The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Almighty God and Father,

You came to dwell among us
in your Son, Jesus Christ,
who died for our sins
and was raised from the dead
so we too may walk in newness of life.

In your Holy Spirit,
which he breathed on his disciples,
we were sealed at baptism;
and he promised this Advocate
will remain with us always.

We know that this is true
in the Eucharist and in all your sacraments,
as well as in Scripture,
the life and tradition of the Church,
and within disposed and prayerful hearts.

Still, we often forget all this.
We are fearful, doubtful, anxious,
and are frequently led astray.
Please forgive us,
and guide us along the right way.

One God in Three Persons,
help us to remember
that you are with us always,
and to cast out fear with love,
doubt with faith, and anxiety with hope.

You who give
life and breath and all things,
as we seek you in this valley of tears
help us to be aware
that you are always near us.

In you alone
we live and move
and have our being.


                                                                                                -- Br. Francis

Just for fun

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter blessings
The Tree of Life from Revelation 22 by Rebecca Jean

The earth has yielded its fruit
for God, our God, has blessed us.
May God still give us his blessing
till the end of the earth revere him.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!

Psalm 67

[For further reflection see: Genesis 1:12,29; Ezekiel 47:7-12;
Sirach 24:12-22; John 12:24; Revelation 22:2

Friday, April 14, 2017

Why this Friday is Good

The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the applle tree

His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne'er can tell
His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
I missed of all but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I'm weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
I'm weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
18th-century poem

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The bells are back!

Original clappers from two of the smaller bells. Notice the
elongation of the holes on the left due to 100 years of wear.

Well, most of them anyway.

You may recall this post of mine from a while back (click here) regarding the silencing of our church's six bells for needed repairs and maintenance -- and how odd it has been around here to not hear them!

Yesterday -- appropriately enough, the Solemnity of the Passing of Our Holy Father Benedict -- four of them were back in service, ringing across the surrounding hills to call us to prayer, and to mark each quarter hour. It was so good to hear them again early yesterday morning that several pleasantly surprised monks stopped in their tracks to listen to them, smiling broadly.

Today, in an electronic newsletter for Archabbey co-workers, Director of Physical Facilities Andy Hagedorn supplied some details, as well as the above photo. He writes:
The Verdin Bell Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, completed the rebuilding of four bells in the south bell tower on Monday. They rebuilt Bell #5 in the north bell tower yesterday [Tuesday]. The bells had been out of service since an inspection on November 22 deemed them in need of significant repair and maintenance. 
I am told that large church bells typically require major repair work and replacement parts about every 100 years. That is about how long they’ve been in service. 
All the bells are getting new clappers (the swinging internal piece that strikes the bell). They also are all getting new clapper springs. These springs soften the blow and limit contact from the clapper, protecting the bell from damage and enhancing the sound. 
We should be good to go now until approximately 2120. Bell #6, which had developed a crack, is still in repair and transport. We hope to have it back in service in the north tower sometime this summer.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The meaning of the Cross for us today

No one should be ashamed of the cross of Christ, through which the world has been redeemed. No one should fear to suffer for the sake of justice; no one should lose confidence in the reward that has been promised. The way to rest is through toil, the way to life is through death. Christ has taken on himself the whole weakness of our lowly human nature. If then we are steadfast in our faith in him and in our love for him, we win the victory that he has won, we receive what he has promised.

St. Leo the Great

We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

2 Corinthians 4:7-11

Monday, March 13, 2017

Faith, hope, and love

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us. For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath. Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life. Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
-- Romans 5:1-11

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Created out of love to love

God who created man out of love
also calls him to love--
the fundamental and innate vocation
of every human being.
For man is created in the image
and likeness of God
who is himself love.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1604

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Easy does it

Around here, they're called the Voice of God. And that voice has been awfully quiet lately.

I am referring, of course, to the six bells in the two sandstone towers of the Archabbey Church here at Saint Meinrad -- the bells that not only mark each quarter hour, but also are rung by hand each day to summon monks and visitors to the Divine Office and Mass.

