Monday, November 20, 2017

A Novice and a Deacon

This past week was rich in happy events. We started off on Sunday afternoon with the clothing of The Rev. Peter Pearson as a novice at Vespers. He can now be properly referred to as Br. Peter. It is a simple and moving ceremony in which a monastic habit is blessed and offered to the new brother. He retires with his Novice Master to the sacristy to let go of the black cassock he wore during his postulancy and be vested in his monastic habit. He returns to be blessed by the Superior and embraced by his brothers. And then the usual order of Vespers follows as usual. Please keep Peter in your prayers as he pursues his monastic vocation in the noviciate.
From top, clockwise, Br. Bernard looks on as Br. Robert James, our Superior,
and Br. Bob, our Novice Master help Br. Peter straighten his scapular;
Br. Peter just vested in his monastic habit; Postulant Peter receiving his habit.
Then on Tuesday, our Diocesan Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Andy Dietsche came to the monastery to ordain Br. Aidan to the diaconate. The Rev. Matthew Wright preached a great sermon. He reminded us that "once a deacon, always a deacon"; priestly ordination in seven months will not obliterate that part of Aidan's vocation. And that the diaconal vocation is about participating in and witnessing the world and bringing that back to the church for its edification. Several friends and relative of Br. Aidan to witness his ordination and help him celebrate. Bishop Dietsche stayed at the monastery for a couple of days' worth of retreating. He also met with brothers as our Bishop Visitor. Br. Aidan has blogged about his ordination. Please pray for Br. Aidan in his vocation as a deacon.
Rehearsals and preparations. From top, clockwise, Br. Robert James, Bp. Andy Dietsche, Br. Joseph, The Rev. Canon Charles Simmons, Canon for Ministry, Br. Aidan, Br. Randy; Mr. Erich Borden (brother of Br. Scott) and Br. Josép rehearsing the music; Br. Aidan, Ms. Phyllis NNN and Canon Simmons preparing for the service in the sacristy
The Examination of the candidate. Br. Aidan, Bishop Andy Dietsche and Br. Joseph
Setting the table. Serving the people. From left, clockwise, Br. Aidan and Bishop Dietsche preparing the offering.
Br. Aidan administering the chalice. A happy deacon!
From top, clockwise, deacon Aidan and the preacher, The Rev. Matthew Wright;
Bishop Dietsche and Ms. Stephanie Owen, Aidan's mother surrounding the newly-ordained brother;
A welcome smooch attack by his mom and his Brother Joseph; the new deacon with his Prior, Br. Bernard.
This week, Br. John was away at a residential segment of his year-long formation in Spiritual Direction. On Wednesday and Thursday, I visited General Theological Seminary to offer spiritual direction to students and staff as I do monthly during the academic year.

On Saturday, we received Daniel Crocker as an Associate. Daniel has long been a frequent visitor and supportive friend of the community. This time, Daniel brought his partner Bill Snyder with him to discover the monastery. We love it when you bring family and friends to experience one of your favorite places!

This weekend, I led a retreat called "Introduction to Centering Prayer." It was my first Intro to CP and it went very well with 18 people in attendance, amongst whom many Associates and a couple Associate Probationers. Our next Centering Prayer Retreat is scheduled for Tuesday,
February 6 – Friday, February 9. It will be led by Leslee Anne Terpay. We will offer the Intro to CP again next year.
From top, clockwise, the Hall family and friend: Sandi Eakin, Dan Hall, AHC, a deacon, Amelia Hall,
Chris Hall, AHC, a deacon, Sheri Hall (and we are missing other members of the family who have been here before);
Daniel Eugène Crocker, lastest AHC; Liz Haak, Tom Denham (probationer), Nadine Revheim, Barbara Seeton, "moi," Audrey Evans and Barbara Alton all AHC or aspiring to it.
Thank You, Beloved Lord, for all our Guests, Associates, and Benefactors!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Renewal and continuity

Last weekend, Br. Josép and I went to Washington, DC with our friend Maxillian Esmus (Director of Music at Grace Episcopal Church in Haddonfiedl, NJ) to offer a song recital at St Alban's Church to celebrate the beginning of our Open Hearts, Open Doors capital campaign. We worshiped at St Alban's, visited the National Cathedral and offered the recital on Sunday evening. About 40 people joined us for music and refreshments and we got to show them our new campaign video and answer questions. It was good to re-connect with many of our DMV friends (DC/Maryland/Virgina as I discovered).
From top left, clockwise, Br. Josép, accompanied by Max Esmus on the kora (a West African lute-harp) at St Alban's;
Max trying out the organ on a visit to St Paul's church; Max and Josép having fund with a John Denver song;
Josép sharing sacred music of the twentieth century
This past Tuesday, Br. Aidan renewed his temporary Benedictine vow for a period of two years. We used to have initial vows renewed annually. At our latest Chapter of the Order of the Holy Cross, we changed that to have "junior" brothers make a temporary vow for an initial period of three years. After that, mutual discernment decides whether the community and they are ready to have them make their life vow. Br. Aidan had made his initial vow last year under the old system. So his renewal was for the remaining two years of that new three year period. Even though it's a very simple ceremony that takes place in daily chapter, I always find it moving and encouraging for the man who makes the vow and for all of us who continue in ours. Br. Aidan has written of the significance of this renewal in his blog "Grounding in the Spirit."
From left, clockwise, Br. Robert James, our Superior, sprinkles holy water on Br. Aidan, with Brs. Bob, Bede and Roy in the background;  Br. Adrian looks on as youngest and oldest brothers exchange the peace (Br. Aidan and Br. Laurence); Br. Aidan reads aloud his hand-written instrument of profession (the text of the Benedictine Vow) with Brs. Josép, Robert James and Bob.
Wednesday, on All Saints' Day, I thought of and prayed for my family. In Belgium, families traditionally visit the tombs of their family on All Saints day to tidy them up and beautify them with flowers. I knew my elder brother Benoit and his family would visit my parents' tomb that day. I also remembered each of the many relatives I have in heaven already. I believe space and time constraints don't apply to souls in heaven, so they are "already" (irrelevant concept for heaven) "there" (irrelevant concept for heaven).

