Wake and Masses for Fr. Dwyer

There will be a wake at Our Lady of Lourdes in Windsor from 4-6 p.m. today, followed by a vigil Mass at 6:00. According to Msgr. Putano, the vigil Mass will be live-streamed on the YouTube channel of St. Thomas Aquinas, Binghamton, “if we can get it going”. In any case, it will be posted later on the same YouTube channel. The link is: tinyurl.com/12W5eun.

The funeral Mass will be held tomorrow at Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica, NY, Fr. Dwyer’s home church, at 11:00. Here’s the link for he live streaming of the funeral

YouTube.com – search Our Lady of Lourdes Utica, NY–

Rev. Msgr. John P. PutanoSt. Patrick and St. Thomas AquinasBinghamton, NY  13905

We will be praying the Office of the Dead for Father at Matins, Midday Prayer and Vespers today.

Thank you all for your many comforting messages of condolence.

Father Dwyer, R.I.P.

Our faithful chaplain, Father Robert Dwyer, entered into eternal life early this morning. He was on his way to pray in our chapel at 6:00 a.m., as was his custom, and fell next to the driveway. When Sr. Donald found him, at 6:25, he was trying to sit up, was saying, “Help,” but otherwise couldn’t speak. By the time the ambulance arrived, 15 minutes later, there was no heartbeat. The EMTs gave him CPR for what seemed like a long time and were ready to give up, when they detected a faint pulse, and so decided to keep trying and take him to the hospital. He died shortly thereafter, or perhaps on the way. We weren’t given any further information because we weren’t family.

We feel extraordinarily privileged to have had Fr. Dwyer as our chaplain for the past 10 years. Thanks to his presence, we have been blessed to have had daily Mass, the grace of which we have felt even more strongly since March, when so many have been denied the Eucharist because of COVID. Father was devoted not only to us, but to the wider community of Windsor and nearby towns where there is no parish priest. Although retired and in his 80’s, he often said Sunday Mass in three different parishes, in addition to the Saturday night Vigil Mass of Sunday at the monastery. He was always available for visiting the sick and funerals. His ministry was nourished by a deep life of prayer. Twice a day, he would spend an hour praying in our chapel, reading his breviary in silence or out loud, and often walking up and down and praying in tongues.

Yesterday, Father was out visiting people in his car and digging in his garden. Although we are glad he didn’t suffer, his departure is a huge loss for all of us.

Our Friends the Squirrels

Since Monk went to meet his Maker in March and our good neighbor, Mike, helped us set up a bird feeder, we have seen a proliferation of red and gray squirrels, chipmunks, bunnies, and groundhogs. Today a bear cub eyed us through the refectory windows as we were eating lunch. They will eat whatever treats they can scavenge, but the chipmunks seem to have a predilection for pansies and rose petals. The birds are also a pleasure to watch: goldfinches, purple finches, chickadees, a woodpecker, a couple of cardinals, a ruby-breasted grosbeak, hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles, with grackles, doves and crows on the ground.

We look forward to adopting Ruby at the end of the month, when she finishes raising her final litter of puppies. Perhaps she will help keep some of the bolder creatures in check, despite her laid-back personality.

Trinity Sunday 2020

Trinity icon Sr. Elizabeth

This icon of the Holy Trinity was written by a Benedictine nun who is currently visiting us from another monastery. If you have stayed in our guest hermitage, you may recognize the ceiling tiles at the top of the photo.

The mutual indwelling of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity has a profound message for us, especially in the light of the events of the past week. When God created humans in God’s image, God created them in the plural: male and female. (Gen. 1:27) As above, so below: created in God’s image,  in the image of the Holy Trinity, we “inter-are”, to borrow a favorite word of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. St. Paul tells us that in Christ there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Gal. 3:28). COVID 19 is delivering the same message: we are all in this together, and how we choose to react to this microscopic element in our midst affects everyone in our immediate neighborhood and beyond. 

The inter-being of the Persons of the Holy Trinity negates the us-them mentality that has characterized race relations in the Americas since the arrival of the first European settlers, and which the tragic events of the past week have again brought to our attention. The image of the Trinity reminds us that we are all interconnected, we are all brothers and sisters, no matter what our race, religion, gender or national origin.  Jesus said, “Whatever you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it unto me.” (Mt. 25:45) Because we all inter-are, in the image of God, in the image of the Holy Trinity, whatever we say or do to each other affects all of us.

