Monastery News

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March 21st: Prayer of Saint Eusebius of Vercelli (283-371)

“May I be no one’s enemy, and may I be a friend of that which is eternal and abides. May I never quarrel with those nearest me: and if I do, may I be reconciled quickly. May I love, seek and attain only that which is good. May I wish for everyone’s happiness and envy no one. May I never rejoice in the ill-fortune of one who has wronged me. When I have done or said what is wrong, may I never wait for the rebuke of others, but always rebuke myself until I make amends. May I win no victory that harms either me or my opponent. May I reconcile friends who are angry with one another. May I never fail a friend who is in danger. When visiting those in grief may I be able by my gentle and healing words to soften their pain. May I respect myself. May I always keep tame that which rages within me. May I accustom myself to be gentle, and never be angry with people because of circumstances. May I never discuss who is wicked and what wicked things he or she has done, but know good people and follow in their footsteps.”

March 20th: The Way of the Cross

At 4:00 pm each Friday during Lent we pray as a community the Stations of the Cross. Reflecting on the way that Jesus walked, leading up to his crucifixion, helps us unite ourselves more completely to the love of God for every human being, past, present and to come.

The British Catholic author, Caryll Houselander, who lived from 1901 to 1954, said this about the Way of the Cross: “Christ receives the cross with joy and lays it on his heart. ‘Bear one another’s burdens,’ he told us. Now he takes the whole world upon himself.”

In just two weeks we will be celebrating Good Friday and shortly after, Easter Sunday. As we continue our walk through Lent and prepare our hearts for the coming Holy Week and Sacred Triduum, may we be open to all that had in store for those who love the Lord, who already loves us without measure.

Abbot Christian and the monks

March 19th: Solemnity of Saint Joseph

Today the Universal Church celebrates the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Foster-father of Jesus and Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Pope Francis has designated this year as the “Year of Saint Joseph,” encouraging extra prayer to and contemplating the life of Saint Joseph.
No words of Saint Joseph are recorded in the New Testament, but his deeds certainly  are. He is often called “Joseph the Silent,” but he was definitely a man of action, seeking always to do God’s will willingly and joyfully.
Pope Francis recently wrote: “God does not demand perfection but heartfelt enthusiasm.” Such an attitude characterized the life of Joseph of Nazareth. May it be a mark of our lives as well.
The icon of Saint Joseph and the Child Jesus pictured below was written by Abbot Damian Higgins of Holy Transfiguration Byzantine Catholic Monastery in California. Abbot Damian is the teacher of our brothers who are now writing icons and is a good friend of our monastery.
Saint Joseph the Silent, pray for us.
Abbot Christian and the monks

March 18th: Peace Will Flow Like a River

Several centuries before the birth of Christ, the Prophet Isaiah wrote:

“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: O that you had listened to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea” (Isaiah 48:17 & 18).

These words are especially appropriate in the season of Lent and in the current covid-19 pandemic.

We all desire peace and prosperity, but not as the world gives, but as God graciously grants it.

For Christians, the coming of Christ into the world to save us is our sure hope. Now we are again preparing to celebrate the saving deeds of the Lord on our behalf, by his suffering, death on the Cross and glorious Resurrection.

Concerning covid-19, a reminder, which came to us from Abbot Primate Gregory Polan in Rome is this: “Remain hopeful, move into the future with trust, keep searching for the voice of God in these challenging times”

In addition, Abbot Gregory asks: “What is the good we have found hidden in the sadness of these times?”

May our answer to this question be part of the building blocks to a life on fire for the love of God and neighbor.

Abbot Christian and the monks

March 17th: Seen From Above

Our beautifully blooming Amaryllis is a sight to behold. Beginning to bud this year on Laetare Sunday, March 14th, the fourfold flowers, facing north, south, east and west, are now in full bloom.

Sometimes the flower is called a “March Lily,” for its flowering time. An unusually tall Amaryllis at nearly four feet, the lovely flower has no detectable scent, but certainly possesses a beauty that cannot be beat.
In the midst of desert beauty we are blessed even in colder weather with amazing flora and fauna in the Chama Canyon Wilderness.
Prayers and greetings from your brothers in Christ.
Abbot Christian and the monks

March 16: Little Lamb by William Blake (1757-1827)

Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee.

Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’re the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!

Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee.

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee!

He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.

Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.

 

March 15th: Laetare Sunday

The Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 14th this year, is traditionally called “Laetare Sunday.” Laetare is the Latin word for “Rejoice.” That is the first word of the Entrance Antiphon for Mass on that day: “Rejoice, Jerusalem.”

Why rejoice? Because “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed,” as Saint Paul expressed it so beautifully in his Letter to the Romans, chapter 13, verse 11.

Liturgically, the Forty days of Lent are halfway over on the Fourth Sunday of Lent and the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection, Easter Sunday, is only twenty-one days away.

To emphasize the spirit of rejoicing on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, the Church prescribes the use of rose-colored vestments, rose being considered a flower and color of joy.

