Monastery News

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November 11th: Saint Benedict’s Cave

Some forty-five miles from Rome, at Subiaco, Saint Benedict began his monastic journey around the year 500. His life as a hermit eventually blossomed into a community, then many communities, that to the present follow the “Rule for Monasteries,” composed by Saint Benedict.
Today, on every inhabited continent of the world (which means, not on Antarctica), men and women, young and old, “seek God” according to the Benedictine way, as monks and nuns, oblates and those with less formal connections to our monasteries.
Christ is the Desert is among the “younger” monasteries in the world, founded nearly sixty years ago, which will be celebrated next June 24th.
Only one of the original founders of Christ in the Desert is still alive, now as a retired priest in the Bay Area of California. The rest of our founders, and a number of monks that followed them, have reached the end of their earthy sojourn. May the angels lead them all into Paradise!
November is traditionally the month of praying for all faithful departed. On November 13th we recount the death in 1984 of our Founder and first Prior, Father Aelred Wall. Next year will be the fortieth anniversary of his death and we continue to be deeply grateful for his zeal and  the efforts he took in beginning this monastery.
At this time we remember in prayer all who have gone before us “marked with the sign of faith,” as the Catholic Liturgy expresses this truth.
Today’s photo was taken in the tiny cave at Subiaco where the youthful Benedict dwelt for some three years. The marble sculpture depicts Benedict in prayer inside the “Sacro Speco,” the holy cave. Saint Benedict, pray for us.
Abbot Christian and the monks

November 6th: Monastic Retreat

This week our community will be taking its annual retreat, days of greater solitude and prayer here, as well as listening to two conferences each day, one in the morning and one in the evening.
Our retreat-giver this year is Brother Ernest Miller, FSC, a member of the Order usually known as the Christian Brothers.
Brother Ernest’s theme for the retreat is: “In Unity with the Holy Spirit: ‘renew the face of the earth.'”
Please keep us in your prayers as we take the “pause that refreshes” and heed more fully the Lord’s call to “Come, follow me.” Thank you for your prayers.
Our Guesthouse is closed this week, but visitors are welcome during the day and the church is open for private prayer.
The Giftshop will be closed Monday the 6th, but open the rest of the week, from approximately 10:00 am to 3:30 pm.
A blessed week to all. You will especially be in our prayers during these days of retreat.
Abbot Christian and the monks

November 1st: Last Leaves

As the Solemnity of All Saints on November 1st and the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed on November 2nd are being celebrated these day, we bid adieu to the glory of Autumn’s colors and begin to prepare for winter.
For us monks, the daily routine does not change in the winter months, but we will be doing less outdoor work and concentrating more on cleaning, crafts, maintenance and even shoveling snow, if we are blessed with that in the coming months.
Our Guesthouse stays occupied and the number of those making retreats here is even higher than before the pandemic. This seems to be the experience of many other monasteries as well.
We now limit the number of guests at any one time to fifteen, to keep a hopefully recollected spirit of retreat for those coming here. We are always edified by the good zeal of our guests by their attendance at Mass and the Divine Office.
May all those who are near and dear to us receive many blessings from the Lord and consolation for all who recount departed loved ones at this time.
Be assured of our prayers and please keep us in yours. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

October 22nd: Autumn Splendor

With Autumn now in full swing, we are being treated to a very splendid display of color in the Chama Canyon wilderness.
Today’s photo was taken by one of our monks  traversing Forest Service Road 151 that leads to the Monastery. The thirteen mile “driveway” is always a “scenic route,” and especially so at this time of year.
Our annual appeal for the purchase of propane for heating in the Winter is going very well and we are grateful beyond words for the generosity of our friends. Thank you from the heart!
Winters can be cold here and heating is needed in our buildings, including the church, refectory, lobby, monks’ cells, the main Guesthouse, Ranch House, Giftshop, Laundry, various work and class rooms and more. We will survive the coming months!
We are doing well, thanks be to God, enjoying pleasant weather, though continuing to pray for rain, of which we are always in need.
With this comes our greetings and assurance of our prayers for the needs and intentions of all our families, friends, benefactors and oblates. Please keep us in your prayers. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