Pentecost 2020

Lorenzo Monaco Pentecost 2

This illuminated letter O by the Camaldolese monk, Lorenzo Monaco (“Lorenzo the Monk”, c. 1370-1425), depicts two parallel passages from today’s Mass readings, the upper half from Acts 2, in which the disciples are all together in one place and tongues of fire come to rest on each one of them, while the lower half evokes John 20:19: “the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews.” Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is the central figure in the upper room, the only figure with not only a flame, but also the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove above her head, recalling Jesus’ baptism: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mt. 3:17) Her face is serene, as are those of the two young, beardless men below her, one of whom is surely St. John. The older, bearded men look sleepy. doubtful, anxious, and in the case of the one immediately to Mary’s left, downright suspicious, perhaps representing a range of human responses to the eruptions of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The two figures in the lower half of the picture might challenge us today to consider whom we may be excluding from our faith communities, because of fear or prejudice based on race, social class or cultural differences. Or, in the context of the current pandemic, the two figures may bring to mind those who feel keenly the closing of church doors.

On this particular Pentecost Sunday, we are struck by the contrast between the fire of the Spirit that unites us in God’s love and the fires being lit throughout our country in reaction to a racially motivated murder. What a difference, what an impact any of us can make, in spreading either good or evil in our world!

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people, and ignite in them the fire of your love, you who have gathered together people of all languages in the unity of faith.






Our Lady of the Mask

This picture arrived in a recent email, courtesy of an interfaith minister from Honesdale, NY, who goes by the name of Glenn of Trees. The picture was part of a triptych that Glenn found and photographed behind a shop in Taos, NM, last fall.

During this month traditionally dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and with Mother’s Day around the corner, what better time to honor our mothers, living and deceased, as well as our Blessed Mother in heaven, who is watching over us all during this pandemic and even reminding us to cover our faces in public!

Another friend sent the following litany shortly after Easter and has given permission to reproduce it here:

God the Father, you created us in your image and likeness, have mercy on us.
God the Son, you came that we might have abundant life, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, spirit of truth, our advocate, given to be with us forever, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, + one God, you love us with an everlasting love, have mercy on us.
Mary, full of grace, pray for us.
Mary, delight of the Trinity, pray for us.
Mary, who stood fearlessly before Gabriel, pray for us.
Mary, sign of God’s redemption given to Eve, pray for us.
Mary, living according to God’s word, pray for us.
Mary, who conceived by the power of the Most High, pray for us.
Mary, in whom the Holy Spirit formed the son of God, pray for us.
Mary, bearer of the Lord of life, pray for us.
Mother who named her son Jesus, pray for us.
Mother of our Savior, pray for us.
Mother of our wonderful counselor, pray for us.
Mother of almighty God, pray for us.
Mother by the will of the everlasting Father, pray for us.
Mother of the Prince of Peace, pray for us.
Mother because of God’s love for us, pray for us.
Mary, hastening to those in need, pray for us.
Mary, blessed among women, pray for us.
Mary, blessed because you believed the word of the Lord, pray for us.
Mary, earthly tabernacle of the living God, pray for us.
Mary, fount overflowing with Living Water, pray for us.
Mary, God’s humble servant, pray for us.
Mary, proclaiming the Lord’s greatness, pray for us.
Mary, rejoicing in God your savior, pray for us.
Mary, called blessed in every generation, pray for us.
Mary, witness to God’s promises of mercy, pray for us.
Mary, mother again at the cross, pray for us.
Mary, woman of sorrows, pray for us.
Mary, woman of quiet strength, pray for us.
Mary, exemplary of perfect wisdom, pray for us.
Mary, faithful disciple, pray for us.
Mary, rejoicing in the risen Lord, pray for us.
Mary, assumed into heaven, pray for us.
Mary, clothed in light, pray for us.
Mary, adored by the angels, pray for us.
Mary, renown in the earth, pray for us.
Mary, Queen of Heaven, pray for us.
Mary, cause of indescribable wonder and delight, pray for us.
Mary, cause of our joy, pray for us.
Mary, mother of the Church, pray for us.
Mary, most powerful intercessor before your son, pray for us.
Mary, whose heart is ever united to the heart of divine compassion, pray for us.
Mary, in whom dwelt the yearning of our hearts, pray for us.
Mary, procurer of healing and blessing, pray for us.
Mary, defense against the power of evil, pray for us.
Mary, protector of the faithful, pray for us.
O Lord, hear us.
O Christ, Son of Mary, graciously hear us.
Let us pray:
O God, our Father,
you created us because you love us and desire life and goodness for us.
You would not allow any darkness to hide this truth and so by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Virgin Mary, you sent your light into the world, our Lord, Jesus Christ.
In your mercy, hear the pleas of his most blessed mother on our behalf, that we may be restored to your truth and have our strength renewed, so to live before you in the knowledge and joy of your love, in thanksgiving and ceaseless praise, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God forever and ever. Amen

