The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Monday, December 26, 2016

The trouble with Christmas

NOTE: The following is the homily delivered this day in the Archabbey Church by Fr. Guerric DeBona, O.S.B., on this Feast of St. Stephen. Here, he considers the troubling juxtaposition of the joy of Christmas with the bloody martyrdom recalled in the feasts which fall within the Christmas Octave: St. Stephen, the Holy Innocents on December 28, and St. Thomas Becket on December 29.

I will never get the Christmas Octave. I don’t know about you, but these days following the joyful celebration of the Lord’s Nativity continue to baffle me.

Unlike the Easter Octave, these days seemingly lack a sense of continuity, happiness, and peace certainly present in the eight days celebrating the Lord’s Resurrection; that time cascades us though Christ’s appearances, echoes the Spirit’s power in the Acts of the Apostles, and draws the Church into the transcendent sequence Victime Pascale Laudes.

By contrast, after unbundling the joy of yesterday’s solemnity, the Church today wears red—not to extend yesterday’s peace as much as to razor us jarringly into the often gruesome deaths of martyrs. Stephen, Thomas Becket, and the Holy Innocents create a path for the Christian community which resembles nothing less than wading through rough terrain with more than occasional glimmers of dangerous broken glass.

Paradoxically, it would seem as if secular culture excels at extending the joys of Christmas.  People receive bonus checks and often have off several of the days following Christmas to spend with their families. Not a few parents will be gingerly assembling a young child’s doll house or mustering instructions for the latest video game. There will be visits to the Miracle Mile in Chicago or the Ice Rink at Rockefeller Plaza on Fifth Avenue, not to mention office parties and open house get-togethers amid the dazzling lights on Christmas trees. These are the “Partridge in  a Pear Tree” days of “four calling birds, three French hens, and two turtle doves.” They delightfully extend Christmas Day into not just a few, but 12; people of good will then are all led back to the stable and join the Wise Men on the Epiphany.

Sounds like a good idea to me; nobody ever dies when friends raise a fluted glass of asti spumante and kiss under a mistletoe. So, I ask again: who put the bloody Octave in Christmas?

Well, I will hazard a guess. St. Stephen, Deacon and Proto-Martyr, put the Octave in Christmas by kick-starting sober Christianity’s service written in blood. The difference between the Easter Octave and these days following Christmas is that this Octave concerns witness while Easter realizes its fulfillment.

Stephen’s diaconate of service and testimony becomes linked with Christ’s own witness when the Lord says in today’s Gospel (Matthew 10:17-22): “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.” These are sober words about real life Christian testimony, which traces its origins to St. Stephen. And indeed, the account of Stephen’s stoning in Acts (6:8-10; 7:54-59) mirrors Jesus’ own self-gift and surrender and service. 

Ironically, in Acts, Luke uses the word “martyr” or “witness” to describe the folks who laid down not their lives, but their garments at the feet of the arch-persecutor of the Church, Saul of Tarsus. Clearly, there are many ways of witnessing, but the only authentic testimony is linked to Christ’s own. As the responsorial psalm today reminds the Church, we are taken up into Christ’s sacrifice by the witness of the true martyr Stephen: “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”

So Stephen’s death, which we commemorate this day, sets the tone for what we rightly call the Christmas Octave because the witnesses who follow the Lord’s Nativity make his coming in the flesh an ongoing historical reality. By contrast, the office parties, the new toys, and the holiday sales will all be left as so much tinsel on the ground, together with last year’s Christmas tree. Jesus’ less than charming admonition to his disciples acknowledges the reality of his coming a human being in time, in a world which did not receive him.

His disciples will certainly provoke wrath with their testimony because witness is, by definition, never done in secret. Witnessing must become proclamation, which Stephen himself does in recounting Israel’s history in a new way, now that the Messiah has come. “A clear and unequivocal proclamation,” Pope Paul VI says, is the result of witness because “there is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed.” Even in his last breath, Stephen proclaims the name, as he asks the Lord to receive his spirit.

