Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas memories and Happy New Year!

At the monastery, we get the most out of Advent until the last day. Most of our Christmas preparations take place on December 23, or more likely, on December 24. After our midday dinner on Christmas Eve, all those guests who want to help get into action and deck the halls.
From top left, clockwise, Jonathan Mudge, from Austin, TX, helps Br. Peter and Br. John decorating Pilgrim Hall;
me and Br. Bob decorating the top of our very tall tree; After and Before decoration; many different styles of ornaments are featured; Jonathan (Br. Bede's nephew) finishing off the back of the tree.
This year, the fourth Sunday of Advent also was Christmas Eve. So we lit up the fourth candle on the Advent wreath at Vespers of Saturday and put the wreath away on Sunday afternoon to make the place for the greening of the church. Brothers Bob and Peter gave Christmas reflections to our guests on the afternoon of Christmas Eve and on the morning of Christmas Day.
From top, closckwise, Br. Bob comes to sit down in choir at first Vespers of Advent Four;
Br. Peter teaches about Christmas and icons; Br. Bob teaches about the meaning of Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, we had first Vespers of Christmas after supper at 7 p.m. A little schola composed of Bros. Bernard, Bob, John, Josép and Peter offered a little concert before Vespers (and again before mass on Christmas Day). After these late Vespers, we gathered in Pilgrim Hall for some refreshments and a spirited session of carol singing. Compline was dispensed and greater silence came a little later than usual, at 9 p.m.
Caroling in Pilgrim Hall. From top left, clockwise, Associate Pat Moore, Br. Bob, Associate Mary Allan and Sr. Anitra, SSJD; Newcomers Jennifer Crane, Patrick Gillespie, from Kerhonkson and Geoffrey Thomas of Brooklyn, NY;
Monks and guests enjoying the merriment and the refreshments.
On Christmas morning, we woke up to a winter wonderland as freshly fallen snow decorated every tree. Christmas mass took place at our usual time (9 a.m.) and left time to all to relax in the holiness and beauty of the day.
From top, clockwise, snow on the crab apple trees behind the l,ittle Cloister;
Christmas lights and the valley as seen from my cell;
Monks in their festive gear enjoying each other's company in our West Atrium in the enclosure.

We picked up Br. Rafael from his Highland nursing home for the day and he thoroughly enjoyed the worship, companionship and feasting.
From top, clockwise, Guests Phyllis, Jennifer and Associate Geoffrey Collis enjoying the Christmas feast:
Br. Robert Hagler helping Br. Rafael take in the beauty of the snow covered valley.
Many guests and visitors are enjoying the Christmastide quiet at the monastery; and not a few clergy peoplee. It is a time of deep relaxing and rest.
Guests and visitors. From top, clockwise, Br. John with the Rev. Lynne Sharpe, of Hammondsport, NY and the Rev. Stacey Grossmann, of Novato, CA; The Rev. Kate Kelderman, chaplain at Kent School in Kent, CT and her husband Theo (Kent was founded by the Order of the Holy Cross in 1906; Kate and Theo under the German crucifix in the Visitors Court of our church.
We wish you a peaceful, healthy, loving and serene New Year. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Preparing for Christmas

Advent is coming to a close tonight.

