Category Archives: Homilies and Talks


Homily – Abbot Elias Dietz, “Seek the Things that are Above” – Easter Sunday, 2021


Homily – Easter Sunday – April 04, 2021

Seek the Things that are Above

At the Tenebrae service yesterday, we heard from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday that dramatizes Jesus’ descent to hell and his encounter there with Adam. Toward the end, Jesus says to Adam: “Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven.”


Jesus knew Adam well, that is, he knows us well. We are aware of our plight, aware that we are unhappy and unfulfilled, but we do not really know what we want. We settle too easily for a simple restoration of what was before. Worse yet, we tend to look below for things that can only be found above or we look above for things that belong below.


The empty tomb is a powerful symbol here. The resurrection is not a restoration. What remains, from what was, is empty space. Life, new life, is beyond that old space; it is ahead, above. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,” Saint Paul tells us.


The empty tomb and the Easter Season stretching before us ask a question: What do you really want? If we are going to get beyond Adam’s instinct to fall back on the familiar, we have some discovering to do here.


Just as there is a Lenten observance to bring us down to earth and to help us know the truth about our lives here, so there is an Easter observance to set our minds on what is above and to help us discover the truth about what awaits us, “where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”


We can look to Saint Paul’s words for a description of this Easter observance: “. . . seek what is above . . . think of what is above . . . your life is hidden with Christ in God.”


We are beings of desire, always seeking something. Easter is a time to reorient that seeking. “Seek what is above.” Like Adam, we need to let Jesus pull us out by the wrist and prevent us from settling for anything less than life above with him.


“Think of what is above,” or, as some translations put it, savor what is above, ponder on what is above. In other words, keep up the spiritual disciplines, keep reading, keep meditating, but carry in your heart the questions: What do I really want? Where is the Risen Lord drawing me?


And, finally, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” As Saint Augustine says about this verse:

Perhaps this is why it was said, Love is as strong as death (Sg 8:6). For it is by reason of this love that we die to this world while we are still living in this corruptible body and our life is hidden with Christ in God; indeed, love itself is our death to this world and life with God. (WSA III/13, p. 223)


Homily – Easter Vigil 2021 – Fr. Michael Casagram

+THE STONE HAD BEEN ROLLED BACK                  Easter Vigil 2021

This is the night of al nights, the night on which all of human history was and is being changed forever. The eternal Word who had entered fully into our human condition through the Incarnation, shared also in its fragility, suffering and death. In his doing so, all of human life was changed. As St Paul has just reminded us through his letter to the Romans, “we were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.”

We so easily take it for granted, but the only reason we are gathered here this night is because of him who died for us that we might live in newness of life. This death and rising, however, are taking place every moment of our lives for as often as we die to sin we become more and more alive for God in Christ Jesus.

Just last Sunday Pope Francis in an international televised ceremony spoke of what an amazing thing it is to see “the God of the universe stripped of everything and crowned with thorns instead of glory, to see the one who is goodness personified insulted and beaten for us, to plumb the depths of our human experience, our entire existence, all our evil.”

He went on to say that Jesus “experienced our deepest sorrows: failure, loss of everything, betrayal by a friend, even abandonment by God, by experiencing in the flesh our deepest struggles and conflicts, he redeemed and transformed them. His love draws close to our frailty; it touches the very things of which we are most ashamed. Yet now we know that we are not alone: God is at our side in every affliction, in every fear; no evil, no sin will ever have the final word. God triumphs.”

What great love God has shown toward each and all of us. And so we pray this night that God’s love may be experienced in every fiber of our being so that our lives may reflect more and more such tender mercy.

Whatever each of us gathered here may be experiencing, whatever our brothers and sisters throughout the world may be going through at this time, may we come to know and experience as never before that we are infinitely loved. Nothing of human life is foreign to God, if only we could realize this in the depths of our hearts. To do so is to allow ourselves to be transformed into the glory of Christ’s presence as he, even now, sits at the right hand of our eternal Father.

This is the night, when what took place over two thousand years ago is taking place right here in our own lives and in the world all around us. The one who died for us is filling our hearts us with his love, despite our resistance and failures. Even as he breaks bread with us at this altar, may own our hearts be filled with joy. And may the eyes of Christians everywhere be so opened as to see the stone of the tomb has been rolled away and be filled with the fullness of life, Christ is offering us.

Rom 6:3-11; Mk 16:1-8

Homily – Fr. James Conner – Annunciation of Blessed Virgin Mary 3/25/21

March 25 – Annunciation B.V.M.

Today our Lenten observance is interrupted in order to make known to us something of the greater Plan of God for our salvation. For the past five weeks God has been calling us to repent – to change our ways – to open our hearts in a new way to accept the Love of God as manifested in His own beloved Son. Truly, as St John tells us, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son for our salvation. And today God reveals the beginnings of this plan to us.

He reveals His Plan to a simple maiden, and yet she is much more than that. It is she who has besought God that the promised Savior might come quickly. She, more than any other creature, has manifested the intensity of her desire for the coming of the Savior. In fact, her desire has been so intense that it has moved God Himself to hasten this coming. And in so doing, she shows us also how we are to best respond to this Lenten season – how we are to efficaciously open ourselves to this coming of our God.

Thomas Merton has said numerous times that the most important element of the spiritual life is desire. Mary has shown to us the efficacy of desire – for it was through her desire that God has opened the heavens and sent to us our Savior.

But God’s Plan is for more than a single coming of His Son. God’s Plan is to make all peoples into His own sons and daughters by becoming conformed to His beloved Son. The intense desire of Jesus Himself was that we might all be one, just as He is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit: and in order to realize that, He is willing even to lay down His own life in order that we might find life.