The Feast of Stephen asks us to exchange our white baptismal garment for a red one. The witness of monastic life each day begs that the Lord receive our spirit in service and fraternal charity.

I have a sense that sincere and authentic witness as proclamation is becoming more and more urgent these days for the Church as it evangelizes the Word become flesh in this culture. Some say we are currently living in an environment of post-truth, where lies and falsehoods traffic as history. Social media can fabricate and weave and unweave stories in a tapestry which rivals Penelope’s long-suffering stitching in Ithaca as she waits for Odysseus to return.

Until Christ comes again, it is the Church’s mission to be at the ready to unravel lies, proclaim the truth, and retell history through the lens of God’s coming in the flesh: good news to those held captive by poverty and injustice, liberty to prisoners, sight to the blind. And our lives and speech will proclaim that truth again and again, just like the first martyr.

May St. Stephen, deacon and proto-martyr, make us better witnesses to the Kingdom and to the Anointed One who has so sublimely come to bring that Good News to our heart’s threshold.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christian, remember your dignity

"The grace of God has appeared, saving all."
Titus 2:11

Today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness. No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no one free from sin, came to free us all ...

Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God's own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God's Kingdom.

-- Saint Leo the Great

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Today is born our Savior

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light; 
Upon those who lived in a land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing ...
For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful.

Isaiah 9:1-2, 5-6


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Toward the Dawn

Gate of heaven,
Star of the sea,
Fix in us the gaze
You hold on the One
who bears all
and sets us free.

Br. Francis Wagner, O.S.B.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rorate coeli

Rain down, you heavens, from above
and let the clouds pour down saving justice;
let the earth open up
and blossom with salvation,
and let justice sprout up with it.

Isaiah 45:8 (NJB)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Monastic chant and Advent antiphons

Take some time this Advent season to listen to the latest episode from the "Echoes from the Bell Tower" podcast series (above), hosted by Br. Joel Blaize and Br. Kolbe Wolniakowski. The two young monks interview Fr. Columba Kelly, Fr. Harry Hagan, and Fr. Jeremy King about the chant tradition and how chant is used during Advent. In the background are plenty of chant selections by the monks of Saint Meinrad. The entire podcast is about 20 minutes. Give your spirit a lift this Advent -- open the doors to the monastery from afar and allow the chant to waft over you. I believe you'll find it both informative and inspiring!

And as an added bonus, see my past blog post about Praying the "O" Antiphons

Advent blessings.

Br. Francis.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Christmas challenge

Bishop Robert Barron has a very interesting -- not to mention provocative -- post on his Word on Fire blog titled "Why Christmas Should Bother Everybody". Click the link with the article title to read the entire post. It's worth your time, and I encourage you to read what he has to say.

His point -- if I may -- is that Christmas is not merely some sentimental holiday centered around a cute little baby in a manger surrounded by angels, stable animals, and shepherds. And it is not simply about expressions of peace and good will toward one another (though, hopefully, it includes such behavior). Although he doesn't mention it, Christmas also is certainly not about shopping, gift-giving, decorating, and celebrating at holiday parties. Though there is nothing wrong with those things if embraced in moderation, they are really cultural, secular activities that have very little or nothing to do with the true nature of Christmas.

Bishop Barron laments that in many quarters today, Christmas has been reduced "to a level so low, so banal, that the great Christian feast is offensive to precisely no one." That, he argues, is not a good thing, because what Christmas actually celebrates is the coming of God's Word made flesh, the Christ, to call each one of us to account. Yes, he came to save sinners by his death and resurrection -- but not so we could keep on living as we always have. Christ came to call us to radical conversion of life. Recall that Jesus' very first words to his followers at the beginning of his ministry were: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). Repentance calls for a change of heart, a turning toward God in every single aspect of our lives. We monks call it conversatio, and it is one of the vows we make. And it is not accomplished overnight; it is the work of a lifetime.

