The Bread of My Life

Today I received a new shipment of my favorite bread from Abbey of the Genesee. I’ve been eating Monks Bread since I was a boy in the 1950’s. We used to be able to purchase the bread in local grocery stores but that’s not the case anymore. The Trappist Monks who make the bread believe that’s due to market forces brought on by an increasing number of people who are gluten sensitive.

With the onset of the pandemic I am no longer able to visit the abbey and purchase the bread in person. Thanks to the Monk’s online bread store I can choose from a variety of selections and have it shipped to my door. Today I received six loaves of bread and four boxes of biscotti. My favorite breads are sunflower and multi-grain. I absolutely love their dark chocolate biscotti too.

Buying the bread helps support the monastery and the brothers. It keeps me connected with them physically and spiritually. Everyday I have two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made with Monks bread. Whenever I have lunch the unique aroma of this special bread fills the room and I’m connected in thought and prayer to this special community of men who pray without ceasing. Last year the Monks opened a new bread store at the abbey. Now with the pandemic neither the store nor the abbey are open to the public but thanks to the internet I can still be connected to the abbey and their wonderful bread which feeds my soul and spirit.

A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah

I come here often. It’s one of my favorite places to sit in silence. There is peace in this place and I long for it as the psalmist did. I love the bread store too and I’ll be stopping there before driving back home. There is a peace here that surpasses all understanding.

You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water. – Psalm 63

Abbey time

It’s Labor Day and tomorrow we begin another school year. I’m excited and frightened too. 30 new 7th Grade students some of whom I know some of whom I don’t. I have some ideas And direction this year but some still unsettled. Therefore I have come here to listen with the ear of my heart to what I might hear in the silence of this sacred place. I covet your prayers too as I really am uncertain of just what and how to teach technology to this group of youngsters. I want to have a project learning approach but I’ve never done that per se before. One of my favorite Rumi quotes is, “sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment.” I have purchased bewilderment and it frightens me.



After a lovely trip through Letchworth Park I made it to Abbey of the Genesee. I haven’t been here in awhile. I was afraid I tarried too long in the state park, but pleasantly I made it in time to get some gifts in the store. I purchased four Monks Brownies and two packages of Monks oatmeal raisin cookies. A fellow visitor asked if the cookies were good. I told her I had never had anything bad here. She chuckled at my answer. I am sitting in the chapel now before the sanctuary light. The Blessed Sacrament is nearby and Our Lady of the Genesee is central to the altar too. Earlier this week at a workshop I attended we were asked where would we go if money were not an object. I said I’d go to Jerusalem and spend a week on retreat in the Garden of Gethsemane. This chapel is Getsemane today. I’m grateful to be here in the silence. It is here in this silence that I feel close God. I cannot see him but I can hear with the ear of my heart. I love God and this place.


Yesterday, I spent part of the day driving to Abbey of the Geneseee. It’s one of my favorite haunts and I hadn’t been there in at least a month. Since today was a holiday there were a few more people than are normally there on a Monday. The store was busy and now the monks have a cashier who is there to take the money or in my case credit card. I picked up four Monks Brownies for friends. That all came after I spent perhaps 45 minutes in the chapel sitting quietly in the presence of the Holy Spirit. I love to come to that chapel and just sit and sometimes to nap a bit as I did today. I don’t go there to nap, but when I’m rested as I am in the presence of God it just comes naturally. I love the quiet and the mystical presence of the Eucharist in that spot. I know that God is everywhere but he seems more present there for some reason and I enjoy visiting him there. I usually sit as I did today just quietly listening for the still small voice. I think it was Herman Melville who said, “silence is the only voice of God.” I wholeheartedly agree.

Three robins

Yesterday as I approached Abbey of the Genesee on River Road three deer sprang from the meadow to my right and and crossed the road heading west. I slowed to nearly a stop and I thought of the passage from Psalm 42.

As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God

Indeed my soul does long for God and I know that is why I visit this abbey so often. As I arrived in the Abbey parking lot and was getting parked I noted three robins. Robins are usually harbingers of spring.  It was only Groundhogs day, could spring be that close behind.  I don’t know about when spring will come, but I do know I  was delighted to see them.  I noticed that two deer were grazing right in front of the Abbey Chapel. They were beautiful and I know they have no fear of men and women here because they know they are safe.   I walked slowly to the chapel hoping not to frighten them and to enjoy their presence.  I told them I loved them and I do.  I continued on into the Abbey and made my way to the chapel where Vespers had just begun.  Three deer and then three robins, gentle reminders of the Trinity and of the Incarnation itself.

Heroic social witness

This quote comes from the Merton Institute’s weekly mail that I receive on Mondays. As you can see I’m a Merton fan and the Merton Institute keeps me thinking.

Though there is no use in placing our hopes on a totally utopian new world in which everyone is sublimely merciful, we are obliged as Christians to seek some way of giving the mercy and compassion of Christ a social, even a political, dimension. The eschatological function of mercy, we repeat, is to prepare the Christian transformation of the world, and to usher in the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom is manifestly “not of this world” (all forms of millennial and messianic Christianity to the contrary), but it demands to be typified and prepared by such forms of heroic social witness that makes Christian mercy plain and evident in the world….
Christian mercy must discover, in faith, in the Spirit, a power strong enough to initiate the transformation of the world into a realm of understanding, unity and relative peace, where [humankind], nations and societies are willing to make the enormous sacrifices required if they are to communicate intelligibly with one another, understand one another, cooperate with one another in feeding the hungry millions and in building a world of peace.

Thomas Merton. Love and Living. Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, editors. (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1979): 219.

Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.

How often these words are with me and in particular lately. January 7, 1979 was my first visit to Abbey of the Genesee. I wanted to join the community at that point. I had recently read Thomas Merton’s “Seven Storey Mountain,” and was sure I was ready to be a Trappist.  I met with Fr. John Eudes that day and was disappointed when he suggested there were other ways for me to lead a spiritual life. I’ve often reflected on that wise counsel. I wouldn’t have made a good monk, but from that day to this I’ve tried to lead a spiritual life.  I’ve been a son, grandson, husband, and father and lead a spiritual life in all of those roles. Monasteries are not places to run away from life as I wanted to in early 1979. They are instead places where life is celebrated and where I’ve often returned for renewal.  The stillness of the abbey chapel still refreshes me like a mountain spring.  It is there that I once felt the healing presence of the Lamb of God and gradually over a number of years I’ve come to feel that presence in my home and elsewhere.

No man will ever see me again

That is how Thomas Merton describes his ultimate call to solitude. I just got through watching PBS’s Thomas Merton special. I’m glad I found it. I missed much of the program, but what I did see was interesting and informative. I drove to Abbey of the Genesee again today. I completed some of my Christmas shopping there. I like to give fruitcake and brownies to my co-workers and some of my business clients. It’s my way of saying thank you at this time of year. I picked up four fruitcakes, 3 loaves of chocolate chip cake, and five Monks brownies.

Thirty years ago on my first visit to the Abbey I wanted to join the community and was crestfallen when Abbot John Eudes Bamberger suggested that there were other ways to live a spiritual life. I wanted to run to the monastery at a time when life outside it seemed to much to bear. Today I’m glad the abbot prevailed. In the intervening years the abbey has come to live as much in my heart as in my head and the fruit of contemplation lives with me everyday. My own life is filled with solitude. I’m not quite a monk, but I live a life increasingly filled with calls to quietness.