Category Archives: Homilies and Talks


Homily – Fr. Carlos Rodriquez – June 13, 2021

The culture of our age, due to amazing technology, believes we can possibly do everything if just given the time.  We cannot keep up with new inventions, new products, new social developments and the ever mystical language of the young.  Yet no matter how fast our world goes it gets us nowhere but and most do not know why the frenetic activity that seems to have no meaning and yet still escalating in speed.  There is this sense of I want to be in everything that’s happening, I want to know everything that is happening and the reason why it is happening.  If people did not get involved they feel like being left behind by the world.  And for this reason when activity stops people find themselves surprised with so many deep questions of self, others, society and life itself.  So disappointed that technology could not give answers to.  There remains a constant anxiety within.

This is the arrogance of a modern culture which thinks that they can create and uncreate with the vast knowledge available to it.  It’s a make believe world that reality is only what we can see and observe and analyze.  So inactivity which can be used for thinking, searching, contemplation of things around us is denied.   So from the personal inability to find these deepest questions we again turn to ourselves and find answers in Utopias.  We have a vision of a  society that is well ordered, a society that caters to our own values, dreaming of a world that all has the same thinking and uniform approach to life.  Sadly as we have seen it does not work.  The gospel today reminds us that there is power and force that is at work beyond our society and the world we live in.  That global events are not only produced by human will and action.

There is a spirit world too and not material only.  And that a spiritual world runs parallel to our human history.  History is not merely a story of what happened to human beings and still happening to them.  It is governed by this spiritual power and Will.  It is as the parable in the gospel say the power of a small mustard seed (the power and glory of the kingdom) that is developing within our daily existence.   It is almost imperceptive but we glimpses of it.:  the people’s revolution against tyranny, a higher consciousness and awareness of racism,  the acknowledgement that we have damaged the earth severly and needs to be repaired, the protection of the dignity of women.   One may say it is too slow and insignificant in comparison to the power at work in the world but name one power that stayed permanently.  Empires and kingdoms have come and are now gone and so is our present system of government.  Society and peoples have their permanence only in consonance with the power of the kingdom like a seed which inevitably will grow.  Because this power will bring us through in spite of the powers in the world.

Pope Francis warned us in his latest encylcial not to align ourselves with any power in this world.  Not to put our hope on leaders that will solve problems of society; to solve what we think needs to be solved.  All are under the judgement of the kingdom of heaven.  St. Paul already said to his flock:  “Don’t you know you will be judging angels at the end.”    One day perhaps late in life, or when we look back from God’s throne on the last day we shall say with amazement and surprise: “if I had ever dreamed that in the midst of my care and troubles and despairs His harvest was ripening and that everything was pressing on  toward his last kingly day, I would have been calm and confident.

Had I believed that there is a growing power parallel to worldly power I would have been more optimistic and caring and loving in spite of all odds.  I would have lit a candle instead of cursing the darkness.  Had I read the signs, the little humble signs of the kingdom in this life I would have left long ago the narrow confines of my life which I have created because I stuck to my ideas and understanding about life and the world.  I would have freed myself from the narrow confines of my make believe world and self-induced one.  I never realized that my world was so narrow.  The kingdom is inviting all peoples to enter it so that it may experience its joy and peace.  To call the gathering here for the sake of the kingdom, the church.
Yet, not one church of a given country is the Church, but all different churches.  There is no national church or national churches but only one church and it is found in the matrix of the kingdom.  It’s in a little seed.  Like an atom waiting for its energy to be released.  The kingdom is the hope of all peoples even those who are not called christians for in their hearts are also the values and spirit of the kingdom.  The mustard seed is in all the hearts of people.  They need to find it there.

Corpus Christi – We are one Body – Fr. Anton – June 6, 2021

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ       June 6, 2021


The Gospel      Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,

when they sacrificed the Passover lamb,

Jesus’ disciples said to him,

“Where do you want us to go

and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”

He sent two of his disciples and said to them,

“Go into the city and a man will meet you,

carrying a jar of water.

Follow him.

Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house,

‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room

where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘

Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.

Make the preparations for us there.”

The disciples then went off, entered the city,

and found it just as he had told them;

and they prepared the Passover.

While they were eating,

he took bread, said the blessing,

broke it, gave it to them, and said,

“Take it; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them,

and they all drank from it.

He said to them,

“This is my blood of the covenant,

which will be shed for many.

Amen, I say to you,

I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine

until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Then, after singing a hymn,

they went out to the Mount of Olives.


After the Gospel:

Pope Francis may have had the United States in mind at his Mass on Pentecost,

when a congregation was with him for first time since the pandemic struck.

1,000 people heard him call for unity in the Church,

to reject what divides and separates us,

to say NO!,   not be caught up between conservatives and progressives, traditionalists and innovators, the right and left …


But to say Yes!  to what makes us Catholics,

to say YES!  to the whole,

Yes! to seeing ourselves as parts of the same Body,       Yes!  to unity!


He may well have been thinking of  recent headlines:

Catholic bishops at odds about receiving Communion,”

“Controversy swirls over pro-abortion politicians receiving Communion,”

the Eucharist being used as a weapon in America’s political warfare.


Just when bishops are trying to get Catholics back into the pews,

comes a scandal and division making bigger news, causing people to shake their heads.

Who gets Holy Communion has become such a hot issue, so highly public and charged with emotions, that it will be on the agenda of the American bishops’ national assembly starting June 16.


For Pope Francis, it was a  call back to the basics,

which has  a  special meaning for Corpus Christi,

when the breaking of the bread becomes our sign that we are one Body.


Today’s feast gives us a chance to join with Catholics the world over

in  celebrating  the basics of what we believe,

because you can’t   NOT BELIEVE   in the Eucharist and still be a Catholic.


It’s our chance to celebrate what the Body and Blood of Christ mean to us personally.

The truth is, we’re all sinners.  All Catholics should approach the Eucharist with fear and trembling, but even more, with hope and confidence, because we believe that no matter how great our sins, God’s mercy is even greater.


We believe it’s the Lord’s Supper we’re celebrating,

that in the Eucharist, Christ gives us the very Body which he gave up for us on the Cross,

the very Blood which he poured out for the forgiveness of our sins.

How many martyrs have died to defend the Eucharist!


Our belief is  that Jesus Christ makes Himself truly present,

Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist,

that He is present whole and entire in the species of bread and in the species of wine,

whole and entire in their parts,

in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.


We acknowledge that Jesus Christ is our Shepherd, that one of His greatest works is to be the Shepherd who gathers his flock around him in the Eucharist .. including the healthy and the wounded.


We believe the Shepherd does not lie when He says: “This is My Body – this is My Blood – do this in memory of Me!”


We believe there are blood ties between this flock and its Shepherd,

because this Shepherd went to the very end of his life to open the way to the pastures of salvation,

to lead us to the place where God dwells.


We believe that in the Eucharist Christ cares for us,

feeds us, satisfies our hunger with true Bread from Heaven,

so that whatever material food does for our bodily life,

the Eucharist does even better  in our spiritual life,

preserving, increasing and renewing the life of grace we received at Baptism,

separating us from sin, keeping us from what would harm us.


We’re proud to bear the name ‘Christian,’  that the Eucharist is what bonds us together.

There is one Bread, which is broken for us,

so that all who eat the one broken bread,       Christ,

enter into communion with Him,

form one Body in Him.

As we receive the Body of Christ, we form the Body of Christ, we make one body…

which dictates how we treat each other …

since …  how can  we  despise other members of our own body?


Not for this life only are we Christians,  but for the life to come.

We believe that this Shepherd is able to give us His life – Eternal Life – so we shall never perish.

We’re confident that Jesus  said:  “whoever eats this bread will live forever,”

that the Eucharist is the leaven of eternity within us,     our pledge of life to come,

so we take the Eucharist as our medicine of immortality,

as our antidote for death, as the food that makes us live forever in Jesus Christ.


