update monday 27 february


Posted By on Feb 27, 2017

I spoke with the doctor last night, and he confirmed that Br. Emmanuel had indeed suffered a major heart attack, and each day his heart tests are getting worse. That means at this point they cannot operate on his hip (really, it was a fractured upper femur), and he will never walk again. So now, with our approval and according to Emmanuel’s written wishes, we are moving into solely comfort care and hospice. Bede went down from Berkeley today to help with a transition to a hospice house or nursing home, and we can decide what else, if anything, to do after the roads open. At this point it is not clear that Emmanuel understands anything that is going on, so I/we have made the decision for him. Yesterday the nurse told him that he was a monk, and he thought that was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. I can almost imagine him saying: “A monk?! Heh-heh-heh… Well, how about that!? It’s a great mystery.” I have heard from several of our friends who have been to visit him in the hospital and they all confirm that his spirits are high. We are all fine here. There is a really joyous spirit about the place, and it feels as if we are getting a chance to focus on the essentials of our life, our prayer and taking care of each other, with a little more silence, solitude and simplicity. The liturgies in the Chapter Room (due to low numbers and saving on propane heat) have been very sweet. Our cook left and has asked to take a month off, since we are so few, so four of us are taking turns preparing simple hearty midday meals with everyone chipping in to do the clean up. Our garden, even without our gardener Ryan, is bursting, and one of the staff has been gathering fresh produce for our salads each day. And we are squeezing orange juice from our own trees––all things we could be doing all along anyway. Since we can’t get out for the scheduled Rec Day tomorrow, we’re going to have pancakes for breakfast together, watch a movie together in the afternoon and have a little gathering in the evening with pizza and some extra libations for Mardi Gras. Some of our staff have been down to see the construction on the road below us, the main issue. They are very serious about it being a “hard close,” and are not even happy about allowing any one to walk across the site. The good news is that they are working 24/7 to get it repaired, because they know...

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One of the things I was afraid might happen did happen yesterday, but at least we were prepared for it. Old Brother Emmanuel fell in his cell and by the time we got to him he was totally disoriented and in some pain. Since we have no phones, through a series of walkie-talkie relays and with the help of our neighbor Ken Harlan we finally got Big Sur Fire here, and then a helicopter from Fort Hunter Liggett transported him and me to Salinas. He’s got a fractured hip and is having surgery today. He is very confused but beautifully joyful. He is in very good hands, and with all that is going on down here, he is probably in the best place possible, with some days of recovery in the hospital and then probably some weeks in rehab. Down here on the Big Sur: a very stern warning was issued that anyone who wants to evacuate Big Sur has to do so by 1 PM today. Then they are doing a “hard close,” with absolutely no access, so we are told, for two weeks. This is mainly to work on the slide that is just to the south of us, called “Paul’s Slide.” It’s the most fragile spot on the coast. We monks met this morning and all opted to stay put. We have food and fuel, a minimum staff, and we feel safe. We still have no phone lines, but we do have walkie-talkies and our neighbors are setting up another radio transmittal through our property for all of our safety issues. The Big Sur Fire knows that we are here and stranded and can get here from the north, and the helicopter can get here from Fort Hunter Liggett in a flash if we have any other kind of emergency. One moment of beauty: it was a stunning flight over the Santa Lucia Mountains yesterday, breath-taking to see them from that point of view, the north faces all covered in snow. Also obvious what a wild and self-mediating territory we live in. One can only bow in deep respect and reverence. We are quite fine, using this as a new and deeper monastic experience. There is a quiet joy about the place, even among the staff, who have been marvelous. Thank you so much for all your love, support and prayers, which mean more to us––and to me personally––than ever before. And more than ever, please count on our love and prayers as...

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A message from Prior Cyprian Consiglio:
“…We estimate that when the Hermitage is able to reopen we will have suffered a loss of $300,000 in income due to the closures caused by the heavy rains, severe flooding and mudslides. The cost is mounting every day we are not able to welcome guests. In addition to the lost income, the repairs and rebuilding needed for our entry road alone is estimated to be above $100,000 and could go as high as $250,000. And we must pursue these repairs as soon as possible, to allow resumption of vital fuel and food deliveries to the Hermitage. Thus you can understand the truly catastrophic nature of the damage cause by these storms.

