Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Master of St. Veronica- German 1400

Today is the feast of ST. ANTHONY of the DESERT and the day when animals in monasteries around the world are blessed. St. Anthony the Abbot was a hermit-saint in the fourth century who died in the deserts of Egypt. (Not to be confused with St. Anthony of Padua, a Franciscan saint of the thirteenth century.) Legend has it that during his periods of prayer and fasting in the desert, his only companions were the animals.

St Anthony the Abbott was born in Egypt on the banks of the river Nile to a Christian family, and is believed to have lost both his parents, who were very wealthy, at an early age. He then chose to reject the life of luxury his heritage afforded him, giving his riches away to the poor in order to pursue a solitary life of spiritual enlightenment. He is considered the founder of the monastic tradition, garnering a number of disciples in the African desert and setting up monasteries on the banks of the Nile.

He is usually depicted dressed as a monk accompanied by a pig, a dog and a cock, often with the joyful expression for which he was renowned during his lifetime.

The blessing of animals - particularly pigs - is not in fact linked directly to St. Anthony as  the tradition began in Germany, in the Middle Ages, when every village would raise one pig to be given to the local hospital, where the monks of St. Anthony served. St. Anthony is considered to be the  Father of Christian monasticism and the first of the abbots. 

Falling as it does in mid-January, the Feast of St. Anthony is a propitious time for regeneration of the cosmos. The blessing of domestic animals on this feastday was considered auspicious, keeping away harmful forces from the home and land, bringing fertility and fecundity.

Blessing of dogs, cattle & llamas

Monday, January 15, 2018


(St. Apollinare, Ravenna, Italy)

A little known vocation within the Church is that of a consecrated virgin  Having helped several women (from Canada) obtain this Blessings,  I feel it should be made known among Catholics seeking to give themselves to Christ, but not in the religious life.

A consecrated virgin is a never-married woman who dedicates her perpetual virginity to God and is set aside as a sacred person who belongs to Christ.

According to the Code of Canon Law, women who are seeking out this particular vocation must be consecrated to God through the diocesan bishop, according to the rite approved by the Church. Consecrated virgins receive direction from the diocesan bishop. They are betrothed to Christ and are dedicated to the service of the Church, while remaining in the world. Their consecration and life of perpetual virginity is permanent.

Their call to a secular state of life means that they have jobs and lives much like that of the average person. They provide for their own needs as the local diocese is not financially responsible for them.

Unlike most religious orders, consecrated virgins do not have habits or use the title “Sister.” A consecrated virgin also has a particular focus on prayer, which is usually lived out through Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, spiritual reading and personal prayer.
St. Agatha

This vocation dates back to the very beginnings of the church. Sts. Cecilia, Agnes, Agatha, and Lucy (first-century martyrs) were all virgins living in the world.  

Although prevalent in the early church, the vocation of virgins living in the world disappeared after the 11th century as women living a life of chastity came together in communities. By the time of the Second Vatican Council, the consecration of women existed entirely in conjunction with religious life.

St. Lucy- Arturo Olivas

The rite of consecration of virgins in the world dropped off over the centuries as monastic community life for women developed. The rite for women living in the world was brought back with Vatican II. It is specifically noted in the liturgy document, ‘Sacrosanctum Concilium.'

To be set aside as a bride of Christ, the woman must have lived a life of perfect chastity. This is another factor that distinguishes the vocation of consecrated virginity from religious orders, which women may join if they are widowed or if they resolve to live a chaste life from that day forward.

The bride is the image of the church herself as virgin, as bride, as mother, reflecting Christ’s spousal union with His church.

Today, the U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins counts about 245 consecrated virgins living in 106 dioceses across the United States

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


The Holy Father, into the New Year, continues his message of silence in the Mass. Moments of silence in the Mass should be intentional times of prayer, recollection and communion with God, rather than being viewed as times to just be quiet or not speak.

“Silence is not reduced to the absence of words, but (is) the availability to listen to other voices: that of our heart and, above all, the voice of the Holy Spirit,” sai the Holy Father.
In silence, then, we discover “the importance of listening to our soul and then opening it to the Lord.”
Continuing his general audience catechesis on the topic of the Mass, Pope Francis reflected on the nature of the different moments of silence found within the celebration, especially in the recitation of the collect.
The collect, which is prayed after the Gloria, or if the Gloria is omitted, following the Penitential Act, is a short prayer which goes from praise to supplication, and is generally inspired from the day’s Scripture passages, the Pope said.
This prayer, which varies according to the day and time in which the Mass is being said, begins with the priest saying to the people, “Let us pray,” followed by a brief silence.
“I strongly recommend priests observe this moment of silence, which without wanting to, we risk neglecting,” Francis noted.
In this moment the congregation is exhorted to come together in silence, to become aware of the presence of God, and to bring out, “each one in his own heart, the personal intentions with which he participates in Mass.
“Perhaps we come from days of toil, of joy, of sorrow, and we want to tell the Lord, to invoke his help, to ask that he be near us; we have family members and friends who are ill or who are going through difficult trials; we wish to entrust to God the fate of the Church and the world.”
“For this we need the brief silence beforehand, that the priest, gathering the intentions of each one, expresses in a loud voice to God, in the name of all, the common prayer that concludes the rites of introduction, making, indeed, a ‘collection’ of individual intentions.”
These silences are written right into the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Pope pointed out. There it says that in the Penitential Act and again after the invitation to pray, everyone is supposed to spend a moment in recollection.

