Sunday, March 31, 2013


Women at the Tomb
He is Risen
It amazes me that many of the images for this wondrous mystery of our Faith, show the women at the tomb. It is almost always the women who get the Gospel straight away in the Scriptures - the men are so much slower.

 We know that Mary Magdalene was the first Jesus appeared to after His Resurrection. We know that while the men, dumbfounded and probably shaking in their sandals were somewhere hidden, the women were out and heading to the tomb with spices. It was to them that the miraculous news was given. These women were intrusted with the most important message of all time, yet taking it back to the men, they were met with unbelief.

Women arriving at the Tomb
The Empty Tomb

St. Augustine believed that it was appropriate that, considering the story of Eve in Eden, the first report of the empty tomb and later Mary's report of actually "seeing" the risen Lord should be done by women. He saw a paradox in the two events. In Eden, Eve repeating the lies of the devil that the "apple" would not be harmful was believed while the holy women who were telling the truth about the empty grave were not believed.

He wrote:  A lying woman was believed, and so we all died; the disciples did not believe women telling the truth so that we might live. It was the doing of the Lord Jesus Christ, that it should be the female sex which would be the first to report that he had risen again. Because mankind fell through the female sex, mankind was restored through the female sex. A virgin gave birth to Christ, a woman (Mary Magdalene) proclaimed that he had risen again. Through a woman death, through a woman life. Mary Magdalene is the only woman disciple, for whom we have a complete story.   Her story is a story of courage and change, redemption and witness.

The Risen Lord 

After the Resurrection

All images by Dr. He Qi.   He was among the many people sent to the countryside during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. As a young man, he escaped hard labor by painting pictures of chairman Mao Zedong. During those years, he once found a copy of Renaissance artist Raphael's Madonna and Child in a magazine, and was so moved by it, that he began to paint copies of it at night.

He Qi earned a doctorate in religious art from Nanjing Art Institute, having studied medieval art in Hamburg, Germany. He was a professor of Christian Art at Nanjing Theological Seminary before moving to St. Paul, Minnesota in 2004.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Michael O Brien

It is the tomb.
It is the day of grieving and being still, quiet for it...or mindful of it and trying to find that still silent spot inside; This is the day when the tabernacles, across the world, are barren.
And the emptiness is visceral....

    "There is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The earth trembles and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and He has come to raise all who have slept ever since the world began. He has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the son of Eve. He cries out to them: `Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise'".         (Office of Readings for Holy Saturday)

Eric Gill - England

Friday, March 29, 2013


The mystery for this day is, "there is not law".  All has been suspended with the death of Jesus. This is one of the most important of all mysteries of our Christian faith and the foundation of our Church.
In the Liturgy for the Adoration of the Holy Cross this day we sing a very haunting melody, with words in Latin and Greek:

My people, what have I done to you? Or how have I grieved you? Answer Me!
Because I led you out of the land of Egypt, you have prepared a Cross for your Savior.
                  Hagios o Theos ( Holy is God).
                              Hagios Ischyros (Holy and Mighty).
                                                                              Hagios Athanatos, eleison himas (Holy and Immortal                                                                                                    One, have mercy on us).

Rudolph V. Bostic- USA

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt - a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.    (Jeremiah 31:27-34)
S. Watanabe- Japan
A. Mropa- Africa

Thursday, March 28, 2013


S. Watanabe ( I love the Birds)
Sadao Watanabe- Japan

Laura James- USA
On the night before he died,  Jesus gathered with his disciples for the Last Supper.  The first thing He did was to wash their feet. "What I am doing, you do not understand  now, but you will understand later...I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do".

Here we offer images from various cultures- as they say a picture is worth 1000 words!

Kyle Williams- USA

Michael Splho - Slovakia

Then after they had eaten He gave them His Body  to eat and His Blood to drink. In the very hauntingly beautiful Pange Lingua we sing:

              Word make flesh, by word he maketh
              very bread His flesh to be,
              Man in wine Christ's Blood partaketh:
              And if senses fail to see,
              Fault alone the true heart waketh
              To behold the mystery.