Every time we approach God’s holy table we’re following His command to eat and drink,

as we ask for our daily bread,

for bread for our journey,

the strength to get us thru this day,

to get us thru this life,

the Bread that will endure with us to life everlasting.


Our Liturgy may use different names in its prayers: Manna from Heaven,  Bread of Angels, Sacred Banquet, Holy Viaticum … but in all those names, we  acknowledge the Real Presence…  Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.


Any  one of those names  state our belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,

that He’s resurrected and alive,

with us until the end of time, that God has put everything into His hands.

In the  Eucharist, we believe, He does works no one else can do.

Body of Christ – June 6, 2021 Sr. Eleanor Craig S.L.

Feast of Corpus Christi

June 6, 2021

Exodus 24:3-8.           Hebrews 9:11-15.           Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

Last Sunday Eileen introduced her reflections saying “The God I grew up with is not the God I know now and I suspect the same is true for all of you.”  It’s true for me.  In fact, the God I know now is not even the God I knew a year ago.  And the biggest shifts in my thoughts, my imagination, and my heart-feelings are about Jesus the Christ.

As a child, beginning with my First Communion, I was deeply affected by the rituals surrounding the Real Presence.   I resonated with the moments of consecration proclaimed by the ripple of bells and with the rituals of benediction, embellished with incense, gold-and-white vestments and the starburst of the gold monstrance embracing the Host.  Short visits to the Blessed Sacrament were a quiet respite from the social turmoil of recess.  Holy Thursday’s elaborate adoration altars and Corpus Christi outdoor processions were times of awe and pride in my Catholic faith.  The sacramental life of the Church throbbed for me, and the pinnacle of that life was the Body of Christ with us in the consecrated host.

Later I was moved by the imagery of the Mystical Body of Christ, by the sense of all of us joined in one spiritual family. In my adolescence, I connected the Mystical Body with the spirit of Catholic Action that we sang about with gusto—no, I won’t sing it for you, but the words began “An army of youth flying the banner of truth, we are fighting for Christ the Lord…”

Beginning in the novitiate, the Body of Christ signified for me the combined strength and dedication of all the baptized, with our common vocation to build up the human community in love.  Spurred by the documents coming out of the Vatican Council, I looked on my Loretto companions, the students in my classroom, and the whole communion of Christians as St. Paul described us:  the many members of one body, having many different gifts but all united under Christ as head.

Recently I’ve been reading Richard Rohr’s book The Universal Christ – a book that I’ve found both challenging and unsettling.  Rohr insists there is a much closer connection between the Christ and me/us.  The Universal Christ is God’s Love incarnate as God’s creation and then incarnate within creation as Jesus.  Through deep suffering and deep love, Rohr says, we are drawn into Christ and into one another in a union, a oneness that is the full realization of our human nature and our destiny.  Rohr writes “Only great love and great suffering are strong enough to take away our imperial ego’s protections and open us to authentic experiences of transcendence. …[They] will connect you to Full Reality at ever-new breadths and depths ‘until God will be all in all.’  Our part is simply to allow and embrace deep suffering and deep love and we will find ourselves in the body of Christ.

Thomas Merton described having such an experience, one March day in 1958.  He was in Louisville, running errands for the monastery.  He later wrote that he was walking among crowds on a sidewalk when…

“…at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation.… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud…. If only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts, where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are.  If only we could see each other that way all the time.”

If only we could see each blade of grass, each glass of water, each element of God’s creation that way, all the time.  If we could, when we can, we will have lost ourselves in the heart of Christ.


–Eleanor Craig, S.L.

Reflection – Fr. Michael Casagram – 6/1/21 – Truth

+Intro: St Justine was an early Christian philosopher and martyr, intent before kings and rulers on seeking the light of truth.  As we enter into these holy mysteries let us be mindful of those ways we may fail in our search for truth, for the living God.

After the gospel: The Pharisees and Herodians come to Jesus with evil intent, to ensnare him in his speech. They complement Jesus for his truthfulness and disregard for status but Jesus unmasks their hypocrisy. I suspect this is always going on in our own lives as we seek to live in union with Christ. There are subtle ways we too get in the way of opening our hearts to the fullness of God’s grace and truth.

