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We have been greatly blessed this week with the presence of Sr. Fatima Aphiri, a Sister of Our Lady of Sorrows, Lafayette, Louisiana, a teacher and formator in her religious community. Sr. Fatima is giving us lectures on the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and how the experience of Mary is a model for us in our Christian and monastic life. Sister is originally from Zimbabwe, Africa, but a Resident of the USA for many years.
Today is the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (center icon in our church).
Later this month, on June 24th, we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist (icon on the left), principal patron of our monastery.
On July 11th, we keep the Solemnity of Our Holy Father Saint Benedict (icon on the right).
These sacred images in our monastery church are daily reminders to us at the Monastery and those who come here, of the importance of the saints in our Christian journey, and especially the intercession and examples of Mary, the Mother of God, Saint John the Baptist and Holy Father Saint Benedict. May they intercede for us all!
Almost always candles are burning before the three sacred images, which are lit by guests and pilgrims to ask the prayers of these great saints of the Church.
A Simpler Pilgrimage with Prior Christian Leisy, O.S.B. Dates: September 26 – 30, 2016
Many pilgrimages are long and exotic, to distant lands and wonderful destinations. That is terrific, but I am proposing a less exotic but equally wonderful pilgrimage, closer to home and not too taxing, for friends of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert.
Where to, you may wonder? None other than to my home state, Oregon, and to three worthwhile and lovely pilgrimage sites:
- The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, run by the Order of Servants of Mary (usually called Servites), located in the city of Portland.
- The Benedictine Abbey of Mount Angel, just 40 miles from Portland.
- The Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe, also just 40 miles from Portland.
Though one of the “least-churched” states in the entire country, Oregon is also blessed with three wonderful and beautiful Catholic pilgrimage places, all in or near the city of Portland.
The pilgrimage, then, is not a “tour of Portland” or the Oregon coast (you may wish to do that on your own before or after the pilgrimage), but a spiritual odyssey, celebrating Holy Mass together each day, as well as praying some of the Divine Office, and really taking time to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” while visiting these three sacred sites that are dear to me personally and presumably for those who join in the pilgrimage, even if you’ve been to one or more of the sites already.
To make it manageable, the pilgrimage will be limited to 18 adults (our Brother Benedict Hall will be #19 and I’ll be #20), first come first served, who will meet in Portland, Oregon, on Monday, September 26th, 2016, staying at the Howard Johnson Portland Airport Hotel, right across from the Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother (popularly called “The Grotto”), just 2.5 miles from the Portland International Airport, but a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the city. Pilgrims arriving in Portland earlier can easily walk over to The Grotto for a “first look.”
On Tuesday morning we will visit “The Grotto” as a group for a personal tour of this exquisite sanctuary, a pilgrimage destination for many, with a Holy Door in the Archdiocese of Portland in this “Year of Mercy.”
Tour guide at The Grotto will be its Creative Director, an old friend of mine who has worked there for 25 years. We will celebrate Holy Mass at The Grotto, have quiet time for prayer in the upper or lower gardens and chapels, lunch together and return to the hotel (across the street!) when we wish.
Wednesday morning will be a trip to Mount Angel Abbey, another Oregon treasure, 40 miles south of Portland, where Benedictine monks have prayed and worked since the late 1800’s. This is also where Abbot Philip and I first entered monastic life. The same basic format at Mount Angel Abbey as at The Grotto: visit the church, lovely grounds and the famous Alvar Alto library, celebrate Holy Mass, have lunch, some time for personal prayer inside church or out, and return to Portland and the hotel when we wish.
On Thursday morning we will visit to the beautiful Trappist Abbey in the “wine country” of the Willamette Valley, near the town of Lafayette, with a format as on the previous two days. These monks moved en masse from Pecos, New Mexico, to their new home in Oregon in 1955.
On Friday, September 30, the pilgrimage ends. Fly home that day or as you choose.
To keep things simple, pilgrims will make their own travel arrangements to and from Portland (Southwest Airlines is likely the best was to fly from NM and TX), as well as arranging lodging, at the Howard Johnson Portland Airport Hotel (503-256-4111), right across the street from “The Grotto” entrance. Free shuttle from airport to hotel, which is just 2.5 miles from the airport.