This should understandably unnerve us,  Bishop Barron argues. Our fallen human nature will resist such a call, such a challenge -- which, in a subtle way, is what we are unconsciously doing as a culture when we reduce Christmas to a banal, sentimental, inoffensive holiday. The true challenge of Christmas is to honestly examine our consciences, and to consciously embrace the call of God's Word to radically reorient every aspect of our lives toward Christ so that we are at one with him. And it is not something we can do on our own. By grace, we must rely on the gifts of prayer, Scripture, the sacraments, and the tradition and fellowship of the Church -- and then put those gifts to work in the worship of God and service of one another.

A good place to start is meditating on what it means for God, who out of fierce love for each one of us, became as small as a human infant in a feeding trough -- just as through his death and resurrection he becomes the Bread of Life for us to feed upon daily.

This is a message rarely preached these days, and one that is sorely needed in our world. As Bishop Barron points out, "Jesus is not simply a kindly prophet with a gentle message of forgiveness; he is God coming in person to assume command. He is the Lord."

This Christmas and thereafter, what will be your response? Do you accept the challenge? If so, let us rejoice together with the angels: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14).

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Peace and humility

I will hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace,
peace for his people and his friends, and those who turn their hearts to him.
Psalm 85:8

Above all, keep peace within yourself, then you will be able to create peace among others. It is better to be peaceful than learned.

The passionate person often thinks evil of a good person and easily believes the worst; a good and peaceful person turns all things to good.

One who lives at peace suspects no one. But one who is tense and agitated by evil is troubled with all kinds of suspicions -- never at peace with oneself, and not permitting others to be at peace. He or she often speaks when it is better to be silent, and fails to say what would be truly useful. Such a one is well aware of the obligations of others but neglects his or her own.

So, be zealous first of all with yourself, and then you will be justified in expressing zeal for your neighbor. You are good at excusing and justifying your own deeds, and yet you will not listen to the excuses of others. It would be more just to accuse yourself and to excuse your brother or sister.

If you wish others to put up with you, first put up with them.

Thomas à Kempis
The Imitation of Christ

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The patience of Advent

Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and late rains. You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.
-- James 5:7-8

With the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard "delay," but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

-- 2Peter 3:8b-9

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

URGENT: Jesus is coming

When the “holiday season” kicks off each year—which used to happen around late November, although it now seems to be much earlier—much of the world makes a mad dash toward December 25. Along with ordinary tasks, the days are filled with decorating, buying, celebrating, buying, fretting, buying, baking, buying—in search of some nostalgic, yet vague sense of hope that, all too often, fails to satisfy and is kicked to the curb on Dec. 26.

By contrast, Christians (in theory, at least) profess this period as Advent (from the Latin term adventus, or coming).

Whose coming do we await? In faith, hope, and love, we await the coming of Christ—God among us—who comes to save humanity from the state that it has itself rendered. Jesus has come once to take on our humanity and redeem it. He will come again to fulfill God’s promise and take all things to himself. And he is coming now, at this very moment—whatever season it is. Eternity will emerge from how we respond daily to God’s eternal presence in the mystical Body of Christ.

Eternity will be what each of us makes of today.

While it’s fine to engage in a little holiday cheer when the time comes, we do well to remember that Advent calls for a joyful anticipation of the Kingdom of God—yesterday, today, and forever. We must recall that the celebration of Christmas (which actually begins Dec. 25 and runs for many days thereafter) evokes that mystical event when God became man in the person of Jesus, whose name in Hebrew means “God saves.” That should indeed bring us great joy—but not the fleeting, superficial, artificial joy so often peddled in the month of December. It is a daily joy tempered by the reality of the crucifixion, a wonderful paradox that gives rise to rejoicing with the psalmist: Lord, “there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered” (130:4).

Advent and Christmas, then, are solemn occasions steeped in true, everlasting joy as we await throughout all our days the full coming of the Kingdom of God. As author Alice Camille points out in her booklet Waiting for God: The Grace of Advent, there is more to it than a cute baby in a manger. It’s serious business. Advent, she says, is a state of spiritual emergency.

