Monastery News

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August 23rd: The Flying Hen

Chickens are not the best aviators in the world, and ours are no exception. They do their best to get from point A to point B when flying is required, but sometimes the results are humorous, as today’s photo demonstrates.

On the other hand, the hens are also able to bound six feet and higher if they want to be on top of their Saint Brigid of Kildare Chicken Coop. We’ve yet to see them get onto high tree branches, but maybe that is yet to come.

At this time we are getting about two dozen or so fresh eggs each day from our flock of forty-five.

We are constantly entertained by the antics of our poultry flock. Part of the simple pleasures of cloistered life.

Blessed week.

Abbot Christian and the monks

August 22nd: Summer Sunset Sky

The psalmist certainly had it right when he or she wrote a millennium or more before the birth of Christ:

“O God, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

When I look at the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars that you have established, what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have given them dominion over the works of your hands, you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air and fish of the sea.

O God, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Psalm 8

Blessed Sunday and week ahead.

Abbot Christian and the monks

August 21st: Says Who?

This hen, Penny by name, seems to be saying, with hands behind her back, “Says who?” With hens like ours, who needs the internet, when there is the possibility of endless hours observing the antics of our poultry flock?

The other channel, equally entertaining, is our two dozen sheep and Matty their bodyguard.

The only time these amusing animals are not up to their mischief is from sunset to sunrise. Otherwise, they are raring to go to keep us laughing.

Everyone should have chickens, sheep and at least one donkey. Says who?

Abbot Christian and the monks

August 20th: La Soledad

Popularly called, “La Soledad,” the Benedictine monastery of Our Lady of Solitude, near San Miguel Allende in the State of Guanajuato, Mexico, is a dependent priory of Christ in the Desert. Monks have been there for nearly fifty years, and live a life of prayer, work and hospitality, quite similar to us in New Mexico.

The original monastic church at La Soledad is a gem, designed by the late George Nakashima, who was also the architect of the church at Christ in the Desert.

In recent years the monks at La Soledad built a larger church to accommodate their community and guests. The original church, though, is still used for prayer.

Unfortunately, distance and some language barriers, and now, of course, the pandemic, makes regular interaction between our two communities difficult. Nonetheless, we keep each other in thought and prayers as we pursue the common ideal of seeking God, under a Rule and an Abbot, as Benedictine monks.

Blessed day to all and weekend ahead.

Abbot Christian and the monks

August 19th: Ora et Labora

An unofficial motto of Benedictine life is “Ora et Labora,” three Latin words that translate as: “Pray and Work.” In a nutshell, that is our life: prayer and work.

For us monks, some hours are taken up each day in praying the Divine Office (the Liturgy of the Hours) together in church, as well as celebrating daily Mass there. We also have time devoted to solitary or private prayer, Scripture reading (lectio divina), adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and private devotions, such as the Rosary.

In addition to our “strictly spiritual,” so to speak, activities, part of the day is devoted to work, such as maintenance projects, cooking, cleaning, laundry, to mention a few of our tasks. We also produce items, such as soaps, lotions, icons and rosaries, to sell in our Giftshop.

We have animals to tend to, including sheep, a donkey, horses, chickens and bees. There are fields to work, as well as vegetable and flower garden.

In today’s photo, a monk is changing the bedding in our Saint Brigit of Kildare poultry quarters. The bedding is cedar chips obtained from some of our felled trees.

A monk’s work is never done. As Saint Benedict reminds his monks: that in all things may God be glorified. That is our highest task.

With our prayers and we are grateful for yours.

Abbot Christian and the monks

August 18th: Stand-Ins

At present, flowers are scarce in our garden, hence, store-bought ones have been our flora-of-choice for arrangements in the church to place at the icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus. The photo below is an example of such.

In the coming weeks we can expect a new blooming of roses in the garden, but we also realize that as summer progresses, there will be fewer flowers available.

Usually July and August is our “rainy season,” but it’s a bit of a misnomer these past several years. Rain is again scarce this summer, so we continue our prayers for moisture.

With our warm greetings and a promise of prayers for our families and friends, for all your needs and intentions,

Abbot Christian and the monks

August 17th: Roses

Undoubtedly among God’s most beautiful flowers is the rose. During these summer months we have been enjoying the sight and smell of the roses blooming in our cloister garden.