Yelena Cherkasova- Russia

Ang Klukok-Philippines
S. Watanabe- Japan
Ivan Vecenaj- Yugoslavia 1968

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Judas at table with Jesus- Cathedral at Cusco, Peru

Jesus tells His disciples that in two days time He will be handed over to be crucified by one of  His very own.. Of course they did not understand what was happening. Jesus is already feeling alone in all of this and even though Peter will later say that he will stay with Him and die for Him, we know that not only will He not be able to watch and pray with Him in the garden, he will also deny knowing Him.

Christ in the Garden of Olives- Gauguin
He would be alone at the court of the high priests, alone during His interrogation by Herod and alone at the tribunal of Pilate. He would be alone when He went to Calgary, where a stranger would help carry His cross, not one of His disciples. Only women consoled Him. He was alone on the cross and died alone, having been abandoned by all, but the women and His beloved John. He would drink to the bottom the cup of suffering that was prepared for Him and know a profound loneliness and feeling of being abandoned by His Father.

Dr. He Qi - USA

S. Watanabe- Japan

Jyoti Sahi - India

Ki- Ch Kim - China

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Peter denies Jesus
The mystery of this day is taken from a Collect in the monastic Liturgy: God grant us the grace to worthily experience and bring to completion the celebration of the sacred mysteries of the Passion of the Lord...

It is as if the Church is thrusting us in the middle of this sequence to go out and get it done! The natural tendency in the middle of crises is to stop or at best drag our feet, but here, if we are to keep up with Christ on this road to Calvary, we must go forward.

Peter's Denial - Michael O Brien

The sad Gospel of the day is poor Peter who just does not get the whole of  Jesus' message (nothing new for him)!

So when Jesus tells Peter he can't follow Him, Peter cries, I can. But Jesus knows He will be betrayed three times by Peter.

In spite of knowing He will be facing it all alone, Jesus thrusts forward into this week, knowing it must all happen, if His mission of salvation is to be completed.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Frank Wesley

Today is the day where Mary pours the costly perfumed oil on the feet of Jesus, drying them with her hair.
Judas, the miser that he was, lambasted her for the "waste", saying the money saved could have gone to the poor.  That alabaster jar of ointment  (about a pounds worth) could have brought three hundred denarii, which was about a year's wages. The average agricultural worker received one denarius for 12 hours work. One wonders how Mary  had access to such a gift. Nard was  imported from India, and rather rare.

Jesus rebukes Judas with an interesting statement:  let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.

But the point is Mary alone among the Apostles seems to know what is coming and what it means. She takes this last celebration,  with all gathered, to honor Jesus. By anointing Him with perfume, she is preparing Him for death and burial. And by letting her hair down, she is doing it in a very intimate and personal way. She offers Jesus her loving faith. .

Dr. He Qi
For us it is a day of celebration with a special meal, maybe gifts, and some sort of extra celebration.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Yelena Cherkasova- Russian
This day recalls the entrance of  Jesus into Jerusalem to accomplish His Paschal Mystery. The crowds rush out to meet Him, carrying palm branches.  We commemorate this day, by carrying palms in PROCESSION around the outside of the chapel, singing (as does the whole Church): Hosanna to the Son of God...

Jesus Riding the Donkey into Jerusalem- Gary Willing
Dr. He Qi

The significance of Jesus riding a donkey and having his way paved with palm branches is a fulfillment of a prophecy spoken by the prophet Zechariah (9:9). In biblical times, the custom of the region called for kings and nobles arriving in procession to ride on the back of a donkey. The donkey was a symbol of peace. Those who rode upon them proclaimed peaceful intentions. The laying of palm branches indicated that the king or dignitary was arriving in victory or triumph.