October 20th: Ceaseless Amazement

As days grow shorter and temperatures cooler, we are being treated to some stunning night skies. Every season in the Chama Canyon wilderness has its beauty, and especially so during the months of Autumn.
Abbot Christian has completed his days abroad, after the conclusion of the Provincial Chapter at Subiaco Abbey in Italy and two days spent at Thien Tam (Sacred Heart) Benedictine Monastery near Kerens, Texas, a now independent monastery founded by Christ in the Desert in 2009.
Following the death of Prior Dominic Nguyen of Thien Tam on Christmas Day last year, Abbot Christian was assigned by our Abbot President in Rome to assist the monks in moving forward and to prepare for the election of a new Prior there in 2024.
The Sacred Heart community is composed of twelve professed monks and two novices. They are doing well, thanks be to God. Like Christ in the Desert, the Texas monastery has its primary focus on prayer and hospitality.
With the rest of the world, we are praying for peace in lands struggling with conflict and war. May the Lord help us in this endeavor.
Abbot Christian and the monks

October 18: Tre Fontane Abbey

A very austere but beautiful monastic church on the outskirts of Rome is the Cistercian Trappist Abbey of “Tre Fontane,” two words which mean “three fountains.”
Tradition holds that this was the place where Saint Paul was beheaded in the First Century A.D. When martyred, Saint Paul’s head is said to have bounced three times, from which sprung up three fountains of water. A smaller, separate church and shrine at Tre Fontane, was built centuries ago over the place of the three fountains. It is understandably a place frequently visited by pilgrims to Rome.
The Cistercian Order of came to the site in the 12th century and have been there ever since. The present church was dedicated in 1221, not long after the Cistercians Order was founded in France in 1098.
Today a small community of Cistercian Trappist monks and a likewise a small community of Cisterican Trappist nuns, who live on the same property, share the daily Mass and Divine Office in the abbey church.
This recent arrangement at Tre Fontane, of monks and nuns collaborating at the same monastery, is one of the ways European religious communities have come up with in order to carry on when new vocations are far fewer than in times past. It seems to be working well at Tre Fontane.
Abbot Christian and our Father Gregorio, who is studying in Rome, were able to visit Tre Fontane on Saturday, October 14th, and joined the two monastic communities for prayer in the abbey church at midday. At that time the metal grate visible in today’s photo is opened, and visitors are welcome to be seated in the pews closer to the monastic choir stalls and altar.
Abbot Christian and the monks

October 14th: Subiaco Abbey

This past week Abbot Christian and seventeen other abbots, Priors and delegates of the monasteries of the English Province of the Subiaco Cassinese Congregation, to which Christ in the Desert belongs, met at the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Scholastica, Subiaco, Italy, some forty-five miles from Rome.

The weather couldn’t have been better for the “Provincial Chapter,” as it is officially called. In addition, the hospitality of Abbot Mauro and the monks and lay staff at Subiaco was superb.

It was at Subiaco that Saint Benedict began his monastic life in a cave, around the year 500 AD. Today, Subiaco is one of the most beautiful shrines in Europe and the home to some twenty-five monks.

It was also at Subiaco that Saint Benedict inaugurated his first full-fledged monastery and several satellite communities before eventually moving to Montecassino, where he died in 547 AD.

The recent Provincial Chapter of the English Province was an opportunity for fraternal exchange and sharing news of the fifteen monasteries represented at the gathering, as well as preparing for the next General Chapter of the entire Subiaco Cassinese Congregation, which will occur in Spain during part of the month September, 2024.

Following the General Chapter of our Congregation next year, which will be at the Benedictine Abbey of Montserrat in Spain, there will be a Congress of all the Benedictine monasteries of the world, taking place in Rome.

The “many meetings” described above normally happen only every four years. The pandemic threw the usual scheduling off, but we Benedictines should be “back on track” for scheduled gatherings in the Fall of 2024.

Today’s photo was taken by Abbot Christian at one of the ancient cloisters of Saint Scholastica Abbey, Subiaco.

As Saint Benedict wrote in his Rule, and still pursued by Benedictines everywhere: That in all things God may be glorified!

With this comes our prayers and greetings in the Lord,

Abbot Christian and the monks

October 5th: Morning Light

We continue to enjoy mild temperatures and even some rain. The many cottonwood trees in the Chama canyon are slowly turning, always to a golden color, and shimmering in the sun with the occasional breeze.
This week we were happy to welcome five Cistercian Benedictine monks from the Diocese of San Bernardino, California, who were in the  area, especially to see the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe and the “miraculous staircase” there. The chapel is a popular destination in Santa Fe.
With this comes our greetings and prayers. Thank you for yours.
Abbot Christian and the monks