© 2020 Daniel E Crocker Jr, Associate of Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY


Paschal blessings 2020

This illumination on vellum depicting the Three Marys at the Tomb, by Lorenzo Monaco (c. 1370-c.1425), a Camaldolese monk, is currently at the Louvre (closed to the public), and online at Wikimedia Commons (open to the public).

The empty tomb, hope and the pandemic:

In French there are two words for “hope”. Espoir, akin to our adjective hopeful, combines a wish for and a guarded expectation of a positive outcome: with scientists working hard to find a cure, healthcare workers giving their all, and the general public taking precautions, we can hope that the pandemic will end soon. It may or may not happen.

Espérance, by contrast, is the theological virtue to which St. Paul refers in I Corinthians 13: “Faith, hope and love abide, these three…”, and the hope of which we sing in the Easter sequence: Surrexit Christus, spes mea. This hope, emanating from the empty tomb, is presaged in the Song of Songs: “Love is strong as death” (8:6), and in the Book of Job: “Though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” (19:26) Yes, Christ is risen indeed, and in light of the current situation, these verses and the empty tomb point poignantly to the persistence of God’s love, no matter what. Death will come for all of us eventually, whether through the virus or by some other means, but God’s love will continue to hold us, shining through the gloom and lifting us into the Divine Presence, where dwells the risen Christ.

The glory and hope of the Resurrection are visible in the many ways God-as-Love is made manifest in this crisis: in those who risk their lives by caring for the sick, or by working in grocery stores, pharmacies, post offices, hardware stores and soup kitchens; in those seeking a cure; in those building tiny houses for the homeless; in companies and individuals making free masks and hand sanitizer; and in all those going out of their way to raise our spirits and emphasize our global connectedness as a human family, with online musical events, hotlines for the lonely, and myriad efforts to help those not used to solitude to remain sane. Death is with us, but so is Love, strong as death.

Christ our Passover

After an arduous two weeks of Eucharistic fast during Lent, in solidarity with the general population, we decided to return to daily Mass in our chapel the Saturday before Palm Sunday. Christ is the focus of our life, our raison d’être as a community, Whose Presence in the Eucharist is the tie that binds, and without Whom we would be simply three elderly ladies in odd clothes trying to live together in harmony. Since we have the immense good fortune to have a chaplain and daily Mass, it didn’t seem right to continue to stay away, besides which, it was becoming too hard. We continue to include in our prayers all those for whom this fast is a time of painful deprivation.

We are grateful for the support of so many of our friends, and we pray that all of you are staying safe and healthy.

Camaldolese Affiliation; Monk; COVID19

DSCN2449Following a fruitful fraternal visitation during the second week of February, the Camaldolese nuns of Poppi, Italy, voted to let the three of us transfer our vows to their community. We are very grateful for their welcome and we look forward to developing a closer relationship with them. The photo above shows Sister Graziana, Prioress of Poppi, Father Alessandro, Father General of the Camaldolese and immediate superior of the nuns, together with our community in the refectory. Absent from the photo is Father Cyprian, Prior of the Camaldolese community in Big Sur, CA, who came as interpreter and took the picture.DSCN1793 (1)