Probably none of us here can give the precise names of the several varieties of roses we have, but that doesn’t diminish our enjoyment of the flower.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” says Juliet about her boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks, Romeo, in William Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet.” The saying still holds true.

We continue our prayers for rain and are happy to see some falling during these warm summer afternoons, but more would be most welcome.

With prayers and greetings from us at Christ in the Desert,

Abbot Christian and the monks

August 16th: All Hands On Deck

In his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, chapter 3, verse 10, Saint Paul is very explicit: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.”

We monks regularly help with addressing the envelopes for the thank you letters of the abbot, and even the miniature poodle we inherited a few years ago, named Gnuf Gnuf, is willing to pitch in. She is quite good at folding the letters to be inserted in envelopes, and she gets her fair share of food as well, even if it is meagre compared to monks’ fare.

Seriously, though, the goodness of so many in our recent appeal for medical needs is very much appreciated. Thank you from the heart to all who generously assist us. Be assured of our gratitude and we keep in prayer all who do good to us.

Blessed week ahead. Keep us in your prayers, please. Thank you.

Abbot Christian and the monks

August 15th: Our Orchard Endeavor

We currently have only one fruit tree, a lonesome apple, but soon that will change. We’re planting an orchard!

Consulting with local experts on the best varieties of fruit trees for our elevation and climate, we hope in the coming weeks to add a dozen fruit-bearing trees to a portion of the Abbotsfield, where our sheep and donkey, as well as the chickens, normally roam.

Access to the orchard by the livestock will ultimately be limited once the trees are planted, to encourage the development of the soil and the trees, for harvesting within a couple of years.

We are most grateful for the local resources available to us, for advice and direction in our various agricultural endeavors. New friends are made as a result of contacts, and good farming methods are being employed, as we do our small part in caring for our common home.

With continued prayers and we are always grateful for yours,

Abbot Christian and the monks

August 13th: Cloister Fountain

After some major repairs, the twenty-five year old fountain in the middle of our cloister garden is functioning well once again.
Underground pipes that had broken have been replaced and upgrading of the water  recycling system was done as well.
The design of our fountain was inspired by a fountain at the Benedictine Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos in Spain. Workers here in the mid-1990s did an excellent job of constructing the fountain for us.
Traditionally, water fountains are placed in the center of monastic living quarters. The idea is to remind the monks that Christ, the source of Living Water, should be at the center of our lives.
Greetings and prayers for all our families and friends.
Abbot Christian and the monks

August 10th: Praying for Rain

The painted glass window, photographed below, is at the Monastery of Our Lady of Solitude (La Soledad) in Mexico, near the town of San Miguel de Allende. The monks there are part of Christ in Desert, and working towards being an autonomous monastery one day. For now they are still what is called a “dependent monastery” of Christ in the Desert.

The window, some five feet tall, depicts the story from the life of Saint Benedict, when he and his sister, Scholastica, who was a nun, are having their last conversation near Monte Cassino, shortly before her death. This would have been about the year 547 AD.

To prolong their meeting, Scholastica prays for rain, which quickly comes, and so strong that it becomes impossible for Benedict to cut off the conversation with his sister.

We are offering our prayers for more rain, and trusting it will come sooner or later.

With our prayers and greetings,

Abbot Christian and the monks

August 9th: Clouds

Clouds often carry rain, but the present ones are only vapor, with no rain in the forecast. A reversal of fortune is predicted later this week. We certainly hope and pray for that, to keep things on the green side and to reduce the chance of forest fires.
Just now we are also experiencing some amount of smoke in the atmosphere, presumably arriving from one or other of the forest fires burning in the great Southwest.
Predicted change of wind promises to blow the smoke elsewhere, but there may be more, since forest fires are numerous this year.
As some have said, the atmospheric “new normal” falls short of “good news.” The care of our common home is a concern for us all.
With our greetings and prayers for the needs and intentions of our families and friends,
Abbot Christian and the monks

August 8th: Exponential Growth

Though our vegetable garden in Saint Fiacre Field by the river has had some amount of setbacks due to deer, the heirloom calabacitas (squash) assigned to our completely protected cloister garden, are doing great. You can almost watch then grow by the day!