September 28th: Important Feast For Us

On this day fifty-five years ago, our Monastery church, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, was formally blessed as the place of worship for the monks of Christ in the Desert and its guests.
We keep the day as a Sunday, with more solemn celebration of the Conventual Mass and Divine Office, and a festive meal in the afternoon.
We are grateful for all our benefactors, both past and present, living and deceased, who have and still support us by their kindnesses.
Despite the decidedly cooler temperatures as we move toward October, roses are still blooming in our cloister garden, as evidenced in today’s photo.
With this comes our prayers for the needs and intentions of all of our families, friends, benefactors and oblates. Please keep us in your prayers. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

September 20th: Roses Still Blooming

Throughout the Summer months we have been enjoying roses blooming in our cloister garden. Occasionally the flowers are used to decorate in church and at other times left to be viewed “in situ,” right where they blossom.
We are staying well and keeping busy with the usual round of prayer and work, the latter both indoors and out. The weather is really pleasant at this time and it looks like it will continue for the coming days.
The road leading to the Monastery (Forest Service Road 151) is now dry and day visitors are welcome here. The church is open throughout the day and our Giftshop and Art Gallery from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Often day visitors join us for chanted prayer in church at 1:00 pm. This lasts about ten minutes and all are welcome to attend.
With this comes assurance of our prayers and we are grateful for yours.
Abbot Christian and the monks

September 19th: Welcome Rain

Of late we are getting rainfall, much needed and much appreciated. The threat of forest fires is greatly reduced now and the Chama Canyon is once again “turning green,” as it usually does in July and August.
These days we are getting various landscaping projects competed, especially outside our monastery church. Russian sage (in today’s photo) and Rose of Sharon are currently blooming on our property.
Forest Service Road 151 leading to the Monastery is muddy in places just now, but hopefully dry again shortly. Daytime temperatures are still in the mid to high
The start of Autumn is just a few days away. May it be a peaceful season for all, especially those who are harvesting fruit and produce.
Abbot Christian and the monks

September 15th: Bighorn Sheep

Not seen every day here, but more frequently than fifty years ago, Bighorn Sheep are another natural wonder in the high desert of New Mexico.
Today’s photo was taken by one of our monks while on a trip to town on September 13th. The majestic ram in the photo was fairly unfazed by Brother’s approaching for the photo. Only after the photo was taken did the ram walk (not run!) away.
Bighorn Sheep, both male and female, are several times larger than domestic sheep, such as we have on our farm. Like all wildlife, one needs to exercise prudence and caution when approaching them, but the Bighorns are not aggressive and prone to rapidly exit in the presence of humans.
In the midst of desert beauty, we never tire of the grandeur of God’s creation. All you beasts, wild and tame, praise the Lord.
Be assured of our prayers and please keep us in yours. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

September 11th: Fr Bernard Cranor, OSB, RIP

Today our dear confrere, Father Bernard Cranor, died peacefully at the Monastery . He was ninety-two years old and lived a very long and fruitful life, first for a short time as a Trappist monk in Utah, then as a Dominican friar for many years, then as a monk of Christ in the Desert the last several decades of his life.
Father Bernard was from California, born on July 30th, 1931. He professed vows as a Dominican friar on April 29th, 1953 and ordained a priest on June 9th, 1962. Subsequently he obtained Doctorate in Liturgy in Paris.
In our community He was one of our cooks,  librarian for many years, teacher in our formation program, creator of photo cards and postcards. He kept busy until the last year or so of his life.
We commend Father Bernard and all the faithful departed to your prayers. May the angels lead Father Bernard into Paradise!
Well done, good and faithful servant!
Fr Bernard’s funeral and burial at the Monastery on September 12th at 11:00 am.
Abbot Christian and the monks

Photo by Kirk Gulledge

September 8th: Summer Subsiding

We are already feeling a definite “cooling down” in the mornings, with temperatures in the mid to low 50s. By afternoon, the mercury climbs to the low 80s. To everything, there is a season.
We continue our daily round of prayer and work and welcoming people for days of private retreat of a few days or more, as well as those who come for shorter day-visits during the week.
Forest Service Road 151 leading to the Monastery remains dry and passable. The church, Giftshop and Art Gallery are open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
This has been a dry summer and we continue to pray for moisture. Our well is in no danger of drying up, but the earth can certainly use rain and later in the year, snow.
We assure of our prayers and we are grateful for yours. Visit when you can.
Abbot Christian and the monks

September 3rd: Our Blue Moon

The psalmist, writing thousands of years ago, had this to say, presumably while pondering the wonders of God’s creation:
“The heaven’s proclaim the glory of God
and the firmament shows forth the work of God’s hands.
Day unto day takes up the story
and night unto night makes known the message.” Psalm 18(19)
A few days ago, just before daylight, one of our monks captured the beauty of the moon, as seen from the Chama Canyon wilderness.
Autumn is arriving in just a few weeks. May the conclusion of Summer be peaceful for us all.
Abbot Christian and the monks