We will normally try to dine together in modest places, with pilgrims paying their own tabs. Breakfast will be provided at the hotel.
The other request is a $200 per pilgrim (or $300 per couple) donation to the Monastery of Christ in the Desert for us two monks’ travel expenses and some income for the Monastery.
We will also need to pool resources to pay for transportation to and from Mount Angel and the Trappist Abbey, presumably by two vans. None of the three pilgrimage destinations require entrances fees, (though a small admission for Upper Level at The Grotto), but all of them have book and gift shops!
When? September 26 (arrival day) – September 30 (departure day), 2016.
Can we expect you? Email Fr Christian at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please don’t book flights until you hear from me that there are still openings. If “too many” sign up, we can consider a second pilgrimage in October or in 2017.
If time and energy permits, we could also take a look at two local historic and beautiful sites:
- The former Providence Academy in Vancouver, WA, and the former Precious Blood Monastery in Portland, close to where we’ll be lodging.
The three main pilgrimage destinations have websites, so you can have a closer look at what we will see there.
Prior Christian Leisy, OSB
Monastery of Christ in the Desert
Abiquiu, New Mexico
The Sisters of the Assumption from Kenya are taking root in nearby Chama, Tierra Amarilla and Los Ojos, NM, not far from our Monastery. Sister Josephine Wafula is preparing the way for other members of her flourishing community to minister as teachers, catechists and retreat givers in the parishes and their missions that comprise the Valley north of us, off Highway 84.
A recent donation of a used car to the sisters led Sister Josephine to ask the monks to bless the vehicle and Prior Christian did the honors on May 15, Pentecost Sunday.
Please pray for the important ministry of the Sisters of the Assumption in our Archdiocese of Santa Fe.
Ad multos annos.
On May 12 -13, our Prior Christian Leisy and Brother Dominic Paulraj paid a fraternal visit to the Benedictine monks at Guadalupe Abbey, Pecos, New Mexico, about ninety miles from us, but also in our Archdiocese of Santa Fe.
Our two monasteries have been friends for many years and as the Pecos monks, belonging to the Benedictine Congregation of Monte Oliveto, continue to adopt a more classic Benedictine life, centered on prayer in common (the Divine Office) and prayer in solitude as well as hospitality to retreatants and pilgrims, we find we have more and more in common. They are also getting some new vocations and this is an encouraging sign as well.
The Pecos Prior, Father Aidan Gore, originally from Wales in Great Britain, and our Prior Christian, from Portland, Oregon, were born just four days apart, in December of 1952.
May God bless Prior Aidan and his band of brothers under the care of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas.
Left to right: Helen Hall (sister of D Benedict), Abbot Philip,
D Benedict Hall, Jane Jackson (friend of D Benedict).
From April 17 – 22, we were honored to have with us the monastic scholar, Father Luke Anderson, of the Order of Cistercians. Father Luke is Prior of Saint Mary’s Monastery in New Ringgold, Pennsylvania, and a friend of ours for a number of years and first visited here some years ago.
Father Luke spoke to our community twice each day while here and his excellent lectures included reflections on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and we prepare again for Pentecost. He also spoke on the place of obedience in our lives as monks.
Father Luke covered a wide range of topics as the week progressed and kept us rapt with his wonderful stories from his many years of monastic life.
We are very grateful for the enrichment brought to us by monks like Father Luke. May God bless him for his kindness to us and assisting us in our journey in the Benedictine way.
“This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice in it and be glad.” Psalm 117(118):24
With our prayers and greetings,
Abbot Philip and the Monks of Christ in the Desert
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (March 20th),
Mass (Holy Eucharist) at 9:15 am.
Holy Thursday (March 24th), Evening Mass of the
Lord’s Supper (Holy Eucharist) at 5:00 pm.
Good Friday (March 25th), Outdoor Stations of the
Cross (Via Crucis) at 2:00 pm (Meet in Church).
Main Liturgy of Good Friday in church at 3:30 pm.
Easter Sunday (March 27th), Solemn Vigils of the
Lord’s Resurrection with Mass (Holy Eucharist) at 3:00 am.
Day Mass (Holy Eucharist) of Easter at 11:00 am.
The public is welcome to attend these services.