Advent involves a different type of urgency than the festal fretting that so often surrounds us before Christmas even begins. We are reminded of this throughout the year at each Mass after the Lord’s Prayer, when the priest says, “Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever.

From the Abbey Press book

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Communion prayer

Lord Jesus,
You are
and peace.

You are the
and the

Help me
to become
who I
in you.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Back in 1908 ...

The first Model T is introduced by Henry Ford.

Construction of the Titanic begins in Belfast, Ireland.

The IV Olympic Games are held in London and women compete for the first time. Among the 24 sports: tug of war, rugby and polo.

William Howard Taft defeats William Jennings Bryan for the U.S. presidency.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, two longtime bank robbers, are reported killed in Bolivia.

The following notable people are born: baseball announcer Red Barber, actor Rex Harrison, author Louis L'Amour, actor Buddy Ebsen, actress Bette Davis, journalist Edward R. Murrow, actor James Stewart, author Ian Fleming, comedian Milton Berle, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson.

Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz is published by Frank L. Baum

U.S. unemployment: 8 percent

U.S. population: 88.7 million

Cost of a first-class stamp: 2 cents

Eggs: 14 cents a dozen

U.S. flag: 45 stars

Population of Las Vegas: 30

Average wage (not minimum): 22 cents per hour

U.S. homes with a telephone: 8 percent

U.S. homes with a bathtub: 14 percent

And in the world of baseball, the statistical leaders were:

Batting average
Ty Cobb, Detroit .324 in American League
Honus Wagner, Pittsburgh .354 in National League

Home runs
Sam Crawford, Detroit 7 in AL
Tim Jordan, Brooklyn 12 in NL

Ed Walsh, White Sox 269 in AL
Christy Mathewson N.Y. Giants 259 in NL

World Series champion

Chicago Cubs – who did not win again for another 108 years—until last night’s exciting 10-inning, 8-7 victory in Game 7 against the Cleveland Indians.

(The image at the top of this post was the official Chicago Cubs logo in 1908.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Joy of the souls in purgatory

“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon them.”

There is no joy save that in paradise to be compared with the joy of the souls in purgatory. As the rust of sin is consumed, the soul is more and more open to God's love. Just as a covered object left out in the sun cannot be penetrated by the sun's rays, in the same way, once the covering of the soul is removed, the soul opens itself fully to the rays of the sun.

Having become one with God's will, these souls, to the extent that he grants it to them, see into God. Joy in God, oneness with him, is the end of these souls, an instinct implanted in them at their creation.

All that I have said is as nothing compared to what I feel within, the witnessed correspondence of love between God and the soul; for when God sees the soul pure as it was in its origins, he tugs at it with a glance, draws it and binds it to himself with a fiery love.

God so transforms the soul in himself that it knows nothing other than God. He will not cease until he has brought the soul to perfection. That is why the soul seeks to cast off any and all impediments, so that it can be lifted up to God; and such impediments are the cause of the suffering of the souls in purgatory. Not that the souls dwell on their suffering; they dwell, rather, on the resistance they feel in themselves against the will of God, against his intense and pure love bent on nothing but drawing them up to him.

And I see rays of lightning darting from that divine love to the creature, so intense and fiery as to annihilate not the body alone but, were it possible, the soul. The soul becomes like gold that becomes purer as it is fired, all dross being cast out.

The last stage of love is that which does it work without human doing. If humans were to be aware of the many hidden flaws in them, they would despair. These flaws are burned away in the last stage of love. God then shows the soul its weakness, so that the soul may see the workings of God.

If we are to become perfect, change must be brought about in us and without us; that is, change is to be the work not of human beings but of God. This, the last stage of love, is the pure and intense love of God alone.

The overwhelming love of God gives the soul a joy beyond words. In purgatory great joy and great suffering do not exclude one another.

