Category Archives: Homilies and Talks


Homily – Fr. Michael Casagram – 5/16/20 – Following Christ vs “the world”

Jn 15:18-21

Our gospel is not an easy one to interpret for today but it may be for this very reason, all the more one to reflect upon and let its wisdom speak to us.

Jesus telling us that “If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you” These words  make me ask myself how they address the issues like abortion and those who are pro-choice on the one hand and on the other hand, our building a wall to prevent the poor and oppressed migrants from entering our country. And how do these words of Jesus apply to people going back to work to make a living, exposing themselves and their families to the virus and those saying they must stay at home to prevent further illness and death. We are being called to do some serious discernment in regard to climate change  and what needs to be done if human life is going to continue to exist on this earth. More than ever we need to be honest if we are not going to follow the ways of the world but of Christ who is right in the middle of all this.

Are we willing to suffer persecution as he did? May God give us honest and discerning hearts so as to follow Christ into the fullness of life.

Homily – Fr. Carlos Rodriguez – Joining with the Will of God and Loving All – 5/10/20

Jesus’ gaze pierces hearts and he saw that his disciples’ hearts were troubled and so He is tender with them.  He knew how weak they are and it will show during his trial that was coming.   At this moment in time, Jesus tries to link their faith in God to their faith in him.   They are not clear as to Jesus’ relationship to the Father.  For them He is a man, he is the Messiah.  They could not know on their own they need help.   And so, he encourages them to be strong by promising them a place in heaven.

It was too much for them to comprehend this going away somewhere  and coming back to get them, the way where he is going.  So, Thomas wants Jesus to clarify for him where He is going and where is the way.

We can’t blame the disciples.  The way they see Jesus is the same way the Pharisees and the scribes see Him.   The one side of His nature.   We ourselves have not overcome completely the disciples’ one-sided understanding of Jesus.  The way is a directional orientation and not a person but Jesus answers them that He is the Way.  That must have been confusing for them.

John, the Evangelist is telling us here that truth is the divine activity of the Father manifested in Jesus Christ.  It is a revelation that the disciples will only understand later.  If they really understood the man Jesus, by looking at his person words and action, they would see that the Father would not act differently nor the Son as to what the father is doing.

As their faith in God is still unrelated to faith in Jesus, Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father and it will be enough for them.  Phillip is asking for a theopany, that God the father will show himself to them.  And so Jesus once more attempts to make Phillip and the rest understand that He Jesus is doing the will of the Father, the healing, the preaching of the good news to the poor, the raising of the dead, the forgiveness of sin –  these are the father’s work.  Jesus would not do less than this.  He only does what the Father is doing.  Jesus’ works is the Father’s.  So to see Jesus is to see the Father.

The whole purpose of Jesus’ life is to reveal the loving father to them through His loving kindness and forgiveness for all.  The will of the Father is to offer salvation for the whole of humankind.  We make things too complicated when the question is asked:  What is the will of God;  and we parenthetically add “for me.”  Holiness and spirituality is primarily to include ourselves into humanity which the God the Father longed to save, to share His glory and make children of us.

We have turned holiness into individual piety and devotion and if we have time spending our time to be holy then we can perhaps take care of others.  We must always have in mind what is the will of the Father for all;  so that our piety, spirituality or our efforts to holiness should flow from this will of God which we gladly make our own.

In short holiness is not possible without joining the will of God of loving everyone in the world and the people closest to us.  Otherwise our holiness becomes sentimental pieties, fervors like dry grass on fire but dies soon enough.   Holiness, just like Jesus’, is doing the work of the Father, that is, loving and saving the world.  All devotions and pious practices should be offered for the world.  The Father know what we need.  We become holy by loving the world as the Father did.  He so loved the world! Scriptures says.

And it is not an intermittent love of the world —  like every now and then.  The Christian life is spent on this work of the Father.  We would be lying if we deny that many a time in the beginning and fervor of our spiritual we prayed that God would show himself to us or something like that.   Let us heed what Jesus said to Philip.  Have I been with you for so long at time and still you do not know me, Philip.  Our relationship with Jesus had been going on for a long time and we still do not understand Jesus.  We want to see God and we refuse to see the works of Jesus.  We have seen God but we did not recognize Him.

It is in those who do the works of God, those who forgave no matter how big the offense they have received, those who died saving others in death threatening situations, the martyrs, those who died for peace, the protectors of the Amazon killed by logging magnates, the peace makers among warring factions who were killed because they dare  interfere with their wars, those who do good regardless of religion race and culture and other works which we call social action and therefore not our concerns especially those among us who are in prayer and contemplation.   I wonder if our private spiritual activities could stand as works of God at the end.  I wonder why we are still looking for visions of God.