Please consider making a gift at this time either via our emergency relief GoFundMe campaign or by direct donation on this website”

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Thank you again to all of you who are writing (and maybe trying to call?) to check on us. The rain stopped yesterday (Tuesday) morning after one last very windy rainy night, like the last hurrah of this atmospheric river. Today we woke up to a sky scrubbed clean full of brilliant stars and a crescent moon and a few hours later an amazing sunrise. I walked down to the highway yesterday and up to the top of the property today and there are new springs bursting out of  all kinds of new places in the mountain. It has been cool and windy all day, but no sign of rain for now, and we are assessing the damage, as is everyone on the coast, and in a lot of other places in California, I take it. On our immediate property, we were down to one phone line and now we have none. Thankfully though the satellite Internet and our generator have remained functioning throughout. Fortunately we got a supply of diesel fuel (for the generator) just before the last wave hit so we are set for a few more weeks. Propane is a little less, but still good for a few weeks. We have plenty of food, canned, dry and frozen to last for a few months, according to Benedict, and have been able to restock milk, lettuce, bread, etc. He hopes to do a town run on Friday and stock up on just about everything. We lost a couple of trees, including a majestic Monterey cypress in front of the church, but outside of new leaks here and there no real damage on the property. Our two-mile entry road is badly damaged in two significant places though. It is still drivable with high clearance cars but we have a sign below warning of the danger. It is going to cost a lot of money to fix. The highway itself is a mess. There were two major slides and a minor one between us and Nacimiento Ferguson Road (five miles to our south) and two other major ones south of that. At this point the road is technically open all the way through to the south, but only to locals. There is a lot of work going on. The one just to the south of our driveway, called Paul’s Slide, is the worst, I think, because the southbound lane crumbled into the ocean so there is only one thin lane with no guard rail and the slide is still somewhat active. Last we heard, even though there was a major rock slide six miles north of us at Cow’s Cliff,...

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be holy, be perfect, be merciful


Posted By on Feb 22, 2017

(cyprian) I am quite fascinated by the idea of the evolution of consciousness, and I’d like to suggest that it goes along with the evolution of our understanding of God as well as the evolution of morality. I’m reminded of Theodore Parker’s famous quote, paraphrased by Dr. King and loved by President Obama: I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice. In this case you could say, the arc of salvation history is long and it bends toward mercy. In some way we start out with the law of reciprocal retribution or retaliation––that is, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, as the Old Testament allows. As a matter of fact this is mentioned in three different places, in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.[1] Of course we know as Christians, as followers of Jesus, that this is not enough, as we hear in the gospel (Mt 5:38-48). But even that, reciprocal retribution or retaliation, was kind of an evolved view. Remember, for example, when Lamech says in the Book of Genesis, ‘If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-seven fold.’[2] (You will guess where else that comes up––in Jesus teaching about forgiveness!) This tends to be the rule of war––remember “Shock and Awe”? Or the way the State of Israel bombs the Palestinians every time an incident happens, usually disproportionate to the seriousness of the offense. That’s the way we human beings normally operate, to let someone know who’s the strongest, the mightiest. But then along comes Hammurabi, the king of Babylon, in the 18th century before the Common Era, with a new code of conduct that taught that if someone pierced the eye of a free citizen, their eye would be pierced; and if someone broke the bone of a free citizen, their bone would be broken; and if someone broke the tooth of a free citizen, their tooth would be broken”––and only that. This seems to be origin of the law of retaliation in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy––an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth––but only that. It actually already represents a softening of the style of justice in Genesis. As we get deeper into the history of the Hebrew people, we learn instead that Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.[3] The just no longer get or take their own vengeance, but they do pray that the...

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weathering the weather


Posted By on Feb 18, 2017

Update, Saturday, 18 February Thanks so much for everyone who has written or tried to call. I am having trouble keeping up with all the emails so I have written this up for now. We had the worst day of storms yet yesterday (Friday), pouring rain and winds up to 87 mph. Several trees have fallen on the property, including one large cypress in front of the church blocking our driveway. Our maintenance crew was on it right away and had it cut up and out of the way by 4 PM. Highway One at this point is totally impassable to the north and south of us. We don’t know what else is going on north but there are at least three slides between us and Nacimiento Ferguson Road (5 miles south of here). And Nacimineto Ferguson, the one road that the county usually keeps clear for escape from the coast, is also closed until next Tuesday due to “life safety issues”; so we are told is also Fort Hunter Ligget itself. I had to go to San Luis Obispo Tuesday and Wednesday for Fr. Ray’s funeral and just barely made it home Thursday in a little window of time when they had opened one lane, just as the next wave of storms was hitting. Our driveway is holding up, again thanks to our maintenance crew applying patches, but two spots are very fragile, and it is clear that we will need to do extensive repair work once things dry up. At this point it is still drive-able but we have cars at the foot of the hill and on the other side of the slide to the south of us just in case. We only have one working phone line at this point, and it is very difficult to call in. At this point our Internet is still up (miracle of miracles, thanks be to God!), and we have plenty of food and fuel. Hopefully this wave of storms will end by Wednesday and we can assess the damage and steps forward. We are all well, and the brothers have just been riding it out in their usual peaceful way. We are having our liturgies in the Chapter room to conserve on propane heat, and it is very sweet and intimate. (We are also watching a few more movies in the Rec Room to take our minds off of the weather.) Today the rains and wind stopped in early afternoon and we even had a peek of sunshine. Two of our staff tried to get past the first slide today. One guy turned around and came right back....