Here again, it is the intensity of Jesus’ own desire that ensures salvation for all of us. But in order for that desire of Jesus to be realized, it must be made one with our desire. All our desires must be made conformed to those of Jesus Himself. In order to accomplish this, our hearts must be made conformed to Mary in her response of “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, Be it done to me according to your will” and likewise to the heart of Jesus who expresses His desire to share this Pasch with us. This is precisely why St Benedict could make the vow of obedience so important, for it is there that we unite our will with the will of Christ and the Will of the Father and so bring about that mystery of salvation for all peoples of all times.

St Augustine has said: “You have made our hearts for you, and we remain restless until we rest in you”. This restlessness is that of our desires which seek for life for ourselves and for all peoples. And Jesus has assured us that if our desires remain like those of Mary, then we are assured of finding life for ourselves and for all peoples. Like Jesus in our second reading today, we can say to the Father: “Behold I come to do your will” – that will which is for the salvation of all peoples of all times.

Jesus Christ gives Himself to us today in this very Eucharist in order to reside in us as truly as He resided in the womb of Mary in order to truly bring all things into one in His Love.



Lenten Presentation – Developing a Contemplative Consciousness – Fr. Michael Casagram – March 24, 2021



Back in 2018 I went through a spiritual biography of Henri Nouwen called God’s Beloved by a Michael O’Laughlin that came out back in 2004. Many of us are familiar with Henri Nouwen as a spiritual writer who was especially gifted at articulating what goes on in many of our lives. As Robert Ellsberg recently said in his lecture at Bellarmine:

“By the time of his passing, thirty-two years later [after coming to the States from Holland] in 1996, he had become one of the most popular and influential spiritual writers in the world. His popularity was only enhanced by his willingness to share his own struggles and brokenness. He did not present himself as a ‘spiritual master,’ but—like the title of one of his early books—as a ‘wounded healer.’ Those who knew him were aware of how deep his wounds ran.”

Ellsberg is reminding us of something that is key to any spiritual life or journey, the fact that we are all involved in struggles and inner brokenness. I am convinced that God lets us see our faults and failings so that we may come to know our continual dependence on an all merciful Savior, so that we may open our hearts to an abundance of grace with which God seeks to fill us. Nouwen as the “wounded healer” is a true follower of Christ. By owning his true condition he has won the hearts of countless people.

In this Henri Nouwen was a lot like Merton who reached so many people through his Seven Story Mountain and other writings throughout his life. Both had a living faith and a sense of their own vulnerability, weakness and sensitivity. As they shared their own experience, what was going on in the lives of countless readers was able to be articulated and understood perhaps, for the first time. There was a “down-to-earthiness” in both of them which takes on more and more meaning for our own time.

Mysteriously, it is in knowing our own nothingness, coming to recognize our total dependence on God, that we come to experience the living God and not a god of our own making. Everything changes in our lives when we come to know and experience the true and living God. God is no longer out there somewhere, or up there and so transcendent that we feel unable to relate to the Divine Presence. God is right in the midst of our lives.

In another book I have been reading recently called The Contemplative Experience, erotic love and spiritual union, the author Joseph Chu-Cong a monk of St Joseph’s abbey, Spencer, MA says the following (pp 7-8):

It is when I reach rock bottom, falling through every kind of thinking to the sheer emptiness of my being, that the Truth reveals itself. As St Paul wrote about Jesus:

“His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as all humans are. And being as all humans are he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, and death on a cross. But God raised him high, and gave him the name which is above all other names, so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld should bend the knee at the name of Jesus, and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of God the Father. “ (Phil. 2:6-11)(To be inclusive in language, I changed “men” to “humans”)

Needless to say this is a text worth pondering during these last days before Easter. As I read this I remember what my scripture scholar told our class as I was studying in Rome some years ago. He said this text from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one of the finest ever written in terms of Christology. If we want to develop a clear and comprehensive understanding of who Christ is for the human family this is one of the best descriptions you will find in the whole of Scripture. It reveals Christ not only as the eternal Son of God but as one who taken on the full depth of our humanity by reason of God’s self-emptying love. He not only lovingly assumed the condition of a slave but was humbler still by accepting death and death on a cross.

Most of us are familiar with these words of St Paul but what Fr Joseph Chu-Cong wants to bring home to us is the intimate love God is revealing toward us in Christ’s humble acceptance of death on a cross. As we come closer to the end of this season of Lent I would invite each of you to ask God to let you experience the intimacy of Christ’s love for you. Each of us has experience of this kind of love through family life, moments of prayer, or affection expressed in marriage and we know how this evokes our own love in return. I would invite you to let this experience pervade the whole of your lives. A good way to do this is to spend time between now and Easter reading a couple if not all the passion narratives in a slow and reflective way so that what is revealed there of God’s love for you may come off the page and enfold your heart with its love. But let me return to O’Laughlin’s book on Henri Nouwen.

There he quotes from Merton the following:

“Contemplation is not vision because it sees ‘without seeing’ and knows ‘without knowing.’ It is a more profound depth of faith, a knowledge too deep to be grasped in images, in words, or even in clear concepts. It can be suggested by words, by symbols, but in the very moment of trying to indicate what it knows the contemplative mind takes back what it has said, and denies what it has affirmed. For in contemplation we know by ‘unknowing.’ Or better, we know beyond all knowing or ‘unknowing.’

As I read this in view of what I have just shared with you above, I think that Merton is talking about his own experience of God’s love for him when he says “in contemplation we know by ‘unknowing.’ Or better, we know beyond all knowing or ‘unknowing.’ To truly love another or  experience the real love of another has for us, is to know beyond all knowing for it is not about something going on in our heads but an experience in the heart that is a sharing in the very life of God, the life of Holy Spirit that gives bliss to the very life of the Holy Trinity. I think this is what developing a contemplative consciousness really means and is a path open to each and all of us if we are willing to explore it.

