Monday, July 18, 2011

July 2011

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“God our Father, let the Spirit you sent on your Church to begin the teaching of the Gospel continue to work in the world through the hearts of all who believe.

Pentecost!  This is a great feast in which we celebrate the Church’s final phase of God’s design for us.  The first was creation.  God was Creator and we were creatures.  Our relationship was creator to creature and vice versa.  The second phase was when God showed Himself to be the only God and commissioned Abraham to be His messenger; what followed was God’s protection and care of His chosen people, a unique and small tribe that it was.  The third phase was the Incarnation when the one God, the Creator, came to His creatures and even became a creature with all the limitations that implies.  The result of that was that we were no longer mere creatures, nor believers in the one true God, but we were given the privilege of being God’s children.  He is now our Father in a unique way through Jesus.  Our union with Him, through Christ is so complete that Jesus could say, and mean, “As long as you did it to one of these, my little ones, you did it to me”.

We have a High Priest and what does He do at the right hand of the Father?   He is our mediator.  We could almost say that He is constantly showing His Father His scars and saying, “You see these?  I was wounded in the house of those who love me.  Yet, I suffered for them.  Forgive them Heavenly Father.”  The letter to the Hebrews (8:25) puts it so well, “Therefore, He is always able to save those who approach God through Him, since He lives forever to make intercession for them (us)”.

Our blessed Lord did not come down to earth only to preach and to suffer; He is living and making intercession for us.  He has finished the work of justice on earth, because He paid the debt of sin but the work of mercy in heaven is unfinished.  That intercession continues until the end of time.  And the reason it goes on is that we need His intercession.

The phase we celebrate today, the coming down of the Holy Spirit is that which has given us the dynamism, the animation, the power to be what we are called, “Christians” and “Children of God”.  Now, with the Holy Spirit we have the wherewithal to believe, to act and to BE what we were created to be.  Not only mere creatures or creatures made in union with the One God but now children of His who can act just as He acts, and can live just as He lives.  In fact, we live by the same life that He lives.

Jesus did leave and He did send the Holy Spirit with life-giving power.  He was not an image to be copied but a life to be lived.  He is no longer confined to one place but is indwelling, vivifying.  The Spirit is not in one place, but in all places.

The Holy Spirit reveals the Son as the Son reveals the Father.  It is only through the Son that we know how much the Father loves us.

Jesus said, “Philip, how long have I been with you, and still you do not understand.  He who sees me sees the Father.”  Without Jesus, we would never have known the magnificent love of the Father.  A good analogy would be a prism.  Without it light is seen only as white but with it we see the seven marvelous colors that are contained in that light.

St. Paul in writing to the Corinthians says, “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.  Of course, what he means is that no one can say it and MEAN it unless the Holy Spirit is within him.  No one can truly understand completely that Jesus was the Lord until the Holy Spirit gave him (us) that knowledge.  If we believe, it is only because of the Holy Spirit that we believe.

The fire of the Holy Spirit has come down upon the Church.  That fire must spread.  If we have the fire in our hearts we can, and must, continue to spread the Gospel.  If not, we are not on fire. We are only hearers of the Word and not doers.

The world cannot see the work of the Spirit because the world only goes on what can be sensed.  That is why there is a frenzy of excitement over creatures and created things.  We sense below the surface BECAUSE of the Holy Spirit and ONLY because of the Holy Spirit.  Our prayer should be that others may be open to the Holy Spirit so that Christ may be revealed to the hearts of unbelievers.  We pray that they may believe as Jesus taught, “Then you will know that I am in the Father and you in Me and I in you.”

Come, Holy Spirit!  Fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your divine love!  Amen.

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A warm welcome to the family members and friends of Br. Damien!  This is a happy day and one that has been anticipated for several years.  It is also a great day for this monastic community.  Many times we pray that the community may increase both in merit and number.

We are here to celebrate one thing.  And that thing is not popular today and it is also greatly misunderstood and even feared.  The thing is COMMITMENT!

The dictionary defines commitment as an agreement or pledge to do something in the future.

Of course in your case, Br. Damien, it means giving yourself completely and forever.  It is not like many today who back out of their commitment because they had considered it to be partial and/or temporary.  But commitment means giving of self.

Both readings that you have chosen for the Liturgy of the Word speak of this giving as a dying.  In the words of Jesus we have, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me”.

To follow Jesus is to participate in his dying.  Our dying is a dying to self.

A saying “NO” to self, over and over and over until it becomes second nature and when done with love it becomes a true source of joy.  That is the litmus test of giving.  Do we find fulfillment and joy in giving?

The only true fulfillment that is possible for us humans, is becoming mature enough to die for another out of love.  Jesus again tells us, “No greater love does anyone have than to give up his life for his friend”.

But we can never accomplish that “dying” on our own.  Jesus said, “I am the vine you are the branches, without me you can do nothing”.  Paul tells the Romans and us that baptism is the means by which we join Jesus Christ in His death.  And then when rising from the waters we join Him in His Resurrection.

