Monastery News

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September 1st: Mexico Pilgrimage 

This week Abbot Christian and Brother Leander are in Mexico, attending the ordination to the priesthood of our Brother Gregorio of the  Monastery of Santa Maria y Todos Los Santos near Jalapa, Verzcruz, Mexico.. The Monastery of Santa Maria y Todos Los Santos (Saint Mary and All The Saints) is a dependent monastery of Christ in the Desert.
Brother Gregorio was ordained a deacon in Rome, having done his studies there, and now ready for priestly ordination at the cathedtal of Jalapa this Saturday, September 3rd. The Archbishop of Jalapa, the Most Reverend Jorge Carlos Patron Wong, will confer the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
When we monks travel to Mexico, we always try to visit the Benedictine Sisters of San Benito Monastery, near the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
Today’s photo is of Sister Sandra of San Benito Monastery and our Brother Leander. We have known Sister Sandra and her community for many decades and are always privileged to pray and visit with the Benedictine Sisters.
Your prayers are asked for the various Benedictine communities of monks and nuns in Mexico, and especially for Brother Gregorio and all who will attend his ordination on Saturday. Thank you. And please pray for pilgrim monks Christian and Leander.
Abbot Christian and the monks

August 24th: New Guest

For some weeks now, we have had a fledgling robin residing in our cloister garden. While that is not particularly unusual in itself, what is unusual in this case is that the bird can’t fly! It simply hops along the lawn of our garden or hides amid the flowers. No fuss, no muss, just a quiet presence in our midst. The bird almost embodies the monastic saying: the goal is not speed, but silence.
Fittingly enough, the robin has been dubbed “Rob” by a number of the monks. It demonstrates little or no fear of us its hosts, and doesn’t mind being photographed.
There is a lesson here for everyone. What lesson can you draw from the young robin on our lawn?
Abbot Christian and the monks

August 20th: Silent Tranquility

Our monastic community recently watched an excellent two hour documentary on the life and work of the late George Nakashima, architect and furniture maker. He was the architect of our monastery church and Guesthouse, as well as designer of our refectory tables.
The not-to-be-missed 2020 documentary is called “George Nakashima: Woodworker.”
More information about seeing the documentary can be found at:
George’s love of nature, and of trees and wood in particular, is summed up beautifully in his phrase: “silent tranquility.” Deeply religious, Nakashima saw the hand of God at work in creation and wanted to show forth the “glory of God” by crafting beautiful yet functional objects to be enjoyed by people.
We are blessed to be friends of George’s descendants and encourage all to visit the Nakashima Studios and compound in New Hope, Pennsylvania, land of many trees and people devoted to carrying on the legacy of George Nakashima, who lived from 1905 to 1990.
Abbot Christian and the monks

August 16th: Roses

For the moment, afternoon rains have ceased, but they have caused the several rose bushes in our cloister garden to blossom nicely. Today’s photo attests to that.
The road leading to the Monastery, Forest Service Road 151, remains dry, so our guests and visitors are able to cross without issue.
We like to remind the brothers (and guests) to traverse the road at a moderate speed, since it is basically a single lane road with turnouts. That means meeting cars coming in the opposite direction needs to be done carefully and never at breakneck speed. In the 1960s we were taught to drive “defensively,” not aggressively. It still holds true.
Many people these days are concluding their summer holidays, and students are returning to school or preparing to do so shortly. We offer prayers for a successful school year ahead.
May God bless us all, as Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” concludes the tale.
Abbot Christian and the monks

August 14th: The Oratory

What most often is called the “the church” or “the choir,” Saint Benedict simply calls “the Oratory,” that is, the place where his monks are to gather throughout the day, every day, to worship God and sing the praises of God in the Divine Office, the “Opus Dei” or the “Work of God,” the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours, as well as the daily Conventual Mass.
Since our 50th anniversary of our founding, celebrated in 2014, our monastic church has been blessed to have beautiful wooden choir stalls, the traditional “furniture” of a monastery’s Oratory, where the monks sit, stand and kneel during the chanting of the Mass and Offices.
While the entire monastic community comes together for Mass and the Divine Office, monks (and guests) are free to arrive early, stay after services or come into church when they wish, simply to pray and to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, perpetually reserved in the tabernacle.
Our monastery church is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, the “Forerunner of the Lord,” whose major feast is celebrated each year on June 24th. The Monastery of Christ in the Desert began on June 24, 1964, so we look forward to celebrating our 60th anniversary in 2024.
In meantime, be assured of our daily prayers, for all our families, many friends, benefactors and oblates.
In today’s photo, our Brother Isidore, a faithful attendee at all our liturgical gatherings, is pictured in his choir stall, as they are called, in the Monastery Oratory.
Abbot Christian and the monks