September 1st: Monks and Roses

The German Benedictine nun, Gertrude of Helfta, now known as Saint Gertrude the Great, who lived from 1256 to 1302, once made a very insightful observation about Benedictines.
One day in contemplation, Gertrude considered Saint Benedict and his followers under the symbol of a rose garden all in bloom. First, she pointed out, buds begin to sprout in Springtime, around the Feast of Saint Benedict, which occurs each year on March 21th, the first day of Spring.
With the passing of months the buds continue to grow, multiplying silently and eventually blooming gloriously in the height of Summer, as they always do in the Northern Hemisphere.
When this takes place, it seemed to Gertrude, the rose garden becomes an immense bunch of roses, bringing joy to Heaven and surrounding Holy Father Benedict with tremendous glory.
In other words, the Benedictine family spread throughout the world glorifies the Lord, having given Heaven many saints and blesseds over the centuries. Some have watered the garden by the shedding of their blood as martyrs. Other Benedictine saints were popes, and others scholars or simple monks and nuns.
Hopefully “all of us Benedictines” strive to give glory to God by our life of worship and work.
Today’s photo is of the symbolic “Benedictine roses” in our cloister garden.
Come be our guests when you can. Bienvenidos.
Abbot Christian and the monks

August 31st: Summer Sky

The days fly by, at least for us in the Chama Canyon wilderness. Summer skies hold their own beauty at this time of year, most especially at sunset.
The days are now visibly growing shorter and daytime temperatures are “only” in the mid-80s. That’s cooler than several weeks ago!
It has been a very dry “rainy season” this Summer, sorry to say, but we are thankful for the rains we have received nonetheless. Typically, the majority of out moisture for the year comes during July and August.
We continue with various and sundry maintenance and beautifying projects on our property, and are grateful to those guests on retreat who express interest in assisting us with the work. All hands on deck, as the saying goes.
September is upon us, the usual time for the beginning of the academic year. We pray for all students at this time, for a successful and fruitful year of study.
Abbot Christian and the monks

August 26th: Awaiting Rain

After a very fine downpour a week ago, we’ve seen very little rain since. Some days appear promising with regard to moisture, as in today’s photo, but then nothing comes of it. In any case, we keep praying for more rain.
We continue indoor and outdoor projects to beautify our grounds. Our fairly recently planted “Veritas Apple Orchard” and “Mary’s Berry Patch” have now been thoroughly weeded and show promise of bearing fruit eventually.
Some of our storage places have been better organized and “weeded out” as well. In addition, fallen branches from Scrub Oak trees on our property have been removed.
Maintenance is an ongoing endeavor and fortunately we have “monk power” and generous guests to tackle various and sundry projects each morning during our work period, Monday through Saturday, from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm.
We keep all our families, friends, benefactors and oblates in our prayers and are grateful for yours.
Abbot Christian and the monks

August 20th: Fruits of Rain

We are finally getting some rain and are very grateful for the gift. Roses are blooming in the cloister garden and Easter lilies are lining up nicely for a third flowering. The first was at Eastertime, the second was in late Spring, and now the third in mid-Summer.
One recent afternoon downpour caused some serious washouts along Forest Service Road 151, leading to the Monastery, but repairs have already occurred and the road is dry again.
We are now getting vocational inquiries from some  American men, and some are making preliminary visits here to see our life more closely. We pray that some may eventually enter for further discernment and formation as Benedictine monks. Please pray for all those men and women discerning a call to religious and monastic life at this time. Thank you.
Be assured of our prayers for your needs and intentions.
Blessed new week now beginning.
Abbot Christian and the monks

August 18th: Community Recreation

Each Tuesday and Thursday evenings the monks gather for about 20 minutes for a period of “recreation,” as it is called in monastic culture. The time consists of simply relaxing and speaking, enjoying one another’s company in what is usually lively conversation. We have recently remodled one of our classrooms near the church to be the place for recreation periods. It seems to be working well.
Today’s photo includes our youngest and oldest brothers, ranging in ages from twenty-six and ninety-two years old.
In the days of yore, they used to say: “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” In our context it might be modified to “all work, prayer and reading and no play makes the monk a dull man.”
At the conclusion of recreation we go to church for the Office of Compline, the final prayer of the day.
Abbot Christian and the monks.

"Let everyone that comes be received as Christ."

— The Rule of St. Benedict

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