Your dying today, symbolically, and having the pall placed over you, is one of the most poignant symbols possible.  This ritual is a sign that you are no longer living your old life of individuality but now you are donating your life to the Lord and with the Lord as realized in this community.

And we know that you are not able to give what you don’t have.  Your formation in this community has given you years to acquire this facility of giving and our observation of you has convinced us that your motives are pure and your commitment is genuine.

But just as you had to be qualified for admittance, we too must commit ourselves to helping you become who you are called to be.  The burden is not on you alone but now on all of us.

That is why it is a wonderful time for us to renew our own monastic commitment.

During this rite I pray to God:
“Clothe him with compassion with kindness and humility, gentleness, and patience.  Deepen his love for his brothers and for the whole human race.  Confirm his heart in holiness that he may stand pure and blameless before you at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints”.

And in reality that will imply that I ask God to remind us, your monastic family, that we too must be clothed with kindness, gentleness and patience.

Today it may appear that the Church is a sinking ship and many are “jumping ship”.  Our commitment must be to the Bark of Peter.  That is, to see that we do all that we can to keep Her afloat.  We must realize how important the Church is to the world and how much the world needs the Church because through the Church Christ’s life flows.  Unfortunately, because of ignorance, the world rejects what it needs the most.

The Church always prospers the most when Christians are made to suffer and even die.  We may think that the era of martyrdom is over but it is not.  But even those who are not called upon to sacrifice their physical lives, can bear witness which is a type of martyrdom.  If we are true to Christ’s message and willing to die, we are martyrs for the world to see.  Our presence here is a statement that there is more to life than enjoyment and self-preservation.

You have taken, as patron, St. Damien of Molokai, who was more concerned with giving of himself than of preserving himself.  May he help you and guide you to keep before your eyes one of today’ scripture passages, “For whoever wishes to save his life must lose it”

This is not only a great day for us because we now have another committed member of the community but for your family who is present here today.  All the sacrifices they have made to get you here are now being rewarded.  May they be richly blessed for all their efforts and receive the graces that our Lord has set aside for them.

And so, Br. Damien, we joyfully welcome you into your new family and as you commit your life to us, we too joyfully make our commitment to you.


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By Brother Blaise

About 40 years ago, I took up beekeeping as a hobby.  It has been a source of fun and has provided spiritual nourishment as I learn more and more about these wonderful creatures, and how God has them all working together like a giant social network.  I love to see how they gather nectar from many different flowers and at the same time pollinate the flowers and fruit trees.  In addition, they provide wonderful products such as honey, wax, propolis, royal jelly and bee pollen.

The beekeeping kept building up so that during most of the thirty years of beekeeping, I was extracting one hundred gallons of honey a week.  During one particularly fruitful springtime, I was able to extract over four-hundred gallons from just 20 hives!  At one time I had over one hundred healthy hives.

About ten years ago a few cell phone communication towers were constructed at the northern  edge of our property.  As the cell phone business expanded, they added more units and built more towers.  Since the towers went up, my honey flow slowed down and eventually stopped.  All my bee colonies began dying within two weeks or two hours after I installed them.  I gave no notice to the towers since there could be other things to cause bees to die, such as bug spray in the air, mite infestation, weather conditions, etc.  The problem of bees dying is so large that the Department of Agriculture in the United States, and similar departments in Europe and Brazil are concerned and looking in to the matter.

After ten years of trying different medications and redesigning my boxes, I finally decided to move my bees to a different location.  At the beginning of our abbey driveway is a small canyon with steep hills surrounding it.  I used a regular cell phone to find a spot with no detectable communication signal, and I relocated my bees to that location.  Bees I gathered from new swarms stopped dying off right away, and now the bees are doing much better.  I have about twenty-five healthy hives.  For the first time in over ten years, I extracted my first gallon of honey!  What a joy it is to see the light golden honey again from our own hives!

Another thing going on lately is that the bees used to swarm only two weeks during the year starting in March.  The past ten years the bees started swarming every day of the year.  I used to receive over fifty calls a day to remove bee swarms from homes and businesses in our region.  There were so many calls I could not possibly answer them all.  This year the calls are down to maybe one call per week for me to collect swarms.  Most of these are from old swarms in valve ground boxes or bird houses.  It seems as if the bees are searching for protected places to land and start another hive.  This past week I picked up two swarms from the ground in a parking lot.  Never have I had to pick up swarms from asphalt parking lots.

I believe the cell phone communication towers are taking a big toll on all the bees.

But I am happy to have at least some of my honey production back.

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January 21
Feast of St. Meinrad.  Fr. Basil was the main celebrant at today’s feast day.  Today is the patronal name day of our Brother Meinrad and the 90th birthday of Fr. Basil Mattingly.

January 22
Brothers Damien and Thomas attended the Institute for Religious Life in San Pedro today.

January 28
Fr. Abbot Charles attended the dedication ceremony this afternoon for the Benet Road Bridge that leads to our property.  The city has named it “The Jack Cassan Memorial Bridge.”  Jack helped the monastery in a variety of ways for about fifty years and was also active in helping many civic organizations in the area.

