Category Archives: Homilies and Talks


Christmas homily – Abbot Elias


Homily – Christmas Day Mass, Dec. 25, 2018

[Jn 1:1-14]

In Him it is Always Yes

This wonderful and mysterious Prologue to John’s gospel is the deepest expression of what we celebrate at Christmas: Jesus come among us as the Word made flesh.

But to avoid staying in abstractions, it might be helpful to consider what that Word sounds like. Saint Paul tells us that “the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we preached among you, … was not Yes and No; but in him it is always Yes.  For all the promises of God find their Yes in him (2 Cor 1:19–20). So, the Word with a capital W is a Yes with a capital Y, and it comes through loud and clear from all eternity.

From the moment of creation the Word was spoken: Yes, let there be light; Yes, what I have created is good. And in our case he meant what he said: not only did he affirm that our flesh is good, he became that flesh; God’s ultimate Yes to creation.

To paraphrase John’s Prologue: What came to be through him was life, and this life was his Yes to us, and his Yes drowns out any Nos, and no No can overcome his Yes.

We hear this Word made flesh most concretely in the garden of Gethsemani: not my will, but yours be done—the Son’s Yes to the Father.

All the important Yeses in history are echoes of the eternal Yes. Mary’s fiat, ‘let it be done’, is the key one.

And the Word became flesh

and made his dwelling among us,

and we saw his glory,

the glory as of the Father’s only Son,

full of grace and truth.

No wonder the angel called Mary “full of grace.” It takes a lot of grace and an expansive heart for a small human Yes to echo the eternal Yes of God’s Word, itself full of grace and truth.

And so a good question for you and for me this Christmas Day is how clearly this Yes echoes in your heart and in my heart. Am I saying yes when invited to stretch my willingness to help, to take part, to learn something new? Is my gaze on the world and on those around me like God’s gaze—yes, it is good—or is it a disapproving gaze and succession of nos? Ideally we will follow Mary’s lead and leave plenty of room inside for the eternal Yes to echo, and like her be filled with the grace and truth that come to us through Jesus, the Word made flesh.

Reflection at Eucharist 11/28/18 by Fr. Michael

+Being called to be a Christian we will experience at least occasionally misunderstanding and persecution. Our way of living our Christian lives will inevitably run contrary to the values of the world around us. We are faced today, both within the Church and political life a lot of conflict and division but need not be afraid so long as we are being true to our faith. In fact it is a time to realize that Christ is especially near us and need not worry about what we are to say or do for he Himself will give us just what to say so that our adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. Any persecution becomes the very occasion for encounter with the living God. It is perseverance that secures our lives. All of life then becomes the occasion, as Eucharist reminds us, for joy and gratitude

Homily by Fr. Seamus Malvey – Christ the King 11/25/18

CHRIST THE KING – NOV 25, 2018 + RDNGS: Dan 7:13-14; Rev 1:5-8; John 18:33b-37.

“My kingdom does not belong to this world … I came into the world to testify to the truth … Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

The Kingdom of God is found in every home where parents and children love each other. It exists in every country that cares for its weak and vulnerable, that welcomes strangers, “huddled masses yearning to breathe free;” 

 God’s kingdom is in every church, synagogue and mosque that reaches out to the poor and needy regardless of race, color or creed.

Dorothy Day put it well when she wrote, “I firmly believe that our salvation depends on the poor.” Then she quotes Christ the King himself, “Inasmuch as you have not fed the hungry, clothed the naked, sheltered the homeless, visited the prisoner, protested against injustice, comforted the afflicted, etc. you have not done it to Me.” Christ,” continues Dorothy, “identifies Himself with the poor.” (The Catholic Worker, November, 1949, as quoted in CW, Nov, ‘18) Then, in one of his twenty-nine letters to Dorothy Day, our own Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, wrote, “If there were no Catholic Worker, and such forms of witness, I would never have joined the Catholic Church.” (Hidden Ground of Love, p. 151)  Both Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton,  in their own way, reflect today’s gospel: As Christ the King within us says to the Pilate within us: “I came into the world to testify to the truth.”