These past few weeks, we have started reading "The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd" by Mary Rose O'Reilley. Its sometimes very prosaic descriptions of shepherding can cause some difficulty for the reader trying to skip the least palatable parts of the book but it is otherwise an endearing memoir of finding meaning in the daily. This past week I was having dinner with a guest from New Hampshire who chuckled that she was a Quaker Buddhist, though not a shepherd. We snapped a picture of her holding the book.
Pat Wallace, from Concord, NH, a long-time visitor holds our refectory reading in her arms
Here are a few other guests and retreat leaders who have visited the monastery lately; The Rev. Jane Tomaine, an author about Benedictine spirituality and Associate Priest at Calvary Episcopal Church in Summit, NJ, was here leading  a group of her parishioners and friends on retreat; Joe La Vela, a frequent visitor from Chatham, NJ, was here with a friend whom he invited for his first visit to the monastery (way to go, Joe!); The Rev. Shawn Carty, rector of St Mark's, Mendham, NJ is also a frequent visitor and a visiting priest to our Sisters of the Community of St John the Baptist in Mendham; Marylin McEntyre led a retreat on "Poetry, Politics and the Life of the Spirit" which first time visitor Mary Riley much enjoyed; spiritual coach Guthrie Sayen was here for a self-directed retreat.
From top left, clockwise, Joe La Vela, Shawn Carty,
Mary Riley, Marylin McEntyre, Jane Tomaine, Guthrie Sayen
This past week, The Rev. Peter Pearson has been teaching icon painting at the monastery. He is an accomplished teacher of icon painting and has authored a couple of books for beginners, This week, I discovered that he's a good guitar player as he and Brs. Bob and Josép prepared music for worship at an inter-novitiate event this Saturday. Please pray for Peter as he will be clothed with a Novice's habit at Vespers this Sunday, marking the end of his six month postulancy and the beginning of his one year novitiate.
From top, clockwise, Peter blesses completed icons at the end of the retreat he led;
Bros. Bob and Josép sing along to Peter's guitar accompaniment;
Br. Roy gets some information technology coaching from Br. Joseph.
Last Sunday, we launched our new website at the usual web address: The website is now easily usable on a smartphone which is how the majority of you access it. The website focuses on stable general information on the monastery and the guest house. One often-visited page is our Retreat Programs. You can now download the latest list of programs as a PDF file from the "Visits, Retreats & Programs" web page.

For community news, check out our Facebook page at To see pictures of things going on at the monastery, check out our Instagram feed at

If you want to receive our regular e-mail broadcasts (about one a month), subcribe to it on our website (at the bottom of every page) or click here After a long and fruitful career, we are retiring our printed newsletter Mundi Medicina. It is no longer an effective and sustainable means of connecting with great numbers of you. Producing the Mundi cost about $30,000 a year. 

If you like our blogs, you can subscribe to the one(s) you want to follow regularly:
Entries to any of the above three blogs are eventually cross-referenced to our Facebook page. But you can follow them sooner if you are a subscriber (see each individual blog for subscription).

Your comments on any of the above web destinations are welcome.

Let's stay in touch through our online offerings.

Monday, October 30, 2017

A family death and a campaign kick-off

This past Saturday, Lucy Magliula, 91, the mother of our Superior, Br. Robert James Magliula, died unexpectedly. The news came to us a few instants after her passing just before we sang Vespers. The beauty of belonging to a monastic community is that we immediately took Lucy and Rob into our prayers. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Lucy and for comfort for her five grieving sons, in-laws and grandchildren.

This week, Br. Bob Pierson is away on retreat in St Joseph, Minnesota with the Sisters of St Benedict's Monastery. Br. Bob made his retreat coincide with the two-week postulant's leave of Peter Pearson. The postulant leave is designed to enable the postulant to once again have a taste of the life he has left behind to enter the monastery. This helps the postulant in discerning for himself just how strong the pull is to continue the monastic vocation. Peter spent his first week with friends in Scranton, PA and Kingston, NY. In his second week of leave he will be enjoying big city life in NYC.

