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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.

Homily – Fr. Carlos – April 25, 2021

Homily by Fr Carlos-April 25th, 2021

In the fourth gospel we read many statements of Christ with this “I am” and a predicate:   I am the good shepherd or  I am the Resurrection and the life, I am the way the truth and the life.  Several times Jesus uses the absolute “ I am”:  he tells of his betrayal … so that  when it takes place you may believe that I am; before Abraham came to be, I am.  In the OT God had claimed to be the “I am”.

 This subject statement and predicaton used by Jesus is an allusion to his union with his Father, God Almighty, one and simple, from whom all beings come and the share in the One Beingl  The imagery of the shepherd is not all about how to manage a flock of sheep, the best grass for them, the best place.  Christ, being the good shepherd is what God was in the Old Testament.  It’s God’s relationship with his people in Jesus Christ, because he only does what the Father is doing.
Shepherding for Jesus is not simply herding a nameless group.  He knows each one of his sheep.

They were given to him by the Father.  Jesus takes care of inner well being of his sheep as we have heard his acts of compassion for the sick, the loved ones of those who died, he did not judge people and condemn the sinner;  he was tender to Mary Magdalene and the woman caught in adultery.  Jesus goes to the heart of the matter, so to speak.  Shepherding is not a theoretical knowledge, but a loving care for each and everyone who follow him.  You may ask but why are there so many individuals  who seeme to be abandoned by the Shepherd.  No he did not.  He was with them all the way but they chose a different path.  The road to evil ways of life does not happen all of a sudden.  It begins with little wrong decisions we make, trying this way and this truth and some new life styles.  He knows the depths of our heart:  our hunger for peace, rest and a life that does not end.

A life with no tears and pain.  A life of success.  When we say Jesus knows us by name it express the nature of our person.  Jesus sees beyond our given name.   He knows our very nature and individual identity according to God.  He said once – that no one comes to me unless he has been sent by my Father.  In short the Father sent us to Jesus so that Jesus could take care of us.  To be known by Jesus by name means his intimate knowledge of us.   It gives us joy to be remembered by others and call us by our name after long absences; or in the midst of a group.  To be called out of a nameless group means a great respect from the caller for the one called. For Jesus  – we are precious.

But as Jesus drew for us the image of his sheep who knows when it is called out, then we as followers and disciples should learn to hear his voice in myriads of cacophonous sound in our daily life.  It is not simply knowing the name of Jesus that is involved but to come close to him and experience his tender care and love.  This unfortunately is hardly the case in human reality.   Here we can see the desire of Jesus that all may be one, that the gospel be preached to all nations and thus they become members of his sheepfold.

In a certain true sense, non-Christians are already sheep.  They belong to Christ but they have not yet heard his voice.  They belong to him because the father has sent them into this world to be taken cared of.  And here comes the task of every Christian to help Jesus gather all into his sheepfold: not by physical force, nor beating them in submission nor using electric prod but that Christians behave like Christ with patient understanding for those who went astray.  Not to care for the lost brother or sister is like the Pharisee who prayed in the temple.  He has nothing to do with the rest of the people: murderers, idolaters, publicans and sinners.

Jesus called his disciples to himself to teach them in turn how to be good shepherds and in turn by our faith which we received from the apostles we too become shepherds for others.  John we can be sure is not thinking about different Christian denomination:  leave them be, he who is not against us is for us.  The coming into one sheepfold will still take time but it will happen.  But as of now there are really very few good shepherds among us.

Homily – Fr. Michael Casagram – Turning to Jesus to be nourished

+Jesus is ever opening and widening our horizons! He tells the crowd that it was not Moses who gave the true bread from heaven, for the bread that God gives is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

Jesus identified himself with this true bread  that gives us everlasting life. Stephen manifested in our first reading, what it is to live by this bread when he cries out as he is being stoned: “Lord do not hold this sin against them.” The one who comes to Jesus is filled with God’s very own love and will never hunger or thirst again.

Whatever the daily circumstances of our lives, to turn to him, is to be nourished all day long, to have a share in God’s very own life and activity. Celebrating  this Eucharist daily, we show our faith in this great exchange and allow our own deepest hunger and thirst to be satisfied.

Acts 7:51-8:1a; John 6:30-35

Homily – Fr. Anton – Divine Mercy Sunday

What is Divine Mercy? The Image | The Divine MercyThe  Gospel: John 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week,

when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,

for fear of the Jews,

Jesus came and stood in their midst

and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.

The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,

“Receive the Holy Spirit.

Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,

and whose sins you retain are retained.”


Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,

was not with them when Jesus came.

So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

But he said to them,

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands

and put my finger into the nailmarks

and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”


Now a week later his disciples were again inside

and Thomas was with them.

Jesus came, although the doors were locked,

and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,

and bring your hand and put it into my side,

and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”


Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples

that are not written in this book.

But these are written that you may come to believe

that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,

and that through this belief you may have life in his name.