Last Sunday, we had a beautiful Lessons and Carols service. Lessons and Carols is a service offered shortly before Christmas. It tells salvation history through nine Bible readings that trace the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah, and the birth of Jesus. The readings come from Genesis, the prophetic books and the Gospels. The nine readings are interspersed with the singing of Christmas carols, hymns and choir music. Kairos, a Consort of Singers sings this service for our joy and inspiration every Advent.
Kairos, a Consort of Singers. Edward Lundergan, musical director of Kairos
accompanies the singers on the tambourine (top) and leads them in the carosl (bottom).
The nine readings are made by members of our regional community (neighbors, clergy, members of Kairos and Holy Cross monks).
Readers of the lessons. From left to right;
Top: The Rev. Dustin Trowbridge, from St George Episcopal Church, Newburg, NY, Br. Josép Martinez-Cubero, Dr. Mary Barber; from Newburg, NY; 
Middle: Ms. Laurel Massé, from Esopus, NY Ms. Kathryn Stewart, from New Paltz, NY, The Rev. Matthew Wright; from St Gregory's Episcopal Church, Woodstock; 
Bottom: Br. Bob Pierson, Ms. Amy Pender, from Hopewell Junction, The Rev. Alfred Twyman, Chaplain, NYS Department of Corrections, from Poughkeepsie, NY
This service is very popular and well attended. We estimate that about 150 people participate in it. Each year we collect freewill offerings that the monastery match to then give away to regional food ministries. This year, we will distribute $2500 to three food pantries and the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley. Thank you to all the readers and singers and to our many visitors.
From top, clockwise, all of Kairos, participants in the service,
monks and attendees waiting in anticipation as befits Advent.
In the singing department, five monks are rehearsing to form a little schola to sing at Christmas Eve Vespers and at Christmas Day Mass. This year's program features a lovely Spanish carol that exercises our language skills.
From left, clockwise, while guests enjoy a game of cards,
monks rehearse music in the choirmaster's (Br. Josép) office.
 Many guests have arrived early to enjoy Christmas at the monastery. More are arriving through the weekend.
From top, clockwise, me with frequent visitor and library volunteer, Felicity Pickup from Toronto,
Father and son, The Rev. Chris Lawrence and Kirin: frequent visitor Geoffrey Ream from New York, NY,
and his friend Daniel Nieciecki from New York, NY on his first-time visit.
Friends tell friends about Holy Cross Monastery
From top, closckwise, Neighbor John Roberto from Highland, NY,
treats himself to a day visit to the monastery, Sr. Anitra, SSJD, from Toronto,
frequent visitor, Patty Jones from New York, NY and Associate Pat Moore
from Hempstead, NY, enjoying a relaxing time in Pilgrim Hall.
We look forward to celebrating Christmas with our guests. May you and your loved ones have a blessed Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Advent contemplative days and Lessons and Carols

Well, wouldn't you know it, Christmas is coming up. Five of us have started rehearsing for a little schola to perform at Christmas Eve Vespers and at Christmas Day Mass. I can't hear music in my head when I decipher it and I don't understand how I don't get lost singing in harmony but somehow we make pretty nice music together. I love the way we keep Advent calm and contemplative here at the monastery. It can be jarring when we venture into "Commercial Christmasland."
Advent sightings. The candles light up on the Advent wreath
and the Christmas tree appears in Pilgrim Hall.
Last week, we had our Advent Contemplative Days. Three days of round-the-clock Greater Silence, a simplified liturgical schedule, no work obligation and a guests contingent that thrives on the silence too.
Contemplative Days visitors. From top, clockwise, Jayne Smith from New York, NY;
The Rev. Beth Grundy from Osterville, MA and The Rev. Dave Milam of Middleborough, MA;
Rebecca Bradley and Terry Rogers, Third Order Franciscan.
On Wednesday, we received an "old friend" as a new Associate. Peter Field has long visited our monastery and over the years has introduced many, many of his friends to it. He likes to "share" the monastery. If you're intrigued by what it entails to become an Associate, make sure to talk to Br. Josép about it. It's probably easier than you suspect.
Peter Field, from Ridgewood, NJ, is our latest Associate
This Tuesday, Br. Robert Sevensky returned home from his sabbatical in Britain. We're very happy to have him back home. His sabbatical runs out on January 15, so he'll take it easy until then and make family and friends visits.
Br. Robert Sevensky, on a visit to Rievaulx Abbey shortly before his return home.
May you have a blessed Christmas!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Advent and Individually Directed Retreats