This week, we received two new Associates; Steve Turtell and (Ena) Pearl, both of NYC. We are always delighted to see our Associates come and visit us. This week, long-time Associate David Ambrose was visiting from Williamsport, PA.
From left to right, David Ambrose, AHC, myself and Steve Turtell, new AHC
Br. Aidan was putting Garden Volunteers to good use this week. The weather was perfect for fall clean-up and bulbs planting. I understand they planted over 3000 spring bulbs in just two days! Thank you to all our volunteers in the Guest House, in the Library, in the Gardens and in General Administration.
From top, clockwise, Steve Turtell, Pat Cappello, Beth Gutwin, Hannah Poole, Emilie Trautmann
and Br. Aidan, sporting our latest style of monastery t-shirt, featuring a calligraphy by Br. Roy,
Par Cappello and Len Roberts planting bulbs, Hannah Poole cleaning up in the Little Cloister.
The Guild of Scholars of the Episcopal Church was meeting at the monastery for presentations of members' papers and organizational decision-making. During one of their breaks, Br. Robert James conducted a (scholarly?) tour of the monastery for them.
Br. Robert James and various Scholars of the Episcopal Church on a tour of our monastery
This Sunday, in the company of twenty Hudson Valley guests, we officially launched the public asking phase of our "Open Hearts, Open Doors" Capital Campaign. We were joined by fellow Hudson Valley resident and Associate Bonnie St John as our keynote speaker. Bonnie told us about courage and resilience and the importance of prayer and the monastery in her life. How has the monastery affected your life?
From top, clockwise, Bros. Aidan and Robert James with The Rev. Matthew Wright,
guests enjoying  refreshments and each other's company,
Bonnie addressing our assembly, Bonnie wearing her Olympic medals and connecting with attendees.
In the month of November, we will mail more information about this capital campaign to about 8000 recipients. But in the meantime, you can find out more about the campaign and watch our 5-minute campaign video on our campaign's website.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Comedians, Neighbors, Canadian Brothers and Prayerful Stitchers

This weekend, Brothers Josép and John are involved in the staging of "The Curious Savage," a comedy by John Patrick, at St George's Episcopal Church in Newburgh. This is a fund-raiser for the church's ministries. Br. Josép has been directing the troupe of parishioner-comedians for the last couple of months. Br. John plays the character of Hannibal. In the play, Hannibal, once a statistician, was fired and replaced by an electronic calculator. He has then taken up the violin, which he wrongly believes he can play beautifully. He is a kind man with a vast array of knowledge stored in his sometimes sarcastic head. We're told John is very funny in his role. Several of us are going to the show this Sunday afternoon.
Monks relaxing in our enclosure's West Atrium after Sunday mass;
from left to right, Br. John, Br. Bob, Br. Bede and Br. Scott.
This Sunday, Br. Aidan, the last of the Celtic Pilgrims is returning home after a week in a hermitage in Glendalough, Ireland and a visit with friends in London. You can read about the pilgrimage and about his retreat in Glendalough on his blog.

This weekend, we couldn't help noticing that the Guest House had a definite feminine touch to it. All but one of our guests were women and all three retreat programs were led by women. It's an unusual mix for our Guest House but one we feel completely at home with.

Hildegard Pleva has expertly led the "Prayerful Stitches" retreat this year. And Sisters Elizabeth and Shane, CMA, led a parish retreat on Forgiveness. All three of them are locals; Hildegard often comes to worship with us from Ulster Park and Elizabeth and Shane recently moved in a beautiful house just north of us on the grounds of Ascension Church. This Sunday morning, we were glad to see another of our neighbors at mass; John Chichester has been dropping in for mass or offices often over the years. We are blessed with great neighbors!
We also welcomed a yoga recovery group who has been coming on retreat here for years.

From top, clockwise, Srs Elizabeth and Shane, CMA, flanking Hildegard Pleva;
the sun shining through the remaining incense smoke from mass;
John Chichester, neighbor, frequent visitor, and friend.
This past week, I went to General Theological Seminary for my monthly visit as Spiritual Director. I got to meet with my three fellow directors there and connect with more students and staff. On Wednesday evening, I got to have supper with my friend, the Rev. Gwyneth Murphy, who is interim rector at St John's in the Village.

We had three Canadian brothers visiting us this week. They had renovations going on back home in Toronto and needed to not be underfoot of the craftspeople doing the work. So they chose to come and have something of a retreat time with their West Park brothers.
From the top, clockwise, Br. Charles McMulkin:
Br. Leonard Abba, Br. Christian Swayne and our Postulant, Peter Pearson.
This week has seen a lot of activity in preparation for the public launch of our "Open Hearts, Open Doors" Capital Campaign next Sunday.  We will have a Kick-Off event at the Monastery to celebrate the start of our fund-raising effort. Check it out and let us know if you'll join us. The more, the merrier!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Returning Pilgrims, Visiting Seminarians and Missionaries, Departing Aspirants

Well, the Celtic Pilgrims have returned this past Saturday. Matthew Wright and Yanick Savain are back in St Mary's House at the top of our driveway. And Br. Scott is on a two week stopover in the middle of his six-month sabbatical. The Rev. Elizabeth Gillett also stayed over for a night on her way back home. She reported that it was a fantastic pilgrimage. Br. Aidan stayed behind and went on to a one week retreat in a hermitage in Glendalough, Ireland.

