation and sensational music by a band of players typical of Veracruz (think of the song, “La Bamba,” originating in Veracruz).

We are very proud of our brother Gregorio, for his learning a new language (Italian!) and for his perseverance in study of Theology and Monastic studies in Rome over the past three years. Father Gregorio returned to Rome for further studies in October.

November 21st: Thanksgiving Cactus

Of course the plant and flowers in today’s photo have another name than “Thanksgiving Cactus” (do you know the correct name?), but their blooming at this time of the year causes us to call them “Thanksgiving Cactus.” These cacti (or cactuses) are growing in large pots in the corridor on the way to our church, and are a welcome sight  when other flowering plants have ceased to bloom..
Next Sunday we begin a new Liturgical Year with the start of the Season of Advent, a privileged time of approximately a month, to ponder more consciously the dawn of our salvation with the birth in Bethlehem of Christ our Redeemer. Come, Lord Jesus!
Repairs continue to take place on our roofs over the kitchen, laundry, classroom, Giftshop, Lobby and corridors, in serious need of replacement after decades of “wear and tear.” Thankfully the weather is cooperating for getting the work accomplished.
Our Guesthouse is fully open now, as well as our Giftshop and grounds.
May this Thanksgiving be an opportunity to “take stock” and give thanks to God for the many gifts we have all received, most especially life and breath, family and loved ones. May we never cease from “going about and doing good,” as Jesus is described to have done during his earthly pilgrimage. Let us follow in the footsteps of our Lord!
With assurance of our prayers and asking that you keep us in yours. Thank you.
Happy Thanksgiving 2022!
Abbot Christian and the monks

November 17th: Giftshop Revival 

Over the past many weeks we have been making an extra effort to increase the variety and enhance the quality of books for sale in our Giftshop.
Guests and visitors to the Monastery Giftshop will find a wide selection of books on prayer, Benedictine spirituality, lives and writings of saints and mystics, children’s books and much more.
We no longer have an online shop, but we hope those coming here for retreat or as day visitors and pilgrims will find something of value to obtain for reading and to purchase for loved ones as well.
One of the special features of our Giftshop is that every book for sale lies flat on the display tables or on stands, so that shoppers do not have to struggle and crane their necks trying to read titles of books stacked next to each other as in a library.
Our Giftshop is open every day, from 9 am to 4 pm, and on Sundays after Mass, that is, from about 11 am to 3 pm.
Forest Service Road 151 leading to the Monastery is dry. We always recommend 4 or all-wheel drive vehicles for traversing the road at this time of year. Those renting cars at the airport should do likewise.
Be assured of prayers and we are grateful for yours.
Abbot Christian and the monks

November 16th: Autumn Light

While Autumn is still going on, before we know it, Winter will arrive. For us in the Chama Canyon wilderness, these days mean chilly mornings, often below freezing, but very pleasant temperatures by midday and throughout the afternoon.
Sunset for us at this time of year is before 4:30 pm, and the chickens are usually roosting in their coop for the night by 5:00 pm. Egg production is at an all-time low these days and will increase sometime in December, when days start getting longer once again.
The daylight of Autumn that enters our monastery church each day possesses a special tone. It’s not as intense as Summer light, but definitely and noticeably different and beautiful as it shines in the luminous blue of the great Southwest.
To all our families, friends and benefactors near and far, our warm greetings and promise of our prayers. Please keep un in yours. Thank you..
Abbot Christian and the monks

October 28th: Retreat Conclusion 

Our annual monastic community retreat is now drawing to a close. As mentioned in the last News Page, the retreat has been conducted by Sister Margaret Michael Gillis, FSP, a member of the Daughters of Saint Paul, who currently resides in their convent in Saint Louis, Missouri.
The twice-daily conferences given by Sister Margaret Michael have rotated around the theme of “Be My Disciples.” After each of the thoughtful conferences, Sister has distributed a one-page “Prayer Guide,” with Scripture quotes connected to the particular conference, to be meditated on. Also on the Prayer Guide are several questions for personal reflection, such as: What is Jesus asking me to do so that I may follow him with my whole self?
Finally, the Prayer Guide offers some suggestions for “Putting into Practice” what we have been hearing in the daily conferences. These have included encouragement to spend some extra time in solitary prayer or pondering more consciously and personally on the call to follow in the footsteps of the Divine Master.
Our retreat ends Saturday evening, October 29th. During these days our Guesthouse has been closed, but will be open again in the coming week.
We are deeply grateful for Sister Margaret Michael’s insights, dynamic presentation technique, stories from her own journey as a consecrated religious of over thirty years, her great sense of humor and ready availability to meet with monks individually during the retreat.
Ad multos annos, Sister Margaret Michael!
Abbot Christian and the monks

