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Homily – Fr. Anton – Br Rene Ritchie

Today the community prayed especially for the Dead, friends, relatives, former

monks. Here are the reflections of Fr Anton at the Eucharist this AM. May of you 
will remember former Br Rene. Peace and blessings, Michael

Introit: If you, O Lord, should mark our sins, Lord, who could survive?  But with you there is mercy and forgiveness.



Most of the old Abbeys have their cemeteries right next to the Church, walled in, with a big iron gate over which there’s a Latin inscription meaning:

‘Remember as you pass by:

What you are, I once was,

What I am, you will become.  Pray for me!”


That’s what we do today  in our Monthly Mass for Dead:

Remember the names and faces of all our deceased relatives, friends, benefactors, all our dead monks,   and pray for them.

Knowing that, one day, the Church will be praying for us!


Loving Father, you are our Creator, it was you who knit us together in our mother’s womb, do not discard the work of your hands, Lord have mercy.

    We are sinners, yet you trust us with the Precious Body and Blood of your Son, Christ have mercy.

    We have strayed, yet you send your Holy Spirit to forgive our sins and put a new heart within us, Lord have mercy.


The Gospel:   Matt 6:19-23

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,

where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.

But store up treasures in heaven,

where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.


“The lamp of the body is the eye.

If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light;

but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.

And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”


After the Gospel: 

We join an Abbey to stay there for the rest of our lives, and ultimately, to die and be buried there.

At Gethsemani, all of us have seen at least one death,  been part of the continual Vigil beside the body, then watched as the body was lowered into the grave, back to the mother earth from which it was taken, the common ground which bears us all.

Each Brother we buried expected prayers after his death.

That’s what we’re doing today.

Many of us remember Brother René Ritchie, who died ten years ago.

For some of us, he was Undermaster,

taught us how to mop floors,

how to  bake large Communion breads early each morning from the wheat he ground for us,

how to mix cement and pour sidewalks,

how to drive the garden tractor, since we didn’t have golf carts yet, and we needed a little garden tractor to do small maintenance jobs,  and trundle laundry carts back and forth up to the Family Guest house.


In what’s now our computer room, some of us helped him experiment  making Bourbon Fudge as our new product.

It didn’t take much to see that Br René had a great devotion to Mary, or that he prayed the Rosary.  His beads  came from the plants he grew in front of the Retreat House,  Job’s Tears, whose seeds became  rosaries he made and gave away.

There always seemed to be a rosary in his hand, Job’s Tears, the beads getting more and more polished as they passed between his fingers.   

When he died, at age 83, it was not easy,  there was cancer in his jaw and throat,

but a rosary still in his hand.

During my last visit with him, as we reminisced about those ‘good old days,’

I reminded him of something twenty years earlier:

my final visit as a Monastic Observer,

we were over in the woods clearing away weeds from the Statues,

and I asked to leave early because the Vocation Director had set up our final interview,

to announce  a  YES or NO on moving  ahead.

“I’m nervous,  Brother,”   I said.  “Please pray for me.”

At which Br René held up the  hand with the rosary, and said:

“I’ll finish this rosary for you.

Just  have faith that, if God wants you here,  He’ll get you here.”


Of course, there were so  many memories  about  working with candidates and novices …

he didn’t remember that one,

But Br René smiled through the cancer,

reached out with the hand holding his rosary,  and said:

“OK, I prayed for you then.

Now it’s your turn to pray for me.  I’m counting on it.

And don’t forget to pray for me after I’m dead.  I’m counting on that, too.”


Today is our chance.

Br René … and who else among  our deceased relatives, friends, benefactors, all our dead monks…

Br. Rene Ritchie, OCSO

who else is counting on our prayers?

Amanda Gorman – Youth Poet Laureate – Poem from Inauguration of President Biden 1/20/21

Amanda Gorman, the nation’s first-ever youth poet laureate, read the following poem during the inauguration of President Joe Biden on January 20:

When day comes we ask ourselves,

where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry,

a sea we must wade

We’ve braved the belly of the beast

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace

And the norms and notions

of what just is

Isn’t always just-ice

And yet the dawn is ours

before we knew it

Somehow we do it

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed

a nation that isn’t broken

but simply unfinished

We the successors of a country and a time

Where a skinny Black girl

descended from slaves and raised by a single mother

can dream of becoming president

only to find herself reciting for one

And yes we are far from polished

far from pristine

but that doesn’t mean we are

striving to form a union that is perfect

We are striving to forge a union with purpose

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and

conditions of man

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us

but what stands before us

We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,

we must first put our differences aside

We lay down our arms

so we can reach out our arms

to one another

We seek harm to none and harmony for all

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:

That even as we grieved, we grew

That even as we hurt, we hoped

That even as we tired, we tried

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious

Not because we will never again know defeat

but because we will never again sow division

Scripture tells us to envision

that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree

And no one shall make them afraid

If we’re to live up to our own time

Then victory won’t lie in the blade

But in all the bridges we’ve made

That is the promise to glade

The hill we climb

If only we dare

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,

it’s the past we step into

and how we repair it

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation

rather than share it

Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy

And this effort very nearly succeeded

But while democracy can be periodically delayed

it can never be permanently defeated

In this truth

in this faith we trust

For while we have our eyes on the future

history has its eyes on us

This is the era of just redemption

We feared at its inception

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs

of such a terrifying hour

but within it we found the power

to author a new chapter

To offer hope and laughter to ourselves

So while once we asked,

how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?

Now we assert

How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was

but move to what shall be

A country that is bruised but whole,

benevolent but bold,

fierce and free

We will not be turned around

or interrupted by intimidation

because we know our inaction and inertia

will be the inheritance of the next generation

Our blunders become their burdens

But one thing is certain:

If we merge mercy with might,

and might with right,

then love becomes our legacy

and change our children’s birthright

So let us leave behind a country

better than the one we were left with

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,

we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one

We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,

we will rise from the windswept northeast

where our forefathers first realized revolution

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,

we will rise from the sunbaked south

We will rebuild, reconcile and recover

and every known nook of our nation and

every corner called our country,

our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,

battered and beautiful

When day comes we step out of the shade,

aflame and unafraid

The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it

If only we’re brave enough to be it


Fr. Michael’s reflections for the Feast Day of St. Clare

St Clare was only 18 when she heard sermons of St Francis at St Giorgio church in Assisi and was deeply inspired by his message. Toward the end of her life she said to one of St Francis’ followers, that “ever since experiencing the grace of Jesus through his servant Francis, I have never in my whole life met with any pain or sickness that could really hurt me.” One sees in her the child Jesus placed in the midst of his disciples saying, that whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

According to Bultler’s Lives of the Saints “She always wanted to be the servant of servants, to wash and kiss the lay Sisters’ feet when they returned from begging, to serve at table, and to look after the sick: ‘Do what you want with me. I am yours because my will is no longer my own. I have given it to God.’” She had learned that humility Jesus speaks of in our gospel, that knows that all one has of worth is the gift of God, so that Christ was able to accomplished great things through her even into our own time.

Abbot Elias – Re-elected Abbot for his 3rd term of 6 years

We had our abbatial election early this morning. Fr Elias was clearly elected for
his third term of 6 years. All went well and we will have the installation this afternoon
and a gaudeamus celebration this evening after Vespers. But please keep Fr Elias in
prayer, never an easy job this day and age, especially with all that is going on,
Fr. Michael
PS: Thank you for your prayer for the election.

Fr. Lawrence – Fifth Sunday in lent – Hope

Fifth Sunday in Lent 2020-03-29

Dear Brothers (no sisters today, at least not with us),
hope can be difficult to define. For most of us, hope is
synonymous with expectation. I hope it’ll rain today, you
might hope it doesn’t. We’re hoping it’s a girl this time. I
hope we have grilled cheese sandwiches next Friday. This
can even be extended to the spiritual realm. Janis Joplin
once sang a song which went, “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me –
a Mercedes Benz.” So hope can simply mean expectation,
something we want to happen and will be disappointed if it
But the meaning can be more subtle than that. Hope is
also an attitude. It is a confidence that despite how things
look right now, everything will turn out all right in the end. In
this case, hope doesn’t depend on particular outcomes.
Generally, this form of hope even mistrusts what we might
envision as an outcome, preferring instead to leave things to
God. I remember talking to the nurse practitioner at the
doctor’s office some years ago about our Br. Raphael. She
was the one who told him that his cancer was inoperable.
She started to cry, but Br. Raphael said, “Don’t cry. It will be
all right. Whether I live or die it will be all right.” You might
think that dying is about as far away from all right as it gets,
but Br. Raphael didn’t think so. He had a larger view of
things. He had an attitude of hope.
In this form, along with faith and love, hope is also one
of the so-called theological virtues. In the language of
theology, these virtues are unattainable in their perfection by
us as creatures. Instead they are given to us, or infused into
us, by God, for the purpose of inspiring specific virtuous
actions. However, this doesn’t mean that God is stingy with
these virtues – as we all know from experience, we do feel
hope, faith and love on a regular basis. We might take
comfort in the fact that when we do feel these common
emotions, we are in direct contact with God who must supply
them. When we feel hope, it is an echo of God.
All this said, for most of us, hope is a fragile thing.
Unless we are as spiritually advanced as Br. Raphael, it can
be broken or turned to despair by any setback or failure. We
trust in God when things are going well, but we turn back to
ourselves and our own resources when they go badly, and,
partially as a result, things tend to go from bad to worse,
confirming our suspicion that God is somewhere else taking
care of somebody else.

