Fr. Michael Casagram kindly gave a presentation to the LCG Advisory Council on how the monks utilize the Experientia program that was developed for the Cistercian order.
The Experientia is a program of reflection and sharing using Cistercian texts.
The text of Fr. Michael’s text is below:
Click to listen to Fr. Michael talk about how the monks of the Abbey of Gethsemani have utilized the Experentia document
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+ SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER + 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.]
ABBOT ELIAS DIETZ, O.C.S.O
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.
+HE HAS BEEN RAISED Easter Vigil, 2020
This vigil celebration takes on a unique significance as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds all over the world. This is evident from the fact that only we are gathered here for this Vigil. The reality of death is daily before our eyes as we are faced with what is happening among every people and Nation, in hospitals, nursing homes or among the poor on our streets. Intense as all this is, the angel telling the women in our gospel that Jesus is not in the place of his burial but has been raised from the dead, cuts through it all and speaks to our world like it has never done before.
People of all Nations are being reminded that physical death is not the end of human life but only the passage to something far better, to a fullness of life that is without end. Might we like the women in our gospel, be overjoyed. As persons of faith I wonder if this isn’t exactly what we are being called to, despite the fear and angst this pandemic is creating all around us.
For the Christian and all the more for us as monks, this is no surprise for day in and day out our lives are immersed in the mystery of Christ’s dying and rising to new life. Paul tells us that having been baptized into Christ Jesus, we were baptized into his death. We have been buried with him so that “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” What is happening in our world today has been going on spiritually every day of our lives as we die to sin, allow our old selves to be crucified with Christ, “so that our sinful body might be done away with” so as to be alive for God in Christ Jesus.
Might God in our time, especially in these last two months, be calling the whole human family into a firsthand experience of what is in store for those who believe in Christ risen from the dead. Though hidden from sight, our faith assures us that Christ has overcome the power of death so that it no longer has dominion over us.
We hear of the growing number of deaths due to the virus but this is nothing compared to the virus of sin that can take hold of our lives. The whole world is imposing restrictions on travel, gatherings of all sorts, liturgical celebrations etc. How is it that we don’t impose far stricter limits on human selfishness, places of human trafficking, luxurious living, the waste of our natural resources, on those who profit by facilitating addiction to drugs and alcohol? Often these are far more destructive than any virus will ever be. Is God helping us at this time to get our priorities right? Jesus overcomes death in all its forms as we allow faith in his risen life to fill our hearts.
What is happening in our world is drawing out the best in us. Countless nurses and doctors are risking their lives to serve the afflicted and suffering. Our own life takes on all the more meaning as it reveals the countless opportunities we have for giving witness to Christ’s risen life to all of the human family. None of us lives or dies for himself but for all of the human life on this planet. Gathered here we are one with all our afflicted sisters and brothers who are going through this time of suffering and uncertainty. As our hearts are cleansed, each of them is encouraged to be faithful.
When the angel has the women to go quickly and tell his disciples that Christ has been raised from the dead, he tells them that they are to go to Galilee where they will see him. Galilee is where Jesus first began his ministry but now they see it in a whole new light. Each of our own lives is now seen in a whole new light as Christ’s risen life lives in us. Like the bread and wine placed on this altar, we are transformed by the gift of the Holy Spirit into living members of his sacred Body. May we be such for one another, for all who are suffering today throughout the world. Amen
Romans 6:3-11; Matthew 28:1-10
Holy Thursday – 2020
Jesus, having loved his own, he loved them to the end
Jesus began to wash the feet of his disciples, and wipe them with the towel.
Take this and eat – Take this and drink
A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you.
In these brief verses, Jesus sums up his very life and the message he leaves with us. We are to love one another, as He has loved us. We are to give of ourselves to one another, as He has given Himself to us. We are to be willing to give even our very lives for one another, even as He has given His life for us.
All of this is the parting message of Jesus Christ to His disciples at table and to us here in this place. But surely we cannot fully do as He has done. We are weak and poor. We are sinful creatures, who depend on Him when He tells us; “Apart from Me, you can do nothing!”
But He has also promised us that “I will be with you all days, unto the end of the world”. He remains with us in the very sacrament which we are privileged to celebrate here today. He gives Himself to us as our food and drink to sustain our very lives. This sacrament is the very soul of the Church – the Mystical Body of Christ. It is the manna which is given to us to nourish us on the way.
In the hymn the Te Deum which we frequently sing at Vigils, one phrase tells us that “you did not shrink back from the chaste virgin’s womb”. Likewise He does not shrink back from our own sinful flesh, in order to become to very source of our life, in order to continue His life and message in and through each one of us.
And yet we are left with the strange anomaly that on this very day when Jesus says “Do as I have done”, the majority of the Church is left without this very sacrament. What can the Lord be saying to us? Perhaps He is telling us that His Love for us is greater even than this Sacrament – that just as He continues to love us even as we depart from Him by our sinful ways, so He continues to be with us even if many are unable to share in the Sacrament. That His Love is greater than any poisonous virus that might be released on our world, and that He wants us to continue to spread His Love through our mutual actions as we strive to live out each day as His disciples. Certainly many are showing Christ’s Love in their willingness to sacrifice even their very life in order to help others in myriads of ways. And we are left powerless to do any more than living our monastic life in the simple ways of loving one another – even as He has loved us, knowing by faith that that is how we are to show that we are truly His disciples, that the power of His Love is truly present in our very lives as simple monks, and that that is the way we are to wash the feet of one another, that is how we are to give our lives for one another in our limited daily existence.
Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end!