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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!
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.”
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Each year on September 8th the Catholic Church commemorates the Nativity or Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of whom was born Christ our Savior.
A number of our monks also celebrate on September 8th the anniversary of their monastic profession, including our Abbot Philip, celebrating 51 years of vows this year, and Prior Christian, celebrating 44 years.
The holy icon of the Blessed Virgin which graces our abbey church almost always has votive candles burning in front of it, asking the prayers of Mary for particular needs and intentions. May she intercede for us all!
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At Sunday Mass on August 14, 2016, our novice Brother James Vo makes his simple, temporary vows, as a Benedictine monk. Family and friends were on hand for the joyous event.
Brother James is now among the fifteen other brothers in temporary vows here, often called “the Juniorate.” We rejoice greatly in the growth of our Monastery with these young men who have made their first commitments to the contemplative monastic life.
First Monastic Profession
Twenty-Seventh Anniversary of
6 August 2016
Dom Joseph Kuchta Chyliński, O.S.B.
Benedictine monk of
Monastery of Christ in the Desert
This past Saturday, July 30th, a number of our monks were able to attend the Pontifical Solemn Mass and blessing of Abbot Aidan Gore at the Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pecos, New Mexico, which belongs to the Olivetan Benedictine Congregation.
The photo shows Abbot Aidan (in white vestment and miter) next to Archbishop John Wester, (in green) Archbishop of Santa Fe, who conferred the blessing. Also in the photo is Abbot Joel of the Norbertine Abbey in Albuquerque and the monastic community at Pecos.
Ad multos annos, Abbot Aidan!
Like fine wine and some monks, our geraniums get stronger and better with the passing of years. Some of our geraniums are fifteen or more years old.
The one pictured here is among the nicest of the potted plants that adorn the lower wall in the cloister outside the monks’ living quarters. Each winter the potted plants are lodged indoors then put outside again in the spring.
A recent photo of our brothers in formation, that is, postulants, novices and junior professed, with our Novice Master, Fr. Benedict. Some of the brothers in formation were not present for this photo.
We are blessed by the presence of these men, discerning the call to Benedictine monastic life.
Please pray for our brothers in formation and those who are coming to join them this year.
Thanks to the generosity of many benefactors, the Monastery recently acquired a number of new solar batteries for the north power grid. These are shown in the photo above being blessed by Abbot Philip after their recent installation and connection to the solar power panels.
The Monastery is located in the remote Chama canyon where there is no electrical power available from transmission lines. As a result, all of the electricity needs are met by solar power. While this is a good thing in terms of its low environmental impact, it can also have its difficulties when the equipment begins to age. For some time now, the Monastery has struggled to maintain in operating condition a system that dates back over twenty years.
Abbot Philip said that he is particularly grateful for the north side of our solar power grid being fixed because of what it meant for the community and one of the monks. The system had developed such great difficulties that a monk had to stay up all night and manage the generator and power usage in order to maintain electricity for critical functions of the entire monastery’s buildings and operations. As a result this monk had to get his sleep during the day and missed most of the Divine Office in church. Now with the north power grid fully operative again, this monk has returned to the same schedule as all of the monks and so he too is particularly grateful.
We were honored to welcome our archbishop here over the past days. Archbishop Wester visited Christ in the Desert many years ago, as a young priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, so this was not his first visit.
In the photo, after Mass today, on the Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, are left to right, Deacon Payden Blevins, one of our oblates, soon to be ordained a priest of the Austin Diocese, Archbishop Wester, Brother Faustino Torres, MC for the Mass and one of our junior professed.
On the June 23, 2016, the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, two of our temporary professed (junior monks) renewed their vows as they move toward solemn profession.
The simple ceremony of renewal of vows took place in our chapter room, in the presence of Abbot Philip Lawrence and all our monks.
Brother Charles and Brother Bede are both fine additions to our monasteries, generous workers, men of prayer and multi-talented. Ad multos annos.
The Solemnity of Saint John the Baptist is our major feast day, and this year marked the “52nd Birthday” of the Monastery, founded on June 24, 1964.
Some of our friends who have never been here sometimes imagine that we are surrounded by sand dunes and sagebrush. In fact our Alpine desert setting (designated by the altitude and scarcity of annual rainfall) does support plant and tree life, and we cultivate certain ones to beautify our meditation and cloister gardens. This reflection will be more on the flowers we maintain at present.
Roses (now in full bloom) are among the flowers we have in various parts of our property. Pictured here are some roses in the cloister garden, in the middle of the monks’ residence quadrangle. Other flowers in the cloister include tulips, daffodils, daisies, irises, peonies, and day lilies, in their “order of appearance” each spring and summer.
Of course in the desert, like anywhere, the flowers (and some of the trees) require attention and watering, but overall do very well here throughout the warmer months (May through October). Flowers from our gardens often grace the abbey church on weekends and feast days.
Soon the rainy season will arrive, and nature will take care of the daily watering and bringing to life many wild flowers in the desert as well.
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.