A Song for Independence Day: Christian Thoughts on ÷Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness’ – Br. Mark Brown

Mark-Brown-SSJE-2010-300x299“For freedom Christ has set us free.”  St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians. Words like freedom and liberty will be in the air this week as we celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July.  Freedom, whatever that means, is the essence of what it means to be American and it was very much on the minds of the founders.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Familiar words from the Declaration of Independence.   Our foundational documents and the principles they articulate with such extraordinary sonority have resonated far beyond our borders, and continue to do so. Continue reading

The Nativity of John the Baptist – Br. David Vryhof

davidv150x150Today marks the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.  We have made it a solemn feast, the highest category of feast days in the Church’s year, suggesting that this day and its focus is of utmost importance to us.  The Gospel of Luke, from which we read this evening, spends more time describing the annunciation and birth of John the Baptist than it does describing the annunciation and birth of Jesus himself: John gets 24 verses; Jesus gets 21.  So what’s so important about John?  Why does he warrant this kind of attention?  And what do we have to learn from him and his story?

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The Sound of Silence – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

geoffrey 150xOne of the questions that I get asked as a monk quite often when I travel around is, “Are you a silent order?”  Kind of a difficult one to answer.  No – we don’t take a vow of silence, and we do talk quite a lot.  But silence is a hugely important part of our monastic life.  Guests sometimes say – “Oh, being silent – is that sort of part of the Brothers’ penance?”

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Faithful Even Unto Death – Br. David Vryhof

davidv150x150The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that “we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1).  By their example and by their prayers they support and encourage us, and give us strength to be faithful to Christ in our own day.

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Keep It Simple – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim WoodrumMatthew 6:7-15

Today’s gospel lesson comes from Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount.  In this sermon, which the gospel writer devotes three chapters, we hear the core of Jesus teaching to his disciples.  In yesterday’s lesson we hear Jesus warning about practicing piety before others and then He begins a short discourse on prayer which continues in today’s lesson.  Continue reading

Laying Down Our Lives – Br. Curtis Almquist

MizekiAlmighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your Love in the heart of your holy martyr Bernard Mizeki: Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Lord Saw Her and Had Compassion – Br. David Vryhof

davidv150x150Imagine this scene as if you were watching it from the outskirts of the village of Nain:

A funeral procession winds its way through the center of the village and passes through the city gates, heading for the place outside its bounds where the dead were laid to rest.  Hired mourners, weeping and wailing on behalf of the friends and relatives of the dead man, are leading the way, along with musicians with flutes and cymbals sounding their mournful tunes.  The mother of the dead man, already a widow, walks ahead of the open-faced coffin, her face worn and weary and her body bent with her double sadness.  Then comes the body of the dead man, lying in a long basket carried upon a stretcher and followed by a large crowd from the town, silently shuffling forward. Continue reading

Poor Slaves – Br. Mark Brown

Mark-Brown-SSJE-2010-300x299I was reminded recently of the enormous cultural shifts that have taken place in American life since the 1950’s.  I was watching a DVD of a 1958 episode of the Leonard Bernstein Young People’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic. It’s a wonderful series and has introduced music to countless young people over the years.

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