St. Paul did encounter God in a vision and he had ecstasies in the desert but after these he did not ask for it and he spent his whole life doing the works of God.  I think it would be better to look around and see if we could see God at work.  The pious Christians who always prayed for the conversion of Russia did not publicly showed their joy and thanksgiving to  God when two political figures dismantled communism.  How many see the works of God in Ghandi,  how many see the works of God in Martin Luther King, and so on.  It is not only in our ideal person in whom we can see the works of God like a holy person but we can see the work of God even in the sinner.  For if they do any good deed it surely comes from God.  All good comes from God.  If we Christians and monks cannot see the good works as coming from God then we will never see God in this life .  What a pity.



Fr Anton’s reflection for the Memorial for Monks of Algeria 5/8/20

Background note: 

In March 1996,  every monastery in the Cistercian Order received large photos of the seven monks who had been kidnapped in Algeria, with a request for prayers.

At Gethsemani,  we offered a Mass for the safe release of  the hostages,  followed by a Day of Prayer, during which their seven photos were across the front of Church,  with a votive candle in a white glass burning before each photo.

In May came  news of their deaths.

At Gethsemani, we offered a Mass for the Dead,  followed by a Day of Prayer, during which the seven photos were across the front of Church,  with a votive candle in a  red glass burning before each photo.

In 1996, we were praying for them.    Today, we are praying  TO THEM!

May 8 2020 Blessed Christian de Chergé and Companions, Martyrs

 Introit:  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God!”   Alleluia!

My brothers,

Two dozen of us remember being here in March 1996, when the world was stunned by the kidnaping of seven Trappist monks in Algeria, being held for a prisoner exchange.

Our entire Order joined in days of prayer for their safe return.

56 days later, the world was electrified by news of their death.

France was horrified, every Catholic church tolled its bells at the same time in the monks’ memory.

Seven lives for God and for the Church of Algeria.

The fundamentalist rebels had warned all French:

“Leave Algeria or die! Algeria for Algerians! All foreigners out!”

but the monks chose to stay, sheep in the midst of wolves.

It was learned after the funeral, that Fr Christian had written a letter two years previous, forgiving his future persecutors, sealed the letter, left it with his mother in France, to be opened only upon his death.    It was his Last Testament,  an amazing account  of forgiveness.

In the face of this remarkable peacemaker,   who could forgive his enemies in advance,

let us be sorry for not being able to forgive    long  after the fact.

I confess, etc….

 The Gospel John 14:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.

You have faith in God; have faith also in me.

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.

If there were not,

would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?

And if I go and prepare a place for you,

I will come back again and take you to myself,

so that where I am you also may be.

Where I am going you know the way.”

Thomas said to him,

“Master, we do not know where you are going;

how can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.

No one comes to the Father except through me.”

 After the Gospel:


“Who are these wearing white robes, and whence have they come?”    – Revelation 7:13

These are the seven monks of Tibhirine, who lived together,  died together, and will be remembered together for all eternity:

Dom Christian, age 59, the prior, 25 years in Algeria, a scholarly man who read both the Koran and the Bible in Arabic.

The Lay Brother Luc, the oldest at 82, the main cook,  the doctor who treated thousands of  Muslims during his 50 years in Algeria.

Father Christophe, the youngest at 45, the cantor and guitar player, in charge of  workers in the garden and orchard.

Brother Michel, 52, the quiet one, in charge of readings for the Divine Office, the lector at Mass, a cook.

Father Bruno, 66, superior of the annex house in Morocco, just visiting to take part in the election of a prior.

Father Célestin, 62; a former diocesan priest, a helper of street people and addicts,

who ended up a monk  in Algeria to help.

Brother Paul, 57, a blacksmith, professional plumber, the jack-of-all trades who did all the maintenance  work needed  to keep the monastery going.


They died together almost 25 years ago, but they’re still spreading the message of peace.

All of the murdered monks came from French monasteries to Our Lady of Atlas, in Tibhirine, Algeria, where they formed a typical monastic community, each with his own personality, his  individual gifts.

They got  caught in a war between the army and  extremist rebels who wanted to force the French  out of Algeria,

a war of terror  which ultimately claimed  44,000 people, mostly civilians,

including 150  imams who dared preach against violence.


The monks’ neighbors were all Muslims who trusted them,  considered them friends,

no different than any other inhabitant of the village,

and repeatedly asked them not to go and leave them helpless.