Today, Sunday, we got to see our favorite two missionaries; Heidi Maria Schmidt and Monica Vega. They currently work in Argentina but they got to know the Order of the Holy Cross well in Grahamstown, South Africa. Their friendship with our Superior, Br. Robert James, dates back to that time.

During the week, we were glad to see Donna Marquardt attending mass with us. Donna used to live up the road on Route 9W. She would come to mass or the office several times a week. Nowadays, she lives in Poughkeepsie and we are grateful to see her from time to time.
From top, clockwise, Br. Scott and the Rev. Elizabeth Gillett just back from Britain;
Donna Marquard, a frequent weekday visitor;
Br. Robert James and Missionaries Monica Vega and Heidi Maria Schmidt
From Tuesday to Thursday, we were observing our regular Contemplative Days. During Contemplative Days, we observe Greater Silence round the clock; we have a simplified liturgical schedule; monks are dispensed of their usual work; and we limit Guests attendance to 15 people.  Many frequent visitors actually cherish the greater quiet of those days and seek out the possibility to stay in the Guest House at those times. Check out our Retreat Programs web page to find out when these are taking place.
From top, clockwise, Tim Maguire used to come often when he lived in NYC. He now lives in Toronto and was happy to come back after a few years of absence; Princeton seminarian Rick Cummings starts a new puzzle with his wife Sandi; Anne Starke is a nurse from Nyack, NY often comes to recharge her batteries.
This coming week also sees a number of seminarians stay at the Monastery. Many seminaries have a "reading week" in the middle of their semester. As they have no lectures during that week, seminarians are free to visit during the week.
From top, clockwise, the Pear Loafers, a group of women writers who has visited us for 16 years;
Yale Divinity seminarian Landon Moore playing cards with Br. Bob Pierson and guests; Landon Moore, Aynsley Hartney and Br. Joseph . Joseph and Aysnsley go back to Joseph's days as parish priest in Memphis, TN.
This week-end, we had a group of writers who started coming to the monastery every year on the week of Nine Eleven. The Pear Loafers were continuing a tradition of writing retreats started by Madeleine L'Engle. That tradition is also carried forward by the many writers' retreats lead by Beverly Donofrio at the Guest House.

This week-end, we also hosted young interns at St Hilda's House, New Haven, CT, who live in intentional christian community while doing social justice work during the day. Thanks be to God for these young missionaries.
Meet the Hildans - from left to right, Molly Wyrsch, Morgan Flanagan-Folcarelli, KC Crewdson, Kelsey Hitchcock, Charlie Heeley, Matthew Roberts, Amy Endres. And you recognized Br. Joseph in the white habit, of course.
Today, Sunday, a couple who had just started another jigsaw puzzle flagged me down in Pilgrim Hall on my way to pray graces over our dinner. Chet and Anne-Marie remembered me as a freshly entered Postulant on their last visit thirteen years ago. It's always fun to discover the continuity over time of our hospitality ministry. I suggested Chet and Anne-Marie come back sooner next time.
Top, clockwise, "Moi", Chet and Anne Marie Erler from North Andover, MA;
Marian and Michael Carroll from Waterbury, CT.
The Rev. Michael Carroll and Marian Carroll try to come every year, with or without a parish group. It was good to see them again.

On Saturday morning, the monks crashed Kairos' rehearsal in the North End of the monastic library for a friendly "Meet and Greet" event. We all got to introduce ourselves and give a bit of background to our lives inside and outside the monastery. It was impressive to discover all the good that the Kairos folks do in the world when they are not singing at our monastery.
Monks and Kairos singers mix for a "Meet and Greet" event
in the area where Kairos rehearses every Saturday.
This past weekend, our two aspirants left the monastery to continue their respective discernment. It's always a bittersweet moment as one doesn't know what the future will be made of, and we got to know and like each other over the duration of their stay. Please pray for ongoing discernment of their vocation for Giovanni and Vance.

So when do I get to take your picture at the monastery? Come and visit us soon. We love to have you.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Writers, Yogis, Aspirants and Pilgrims

A week ago on Sunday, we had a Choral Vespers featuring a Bach Cantata by our "Artists in Residence," Kairos - a Consort of Singers. Kairos sings a cappella and with musicians both sacred and secular music. We call them "Artists in Residence" because every Saturday morning they rehearse in the North end of our Monastic Library. Over the years, they have built a good audience throughout the Hudson Valley.

Their Bach Cantata Choral Vespers and other concerts at the monastery regularly attract crowds of 80 to 100+ attendees. I remember Br. Scott, a Kairos singer, as are Br. Josép and Br. John, saying a few years ago that a successful concert for Kairos was when there were more people in attendance than people performing. Well, nowadays, all their concerts are great successes by that measure.