August 12th: The Less Traveled Road

Christian monasticism has been around for centuries, over one thousand five hundred years, in fact. It has waxed and waned with the passing of time, with high points and low, good times and bad. Fewer today are choosing the monastic path than fifty, seventy or eighty years ago. Communities today tend to be smaller and often older than in the past.
Some might ask: is there a future for the consecrated religious life, and specifically monasticism?
There is no reason to believe that monastic life is coming to an end any time soon, and that those who live it, young or old, should continue to be faithful in seeking God, to persevere and never lose hope in God’s abiding presence, through thick and thin, day in and day out.
Saint Benedict asks that his monks hear the words of Psalm 94 every morning at the beginning of Vigils: “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.”
There is the essence of every vocation, inside or out of the cloister: being attentive to the God who has called us to life, and thereby finding the meaning of life. Choosing to follow God makes all the difference and there can be no better path to take.
Greetings and prayers.
Abbot Christian and the monks

August 10th: Roll Call

Well, not exactly, but the chickens do come running whenever the Abbot opens his door to Abbotsfield, where the chickens roam all day. The feathered friends are always eager for a handout. As one of our guests recently quipped: chickens are always hungry!
Our flock of hens and one rooster has recently expanded with the hatching of twenty-one chicks here over the past few weeks. A number of the young are on the fence in today’s photo, trying not to look like little vultures, but they can’t help it!
We are currently getting about two dozen eggs per day, which are served hard boiled to monks and guests each morning. We usually enjoy scrambled eggs one day a week at our midday meal as well.
We continue to get rain nearly every day, but none of it as powerful as last Sunday’s afternoon deluge that caused flooding in our buildings. See our News Page of August 9th for more details.
For all who may be traveling, vacationing or preparing to return to school, we offer our special prayers for safety and peace. To all our families and friends, many greetings and prayers as well. Please keep us in your prayers. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

August 9th: Hail

In a matter of minutes this past Sunday afternoon, August 7th, we were inundated with tremendous amounts of rain and hail. Today’s photo, taken in our cloister garden the day after the storm, shows some of the results of the recent downpour.
What does not appear in today’s photo is the flooding that occurred in our refectory, kitchen and the corridor leading from the church to the refectory. The rain and hail came so fast and furiously that our drainage ditches couldn’t handle the volume. As a result, the raging water and accompanying mud jumped the embankment and poured through an inadvertently open door in the refectory and landed in our buildings.
Clean up efforts continue, and life will be back to normal shortly. Brother David and his crew of monks and guests are doing a great job. All hail!
We are definitely in the monsoon season and grateful for the moisture, but we can always do without flooding! Forest Service Road 151 leading to the Monastery remains passable. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended during the rainy season.
Greetings and prayers.
Abbot Christian and the monks

From the Rising to the Setting of the Sun

Sometimes monastic life is defined as an “infinity of little hours.” More often than not,  nothing great or spectacular occurs in our lives, but on we go, day by day, week by week, year by year. Isn’t this the reality for all of us, monks or not?
The concept of “an infinity of little hours” is not meant to upset or depress us, but it is a call to be attentive to the present, make the most of it, and even find God amidst the pots and pans, as Carmelites Saint Teresa of Avila and Brother Lawrence described the matter of “finding God in the ordinary.”
We do not live in the expectation of visions or levitating above the earth, but simply living as best we can in whatever is our vocation.
Today’s photo was taken at twilight a few days ago in the Chama Canyon wilderness where we live. Here it is often easy to perceive the grandeur of God in nature that surrounds us.
To all, a blessed week ahead and be assured of our prayers. Please keep us in yours.
Abbot Christian and the monks

August 3rd: Not New Mexico

Today’s photo bears a striking resemblance to places in New Mexico, including White Sands National Park, but in fact the photo was taken in a place far, far away from the Land of Enchantment.