We just heard about this blurring of the truth in the life of the deeply religious Tobit when he accuses his wife of stealing a goat given her as a gift. Amid all his charitable deeds he’s suspicious of the person closest to him. As we celebrate this Eucharist, let us ask the Lord Jesus to keep our eyes open and to fill our hearts with his very own light and love.

Homily – Fr Seamus – Trinity Sunday 5/30/21

HOLY TRINITY + 5/30/21 + [Readings:  DT 4: 32-34, 39-40. Rom 8:14-17; MT 28: 16-20]

Ths feast of the Most Holy Trinity is the only feast on the Church’s liturgical calendar that is not based on an event. It’s based on a Doctrine, i.e., a teaching of the Church. The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian life. God alone can make it known to us by revealing himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In his Letter to the Romans, Paul tells us that we have been gifted with “the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God …. provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:14-17)

And so it is, that every day, during our celebration of the Eucharist, we pray the epiclesis over the gifts. We cry out “Abba,” … to our Father, to send the Holy Spirit among us to transform our community’s gifts of bread and wine so that “they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The mystery of faith! And then, we pray the epiclesis over the assembled community, asking “Abba,” our Father, that those who partake in the Body and Blood of Christ may be made one by the Holy Spirit. The Eucharist, then,  is both what is on the altar and also our entire community, assembled at the altar. As St. Augustine said, we are to become what we celebrate. “We are to become bread broken and wine poured out for the world.”

And then there’s St Bernard, who, in his sermon ON THE FAITH AND VIRTUES OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN,  tells his community of monks, that this Divine Wisdom, Who was with God and was Himself God (John 1:1), coming down to us from the bosom of the Father, “has built Himself a house,” that is, has fashioned for Himself a Mother, the glorious Virgin Mary ….”

Bernard continues by saying, “the Three Persons of the most Holy Trinity dwelt in the holy Virgin by the presence of their undivided Majesty, although the Son alone was in her by the assumption of human nature. So much is clear,” Bernard says, “from the words of the heavenly messenger, who, in revealing to Mary the profound depths of this mystery, said to her, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28) … and a little later on: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the Power of the Most High shall overshadow you” (ibid. 35). Then, not surprisingly, Bernard speaks directly to Mary, “Behold now, O most happy Virgin, you have the Lord, you have the Power of the Most High, you have the Holy Spirit. You have, consequently, the Three Divine Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For the Father cannot be without the Son, or the Son without the Father, or without Both, the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from Both.” Bernard then reminds his monks, that “The Son once said to His disciples, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me?” (John 14:10). And again, “The Father, Who abides in Me, He does the works”. Then Bernard tells his monks, “It is  manifest, therefore, that faith in the Trinity was found in the Virgin’s heart, since it is by faith that God dwells in the hearts of the just.” (Eph 3:17).

What the mystery and doctrine of the Trinity mean, when all is said and done, is that the God who created us, who sustains us, who will judge us, and who will give us eternal life, is not a God infinitely removed from us. On the contrary, our God is a God of absolute proximity, a God who is communicated truly in the flesh, in history, within our human family, and a God who is present in the spiritual depths of our existence as well as in the core of our unfolding human history, as the source of enlightenment and community. That mystery and doctrine is, in its turn, the beginning, the end, and the center of all Christian theology.

Everything we know about this phenomenal, resplendent, incomprehensible triune God declares that God is passionately, boundlessly in love with each one of us!

O Unity, True, Sovereign, and Eternal! Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,  have mercy, have mercy, have mercy on us.”  [Antiphon at SEXT, Feast of Holy Trinity: Ps. 118]
___________________________________________ END

[ A Cistercian Prayer (Hymn) to the Most Holy Trinity puts it this way: ]

Blessed be God, the eternal Father, watching from his doorstep, and extending his arms to his children, lost and found. He has committed the whole universe to the Son and the Spirit, and his two hands have only one immense task: to carry us to the secret of His face.

