Saturday, March 29, 2014


Elegant Trogan

I realize that I have been slow in getting blogs out, and some of you have "complained". It has not been an easy winter, due to complications after my knee surgery in the fall.  But hope is on the horizon and I tomorrow I fly south to find some unusual (and for me) rare birds. Our Oblates who took me to Texas last February for migration, are taking me this time to SE Arizona, and while I have birded in AZ more than a few times, I have never been to the areas to which we are traveling.

First we trek (out of Tucson) to the remote Madera Canyon where we hope to see the gray hawk, which eluded us in Texas. Our guide there is the "Desert Harrier". We also hope to find some warblers, owls and orioles.  From there we go to Ramsey Canyon  and have one of the best guides in the SE area to help us find owls, warblers, flycatchers, hummingbirds and other species.  Then on to Portal  where we will bird in the Chiricahua mountains  looking for many species, especially the famed elegant trogan. Lastly, on the return we have one day in the Buenos Aires Wildlfie Refuge where we hope to pick up any species which we missed along the way.

White-eared Hummingbird

Because we will be in some remote canyons and high mountains, I am not sure what access to "modern" communication will be, so you may not hear from me till Palm Sunday.  I will then report of my finds after Easter.  Today the 4-H birders and I saw the first swallow and many Anna's Hummingbirds.  Spring is truly here!

Lucifer Hummingbird

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Mother Prioress & New Cheese Cooler

At Thanksgiving of last year we announced the continuation- after a long absence- of our Jersey cheese. The update on this work is long over due.  As we mentioned, Mother Prioress got a new wine cooler- this one holds 166 bottles of wine, or 64 wheels of aging cheese. The wooden racks pull out for easy handling.

For the first time, Mother Prioress has taken on a "cheese-apprentice" in the guise of our Tari, a multi-talented young woman on the Land Program. Every Thursday Mother and Tari press the wheels of cheese and in between Tari experiments, giving us yummie tastes of herbed curd and ricotta. She loves experimenting, so we await some mascarpone and other softer cheeses.

Unfortunately, the government has stepped in and said we must now use stainless cheese molds, replacing the wooden ones. (Typical intervention!!! Little do they know!!! We went through this at our Abbey in Conn. but it is hard to buck those who only read the books!)

At present Mother is researching sources as she likes the size of the present molds and can only find the stainless in smaller sizes.

Just formed Cheese- Not Aged
It is hard to imagine a natural product which dates back at least 5,000 years being messed with today by "scientists". The result is often like "Kraft" rubber (as we call it). Archaeological evidence exists of Egyptian cheese being made in the ancient Egyptian civilizations.

Cheese making may have originated from nomadic herdsmen who stored milk in vessels made from the sheeps' and goats' stomachs. Because their stomach linings contains a mix of lactic acid, wild bacteria as milk contaminants and rennet, the milk would ferment and coagulate.

A product reminiscent of yogurt would have been produced, which, through gentle agitation and the separation of curds from whey would have resulted in the production of cheese; the cheese being essentially a concentration of the major milk protein, casein, and milk fat. The whey proteins, other minor milk proteins, and the lactose are all removed in the cheese whey.

Cheesemakers  need to be skilled in the grading of cheese to assess quality, defects and suitability the table. The grading process is one of sampling by sight, smell, taste and texture. Part of the cheesemaker's skill lies in the ability to predict when a cheese will be ready for consumption, as the characteristics of cheese change constantly during maturation.  We have our Island Master, who is skilled in all aspects of this ancient art.

Aging Cheeses

Monday, March 24, 2014


Father William McNichols

Having been educated by Jesuits in college, I have a special devotion to them and their blessed brethren. As I mentioned in the New Year, we each drew a modern Jesuit saint as our patron for the year- in honor of our new Jesuit Pope.

Very much in keeping with Pope Francis' message of poverty and awareness of  the poor of our world our first saint is a man after his own heart, in spirit. I am sure that as protector of children, especially the poor and homeless, he would have a great problem with the issue in the previous blog and would have been very outspoken against this moral wrong.

ST. ALBERTO HURTADO CRUCHAGA, S.J., popularly known in Chile as Padre Hurtado  was canonized on October 23, 2005, by Pope Benedict XVI, becoming his country's second saint.

He  was born in Viña del Mar, Chile, on 22 January 1901of Basque parentage and at four was orphaned when his father died. His mother had to sell, at a loss, their modest property in order to pay the family’s debts forcing Alberto and his brother to go live with relatives, often being moved from one family to another. From an early age, he experienced what it meant to be poor, and without a home.