October 27th: God’s Canvas

As Autumn progresses, with leaves having changed and now fallen, we carry on toward an eventual Winter and whatever it may bring this year. We had good rainfall in August and September, and are praying more moisture will come this Winter, either as rain or snow.
Today’s photo is of an early morning view across the Chama River, looking toward the west.
This week we monks are having our annual community retreat, enjoying excellent conferences, twice daily, given by Sister Margaret Michael Gillis, F.S.P., one of the Formation Directors of the Daughters of Saint Paul, an international Order of Sisters specializing in Evangelization and book publishing.
Sister Sister Margaret Michael’s theme for the retreat is: “Be My Disciplines,” as Jesus taught. Yes, even monks need to be reminded of that fundamental call!
We are grateful for your prayers and  we keep you in our prayers.
Abbot Christian and the monks

October 25th: Not Yet Easter!

On the other hand, it is always Easter for Christians, since we believe that Christ is truly Risen, and we strive to live in that truth.
Today’s photo is a splendid expression of our joy at Easter, celebrated in a particular way in our abbey church each year. Prior Bonaventure is the monk in the photo and he is certainly one who expresses delight in the knowledge of the Resurrection of Christ, by a life of faith, hope and love.
May we always and everywhere be “Easter people,” not only during the fifty day Liturgical season of Paschaltide, but every day of the year, as we live our lives in the belief that Christ has conquered death once and for all.
With assurance of our prayers and thanks to all our families, friends, benefactors and oblates,
Abbot Christian and the monks

October 16th:Exceeding Expectations 

With the amount of rainfall in September, welcome as it was, we wondered if the cottonwood trees along the Chama River would change color in their usual Autumn fashion. True to form, they did, and have not disappointed. We’ve still not had a morning frost, so the gradual turning of the leaves is going on and being enjoyed by monks and guests alike.
It’s not unheard of to have a first snowfall in mid-October, but that seems unlikely for now.
For many, Autumn is their favorite time of year, with cooler temperatures than summer and winter still some weeks away.
To all our families, friends, oblates and neighbors, we extend warm greetings and our prayers. We are doing well and grateful to God for that. Please keep us in your prayers. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

October 12th: October Light

Our beautiful landscape never disappoints, and for the attentive eye, there is always something worth seeing, day and night, on the land and in the sky.
Today’s twilight photo captures the essence of a “fading day,” and the promise of a star-studded sky in a matter of minutes.
Temperatures remain moderate in the Chama Canyon and Forest Road 151 leading to the Monastery is dry. The cottonwoods turning yellow are at their peak and well worth seeing.
With this comes assurance of our daily prayers and we are grateful for yours.
Abbot Christian and the monks

October 8th: Fall Fair Weather

We are nearing the middle of October and enjoying very fine weather in our high desert setting. The combination of rain and sun and mild temperatures makes the possibility of walking, running, biking and riding (horses!) a very pleasant experience for those so inclined.
Though the Summer has ended, we continue to receive daily visitors and pilgrims, as well as people coming on retreat for a few or several days. It’s almost “hard to believe” that we had no guests or visitors for nearly two years due to the pandemic.
We are grateful that covid-related illness is on the wane and pray that it stays that way even as Winter approaches.
To all who have lost loved ones due to covid, we offer our sympathy and prayers. With those who have survived the menace, including ourselves, we give thanks to God and pray for continued protection and good health.
Today’s photo was taken in our cloister garden, a perennially pleasant place to stroll, meditate and pray, as time permits, in this beautiful corner of our common home, planet earth.
Greetings and thanks to all our families, friends, benefactors and neighbors, near and far.
Abbot Christian and the monks