The vestment worn by our Father Jeffrey was the work of the famous Swiss Franciscan nun and noted weaver, Sister Mary Augustina Flueler, whose was active in vestment making in the 1940s, 50s and early 60s.

Our founder Father Aelred Wall (1917-1984) acquired some of Flueler’s vestments for our monastery. Now some seventy years old, our Laetare Sunday vestment is still in excellent condition.

May the Lenten journey we have begun be a source of enlightenment in the ways of God, who calls us to “go up with rejoicing to the house of the Lord,” as Psalm 122 says.

Blessed week in progress!

Abbot Christian and the monks

March 14th: New Lamb

Yesterday, March 13th, on a rather blustery Saturday afternoon, a new lamb was born here, a chocolate-colored ram. Our flock of ewes was aflutter with excitement at the new arrival, not to mention the brothers who tend the sheep, who were also on hand to witness the event. The mother’s name is Kelma, and the ram thus far unnamed. Any suggestions?

Matty the guard-donkey was also keenly aware of a new member in Abbotsfield and conducted her own “welcome aboard” jig, with jumping about in apparent glee.

At present we have twelve ewes and the one newborn ram. In the Middle Ages monasteries were often begun by selecting twelve monks from a larger established monastery, with a thirteenth as superior, in imitation of Jesus and the twelve Apostles.

Our flock isn’t going anywhere just now, but we place it under the watchful care of the Good Shepherd. In fact, the new mother and her lamb are lodging quietly in what we call “Good Shepherd Inn,” their place of protection from the elements in Abbotsfield.

March 13th: Compline Blessing

Each night at the conclusion of Compline, the final communal prayer of the day, the abbot blesses the brethren with holy water.

The abbot moves among the monks standing in their choir shall, sprinkling some holy water on the head of each monk, who bows and makes the Sign of the Cross as an act of receiving a blessing from the Lord.

Blessed or holy water is one of sacramentals of the Catholic Church, being an outward sign at the end of our day, of God’s blessing for the night and as a reminder of the waters of Baptism, when we were cleansed of Original Sin and began our pilgrimage to God’s house, culminating in exchanging time for eternity at death.

At each of the Liturgy of the Hours, also called the Divine Office, beginning at 4:00 am and concluding at 7:30 pm, we pray for all of our families, friends and benefactors and for all humanity. As people keep reminding us, “we are in this together,” and with God’s help, we will be drawn closer together and even find good hidden in the sadness of these times.

Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy on us.

Abbot Christian and the monks

March 12th: The Heart of Our Life

The monastery church is where we spend a great deal of time worshiping God–Father, Son and Holy Spirit–at the daily Conventual Mass and the Divine Office, as well as praying for the needs of family, friends, benefactors and all people, near and far, interceeding for their particular needs and intentions.

We are now beginning our second year without the reception of guests for personal retreats, as well no day visitors and pilgrims. We still do not know when we can safely open our doors again. This reality is the same for hundreds of Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries around the world.

While saddened by the situation we face, out of our control, we cannot give up praying and hoping for better times. The arrival of vaccines against the pandemic is heartening and a strong dose of hope for a world clouded already for many months.

May the Lenten season we are now celebrating liturgically be a reminder of the nearness of God, through thick and thin, and the call from God to remain focused on the gift of life we have been given and this opportunity to draw nearer to the Living God.

With gratitude for your friendship, prayers and good example,

Abbot Christian and the monks

March 11th: Blooming Plants

While still not warm enough outside for plants to bloom, inside is another story. One such example is pictured below.

We can see some green grass beginning to emerge in the cloister garden and a second one, outside of our church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It all calls to mind a little poem by the 17th century Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho, who lived from 1644 to 1694:

Sitting quietly, doing nothing,
Spring comes,
and the grass grows, by itself.

In the midst of desert beauty, we keep you in our thoughts and prayers.

Blessed continuation of Lent.

Abbot Christian and the monks

March 10th: Hope Springs Eternal

The Chama Canyon Wilderness where we live is slowly but surely bidding adieu to the wonders of winter: frost and chill, ice and snow, giving way to God’s watercourse, the Chama River, running free again.
We pray in Psalm 18(19) each week:
“May the spoken words of my mouth,
the thoughts of my heart,
win favor in your sight, O Lord,
my rescuer, my Rock!”  (verse 14)
In God is our refuge and strength. Even faced with challenges, may we never give up hoping in the God who saves us.
Many greetings and continued prayers for all your needs and intentions.
Abbot Christian and the monks

March 9th: Life Goes On

We are still deeply grateful that covid-19 has eluded our monastery. We have been diligent about precautions, especially when we gather as a community for prayers and meals.
Our church is not large, but making use of space usually occupied by our guests, we are able to be sufficiently apart so that we can still sing and pray the daily Conventual Mass, pretty much as we did in pre-pandemic days. The Divine Office is also carried out in its usual form in church, around the clock.
Outside, our hens continue to provide us with a couple of dozen eggs each day. Our sheep carry on with growing their fleeces for eventual spun wool and we foresee shearing them in the coming weeks.
In the midst of desert beauty here we trust in God’s provident care and never cease to thank God for all good gifts.
Be assured of our prayers for all your needs and intentions.
Abbot Christian and the monks

March 8th: Monks At Prayer

Before anyone hollers, looking at the photo below, “Why do those monks look so glum?”, keep in mind that, one, they didn’t know they were being photographed, (but have since signed off with approval to post the photo), and two, they were listening attentively to the proclamation of the Sunday Gospel at Mass when the picture was taken.

