Monastery News

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For some years now, in addition to our Giftshop here, we have a wonderful photographic art gallery in our Guest Reception building at the Monastery.

The images for sale in the gallery celebrate the wonders of God’s creation all around us. The inspiring photographs, by landscape photographer Erik Stensland, were taken in locations throughout the desert southwest, including the Chama Canyon Wilderness where we live.

Sale of the images helps support us, as 40% of every sale goes directly to the Monastery, In addition to the images, Erik has also produced a beautiful 60 minute video-slide show of many of his images, called “Into the  Wonder,” an audio-visual retreat, as he calls it, in the Rocky Mountain National Park. The video is accompanied by mostly instrumental music Erik commissioned to go with his images. The flash drive now runs in the Gallery continuously throughout the day. You can see the large monitor screen with the video playing above the table on the left in the photograph above.


Flowers Still Blooming in November



With the mild autumn we have had, flower pots in front of church, compliments of Candace Piuma of Chama, New Mexico, are still in bloom! We have yet to have a hard frost this fall. No doubt it will eventually come.



This past week we have been greatly blessed by the presence of Bishop Michael Barber, S.J., of the Diocese of Oakland, California, in directing our annual community retreat.

As both a bishop and a consecrated religious of the Society of Jesus, Bishop Barber has offered us in his conferences each day many fine insights about centering one’s life in Christ and living out the vows of our religious and monastic life.

Bishop Barber is also a long-time military chaplain and has gained much from time spent with troops in Iraq and other war-torn parts of the world. Some of those experiences he has shared with us this week as well.

We are deeply grateful to Bishop Barber for coming here to lead our 2016 monastic retreat. We hope he can return again for personal retreats for himself as well.

Monastic Formation Classes

Novice Master and his students

Novice Master Father Benedict Giving Class to New Brothers

Almost every day our brothers in formation, that is, observers, postulants and novices, have “formation classes.” The Classes cover a range of topics including Sacred Scripture, especially the Book of Psalms, the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict, Monastic History, Liturgy, and the Constitutions of our Subiaco Cassinese Congregation. Several of the senior monks give the formation classes.

The Junior professed (monks in simple vows) also have classes, including those online from St. Joseph’s College of Maine. These classes cover philosophy and theology subjects. Pray for our young monks, who are eager students in the Lord’s service.



Benedictine nuns of Queen of Angels Monastery, Kenya.

The contemplative Benedictine nuns of Queen of Angels Monastery, Kenya, were founded in 2009 from the Abbey of Saint John the Baptist, Monte Mario, outside of Rome. Because we have brothers from Kenya, we are delighted to know of the fairly new foundation of nuns in Kenya.

The Lord has blessed the new monastery with vocations. They now have two finally professed nuns, two juniors or temporary professed,two novices and four postulants. The photo shows some of the community. The superior (Prioress) is Mother Lucy, back row, far right.

Please remember the nuns in your prayers. They are also part of the Subiaco Coassinese Congregation to which Christ in the Desert belongs.

Prior Christian Leisy To Assist Abbot President Guillermo in Rome.



Our Prior Christian has been asked to assist our new Abbot President Guillermo Arboleda at the headquarters (curia) of our international Subiaco Cassinese Congregation in Rome.
Ours is the largest of the twenty autonomous Benedictine Congregations and four or five monks normally work for four year assignments with the Abbot President in Rome.
One of the present challenges will be to identify and then move to a new place of residence in Rome for the Abbot President and his assistants. Father Christian will be directly involved with this and other tasks as the Abbot President makes them known.
Father Christian will go to Rome sometime before Christmas this year, then back to Christ in the Desert for some weeks in the summer of 2017 before returning to continue at the Subiaco Cassinese Congregation curia. He asks for your prayers in this work.
Father Christian and Abbot President Guillermo were students together in Rome some thirty years ago, so know each other well.

Abbot Guillermo Arboleda Tamayo, O.S.B., Elected Abbot President of the Subiaco Cassinese Congregation



On September 22, 2016, the General Chapter of the Subiaco Cassinese Congregation elected Abbot Guillermo Arboleda Tamayo, O.S.B., abbot of the Abbey of Santa Maria of Medellin and Administrator of Guatapè (Colombia) to be the new Abbot President. He succeeds Abbot Bruno Marin who has served as Abbot President of our Congregation since 2004.

Abbot President Guillermo was born in 1956. In 1991 he was elected the Conventual Prior of Santa María de la Epifanía (Guatapè), Rionegro-Antioquia, Colombia, and then elected the community’s first abbot in 1999. Then in 2014 he became administrator of the Abbey of Santa Maria of Medellin, before being postulated the abbot of that community.

Abbot Guillermo becomes the first Abbot President of the Subiaco Cassinese Congregation from the Americas.

We at Christ in the Desert know Abbot Guillermo very well as he has visited us numerous times over the years. He and our Prior Christian were students together at Sant’Anselmo in Rome in the mid-1980’s.

Ad multos annos!

Visit to Joliet Catherdal


On a recent visit with Prior Christian to the Catholic cathedral in Joliet, Illinois, Fr Simeon thought it might be wise to consult with Mother (now Saint) Teresa of Calcutta in the cathedral garden dedicated to her.