Normally kingship is associated with power, prestige, and wealth. Christ’s presence and kingship are found in his suffering and death for our sakes and in the tension within our own lives as we struggle to align ourselves with the truth of the kingdom of Christ our King.

Today we celebrate Jesus Christ as our King, but St Bernard of Clairvaux reminds us, that … “Just as Jesus is Lord and King, Mary is Lady and Queen because she is the Mother of the Lord, the Mother of the King. This entitles her to be ‘queen of the world’ … Mary is queen because her Son is King. “Our queen’s diadem,” says Bernard, is lit up with twelve stars and Bernard invites us to contemplate the ‘queen wearing the diadem with which her Son crowned her’. Sharing his glory, she is raised upon a royal throne. We are her serfs, and she is our ‘gracious queen.’ “The Virgin,” says Bernard, “is the road which the Saviour came to us, but she is also the means, the path, by which we are to go to Christ”.


The whole of the New Testament makes it clear that response to the reign of God and the kingship of Jesus has everything to do with how we live out our earthly citizenship – how we work, pray, pay, buy, sell and vote. In this we honor Jesus (to use the words of today’s reading from Revelation) as “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth.”

In other words, Mary’s Son, Christ the King, who lays down his life for us, will be known only through us, through our lives of self-sacrificing love. Only in this way will the world come to know and believe. This feast of Christ the King, then, is a challenge to all of us: Do we, or do we not, reveal the God who is Love?____________________________________


Homily: Anointing Mass, November 20, 2018. Abbot Elias Dietz.

Homily: Anointing Mass, Nov. 20, 2018
[Wisdom 9:9-11, 13-18 | Romans 8:14-17 | Matthew 11:25-30]

There are things that the Father reveals only to the small, to infants. Obviously, in this Gospel Jesus is not talking about chronological age, because he is addressing those who labor and are heavy laden. Among the experiences in life that make us small, weigh us down, and wear us out, sickness and physical diminishment rank high.

These hard and heavy experiences are never welcome and often seem unfair. A spontaneous outcry is normal. But when sufferings become part of life or the new normal, it is up to us to choose our attitude toward the situation.

Rather than revolting against our unfortunate lot, the Book of Wisdom invites us to turn our diminishments into occasions for discovery. The first thing to discover is how limited our perspective is: “For the reasoning of mortals is worthless, and our designs are likely to fail,” we read. God’s counsel is infinitely deeper. Wisdom begins when we leave behind our self-interested calculations of what matters and of what is fair. Wisdom begins when we turn to God: “Who has learned your counsel, unless you have given wisdom and sent your holy Spirit from on high?” the Wisdom author asks.

But this change of perspective is not a matter of intellectual gymnastics or psychological slight-of-hand. It means leaving behind our self-reliance and
our self-centered fears. To put it in Saint Paul’s terms, it means letting go
of control and letting the Spirit guide us: “For all who are led by the Spirit
of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall
back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship.”

In the middle of our assembly this evening we place those among us who
labor and are heavy laden, those who are experiencing various kinds of
diminishment, those who feel small, if you will. They need the prayers of
the strong and healthy, and the strong and healthy need to learn from
them how to turn hardship into an opportunity to draw closer to the Lord
and to find true rest in him.

May this sacrament help us all to transform our anguished outcries into the
ultimate prayer: Abba! Father!

Homily by Fr. Michael for 11/18/18 – A Time Unsurpassed in Distress

+A TIME UNSURPASSED IN DISTRESS                        33 Sunday B, 2018  

These words from the book of the Prophet Daniel tell of the last times, of when this world is coming to an end. Jesus, in our gospel, speaks of a great tribulation, when the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, the end of time. Our readings this morning are clearly apocalyptic as is fitting enough when we move closer to the end of the liturgical year.