We are delighting in the quiet expectation of Advent. This past week we offered our Advent Individually Directed Retreats. The Guest House was in greater silence around the clock from Tuesday Compline to Fiday dinner. Retreatants met every day with their assigned director to explore what God and they are up to. We welcomed three outside directors and three of our brothers provided direction too. Each of them saw two or three directees throughout the week.
The Spiritual Directors. From top left, clockwise, Br. Joseph, Linda Barnes, Br. Randy,
Br. Bob, Sr. Susan John Mangan, Hildegard Pleva
During their retreat, the directees are encouraged to be mindful of how they use their time and not to get lost in escapist distraction. One of the directees spent some time with the birds on our property.
Ornithological Contemplation. Alex Gilchrist of Philadelphia, PA,
spent quality time with birds. From top, clockwise, a pileated woodpecker,
wild turkeys and the woodpecker's back.
We also received our first snow of the season this past week. The sun soon came out to give it brilliance. On this second Sunday of Advent, Brother Scott and I both preached on separate continents. Br. Scott was visiting the Church of Christ the King in Frankfurt, Germany where our Associate, Father John Perris is the Rector. Both Br. Scott's sermon and mine can be found as usual on our Sermons Blog. You can also listen to the audio file of my sermon (and hear me lead the congregation in a Godspell rendition of Prepare Ye the Ways of the Lord). Whenever we make a recording of our sermons they are featured with the text on our Sermons Blog.
From top, clockwise, The Rev. John Perris and Br. Scott under the Advent weath;
our own Advent wreath and first snow in West Park.
As most weeks, one of us brought communion to our Brothers at the Hudson Valley Rehabilitation and Extended Care. This nursing home is located in the little village of Highland, just 7 miles south of the monastery which enables us to visit often. On this visit, Br. Joseph found Br. Rafael engaged in a session of bingo. The story doesn't tell if he was winning.
Br. Rafael playing bingo.
We had the pleasure of hosting return visitors, Associates and first-time visitors this week.
From top clockwise, Associate Kathleen Breiten from Manhattan, NY and
neighbor and frequent visitor Cathy Kelly; Brosl Bob and Aidan in conversation with
Yanick Savain our Bookstore maven while Br. Roy serves a customer;
Br. Joseph with Sam Young from Manhattan, NY. Sam is an intern with
the NY Service and Justice Collaborative and works at St James, Madison Avenue
And thank you for all the good wishes and prayers that came my way following my TIA. I am taking good care of myself, going to all the follow-up medical appointments and taking medications that curtail my risks of future strokes.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Two Clericuses and One Transient Ischemic Attack

This past Tuesday, we welcomed the clericus of Ulster County and the clericus of Dutchess County for a day of sharing and learning about the diocesan's Global Women's Fund. A clericus is a monthly gathering of the clergy of a county, for the purpose of mutual encouragement, communication, and exploring common ministry. There were about 20 ministers in attendance. The Ulster County clericus has its regular meetings at the monastery.