October 4th: Carmelites Celebrate

On September 28th, the cloistered Carmelite nuns of Las Cruces, New Mexico, celebrated fifteen years of existence in the Diocese of Las Cruces, having come from Chihuahua, Mexico, in 2007.
The vibrant community now numbers ten  professed nuns, as well as two postulants. It is very much a bilingual community, with both Spanish and English spoken by the majority of the nuns.
Abbot Christian and Brother Charles attended the celebratory Mass. Las Cruces is about a six hour drive from Christ in the Desert, a pleasant trek along Interstate 25.
The Bishop of the Diocese Las Cruces, the Most Reverend Peter Baldacchino, who is originally from the Island of Malta, was the principal celebrant and homilist at the anniversary Mass, which began at 5:30 pm.
Bishop Baldacchino too is multi-lingual and a fine homilist. He reminded his hearers that Saint Paul the Apostle spent time on Malta, and is therefore highly venerated by the Maltese.
After the anniversary Mass, a delicious supper was offered to the fifty or so guests in attendance. It was held ‘al fresco,’ as the sun was setting in the beautiful Mesilla Valley, as it is called.
To the Carmelites of the Monastery of Saints Joseph and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, we offer our congratulations and prayers. Ad multos annos.
Abbot Christian and the monks

September 29th: “Ring Out Our Joy to the Lord” Psalm 94(95)

Sometimes we’re told: “You sure sing a lot at Mass” (not to mention our entirely sung Divine Office, the Church’s “Liturgy of the Hours”). In fact, we do sing quite a bit, though few of our monks possess completely angelic voices or have had professional training.
However, we do our best to take seriously the ongoing injunction of the Church: sing the Mass; don’t just sing at Mass. That is, much of the Mass is fittingly sung, both by the priest-celebrant and the people attending the Mass; in our case, the monastic community and our guests. Singing adds solemnity and joy to our daily liturgical rituals.
Singing the Mass need not be complicated, and the tones offered in the Missal of the Roman Rite Mass are based on Gregorian chant melodies that are simple and in many ways timeless. No complicated harmonies for us, just monophonic plainchant, which dates back to the early Church and provides a means to raise our voices and hearts to the Lord.
In today’s photo, Father Zachary is the principal celebrant at a recent Sunday Mass and Brother Jude is the Master of Ceremonies, who assists the celebrant with books and prepares the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Be assured of our prayers, offered daily in church and in solitude. Please keep us in your prayers as well. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

September 23th: Monastery With a View

The grandeur of God’s creation that surrounds us never ceases to amaze. From the rising of the sun to its setting, God’s pallet of varying hues on the many shapes in the Chama Canyon are a delight to the eyes. Do we ever get tired of looking at it? Hopefully not.
Rain continues to fall in our area and we are very grateful for that. Today’s photo shows a morning after a heavy rain and the low-slung clouds that often accompany such a summer downpour.
We are slowly moving toward Autumn, but cottonwood trees have yet to change colors and daytime temperatures are in the mid to high 70s.
We keep all of our families, friends and benefactors in our prayers, and we are grateful for yours.
Abbot Christian and the monks

September 21st: Our Lady of Solitude

The month of September holds three feasts associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary. The first, on September 6th, is the Feast of Our Lady of Solitude (La Soledad in Spanish).
Our monks at La Soledad Monastery in the State of Guanajuato, Mexico, keep September 6th as the principal feast of their monastery, which is dedicated to the memory of Our Lady of Solitude.
Today’s photo is a close-up of an icon of “Nuestra Senora de La Soledad,” which hangs in the monks’ church in Mexico. In Our Lady’s left hand is an image of the tiny original chapel built at La Soledad in the early 1970s by Father Aelred Wall, founding Prior of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert. Father Aelred lived his last years as a hermit at La Soledad in Mexico and died there in 1984.
The second September feast of Mary is kept on the 8th each year, dedicated to the Nativity or birth of the Blessed Virgin.
Finally, on September 15th, the Church celebrates Mary as “Our Lady of Sorrows,” honoring Mary as a witness to the suffering and death on the cross of her Son, Jesus Christ. There is a long-standing tradition of the “Seven Sorrows of Mary,” often recounted on September 15th.
Catholics tend to think of the month of May as especially dedicated to Mary, and rightly so, but Septrmber also has a clear focus on the mystery of the one who gave birth to the Son of God.
Prayers and greetings as September comes near to completion.
Abbot Christian and the monks