There are many today warning us of indications of the end of this world, of conflicts arising all around us whether between Nations or within society itself. One thinks of the political polarization in this country, the growing divide between rich and poor, racial conflicts that go on. One sees the terrible effect of sexual abuse within the Church, the growing reluctance to be a committed member of a Church or believing community. As one listens to news of floods, of the terrible fires in California, we ask ourselves whether our earth a safe place to live? It is clearly a time to take stock of our lives, to realize that this life is passing quickly and we do well to keep in view Christ’s promise of everlasting life for those who believe in him.

We need not live in fear if we are doing all that we can to be true to our Christian faith. St Benedict says that God is saying to each of us that “If you desire true and eternal life,…turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim. Once you have done this, my eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen for your prayers; and even before you ask me, I will say to you; Here I am.” There is the story told of St Francis working in his garden. A friar asked him “What would you be doing now if you knew that Jesus was coming back today?” Francis replied, “I would keep hoeing my garden.” Francis felt that he was doing the best he could for that moment and needed nothing more.

Each one of us lives at a different point in life and knows that God could come at any time. If our lives reflect this awareness, we will do all we can to be prepared. What prayer does and what the Eucharist is designed to do is to help us live fully in this moment of Christ’s coming. Christ’s sacrifice, the author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us “has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.” There is made present at this altar daily the one eternal sacrifice, the one perfect act of love that transforms everyone who believes in what God has done for us in Jesus.

This love is ready to become present and fully active in every difficult situation of our lives, for God knows far better than we that we can do nothing of eternal value without the gift of grace. And here is perfect freedom, to know the depth of God’s love for us and to allow it to be present each moment of our lives.


Dan 12:1-3; Heb 10:11-14, 18; Mk 13: 24-32


Homily of Fr. James for the Dedication of the Church

Dedication of Church – November 15, 2018

Today we celebrate the 152nd anniversary of the Consecration of our Church of Gethsemani by Bishop Spalding and the 52nd anniversary of the re-dedication of our church by Archbishop Kelly after the major renovations. It is a day which, as St. Bernard told us at Vigils, if we do not celebrate it, no one will. For it is a solemnity peculiar to ourselves.

But what we are celebrating is not just a building of bricks and stones. It is a celebration of that heavenly Jerusalem that we also heard about at Vigils.  It tells us that in that heavenly city there is no temple, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. This shows us that this celebration is actually fulfilled in the injunction of St. Benedict that, in the monastery, we are to “prefer nothing to Christ.” This building is a sign and sacrament of the living Risen Jesus Christ, to whom we have committed our lives through our vows and through our Baptismal promises.

In actuality the consecration of this church is based on our original consecration in Baptism. There, we also were consecrated, we were anointed with chrism, just as the walls of this church were; we were given a candle just as the walls of this church are illumined by twelve candles, symbolizing the light of Christ which is given us through the twelve apostles. We were told by St. Paul that “the temple of God is holy, which you are”! Consequently this feast is a feast of ourselves as a people of God, consecrated to Him. Just as there is no temple in the heavenly city, so the true temple here on earth is ourselves.

Jesus expressed this also in the gospel today, when He told the Samaritan woman; “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The great temple in Jerusalem is no more; the church of Clairvaux is no more. And a day will come when this church of Gethsemani will be no more. But what will remain is ourselves as the full Body of Christ, the Lamb, so that truly “God may be all in all”. Or as Paul tells us in the second reading, “you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, … in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

But that is not destined for some day far in the future. It is to be lived out in our daily lives. St. Benedict also tells us that nothing should be done in the oratory except the worship of God. And our Constitutions tell us that the monastery is to be a place for contemplation – for truly seeking God. We are the living stones which are to be built into this temple of the living God. And our daily lives are to reflect this fact. We worship in spirit and in truth by living out our vow of conversion of manners, showing this in our  dealings with one another, our dedication to the Work of God – to which Benedict says that nothing should be preferred.

In this way, our celebration of the Church of Gethsemani is to be carried out each day of our lives. By living each day with an awareness of the fact that we are the temple of God, that we are to form the full temple precisely by our relations with one another, binding us together in the one Body of Christ, which is the temple of the heavenly city.