This is an experience that all newcomers to the monastery go through and in fact, what those who have long been members of a community may go through again and again, this experience of unknowing. There is always a way in which we want to have some grasp on what is happening in our lives, want, in a way, to make sense of it but this is where real faith can take place. You would think that someone like Henri Nouwen with all his popularity and success as a writer or teacher, would have been satisfied or fulfilled but the opposite was true. We are told that he “was afflicted by an inordinate need for affection and affirmation; he was beset by anxieties about his identity and self-worth; there seemed to be a void within that could not be filled.” This, it is suggested is what led him to make several moves in his life, from one place or project to another. He moved from Holland to America, to Notre Dame and then to Yale, to our monastery of Genesee and then to Latin America, to thinking of becoming an affiliate of Maryknoll, then to Harvard and finally visiting a number of L’Arche communities in France and Canada, he settled down somewhat at one in Canada.

As I read of Nouwen’s life and his insecurity about himself I am lead right back to what Merton says about the true and false self. We will only be at peace with ourselves as we surrender to God’s presence and activity in our lives which we can only do by faith in the divine presence that cares for us. We can strive all we want to make sense of life and work at realizing others’ expectations of us but we will never be satisfied and know our true selves in this way. By prayer and an honest effort to carry out God’s will in our lives as best we can know it, do we come to know who we truly are as children of God and carry out in countless hidden ways a divine plan where we are truly at home and at peace. The love of God will become manifest in our lives in countless ways and all that we do will then begin to reflect this loving presence for our own good and for all those around us. The more we are in touch with our true selves, the more we will assist others in becoming who they are most destined to be. The more authentic we become the more sensitive we are to everyone and everything that is a a part of the climate in which we live.

At St Paul says somewhere “our life is hid with Christ in God.” What is obscure in terms of what this world esteems is the very path to holiness and true greatness. This brings me right back to St Paul’s Christology where he whose state was divine, did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself and became as we are. We all have countless opportunities to walk this path, to be emptied of all unhealthy self-esteem so as know and experience ourselves as God’s very own children. Family life provides endless opportunities to walk this path of self-forgetfulness so as to serve the good of others. I know the loving service of my own parents provided me with an example of faith and love for which I am forever grateful. There were blindness and blockages in our life together as a family of seven but overall, the loving kindness has outdid the failures.

In the midst of all Nouwen’s personal struggles, he was drawn into a contemplative experience, like that of Merton in many respects but one that was uniquely his own: He writes:

“We are called to be contemplatives, that is see-ers, men and women who are called to see the coming of God.. The Lord’s coming is an ongoing event around us, between us, and within us. To become a contemplative, therefore, means to throw off—or better, to peel off—the blindfolds that prevent us from seeing his coming in the midst of our own world. Like John the Baptist, Merton constantly points away from himself to the coming One, and invites us to purify our hearts so that we might indeed recognize him as our Lord.. Thomas Merton invites us to an always deeper awareness of the incomprehensibility of God. He continually unmasks the illusions that we know God and so frees us to see the Lord in always new and surprising ways.” (The Road to Peace: Writings on Peace and Justice, pp 196-97)

When Nouwen speaks of Merton inviting us “to an always deeper awareness of the incomprehensibility of God” there is something unsettling about this but also clarifying and freeing. The danger of any of us is the inclination to try to tie God down or to cling to a certain understanding of God that puts limits on God’s way of acting in our lives and in the lives of others. Again, it is only when we approach God with faith that we are able to allow God to be God so as to move freely in our lives and in those of others. This can be a real challenge and it certainly demands of us a deeper faith or trust, if God is to act pervasively in our lives. As Merton and Nouwen yielded to this mysterious divine presence in their lives, it continually opened new horizons in both of them, horizons that allowed them to accomplish all that they were destined to be and to do.

As any one of us becomes open to these new horizons through faith, hope and love, we too are empowered to realize our own potential as God’s very own sons and daughters. We are all invited to participate in God’s very own life and in doing so our lives are transformed. We allow ourselves to accomplish all that we have been destined to do during our brief sojourn on this earth.


The other morning while reading in Spanish from the gospel of St Luke at breakfast I came across the parable Jesus told about God’s working in our lives: “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.” It is a perfect parable for what I would like to say in this presentation about developing contemplative consciousness. God is ever doing this in each of our lives, in our families, in our church or religious communities, in our society, in our Nation and in the whole world as we come to live closer together as a human family. The yeast that is mixed into the three measures of flour is the leavening presence of the Holy Spirit.

The great theologian, Karl Rahner build his theology on that moment after Christ died on the cross, when one of the soldiers opened his side with a lance. He tells us that that is when the Church was born, that is when God’s own Spirit was poured into the hearts of all  who would believe in the Christ who came that we might have life and have it abundantly. This gift which is a sharing in God’s very own divine life has been poured into my heart and into yours. God’s own Spirit is at work in every baptized Christian like yeast in each and all of our lives so that the reign of God may take over the whole of our world.

As this yeast of God’s own Holy Spirit works its way into more and more into our daily lives, our hearts are expanded, the dough rises and is ready to be baked. Through the fire of faith, hope and love our lives are gradually transformed so that we may nourish the lives of all those around us. From the very beginning of Christ’s appearance on this earth, he spoke of how the kingdom of God was in our midst. The eternal Word of God having taken on our flesh, becoming incarnate, means a whole new horizon had been opened up for the human family. I feel we are seeing this taking place in hidden and wonderful ways in our own time.

Our i-phones, our access to internet, the many uses for modern technology have allowed us to witness what is happening all over the planet we live on. Pope Francis’ recent book Let us Dream tells of how we are being brought together as a human family all the more intensely by the recent pandemic, by the growing awareness of climate change, by the fact that we today more than ever as being asked to establish social structures that are life giving and not death dealing. If we allow ourselves to become more aware of the needs of others, especially of the poor, the suffering and neglected and reach out to them, we will not only see but rejoice in what God has in store for the human family. We will be awakened to an eternal design that is already a sharing in God’s very own life forever more.

