An Eventful September

On September 11, the eve of the day on which the Church commemorates the “Holy Name of Mary,” our Sister Mary was clothed with the Benedictine habit. What a glorious day it was!

Two days later, a wildfire broke out from lightning striking a bush on our neighbor’s land, and we spent the day preparing to evacuate. Thankfully, due to the amazing fire fighting squad (on foot and in the air), who worked tirelessly through the night, we were able to safely stay in our monastery. We were also blessed by many friends and oblates who reached out to check on us and let us know that we could stay with them if we needed to leave. Praise the Lord for surrounding us with so many good people!

It was a great gift that we did not have to evacuate, because Sister Assunta’s Vow Renewal was set to take place on the next day, September 14, The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. After six years here, she has now renewed her vows for another year, bringing her one step closer to her Solemn Profession.

In honor of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross celebrated this month, one of our Sisters wrote this reflection:

A Rock Beneath the Cross

You have said
To plant in fertile ground
With rich, nutritious soil,
In order to take root
And bear fruit;
But then You go and
Contradict Yourself,
Because I’ve seen
Trees growing out of rocks,
For nothing is impossible
For You…

And it’s a good thing, too,
Because I am like that rock,
Stony, hard, unloving,
Critical, rigid, cold,
But still You give me hope
That if I only keep saying,
“I only want You,
And to love like You,”
Then You will accomplish
A miracle in me,
And a tree will grow
From this rock…

And I think of Moses
Striking the rock,
And water pouring forth,
Just like You were struck
By me on the Cross,
And blood and water 
Poured out love and mercy
Upon this very rock
Who struck You…

So there is hope
For this heart of stone,
Because beneath your Cross,
Watered by Your blood,
Anything is possible,
And even a fruit-bearing tree
Can grow.

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

Espoused to Christ

On August 15, 2021, The Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, Sister Maria-Raphaelle and Sister Fidelis made their solemn profession of monastic vows. The Holy Mass was presided over by The Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila, who delivered an eloquent homily about his “dear daughters” being the salt and light of the world, in imitation of the Blessed Mother. It was a day of great rejoicing, and a blessing for our community.

Click here to read more on the Denver Catholic website

On that day—oracle of the LORD

You shall call me “My husband”…

I will betroth you to me forever:

I will betroth you to me with justice and with judgment,

with loyalty and with compassion;

I will betroth you to me with fidelity,

and you shall know the LORD.

Hosea 2:18, 21-22

A Spiritual Passover

A reflection on following Christ and not looking back, by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

We hear about Abraham procuring a wife for his son Isaac, and how he tells his servant, “never take my son back there for any reason” (Genesis 24:6), that is, into to the homeland where Abraham was from, because God had promised him a new land.  I think we need to take that message for ourselves as well.  Don’t go back.  Don’t disbelieve God’s word to you.  Everybody’s journey is different, and God is the only one who can follow each one’s journey, because He’s the one who has given it.  He has a specific plan for you, and it’s real.  He has a specific work for you.  You have to follow through with the vocation He has called you to.  Once you say yes and take a step forward, don’t step back.  It’s not about you—it’s the work of God in you.  So don’t look at yourself all the time, because that can get really discouraging—look at God!  Look at the work He is doing in you.  Don’t stare in the mirror; instead, open the window. It’s beautiful out there!

I found a quote in Venite Seorsum: Instruction on the Contemplative Life and on the Enclosure of Nuns, about the spiritual exodus that is required of each one of us:

“From the dawn of the Chosen People’s history, Abraham is depicted as being called to leave his country, his family and his father’s house, while the Apostle repeatedly teaches that the same calling was the beginning of a long mystical journey to a homeland which is not of this world.  What in this way was merely prefigured in the Old Testament, becomes a reality in the New…The Word of God delivered us from the domination of darkness (cf. Col. 1:13), that is from sin, and through His death (cf. John 13:1; 16:28; and Heb. 9:11-12, 10:19-20) He set us on the return road to the Father, who ‘raised us up with him and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 2:6; cf. Col. 2:12-13, 3:1).  Herein lies the true-essence of the paschal mystery of Christ and the Church.”

