A View from the Cloister

 

8 September 2009

New Birth

 

The feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a particularly joyful celebration here at the Abbey, because it is the day on which our novices profess simple vows. This year the Lord has blessed us with two men who will publicly give their lives to Christ according to the monastic way of holiness. They will profess vows of obedience, stability and conversion of life.

With rare exception, this day is also the anniversary of profession for the entire community. A special mid-day meal, congratulations and blessings will be shared all around. The Psalmist reminds us what a joy it is when brothers dwell in unity (ps 133). Unity is only one of the attributes of the monastic vows, but an important one. As our Blessed Father Saint Benedict says: it is all together that we go to everlasting life.

 

April 9, 2009

A Sacrificial Heart

 

Holy Thursday is a time when I feel an intense gratitude to Christ for allowing me to be a priest. I can't remember a time when I didn't have that desire in my heart. Why a four year old boy wants to be a priest is a mystery, but a vocation is always a bit of a mystery, for it is an action taken by God. The way of the Lord is not easily grasped, or explained in the rational terms we so often desire.

I found myself today, with bucket and brush in hand, approaching the white marble statue of the Sacred Heart that stands outside the monastery north of the Abbey church. Perched upon a ladder, I carefully scrubbed away at this precious image of our Lord. It is one of the few artifacts to survive the great fire of 1926, which completely destroyed the monastery, and nearly cause the suppression of this foundation by our motherhouse in Switzerland.

For the first time in the more than two decades since my arrival here, I looked deeply into this face. I ran my fingers over His Sacred Heart. Once again, I was filled with gratitude for the loving Heart of my Savior.

 

21 March 2009

Transitus

 

Saint Gregory the Great tells us that our blessed father, Saint Benedict passed to heaven supported by his brethren and fortified by the Holy Eucharist. This is the hope of every monk who in faith has come to the monastery to seek God "in the midst of many brothers," as the holy patriarch says.

We celebrate his passing today. It is a good time to remember our goal of heaven. Again, our blessed father exhorts us to "keep death daily before our eyes." Earthly passing is fearful, for it is unknown to us, it is a new experience to those who are experiencing it. But, what we do know is that Our Lord fortifies us for the journey by His great grace. This "food for the journey" is, however, not just nourishment for the last day, but for every day. The Holy Eucharist is our "Daily Bread," for daily we journey to heaven, and daily we encounter Him, whom we will meet on that last day. If we meet Christ each day, then on the final day, we will certainly find ourselves among good friends.

 

19 March 2009

Just and Holy Joseph

 

Saint Joseph is a very special friend of Mount Angel Abbey. His image is set into the bricks of the portico of the church, the crypt chapel is dedicated to this "most chaste spouse of the Virgin," and the community kneels in prayer after the evening meal each day in order to recite the litany in his honor. Interestingly, Saint Joseph is not listed among the patrons of the Abbey. He is, however, the one who has protected us and provided for our needs for over a century.

A statue of this good provider also stands in our business office. It is said that many years ago, the monk responsible for the finances of the community would turn Saint Joseph's face to the wall until the needed funds were acquired. This seems a bit harsh to me, but it gives testimony to the ease with which the early monks communicated with this good friend. Apparently, Saint Joseph was not offended. We have been kept safe and moving forward after all these years.

Just as Saint Joseph loved and cared for the Holy Family, so he cares for us. We are in fact members of the Holy Family: the Church.

Just and holy, Saint Joseph ever be our protector, provider and friend.