For the Israelites in exile in foreign lands, it must have
seemed to many that God had abandoned them. They were
conquered militarily, their homeland laid to waste, their
temple destroyed, many of them were killed, and the rest
were rounded up as prisoners and sent into exile. And this
lasted not a matter of a few years, but over several
generations. It must have seemed to them that the very idea
of the nation of Israel was completely dead. But it was at just
this point, when hope seemed to be extinguished, that God
promised, through the prophet Ezekiel, that the people of
Israel would revive, would rise from the dead, so to speak,
and once again form a nation and a people. And, as we know,
God fulfilled this promise through Cyrus the Great. Hope can
bring a whole people through a difficult time, and Ezekiel
provided that hope.
Multiple messages, each one more urgent than the last,
were sent to Jesus (it was probably Martha who sent them)
that his friend Lazarus was sick. The expectation was that
Jesus would come to them and heal Lazarus as he had
healed so many others. But Jesus didn’t come. The gospel
says that he stayed where he was for two days. It doesn’t say
that he had any particularly pressing business where he was,
just that he stayed there. There is an implication that the
disciples thought that he might be afraid to go to Lazarus,
back to Judea, because people there wanted to kill him.
Jesus replies to this with a very difficult saying. “If one walks
during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the
light of the world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles,
because the light is not in him.” In our scripture sharing last
evening in the novitiate, we all agreed that this reply made
very little sense in the context. However, I’ve been thinking
about it since, and perhaps Jesus meant that if we have an
attitude of hope, like Br. Raphael, nothing much can go
wrong, that even physical death need not mean that we are
deprived of the light. But if we don’t have hope, if instead we
rely on our own resources, we are bound to stumble. I don’t
know if that’s what Jesus meant, but for our purposes it fits.
When Jesus does arrive in Bethany, Martha berates him –
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have
died,” though she adds politely, “But even now I know that
whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Both
expectation and hope were shattered. She expected that
Jesus would come and heal Lazarus, and when he didn’t, she
was disappointed. And hope had died too – the confidence
that things would turn out well. But Jesus rekindles her
hope. She makes a confession, the same confession that
Peter made in the synoptic gospels – “You are the Christ, the
Son of God.” Now, Jesus had raised others from the dead
before this – Jairus’ daughter, the son of the widow of Nain –
but they were only recently dead. So even that remote hope
was also long past. When it seemed that the situation was
completely beyond hope, Jesus showed that he can reach
past what we can even conceive of as hope. We know that
irreversible damage occurs to the human body once it is
dead. As Martha so graphically says, “There will be a
stench,” or as the venerable King James version more
accurately puts it, “by this time he stinketh.” But to prove
that hope need never be extinguished, Jesus accomplishes
the impossible, and raises the dead body of Lazarus back to
Lent is often a time of expectation. We might set out
with a list of things we wish to observe for Lent, a set of
accomplishments we “hope” to reach. If your Lent is
anything like mine, the list gets shorter as Lent progresses,
until finally none or almost none of my courageous goals is
completely met. My expectation is disappointed. I am
disappointed in myself, I am ashamed before God, I have
failed. I might even blame God, at least in part, for my
failures. I prayed for help, and no help came. Like Martha and
Mary, I sent messages to you, and you obstinately stayed
away until it was too late. Now Lent is nearly over, and I’m no
better off, even worse, probably, than when I started. As St.
Paul says in our second reading today, I am no better off
than a dead person.
But isn’t this right where Jesus wants us? Didn’t he say,
“I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners?” I have
failed only to meet my own expectations, which are almost
certainly wrong-headed. What I have accomplished, however,
if I am open to seeing it, is to prove one more time that I am
completely powerless to effect change in myself without
God’s help. And if I am also open, I can see that others are in
the same boat as I am, and feel compassion for my fellow
human beings, particularly in this uncertain time, suffering,
struggling and even dying. Once I have admitted and
accepted my own brokenness and sorrow, I can see them in
their brokenness, in their sorrow. We are all in this together,
one great family spanning the earth. We are dependent on
one another as never before in history both in our strengths
and our weaknesses, our compassion and our vulnerability.
Our expectations are constantly disappointed, our hope
dims. But we inspire one another too, with our words, with
our example. We infect one another with our sadness and
violence, with the virus inside us, but we also reach out to
one another to heal, with the light inside us. And this light is
Jesus, always there, inside our very hearts, ready to reach
beyond what we can even imagine is possible, to bring us
back to life, back to him.