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I’m down in San Luis Obispo where we celebrated the funeral for Fr. Ray Roh, OSB Cam. yesterday––as a matter of fact, stranded here due to yet another rock slide on the PCH! This was my homily for the Mass. I came pretty late to know Fr. Ray, really just only in the last three and a half years after he came and asked if he and the community could transfer their stability to our Camaldolese Congregation from the Olivetan Congregation. I mention that because I am really not in a position to eulogize Ray. In any case, I always feel the need to start out a homily at a funeral Mass––or in this case especially I should say a Mass of the Resurrection––by reminding the assembly that a homily at a Mass for the Dead is not supposed to be about the deceased anyway. It’s supposed to be about Jesus, the Gospel, and even more specifically, it is supposed to be about the Risen Christ. Or maybe even better to say it’s about the relation of the one who has died to the Risen Christ.   And that’s what makes this one easy, or at least gives me an easy entry point. The first thing I thought of when I was considering this homily was the fact that Ray was the founder of a place called the Monastery of the Risen Christ. It was Ray who came early to this area, found that property, established the non-profit corporation and, more importantly, named it the Monastery of the Risen Christ. This is not a typical name for a monastery. As a matter of fact I could not find one other monastery anywhere named the Monastery of the Risen Christ, and it is all the more poignant for that reason. I’ve been re-reading N. T. Wright’s marvelous book Surprised by Hope recently, the subtitle of which is also important: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. Bishop Wright’s central thesis is that the “…early Christian future hope centered firmly on resurrection” but most of us tend not to understand its centrality. The folks who deny the resurrection (or dismiss it off as a pious myth) tend to rely too much on the social gospel and think that everything is about building God’s kingdom on earth––without God’s help! On the other hand, those who think that resurrection is only about our bodies dying and our souls going to heaven are also missing the point. What may be kind of surprising is that the first Christians “virtually never spoke simply of going to heaven when they died”; they did...

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I was honored to offer three conferences and preach for the Liturgical Composers Forum in St. Louis January 24-25. This was my homily for the Eucharist on the Feast of the Conversion of Paul. David Haas sent us a marvelous modern image for this feast that in the midst of cleaning up a hack job on my email account I lost. If someone could re-send it to me I would add it here. I’ll put this one in for now. At least it doesn’t have that darned horse.  I was raised in the ambience of all kinds of suspicion of Saint Paul: that he was the one who “invented” Christianity, that he was a misogynist and an enabler of slavery, that he was sexually frustrated, that there is a little too much Paul there and not enough Jesus. But I have always tended to support the underdog; I wrote my very first paper “defending” Paul when I was18 years old. (It was against the charge of misogyny and being a slavery sympathizer, by the way; which is not to say that he wasn’t either of them but just that that is not what was being conveyed in his kerygma.) What that has been replaced with over the past couple of decades is recognizing St. Paul as a genuine mystic. Mind you, I know enough about mysticism to know that someone can have a genuine enlightenment experience––an immediate/unmediated experience of God, a mystical experience––and still be unenlightened on social issues, and still not get the facts right. But that doesn’t take away the fact that he or she could also be a mystic. And for me the main focus of St. Paul’s mysticism is his sense of the Body of Christ, and it stems back to this experience on the road to Damascus. I recently stumbled upon this poem by Malcolm Gutie who is described on the back cover of his book as a poet, priest and singer-songwriter from Cambridge. (I realized that, outside of the Cambridge location, “poet, priest and singer-songwriter” applied to several of the people in that particular assembly.) This poem is called “St. Stephen”; it’s addressed to Stephen but this part is about Saul/Paul: When Saul departed breathing threats and slaughter, He had to pass through that Damascus gate Where he had held the coats and heard the laughter As Christ, alive in you, forgot his hate, And showed him the same light you saw from heaven And taught him, through his blindness, how to see; Christ did not ask, ‘Why are you stoning Stephen?’ But, ‘Saul, why are you persecuting me?’[1] (Since I was in...