Fr Simeon was reminded there of one of Saint Teresa’s famous quotes in this Year of Mercy: “If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive.”

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary


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Each year on September 8th the Catholic Church commemorates the Nativity or Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of whom was born Christ our Savior.

A number of our monks also celebrate on September 8th the anniversary of their monastic profession, including our Abbot Philip, celebrating 51 years of vows this year, and  Prior Christian, celebrating 44 years.

The holy icon of the Blessed Virgin which graces our abbey church almost always has votive candles burning in front of it, asking the prayers of Mary for particular needs and intentions. May she intercede for us all!


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Dom James Vo, OSB, Pronounces Simple Monastic Vows



At Sunday Mass on August 14, 2016, our novice Brother James Vo makes his simple, temporary vows, as a Benedictine monk. Family and friends were on hand for the joyous event.

Brother James is now among the fifteen other brothers in temporary vows here, often called “the Juniorate.” We rejoice greatly in the growth of our Monastery with these young men who have made their first commitments to the contemplative monastic life.

Abbot Aidan Gore, OSB, New Abbot of Guadalupe Abbey, Pecos


This past Saturday, July 30th, a number of our monks were able to attend the Pontifical Solemn Mass and blessing of Abbot Aidan Gore at the Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pecos, New Mexico, which belongs to the Olivetan Benedictine Congregation.

The photo shows Abbot Aidan (in white vestment and miter) next to Archbishop John Wester, (in green) Archbishop of Santa Fe, who conferred the blessing. Also in the photo is Abbot Joel of the Norbertine  Abbey in Albuquerque and the monastic community at Pecos.

Ad multos annos, Abbot Aidan!

Cloister Geraniums



Like fine wine and some monks, our geraniums get stronger and better with the passing of years. Some of our geraniums are fifteen or more years old.

The one pictured here is among the nicest of the potted plants that adorn the lower wall in the cloister outside the monks’ living quarters. Each winter the potted plants are lodged indoors then put outside again in the spring.

Brothers in Formation


A recent photo of our brothers in formation, that is, postulants, novices and junior professed, with our Novice Master, Fr. Benedict. Some of the brothers in formation were not present for this photo.

We are blessed by the presence of these men, discerning the call to Benedictine monastic life.

Please pray for our brothers in formation and those who are coming to join them this year.



Abbot Philip blesses the new solar batteries.


Thanks to the generosity of many benefactors, the Monastery recently acquired a number of new solar batteries for the north power grid.  These are shown in the photo above being blessed by Abbot Philip after their recent installation and connection to the solar power panels.

The Monastery is located in the remote Chama canyon where there is no electrical power available from transmission lines.  As a result, all of the electricity needs are met by solar power. While this is a good thing in terms of its low environmental impact, it can also have its difficulties when the equipment begins to age.  For some time now, the Monastery has struggled to maintain in operating condition a system that dates back over twenty years.

Abbot Philip said that he is particularly grateful for the north side of our solar power grid being fixed because of what it meant for the community and one of the monks.  The system had developed such great difficulties that a monk had to stay up all night and manage the generator and power usage in order to maintain electricity for critical functions of the entire monastery’s buildings and operations.   As a result this monk had to get his sleep during the day and missed most of the Divine Office in church.  Now with the north power grid fully operative again, this monk has returned to the same schedule as all of the monks and so he too is particularly grateful.

Archbishop John Wester Visits


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We were honored to welcome our archbishop here over the past days. Archbishop Wester visited Christ in the Desert many years ago, as a young priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, so this was not his first visit.

In the photo, after Mass today, on the Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, are left to right, Deacon Payden Blevins, one of our oblates, soon to be ordained a priest of the Austin Diocese, Archbishop Wester, Brother Faustino Torres, MC for the Mass and one of our junior professed.

Two Monks Renew Vows



















On the June 23, 2016, the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, two of our temporary professed (junior monks) renewed their vows as they move toward solemn profession.

The simple ceremony of renewal of vows took place in our chapter room, in the presence of Abbot Philip Lawrence and all our monks.

Brother Charles and Brother Bede are both fine additions to our monasteries, generous workers, men of prayer and multi-talented. Ad multos annos.

The Solemnity of Saint John the Baptist is our major feast day, and this year marked the “52nd Birthday” of the Monastery, founded on June 24, 1964.

Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming (Flowers in the Desert)


Some of our friends who have never been here sometimes imagine that we are surrounded by sand dunes and sagebrush. In fact our Alpine desert setting (designated by the altitude and scarcity of annual rainfall) does support plant and tree life, and we cultivate certain ones to beautify our meditation and cloister gardens. This reflection will be more on the flowers we maintain at present.

Roses (now in full bloom) are among the flowers we have in various parts of our property. Pictured here are some roses in the cloister garden, in the middle of the monks’ residence quadrangle. Other flowers in the cloister include tulips, daffodils, daisies, irises, peonies, and day lilies, in their “order of appearance” each spring and summer.

Of course in the desert, like anywhere, the flowers (and some of the trees) require attention and watering, but overall do very well here throughout the warmer months (May through October). Flowers from our gardens often grace the abbey church on weekends and feast days.

Soon the rainy season will arrive, and nature will take care of the daily watering and bringing to life many wild flowers in the desert as well.

"Let everyone that comes be received as Christ."

— The Rule of St. Benedict

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