Sunday, July 16, 2017

Summer treats

Spring and Fall are my favorite seasons in the Hudson Valley. But summer has its pluses too. At night, I love to look to the meadow and see the fireflies putting on their modest but fascinating pyrotechnic show. Barring close range lighting strikes, of which we got a damaging one a few weeks ago, I also love summer thunder storms (albeit from the protection of a building).

This week, friends invited me to an al fresco theater show at the Boscobel estate, in Cold Spring. A large tent, looking out on the Hudson River and West Point is the setting of plays throughout the summer. We got there early to picnic in the park and then saw a new adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice." It was a lot of fun. Live theater is such a special treat. And I've decided I'll need to read the novel soon to re-visit the joys of the play and discover the writing of Jane Austen.

Picnic at Boscobel with Gwyneth, Tim and Alison - the theater festival's tent is seen in the background
Throughout the week, the house has resonated with the sounds of flutes as pupils of Gary Schocker rehearsed and performed lots of lovely music. Sunday morning, they gave a concert in the church. Other guests (having been warned a the time of making their reservations for this week) seemed to enjoy it too.

This Saturday, we received a new Associate; James Ryan of Long Island, NY. He came up for the mass and stayed for the day. The weather was perfect for a visit.
Our newest Associate, James Ryan
This week-end, we had the visit of two Vedanta devotees. Swami Chidbrahmananda, a monk of the Ramakrishna Order, was interested in revisiting Christianity from his Vedanta experience. He was accompanied by his friend Santa Das who is leading youth camps with him this summer. They were on a break between two groups of young people visiting their camp.
Swami Chidbrahmananda, Br. Bernard, Santa Das
A few monks had an opportunity to have long conversations with each of them. I got to explore our respective concepts of God and to reflect on the Christian concepts of hell and sin. In shorthand, I believe sin is to experience my deliberate separation from God and that hell is becoming aware and experiencing where my life fell short of divine love when I will be in the evident presence of Absolute Love (God).

This Sunday, our Sisters from the Companions of Mary the Apostle visited us. Sr. Shane was with us for Mass and throughout the morning. Sr. Elizabeth joined us for dinner and an after-dinner game of Quirkle.
Bros. John and Enrique being inducted in the joys of Quirkle by our CMA Sisters
This past Monday, Br. Scott left for the South African part of his sabbatical. He will be living with our community in Grahamstown, enjoying their winter (Br. Scott does prefer cool weather). He will be back with us in September for a few weeks before heading back out for the British parts of his sabbatical.

This Saturday, Br. Robert Leo left on the first part of his sabbatical too. He will be visiting friends and family in New England and Pennsylvania and will be back for a few days in September before leaving for the English part of his sabbatical.

We will miss them both but are really happy for the opportunities these sabbaticals offer each of them.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Hanging out with Associates

Thirteen Associates and Associate candidates joined us for a time of retreat this week. They lucked out on the weather; it was sunny with temperatures in the high seventies, low eighties throughout the week.

Allan Spencer, new AHC of St Catherines, Ontario
Brother Josép, the Interim Director of Associates, had prepared a program centered on the theme "Back to Basics." I was asked to present a session to the Associates and talked with them about Christian hospitality (a theme on which I had preached last Sunday).

Hospitality is one of the basic values of Benedictine spirituality on which we ask our Associates to center their rule of life: Community, Hospitality, Humility, Balance and Mindfulness.

Dave Vaughn, new AHC of Onley, VA
The Associates also got to spend time with Bros. Josép, Roy, Robert James, Bede and Robert Leo (the James and Leo middle names is how we keep our new and past Superiors distinct).

Br. Josép is doing a great job working with Associates and Probationer Associates (people who are "trying it on for size" and discerning how to write a rule of life). As a matter of fact, three Probationers were received as Associates during this week.

Liz Haak, new AHC, of New York City
If you are interested in spiritual growth and in a more ordered spiritual life, then you may wish to consider becoming an Associate.

For more information or a copy of the Associates’ Rule, please contact Br. Josép Martinez-Cubero, Interim Director of Associates, Holy Cross Monastery, PO Box 99, West Park NY 12493.


Br. Lary Pearce
This past Monday, Br. Lary Pearce moved to the same nursing home as Br. Rafael Campbell-Dixon in the village of Highland. He will receive the much needed care that is appropriate for his health situation. The Hudson Valley Rehabilitation and Extended Care Center (HVREC quite a mouthful) is situated 7.5 miles South of the monastery. We can easily visit and also take our brothers out on occasions. 

Recently, Br. Rafael came to the monastery for the visit of the Presiding Bishop. 

Br. Rafael pays attention to the Presiding Bishop's preaching

This morning Br. Roy and I brought communion to our two HVREC residents. They were both in good spirits and happy to see us.  

Some of our Associates took some free time in their retreat schedule to go visit Rafael and Lary this week. We'll be happy to give you driving directions if you wish to do that next time you visit the monastery. 

Please pray for Br. Lary as he negotiates this important transition in his living arrangements.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Guests famous and not-yet-so-famous

This week, we were delighted to welcome The Most Rev. Michael Curry to the monastery. He is the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. He was coming to be with nine volunteers of the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) and the Episcopal Volunteers In Mission (EVIM) who were completing two weeks of orientation (most of it at the monastery) with Church staff.

Bishop Michael took the opportunity to preach at the festive Eucharist for the feast of St Peter and St Paul. He preached on how the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.