When push came to shove, the monks were  united in their choice of remaining in Algeria,

continuing their life of prayer and work,

helping  poor families with hand-me-downs, shoes, food, medicine as best they could,

witnessing how possible it is for people to live in peaceful co-existence.


The seven monks died together after 56 days of detention.

But they’re still spreading the gospel  of Christ’s love,

and challenging  the romantic notions we have of SAINTS …

that  Saints are special  people, who’ve been given  special gifts of mystical prayer or penance,

who live lives  out of the ordinary, do things  out of the ordinary,

work many miracles.


On the contrary,

all seven were markedly different, with his own sensitivities and opinions.

We’ll never know their temptations, or weaknesses or failings,

what personal obstacles they struggled with.

We do know that  through their perseverance, God’s Grace won out,

they were able to give of themselves,

and go together to the end of their journey,  singing the praises of God,

leaving a powerful witness to the world.


They’d likely smile now that their monastery has become a tourist hot-spot, a shrine of peace,

because all along,  they were simply Christians, living ordinary monastic lives,

fulfilling the Great Commandment:  love  God,  love your neighbor.


Blessed  Brothers of Tibhirine, pray for us that we also  may be found faithful!


Homily – Fr. Michael Casagram – 5/7/20 Humble service

+Our selection this morning from the gospel of John if from chapter 13, a far shift from chapter 8 that we heard yesterday. We are taken into the washing of the feet of the disciples by Jesus and his telling them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master, nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.” Jesus gives us all this loving example of humble service to imitate. Any real greatness is grounded in humility and again we are reminded of the wisdom of St Benedict’s Rule. With each day of our lives as monks we have many opportunities for living Christ’s loving service. In doing so we come to know and experience he is at the center of all that is of lasting value and share already in his risen glory.

Jn 13:16-20

Homily: Fr. Anton – St. Joseph the Worker – 05/1/20

Here are Fr Anton’s reflections at Eucharist this morning, thought you may enjoy them. May St Joseph help us all these days with so much economic stress going on. 
Peace and blessings,

Introit: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant;  Enter into the joy of your lord.’    Alleluia!

65 years ago,  Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker,a response to “May Day” celebrations for workers  sponsored by the Communists.
Saint Joseph:  the man who raised Jesus, at whose side Jesus learned the carpenter’s trade, a Christian example of the holiness of human labor.
Tragically, “work” is a hot, painful topic  today.
Some people are afraid to go to work,
some are looking to work, but caught in a lock-down, others work from home, or work only part-time, or work with masks on.
Some have no jobs to go back to.
In almost all homes, workers are living with financial problems and stress and uncertainty.
We believe that prayer is a tangible way to help,  so we’ve promised to join our prayers to theirs, to show love and support for our families, friends, neighbors, our layworkers.
Let us now lay out  our intentions as we ask God’s mercy!
Lord God, in six days you created from nothing  the heavens and the earth and all they contain, and you saw that it was good, Lord have mercy!
Christ Jesus, in one tremendous work of love, you saved us from our sins, you achieved the redemption of all mankind, Christ have mercy!
Holy Spirit, you continue the work of sanctification by dwelling in the hearts of those who invite you!  Lord have mercy!
The Gospel:   Matt 13:54-58
Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
“Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter’s son?
Is not his mother named Mary
and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?
Are not his sisters all with us?
Where did this man get all this?”
And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and in his own house.”
And he did not work many mighty deeds there
because of their lack of faith.
After the Gospel:
Today we honor  St Joseph as the model for the dignity of human work….
Saint Joseph  did more than build tables and doors  and ox-carts.
He built up the fabric of the world.
He continued the work of God’s creation.
He built up the Kingdom of God.
Five hundred years later,  St Benedict required the same of his monks,
saying:  “They are truly monks when they live by the labor of their own hands, as our fathers did, and the apostles before them.”
  Labora, however, isn’t the whole monastic story.   
         Ora et Labora is.
So Benedict adds:  “At the bell for the Divine Office, as soon as the bell has been heard, let them hasten with all speed, leaving whatever work they have in hand.”
Benedict points to three major  supports of  monastic life: 
Manual work, liturgical prayer, sacred reading …
  take one away and the whole thing falls apart.
They fit together, go together to create a balance, a harmony …
All done for the Glory of God.
All done for the service of the community.
All done to build up the Kingdom of God.
That’s what gives dignity to our Work:  We’re working for God…
Even though we  don’t run the farm anymore, all of us work in support ourselves, which would please St Benedict.
Every time  we wash the brothers’ clothes,
cook the meals,
wash the dishes,
whether we work in the garden or the refectory or the  sacristy,
whether we use a hammer  or tractor or computer,
or make fudge
or bake fruitcakes and bread… it’s our work,
done with our hands …  done with love…
Sometimes it’s humble, hidden, even anonymous,
but it’s our service, done with our hands, done with love.
The kind of service that’s important for a monk because   it  lets God in, as it drives out ‘the self.’
Today we honor St Joseph, who  was able to participate in God’s redemptive plan in a very major role,  all the while leading such a common ordinary life,  working with his hands as a carpenter.
His feast reminds us  that God is not finished with creation, that God asks us each … today …  to play our part in building up the fabric of the world.
God is definitely not finished with His plan of salvation.
He isn’t finished with us.            
He still has work for us to do…