February 3
Feast of St. Blaise.  Brother Blaise celebrated his name day this evening at Supper.   He has been sick for the past few days but was able to attend supper.

February 5
­­We delebated Fr. Prior Sharbel to be our representative at the General Chapter of our Swiss-American Benedictine Congregation at Westminster Abbey (British Columbia, Canada) in August.  Fr. Stephanos will be the alternate if Fr. Prior Sharbel ends up being unable to attend.  Brother Benedict Leuthner, OSB, from St. John Abbey, Minnesota, has been a guest in our monastery for the past month.

February 23
The sanctuary was full of extra priests today, as we had with us five of Mother Teresa’s “Missionaries of Charity” priests and one diocesan priest.

March 4
The “Father Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata” (a secular institute of consecrated women) have brought to our retreathouse this weekend a group of laywomen who are members of the Militia of the Immaculata movement.  One of our priests is giving their retreat conferences.  Fr. Abbot was the main celebrant at the Divine Mercy Conference Mass at the Pala Mission.

March 12    The Boys Scouts of America from the San Diego area were here for Mass and lunch.  Six members received the “Ad Altare Dei” medal.  Brother Daniel hosted them and gave them a tour of the monastery.

March 13
Our oblates met this Sunday.  Seven individuals made their final oblations and three others began their oblate novitiate.

March 16
Fr. Abbot Charles attended the Pro-Life conference in Orange County.

March 17
Parishioners of San Diego’s Christ the King Catholic Church are on retreat here this weekend.  Brother Daniel gave conferences on “The Seven Deadly Sins.”

March 20
Fr. Paul and Bro. Philip returned from their weekend at the annual Religious Education Congress in Anaheim.  They manned a booth to provide vocational information about our monastery.

March 21
Feast of the Passing of Saint Benedict Our Father.  Brother Benedict celebrated his patronal nameday today.  Brother Oblate Timothy celebrated his 80th birthday.  Brother Noel and Fr. Paul celebrated their 10th anniversary of monastic vows.  Fr. Abbot Charles drove to celebrate the funeral mass for John Zackowski, an old friend of the Monastery.  Fr. Prior Sharbel and Bro. Daniel attended the Funeral Mass for oblate Myra Iserman-Zorza.  Fr. Prior was the main celebrant at this Mass. 

March 25
Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.  Fr. Michel was the main celebrant at today’s Mass.  About ninety schoolchildren from St. Joseph’s Academy, San Marcos, and more than a dozen from St. Francis School, Vista, were at Mass.  Abbot Charles was the celebrant at a Funeral Mass for Rosemary Tucker at San Luis Rey Mission.  Rosemary was a board member of Brother Benno’s.

April 1
Dr. Markus Nolte and Fr. Lars Hofnagel from Germany were guests in the monastery.   Dr. Nolte was a classmate of Fr. Stephanos in Rome, and is now editorial director of “Kirche und Leibe” (Church and Life), Germany’s largest Catholic newspaper.

April 14
Fr. Paul and Brother Emmanuel represented us at the San Diego diocese’s Chrism Mass at Good Shepherd Catholic Church.

April 28
Brother Noel gave a harp concert to the Sister Servants of the Blessed Sacrament this evening after supper.  The sisters have occupied our retreat center for the past two weeks, during which they conducted their province’s general chapter.  They operate and teach in several Catholic schools in California.

May 1
The Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.  It is the patronal nameday of our Brother Joseph.  Brothers Blaise and Noel together with several outside musicians performed in a concert in our library.

May 15
Our monthly oblate meeting featured one of our oblates, Joseph Sims, a convert to Catholicism, who spoke about his Jewish roots and compared the Jewish traditional holy days with the Christian ones.  The conference was well-received.

May 16–Brother Peter was taken to Zion Hospital –Kaiser this morning to undergo surgery on his ankle.

May 17
Fr. Prior Sharbel presided at the funeral Mass of Shawn Sterling Storc at St. Mark Catholic Church, San Marcos.  Mr. Storc was the oldest brother of our former novice, James Storc, who laid the tile flooring inside our church and throughout our monastery.

May 21
Fr. Abbot Charles presided at the Ritual Mass for the Profession of Perpetual Vows by our or Brother Damien.  Two monks of St. Andrew Abbey, Valyermo, were present:  Abbot Damien and Fr. Carlos.

May 30
Fr. Herbert celebrated the seventy-second anniversary of his priestly ordination today.

May 31
Abbot Charles left this morning to conduct a routine visitation (“inspection”) for Ascension Priory, Idaho.

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+ John Zachowski
+ Margie Mendez
+ Eufemia Bellera
+ Charles Lavine
+ John Pieper
+ Oblate Sylvia Alvarado
+ Sr. Timothy Kirby
+ Julie O’Grady
+ Pauline Cole
+ Oblate Myra Iserman-Zorza
+ Colleen Green
+ Shawn Sterling Storc
+ Ricaard Monacelli
+ Jack Zurcher, SJ
+ Maurine Macletzke
+ Rosemary Tucker
+ Hector Cruz
+ Frances M. Conway
+ Craig O’Neill

Requiescant in pace.