One of the Dutchess clergy in attendance was Father Allan Ford who volunteers as Spiritual Director to our three brothers in Assisted Living. He meets with them monthly as a group to address issues relevant to their spiritual lives. The Rev. Allan Ford is priest-in-charge of St. Margaret's Church, Staatsburg, across the river from us.
From top, clockwise, a portraite of our Fr. Founder, James Otis Sargent Huntington, with Fr. Allan Ford;
clergy of the Ulster and Dutchess clericuses in the refectory and in St Gregrory's classroom.
Every Wednesday morning, Br. John supervises the work of our two library volunteers, Ms. Liza Doty of Beacon and Ms. Susan Barbarisi of New Hamburg. They are helping us make great progress in the cataloging of new books and the cleaning up of our old card catalog. As you can see from the picture below, they also have great fun doing it. Liza and Susan often join us for the office of diurnum and stay for dinner with the community and our guests.
From left to right, Liza Doty, Susan Barbarisi and Br. John enjoying a "moment of levity"
while working in the monastic library
As usual, we enjoyed the visit of several Associates this week. Many of them came ahead of time to attend the Advent Retreat led by The Rev. Martin Smith.
Asssociates and an Associate Probationer. From top, clockwise,
Ellie Sulston of Bloomfield, CT, Br. Peter, our Novice, Laurel Stewart of Longmeadow, MA,
Ann Gannon of Evanston, IL; Probationer, Marty Burt of South Burlington, VT;
Ann Gannon, Gloria Taylor of Wappinger Falls, NY and Elizabeth Gillett of Hamilton, NY
This Sunday, we had the visit of Anne and Larnie Hiller for mass. They are amongst our regular Sunday visitors and come to us from nearby New Paltz. On Sunday, Br. Joseph caught several guests in the company of Br. Bear. Br. Bear usually keeps company to our Guest House Manager, Lori Callaway, in the Guest House Office. He's the sociable type and meets lots of people on his errands.
From top, clockwise, Anne and Larnie Hiller, The Rev. Martin Smith and Br. Bear;
our chef Bob Morano and Br. Bear; Br. Joseph with Marty Burt;
Michael Madsen from Bel Air, MD; Marth Montgomery of Baltimore, MD.
A week ago, on Sunday, I suffered a bout of aphasia just before and during Vespers. Br. Adrian, who is a retired hospice nurse, had the good sense to insist that I go to the emergency room. Br. Robert James who is my primary health care proxy took me to Vassar Hospital in Poughkeepsie. I was eventually admitted for observation and further tests. It turned out I suffered a Transient Ischemic Attack. A TIA is like a mini-stroke without lasting damage. It is treated very seriously because it can be a warning sign of possible future full-blown strokes. I was discharged from hospital on Monday evening. Since then, I have diligently organized the follow-up medical appointments and taken new medications.

The aphasia took me by surprise and I was frustrated by it rather than scared for I did not fully realize what was happening to me. I worried my brothers since this was happening very publicly in choir during one of our offices. The aphasia went away after about 45 minutes. In the emergency room, I realized I was very calm because I was ready to die if my time had come. Later on, as the implications of a mini-stroke came to rest with me, I realized I was not ready nor calm about the possibility of lasting debilitating consequences of surviving a full-blown stroke. My acceptance of life on life's own terms still has to progress.

As a result of the TIA and the hospitalization, I have taken every moment of this past week as a grace and I have tasted every moment with renewed joy. It is good to be alive and enjoying good health. The TIA went entirely away very soon. So, post fact it has a quality of unreality. I feel fine now; did I really undergo this serious incident? But reports from witnesses remind me that it was really bad, if only for a few moments. Life is a beautiful, rich, resilient, yet fragile gift. I'll use it for love while I have it.

Thanks be to God for my creaturely being. Your will be done, Beloved.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The feasts of Thanksgiving and Father Huntington