St. Catherine of Genoa
Purgation and Purgatory

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Lover of souls

Meditation on the Mass readings
for the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Jesus was passing through Jericho. The tax collector Zacchaeus, we are told in Luke’s Gospel (19:1-10), wants to see him, but is prevented by his stature. Luke presents this as a physical limitation, but one wonders if his “spiritual stature” also was lacking in some way—or if his deficient “stature” as perceived by his fellow citizens prompted them to exclude him. After all, the text states that “he was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not.” Perhaps it was a little of both—he was wealthy and a chief tax collector, attributes which imply greed, deceit, and the scorn that would have been directed his way as a result.

Whatever the case may be, Zacchaeus had genuine desire in his heart to see the Lord. So he did the only thing he could—he climbed a tree! The scene is an amusing one. When Jesus approaches, he looks up at Zacchaeus in the tree above him and says, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” And so the stature-challenged man (in whatever sense that applies) “hurried down and was happy to welcome him,” Luke says.

Jesus literally invites himself to the home of Zacchaeus. Isn’t it surprising that Jesus would do this? After all, the two did not know one another, and surely there were plenty of more “upstanding” citizens in the surrounding crowd with whom Jesus could have stayed. Besides, Luke makes it clear that Jesus had every intention of passing through Jericho without stopping. But he does stop, and he tells Zacchaeus to come down from the sycamore tree because “I must stay at your house today.” He hadn’t even been asked!

Overwhelmed with joy, Zacchaeus—although loathed as the wealthy tax collector and “outsider” that he was—receives Jesus into his home (or was it his heart?). Meanwhile, Luke reports, “all who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” In self-righteous horror, Jericho’s more respectable citizenry is shocked—and likely more than a little jealous! But as Jesus declares earlier in Luke’s Gospel, “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance” (5:32), and also at the closing of this particular passage in Luke: “The Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (19:10).

With the foot of Jesus in the door, so to speak, Zacchaeus is moved to repent and atone for his sins, and so Jesus tells him, “Today salvation has come to this house.”

It does not take much for God’s mercy to enter into our lives. All that is necessary is a small opening—often arriving in surprising ways and at unexpected times—and a willing reception. God will do the rest. God is good, and all that he has created is good, as the Book of Wisdom reminds us: The Lord “is merciful to all, for you can do all things, and you overlook people’s sins, so that they may repent. For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made, for you would not have made anything if you had hated it ... You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, who love the living” (11:23-24, 26).

So he pursues any who have gone astray “little by little” (cf. Wisdom 12:2) and slips into any opening he finds. Why? Because you have been fashioned by the Lord and lover of souls.

Whatever your spiritual stature may be—real or perceived—ask yourself: Where might God be inviting himself into my life?

--Adapted from Grace in theWilderness
by Br. Francis de Sales Wagner, O.S.B.
© 2013, Abbey Press Publications

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What do you knead?

“To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God?
It is like yeast that a woman took
and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch of dough was leavened.”
Luke 13:20-21

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Do we need God?

Meditation on the Mass readings
for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Some of the descriptive words employed by Scripture’s inspired authors in certain passages are telling in regard to humanity’s never-ending struggles. For example, Sirach (35:12-22) speaks of the poor, the oppressed, orphan, and widow. St. Paul is imprisoned and knows that “the time of my departure has come” (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18). He also is lonely—“All deserted me,” he says. Meanwhile, in Luke’s Gospel, the self-righteous Pharisee’s prayer derides those whom he perceives as thieves, rogues, and adulterers (18:9-14).

Where do we see ourselves here in relation to God? In one way or another, and at one time or another, these terms describe many of us.

Whatever the case may be, the key to our approach to God lies not in perceived perfection, but in true humility. Our hope comes in the most unlikely of persons: in the passage from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus points to the tax collector, considered at that time to be the most despicable of all human beings. There, in the corner of the Temple, he humbly acknowledges who he is and asks for God’s merciful assistance. The tax collector—though far from perfect—recognizes his need for God, and so is justified in God’s sight.

The self-righteous Pharisee, on the other hand, has done many commendable things, but takes credit for them all himself. He doesn’t really need anyone, including God, in his mind. And so, Jesus says that it is the lowly tax collector (a sinner!), and not the haughty Pharisee (who did everything right!), whose prayer is heard. As Sirach points out, “the prayer of the humble pierces the clouds.”