Abbot Elias – Homily for funeral of Br Frank Gorzynski – March 22, 2021


Homily – Funeral Mass of Bro. Frank Gorzynski, OCSO

March 22, 2021

[Job 19:1,23-=27; Rom 14:7-9,10c-12; Jn 6:36-40]

Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

As far as Br. Frank is concerned, this homily is just a formality. Visiting with him over the years during his various health crises and especially during the last months of his life, I never had to wonder what I would say to him. He gave his own little homilies to both of us, and they were more substantial than what I would have said. He was his own best motivator. The reading we heard from Saint Paul encapsulates well Frank’s basic attitude: “. . . if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

Brother Frank was always two steps ahead, always anxious to know what was coming next. Looking through his file, I noticed an unusual letter from him addressed to the Dom James in 1959, the year of his entry. He had applied to enter in June of that year. Most of the entrance paperwork, like the doctor’s report, is from that July. But Ed Gore, as he called himself at the time, was getting impatient. So, on August 2 he wrote a letter to Dom James: “Dear Rev. Father: This is just a brief note in order to find out as to whether or not I have been accepted. . . .” He goes on to ask five questions about what to expect, to whom he could write letters, who could visit, etc. As he readily admitted, he inherited a strong worry gene.


Another constant in his life was a sense of duty. He wanted to know what was expected of him, and he wanted to carry it out well. He had a vocation at a young age but felt duty-bound to put his plans aside for several years to respond to the needs of his family. By all accounts, his choice of the Trappists was a good fit. The brothers’ way of life with its clear expectations suited him well.

But these natural supports only took him so far. What really shaped him were unexpected developments, things he never would have dreamed to ask about in his anxious letter to Dom James. After all, the disciples’ way can be no different than the Lord’s way, who came “not to do  My own will, but the will of him who sent Me,” as we just heard from John’s gospel. Br. Frank ended up spending a long period of his life at the abbey’s foundation in Chile: 1966-1986 at La Dehesa, and then at the new site, Miraflores, through 1989, when he returned to Gethsemani. No doubt he enjoyed the hard work of founding a new house. But life in that new community was quite different from what he had experienced in the hundred-year-old monastery he had entered. Notice also the time-frame: his first years in Chile were in the immediate wake of the Second Vatican Council. Like everyone in those days, Br. Frank had to learn to rely more and more on his own resources and less and less on the institutional supports he took for granted in his formative years. Wading through personal difficulties during that period was an unexpected extension of his formation. No doubt some of the homilies he repeated to himself and to me date from that time, being half in English, half in Spanish. He learned the hard way that self-reliance has its limits and that the only way forward was through God’s mercy. “Everything that the Father gives to Me will come to Me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to Me,” as we heard from the gospel of John.

The path of spiritual maturity took him further still when he was faced over and over again with surgeries meant to get him back on his feet. Each time he had to let go of his self-reliance a little more. He had to learn to recognize God’s mercy in the hands of those who helped him. Few people develop the kind of patience Br. Frank showed in recovery after recovery.

As one of the brothers mentioned in chapter, Br. Frank was one of those people you hardly notice. He probably wanted it that way. Meanwhile he was quietly following a long itinerary of spiritual growth. He got what he came to the monastery for, but only by accepting a path different from what he had planned on. Today we witness his return to the One whose mercy he discovered: “and this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up at the last day.”

And what about that pesky worry gene? Maybe worry is a sign on the surface of a much deeper thing described so well in the book of Job [19:27]: “. . . my inmost being is consumed with longing.”


Homily –     Eleanor Craig, S.L. – Life Comes From Death – 3/21/21

Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 21, 2021

Jeremiah 31:31-34        Hebrews 5:7-9        John 12:20-33

            Happy springtime to all of you! 

            Have you ever thought what it would be like if Lent, Holy Week, and Easter occurred in the fall instead of the spring?  How different that would be–if it even could be.  The liturgical and natural seasons as scheduled are such a perfect fit, with the same message, the message of today’s gospel, the message of life flowing from death, of the seed giving up its way of life that fruit may emerge.

            Today’s readings repeat multiple versions of the message of spring and of Easter.  The message is the very core fact of creation: 

  • The inescapable law of creation is that the grain of wheat must die to produce life. 
  • The one who loses life, finds it, and God’s glory is revealed in the process and in the new life that emerges.

The Creator tells us through messengers:

  • I will place this law within you, write it on your heart and in your flesh. 
  • From within you my Spirit will help you learn obedience through the many seasons and sufferings of life.

            As we enter the final weeks of Lent, the rituals and scriptures of our Catholic tradition will focus attention for much of the time on the dying of the grain of wheat, the suffering that teaches obedience, the death that prepares the way for God’s glory.  Our natural world, the world of winter and springtime, is balanced, unfolding in equal measure days and weeks of dark and light, seed and harvest, year after year.  The course of our human lives with one another–individually and as groups and society–can seem more like the end of Lent, long passages of pain, suffering and death, relieved by all too brief days of glorious rebirth.

            As we approach difficult times of pain, loss, and death, we echo Jesus’ words, “I am troubled now.”  Let us pray that we are able and willing to finish the thought as he does: “Yet what should I say, God save me from this hour?  But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour, that God may be glorified.”

            Each of us has that inner sense of purpose; it is the law written on our hearts.  We grasp at least vaguely that the hurts, pains, suffering and even death in our personal lives is part of a larger flow, a trustworthy process; many of us have learned obedience to it and accept it as God’s purpose.  Most of the time we are willing to cooperate for the sake of the life promised, the fruit that will emerge, the good God brings forth in God’s own good time.  And for the sake of giving glory to the Creator.