One of our young brothers is visiting his family, for the first time in five years, and had a chance to visit the coast in recent days. And where was that? Vietnam!
God’s creation is a wonderful reminder that we are surrounded by beauty all over the world. May we take better care of “Our Common Home,” as it is often called, and never cease to thank God for all good gifts we are given, surpassing monetary value, and which easily lift our hearts to praise of the Creator.
With our greetings and prayers and grateful for yours,
Abbot Christian and the monks

July 31st: Abundant Rain

We are rejoicing in the return of rain after its long absence. That doesn’t mean the drought in this part of the country has ended, but it does mean that relief has arrived in the form of moisture. May it continue! Our fields are green and the gardens of flowers and bushes are also thriving.
At the same time, Forest Service Road 151 leading to the Monastery has not be adversely affected by the rains. We are very grateful that guests coming for private retreats as well as day visitors and pilgrims are able to get in and out of the Monastery without problems.
To all who are traveling these days or on vacation breaks, may you stay safe and healthy, and as parents might tell their children, at least in ages past: don’t forget to say your prayers.
Be assured of our prayers.
Abbot Christian and the monks

July 29th: Monastery Gardens

Typically, monastery gardens are important spaces that are semi or completely cultivated, adding beauty to the property where monks live and receive their guests.
Some monastery gardens are hidden from public view, such as where the monks have their living quarters. Other gardens, such as the one pictured today, are for the enjoyment of those on private retreat or who come as day visitors.
One of our guests recently trimmed the box hedges in our “Pope Saint John Paul II Meditation Garden,” just outside our monastery church.
We are continuing to get rain, almost daily, and deeply grateful for the good it is doing to the earth.
May all on vacation or traveling these days be kept safe and peaceful in this Summer season that seems to be going far too fast! Soon it will be August.
With assurance of our prayers and please keep us in yours. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

July 24th: All Hands On Deck

Our second oldest monk, Father Bernard, who turns 91 on July 30th, delights in meeting up on a regular basis with our flock of chickens. They come running when Father Bernard appears, and stay around him for the duration of his visit.
The re-introduction of livestock to our life has added a wonderful dimension to our monastic journey. Living alongside God’s creatures great and small: horses, sheep, poultry, bees and a donkey, is a positive way to tune out of unnecessary technology and take delight in simpler things, finding there blessings from God, for young and old alike.
Long live our agricultural endeavors!
Abbot Christian and monks

July 20th: Monsoon Season

For a glimpse of our typical rainy season afternoon downpours, please view today’s video clip, taken a few days ago. While it might look a tropical storm that could last for hours, our rains ususally come fast and furiously, but typically only last fifteen, twenty or thirty minutes.
Moisture in any form and for however long is much needed and appreciated at this time.The rains of late are certainly warding off the chance of forest fires, and the monsoon season normally extends throughout July and August.
Forest Service Road 151 leading the Monastery is currently dry, so day visitors and retreatants are able to get in and out.
With this comes our greetings and prayers.
Abbot Christian and the monks

July 18th: Green Grass

Here are some appropriate quotes to accompany today’s photo of the very green grass in our cloister garden. Recent rains have done wonders.
Thirteenth century Dominican friar and Bishop, Saint Albert the Great said: “Nothing refreshes the sight so much as fine short grass.”
The medieval monk Hugh of Fouilloy said: “The green turf which is in the middle of the material cloister refreshes cloistered eyes and their desire to study returns.”
Modern writer on monasticism, Daniele Cybulskie has written: “Garths provided green space in the center of the cloister to allow monks to refresh themselves in nature and to walk with other brethren.”
We are grateful for our cloister garden, where tall trees and short grass, a variety of flowers and many birds give us joy and peace of heart.
Be assured of our prayers and please pray for us.  Thank you.
Abbot Christian and the monks