Praise to the Son, light of truth. In him the love of God gives itself, open space, boundless land, but always with the cross at the entrance. His whole desire, in self-forgetfulness, is to be only the source of the Spirit and the reflection of the Father for all those who perceive his mystery.

Let us sing to the Spirit, fountain of freedom. In our hearts, it is a murmur of water that washes and transfigures those who, one day, will live a risen life. Its whole desire, in self-forgetfulness, is to be only total transparency to the Father in his glory, and the presence of Jesus in his victory.
(Commission Francophone Cistercienne, La nuit, le jour (Paris: Desclee-Cerf, 1973 107. Fiche de chant L LH 114).

Homily – Fr. Michael Casagram – Pentecost 2021

+HE BREATHED ON THEM                                 Pentecost 2021

Our gospel speaks of the fear the disciples had after Christ’s death so that they locked the doors of where they were staying. Jesus comes and stands in their midst and after saying “Peace be with you, he breathed on them so that they might receive the Holy Spirit.”

There are lots of fears in our own society today, fear of the effects and spread of the virus, fear of gun violence, fear of continued global warming, fear of Asian people or of other races than our own, fear of an economic crash, fear of infidelity to Church doctrine and tradition, fear about our own monastic way of life and its future, and so on..

Jesus comes and stands in our midst and says: Peace be with you, breathing his Spirit into our hearts. He empowers us to know what we are to forgive and what we are to retain for the good of our community, for our Church and for the society in which we live. The Spirit of God is ever at work right in the midst of our own daily lives, right in the midst of whatever we undertake if only we have hearts that are open, ears to hear.

Just recently I watched an interview of two women with the superior general of the Jesuit order, Arturo Sosa in view of the 500th anniversary of the conversion of St Ignatius. One of the women says to Sosa: “You have Jesuits who are teachers, doctors, actors, podcasters, everything you can think of. That’s clearly part of the Jesuit charism and the strength of the order. But as the person who’s on top of that, do you manage such a diverse workforce?”

He responded by saying ‘every day I discover something new that Jesuits are doing! Because each Jesuit is a font of creativity. And it is very important to understand that the Society of Jesus is not an organization for ‘doing something.’ It is not a job. No, the Society of Jesus is made of people who want to respond to the call of the Spirit.. As we also learn from the Bible, the Spirit—we don’t know where he’s going to guide us. So what we need is to be very in touch with the Spirit.’”

This is true of each one of our lives as monks, each of us lives our way of life out of a unique context peculiar to each of us. The simplest tasks of our everyday lives are the occasion for the presence and action of the Holy Spirit. Whether getting up in the morning, making our way to and celebrating the Divine Office, eating at table, doing our lectio or whatever work we may be assigned, we are constantly making room for the presence and action of the Holy Spirit. God’s gift of love transforms everything.

There are all kinds of spiritual gifts at work in our community if only we have the eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts open enough to appreciate them. As we are freed from the works of the flesh, the fruits of the Spirit take hold of our lives, those of “joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” as St Paul reminds us. God is forming us into a Holy Temple for everlasting glory. The consecration that takes place at this altar is going on all day long, as often as we allow the Holy Spirit to permeate our lives. So let us be ever more grateful.  Amen

(Acts 2:1-11; Gal 5:16-25, 12-13; John 20:19-23)

Fr. Michael Casagram – Reflection 5/21/21 Jesus asks “Do you love me?”

I find myself entering into St Peter’s distress after Jesus asks him a third time “Do you love me?” All of us can find ourselves in a similar predicament as we live our Christian and monastic lives. We make promises of poverty, chastity and obedience summed up in our vows of Conversion of manners and Stability but when push comes to shove we all know how easy it is renege on our promises, on our protestations of love.

And our Christian life is not just about being faithful to commitments but of feeding God’s sheep. It is never enough to come to know our own weakness and continual dependence on grace. Christ calls us into share in the weakness of all our brothers and sister, doing all we can to alleviate their sufferings. This means entering more and more into a mystery much bigger than we imagined.