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  This is my homily from January 27, the feast of the Abbots of Citeaux. As you can see, I’ve really been on a roll with this fortress vs. ecosystem image, but this goes right along with the homily for Scholastica.  In the late 11th century a restless spirit was sweeping Europe. As C. H. Lawrence puts it, folks were “seeking an outlet in new forms of religious organization. Eremitical movements appeared … some of which originated new monastic orders. All of them displayed a common desire to break away from existing forms of monastic and clerical life … In some cases the aspiration was for a simpler kind of claustral life based upon a literal observance of the Rule, a desire to reinstate manual labor and private meditation, and recover seclusion from the outside world.” These were the ideals that prompted a man named Robert “and a group of hermits in the Burgundian forest to found the abbey of Molesme, and later, in 1098, to secede from it [too] in search of a wilder and more remote spot in Citeaux.” Indeed Robert and 21 companions relocated to this remote place near Dijon, France. In that place there was a small stream of water that overflowed its banks and formed a marsh––which may be a nice way of putting it. Some would say it was a swamp! This swampy marshland was covered with rushes and course grasses that in the regional dialect were known as cistels. That word cistels later morphed into proper French as Citeaux, and thus was born these “lovers of the place,” as one of their abbots, Stephen Harding, was known. Maybe better to call them “lovers of the swamp”! That place was described as “a place unknown to men and hitherto inhabited only by wild beasts.” And thus also, on the Feast of St. Benedict 1098, began a strict observance of the Rule of St. Benedict in what they themselves called the novum monasterium, the “new monastery,” to distinguish them from the abbey Molesme from which they had all come. Robert was eventually called back to Molesme, and he was replaced by Alberic, who gave the monks their distinctive white habit. Then came Stephen Harding, during whose term as abbot Bernard arrived with his thirty companions before heading off to head his own Cistercian foundation at Clairvaux. And from then on the Cistercians became a huge congregation, producing 23 abbots who were counted as either saints or blesseds. Citeaux itself stayed open for nearly 700 years, and spawned not only its own congregation but also the strict observance of the strict observance, the so-called Trappists. This...

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(cyprian) I’m sorry for the lack of posted homilies for a while now. Our website was under construction for a while, I had to do some traveling, and we have gone through a pretty trying time here at New Camaldoli between sickness, a death (our Fr. Ray passed away Wednesday morning after a very serious illness) and natural phenomenon (heavy rains causing massive rock and mud slides causing closed roads, see on the left, called Paul’s Slide, just to the south of us). I’ll try to catch up. The last time I preached on St. Scholastica, three years ago, I used one of my favorite metaphors––the energy and the vessel. Benedict, the masculine, represents the vessel––the institution, the Rule (and the rules); whereas Scholastica, the feminine, represents the energy––relationship, love, and warmth, as well as the body and the earth. We obviously need both: without the energy the vessel is an empty shell; but without the vessel the energy is simply chaos. We of course have spoken about that for ourselves in our Camaldolese context: Saint Romuald’s example as the charismatic energy, but an energy that he left us in the vessel of the Benedictine monastic tradition, to nurture the energy and safeguard it. This time I used another one of my favorite metaphors (yet again): the fortress and the ecosystem. I so love the reading from the Book of the Prophet Hosea that we use today,[i] just two short little verses: I will lure her into the wilderness and there I will speak tenderly to her. Though, I must admit, I do like the old NAB translation better: I will lead her into the desert and there I will speak to her heart. Of course they are pretty much synonymous, the desert and the wilderness, in scriptural language. I will lead you into the wild untamed places, into the place of total dependency, into the place where your self-reliance doesn’t work anymore, the place where you need to depend on a power greater than yourself, a place where you have no cell phone service or WiFi. (I bring that up because the last young man that was here for the Ora et Labora program specifically wrote in a card that he left, “Being in a pace with no WiFi/cell service really makes me reflect deep about what I want in life and who is important to me. It also makes me go deeper into my relationship with God.”) I think it’s worth noting that God leads Moses and Elijah, the men, up to the top of a mountain and disappears either into in a cloud of thick darkness...

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