And in the silences following a reading or the homily, everyone is called to meditate briefly on what they have heard. After Communion they should praise and pray to God in their hearts.

By meditating on the prayers of the Mass, the liturgy can become for us, the Pope concluded, a “true school of prayer".
We can look to Pope Benedict for a better understanding of this integral role of silence in the Mass. In his classic work Spirit of the Liturgy, (then) Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:
We are realizing more and more clearly that silence is part of the liturgy…It must, of course, be a silence with content, not just the absence of speech and action. We should expect the liturgy to give us a positive stillness that will restore us. Such stillness…a time of recollection, giving us an inward peace, allowing us to draw breath and rediscover the one thing necessary, which we have forgotten. That is why silence cannot be simply “made”, organized as if it were one activity among many…For silence to be fruitful, as we have already said, it must not be just a pause in the action of the liturgy. No, it must be an integral part of the liturgical event.

Friday, January 5, 2018


Dr. He Qi

Tomorrow is the great feast of Epiphany. For us in the Monastery it is little Christmas and we always celebrate it on the 6th.  Sunday is the Baptism of the Lord.  Strange to go from the Child to the Man celebrating the beginning of His public life.  Everything seems close this year, as February 14 is the beginning of Lent. But for now we still celebrate His Birth.  I love the work of He Qi. He always works in symbolism which stretches us. In the above painting we see Jesus holding an apple- taking us back to the garden of Eden- and why He is here now.

The Journey of the Magi
‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

— T. S. Eliot

Dr. He Qi

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Margarita Dulac (USA)


In a thistle-thick field,
The sun-baked clay with its break-spade soil
Had a summer-seared yield,
And the drought-sky-flouted dry ground foiled
All of Israel's trouble and toil.

But the Caretaker saw
And tilled that wilderness field with priests
And their ground-breaking law,
As the prophets' cry thinned high sin-weeds,
And the kings did their battle with beasts.

Then the Husbandman sowed
Pure virgin earth, and the germ took root.
When the gracious rain flowed
On the love-lit plot, it shot out shoots,
And it budded forth, bearing its fruit.

Now the fruit of our womb
Is blest grain bread and a vine grape wine
From the Passover room;
O incarnate Lord, O Christ divine,
Make the fruits of your flesh and blood mine! 

                         Stephen Wentworth Arndt


Saturday, December 16, 2017


Madonna del Parto- 15th C. Italian

ADVENT  is the season of the secret, the secret of the growth of Christ, of Divine Love growing in silence. It is the season of humility, silence, and growth. For nine months Christ grew in His Mother’s body. By His own will she formed Him from herself, from the simplicity of her daily life. She had nothing to give Him but herself. He asked for nothing else. She gave Him herself.

                                                              Caryll  Houselander

Advent is the time of waiting, of quiet listening, of expectation, of silence. A pregnant woman is so happy, so content. She lives as if wrapped in a garment of silence,  as though she is listening to hear the stir of life within her. But the intentness with which one awaits such stirring is like nothing so much as a blanket of silence.

Thursday, December 14, 2017


One of my favorite women says it better than I ever could!

Ilian Rachov- Bulgaria
It is only necessary to give ourselves to that life, all that we are, to pray without ceasing, not by a continual effort to concentrate our minds but by a growing awareness that Christ is being formed in our lives from what we are.

We must trust Him for this, because it is not a time to see His face, we must possess Him secretly and in darkness, as the earth possesses the seed…

We must be swift to obey the winged impulses of His Love, carrying Him to wherever He longs to be; and those who recognize His presence will be stirred, like Elizabeth, with new life.

They will know His presence, not by any special beauty or power shown by us, but in the way that the bud knows the presence of the light, by an unfolding in themselves, a putting forth of their own beauty.

In Mary the Word of God chose to be silent for the season measured by God.
She, too, was silent; in her the light of the world shone in darkness.
Today, in many souls, Christ asks that He may grow secretly, that He may be the light shining in the darkness.

In the seasons of our Advent- waking, working, eating, sleeping, being - each breath is a breathing of Christ into the world.             Caryll Houselander in A Rocking-Horse Catholic