Homily – Fr. Alan Gilmore – Sixth Sunday of Easter – Love is God and our vocation

Dear Brothers, Today the 6th Sunday of Easter is also Mother’s Day. In this Mass let us remember all our living and deceased Mothers, Grandmothers and Stepmothers, all Mothers.
There is a Jewish proverb that goes:” God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers”. Kalil Gibran, the Muslim poet, called the word “mother’ the most beautiful word in our language.
Have you ever met someone who told you bluntly that they did not believe in love?  Many professional people, social workers, prison chaplains, teachers in high-school and college meet such people all the time.  People who do not believe in love often have a sad  history behind them.
It  may be a broken home, unloving parents, unfaithful friends, the list is long.  Where love was expected,  rejection was received.  The sad  result is that entirely negative outlook of a lonesome,  unhappy and joyless person.
Today’s liturgy deals with love of God and fellow men and women.  God loves us but it does not make sense even to mention this to someone who does not believe in love at all.  Love is some- thing that must first be learned and experienced from early infancy.  It must be developed and fostered,  first on the human level; only then can it be given its religious dimension of God and (because of God) the neighbor.  It’s so important that all of us who must be witnesses of Christianity make outsiders first  believe in our love on the human  level.  Only then can they believe in God’s love.
In today’s reading from Acts we learn that God’s Spirit of love came down on a Gentile, non-Jew, even before he was Baptized. Why does Luke narrate this tradition? He wants to teach first
that, authorized by Peter, Christianity should be preached to all without imposing the laws of the
Jewish faith upon them, and secondly, that the Spirit can take an initiate whenever the Spirit wishes. Faith in Jesus Christ sealed by Baptism,  is the way to salvation for all who are called. It does not mean that God is unable to bestow salvation outside the framework of organized Christianity.  God’s salvific will is universal!
God’s will that all be saved  follows the definition of God given by the author of John in our second reading, where he states: “God is love.”    Jesus once told his disciples “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect!” (Mt 5;48) They, and
,for centuries, many have been puzzled by this. Perfect as God!  (“Holy”) At least on two occasions, Jesus said to his disciples: “With God, all things are possible!” As we heard in the Gospel on Thursday,  Jesus said to  his followers: ”Just as the Father has loved me, so I  have loved you”.  And again,  we hear today, “Love one another just as I have loved you”. Jesus has suffered and died that he might gain for us the Spirit of Love that we may love like that.. We are then, to love one another with the same love that the Father loves the Son. That is our ‘vocation’. That is to “be perfect”, holy.
While  preparing this homily I came across the following quotation from the CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. (Quote) “Love (Charity) is the soul of the holiness to which all are called. It governs, shapes and perfects all the means of sanctification….Love in fact is the vocation which includes all others.  It’s a universe of its own, comprising all time and space.I t’s ETERNAL.”
(End quote) Yes, LOVE – is GOD, the vocation of the children – of God and their Mother Mary!
(Acts 10; 25-26, 34-35, 44-48. 1 John 4: 7-10. John 15: 9-17    Fr  ALAN   Abbey of  Gethsemani

Fr. Lawrence – 5th Sunday of Easter – Christian de Chergé – May 2, 2021

The year was 1960. France and Algeria were at war, in a bloody struggle for Algeria’s independence. A young seminary student from France was fulfilling his mandatory military service in the mountains north of Tiaret. He was part of a counter-insurgency group which provided health care and other services in an attempt to convince the Algerians that they were better off under France than being independent. While he was working there, he became friends with a local policeman, a family man, with 10 children, and a devout Muslim. They would have long walks together, and talk about God and religion. If they had not been together for awhile, the Muslim would remind the young man by saying, “It’s been a long time since we’ve dug our well.” The young Frenchman once joked, “And at the bottom of our well, what will we find? Muslim water or Christian water?” The Muslim replied, “Come on now, we’ve spent all this time walking together, and you’re still asking me this question! You know very well, what we’ll find is God’s water.”