You can check out their calendar of concerts on their website. This year we have scheduled Kairos' concerts a little earlier, starting at 3 p.m. This enables some of our Guest House visitors to linger for the concert and make their way home afterward.
Kairos - a Consort of Singers on the Great Cloister.
Edward Lundergan, their director is in the middle front row.
This past week, among our many guests and visitors, we had writers, yogis, and aspirants. The Monastery is a popular destination for writers of all sorts who want some focused, quiet time to make progress on their manuscript. Over the years, we have hosted poets, novelists, essayists, film writers and composers. This week, Meredith Gould and Drew Griffin were beckoning the muses in the Guest House.

Meredith is the author of several books. She also is our contractor on the re-design and upgrading of our website for the mobile age. She has helped us assess and upgrade our full range of net properties (web, facebook, blogs, instagram). And she is delivering all this early and under her consulting budget! I'll tell you more about the new website when we launch it.

Drew is new to book writing. He is the pastor of Cross Church NYC on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He is a frequent visitor and likes the quiet of our Guest House.
From top, clockwise, Meredith Gould with old friend Peter Pearson, our postulant;
Drew Griffin portrait and relaxing in a favorite corner of Pilgrim Hall.
This week yoga teacher and frequent visitor David Robles taught about Yoga and the Monastic Life, exploring parallels and similarities between Patanjali and the Desert Fathers. I wished I had been free to attend; maybe next year if David offers another retreat like this. Frequent retreat leaders The Rev. Masud Syedullah and The Rev. Garrett Mettler were here to lead a group to explore how to be Agents of Peace in a Time of Fear. All these committed teachers mingled and exchanged over our refectory tables with their attendees.
Retreat leaders and guests, from top, clockwise, David Robles, Masud Syedullah and Mark Graceffo;
frequent visitors The Rev. Deborah Magdalene from Wappinger Falls,
and Emilie Trautmann from New Paltz, who also volunteers in our gardens;
Son and Mother, Brady Dale from Brooklyn and  Bonnie Fennimore from Kansas.
A week ago, two aspirants arrived within a day of each other. Aspirants are invited to live with the monastic community in the private enclosure for two weeks to get to know in more real ways what it is they may be called to. They participate in all the activities of the community (with the exception of our monthly group therapy session). It gives them and the community a good gauge of whether we can try and live together in the future.

Giovanni Margaryan is in-between jobs in the fashion industry in NYC. He has visited us several times and wants to see whether he's called to become a postulant in our community.

Vance Greenway is known as Swami Chibrahmananda in the Ramakrishna Order of monks which he joined in 1999. He is re-exploring Christianity which he grew up in. He is with us for two weeks so that we can all decide whether we want to live together for six months for his further discernment of the place of Christianity and Christian monasticism in his life.

Please hold both these men in your prayers that God may enlighten their heart to know what to do next.
From left to right, Giovanni Margaryan helping in the sacristy;
Vance Greenway aka Swami C. in his favorite color.
And then, there is Sunday, the Feast of our Lord. It's a festive day and a transition day for us. We move from our hospitality ministry throughout the day to the quiet of our sabbath after Vespers. We celebrate a festive day and we also say goodbye to our Guests.  Tessa Kale, Associate, and her husband Brian McCarthy are "Sunday Regulars" as is Sarah Gardner.
From left to right, Tessa Kale and Brian McCarthy from Poughkeepsie;
Sarah Gardner from Highland.
Eventually, the bittersweet moment of farewells comes.
Associate Jamie Dollahite and college friend Pastor Susan Gray.
And as a final note, news from our brothers on sabbaticals and on pilgrimage. Brothers Scott and Aidan are greatly enjoying the pilgrimage they are making with 30 voyagers through Scotland, Wales and England. The Rev. Matthew Wright and Yanick Savain are among the pilgrims and enjoying their first taste of Western Europe.

Br. Robert Sevensky is enjoying his stay in Cambridge. He recently did a 17 kms hike from Cambridge to Ely.
Top, from left to right, Br. Aidan, The Rev. Matthew Wright, the Yorkminster Dean, Br. Scott and two more pilgrims;
Bottom, Br. Robert Sevensky with Ely cathedral in the background.
Have a blessed week!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Come, Beloved, and pitch your tent into my heart

What a week! It all started with Br. Josép's renewal of his annual Benedictine vow. It is a simple and tender ceremony that takes place at the outset of our daily Chapter meeting. This is Br. Josép's second year in annual vows. We give thanks for his vocation, his love and many gifts. "Come, Beloved, and pitch your tent into my heart."
from left, clockwise, Br. Josép signs his instrument of profession;
Br. Josép reads his instrument of profession aloud;
Br. Josép is greeted by his brothers
Throughout the week, we had several groups and individual guests visiting us. They came from nearby and from far and wide.
Avove, clergy and parishioners from St Andrew's in Shippensburg, PA;
Below, the Women's Fellowship Group from St Mark's, Brooklyn, NY
They came with their own retreat program or attended one of our sponsored programs (on icon writing and on memoir writing). Christine Hales led and Advanced Icon Writing Workshop. Her husband, photographer Michael Hales came along. Beverly Donofrio offered an advanced retreat for memoir-writers.