Some weeks ago, however, problems arose with the bells. A crack was discovered in Bell No. 6, the largest bell, which is housed in the church's north tower along with Bell No. 5. Upon inspection, it was determined that the other bells -- No. 5, as well as Nos. 1-4 in the south tower -- needed some preventive maintenance. So, work recently began on bells 1-5, with parts removed and taken elsewhere for repairs. Because of this, the familiar sound of the Archabbey bells echoing across the surrounding hills has been silenced. They have not been ringing for Office, Mass, or for the regular marking of time.

In addition, the cracked Bell No. 6, it was determined, must be removed from its tower and shipped to the original manufacturer in the Netherlands to undergo sophisticated repairs.

Today, with a good deal of effort and maneuvering, workers with the help of a large crane, were able to hoist the 5,000-pound bell out of the tower (it was a tight squeeze)! The photos along with this post illustrate what a tricky -- even dangerous -- task this was. For some even better photos (taken by our Development Office) click here.

View from inside monastery courtyard.
The crane sat on the valley side of the church (the back). Ordinarily, it would have been placed on the lawn near the monastery on the north side of the church (visible from the guest house). However, that was no longer possible because of the recent monastery renovations; our geothermal field systems for the monastery's heating and cooling are laid under that lawn. As a result, the crane had to be positioned on much lower ground, farther away, and extended out more than normal to lift the bell out of its tower.

The hope is to have bells 1-5 back in place by Easter. Bell 6 will take longer. Then, it'll have to be hoisted back in place. In the meantime, we sure do miss them around here. The Voice of God, of course, carries on as always -- but it helps to also keep an eye on the clock these days!

Monday, February 6, 2017

We love because he first loved us

Photo taken December 29, 2012

Christians do not strive to avoid sin and perform good works in order to win God's love and achieve salvation.

Rather, because we believe by faith that God first loved us and granted us salvation through his Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, we strive by grace to avoid sin and perform good works. This is the fruit of faith, a gift that comes from God alone.

As Ephesians 2:8-10 says: "By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life."

When we fail to produce the fruit of faith -- as we surely will (and do, many times each day), then we seek God's forgiveness and resume the journey of faith, extending that same mercy to others who fall along the way. As St. Benedict says in his Holy Rule for monks, "It is love that impels [us] to pursue everlasting life" (5:10).

"God proves his love for us in that
while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Romans 5:8

Sunday, January 29, 2017


A couple morsels of spiritual food for prayer and reflection related to today's Gospel reading at Mass (Matthew 5:1-12a). The above video shows the Saint Meinrad schola chanting the Beatitudes for the preparation of gifts during Mass on the Solemnity of All Saints in November 2016. Try listening to it while reading Pope Francis' comments today regarding the same Gospel passage: please click here.

May we all be blessed in poverty of spirit!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

We walk by faith

"When we say that we cannot find God and that he seems so far away, we mean only that we cannot feel his presence. Many people do not distinguish between God and the feeling of God, between faith and the feeling of faith. It seems to them that when they do not feel God, they are not in his presence, which is a mistake.

If you ask me, 'What can I do to acquire the love of God?' I answer, 'By willing to love him.' And instead of setting to work to try to find out how you can unite your soul to God, put the thing in practice by a continual application of your mind to him, and I assure you that you will arrive much more quickly at your object by this means than by any other.

In order to reach the road to heaven, we must just go on putting one foot before the other, and by this means, we shall arrive where we desire. Keep walking, we say to those souls so desirous of their perfection, walking the way of your vocation with simplicity, more intent on doing than on desiring; that is the shortest road."

St. Francis de Sales

Monday, January 23, 2017


Novice Joseph Wagner

Br. Elias Leeuw

The past week has been a busy one here in the monastery. There was the sudden death of Fr. Rupert, and his funeral early in the week, and then the Solemnity of Saint Meinrad on Saturday. On Thursday and Friday, there were two additional events of a special nature.