A truly humble person, the author of The Cloud of Unknowing said, “stands in the truth with a knowledge and appreciation for himself as he really is.” When we display that kind of transparency and honestly acknowledge our utter dependence on God, as the tax collector does, the Lord stands by us and gives us strength—and the “crown of righteousness” awaits us no matter who we are. 

Thanks be to God.
--Adapted from Grace in the Wilderness
by Br. Francis de Sales Wagner, O.S.B.
© 2013, Abbey Press Publications

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hoosier Red

Earlier this week -- if you haven't heard by now -- Pope Francis named 17 new cardinals, including three Americans. One of those three is none other than Joseph W. Tobin, who has been Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for about four years.

Saint Meinrad Archabbey, which is within the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, is no stranger to the new Cardinal-designate. He spent a week in private retreat in the monastery here prior to his installation as Archbishop in December 2012. He was here in late July for the abbatial blessing of newly elected Archabbot Kurt (who will attend the installation of the new cardinals at a consistory in Rome on November 19). As it turns out, Archbishop Tobin was also here on the Hill when he found out early Sunday morning that he had been designated a Cardinal by the Holy Father (having stayed overnight before confirming youths in the Tell City deanery that afternoon). And he's been here many times in between all those events.

Archbishop Tobin is the only Cardinal (OK, Cardinal-designate for now) that I've ever personally met. He is well thought of around here, and I must agree that he impresses me as a good and humble shepherd who, in many respects, extends the spirit of Pope Francis in his genuine care for the flock entrusted to him. I hope we get to keep him in the Indianapolis Archdiocese -- and for now, at least, it seems as though we will.

The following links provide more information and insight into the character of Cardinal-designate Tobin, all from The Criterion, the archdiocesan newspaper:

    Article from October 10 press conference
    Interview with Cardinal-designate Tobin
    List of further articles, photos, videos

May Christ the Good Shepherd bless, watch over, and guide Cardinal-designate Tobin, bringing to completion the good work he has begun in him.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fruit of the Spirit


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Who is lying at my door?

So many people are poor or disadvantaged in so many ways -- not just economically but physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And we don't have to travel to a Third World country to find them. They are right at our doorstep -- in our homes, families, neighborhoods, parishes, workplaces, and communities. Yet they often remain invisible to us -- so close, yet so far away from any real sense of compassion, understanding, or charity.

What is striking about today's Gospel reading for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Luke 16:19-31) is the phrase: "And lying at [the rich man's] door was a poor man named Lazarus." This is someone the rich man knew. He could not help but encounter him each day as he came and went. The poor man even has a name -- Lazarus.

The rich man not only declined to share his abundance with Lazarus. Most importantly, he failed to acknowledge him as a human being -- created in God's image just like himself. He refused Lazarus his human dignity by ignoring him. Do we often do the same -- ignoring those most in need who are right under our noses on a daily basis? People we know and presumably love?

Michael Casey, O.C.S.O, writes in his book Seventy-Four Tools for Good Living that "the poor are always with us: those who seem to have little talent for anything, those with poor social skills, those burdened with mental or emotional disorders, those whose virtue and commitment seem slight. These are the poor in our midst. We are called on, not only to tolerate their weaknesses of body and behavior -- as it were, to secure our own virtuousness -- but even more to do what we can to make their lives happier and more wholesome."

So, in this wider context, let us each ask: "Who is lying at my door?”

Thursday, September 8, 2016

"Pray always"

We cannot pray "at all times"
if we do not pray at specific times,
consciously willing it.
These are the special times
of Christian prayer,
both in intensity and duration.

Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 2697

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Saint Mother Teresa

August 26, 1910 -- September 5, 1997
Canonized in Rome September 4, 2016
Feast day in the Catholic Church: September 5

Saint Teresa of Calcutta
pray for us.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Big catch

My 4-year-old nephew Evan, shown here with his Dad, Ty, recently caught his very first fish--from the waters of the Ohio River, which make up their back yard (lucky ducks!). While it may look like a rather small catch to us, one's first fish is always a BIG deal. Evan, who had tried his hand at fishing (sort of, when he wasn't distracted by other stuff) last summer when he was here visiting at Saint Meinrad, was very excited about his big catch, I'm told. What's more, the fish he caught was used as bait on a drop line in the river, which brought in this whopper:

Monday, August 15, 2016

Newly professed

 On this Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, congratulations are in order for three monks (THREE!), who today professed solemn and perpetual vows as monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey. These are Br. Peduru Fonseka, Br. James Jensen, and Br. William Sprauer (kneeling, left to right, in the photo above). It has been quite some time since we’ve had three make solemn vows all at once.

To read more about these three, click here. To see photos from the ceremony itself (and moments both before and after), click here.

Please keep Br. Peduru, Br. James, and Br. William in your prayers. Pray as well for all the monks of this archabbey, that they may be sustained by God's grace in their monastic prayer and work, and for an increase of vocations to our way of life.

"Uphold me O Lord, according to your promise,
and I shall live.
And do not confound me
in my expectation."

Solemn profession formula
(Psalm 119:16)

Monday, August 8, 2016

God bless this mess

Work on the geothermal field continues.

This has certainly been a summer of transition here at Saint Meinrad--and a rather hectic, sometimes messy one at that. As with many things in life, however, even good things are often hectic and a little messy before they come to fruition.

As you know, we elected a new abbot in June. In itself, that requires a number of adjustments in several respects -- though I must say, the transition seems to have been fairly smooth thus far. Things began to get a bit more hectic and messy toward the end of July, and have stayed that way for a while. First, there was the abbatial blessing on July 26, and all the preparation and logistical work that goes into such a grand event (for more on the blessing ceremony, click here). Then, quickly on the heels of that were monastic profession anniversary (60 years) celebrations on July 31 for five monks (more on that here), the annual Alumni Reunion July 31-August 2 (drawing about 270 Alumni and guests), and the first profession of one our novices on August 6 (congratulations to former Novice Tony, now Br. Kolbe! Read more about him here).

Oh, and while all that was going on, in addition to normal day-to-day tasks and ongoing projects, monks and co-workers were busy getting us moved back into the newly renovated monastery!

Furnishings stacked in the monastery vesting area wait to be
restored to their rightful place (most of it was removed today).
As you may recall, we monks had been displaced since May of 2015, moving into spaces normally reserved for students and guests in Anselm and Benet halls. Naturally, the "domino effect" of all this placed a premium on space here on the Hill during the last 14-15 months. However, it was all necessary so that the monastery (where we monks live) could undergo extensive renovations. The current building, completed in the early 1980s, needed a complete overhaul of heating/cooling and plumbing systems throughout, as well as extensive work to address chronic moisture issues. In addition, two areas underwent even more improvement--our dining hall (refectory) and the infirmary, where our elderly and ill monks reside. The refectory was expanded and updated, gained a new roof and flooring and improved drainage system (much of it related to the moisture issues). Meanwhile, the infirmary space is being expanded and updated significantly. Other improvements in the monastery have included new windows, carpeting, and bathroom fixtures throughout, and a new elevator on one side of the building.

To accomplish all that, all of us--and every stick of furniture, all personal possessions, and all common property had to be completely removed from the monastery in May 2015. Well, from August 1-5, all of that had to be moved back to the monastery. The timing was critical, because the space we had been occupying in Anselm and Benet halls for the last year is needed for guests and especially for students, who will be arriving for the fall semester in a matter of days!

So last week, especially, was hectic and messy. And not simply for us monks--but for many of our co-workers--particularly those in physical facilities and housekeeping. They not only did much of the heavy lifting, but also had to do one heck of a lot of cleaning! We were also assisted by members of the Durhholz family and friends in Evansville, some of our oblates, and a member of the Tell City Knights of Columbus. May God bless them all for their hard work and generosity.