July 17th: Saturday Sunset

If a picture still paints a thousand words,  today’s photo proves the point.
“The heaven’s proclaim the glory of God,” Psalm 18 tells us, and the Chama Canyon where we live has to be one of the most gorgeous places on earth. Of course, we are biased, but also rarely, if ever, disappointed by the displays of color, light, sound and smell in our Alpine- desert setting.
As another Psalm says: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your Name give the glory.” That summarizes so well what we feel in this locale.
Blessed Sunday and week ahead to all.
Be assured of our prayers and please keep us in yours. Thank you.
To all those on vacation and who may be traveling, enjoy your time and stay safe and healthy. Stay hydrated also!
Abbot Christian and the monks

July 11th: Solemnity of Saint Benedict

Today is the great feastday of Saint Benedict, considered to be the Founder of Western Monasticism. The famous Rule for Monks that Saint Benedict wrote around 540 AD is still being followed by many thousands of monks, nuns and oblates around the world.
Some of the honorific titles given to Saint Benedict over the centuries since his death (about 547 AD) include the following, with the Latin title, then its English translation:
Pacis nuntius (Messenger of Peace)
Unitatis effector (Architect of Unity)
Civilis cultus magister (Teacher of Culture and Civilization)
Religionis Christianae praeco (Herald of the Christian Faith)
Patronus totius Europae (Patron of the Whole of Europe)
Today’s photo is of an image of Saint Benedict in the monastery church at La Soledad, Atotonilco, Mexico.
A blessed celebration of Saint Benedict! May he and his sister Saint Scholastica intercede for us all.

Abbot Christian and the monks

July 7th: Father Luis Regalado, OSB (1943 – 2022)

Today was the Requiem Mass and burial in our cemetery of our dear confrere, Father Luis Regalado, who died on June 28th at the age of 79. He was born on June 20th, 1943, and died on June 28th, 2022.
Father Luis was a faithful and gentle monk and priest, and will be missed by all who knew him.
Father of the Church, Saint John Chrysostom, had this to say about the mystery of death:
“Those whom we love and lose are no longer where they were before, they are now wherever we are.”
Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of God’s Kingdom!
May the angels lead Father Luis into Paradise!
Abbot Christian and the monks

July 6th: Birds of a Feather

Several birds’ nests on our property, not so much in trees as in high beams of our portals, are yielding fledglings. They will soon fly away, of course, but are enjoyable to watch in the meantime. A group of four is featured in today’s photo.
As children we were taught never to touch birds in a nest, so as to prevent the mother bird from rejecting her young. I don’t know if this is in fact true or not.
Recent rains have made the Chama Canyon where we live green once again. We are now in the monsoon season, continuing to pray for rain, and hoping for the best. Much more rainfall is needed in the great Southwest.
The National Forest around us is open to the public once again, and we see an increase in day visitors and pilgrims, as well as retreatants to the Guesthouse.
With this message comes a promise of our prayers and greetings. Please pray for us. Thank you.
Abbot Christian and monks

July 4th: Independence Day 

How do monks, at least of Christ in the Desert, celebrate United States Independence Day?
On that day, we begin the Office of Vigils at 5:00 am, an hour later than usual. Vigils ends at 6:00 am, then Lauds is prayed at 6:30 am, followed by the Conventual Mass. Mass is over at about 7:45, when one can take some time for breakfast, exercise, reading and generally preparing for the day ahead.
At 9:00 am we pray the Office of Terce, then the work period begins (cooking, cleaning, office work, bookkeeping, farm work, crafts, etc.), ending at 12:30 pm.
At 1:00 pm we pray the Office of Sext then the monks gather in the cloister garden for a picnic lunch “al fresco,” with typical American fare, including paper plates.
We have a break after lunch until Vespers at 6:00 pm, followed by the evening meal in silence after. Compline is prayed at 7:15 pm, and thus the end of the day.
May all our families, friends, benefactors and oblates, near and far, have a blessed day of giving thanks to God for the gift of freedom, which is of course a gift from God.
Today’s photo is of roses from our cloister garden.
Abbot Christian and the monks

"Let everyone that comes be received as Christ."

— The Rule of St. Benedict

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