Homily – Fr. Anton – Jesus draws near – even in quarantine

Luke 24:13-35

This was one Passover they would never forget.
The chief priests and rulers were gloating in their victory.
Their plotting and politicking, their false witnesses and bribery –  had all paid off!
“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered,” it is written.
Well, He had failed their big test:  “Come down off the Cross and we will believe!”
They had done the necessary thing:  They got rid of Him!
With Him gone, the people would soon forget        Him and His miracle-magic.
They’re rabble anyway, with no  understanding  that it’s better for  one man to die than a whole nation should perish.  
So as the day finally ended,     they were thinking as men think:
it was finished, it was time for a good night’s sleep, a rest much needed after all their labors.
The day after the Sabbath,  in the early hours of the morning, while they were still sleeping,
they had no reason to suspect, or in their wildest dreams imagine,
that  Jesus was ALIVE!    Walking around in the burial  garden!
Walking ALIVE in the morning mist, speaking with women who had come to the tomb,
giving them a mission, which they ran and reported to his disciples.
All this while they were sleeping, confident  they had won.
Neither would they know, that near day’s end, He walked up  to two of his disciples on
the road back into the country.   They had been going along slowly,  downcast,  numb
with despair,       but after He met up with them,  whatever He said to them
gave them  energy to nearly run the seven miles back to Jerusalem in the darkening night,
where they found  His chosen Eleven together inside a locked room.
The two of them were still completing their report, when Jesus Himself suddenly stood there and said: “Peace be with you,”    showing them the wounds in His hands and His feet.
    “A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”
As further  proof that He was alive and His body was real,  He took a piece of broiled fish and ate it in front of them.    After that,   He continued to appear in private  to small groups of the most anguished and discouraged followers.
Once their hope was restored, they went out to spread the good news, one person to another spreading  hope.  It started low, increased in volume, it spread,  until all Jerusalem had heard the report.    
But there’s more to the story.
As events of the Covid-19 began to unroll last year,
little did we suspect      it would carry over into 2020,
that Easter 2020 would be the Easter we will never forget.
As the early months of the virus unfolded,   as more people got sick …
prime ministers, the rich and powerful, doctors and priests among the infected …
anxiousness and fear settled into all our hearts.
Hospitals were full, Doctors  overwhelmed, no one in school,
churches  closed and as April approached, the question arose:
“What’ll happen to Easter this year?”
With people hiding in their homes, there was no reason for new clothes, 
no stores to sell them anyway…
there’d be no Easter Bonnets or Easter Parades or Easter Egg Hunts.
Worst of all, no church services.
The world was preoccupied with  masks and  tests.            
The enemies of religion were crowing:
Look at the empty churches, empty collection plates …
This is the beginning of their end.
Holy Thursday, Good Friday, bleak days came and went, filled with fear of the unknown.
The world woke on Sunday to find nothing had changed, the statistics even a little worse.
        Yet …  the virus hadn’t stopped Easter from coming!
    All over the world, they were celebrating Jesus in spite of it all!
The virus may have closed their churches, but it opened up their homes to faith.
They live-streamed, they  you-tubed, they prayed their beads together …
            surprising moments … intimate … spiritually uplifting. …
        as  they talked to their Lord in privacy …
In the Easter that came in the midst of a quarantine, we’ll never know how many times
       Jesus came and drew near to those little groups, saying:
     “Peace be with you!  It is I!  Do not be afraid!”
    and how many times they reached out to touch their Risen Lord.
The story isn’t over yet.  
The Churches are empty… but so is the Tomb!
Christ continues to appear to us and walk with us on the road,
encouraging us,  sending us out on a mission:
Go, tell my brothers, share with one or two who need hope … 
Tell the others:  Yes, Christ is truly Risen …  He is  Victor  over death and  doubt and  gloom!
Tragically,  Easter 2020 will go down as a time of dreadful suffering and tears.
But our prayer is, that with God’s grace, it will also be the year
     we found faith and hope from the Lord’s Resurrection,
when we saw the church was more than bricks or a building …
        it was people with hearts burning within them reaching out to touch  their Lord …
…  2020 .. The Easter that came just the same…. the Easter of our survival …
         but more than  that…..   the Easter of our Faith Revival!!!
– Thanks to an inspiration from   How the Virus Stole Easter    by Kristi Bothur