Some came to visit a monk like Presbyterian Minister Barara Anne Keely visiting her long-time friend, Br. Bob. Others came to help us out, like Derek Nolan, our Merrill Lynch account manager, helping us to invest according to our ethical values and making financial progress along the way.
Clockwise, from above, Christine and Michael Hales; Derek Nolan of Merrill Lynch;
Br. Bob and his friend Barbara Anne Keely.
Repeat visitors, Associates and newcomers mixed happily in the Pilgrim Hall, the church or the refectory.
From left, clockwise, long-time visitor The Rev. Barbara Hutchinson, of St Andrew's Shippensburg, PA,
Br. Roy blessing the icons painted in Christine Hales' workshop,
The Rev. Anne Brewer, AHC, thinning down her library to the benefit of ours.
Others came to bestow the benefit of their craft on our monastery. Jason Breen, woodworker, and Zachary Roesemann, AHC, iconographer, collaborated with our Br. Robert James to design and produce a beautiful new tabernacle and underlying credenza for our Saint Augustine church. Next time, you visit, come and pray with the Blessed Sacrament and discover new beauty in our worship space.

The Tabernacle (Hebrew: "residence" or "dwelling place"), according to the Hebrew Bible, was the portable earthly dwelling place of God amongst the children of Israel. During the Exodus, it was a sacred tent. The word "tabernacle" came to be used for a receptacle for the consecrated elements of the Eucharist; especially: an ornamental locked box used for reserving the Communion hosts.

The tabernacle is a focus for our devotion to the ever-present God. Mystically, one can assert that God dwells in the tabernacle of our heart. "Come, Beloved, and pitch your tent into my heart." In front of the physical tabernacle we are reminded of that reality.
From top, clockwise, Jason Breen, woodworker, Zachary Roesemann, iconographer
and our Superior, Br. Robert James; inlaid wood representign the Holy Spirit hovering over the consecrated elements;
reminders of our churh's arches and columns frame the beautiful face of Christ.
In another woodworking endeavor, this weekend, our Bruderhof neighbors came with a team of workhorses to haul large logs of American walnut off our land. The wood will be processed in their various local communities (Maple Hill and Woodcrest) to be made available to their young people to learn crafts such as furniture and dishes making. The dozen men squad was very effective at getting several large logs up the hill and into trailers. We wish our Bruderhof brothers and sisters much joy in woodworking.
From top, clockwise, I tried my hand at sawing with a Bruderhof companion;
Bruderhof brothers using levers to roll and lift the logs;
Two beautiful workhorses seemed not to mind the work.
We are nestled in the midst of a rich network of connectedness. And you are part of it. Thank you.
"Come, Beloved, and pitch your tent into my heart."

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Is it Indian Summer already?

According to Wikipedia, Indian summer is a period of unseasonably warm, dry weather that sometimes occurs in autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. The US National Weather Service defines this as weather conditions that are sunny and clear with above normal temperatures, occurring late-September to mid-November. It is usually described as occurring after a killing frost.

The only piece of that definition that we haven't met yet is that there has been no killing frost yet (28F or lower). I'm sure Br. Aidan, our Grounds Steward, is grateful for that. The other thing I associate with the Indian summer is the turning of the color of leaves. There are a few harbingers of that but not enough to tinge the landscape in warmer colors.


This week, many of us were away on missions or family visits.

Br. Robert James, our Superior, was visiting his mom and one of his brothers, in Western Florida. She lives far North enough that the hurricane did not affect her community harshly.

Br. John was at Linwood Spiritual Center for a week to pursue a Spiritual Directors Training Program. This was the first of four residential modules in this program. A few of our Brothers have graduated from that program with great benefit. A few of us also go to Linwood Spiritual Center to receive spiritual direction from the Sisters of Saint Ursula. Thanks be to God for their ministry.

Br. Randy left on Tuesday for a nine-day trip to Fairbanks, Alaska to serve as one of the chaplains to the House of Bishop of The Episcopal Church meeting there. The theme of this meeting of
Bishops is "Culture, Creation and Reconciliation: Bishops in the Jesus Movement."

From left to right, The Very Rev. Miguelina Howell, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford, CT, The Rt.. Rev. Todd Ousley, Bishop for the Office of Pastoral Development, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop and our very own Br. Randy Greve, OHC
We did warn him not to make friends with moose though...
Please keep Br. Randy and our bishops in your prayers.

This week, I did my first monthly visit to General Theological Seminary to offer spiritual direction to members of the seminary community. I will make an overnight visit there each month of the academic year to meet, pray, worship, listen and consult with students and staff members.