First, we received Joseph Wagner (no relation) into the novitiate -- with the new arrival ceremoniously knocking on the two large wooden doors at the front of the monastery, which a couple days earlier had swung open to receive the body of Fr. Rupert. You can read more about Novice Joseph by clicking here. Then, former Novice Joshua Leeuw made his profession of temporary vows (obedience, stability, and conversion of life, for three years), receiving the name Br. Elias. Read more about Br. Elias by clicking here.

May God complete the good work he's begun in both Br. Elias and Novice Joseph, and guide their continued discernment of our way of life with peace and wisdom.

Meanwhile, please continue praying for more vocations to our way of life, and for those of us who've already made solemn vows. Be assured of our own for you -- we pray each day for the Church and the world.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fr. Rupert -- Dressed for action

NOTE: As many of you likely know by now, this past weekend we lost a very holy and faithful monk -- Fr. Rupert Ostdick, O.S.B. He was 95 years old (read his full obituary here). Though 95 and suffering from spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease, Fr. Rupert was still a very active member of the monastic community (he got around on a motorized scooter), rarely missing community prayer times, meals, meetings, and other gatherings. He passed on to his eternal reward quite suddenly early Saturday morning as he was getting dressed in his infirmary room before the beginning of Vigils and Lauds in the Archabbey Church.

Today was his funeral Mass and burial, and below is the homily delivered by Fr. Eugene Hensell, O.S.B. For those of you not fortunate enough to know Fr. Rupert, a few clues to his personality and bearing may make help make more sense of the allusions made in Fr. Eugene's homily. First, Fr. Rupert was a very joyful, gentle, and gracious man, a true gentleman in every sense of the word. He always had a smile for everyone he met, and he never (or rarely) forgot a name. He was also someone who disliked disorder. To put it mildly, Fr Rupert was very precise about everything he did -- from his daily routine to his diction. And like a Timex watch, he took a licking and kept on ticking. When I first arrived at the monastery 10 years ago, one of his arms was in a sling, the result of a serious bicycling accident (he was 85 at the time). When he healed, and I suspect with the Abbot's orders, he switched to a sleek-looking, low-riding tricycle. In the years afterward, there were other falls and mishaps. Once he tripped in the monastery refectory and broke his neck. As he waited for the ambulance in the infirmary, he was dictating, in very precise terms, all the details of his prescription medications for the nurse. Another time, I actually watched him fall down the stairs ahead of me as we walked to church. That didn't stop him either. And on the day he died, he was dressing, as he would any morning, for morning prayer in the Archabbey Church. Fr. Rupert, a good and faithful monk (not to mention tough), was always ready for action. Now, may he rest in peace.
"Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”


Stories about watchfulness and being prepared for the coming of the Son of Man originated at a time in the early Christian Church when expectations were very high that the second coming of Jesus would happen very soon. It did not. Gradually these stories began to be applied to the need of every believer to be prepared for the moment of death: a time when one would meet the Lord face to face. We are admonished, “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit.” Those who are prepared for the Master when he comes will be treated to a remarkable experience of reversal.  The Master will invite the servants to sit at table and he will serve them. Still, the overall emphasis on being prepared for the unexpected remains the same. “But know this, the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” Even for that servant who is faithful, there is still very much about the hour of death that is unknown and beyond anyone’s control.

In spite of all this, I would like to suggest that no one tried harder to keep all the unexpected and unknown aspects of both life and death under control than did Fr. Rupert. Obviously, he could not control the actual moment of his death. But that did not deter him in his efforts. He simply opted for second best—to control every aspect of life. Fr. Rupert was a monk and a priest of deep faith and strong convictions. Almost every day of his very long monastic life, he was dressed for action and had his lamps lit. He left nothing to chance. He allowed for no randomness. His entire approach to life might best be described by a phrase taken from a poem by Wallace Stevens. Fr. Rupert had what Stevens refers to as a “Blessed Rage for Order” (Wallace Stevens, The Idea of Order at Key West). Here we must not misunderstand the poet. The word “rage” does not refer to intense anger. That certainly would not fit Fr. Rupert. Rage in this context describes a profound sense of enthusiasm, the virtue and daily dynamic that allowed Fr. Rupert to engage life fully right up to the last second of his 95 years.