            But what of our lives together?  our life as the Loretto community?  our civic and social life as citizens of town, state, nation?  What about the pulsing web of life of our small home, Earth? 

            I think perhaps the inescapable law of creation applies to each of these communities of life too.  In this season of our Loretto community life, we are painfully aware that our precious Loretto is in the process of dying.  Are we even now a seed, destined to die for the sake of new life?  Is something trying to sprout, to blossom and grow into fruit from our Loretto?  Are we focused only on death or also on the glory of new life promised by the God to whom we have promised faithful obedience?

            Our nation and its civic parts seem fatally trapped in discord, disaster and destruction; are these possibly the life-throes of birthing?  Can something new and good and life-giving come from our national and even our global social turmoil?  Are we at least willing that it be so?  And what of Earth itself?  Does the web of all earthly life follow the law that the lowly seed follows?  Is Earth and the cosmos tumbling toward inevitable destruction?  Or is Earth and the whole cosmos endowed by the Creator with resilience like the grain of wheat, just now beginning the process of life-giving death that will produce new fruit? 

            Not even a prophet could answer these questions, yet the simplest creature has an answer written in the heart:  life comes from death. The Creator places this truth in the seed, the Spirit teaches the seed to be willing.  And our God-Creator glories in the obedient, trusting heart as it comes into full flower.  We who are troubled now about how to use our power, responsibility, self-direction and personal control might relax during this season of death-into-life, trusting that the hand of the Creator guides us, the Spirit within teaches us, and the Jesus the Risen Christ leads the way from death into life.

                                                                                                            Eleanor Craig, S.L.

Homily – Fr. Alan Gilmore – “Passiontide”” 3/21/21


Today’s Readings remind us of the promise of a New Covenant, a new heart, the forgiveness  of  sins – that have been gained through the ‘hour’  of  the  Lord’s redeeming passion.

3/14   Dear Brothers,  a few of us here this morning may remember – that some years ago, this 5th Sunday of Lent  – was known as  “Passion Sunday”.  It marked the beginning of  “Passiontide”,  lasting until Easter.

I recall an incident, years ago, involving two young men wildly carousing  on a certain Saturday.  The next day, one said to the other: “I just remembered,  today is Palm Sunday!!” Gratefully, no one here is so ill- disposed.  But  today, this 5th Sunday of Lent,  this very special penitential season of the Church year, is nearly over! We might ask ourselves – how are we doing so far  – in disposing ourselves for the celebration of Passiontide?

When reading my Lenten Book the other day, I came across a homily – for this very Sunday of Lent!  I’d like to share with you some of the thoughts expressed there -with  regard to our ‘disposition’ at present. The homily was originally directed to lay-persons, but all – lay-persons  and monks – are sinners.

(Extensive quotation) “The desire to embrace his Father’s plan of redeeming love inspired Jesus’  whole life, for his redemptive passion  – was the very reason for his Incarnation.

How little are our sorrows compared to those of the Lord,  how little our pain, our hardships, our  persecutions,  compared to those he undertook for us.  How base and miserable are we for understanding them so littlr, so little impressed by them.

Doesn’t it stand to reason that we must be in a very irrelegious state of mind, unless we have some little gratitude, some little sympathy, some little love, some  little awe, some little self-reproach, some little self-abasement, some little repen-tance, some little desire for amendment, in consequence of what He has done and  suffered for us?  Why are things with you as they are?  Will Good  Friday, and Easter Day pass by and will you still be as you were? Why is this? Because you so little meditate and  therefore are little impressed. (Webster  – meditate’s 1st syn. Is to contemplate, –  ‘ponder’)

What is meditating on Christ? It is simply this:, thinking habitually and constantly of him and of his deeds and sufferings. It is to have him before our minds as One whom we may contemplate , worship and address when we rise up, when we lie down, when we eat and drink, when we are at home and abroad, when we are working, or walking, or as rest, when we are alone, and again when we are in company; this is meditating. This, even the most unlearned  person can do,  and will do, if he, or she, has a will to do it.  Can a less thing be asked of you – when He  has done the work, that you should only have to believe it and accept it?

We cannot force ourselves into such feelings.  We can grow in grace until we so feel.  We can observe such outward abstinence from innocent pleasures and comforts of life.  When we meditate on Christ’s sufferings we shall be gradually brought to these deep feelings Pray to God to do for us for what we cannot do for
ourselves.  To make us feel; to give us the spirit of gratitude, love, reverence, self-abasement, godly fear, repentance, and lively faith; to have tender, sensitive, loving hearts.”  (End Quote)

May our obedient Lenten repentance and whatever suffering we may encounter  thereby during Passiontide, be pleasing to God – who loves to forgive – may open us to the Deep Joy of Easter  – at the Resurrection of his obedient and Risen Son.  Amen. (Quotes from Saint John Henry Newman)

(Jer. 31: 31-34, Heb. 5: 7-9, Jn. 12: 20-33)                                Fr Alan   Gethsemani

Homily – Fr. Michael Casagram – Feast of St. Joseph – 3/19/21

Dear Brothers – What do we think of fatherhood? Some of us have had a very good relationship with our fathers. Others of us have had difficulties with our fathers. Most of us are probably somewhere in the middle. The father/son relationship is usually complicated – we love our fathers and want their approval, but we have likely rebelled against their authority at some point. They may have supported our choices and independence, or criticized us. They may have been affectionate and warm, or cold and withdrawn, having little time for us, or they may have been the stern authoritarian that many associate with the figure of the father. They may have encouraged our vocation, or intractably opposed it. Our relationship with our fathers has probably been complicated.