Thanks to a scholarship, he managed to study at the prestigious all-boys Jesuit school of St. Ignacio, Santiago. During this time, he volunteered at the Catholic parish and school in a poor neighborhood of Santiago. From 1918 to 1923, he attended the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, studying in its law school and writing his thesis on labor law. Obligatory military service interrupted his studies, but once he fulfilled this duty he went on to earn his degree early in August 1923.

He did not go into law but rather entered the Jesuit novitiate. In 1925 he went to Córdoba, Argentina, where he studied humanities. In 1927 he was sent to Barcelona, Spain to study philosophy and theology, but because of the suppression of the Jesuits in Spain in 1931, he went on to Belgium and continued his studies in theology at Louvain. He was ordained a priest there on 24 August 1933, and in 1935 obtained a doctorate.

From the early days of his studies in labor law he had his mind and heart set on tackling social issues and problems, so before returning to Chile, he visited social and educational centers in Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

There was much social inequality in Chile during this time, and conservative Catholics in the nation had difficulty accepting the Vatican's social teachings. 

In 1940, he was appointed diocesan director of the Catholic Action youth movement and the next year, its national director. That same year the saint's sociology-oriented mind led him to write  the book Is Chile a Catholic Country? which laid open a number of unpleasant realities. Many accused him of being a Communist.

His strong faith was transformed into action with his founding of an organization similar to Boys Town in the United States (after a visit to the USA to study this famous institution). His shelters, called Hogar de Cristo (Home of Christ), took in all children in need of food and shelter, abandoned or not. He also purchased a 1946 green pickup truck and monitored the streets at night to help those in need that he could reach.

 His own charisma brought him many collaborators and benefactors; the movement was a huge success. The shelters multiplied all over the country. It is estimated that between 1945 and 1951 more than 850,000 children received some help from the movement. (Where is such a saint today???)

Children & the Green Truck
He worked tirelessly for workers and labor unions. Deeply spiritual, St. Alberto was untiring in his work for the workers and the youth, combining intellectual reflection and practical actions. Ever optimistic and joyful he had also an attractive personality that brought many people to Christ and the Church, young and old, intellectuals and manual workers.

In  1952, he was found to have  pancreatic cancer. Day after day the media kept the country informed of the saint's state of health. Before his death he had become a national hero. True to the faith he had been professing all through his life, he accepted the end gracefully. During his suffering he was often heard to say, "I am content, O Lord, I am content."

I hold that every poor man, every vagrant, every beggar is Christ carrying his cross. And as Christ, we must love and help him. We must treat him as a brother, a human being like ourselves. If we were to start a campaign of love for the poor and homeless, we would, in a short time, do away with depressing scenes of begging, children sleeping in doorways and women with babies in their arms fainting in our streets.
                                                                      St. Alberto Hurtado

He is the patron saint of poor people, street children, social workers.

Our Lady of Andacollo, Santiago, Chile

Friday, March 21, 2014


D. O Connell

Recently Belgium’s King Philippe  signed into law a controversial bill that will allow for chronically ill children to be euthanized. The bill, while widely opposed by religious groups throughout Europe, has 75 % support among the Belgique public. The Belgian Catholic Church opposes the law, earlier describing it as a “step too far.”

The legislation, which grants children the right to request euthanasia if they are “in great pain” and there is no available treatment, makes Belgium the first country in the world where the age of the child is not taken into consideration. Similar legislation exists in the Netherlands, though only for children over the age of 12. In both countries, children are required to receive the consent of parents, doctors and psychiatrists.

Belgium became the second country in the world after its neighbor, The Netherlands, to legalize euthanasia following the 2002 Belgium Act on Euthanasia.

Legal euthanasia in Belgium began in 2002 for suffering patients of at least 18 years of age who are mentally sound and give their consent. In December 2013, the country recorded its first case of euthanasia for individuals who were not suffering from a terminal illness, but were going blind.

After all, this latest piece of legislation is not only about the morality of euthanasia per se. It also concerns the ethical, mental and spiritual capacity of children to make life and death decisions. If a 10-year-old with cancer repeatedly says “Mum, Dad, I want to die” is she mentally and morally equipped to understand what she is consenting to?

As a child psychologist, I know that the majority of teenagers and certainly most children under the age of 12 are too immature to grasp the implications of such a momentous and final decision as "plotting" their own demise. Also in many cases for those who are terminally ill, their ability to reason and weigh all the consequences of such a decision, may be affected by medication,  metastasis of the brain or a lack of oxygen, and also the emotional state of their parents and family.