= = = =

After the Gospel:


On two evenings, Jesus came into that locked room.  The first time, Thomas was not there.

Where was Thomas?   Was he out making other plans, ready to go back to his former life?

That’s what the chief priests were counting on: “Strike the Shepherd, and the flock will be scattered.”      Maybe  starting with Thomas.


It was so easy to doubt!   Because  IF Jesus truly were    the Beloved of God,

then God would never  have allowed Him to be overcome by His enemies.

But, He died such a shameful death,     reserved for the worst of criminals,

which, in one stroke, wiped out all the good He had ever done.

As much as they loved Him,  He was a failed Messiah.

His shameful death robbed all His teachings and even His miracles of any lasting significance.

He was dead, that was the end of it –

They looked for… expected …nothing more.


Suddenly, there He was…  the Risen Christ standing in their midst saying in that familiar voice: ‘Peace be with you!’


They were paralyzed …  shocked … afraid to believe their own eyes.


Jesus began to speak and  move,

and very slowly reality  sank into their consciousness.

He showed them the wounds on His hands and His feet, invited them to touch Him.

He broke bread with them and ate a piece of broiled fish before their eyes.

They could see for themselves … He was no ghost … He was real…

His rising from the grave was every bit as real as His dying on the Cross.

His resurrection turned their human way of thinking upside down –

it was proof that the power of God had  honored Jesus more than enough to obliterate His shame.


They had to admit the impossible:

The Crucified One who had truly died … had truly Risen!

He was standing in front of them … alive !…   proof that He was the very Son of God…   the promised Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world….

Just His standing there substantiated every word He had ever spoken, … confirmed every work   He had ever done.


But Thomas was not there.     He missed it.


However,   God is a God of second chances.

A week later, Thomas was back, as God’s Mercy  broke through again.

Jesus did it a second time, did the whole thing over again, perhaps  just for Thomas.

Even though the doors of that upper room were locked, Jesus stood in their midst, and said, “Peace be with you…”   Then He held out his hand so Thomas could touch the nailmark, and pulled aside his robe so Thomas could put his hand into the wound on his side! There had to be  tears in Thomas’ eyes as he realized   he was being shown more than a hand and a side, he was being shown love, ….those beautiful words were meant for him…  “Peace be with you… It is I, do not be afraid.”    He was being shown the Mercy of God…   He was being given a gift he didn’t deserve, couldn’t possibly  earn, a gift  freely given to him anyway out of Love.     That’s one definition of mercy.


Notice … just as there’s no horse in Scripture for St Paul to fall from (the horse just shows up in paintings and preaching), so too  the gospel never says Thomas puts his finger into Jesus’ wounds, it’s something artists need to make their painting work.

Just the presence of Jesus standing in front of him so overwhelmed Thomas that he gave up the idea of poking his finger into Jesus’ flesh.

Proof, prove, proven …   Whatever Thomas wanted, he got!  An Encounter that gave him the faith to say:   “My Lord and my God,!”  Enough faith to go out and preach that message as far away as India,  until his martyrdom  about the year 72.


Which is what brings us here today: Our belief that Jesus Christ truly rose from the grave.

His Resurrection has always been the foundation of the Church,

if you take away that one cornerstone, everything else tumbles down.

You can’t be Christian and not believe in the Resurrection, it’s that basic.

It’s not easy, even the Apostles didn’t expect the Resurrection,  it came as a shock.

It was a stumbling block for converts.  Remember St Paul, standing in the middle of the Areopagus in Athens, preaching to a crowd about Jesus…  a crowd listening very attentively until Paul  spoke of the Resurrection…then they began to snicker and mock and walk away.


Or Tertullian saying:  “It’s more difficult to believe in the resurrection of the flesh than to believe in the existence of God.”


Or St Augustine: “It’s no great thing to believe that Jesus died…

pagans, Jews, all the ungodly believe that He died…  The truly great thing is to believe He Resurrected….    that’s the faith of Christians.”


We like the story of Thomas, and the other Apostles, how they were so specially tutored by Jesus for three years, yet how earthy they remained,  how they  managed to flunk so many exams,

and how, in His mercy, Jesus always gave them another chance, until they finally got it right.    We like it because that’s our story, too.


You can call this “Thomas Sunday,”    or  “Mercy Sunday,”

means the same thing … it’s about a God who comes out to meet us where we are.


In His mercy, He comes to us in our weakness, in our failings, in our doubts even.

He comes to move us from where we are to where He wants us to be.

God is not finished with us.  He  still has work for us to do.

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


Homily – Easter Sunday – April 04, 2021

Seek the Things that are Above

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


Homily – Easter Vigil 2021 – Fr. Michael Casagram

+THE STONE HAD BEEN ROLLED BACK                  Easter Vigil 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 25 – Annunciation B.V.M.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There he quotes from Merton the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Homily – Funeral Mass of Bro. Frank Gorzynski, OCSO

March 22, 2021

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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