The monastery courtyard is still a construction zone.
And the work continues. While most of the monks and their belongings--as well as the monastery's common furnishings--have been moved back, it will take a while before everything is back in its rightful place and operating normally. A few renovation details and adjustments still need to be taken care of. There's also an awful lot of cleaning to do--heavy construction, as you know, tends to leave a bit of a mess. Contractors and co-workers and monks have been attending to that bit by bit each day. Some areas of the monastery are still under construction -- the refectory, the infirmary, and the courtyard. So, we cannot access those areas yet. Meanwhile, we continue to take our meals in Anselm Hall, and the infirm monks continue to live in their temporary quarters. Hopefully, both the newly renovated refectory and infirmary will be up and running in a couple weeks.

The refectory is not quite ready--but it's getting there.
Most of the residential areas--rooms and hallways--in the monastery are finished and occupied, however.

Meanwhile, work on the new geothermal system--which will heat and cool the monastery--will continue until probably October (for now, the old system is being accessed for heating/cooling). The geothermal field is right outside the front of the monastery alongside the north fact of the Archabbey Church. Anyone who has been on the Hill the last 14-15 months knows where I'm talking about. And yes, it too, is a mess.

But, when everything is finished and cleaned up and put away, our living conditions will have improved in significant fashion. The work was desperately needed. What has been replaced/updated had undergone substantial deterioration and failure.

In any event, it is GOOD to be home, and may God bless the mess that remains while we settle back into our improved quarters. Next up during this summer of transition--the solemn profession of three junior monks (Br. Peduru, Br. James, and Br. William) on Monday, August 15. In the end, we are pilgrims on this earth, and all works in progress as we strive toward our heavenly home.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hope, Hold Firm, Take Heart

Photo by Krista Hall

Today was the abbatial blessing of Archabbot Kurt Stasiak, OSB, with Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR presiding at Mass and conferring the blessing. In my time here, I have never seen the Archabbey Church so full -- with visiting abbots, bishops, priests, deacons, alumni, students, faculty members, co-workers, oblates, other guests, personal friends of Fr. Abbot, and more. I hate to hazard a guess, but I'd say there were well over 300 people present -- possibly 400. At times, such as at Communion, it was a little tricky to maneuver!

It was certainly a festive day, and all the stops were pulled liturgically and otherwise: the church was adorned with flowers and banners (and with flags outside), and the air was filled with incense, the mellifluous voices of all those worshipers, and the resounding notes of organ and brass instruments. Particularly moving was the litany of the saints, chanted by the entire congregation as Archabbot Kurt lay prostrate on the floor in front of Archbishop Tobin. After the litany, the archbishop presented Fr. Abbot with The Holy Rule of St. Benedict, and his ring, miter, and crozier. (To see a slideshow of the occasion, click here. And, to view even more photos of the event, click here.)

The picture above, taken by Krista Hall of our Development Office, is the combined coat of arms for Saint Meinrad Archabbey and Archabbot Kurt, which was placed above the main entrance to the church for the day's festivities. On the left side of the shield are two ravens representing the Abbey of Einsiedeln (our mother house in Switzerland), and a ship symbolizing the arrival of the first monks from Einsiedeln who came here to establish Saint Meinrad in 1854. Fr. Abbot's coat of arms on the right (which was created by our Br. Martin Erspamer, O.S.B.) depicts an eagle, evoking the coat of arms for Germany, where Fr. Abbot was born in 1952. Below the eagle is a representation of the U.S. Air Force insignia, with its star and outstretched wings. (Fr. Abbot grew up in a military family, having been adopted shortly after his birth by an American Air Force officer and his wife, who were living in Germany at the time; he is to this day very much an aviation enthusiast.)

Incidentally, Archabbot Kurt has chosen for his abbatial motto words from Psalm 26 (Grail translation): "Hope, Hold Firm, Take Heart."

Please join in praying for him and our entire monastic community, with this prayer from the Rite of Solemn Blessing of an Abbot:

Give him the gifts of your Spirit.
Set him on fire with love
for your glory and for the service
of your church,
and may he in turn
inflame with zeal
the hearts of his brothers.