            One thing is certain, though. Our fathers have influenced our lives, for good or for ill. They have given us a picture of what it means to be a man, whether we admire that picture or not. They have coloured our attitudes toward authority, toward work and responsibility, and toward love. If our fathers have passed away, in many ways they still live on in us.

            So what do we think about fatherhood these days? Some say that the model of the traditional family is falling apart. With same-sex marriage, divorce rates rising, and single parents becoming more and more a norm, the role of the father is changing. I’m no sociologist, so I’m not qualified to speak about this. I don’t know the statistics as to whether children raised by a single parent make better adjusted adults or worse. I do know that for many the traditional family has been a nightmare. Over 50% of women have been abused at some point in their lives, either sexually, physically, or emotionally, and the majority of that abuse happened in their family of origin. Most of the trauma that we carry with us is from our childhood, caused by our traditional families. But at the same time, fatherhood, or mentorship, continues to be an important element in everyone’s life. If we can’t find the support and love we need at home, or even if we can, we may find it elsewhere. I’m sure many of us can name one or several men who have been fathers or mentors for us aside from our birth father, figures in our lives who have guided us and supported us in important ways, who were there at turning points in our lives.

            And lest we forget, the Holy Family was far from our model of a “traditional family.” According to Catholic teaching, the marriage between Joseph and Mary was never consummated. And Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. There are theologians who believe that the irregularity of Jesus’s conception was well-known among his contemporaries. In John’s gospel, Jesus’s enemies taunt him by saying, “We are not illegitimate,” as the NAB translates it, implying that they thought that Jesus was. There is an old rumour, from about the late 2ndcentury, that Jesus’s real father was a Roman soldier named Pantera. Also, Jesus was an only child, again according to Catholic teaching. Scripture refers to the brothers and sisters of Jesus, particularly James, somewhat unfairly called “the lesser,” who was a leader in the early Church, but Catholic teaching explains that seeming contradiction to the perpetual virginity of Mary. In any case, as a one-child family, Jesus’s household would be an anomaly in a culture which prized female fertility and large families. Jesus’s family was far from the traditional model of his day and even of our own.

Nevertheless, it is clear that Joseph played the role of father to Jesus and of husband to Mary. In popular pictures of how we imagine Jesus’s childhood, Joseph is often depicted as teaching Jesus the trade of carpentry. One of the few things we know about Joseph was that, like his namesake in Genesis, he listened to his dreams. He believed that God could and did communicate to him through dreams, and he followed the advice given him in dreams. When he thought that Mary had been unfaithful and that he would have to divorce her, a dream explained her situation to him. When Herod was about to kill all the male children under two years old in Bethlehem, Joseph heeded his dream and protected his family by escaping temporarily to Egypt. Because of his silence, Mary gets all the speaking parts, we think of Joseph as quiet and patient, a gentle man.

Joseph, then, was a very real father to Jesus, despite not being his biological parent. He nurtured and protected him, and gave him an example of what it means to be a righteous man, as Matthew describes him. We might imagine that Jesus gets his compassion and patience from Joseph.

According to Pope Francis, contemporary society, particularly in Europe and North America, tends toward individualism, where the individual’s wants and needs outweigh the wants and needs of the community. We are taught, through our culture, that we must be self-sufficient, that we must stand on our own two feet, make our own way in the world, forge our own path. This can lead to many problems, such as neglect of our elders, who shuffle off to retirement homes after they are no longer able to be self-sufficient. It also leads to a certain short-sightedness. We view our own story in isolation from others and from history. We have no identity except for the one we have constructed for ourselves and the past extends only as far back as our own lifetimes. All this emphasis on the individual gives our society a sense of restlessness and rootlessness, bereft of the history and community that we could be given through our fathers and mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers.

Our Gospel today begins with the very tail end of Matthew’s genealogy, which begins, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The genealogy proceeds through the generations, mainly from father to son, until ending with the verse before us, “and Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.”

            In the reading from 2nd Samuel this morning, we hear the promise that God makes to David, that a son would sit on his throne, so that “your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me.” Although the obvious interpretation of these verses is that they refer to Solomon, who did build the first temple, Christians believe that they refer to Jesus, and Matthew makes clear, through his long genealogy, that the prophecy of Nathan is, in fact, fulfilled in Jesus, through his father, Joseph, descended from David.

            So, aside from all his other virtues as a father, Joseph provides Jesus with a lineage, a place in history and in his community. Jesus is not merely an individual, forging his own path, but the end result of dozens of generations of men and women who had their own stories, and made their own contributions to history. He is the fulfillment of history. His context gives his mission greater meaning and effectiveness. This sense of history, of belonging to something greater than ourselves, is something our contemporary world could use more of. And it is provided through fatherhood.

            Here at Gethsemani, we are privileged to be able to find a different sort of relationship to fatherhood. We have an abbot, a father who is the representative of Christ for us. Our elders are not sent away to retirement homes, but live with us and pass away with us. Our past is a living thing through their stories and examples. Simply living in our monastery and worshiping in our church day to day gives us context and a sense that we belong to the history of this place. Our cemetery shows us that our community extends far beyond the brothers we are living with here and now, that generations of men built and sustained this place before we ever arrived, and are still with us in spirit. They are all, in some sense, our fathers. Like Joseph, they dreamed of a future. We are their dream. Our way of life could be a sign to the world of a different message of fatherhood.

            And of course, the spirit of St. Joseph is alive and well here at Gethsemani. All we have to do is look around to find him all over the place. He is the patron of our church, which was dedicated to him in 1878 and rededicated in 1998. And he watches over us from his perch on St. Joseph’s hill in all we do, from our singing in choir to our work in our industries, from our waking to our sleeping. Joseph was a father to Jesus, and he continues to be a father to us, gently guiding and directing us. The plaque outside our church doors which commemorates the dedication calls him our “chosen patron, protector and defender.” We could do worse than remember the prayer inscribed on that plaque, and continue to dream of the future under Joseph’s patronage: “May there be an increase in the life, merit, and number of the brethren.” Amen.