This exodus is true in a particular way for those whom God has called to the contemplative life, those whom He has set aside for Himself.  God really does say to those He sets aside for Himself, “I ask you to leave everything, and to follow Me.”  It doesn’t matter if home is 10 miles away or another country.  Is it hard?  Of course it is.  But it becomes easier as you get older and heaven becomes closer.  Over time you begin to let go of things more and more, and even when someone you love is dying, you have the sense that it’s okay if God takes her, because you know you’re going to see her again.

So the Exodus really is for every single person.  Everyone experiences and lives through some sort of Exodus in their lives.  But it’s nothing to fear, because you are fed the whole way on the manna.  God is Father, and He is a very good Father.  He will take care.

Illumination by a nun from the Abtei St. Walburg in Germany

Motet Video

This motet, “Desidero mi Jesu,” composed by Kevin Allen, was performed by three of our Sisters on the Solemnity of St. Benedict, July 11.

Causes for Rejoicing

Between battling the weeds, caring for the cattle, and tending the gardens, summer tends to be a busy season for us; but because of our monastic horarium that provides sacred time for prayer, the balance of “ora et labora” keeps our priorities in check.

A Heart for Unity

A reflection on John 17:20-24 by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

We learn in the Gospel of John what is dearest to the heart of Christ: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.  And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:20-23).  That unity is so important, and it is only possible through Christ’s prayer in us.  A question you can ask yourself (and I ask this too for myself) is, “What is the prayer Christ desires to pray through me?”  Because it will take Christ praying in us to accomplish His work of unity; we cannot do it of ourselves. 

People who are persons of unity are Christ among us.  Are you living as Christ among us?  Are you someone who helps to bring unity?  Whatever we do that breaks unity is a serious matter.  We all need to be aware of the things that cause disunity, even the little things.  And we can look at the things we need to work on with great hope, because we know that Christ enjoys projects.  I think He is a project person, and finds great joy when He has things to do.  So do not fear knowing the things you need to work on.  Let Him help you.  Listen for that prayer He is praying in you. 

One thing to keep in mind that Christ is praying in you is that you are His gift to the Father.  “Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).  That’s you and me: The Father’s gift to the Son, and the gift of Jesus to the Father.  You’re a delightful present that’s being passed back and forth between them at all times.  It would be a lie to say that you are not a gift.  Try to live knowing and believing in that!  There is no one who is not a gift from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father.  That reality should give us so much confidence to want to be with Him always, because He wants us to be with Him always.

Bleeding Hearts in our courtyard garden

Take It to Prayer

A reflection on the example of Jesus’ prayer by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

I love the story about Jesus and his disciples on the stormy sea.  It tells us so much about relationships.  We hear that “they had not understood the incident of the loaves.  On the contrary, their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:52), and after that Jesus makes them get in the boat.  He doesn’t ask them, he just tells them – maybe because He needed that time to be alone, to work through His human emotions.  He was a human man, so He was probably disappointed and hurt at their hardness of heart.  Who knows what all was going on with their hardened hearts, but it’s reasonable to imagine that Jesus was hurt because of it.  Jesus went up the mountain to pray, and what did prayer do?  I think it helped Him overcome those human emotions, and once again go to the need of His disciples.  He didn’t pass by when He heard their cries…He answered them, and He got into the boat with them (Mark 6:51). 

Sometimes we have to realize that it is only with prayer can we get through it all, especially in relationships.  Naturally we will be disappointed, naturally we will be hurt, and naturally there will be times when we’re left wondering, “How did that happen?  How was I so misunderstood?”  And then you go and pray about it.  God will help you overcome those human emotions and rise above them, so that you can still act in a Godly way.  It’s such a temptation to run off quickly and tell somebody about our unjust situation.  Instead, try to stop and pray first.  You may still end up telling somebody about it, but after some time in prayer it won’t be quite so harsh.