For all we know, Fr. Rupert is this very moment sitting at the Master’s table, and the Master is serving him. He always seemed to enjoy on occasion sitting at the monastic head table, so no doubt he would enjoy the step up. The somber truth is, however, we do not know factually what happens after death. We hope and we pray, but in fact what happens after death is shrouded in mystery.

In his Rule for monks, Chapter 4 which deals with “the tools for good works,” St. Benedict says, “Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die. Hour by hour keep careful watch over all you do, aware that God’s gaze is upon you wherever you may be” (RB 4:47-49). Since factually we begin dying the very day we are born, I like to think that St. Benedict is really attempting to focus our attention on the fullness of life which reaches its crescendo at the moment of death.  He is not referring simply to the final act of death itself. St. Benedict is admonishing us to pay careful attention to how we live. Life is a glorious gift from God. Do not squander even one moment of it. We do not know when the Son of Man will come and our life will be completed through death. Fr. Rupert took this teaching of St. Benedict very seriously because he was a faithful and obedient monk.

Prepare as he might, Fr. Rupert did not know that his moment of death would be on Saturday, January 14, 2017, around 5:00 a.m., as he was getting dressed for action with his lamps lit. If he had known, no doubt his “Blessed Rage for Order” would have included detailed instructions setting forth how everything was to be done. Throughout his long 95 years Fr. Rupert focused his energies far more on life than on death.  It was precisely by focusing on life that, in fact, he prepared for death. In that long preparation, Fr. Rupert taught us some very important lessons.  Sometimes he used words, but most of the time he taught by example:

n  Lesson one: Live life to the fullest. It is an amazing gift from God.

n  Lesson two: Do not be overwhelmed by the many hardships you may encounter along life’s journey, but trust in the healing processes of life which constantly manifest the grace of a loving God.

n  Lesson three: Do not be afraid to try new things at any age. When you can no longer ride your bicycle, get a tricycle and keep on pedaling.

n  Lesson four: Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit.

--Fr. Eugene Hensell, O.S.B.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Mystery of the Incarnation

NOTE: A wonderful meditation about the meaning of this season by an ancient monk and theologian.


The Word of God, born once in the flesh (such is his kindness and his goodness), is always willing to be born spiritually in those who desire him. In them he is born as an infant as he fashions himself in them by means of their virtues. He reveals himself to the extent that he knows someone is capable of receiving him. He diminishes the revelation of his glory not out of selfishness but because he recognizes the capacity and resources of those who desire to see him. Yet, in the transcendence of mystery, he always remains invisible to all.

For this reason the apostle Paul, reflecting on the power of the mystery, said: Jesus Christ, yesterday and today: he remains the same forever [Hebrews 13:8]. For he understood the mystery as ever new, never growing old through our understanding of it.

Christ is God, for he had given all things their being out of nothing. Yet he is born as man by taking to himself our nature, flesh endowed with intelligent spirit. A star glitters by day in the East and leads the wise men to the place where the incarnate Word lies, to show that the Word, contained in the Law and the Prophets, surpasses in a mystical way knowledge derived from the senses, and to lead the Gentiles to the full light of knowledge.

For surely the word of the Law and the Prophets when it is understood with faith is like a star which leads those who are called by the power of grace in accordance with his decree to recognize the Word incarnate.

Here is the reason why God became a perfect man, changing nothing of human nature, except to take away sin (which was never natural anyway). His flesh was set before that voracious, gaping dragon as bait to provoke him: flesh that would be deadly for the dragon, for it would utterly destroy him by the power of the Godhead hidden within it. For human nature, however, his flesh was to be a remedy since the power of the Godhead in it would restore human nature to its original grace.