Homily – Fr. Anton 3/12/21 – Basil Hume, a Benedictine monk

Introit: If your sins are as scarlet, I will make them white as snow; if they are as crimson, I will make them white as wool, says the Lord.



The Devil is good salesman,

Sin is an easy sell.

Let us be sorry for the times we bought into Sin,

offended God and our neighbor. 


I confess, etc.


The Gospel   Mark 12:28-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,

“Which is the first of all the commandments?”

Jesus replied, “The first is this:

    Hear, O Israel!

    The Lord our God is Lord alone!

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,

    with all your soul,

    with all your mind,

    and with all your strength.

The second is this:

    You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.

You are right in saying,

    He is One and there is no other than he.

And to love him with all your heart,

    with all your understanding,

    with all your strength,

    and to love your neighbor as yourself

is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,

he said to him,

“You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

After the Gospel:


“Remember, brothers, that when you die, someone will be relieved.” 

Words of  Basil Hume, a Benedictine monk at Ampleforth in England,

Abbot of Ampleforth for thirteen years

before being called to be Archbishop of Westminster.

Later he was made a Cardinal, the only Benedictine in the College of Cardinals.

Even though Cardinal Hume  chose not to live in Rome,

he was so well-liked,   he gained such a high profile,

that when Pope John Paul II looked particularly ill, a Hume papacy seemed a real possibility.


But going back to his days as Abbot of Ampleforth,

he did what Abbots do:  taught by word and by example.

He gave the monks good reason to see and serve Christ,

not only in the Abbot, the poor and the sick,

but especially in their fellow monks with whom they came in close contact.

After all, he believed, wasn’t the monastery their workshop,  where they practiced love,

tried to get it perfect before the final exam, the judgement  on how they treated others,

on how their love of God showed up as love of neighbor?


Wasn’t the goal:  “Behold how good and how pleasant, where brethren dwell in unity…”?


Wasn’t their guide The Rule of Benedict,  especially Chapter 4, where Benedict puts “love of neighbor” second among 72 tools that monks use as Good Works?


While  Abbot, he could easily bring up the importance of Love, which  has to be the basis of community life,  the art of relating to one another as brothers.


Because  monks are  social animals, yes, but they walk  around  wounded creatures,   vessels of clay.

It’s one thing to live with a group of men of the same mind and outlook, with whom we have a natural affinity,

it’s quite another to live and work with men we would not normally choose as obvious companions. 

And he would manage to include: “Remember, brothers, that when you die, someone will be relieved.” 


Basil Hume actually lived the Love and Tolerance and Patience that are indispensable virtues for every monk. When he died in 1999, one newspaper  ended its obituary by quoting him:

“As Abbot of Ampleforth, he liked to repeat to his monks the words of his predecessor: ‘Remember, brothers, that when you die, someone will be relieved.’

But today, for Basil Hume,   you will have to look pretty far to find such a person.”

Fr. Michael Casagram – Lenten Reflection – (VIDEO) Prayer as the Path to Deepest Self, Luigi Gioia 3/10/21

The video of Fr. Michael’s talk can be found at:
Text version:


In an effort to share with you on prayer and how this relates to each of your lives let me draw on a couple different sources. As I began preparing these thoughts I am reminded of something said to me a long time ago. Often enough it is not a matter of not knowing how to pray but just a question of exercising it. If there is anything that I would like most to come about from this conference, it would be simply to encourage you to faithfully engage in prayer the way each of you finds helpful.

In the book I have been reading for Lent which is called What I Am Living For, edited by Jon M. Sweeney, there is one chapter by a Daniel p. Horan, O.F.M. He writes the following:

In the dearly decades of Merton’s religious life, the 1940s and 1950s, his contribution to Catholic spirituality was distinctive in that he extended an invitation to all women and men to develop a life of prayer and faith… Merton suggested that “[t]he ever-changing reality in the midst of which we live should awaken us to the possibility of an uninterrupted dialogue with God.” In contrast to the belief that prayer is something that operates according to our terms or requires of us a commitment to consecrated religious life, Merton invited all people to consider that God seeks us first and that we can cultivate practices of attunement to that loving presence of God always near us. “We must learn,” Merton wrote, “to realize that the love of God seeks us in every situation, and seeks our good. His inscrutable love seeks our awakening.” (p.73)

There is no situation, none whatever in which you find yourselves as members of the LCG when God is not seeking you out, seeking to share with you his/her own divine life. What is asked of any of us is tuning into God with the whole of our lives so that this movement of divine love penetrates the whole of our lives, vibrates through every cell of our bodies, in every movement of our spirits. God leaves no stone unturned as I am learning from more and more of my own experience. Perhaps this is why we all too easily turn away when we realize how penetrating and revealing this divine light can be in our lives.

Let me draw on Daniel Horan’s words again:

The difficulty of this dialogue with God is what Merton calls the contemplative awakening; that is, we must be open and attuned to the invitation of relationship that God extends to us at all times. When we awaken to the mystery of God’s presence in our lives, this is at once the beginning of dialogue with God and the inauguration of our discovery of our true self. For Merton, dialogue with God is both a discovery of who God really is and the discovery of who we really are: “The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God.” Though modern societies and popular cultures tell us that we need to construct our identities and shape our personal futures, Merton insists that who we really are is known to God alone, for God loved each of us into existence individually and in our particularity. We cannot merely happen upon or discover our true selves by ourselves. “For although I can know something of God’s existence and nature by my own reason, there is no human and rational way in which I can arrive at this contact, that possession of Him, which will be the discovery of Who He really is and Who I am in Him.” (p.75)

The fundamental search going on in any one of our lives is that of knowing God and who each of us is as a person uniquely created and brought into being by this loving God. For many years this can be going on unacknowledged by us but there comes a point when we can no longer ignore its urgency. Whether touched early on or late in life, we know it carries a lasting effect, even an everlasting meaning.