Prayer is always the best way to start, because Jesus will show you how to overcome the temptation to anger.  Jesus had a just anger in this situation, but that’s not where the story ended.  It’s so important to look at the ending.  He got in the boat with them and calmed the sea.  You can go to Jesus – He’s been through it all.  He truly understands, and shows us His compassionate heart.  Never, never stop praying.

Confession: Coming to the Light

A reflection on John 3:16-21, the Gospel reading for the second Wednesday in Easter by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

One of our hand-painted 2021 Paschal Candles

“And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.”

John 3:19-20

The theme of “coming to the light” gives us a great image of what will happen when we die.  If we are free when we die, we will go to the light quickly, without any problem, especially if all our sins have been confessed and everything has been brought into the light, because then there are no hidden corners, and so we are not afraid of the light.  I think that if we don’t bring things to the light, evil fills us with shame before God, and it’s shame that makes us want to hide from God.  Excessive shame shouldn’t be a part of our lives, because He died for us: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:26).  It’s good to feel shame when we sin, but we should never let our sin make us fear the light.   Never.  Because it is God Himself calling us to the light.  Whatever evil tries to make us feel so ashamed of, we should run to bring it all the more to Christ’s feet… and all the faster.   When we place our sins at His feet in Confession, they are gone.  Therefore we need the grace of light, so that we can bring everything to the light.  What’s funny is that when you bring something shameful to the light it shatters its power.  The light shatters it – it has no power!  So let us do this with great joy, especially during this Easter season.

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Matthew 16:18-19

Spring Happenings

The blizzard that came upon us brought with it about 3 inches of precipitation. In 2020 we only received 10 inches over the course of the whole year, so this snow was a huge blessing.

Our Sister Maria renewed her vows for another year on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation. It was a grace-filled day for her and the whole community.

The Guest Wing of our Abbey is now open again! Click here for more information.

Living Well in Community

A reflection by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

I think that, this year, it would be very fruitful for us to focus on community life.  In this year of St. Joseph, we remember that the Holy Family lived in community, and I’m sure it wasn’t always ‘just peachy’ for them.   Saints don’t become saints because everything is easy and there is nothing to try them.   They are going to be tried.  We are going to be tried.  And sometimes we fail because something pushes us a little too hard, and we’re weak, so we fall – but then we need to get up again!  I don’t always understand why people act a certain way, but it’s important that I pray about it and at least question the way in which I’m acting.  We should all be humble enough to ask, “Where do I need to grow in this?  What do I need to do differently?”  Without this self-knowledge, it will be very difficult to be humble, because it’s always going to be somebody else’s fault.  It is the tensions of living in community that enable us to change into something better.   Ask the Lord to show you where there is room for improvement, and be prepared to do it.

So of course there are the hardships of community life, but we also know of the blessings.  How many times have we walked into a meal that we’ve had nothing to do with?  But somebody’s worked hard on it, and we just get to enjoy it.   We walk around the Abbey and find everything tidy and clean, and it may not be an area we have anything to do with. (I should also note the Sisters who are designated to work in the gardens, wash the eggs, deal with our finances, handle maintenance issues, make cheese, and so much more, for the benefit of us all.)  And the greatest gift of community life is that we have the time to pray.  If we didn’t have our Rule, which orders our days so that our minds can be free of always wondering what we should do next, and if we didn’t all live together and help each other, none of us would be in the chapel as much as we are.  Nor would we be able to celebrate the liturgy so beautifully.  Our voices in choir complement each other so well, we have organists, and wonderful readers – God has truly blessed us abundantly.  We have so much to be grateful for, and it is up to each of us to take the steps necessary to live well in community – to cherish charity, not only to do it, but to cherish it, and truly be grateful for one another.

Visit the following pages to see how others are incorporating the blessing of community life into their own lives:

Alleluia Community (our Sister Marie Therese was raised in the Alleluia community, and her father is one of the Elders)

Companions of Christ, Denver (for diocesan clerics)

The Benedict Option

Families of Nazareth

Communion and Liberation

Opus Dei

Madonna House

Catholic Worker Movement