Just as the devil had poisoned the tree of knowledge and spoiled our nature by its taste, so too, in presuming to devour the Lord’s flesh he himself is corrupted and is completely destroyed by the power of the Godhead hidden in it.

The great mystery of the divine incarnation remains a mystery forever. How can the Word made flesh be essentially the same person that is wholly with the Father? How can he who is by nature God become by nature wholly man without lacking either nature, neither the divine by which he is God nor the human by which he became man?

Faith alone grasps these mysteries. Faith alone is truly the substance and foundation of all that exceeds knowledge and understanding.

--St. Maximus the Confessor (c. 580 -- 662)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Distractions in prayer

"Whenever I am weak, then I am strong."
2 Corinthians 12:10

Do not imagine that the important thing is never to be thinking of anything else [during prayer and meditation] and that if your mind becomes distracted all is lost. I have sometimes been terribly oppressed by this turmoil of thoughts, and it is only just over four years ago that I came to understand by experience that thought is not the same thing as understanding. I asked a learned man about this and he said I was right, which gave me no small satisfaction.

For, as the understanding is one of the faculties of the soul, I found it very hard to see why it was sometimes so timid; whereas thoughts, as a rule, fly so fast that only God can restrain them. It exasperated me to see the faculties of the soul, as I thought, occupied with God and recollected in Him, and the thoughts, on the other hand, confused and excited.

As I write this, the noises in my head are so loud that I am beginning to wonder what is going on in it. My head sounds just as if it were full of brimming rivers, and then as if all the water in those rivers came suddenly rushing downward; and a host of little birds seem to be whistling, not in the ears, but in the upper part of the head.

I should not be surprised to know that the Lord has been pleased to send me this trouble so that I may understand it better, for all this physical turmoil is no hindrance either to my prayer or to what I am writing now, but the tranquility and love in my soul are quite unaffected, and so are its desires and clearness of mind.

It is not good for us to be disturbed by our thoughts or to worry about them in the slightest; for if we do not worry and if the devil is responsible for them they will cease, and if they proceed, as they do, from the weakness that we inherit from the sin of Adam, and from many other weaknesses, let us have patience and bear everything for the love of God. … The clacking old mill must keep on going round and we must grind our own flour; neither the will nor the understanding must cease working. … So it is only right that we should have patience … and not blame our souls for what is the work of our weak imagination and our nature and the devil.
-- St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Mary, Mother of God, pray for us

The Word took to himself the sons of Abraham, says the Apostle, and so had to be like his brothers in all things. He had then to take a body like ours. This explains the fact of Mary’s presence: she is to provide him with a body of his own, to be offered for our sake. … The angel Gabriel used careful and prudent language when he announced his birth. He did not speak of “what will be born in you” to avoid the impression that a body would be introduced into her womb from outside; he spoke of “what will be born from you,” so that we might know by faith that her child originated within her and from her.

By taking our nature and offering it in sacrifice, the Word was to destroy it completely and then invest it with his own nature, and so prompt the Apostle to say: This corruptible body must put on incorruption; this mortal body must put on immortality.

This was not done in outward show only, as some have imagined. Our Savior truly became man, and from this has followed the salvation of man as a whole. Our salvation is in no way fictitious, nor does it apply only to the body. The salvation of the whole man, that is, of soul and body, has really been achieved in the Word himself.

What was born of Mary was therefore human by nature, in accordance with the inspired Scriptures, and the body of the Lord was a true body: It was a true body because it was the same as ours. Mary, you see, is our sister, for we are all born from Adam.

The words of St John, the Word was made flesh, bear the same meaning, as we may see from a similar turn of phrase in St Paul: Christ was made a curse for our sake. Man’s body has acquired something great through its communion and union with the Word. From being mortal it has been made immortal; though it was a living body it has become a spiritual one; though it was made from the earth it has passed through the gates of heaven.
--St. Athanasius