Sister Wendy Beckett (of art fame) writes: This was the only time in the life of Jesus that He was wanted, welcomed, hailed...Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion summons us to align ourselves either with Jesus or against Him.

Sadao Watanabe- Japan
The palms blessed  today are later burned and the ashes are  preserved for next year's Ash Wednesday celebration.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Many years ago our Community at the Abbey formulated a HOLY WEEK sequence which I will present throughout this week starting with today which we call COMMITMENT Saturday.

Today's gospel has the priests and Pharisees asking: what are we to do with this Man? Caiaphas, the high priest for that year, prophesies that Jesus will die for the nation and for all the dispersed children of God to be gathered into one. Jesus, knowing His time is near, no longer openly walks about in public but withdraws to a place near the desert.  Jesus has now committed Himself to move forward into His last week on this earth.

Brace yourselves: it’s going to be a rough week!  Jesus has arrived in Bethany and is getting ready to launch a demonstration tomorrow: a demonstration of the power of humility, of rightful indignation at injustice, and of courage in the face of certain death. What will happen when that death finally comes?

On this day Mother Prioress  commits our Community to a focus for the year. This Commitment takes place at the prayers of the faithful during Mass. This past year our focus has been on HOPE. (See Blog April 22, 2012).  For 2013, in the spirit of our new Pope Francis, we will take up his challenge to become a "people of  HOPE" in the spirit of faith.

Pope Benedict XVI (Emeritus) writes: thus we journey on in hope, walking towards the oneness of the one God, revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.

Stephen Whatley - England

Thursday, March 21, 2013


The Seven Martyrs

A difficult, but very moving movie which won much acclaim (Best Foreign Film Academy Awards & Grand Prix at Cannes)  is  OF MEN AND GODS.  It is about eight French Christian Trappist monks who lived in harmony with their Muslim brothers in a monastery perched in the mountains of North Africa in the 1990s. When a crew of foreign workers is massacred by an Islamic fundamentalist group, fear sweeps though the region. The army offers them protection, but the monks refuse. Should they leave? Despite the growing menace in their midst, they slowly realize that they have no choice but to stay... come what may. This film is loosely based on the life of these monks of Tibhirine in Algeria, from 1993 until their kidnapping in 1996.

The story is another of those "stranger than fiction" tales. On the night of March 26-27, 1996, some 20 gunmen invaded the Monastery of Notre Dame of Atlas in Tibhirine and kidnapped its seven Trappist monks, of French nationality. A month later, Djamel Zitouni, leader of the Armed Islamic Groups, claimed responsibility for the kidnappings and proposed an exchange of prisoners to France. The following month, a second communiqué from the group announced: "We have slit the monks' throats." The killings reportedly took place May 21, 1996, and their bodies were found nine days later.

The Graves
Father Thierry Becker, of the Algerian diocese of Oran, was a guest of the monastery the night that the Muslim fundamentalists abducted Father Christian de Chergé, the prior, and the other six Trappists.

Theirs was "a message of poverty, of abandonment in the hands of God and men, of sharing in all the fragility, vulnerability and condition of forgiven sinners, in the conviction that only by being disarmed will we be able to meet Islam and discover in Muslims a part of the total face of Christ," the priest said.

The monks of Tibhirine
Father Becker is no stranger to strife in Algeria. He was vicar general in Oran when on Aug. 1, 1996, his own bishop, Pierre Lucien Claverie, 58, was killed along with an Algerian friend, Mohammed Pouchikhi. The Dominican prelate, born in Algeria, had dedicated his life to dialogue between Muslims and Christians. He had such a deep knowledge of Islam that he was often consulted on the subject by Muslims themselves.

"Precisely the desire to welcome one another in truth, brought us together 10 years ago in Tibhirine," said Father Becker. "The meeting 'Ribat es-Salam,' Bond of Peace, was being held in those days, a group of Islamic-Christian dialogue which was oriented to share respective spiritual riches through prayer, silence…."