In the wee hours of last Monday morning, our beloved Monk went to meet his Maker. He showered all and sundry with his unconditional love, whether they wanted it or not, although as he got older, he became more sensitive to those who wanted him to keep his distance. His pure, impartial affection was a constant role model for us humans who keep forgetting how to love one another. During the past few months, his hind legs had become progressively weaker, apparently a common ailment in elderly labs. As his left hind leg lost all muscle tone and feeling, he continued to enjoy life on three legs. Our vet said there was a tumor on his spine, but didn’t know how fast it would progress. On Friday the 13th, Monk was his usual ebullient self and had a great day. He was able to hop into the car for a ride and came to Compline after supper. Early Saturday morning, he collapsed on the grass. The tumor had affected the right hind leg, and he needed help to walk the few steps back inside, where he lay down, began shaking violently and then didn’t move for 24 hours.  On Sunday, he was more alert and even walked a few steps, but then rapidly became weaker and died during the night, sparing us the heart-rending decision to “put him to sleep”. May his joyful, loving nature continue to inspire us. Rest in peace, sweet sweet boy.

Trinity icon

He shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.

Like everyone else in New York State, we are being asked to self-isolate, which is allowing us to enjoy an unplanned retreat: nothing to do, nowhere to go, just be here and be present to the Presence that is all around us, especially in our beautiful natural surroundings.  The scheduled guests, groups and retreats have all cancelled, so we have time to read, regroup, go for long walks, catch up on this and that and reconnect with family and friends via phone and the Internet.

The monastery, like the rest of the Church, is subject to the ban on public Masses. We sisters could have continued to have Mass with Fr. Dwyer, our chaplain, but since he is allowed to say only a private Mass, excluding the few people from the outside who might show up, we didn’t think it was fair for us to have Mass while everyone else was deprived.  We would have been setting ourselves apart as a kind of elite, based on the fact that we are nuns, and that didn’t seem right.  Many of our friends are feeling that the Church has abandoned them at a time when they most need spiritual sustenance. In solidarity with them, we have decided not to attend Mass until such time as the ban on public Masses has been lifted. Fr. Dwyer has continued to say daily Mass alone, in our chapel. Yesterday, he brought up the fact that he could have one acolyte, a role usually filled by one of the sisters, but because we feel strongly about our position, he has asked a local Knight of Columbus who often serves at Mass during the week to join him. We continue to offer our prayer and our lives for the healing of the human race and of our planet.  

Memorable moments

This past week, Sister Sheila was able to enjoy four days of silent retreat at the Monastery of Bethlehem in Livingston Manor, NY : no WiFi, no cell phone service, no traffic noise, no conversations except with God.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul.

In winter, the guest facilities are heated by an exterior wood-burning furnace. The woodshed containing the woodpile and furnace also form a kind of outdoor worship/meditation space.

A bas-relief of John the Baptist graces one corner. He carries a scroll saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make his paths straight.”

To the right of John the Baptist is a line drawing of a monk praying, next to which is the following text: “God is the soul of our soul: that is the source that gives it life ++ It is there that we must seek him + it is there that we shall find him without end + That is what the saints did + They kept themselves before the face of the living God. And God thus contemplated by an interior regard communicated himself to them and lived in them ++ It can be so with us. All we need to do is make an act of faith and of love.: a simple movement in the depths of our soul that we call forth from time to time+++ A monk

On top of the woodpile is a huge plywood panel. An icon of the resurrection is in the upper left-hand corner, with the text of Mark 16: 2, 5-7 in the margins.

On the rest of the panel is written the following text, in beautiful calligraphy:
“He manifested himself alive + Whether we believe or not + we belong to God + Whether we feel it or not + he exists + he is MY self + he is my God + he is my Lord + And in the moments that seem dark to us + even in the heart of times where God does not exist for us + God does exist + As he was for the Prophets + the Apostles + the Saints + so is he for us + as small, sinful + humble as we can be. + When the sun had set + darkness had fallen, a burning furnace + a flaming torch passed between the parts.”
(Gen. 15:17)

The deer are very tame. You can get close enough to hear them munching grass.

The Blessed Mother is everywhere present.

40th Anniversary Celebration

A week ago, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the founding of Transfiguration Monastery with a Mass, followed by lunch, at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Windsor, NY. There were about 150 people at the Mass, of whom over 100 stayed for lunch, catered by our good friend, Marian Szarejko. Carol and Len Almy, with the aid of other friends from the parish, took care of the table settings, flowers and cleanup. Lael Bagg. organist at the United Methodist Church of Windsor, accompanied the hymns, and several members of her choir helped with the singing.

We are very grateful for God’s 40 years of faithfulness, and for all the friends who have supported and continue to support our community.