Reflection for Dedication of St John Lateran by Fr. Michael

+Our gospel presents Jesus cleansing the temple where he found those selling oxen, sheep and doves and the money changers. The temple serves well as the place where God resides. It may be a basilica, a symbol of the Church that is going through a lot of cleansing at this time due to the sexual abuse in its midst and it can represent what goes on in each of our own hearts. We all know how easy it is for any of us to become occupied with persons or things in a way that hinders our spiritual growth.

As baptized Christians, Jesus does not allow us to do this for he knows the harm this can do to our Christian life. Our participation here in the Eucharist is inviting him to cleanse the temple of our hearts. To truly enter into what takes place at this altar removes all that stands in the way of our being truly Christian. Just as Jesus spoke of himself as God’s temple, each of us is to be a living temple of God in our society.

There is to flow from us as members of Christ’s Body those living waters of which the prophet Ezekiel speaks in the first reading. Wherever these waters flow, “every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live.. and along its banks, fruit trees of every kind shall grow.”

Fr. Michael’s presention on Thomas Merton at Bellermine 10/20/18

+MERTON AS PROPHET FOR OUR TIME                                                       20 Oct. 2018

The reason for our gathering this weekend, let me suggest, is the way Merton still speaks to us, perhaps more clearly than ever. At the time of his death fifty years ago, he was articulating what was unfolding in Church and society in a way like few others of his time. As scripture scholars have long pointed out, the prophet is not so much a predictor of the future as one who sees clearly and disturbingly what is actually happening in the present. What I want to suggest to you during this presentation is how Merton is addressing human life and society today as much as he ever did. He had the courage to face himself, to own his false interests to a degree that not only opened his eyes to God’s presence within his life, but also, within the Church and the whole of society. Will we dare to go there?

In his book Raids on the Unspeakable, Merton writes: “prophecy is not to predict, but to seize upon reality in its moment of highest expectation and tension toward the new.”(repeat) Throughout his life, Merton became more and more grounded in the present moment in his own life and in all of life around him. He became intensely aware of where human society was moving. The reason he was able to do this, from my own experience of him, as I watched his life unfold, was because of his own inner transformation of consciousness. Through living the monastic life, he came to see how critical it was for him to move away from the false self so as to realize his true self. As he did so, his eyes were opened with an ever growing clarity. There grew within him a Christ consciousness, a growing ability to see all that was unfolding within and around him in the light of Christ, risen in glory. What happened especially the last ten years of his life was a building awareness of God’s loving presence in our world and along with this, of all that was resistant to this transformative love / power.

Merton is inviting us here this morning and each day of our lives to enter into this same inner transformation. He is challenging us now as much as he ever did during his life time. He continues to touch so many lives In the recent book, What I Am Living For, in the selection by James Martin, SJ, he tells of how he came to recognize his own false self through Merton’s writings. This completely changed his life. When we are in touch with the true self open to God, a new path is opened for us and we see God’s presence all around us.

In a brief essay called Hagia Sophia, Merton writes: “When the helpless one awakens strong at the voice of mercy, it is as if Life his Sister, as if the Blessed Virgin, (his own flesh, his own sister), as if Nature made wise by God’s Art and Incarnation were to stand over him and invite him with unutterable sweetness to be awake and to live. This is what it means to recognize Hagia Sophia.” Merton’s appreciation of the feminine dimension of human life and creation speaks loudly to our world today, whether we consider global warming, what happened during the recent Supreme Court selection or how women in general are treated. Merton invites us more than ever to question the misuse of power and to respect the divine presence in all of creation. To be free of our false selves is to become fully integrated, made in the very image and likeness of God.

My brother Paul Quenon recently reminded me of Merton’s article in Faith and Violenceabout “Events and Pseudo-Events.” We are exposed in the media Merton warns us to “countless pseudo-events, the come-ons, the releases, the statements, the surmises, the slanders, the quarrels, the insults and the interminable self-advertising of the image-makers.” He does not wish to deny for a moment that we need authentic news, reliable journalism. It’s just that is often hard to perceive the truth in what is written or said in the “news” unless we ourselves are on this journey of inner integrity, able to discern what is actually taking place all around us. Only the pure eye, the pure heart understands clearly.