"The Ribat still exists; it has not given up the challenge of communion with the spiritual depth of Islam. Thus we make our own the spiritual testimony of Father Christian de Chergé, whose monastic choice matured after an Algerian friend saved his life during the war of liberation, while that friend, a Muslim of profound spirituality, was killed in reprisal."

Father Becker continued: "'We are worshippers in the midst of a nation of worshippers,' the Prior used to say to his brothers in community, all of whom had decided to stay in Tibhirine even when violence was at its height."

The Monastery
"In the course of the decades, the monastery stripped itself of its riches, donated almost all of its land to the state, and shared its large garden with the neighboring village. The monks chose poverty, also in the sense of total abandonment to the will of God and of men."

"And great trust was born with the local people, so much so that 10 years after the events, nothing has disappeared from the monastery, everything has been respected. But the future of that holy place is in the hands of the Algerians."

Archbishop Bruno Forte, who participated in a Vatican-organized videoconference on "Martyrdom and the New Martyrs," quoted the "spiritual testament" of the Trappist Prior. He described it as a "splendid example of how martyrdom is the crowning of a whole life of faith and love of Christ and his Church."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Very much in the spirit of Lent and Holy Week I present two amazing stories.

Several of us in the monastery have for years had a devotion to BL. CHARLES DE FOUCAULD.  For me it began 45 years ago, before most of the world knew of him. At the suggestion of a friend I went to visit an old woman who had just lost her husband. While we were chatting I asked her about a strange looking wooden rosary with an enamel heart in the Middle.  She explained that her husband had found this and became fascinated with its background, thus leading him to discover more about the future saint. She not only gave me the rosary but several books about the man. Upon reading them, I felt a great rapport, for some mysterious reason.  Who knows what draws us to another?

Brother Charles of Jesus was born in Strasbourg, France in 1858. Orphaned at the age of six, he and his sister Marie were raised by their grandfather in whose footsteps he followed by taking up a military career.
He lost his faith as an adolescent and his idea of an easy life was well known, but he also could be strong willed and constant in difficult situations. In 1883 he undertook a risky exploration of Morocco. Seeing the way Muslims expressed their faith questioned him and he began repeating, “My God, if you exist, let me come to know you.”
The young soldier

On his return to France, he placed himself under the guidance of Fr. Huvelin where he rediscovered God. He was 28 years old. “As soon as I believed in God, I understood that I could not do otherwise than to live for him alone.”

A pilgrimage to the Holy Land revealed his vocation to him: to follow Jesus in his life at Nazareth.He spent 7 years as a Trappist, first in France and then at Akbès in Syria. Later he began to lead a life of prayer as a hermit.

Ordained a priest at 43 (1901) he left for the Sahara, living at first in Beni Abbès and later at Tamanrasset among the Tuaregs. He wanted to be among those who were, “the furthest removed, the most abandoned.”

He wanted all who drew close to him to find in him a brother, “a universal brother.” In a great respect for the culture and faith of those among whom he lived, his desire was to “shout the Gospel with his life”. “I would like to be sufficiently good that people would say, “If such is the servant, what must the Master be like?”

Bl. Charles with Taureg
Living close to the Tuareg, and sharing their life and hardships, he made a ten-year study of their language and cultural traditions. He learned the language and worked on a dictionary and grammar.

On the evening of December 1st 1916, he was killed by a band of marauders who had encircled his house killed by thieves looking for gold and arms.

He had always dreamed of sharing his vocation with others: after having written several rules for religious life, he came to the conclusion that this “life of Nazareth” could be led by all. His inspiration and writings led to the founding of the Little Brothers of Jesus and Little Sisters of Jesus  among other religious congregations. Today the “spiritual family of Charles de Foucauld” encompasses  associations of the faithful, religious communities and secular institutes for both lay people and priests.

The Jesus Caritas website describes de Foucauld in these words: "While longing to establish a community, he never had a member. He was a human being: attractive and enigmatic, a product of his time yet classically mysterious."