I took this opportunity to meet over a delicious al fresco supper near Central Park with my first spiritual director of 17 years ago and his wife. Canon Jamie Callaway is the General Secretary of The Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion - CUAC and it gets him to travel extensively throughout the Anglican communion. His wife, Mary Chilton is a professor of Old Testament at Fordham University and is writing a book on the prophet Jeremiah. It was wonderful to catch up and even do a little bit of theology on the fly.
My good friends, the Callaways and I
Sixteen years ago, I went to Trinity Wall Street's midday healing service on the day my job at JPMorgan was made redundant. My parents were visiting from Belgium and I didn't know whether to even tell them. Jamie was laying hands and praying over those who requested it. I knelt before him and said in my alarm "Jamie, I have been terminated." Without missing a beat, Jamie bent over me with his hands on my head and whispered "Bernard, only God can 'terminate' you." And with that bit of theological humor, I regained perspective on what was really happening to me and recovered my trust that God was with me in this. If I had only known then what a soon-to-be ex-investment banker would become...  “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich).

This week also, our spry octogenarian, Br. Roy visited his good friend Sr. Janet Ruffing, RSM, in New Haven for a belated 84th birthday celebration. Happy Birthday, Roy!


This being said, offices were sung, worship offered and guests served at the monastery. Br. Bob is our Sub-Prior (and Novice Master) and keeps the house in good stead while I am away ;-) (not that I worry).

Last weekend, at Sunday dinner,  I couldn't help but notice how two of our Associates and retreat leaders were looking very happy. They had just led a retreat on the importance of inclusive theological language to the great benefit of their participants. I had noticed Lyn's t-shirt that proudly announced: "God is not a boy's name." I had thought, I'd like one of those. As it turns out, that is the title of a memoir and theological reflection that Lyn Brakeman's published under that title. Lyn wrote about her visit on her blog: Spiritual Lemons.
The Rev. Dick Simeone and The Rev. Lyn Brakeman ready to tuck into Sunday dinner
This week was a silent week at the monastery. From Tuesday to Friday mid-day, we hosted the Individually Directed Retreats. Participants sent a brief bio and statement of intent. They were paired with a Spiritual Director. They then met with their director each day but spent the rest of the day in silence.

This weekend, we had a very large men's group on retreat and several individual retreatants. I spotted a repeat visitor and thanked her for her faithfulness to our monastery. I take pictures of frequent visitors so that when any of us deal with them in-between visits we can look up their name (which often doesn't do the recognition trick) and recognize them. It's always a joyous moment when we recognize each other. When you next visit, get me to snap a portrait of you.
Regular visitor, Edie Lauderdale from Dartmouth, Massachusetts
Saturday was a bittersweet day for our community. Enrique Yepes, one of our Postulants, withdrew from the novitiate yesterday. Before entering he had been offered an opportunity to return to his native Colombia to engage his talents in a creative way in the work of peace and reconciliation there. He felt he first needed to discern his monastic call. His decision to withdraw was not made lightly or quickly. He engaged his discernment of the monastic life with energy and commitment. Ultimately, the call to his country and family prevailed. We will miss him and all that he brought to our community life in West Park. We wish him every blessing as he continues his journey. Please hold Enrique in your prayers as he moves into his new vocation.
Enrique Yepes (left) is moving to Colombia. Peter Pearson (right) is continuing his postulancy
Today, Sunday, Br. Bob preached a great sermon. And as usual, we had several of our Sunday mass visitors with us. I'll introduce you to them as the weeks go by. Bruce Stasko and his friend Chris are regular Sunday visitors. They drive from Northern New Jersey to be with us. A couple of decades ago, Bruce used to be our chef for several years.
Bruce Stasko and Chris Shields often worship with us on Sundays
There's about a dozen of regular Sunday Mass visitors. We are grateful for their worshipping presence with us. They are part of the extended Holy Cross Monastery community.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Late days of summer

On Labor Day, Brothers Josép and Peter organized a cookout for the community. The weather was perfect; warm but not hot with a light breeze to keep us cool. I discovered the joys of barbecued peaches; yum!

At the beginning of the month, I decided to go back to being a vegetarian (at least until Easter 2018, and then we'll see). So I sampled the great veggie-burgers that Br. Josép grilled for me and himself. It felt very satisfying.

I have decided to do it for a variety of reasons: out of concern for how eating animals consumes such a large part of our agricultural and ecological resources, out of concern for our fellow sentient beings who are mostly mistreated in the way we produce meat, out of concern for my general health.

I once was a strict vegetarian several years ago. The only thing I didn't like about it was the extra effort I put other people to for providing me with vegetarian food when I was entertained. This time around, I will adapt to what my hosts are eating when I am invited somewhere. Otherwise, I will be able to benefit from the fact that there is always a vegetarian option available in our refectory.
A beautiful table at the NY Diocesan Office
One case in point was our Diocesan Bishop's "Leaders of Religious Orders and Episcopal Visitor's Luncheon" this past Wednesday. Bishop Dietsche invites leaders and bishops yearly to enjoy each other's company, share on what's going on in our respective orders and receive the support of our diocesan bishops. Lamb chops were served and lamb chops I enjoyed. I'm trying this out until Easter and then we'll see.
From left to right, Br. Robert, Bp. Dietsche, Sr. Shane, CMA, Yours Truly, Bp. Shin, Sr. Anne, SSM, Esslie Hughes, Diocesan CFO, Br. John Henry, BSG, Sr. Faith Margaret, CHS and Sr. Carole Bernice, CHS
Brother Robert James, Sister Shane of the Companions of Mary the Apostle and myself had driven together to the city for the occasion. On our way back, we got to take a flower arrangement home. We have placed it at the foot of the Mary and Child statue in our church.