September 12th: Bags of Gold

Well, actually, of Navajo-Churro wool, which fiber artists consider precious as gold. The burlap bags in today’s photo are stuffed with our sheeps’ wool, as well as wool offered to us by friends processing their Navajo-Churro sheep for the sale of meat.
The wool drying in bags in our cloister garden is being prepared to go soon to a woolen mill for processing and spinning into skeins of various thickness.
Our twenty Navajo-Churro sheep were sheared a couple of months ago, and the wool varies in color from almost white, to brown, and black.
Because of its natural beauty, there’s really no need for dyeing the wool. We use it here in our weaving shop and sell it in our Giftshop, used we presume for weaving, knitting and crocheting, by those who purchase it.
The rainy season seems to be ending and Forest Service Road leading to the Monastery is dry, though bumpy in some places from earlier downpours.
A blessed week to all, near and far. Be assured of our prayers and please keep us in your prayers. Thank you and may God bless you always.
Abbot Christian and the monks

September 9th: Fields of Flowers

If you get a chance these days, drive to the Monastery! Abundant summer rains have provided a stunning sight of fields of yellow sunflowers all along Forest Service Road 151, leading to the Monastery.
Meteorologists are telling us that the drought in the great Southwest is far from over, so we continue to pray for rain and eventually for snow as winter approaches.
The Spring forest fires of New Mexico were tackled well by our rainy Summer, but remain an ever-present danger in this part of the world. Fortunately no fires were burning in our area this Spring or Summer.
We monks are staying well, thanks be to God, and our Guesthouse continues to welcome people from near and far, seeking quality time of reflection and prayer in this beautiful part of Northern New Mexico.
Be assured of our prayers and please keep us in yours. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

September 6th: Our Lady of Solitude 

The traditional date of the feast of “Nuestra Senora de la Soledad” (Our Lady of Solitude) is September 6th, just two days before the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady.
Our brothers at La Soledad monastery, near San Miguel de Allende, in the State of Guanajuato, Mexico, keep September 6th as their principal patron saint day.
This year on September 6th, our Brother Santiago of La Soledad, renewed his monastic profession of vows at the morning Conventual Mass.
Brother Santiago is responsible for the fine library at La Soledad and is also pursuing philosophy studies online, in preparation for eventually studying Theology.
Ad multos annos Frater Santiago! You are in our prayers as you continue your monastic journey in Mexico.
Abbot Christian and the monks

September 4th: Ordination Day!

On Saturday morning, September 3rd, 2022, our Brother Gregorio Carrizal Dolores, OSB, was ordained a priest by Archbishop Jorge Carlos Patron Wong, of the Archdiocese of Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico.
Our monastery of Santa Maria y Todos Los Santos, to which Father Gregorio belongs, is located within the Archdiocese of Jalapa.
Father Gregorio, Archbishop Jorge Carlos and our Brother Leander are fittingly the subjects of today’s photo, taken after the ordination Mass, at the reception hall of the Major Seminary of the Archdiocese of Jalapa.
Some three hundred people enjoyed delicious food, fraternal conversation and sensational music by a band of players typical of Veracruz (think of the song, “La Bamba,” originating in Veracruz).
We are very proud of our brother Gregory, for his learning a new language (Italian!) and for his perseverance in study of Theology and Monastic studies in Rome over the past three years. Father Gregorio will return to Rome for further studies in October.
Ad multos annos Pater Gregorio.
Abbot Christian and the monks

September 2nd: Sister Josephine Markiewicz, OSB

A dear friend of ours died last week at her monastery in Mexico. Benedictine Sister Josephine was the Prioress for many years, until her death, at “Monasterio San Benito,” Rio Bamba, Mexico City, near the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Over the past many decades, Sister Josephine and her community have cordially welcomed our monks coming to visit or returning from visits to our two monasteries in Mexico, La Soledad near San Miguel de Allende, in the State of Guanajuato, and Santa Maria y Todos Los Santos, Texin, in the State of Veracruz.
Sister Josephine was truly a Benedictine of “good zeal,” which Saint Benedict extols in his Rule.
May the angels lead Sister Josephine into Paradise! May she and all the Faithful Departed enjoy the rewards of Eternal Life!
Requiescat in Pace.
Abbot Christian and the monks

"Let everyone that comes be received as Christ."

— The Rule of St. Benedict

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