It's official, "The Holidays" have begun! We had a lot of guests throughout the week. Folks arrived early to enjoy a restful Thanksgiving and folks lingered to enjoy the beauty of the Mid-Hudson Valley. I've lived here over thirteen years and the beauty of our environment never gets old! In the morning, I get up and check through my window if the Hudson is still there. She's a faithful river and I love the ever-changing sunrise over the river. No wonder so many guests come back for more.
The sunrise over the Hudson from my cell.
The lower picture shows a parked tanker ship and is filtered.
Our chefs, Robert Morano and Lisa Chapin-Brett did us proud with luscious, yet conscientious and healthy Thanksgiving feast. I overheard a guest saying to another one over the weekend "I don't know if you can overdose on gourmet healthy meals!" Well the answer to that is "Yes. You can!" It's a joy to have such good food at home but we the monks have to watch it.
Nobody goes hungry here at Thanksgiving.
After the Thanksgiving feast, many folks went walking in the sun. Some of us headed out to Fanny Reese Park which overlooks the mid-Hudson bridge (which so many of our guests cross to get to us) and the city of Poughkeepsie. Frances Stevens Reese, was a founder and chairwoman emeritus of the environmental group Scenic Hudson and a veteran of the fight to keep a power plant from being built on Storm King Mountain. Thank you, Fanny Reese and thank you, Scenic Hudson for the many beautiful parks that stud our region.
A postprandial walk in Fanny Reese Park in Highland.
From top, clocwise, Br. John, Br. Aidan, Ms. Lindsey Briggs, Br. Bob;
wo Union Seminary friends; two brothers enjoying the walk.
We always enjoy seeing you again at the monastery or meeting you for the first time. This week there were groups of friends staying with us for a few days and folks looking for a quieter Thanksgiving or post-Thanksgiving time with us.
New and repeat visitors. From top, clockwise, me, The Reverend Cari Pattison from the Reformed Church of Bronxville, Tate Bushell from Westchester county, NY. Cari brought us many friends from her reading club and their children, this week; Erin Moore from Marcellus, NY, me, Joseph Cundiff from NYC, and Br. Bob.
On Friday night, we started chanting the office for the feast of James Otis Sargent Huntington, our Founder. We were happy to have many of our Associates with us to celebrate this feast of particular importance to the "Holy Cross family."
Asoociates and an Associate probationer. From top, clockwise, Chris Amy, AHC, from Toronto, Ontario,
Asa Coulson, AHC, from Lancaster, PA, Elizabeth Boe, AHC/Prob, from NYC;
Asa taking Br. Bear on photo shoot around the monastery.
 On Sunday, our neighbor, Sr. Shane Phelan, CMA, came down the hill for a post-dinner game of Quirkle. We are delighted that the Comapnions of Mary the Apostle are in the neighborhood again.
The clear winner of this Sunday's game of Quirkle, Sr. Shane Phelan, CMA, our next door neighbor;
the green double Quirkle that propelled her in the lead.
 Now, it's more fun to report on celebrations and fun things. But just in case you wondered, the monks and the staff are often hard at work to make it all possible. Below are a couple of proofs that "labora" features with "ora" in our Benedictine lives ;-)
It's not all games and fun. From top, clockwise, Brs. Josép and Joseph coordinating
the Guest House and the Monastery's calendars; me scything the beeyard in preparation for winter

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

A group of writers calling themselves the Pearloafers has been coming to the monastery every fall for the last sixteen years. Several of them used to come to writers retreats facilitated by Madeline L'Engle (1918-2007) before that. Their first visit as the Pearloafers occurred only three days after Nine Eleven.

When they are here, the Pearloafers assign themselves writing exercises. This year they wrote first about strangers, which turned out to all be very personal stories of encounters with strangers. Their second assignment was to write a story where each line begins with the successive letters of the alphabet.

Susy Murphy's meditation (found below) captures the essence of what the Pearloafers, both individually and as a group, treasure about their time at Holy Cross each year.

Some of the Pearloafers who were here in October.
One footnote. On 9/11, a classmate of Suzy's son's, Zoe Falkenberg, aged 9, perished along with her 3 year old sister and parents Leslie and Charlie, on the flight that hit the Pentagon. They were supposed to be en route to a sabbatical teaching assignment for her mom in Australia. Many of our group knew Zoe and her family.

We are grateful for all our guests, friends, relatives and Associates. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
Meditation on Being at Holy Cross
A renewal of spirit.
Beginning with breathing.
Deeply inhaling, holding my breath like a delicate egg.
Exhaling very slowly, releasing everything that has been pent up.
Feeling the release of tension deep in the sinews of my body.
Gratitude, flooding in to replace pain, hurt, despair.
Holding onto this moment of peace gently, so it will last.
Irritability melting away.
Just gone—poof!
Kindness and an open heart replacing it.
Like magic.
More than magic.
No, what happens at Holy Cross is the deepest magic I know of.
Organically here in the light, the sounds and the smells.
Present in every nook.
Quiet, sacred places thrum with it.
Rest here.
So that you, too, can feel its power.
Time to go?
Understanding that we must each take the gift of this sacred place and bring it back into our daily lives.
Validate the truth of it in the real world.
eXamine the challenge to live wholly, deeply and with open hearts, every day.
Yesterday, tomorrow, today—we hold the promise and the power of each one.
Zoe, and her family, would have wanted us to live this way.

©Susy Elder Murphy, Pearloafers, October 2017

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

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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!