Merton’s horizons were ever expanding as was his God consciousness. His awareness of the divisions within society gave him insight even then into polarization so prominent in our own time. The racism, the misuse of military power, political agendas are blinding us to the richness of human diversity. Even within the Church our way of using doctrine too often restricts our living of the gospel. Or as Fr George Kilcourse has pointed out to me, Merton knew “the Church is best when not focused on organization and structures.. but when her members are present among the poor, all those subjected to any form of injustice.” We have in Pope Francis one who shares a similar vision and moves the Church toward greater integrity.

Merton saw so clearly the tremendous value of bringing East and West together. He befriended outstanding members of Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Islamic background with a view of enriching all of humanity. How blessed we are amid our diversity!  God is at work amid all these religious traditions. Merton got us to look at all forms of violence, unmasking the self-hate that gives rise to them. He is continually inviting us to realize our true selves. I could go on and on but hopefully what I have shared will lead to some valuable sharing of your own. Thank You.

Homily – Fr. Seamus – 10/14/18 – “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

TWENTY-EIGHT SUNDAY: Cycle B 2018: + WIS 7:7-11; HEB 4:12-13; MK 10:17-30

When offered the choice between true knowledge or riches, Solomon prays for wisdom. When given the choice between following Jesus or remaining attached to his riches, the man chooses his possessions. God’s word challenges us to be attached to Jesus, and to him alone. Seems our readings are about choices.

Let’s take a closer look at today’s Gospel. A rich young man asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” In response, Jesus, after looking at him with love, says to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor.”

Selling what you own is a pretty radical thing to do. Just think what you own: a house, a bed, a car, … and that’s just the beginning …. there’s also a computer, a cell phone, a T.V. , etc. etc.

Early in Christian history, people who sold everything they owned set up religious orders so they could live together and share what they needed. ..e.g. St Francis. As a result, Jesus’ exhortation to sell what you have and give to the poor is usually interpreted as a call to the religious life. Understood in that way, Jesus’ advice to the rich young man is one of the evangelical counsels of perfection… poverty, chastity and obedience. It explains what we have to do to be perfect in this life.

But here’s a puzzle worth noticing: You don’t have to be perfect to go to heaven. You don’t have to be a member of a religious order to go to heaven. The rich young man was asking Jesus about going to heaven: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer Jesus gave him should have explained to him what you have to do to get to heaven. A counsel of perfection is by its nature not an answer to the rich young man’s question.

Or to put it another way. If selling all he has and giving it to the poor is what the rich young man needs to do to inherit eternal life, what about everybody else? Does everybody have to sell what he has in order to go to heaven? If we don’t sell everything we have, are we going to hell?

The answer to this puzzle is to think about Mark’s description of the young man asking Jesus the question: we don’t even know his name … (we know the name of the tax-collector whom Jesus called … “Matthew” … we know his name because he chose to follow Jesus immediately … and became one of the four Evangelists!) But all we know all about this young man is that he is richIn other words, his gift lies in his wealth!

But aren’t there many types of gifts? … each peson here has many gifts: gifts of education and learning, musical gifts ( Speaking of which, at LAUDS this morning I couldn’t help but notice that the music of the hymn we sang was composed by Fr Chrysogonous back in 1976. Fr Chrysogonous passed away in November, 2008, app 10 yrs ago, but the gift of music he shared with us is still being given to us in service to this community. Then there are also mechanical, electronic and computer gifts, … organizational and leadership skills, etc. But whatever a person’s gifts are, they are meant to be given back in service to the Lord. We cannot bury our gifts or our talents in the ground and hope to please the Lord.

So, here is what we need to do to inherit eternal life: we need to follow Jesus and use our gifts to the full by serving others when we do.

Or, if we don’t want to do that, like the rich, young man, we can go away sad.