We look forward to harvest time, both from the designated vegetable garden and from the little patch of squash in the cloister.

It appears rain has once again ceased in our spot of northern New Mexico, so we are back to praying for more, versus prayers of thanksgiving for rains received, of a week or so ago.

In the midst of desert beauty we carry in with trust in God’s providential care.

Blessed Sunday and week ahead.

Abbot Christian and the monks

August 7th: Monastic Profession

On Friday morning, August 6th, our Brother Isidore Ilunga Mukendi made his solemn profession of vows as a Benedictine monk of our Monastery of Christ in the Desert. At the same time, he received the solemn consecration, or special prayer of blessing, as a monk for life.

Brother Isidore was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and is now a valued member of our community. At present he is the manager of our Giftshop here, open once again after a year and a half being closed.

Apart from that, Brother Isidore is an active participant in our common prayer and daily Mass, in private prayer and sacred reading, and always available to lend a hand as needs arise.

Brother Isidore is pictured here in his new “cowl,” the choir garment worn by solemnly professed monks for the Divine Office and Mass during the colder months. In the photo he is holding his profession “chart” or document, stating his making solemn vows as a Benedictine. He signed the chart during the ceremony and the Abbot did as well.

Please keep our Brother Isidore in your prayers and know he keeps you in his prayers.

Ad multos annos, Brother Isidore!

Abbot Christian and the monks

August 6th: Guard Duty

Matty, the guard donkey of our sheep, is definitely not a trouble-maker and loves to be where the action is. She seems particularly fascinated by machinery, such as trucks, tractors and carts, including the humble “gorilla cart” in the photo below.

One might also say that Matty is photogenic and always perks up when a camera (i.e., a smart phone) appears on the scene. She is an American Spotted Donkey, with a nice coat of black and white patches.

Matty was born on our property the day before Thanksgiving, 2019, so she will turn two later this year. She is a valuable guard against predators (such as coyotes, bears and mountain lions), and keeps a watchful eye on the sheep, never far from where they are, and if she is, it is only momentarily, as in the case of today’s photo.

With our greetings and prayers,

Abbot Christian and the monks

August 5th: Flowers Flourish

With the arrival of rain, we are almost guaranteed the appearance of wild and scenic flowers to delight the eye, such as those pictured below, taken in the village of Chama, some fifty miles north of us, not far from the southern Colorado border.

Though summer in the great Southwest is not as long as some other parts of the country, we do get several months of the season and it always seems to pass too quickly.
“To everything there is a season,” Scripture says, and we are blessed with four rather distinct ones in our high desert setting.
Blessed continuation of Summer to all those in the Northern Hemisphere. Hopefully winter underway in the Southern Hemisphere is not harsh this year.
Abbot Christian and the monks

August 4th: Rainy Days & Nights

Despite dire predictions to the contrary, we are now enjoying abundant rainfall, both in the afternoons and sometimes at night.
The high desert monsoon or rainy season typically extends through July and August. While early to mid-July was rather dry this year, these past few weeks have seen a change in fortune.
We are grateful to God for the much needed moisture and pray it continues. Our fields are green without having to be irrigated and our sheep and donkey are ecstatic in their own way at the abundance of verdant pastures in which to eat and lie down.
The Lord is our Shepherd. We shall not want.
Greetings and prayers.
Abbot Christian and the monks

August 2nd: Squash Blossom

In June we were given six heirloom squash plants and they are now beginning to bloom. They were planted in our cloister garden.

We look forward to the “calabacitas” (Spanish for “squash”) that will eventually ripen and be enjoyed at table. We anticipate a small but hearty harvest. Hope springs eternal.

We are finally getting some serious rain and quite delighted. For this we give thanks to the Lord.

Wishing all a blessed week of prayer and work for building up the Body of Christ, of which we are all a part.

With our prayers and grateful for yours,

Abbot Christian and the monks

July 31st: The Long and Winding Road (Special Vehicle Appeal)

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

"Let everyone that comes be received as Christ."

— The Rule of St. Benedict

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