A venerable practice during the season of Lent is praying the Way of the Cross, also called the Via Crucis or Stations of the Cross. The devotion is a way to recount the suffering and death of the Lord on Good Friday, meditating on various stages of Jesus being condemned and crucified out of love for the human race.
On our website we have a visual following of the Way of the Cross, using our outdoor stations here at the Monastery.
Please visit our Way of the Cross on this website.
While in Houston, Texas, this week on Monastery business, our Prior Christian Leisy and Father Simeon Cook had the opportunity to attend Sunday Mass on February 28th at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham, which belongs to the Catholic Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter.
Recently appointed by the Vatican, Bishop Steven J. Lopes heads the Ordinariate. The welcoming and very liturgically-oriented Catholic parish has strong ties with its roots in the monastic-cathedrals of Great Britain and has built a beautiful complex in Houston.
See the website for the Ordinariate, which encompasses parishes in the United States and Canada: www.olwcatholic.org
As the season of Lent is upon us, and now well under way, we “look forward to Easter with the joy of spiritual longing,” as our holy Father Saint Benedict of Nursia describes this season in his chapter, “On the Observance of Lent,” in the Holy Rule. This is the document (from the sixth century) that we especially follow as Catholic Benedictine monks.
In addition to the usual daily celebration of Holy Mass (the Eucharist) and the chanting of the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) throughout the day, beginning with Vigils in church at 4:00 am, we monks of Christ in the Desert also add lectio divina, that is the prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture (the Bible) in a common place (at present in the monastic refectory or dining room) each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 5 pm.
On Fridays during Lent we pray together the Via Crucis, also called the Way or Stations of the Cross, in our cloister garth, a section of the monastery that is conducive to prayer.
Exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is also part of our daily prayer throughout the year, from 5:15 to 5:45 pm, followed by the chanting of Vespers at 5:50 pm, with a light meal after in the refectory, then daily chapter meeting after that, when we listen to a portion of the Rule of Saint Benedict and a commentary by the abbot, then Compline, the night prayer of the Church at 7:30 pm.
May the Lord increase the faith, hope and love of all who follow Christ in this holy season of Lent!
Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB, will be traveling to Tucson, Arizona, this first weekend of January, 2016, in acceptance of an invitation to lead a five-day retreat for a number of bishops from some of the western and south-western states. They will be meeting at the Redemptorist Renewal Center in that city. The topic for this year’s personal retreat by these bishops is the Year of Mercy, in accord with Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy. Abbot Philip is sometimes asked to give retreats to diocesan clergy as well as to various monasteries throughout the world. He has said that this invitation is a “privilege to accept because Mercy is a virtue and admonition that permeates the Rule of St. Benedict.”
On Sunday, December 27, 2015, the Solemnity of the Holy Family, two novices, Brother Bonaventure and Brother Faustino, of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert made their first monastic profession of simple vows, renewed each year and normally lasting for a period of three years, before making solemn profession. During those three years, the Juniors, as they are called, study a wide range of topics, including monastic and Church history, liturgy, philosophy and theology. During this time they live more fully their monastic vocation within the community of Christ in the Desert in obedience to the abbot while embracing stability and conversion of life.
Our Brother Bonaventure (Thang Van Nguyen) was born and raised in Bac Giang, Vietnam. He studied theology and religion in college and then came to the monastery in 2014 to begin his postulancy, when he was given the monastic name, Bonaventure. When asked why he was making simple vows, he said that it would help him to be a better monk because, “I want to follow Jesus in everything I do, in my work and my prayer, in my whole life.”
Our Brother Faustino (Denver Torres) was born and raised in Durango, Colorado. After graduating from high school, he came to the monastery in 2014 to begin his postulancy, when he was given the monastic name, Faustino. When asked why he was making simple vows, he said he became a monk to seek God and making vows “would help me convert my life so that I become more holy. I truly want to be with God as one of his saints.”
At the liturgy of profession during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB, noted how appropriate it was that these two brothers were making simple vows on the same day that the Church celebrates the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, since these young monks were becoming ever more fully members of the monastic family which resides at the Monastery in answer to God’s call and in commitment to a monastic life lived for the people of our world.
Abbot Philip Lawrence, OSB, the community of monks at Christ in the Desert and guests and visitors celebrated the Nativity of the Lord at midnight on Christmas day in a solemn Holy Mass.