Homily – Fr Seamus – Divine Mercy Sunday 4/19/20


RDNGS: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm: 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; 1 Peter 1:3-9 Gospel: John 20:19-31

Jesus had been abandoned by his disciples at the time of his death. One of them had turned him over to the authorities. Another had denied he even knew Jesus. The others ran away, apparently in fear and horror.

That same fear still gripped the disciples as they stayed hidden behind locked doors. The risen Jesus suddenly appears among them, and there is not a word about their betrayal, denial, and abandonment.

“Peace be with you,” he says, as though nothing had ever happened. They look at his wounds, and he repeats his remarkable greeting: “Peace be with you.”

If only we could follow in the footsteps of Christ and wish peace to everyone! If only we could forgive as he forgave! Where would be the wars? Where would be the discrimination? The hatred? The death penalty? They would go the way of death itself, conquered by the resurrection.

Jesus assures us that we have received the Holy Spirit. We have the power to release others of their wrongs against us, just as we have the power to keep them and ourselves bound. Our Easter faith that we have “become a new creation” should strengthen our resolve to forgive as Christ forgave. Our U.S. Bishops put it this way:

“We urge our brothers and sisters in Christ to remember the teaching of Jesus, who called us to be reconciled with those who have injured us and to pray for forgiveness of our sins “as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” We call on you to contemplate the crucified Christ, who set us the supreme example of forgiveness and of the triumph of compassionate love.” – (US BISHOPS: Statement on Capital Punishment, 1980:23.) 

                                       [Primary Source: Gerald Darrring: liturgy, slu. edu.]

______________________________________ end


Easter Homily – Abbot Elias – “Lockdown!” 4/12/20

Homily – Easter Sunday – April 12, 2020

Easter Day 2020 — Lockdown!

These weeks of a general lockdown fit well with Lent in many ways, Lent
being a time of paring down and looking inward.
Easter is another matter… All of our good and natural instincts get us out at
Easter. It is something to experience together. Only as a church can we hear
and proclaim the Easter message in its fullness.
But here we are with a toned-down Easter, left, to a great extent, to ourselves.
This situation need not spoil Easter for us. Actually, it is an opportunity to be
more sensitive to an aspect of Easter that is too easily lost in joyful
On that first Easter morning, no one was expecting, much less looking for
Jesus risen and alive. The disciples were in a lockdown of their own. The
women went to the tomb, mostly as a way of dealing with their sorrow.
In all the accounts of Jesus making himself known as the risen Lord, he
basically sneaks up on people. He’s there before they realize it, and it takes
time for his presence to sink in.
In John’s account, as we just heard, Mary was aware of someone being there,
but figured it was just the gardener. In Matthew’s account, the two Marys are
on their way to tell the disciples about the empty tomb when Jesus is all of a
sudden there, speaking with them. In Luke’s account, it is as a fellow traveler
that Jesus works his way into the conversation of two downcast disciples,
conversing about the troubling and disappointing events of the previous days.
Perhaps this Easter, more than usual, we can stay home, as it were, and simply
go about out usual business, but with the knowledge and expectation that that
is where the Risen Lord will make himself known.
A key to knowing that he is there is the simultaneous mixture of hope and
forgiveness the disciples experienced when they realized not only that Jesus
was alive but also that he did not hold it against them that they had abandoned
We get a first inkling that the Risen Lord is present when we sense the
possibility of forgiveness: what I have done is not being held against me
forever; what I owe has in fact been written off. More importantly, this
realization gives me a glimpse of the complete freedom that comes with
writing off the debts of anyone owing me anything, the freedom of releasing
others from my anger or judgement. Only the Risen Lord opens up this breach
within us. It is the surest sign of the Resurrection.

So, the world is stuck at home this Easter. But Easter comes to us when we
realize that we aren’t stuck. And we bring Easter into the world when we
allow nothing and no one to remain stuck in our hearts.