Beautiful flower arrangements that graced our table
Bishop Andrew Diestsche is not only our monastery's Diocesan Bishop but he is also the Bishop Visitor of the Order of the Holy Cross. This is a role mandated by our church canons. It enables a religious order to have access to an outsider/insider and to a wise counselor in spiritual and organizational matters. The Visitor is an outsider because he isn't one of the monks, but he is an insider in the church that we belong to. A good Visitor is one that engages in regular contact and cares about what religious orders have to offer the church and the world. We definitely have a good Visitor in Bp. Dietsche.
Our Lady looks right pleased with the offering
This week, Br. Josép has been leading the Associates Fall Retreat. He had Bros. John, Aidan and Joseph also present sessions to the Associates. The retreat looked at a passage from the epistle to the Romans (chapter 12) in pieces and from different angles. The theme was ” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." The retreat was very positively received. Among other things, the Associates appreciated broader access to a variety of brothers.

The present Associates celebrated Holy Cross Day with us on Thursday. Br. Robert James preached a great sermon. And our cook prepared a lovely feast. In the afternoon, Brothers and Guests mixed during a pre-Vespers "wine and cheese" event.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Happy Labor Day!

This past Monday, Yanick Savain, Br. Aidan and I harvested honey from two of our four beehives. We harvested about 30 pounds of honey which will serve in the Guest House kitchen and as gifts to donors, staff and contractors that make the monastery hum day by day.
Before uncapping and spinning the honey frames
After extraction and bottling. Et voilà!
From Tuesday to Thursday, we had about 35 teachers and staff of the Mustard Seed School in Hoboken, NJ staying at the Monastery. They come every year. This is their once-in-the-year occasion to be all together without their students and to share and grow together. They do this as their preparation to welcome their students for the academic year. They are an enthusiastic and dedicated group. The school is a faith-based school for PK3 to Eighth graders.

As it happened, we were visited by three four-year olds this week. Ken and Leone, long-time visitors from Manhattan came to visit for lunch with their twin sons. They used to come to the monastery on retreat often before they became parents. Now it is harder to arrange for a retreat. I told them that we often "lose" retreatants for 10 to 15 years while they raise their kids and that it is a treat when they can pop in to come say hello. They were on their way back to the city from a family camp. If it becomes a tradition that they stop on their way home, we may get to see their sons grow.

This weekend, we had a couple of young parents from Philadelphia here with their son. Dad is a priest, so the little one knows to whisper when silence prevails. He is adorable too.
Leone and Ken, long-time visitors to the Monastery and their four-year old twins Frederic and Samuel, See you all soon, we hope!

One of the benefits of our expanded number of able-bodied monks at home is that we can more easily afford to have a few of them out for a few days at a time. This enables more men to conduct missions, visit family or take outside retreat time concurrently.

This week, Br. Josép came back from a visit with his mom in Florida. On the day he returned, Br. Joseph left for Sewanee, Tennessee to officiate at a friend's wedding and Br. Robert James left to officiate at a friend's wedding in Kentucky! Br. Robert James officiated at the wedding of a young man who was a YASC missioner at our monastery in South Africa a few years back where he met his future wife who was also a YASC'er in SA (Young Adult Service Corp). Holy Cross connections will bring you all sorts of good in life... ;-)

Br. Lary suffered ill-health and had to be hospitalized for a few days. He is now recuperating and will soon return to Hudson Valley Rehabilitation and Extended Care Center in Highland where he now lives. Your prayers for his prompt and full recovery would be appreciated.


Now that our driveways and parking lots are repaved, some new landscaping is called for. On Saturday, a few monks and a guest helped Br. Aidan, our Grounds steward. We planted junipers and ivy to reclaim the soil behind a new retaining wall in the Sacristy parking lot before the weeds take over.
Br. Aidan, Peter Pearson, guest Giovanni and Br. Bob planting away

Br. Bob Pierson, our Novice Master demonstrating the value of manual labor

Postulant Enrique Yepes following a good example

As the beginning of the academic year approaches, many of our guests are getting ready for it. This weekend, we had frequent guest Patti Blaine visiting with her husband Evan. They settled their daughter in a new dorm at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie and then smartly took quiet time for themselves. Patti, an Episcopal deacon, will soon start a new job as a hospital chaplain. Evan, a statistics teacher will soon meet new classes for the year.
Patti (frequent guest) and her husband Evan (first-timer)
Why not take their example, and come spend quality time with God at the Monastery, or introduce someone you love to the Monastery. We always love to see you visit us.

All the best to those who are starting new jobs or returning to school.