Preceding the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the monastic community and those joining them prayed Solemn Vigils of Christmas with readings, sung prayers, and psalms. It was a time for meditating on the coming of the Lord and hearing the joyful news, as did the shepherds in the fields, that out of the Father’s great love us, He was sending His only begotten Son to be our Savior.
Abbot Philip offered his thoughts on the meaning of the Nativity of our Lord in his Mass homily. He asked us to keep in mind the mystery that the second Person of the Divine Trinity, the one Savior for all, the one God, came seeking us out to redeem us. He comes looking for us to draw us into His life. We all need salvation and God so loves us that He gave his own Son to save us. This is the central mystery on which we should focus at this time. The Abbot went on to note that God became a child, fragile and innocent, putting Himself into our own hands so that we could put ourselves into the hands of others by our service and love. But, the Abbot noted, this leads to the cross for ourselves as it did for Jesus, if we are to know the love God has shown us. But it is also through this self-sacrificing love that we come to share in the resurrection of our Lord.
Abbot Philip Lawrence, O.S.B., announced the Christmas schedule for the Monastery of Christ in the Desert.
On Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24, Solemn Vigils of Christmas will be held in the church at 10:20 pm, followed by Christmas Mass at midnight. Afterwards a breakfast is available for monks, guests, and visitors.
On Christmas Day, Friday, December 25, Lauds will be prayed in the church at 8:30 am, followed by Mass during the day at 11:00 am. Solemn Vespers is at 5:00 pm.
On Saturday, December 26, there will be Mass at 9:15 am. Also, on Sunday, December 27, Mass will be offered at 9:15 am.
The Abbot and the monastic community cordially invite the public to attend any or all of these liturgies for the four days from Thursday, December 24 through Sunday, December 27.
On December 12, 2015, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Solemn Monastic Profession of Fr. Gregory Vu!
On December 12, 2015, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dom Gregory Vu, made his Solemn Monastic Profession and Consecration and became a Benedictine Monk of Christ in the Desert. Fr. Gregory grew up in Vietnam and had first come to the United States in 1990 and joined the Redemptorist Congregation in 1995. He was ordained to the priesthood as a Redemptorist priest in 2007 in Texas. Feeling called to the contemplative monastic life, he came to the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in 2012, and after more than three years in our community made his Solemn Vows.
On the occasion of his Monastic Profession, Fr. Gregory was joined by his mother, his sister, many friends and three Vietnamese priests from our Archdiocese of Santa Fe. It was a joyous occasion for the monks of the Monastery and all of the guests. There was wonderful Vietnamese food served after the Mass of Profession.
During the liturgy, Fr. Gregory stood before the altar, in the presence of Christ and all present, and made his vows. Abbot Philip said, “My son in Christ, for some time you have lived with us, seeking God’s will for you. In the name of our community and of the whole Church I will now question you about your intention to embrace our life through solemn vows.” Abbot proceeded to ask, “Through Baptism you consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Do you wish to consecrate yourself more closely to God in the monastic life? Do you intend to leave all in order to follow Christ and to witness to him by the conversion of your life? Do you promise to practice obedience towards the father of the monastery and your brethren in Christ?” To each question, Fr. Gregory clearly answered, “I do.” Fr. Gregory then prostrated and was covered with the pall to signify death to the world and his living for Christ, while the entire congregation sang the litany of the saints. Fr. Gregory then knelt before the Abbot who clothed him with the monastic cowl saying, “May the Lord clothe you with the new self, created after the likeness of God in true innocence and holiness.” Then Abbot Philip joyfully announced to all those present that Fr. Gregory was now a finally professed member of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert.
Fr.Gregory was asked to express his feelings and thoughts about his Monastic Profession and said, “I felt the blessings and love I received from all of those present and as I received my kiss of peace from each of the monks, my heart was filled with joy. I felt a real sense of belonging to this monastic community, for all of us will now live in common with one and another. Then Abbot Philip extended a number of special blessing upon me as the congregation responded ‘Amen’ to each blessing. I know that I am blessed to have celebrated this day on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and I prayed that she would shine upon me every day of my life.”
Ad multos annos, Fr. Gregory!