Madeleine Teahan (Associate Editor at the Catholic Herald in London) writes: The introduction of this law is horrifying because it illustrates that Belgium’s chilly detachment from the sick and dependent is widening. But it represents something else: through the Belgian parliament’s stated desire to abolish suffering at all costs they have effectively eradicated something else: society’s recognition of a right to a childhood. This should horrify us all.

David O Connell
I feel we are returning to past history where we are reminded of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents as well as Nazism. Nazi Germany conducted a program in which the elderly, retarded, sick, and disabled were ordered killed. By the end of WWII, those designated as juvenile delinquents were also murdered under the law. About 275,000 "innocent" people were killed. The program, known as the T4 program, became the template for the mass murder of the Jews during the Holocaust. Ironically, even by Nazi standards, it was considered controversial at the time and was often resisted forcing the Nazis to conduct many of the killings in secret.

As we come closer to Holy Week, let us pray for the (supposed) Catholic King of a (supposedly) Catholic country and for all who are too timid, too ignorant, or too uncaring of life to speak out!.

Monday, March 10, 2014


Jesus Falls 3rd Time- O'Connell
   Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you:
   I do not give to you as the world gives.
   Let not your hearts be troubled, nor be afraid.
                                                 John 14: 27

As planes are falling out of the sky and disappearing off the radar (Malaysia), as troops from all of the world's nations stand on alert and our world leaders decide what to do or not to do about the situation in the Ukraine, we ponder these words of Jesus, which should give us hope for the Lenten season.

In the past century popes have issued warnings to world leaders, but their pleas always went unheeded. It is said that St. Pope Pius X died broken-hearted at the unfolding tragedy of WWI.

In the words of Pope Pius XII: "The calamity of a world war, with the economic and social ruin and the moral excesses and dissolution that accompany it, must not on any account be permitted to engulf the human race for a third time."

Bl. Pope John XIII gave us the beautiful encycical  "Pacem in Terris". "Peace on Earth-which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after-can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order... It is generally accepted today that the common good is best safeguarded when personal rights and duties are guaranteed. The chief concern of civil authorities must therefore be to ensure that these rights are recognized, respected, co-ordinated, defended and promoted, and that each individual is enabled to perform his duties more easily. For "to safeguard the inviolable rights of the human person, and to facilitate the performance of his duties, is the principal duty of every public authority".

Jesus Stripped of Garments- O'Connell

Pope Benedict XV, appealed tirelessly for peace and  Blessed John Paul II called the  20th Century, “the century of tears.”

In our present day, Pope Francis called for a World Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace as the agony of the Syrian people threatened to escalate into a regional or even global conflict. The Holy Father clearly saw that only a change of heart could hope to change the cycle of violence in which, "consciences fall asleep".

Recently Pope Francis said: “With a troubled heart I am following what is happening in Kiev. I assure the Ukrainian people of my closeness and I pray for the victims of the violence, for their families and for the injured..I call on all sides to stop every violent action and seek agreement and peace”.

"Our concern here has been with problems which are causing men extreme anxiety at the present time; problems which are intimately bound up with the progress of human society... peace is but an empty word, if it does not rest upon that order which our hope prevailed upon us to set forth in outline in this encyclical. It is an order that is founded on truth, built up on justice, nurtured and animated by charity, and brought into effect under the auspices of freedom".  (Pacem in Terris)

Jesus Nailed to the Cross- O'Connell

It would pay world leaders, and all of us, to read this encyclical, written over 50 years ago,
in its entirety... as we continue our prayers for peace in our world.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Simon of Cyrene Helps Christ- O'Connell

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As Lent draws near, I would like to offer some helpful thoughts on our path of conversion as individuals and as a community. These insights are inspired by the words of Saint Paul: 'For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich'. The Apostle was writing to the Christians of Corinth to encourage them to be generous in helping the faithful in Jerusalem who were in need. What do these words of Saint Paul mean for us Christians today? What does this invitation to poverty, a life of evangelical poverty, mean to us today?

First of all, it shows us how God works. He does not reveal himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth but rather in weakness and poverty: 'though He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor …'. Christ, the eternal Son of God, one with the Father in power and glory, chose to be poor; he came amongst us and drew near to each of us; he set aside his glory and emptied himself so that he could be like us in all things. God’s becoming man is a great mystery! But the reason for all this is his love, a love which is grace, generosity, a desire to draw near, a love which does not hesitate to offer itself in sacrifice for the beloved. Charity, love, is sharing with the one we love in all things. Love makes us similar, it creates equality, it breaks down walls and eliminates distances. God did this with us. Indeed, Jesus 'worked with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he truly became one of us, like us in all things except sin'.