Dan Horan, drawing on Merton again, shows how critical this search is for us by pointing out that:

“Merton summarizes what a dialogue with God looks like and leads to: “Prayer is not only the ‘lifting up of the mind and heart to God,’ but it is also the response to God within us, the discovery of God within us; it leads ultimately to the discovery and fulfillment of our own true being in God.” This effort is not only for a few and the religious elite but also for every member of the human family..” (p.75)

As I typed this, I cannot help but think the Pope’s recent visit to Iraq is precisely a recognition of the fact that whether Christian or Muslim, we are all called to commune with God so as to come to a mutual understanding and appreciation of one another as to what is common in our respective religious traditions.

What initially inspired me to give a talk on prayer to my monastic community was reading  a book by a Fr Luigi Gioia, a Benedictine monk called Say It To God on prayer, so let me draw on a few of his reflections as the means of getting in touch with our deepest longings. This book has been a selection by one of our LCG groups as the main source for reflection during their monthly meetings.

In one of the chapters he speaks of “A Presence We Discover in Us’ (p.23) and writes of how “the Lord himself opens a space for prayer in our hearts. He invites us there, to be alone with him, to find rest in him: ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ He awakes in us a longing to see our life centered on him.” (p.23)

So much of prayer is really about coming to know ourselves as made for God, how restless we are, as St Augustine told us long ago, until we rest in God. Most of us live daily with a paradox for “there is something in us that feels uneasy with prayer and shies away from it, that repeatedly finds excuses for putting it off to another day.” One cannot help but wonder why this is the case, what it is that makes us, called as we are to be truly Christian, to run from what is true to our own deepest longing?

Many of you are familiar with psalm 138/139 depending on the numbering you us. It is a psalm I have always loved as it reminds me and all of us that God is never far from any of us. The psalmist asks:

Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from you presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the furthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, ‘surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night’, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. (ps 138/9:7-12)

Jesus tells us, as you well remember from John’s gospel, how “the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.”(Jn 4:23) Prayer is meant to be the hub of our lives, something we are called to do all day long as though the most natural thing in the world. Gioia goes so far as to say “prayer is.. not only the thing our soul desires but also that which all humanity, indeed the whole of creation, desperately need.”

Many of us in our world today have become increasingly aware of how much humanity and all creation groans “in travail” as we face the spread of the virus, have been given fresh awareness of the effects of racism in our society, the growing consequences of climate change that seems to threaten the future of human life on our planet. More than ever, we are experiencing the wisdom of St Paul that “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God… in the hope that it will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (8:20-21)  We are all we want to be when we live in continual and loving relationship with God.

Prayer in this sense, is the most natural thing in the world, what our God wants and expects from us more than anything else in life. Continual prayer is the gift of our heavenly Father. The constant longing that arises from deep down within, is this pull coming from our heavenly Father. Jesus reminded us long ago that no one comes to him “unless the Father draws him.” This is as Gioia points out, “the living water that Jesus promised will rise in the hearts of those who believe in him… It is the deepest voice of our heart that coincides with the voice of the Spirit within us that cries out Abba, Father.” (p.25)

God looks to those who worship in spirit and in truth. To have access, however to this deepest part of our hearts may have surprising results. When faced with it, we all too easily become rebellious, closed or resistant when God draws near to open our deeper selves so as to free us from all forms of self-centeredness or inner resistance. Gioia would have us venture to the root of our inner struggle with prayer, have us look at what may be difficult to face in our prayer life. For him, to plumb the depths of our hearts takes a lot of nerve. As he puts it:

“The tragedy is that our heart is at odds with ourselves too, it blames us too; as John says in his letter: our heart condemns us.” (1 Jn 3:20)

This means that trying to penetrate our heart, trying to get in touch with the deepest part of our soul, with our spirit, can be rather unappealing. It is like going back into a prison, a gloomy space closed and bolted in which we have shut ourselves, prisoners of a voice that accuses and blames us. We are locked in our hearts exactly as were the trembling disciples, who stayed huddled behind closed doors before the resurrection of Jesus: ‘the doors of the place where they had met were locked for fear of the Jewish leaders.’ (Jn 20:19) Fear was the key that locked their door, the same fear that keeps us hidden today behind our inner walls.”

Gioia goes on to point out, how religiosity is of no help when we find ourselves behind these inner walls and it only makes them thicker. “There is a certain familiarity,” he says, “with Scripture, with prayers, in short, with religion, that can make us impervious to the action of the Lord.” While reading the scriptures, it does not take us long to realize that, while his first disciples surrounded him and walked with him day after day, they had an awful time comprehending what he was trying to bring home to them.

The Scribes and Pharisees often quoted scripture to him but completely missed the good news he was trying to share with them. His disciples “could live side by side with Jesus and yet remain fearful and of little faith.” At such times we may begin to believe that God is powerless, distant or has abandoned us.

Strangely enough it is exactly at such times as these that we learn to truly become persons of prayer. Faced with our utter poverty and inadequacy, our faith opens the door to God’s own generous gift of the Spirit. Through a humble and simple trust in the living God, who knows our weakness and inner struggle far better than we do, our spirit becomes united with God’s own. It is then that our spirit becomes one with the Holy Spirit who prays within us with sighs too deep for words.

So, if there is anything I wish most for each of you during this time of Lent, it is that you be faithful in your practice of prayer, that it may enable you to face those deep fears that arise in your hearts and allow them to become the very means of transformation. Then you will know the living God who is not only at your side but lives within you.