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Father Christian with Father Cruz Oswaldo

Our Father Christian with Father Cruz Oswaldo During A Recent Stay with the Little Brothers of Jesus Caritas at Sassovivo in Umbria. Father Cruz Oswaldo is the Brother of Mother Hilda, Prioress of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Desert in New Mexico.

The Renewal of Simple Vows

Our Fr Simeon Cook and Br Dominic Paulraj Renewed Their Vows as Benedictine Monks on March 20th, 2017.

Ad multos annos.

*   *   *


One of Our Cats, Monika, Living The “Vida Loca”

First Daffodil in the Saint John the Baptist Cloister 2017

“Daffy-down-dilly has come to our town

In her yellow petticoat and her green gown.”

Harbinger of spring, the first daffodil blossom opened in the Saint John the Baptist cloister of our monastery on the afternoon of March 8th.

This was not a notably rigorous winter here, but for most of us any winter is too long. So we welcome the first real sign of spring with gratitude and joy.

New English-language License Program from Sant’Anselmo : Spirituality and Culture

In response to an increasing need for spiritual research and monastic wisdom in the modern world, Sant’Anselmo University in Rome will offer a new English-speaking program, “Spirituality and Culture”, beginning Fall semester. Subtitled “Challenges of Modern Culture to Spiritual Theology”, the program presents the Benedictine spiritual tradition read in the context of modern culture.

This program of the Faculty of Theology will be fully accredited November 2017 and run through May 2019. Successful participants will receive a License or a European “Masters” degree in Theological Spirituality.

The program is oriented to Benedictines, members of other religious orders, priests and lay people who are interested in deepening their spirituality, enlarging their knowledge of modern cultural challenges and acquiring skills for formation work. Scholarships are available. Monks are welcome to live at Sant’Anselmo during and between the modules; nuns in neighboring monastic facilities.

For more information, please click to visit the Spirituality and Culture web site or contact me directly at the address below.

Thank you for your attention.

Fr. Bernard Sawicki, OSB
Coordinator, Monastic Institute
Ateneo Sant’Anselmo

Conventual Mass of Ash Wednesday

Left to Right: Subprior Benedict, Prior Caedmon and D Vincent M., during the blessing of ashes at our Conventual Mass on Ash Wednesday.

A blessed and holy Lent to all!

Two Monks Renew Simple Vows

On December 26th, two of our Junior Monks Renewed their Simple Vows, Brother Bonaventure Nguyen and Brother Faustino Torres.


(from left to right) Bro. Bonaventure, Prior Caedmon, Abbot Philip, and Bro. Faustino

Christmas Schedule 2016

Abbot Philip Lawrence, O.S.B., and the monks of Christ in the Desert extend a cordial invitation and welcome to all who may come to pray with the community during these days of celebrating the Nativity of Our Lord (Christmas).

Should weather come to be a concern for any of the following days, please consult the “Road Conditions” report on the home page of our website:

Saturday, December 24

6:30 am          Morning Prayer follow by the Eucharist

4:00 pm          First Vespers of Christmas (lighting the farolitos; guests are invited to help)

10:20 pm       Solemn Vigils of Christmas

12:00 midnight         Christmas Mass

Breakfast for All in Refectory

Sunday, December 25

8:30 am          Lauds

Breakfast for All

11:00 am        Mass during the Day

1:45 pm          None

5:00 pm          Solemn Vespers

Monday, December 26

 6:00 am          Morning Prayer

Breakfast for All

8:45 am          Terce

9:15 am          Mass for the Feast of Saint Stephen, the First Martyr

11:30 am        Sext

4:00 pm          None

5:30 pm          Vespers

Tuesday, December 27

 6:00 am          Morning Prayer

Mass for the Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

11:30 am        Sext

4:00 pm          None

5:30 pm          Vespers

The Abbot and Community extend special Christmas blessings to one and all! May we be joyful at the coming of Our Lord!

Brothers Santiago and Martin of San Jose Monastery, Costa Rica, Visit Christ in the Desert


For the past few years we have been friends with a new monastery in Costa Rica, Central America. These monks follow the Rule of Saint Benedict, leading a contemplative form of monastic life and are directly under their diocesan bishop of Cartago, Costa Rica. Their monastery is dedicated to Saint Joseph, a special patron of Costa Rica, and now numbers nearly a dozen monks.

Some of our monks have visited Monasterio San Jose in Costa Rica, and now two of their young monks, Brother Santiago and Brother Martin, are spending three months with us as part of their formation in monastic life. They are both welcome additions to our monastery and are generously contributing in various areas of our life.




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.”

"Let everyone that comes be received as Christ."

— The Rule of St. Benedict

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