By making himself poor, Jesus did not seek poverty for its own sake but, as Saint Paul says 'that by his poverty you might become rich'. This is no mere play on words or a catch phrase. Rather, it sums up God’s logic, the logic of love, the logic of the incarnation and the cross. God did not let our salvation drop down from heaven, like someone who gives alms from their abundance out of a sense of altruism and piety. Christ’s love is different! When Jesus stepped into the waters of the Jordan and was baptized by John the Baptist, he did so not because he was in need of repentance, or conversion; he did it to be among people who need forgiveness, among us sinners, and to take upon himself the burden of our sins. In this way he chose to comfort us, to save us, to free us from our misery. It is striking that the Apostle states that we were set free, not by Christ’s riches but by his poverty. Yet Saint Paul is well aware of the 'the unsearchable riches of Christ', that he is 'heir of all things'.
Jesus Meets His Mother- O'Connell

So what is this poverty by which Christ frees us and enriches us? It is his way of loving us, his way of being our neighbor, just as the Good Samaritan was neighbor to the man left half dead by the side of the road. What gives us true freedom, true salvation and true happiness is the compassion, tenderness and solidarity of his love. Christ’s poverty which enriches us is his taking flesh and bearing our weaknesses and sins as an expression of God’s infinite mercy to us. Christ’s poverty is the greatest treasure of all: Jesus wealth is that of his boundless confidence in God the Father, his constant trust, his desire always and only to do the Father’s will and give glory to him. Jesus is rich in the same way as a child who feels loved and who loves its parents, without doubting their love and tenderness for an instant. Jesus’ wealth lies in his being the Son; his unique relationship with the Father is the sovereign prerogative of this Messiah who is poor. When Jesus asks us to take up his 'yoke which is easy', he asks us to be enriched by his 'poverty which is rich' and his 'richness which is poor', to share his filial and fraternal Spirit, to become sons and daughters in the Son, brothers and sisters in the first-born brother.

It has been said that the only real regret lies in not being a saint (L. Bloy); we could also say that there is only one real kind of poverty: not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ.

We might think that this 'way' of poverty was Jesus’ way, whereas we who come after him can save the world with the right kind of human resources. This is not the case. In every time and place God continues to save mankind and the world through the poverty of Christ, who makes himself poor in the sacraments, in his word and in his Church, which is a people of the poor. God’s wealth passes not through our wealth, but invariably and exclusively through our personal and communal poverty, enlivened by the Spirit of Christ.

In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual. Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diakonia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity. In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.

Jesus Falls the Second Time- O'Connell
No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person - is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us though Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.

The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, we are called as Christians to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins committed is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life. The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness. It means following and imitating Jesus, who sought out the poor and sinners as a shepherd lovingly seeks his lost sheep. In union with Jesus, we can courageously open up new paths of evangelization and human promotion.

Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ. We can so this to the extent that we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.

Jesus Speak to the Women- O'Connell
May the Holy Spirit, through whom we are 'as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything', sustain us in our resolutions and increase our concern and responsibility for human destitution, so that we can become merciful and act with mercy. In expressing this hope, I likewise pray that each individual member of the faithful and every Church community will undertake a fruitful Lenten journey. I ask all of you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you safe”.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Jesus is Condemned to Death-  David O'Connell*

The Stations of the Cross began as the practice of pious pilgrims to Jerusalem who would retrace the final journey of Jesus Christ to Calvary. As early as the 4th C., Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land would walk the route that Our Lord walked as He made His way to Golgotha. When Muslims captured Jerusalem and it became too dangerous to make this pilgrimage, Christians replicated the sites back home in Europe, and there developed the "Stations of the Cross" devotion (also known as "Way of the Cross," "Via Dolorosa," or "Via Crucis"). 

The devotion consists of meditating on 14 events, that number being fixed in 1731 by Pope Clement XII,  which took place during Christ's Passion, from His being condemned to His burial. Franciscans popularized the devotion, which was originally made outside, often along roads to shrines or churches. Today we  make the Stations during the Season of Lent and most especially on Good Friday.

What matters most in the Stations of the Cross is to follow Jesus  in his passion and to see ourselves mirrored in him. To face life's dark side in ourselves and in our world, we need images of hope, which Jesus offers to us in his Passion. By accompanying Him on the Way of the Cross, we gain His courageous patience and learn to trust in that He will deliver us from evil.

Jesus Falls
As we walk the Via Dolorosa this Lent we pray for the many peoples in the world who are enslaved by tyranny, especially those in the Ukraine.

(These Stations were painted by David O'Connell (1898-1976) and hung in the church in Chichester, England in the early 1960s. David  was born in 1895, served in the trenches in World War I, and trained as a commercial artist, but his love was religious painting. He died in 1976.)