One day they were out walking, and they were ambushed by a military group. Since the young man was in his military fatigues, he thought he was about to be killed. But his Muslim friend stepped in between and told the soldiers that this man was a friend of Algeria and a friend to Islam. The soldiers let them go. But the next day, the Muslim man, father of 10 children, was found murdered near his own well. The young French soldier was profoundly moved. He knew that this good man, this friend, had been killed because he had defended him earlier. He had given his life for him. This act changed the course of his life. He returned to France in 1961, completed his studies and was ordained in 1964. But he always intended to return to Algeria, and did so, entering the Trappist monastery of Our Lady of Atlas at Tibhirine in 1971. You’ve no doubt guessed by now that this young man’s name was Christian de Chergé. His friend was Mohammed. Christian thought deeply about his friend’s death over the years, and came to understand that his sacrifice was Christ’s sacrifice, that he had given his life for his friend, and that this was what true love actually was. Mohammed taught Christian what it truly meant to be a Christian.

In his first letter, which we heard today, John tells us, “Children, let us love not in word or speech / but in deed and truth.” We often think of love as an emotion, a feeling that two people have for one another. It arises spontaneously and overwhelms a person. It is called a passion because it takes us over, we are passive containers for love, slaves to love. Loads of songs, stories, and movies reinforce this. Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Harry and Sally, and thousands of other such stories pepper our culture. Many of us here today have had this experience, where we have been completely captured by love, enthralled by another person. And this is one aspect of love, no doubt. It is too universal to be denied.

However, as many people also know, probably some of you here, the love that first draws two people together changes over time. Some experience this change as deepening, others find it challenging. Many couples do not survive this change. The feeling is gone, that magical feeling of being “in love,” and some take this as a sign that they should move on. But love is not merely being “in love.” As John reminds us, love is not simply a feeling, but action, “deed and truth.”

John goes on to say that there are two commandments we must follow. First, to believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and second, to love one another. The first precedes the second. We can truly love one another only if we first have Christ as love’s foundation.

Love, then, has its source outside of us. When we put Christ at the center instead of our own feelings, our own wills, something shifts. We still fall in love, we still are thunderstruck by another person, but the sort of lasting love that carries successful marriages through decades is not dependent on the way we feel on any given day. As Jesus puts it in today’s Gospel, “I am the vine and you are the branches,” and, “without me, you can do nothing.” Christ is the source and sustainer of love.

That we depend on Christ’s love for our love carries over into community life as well. How do we love our families, our neighbours, our brothers and sisters?

It’s true that we can’t control our affection. We will naturally be more attracted to some people than to others. This is just a fact of human nature, and, as I say, beyond our control. Even Jesus had his favourites. However, we should not confuse this feeling of affection with real love. Love is an act of the will, with the emphasis on “act.” What we do is much more important than how we feel. We can practise small, or large, acts of kindness and generosity for anyone, no matter how we feel about them. We can wish them well, and hope for their happiness and contentment. We can recognize that God loves them just as much as he loves those for whom we have affection, and that they have just as important a role to play in God’s kingdom as we do. We can see Christ in them.

We have the chance in this monastery to practise this sort of love every day. And I am a happy witness to the fact that we actually do practise it. We are a collection of men, from all walks of life, and from all around the world. We are diverse in our backgrounds, in our political opinions, in our musical and literary tastes, in what flavour of ice cream we prefer. But we are united in the fact that we are not the center of our own lives. Christ has that place. And we are beholden to treat our brothers as Christ manifested to us, the Christ in me recognizing and honouring the Christ in you.

In 1996, Christian de Chergé along with 6 other monks were kidnapped and held for ransom. They died on 21 May, 1996. In 2018, they, along with 12 other martyrs of Algeria were beatified and their feast day set as the 8th of May, coming up this Saturday, as Fr. Elias mentioned this morning in his chapter talk. The monks knew the danger of remaining in Algeria, and chose to stay nonetheless. They stayed because they loved the country, because they loved the people among whom they had lived for so long, because they loved each other. And ultimately, in Christian’s case, because in one man, a Muslim, he had found Christ, and through him learned to truly love.