After the mass, the monastic community had an opportunity to sit down with the Bishop for coffee and conversation. I was a beautiful opportunity to get to know our Presiding Bishop better.
Coffee and Hudson Valley apple cider donuts to fuel conversation
Br. Laurence offers an origami mobile of his making - all with biblical symbols
The community's goodie bag for the PB

Framing the visit of our Presiding Bishop were the receptions of two new Associates; at mass, Br. Josép, our interim Associates Director welcomed Jarrett Kerbel on Wednesday and Meg Galbreath on Friday. It's always a privilege to bring new members into the Holy Cross family of Associates. If you want to become an Associate, get in touch with Br. Josép (

Our two newest Associates. Will you say a prayer for them?
On Friday, at Vespers, the community prayed over the YASC and EVIM missionaries who were returning home the next day. They enjoyed their orientation and appreciated their time at the monastery. Some came to call it "home." We certainly look forward to their returning after their year of mission abroad to debrief their experience. Thank you to all the Church Center staff and their consultants who prepare these missionaries so well.

Episcopal volunteers and monks
We keep these missionaries in prayer throughout the year. May they be received as a blessing and receive many blessings in return.

Missionaries and their Presiding Bishop

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Transitions, transitions, transitions!

The Prior is back. Only, it's not the same Prior.

From early 2007 to mid-2011, Br. Bede, who was then the Prior of Holy Cross Monastery kept readers informed on things going on at the monastery and their import or meaning for him. Br. Bede wrote pretty much on a weekly rhythm. I don't know that I will match that, but we'll see.

I am very fortunate that I have become the new Prior of our monastery at a time when our community is thriving. Seventeen monks live at the monastery today. That's the largest number of monks here since I joined the Order in early 2004. We pray and chant well together. And we work, serve and play well together. I hope to tell you more about our crew in the future.

What strikes me today is the sheer amount of transition that is going on within our walls. Here are some of the transitions I can think of for the moment.

Light transitioning through a prism. Happy Pride Month to all, by the way.

Br. Robert James Magliula was elected Superior of the Order of the Holy Cross at its annual chapter meeting in West Park on Thursday, June 8. He was installed as our new Superior on Saturday, June 10. That's what I call a fast transition. Br. Robert James will be in residence at Holy Cross Monastery and is in the process of moving from his previous cell and office.

He succeeds Br. Robert Sevensky who has been the Superior of the Order of the Holy Cross (OHC) for nine years. Br. Robert is leaving for a well-deserved six-month sabbatical on July 15 in the United Kingdom. He will come back to us in January 2018. That only leaves the past and new Superiors a few weeks to pass on the baton.

Once our OHC Chapter had elected new members to the five-brother Council that advises the Superior they met for their first in-person meeting on Sunday, June 11. One of their jobs was to consider the local elections of Priors and Formators in our four monasteries (Santa Barbara, CA, Toronto, ON, Grahamstown, South Africa, and West Park, NY).

They approved the candidates selected by their respective houses. And that's how I became "official." Our monastery had conducted the election of a Prior Coadjutor back in January. This was a novelty meant to enable a smooth transition of responsibilities between the incumbent Prior, Br. Scott Borden and myself. It has proven a very fruitful way of handling the transition.

As it happens, Br. Scott had a most unfortunate accident in mid-May at the monastery while conducting re-wiring of our internal electronic network. He fell from a scaffold and broke both his arms. He soon had reparative surgery which has been very successful in speeding up his healing. He still wears removable casts at this time but is doing really well.

Soon after his accident, Br. Scott and I decided it made sense to speed up the transition of responsibilities and I became Acting Prior, pending approval by OHC's council. At this stage, I have been in charge of our monastery for five weeks.  I can definitely say that it has thickened the consistency of my calendar.

The Prior of a monastery is the leader who is ultimately responsible for the administrative and pastoral management of the monastery's community, its ministries, its businesses and finance. I have started being involved in several ways in all of these areas. 

Luckily, this is a team sport and I rely on the brothers a lot; there is very little that the office of Prior enables me to do alone. I have to give guidelines and perspective, then delegate, then supervise and fine-tune the guidelines as we go. What's different from corporate management is that all along pastoral concerns mix with the business of getting things done. Few managers live round the clock in an egalitarian, love-oriented environment with their charges. It has its advantages and challenges.

Brother Scott has started taking a six-month sabbatical. For the moment, he is at home recuperating from his accident and surgery and generally taking it easy - when he is not fixing some of our Information Technology that got fried by a thunder-storm last week...

Soon, he will leave to go visit our house in Grahamstown, South Africa. He will then attend a religious ecumenical conference in Germany (on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation). He will then return a few weeks to our monastery and may take classes at the Enneagram Institute. In October, he will lead with Br. Aidan Owen a pilgrimage in England and Scotland. Finally, he will spend time with the Community of the Resurrection, a Benedictine community in Mirfield, in the North of England.

This means, the Order and the monastery are in new hands and we will be out of two faithful and talented brothers for the better part of the rest of 2017.

But there are more transitions going on. In May, two men entered the monastery as postulants; the Rev. Peter Pearson and Mr. Enrique Yepes. They will try their vocation with us through their six-month postulancy. God willing, they will then be clothed as novices of our Order and continue their monastic formation while increasing their involvement in the worship and work of the community.

By mid-July, Br. Bob Pierson will relocate from our monastery in Santa Barbara, California, to become our new Novice Master. At present, Br. Robert James Magliula is doing double duty by giving classes to our men in formation.

Regretfully, Br. Simon Thuku asked to leave our novitiate and returned to live in New York City in mid-June. We have greatly appreciated living and worshiping with Simon and we wish him the very best in the next stage of his life.

As you can see that is a lot of transition to go through in only a few months for a (still relatively small) band of monks. We are all relying on our respective support networks to help us learn and grow through it all but it can get stressful at times.

I believe we all look forward to some stabilization and routine settling in in the months to come, God willing. In the meantime, may I ask for your prayers for all the men involved. In return, don't hesitate to let us know what we can pray for together with you.