But doesn’t the word “Gospel” mean “Good News,” so why the somber countenances?

Hearing good “spiritual” news, such as the Gospel, implies interior delight much more than exterior exuberance. That stance better characterizes our Brothers Andre and Leander inside and outside of church.

Saint Benedict tells his monks that during Lent they should “await Holy Easter with the joy of spiritual longing” (Rule of Saint Benedict, chapter 49).

May the joy of spiritual longing shine in all our hearts this Lenten Spring, 2021.

Abbot Christian and the monks

March 7th: New Mexico Skies

At an elevation of 6,500 feet above sea level, the majesty of the sky above us never ceases to amaze. The “air is rarer,” as they say, and the clouds at times seen within easy reach.

We are now in the time between the last full moon of winter, which occurred on February 27th, and the arrival of the Spring equinox at the next full moon, on Palm Sunday, March 28th this year. Easter Sunday follows on April 4th.
The waxing and waning of the moon is a reflection of our own lives under God’s watchful care. Good times and bad, light and darkness, cold and heat, life and death– none of it is absent from nor unimportant in God’s eyes.
May we all have the grace to realize and experience God’s love and care as we walk in the midst of desert beauty, wherever that may be.
Blessed continuation of the Lenten Spring.
Abbot Christian and the monks

March 6th: Hints of Spring

While an indoor plant, our Peace Lily pictured below is blooming in the refectory. This is an indicator to us that Spring cannot be too far off.
The several beautuful Christmas Cacti we have in the corridor on the way to church are beginning to wane, but Amarillas are quickly competing for attention; another sign of Spring on its way.
While much of New Mexico and the great American Southwest in general are experiencing drought conditions, with minimal snow and rainfall for some years now, we carry on and pray for an increase of moisture to these lands.

March 5th: Fun in the Sun

Below, one of our many hens is enjoying the currently spring-like weather in this part of Northern New Mexico. However, the climate can quickly change at this time of year, with no guarantee of “full speed ahead” toward Spring and Summer. Snow may in fact reappear this month and next, though it will melt fast as the earth warms up.

Each first Friday of the month the monks have a “desert day,” as we call it. There is no obligatory work period that day, with extra time to rest, read, pray, exercise and walk in solitude.

Throughout the desert day we have Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in church, with brothers spending an hour at a time before the Blessed Sacrament, from after morning Mass until Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 5:35 pm, followed by Vespers.

We keep all of you, our relatives, friends and benefactors in our daily prayers, and especially so on our March desert day.

Please pray for us as well. Thank you for your part in our lives. It makes all the difference.

Abbot Christian and the monks

March 4th: Lenten Conferenes

We have just had two evenings of Lenten conferences via Zoom, given by Sister Margaret Michael Gillis, a Daughter of Saint Paul. Sister came here a few years ago for conferences on Saint Paul, but this year we had to settle for “almost here” via Zoom.

Sister Margaret Michael spoke on March 2nd on the theme of “Rich in Hope,” based on Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans, chapter 15, verse 30.

On March 3rd, Sister used a verse from Saint Paul’s Letter to Ephesians, chapter 3, verse 21 as the springboard for her conference, “To Him Be Glory.”

We appreciate Sister Margaret Michael for her good words and ready humor in the midst of this annual Lenten journey with Christ in the desert.

Sister serves in Saint Louis, Missouri as Postulant Director for her Pauline religious community.

February 3rd: Stella Caeli

Every day after our midday meal we monks chant the hymn, “Stella Caeli,” to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
This Latin song is anonymous, but comes from the 14th century, composed during the time of the Black Death in Europe. Possibly Portuguese Poor Clare nuns composed it.
The Stella Caeli invokes the help of Mary to drive away the pestilence of plague and the harm it causes, that all people may be unharmed in time of distress.
Of course the hymn is particularly appropriate as our world continues to deal with covid-19, the healing of those who have been infected and the vaccine against it to as many people and as soon as is humanly possible.
We also recall those who have died, that they may be led by the angels to Heaven.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, all the angels and saints, intercede on our behalf before the God of all.

March 2nd: Renewal of Vows

On Sunday evening, February 28th, our Brother Martin de Porres renewed for another year his simple or temporary vows in the presence of Abbot Christian and the community. This simple ceremony takes place in our chapter (meeting) room.

In addition to doing studies online, Brother Martin de Porres takes care of our poultry flock and assists with various maintenance projects.
Brother Martin de Porres is faithful to the common life, especially daily Mass and the Divine Office.
Please pray for Brother Martin de Porres and all our brothers who are in the time of formation here, leading to solemn vows.

"Let everyone that comes be received as Christ."

— The Rule of St. Benedict

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