Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Abbess Emerita Mother Maria-Thomas Beil celebrates Diamond Jubilee of Vows

On July 29th we had the great joy of celebrating the 60th anniversary of monastic profession with our retired Abbess, Mother Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB. Upwards of sixty guests -- old friends, oblates, and benefactors -- joined us for the beautiful Mass of the Memorial of Sts. Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Friends of the Lord.
Mother Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB, Abbess Emerita, with her festively decorated profession candle and wreath of "diamonds" on her 60th anniversary of profession. Since we burn our profession candles every year on our anniversary, hers has become quite short by now!

Since this feast celebrates friendship and hospitality at Bethany, it is especially dear to us as Benedictines. In his homily on John 11:19-27, Abbey friend Father Frank Garcia underlined the growth of St. Martha's faith -- attested to in her declaration, "I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God". As is our custom, the  Sister celebrating a jubilee takes an additional name, and Mother Maria-Thomas chose "Fides", the Latin word for "faith", as her diamond anniversary name.

Clergy, jubilarian, and choir of nuns and postulants sing together at the Mass for Mother Maria-Thomas' 60th anniversary of monastic profession.

In the last several years, Mother Maria-Thomas has pursued her long-standing interest in art by trying her own hand at colorful paintings and poetic reflections on Scripture passages. She has shared these results of her creative lectio divina with friends and oblates. Some of them arranged a small exhibition of some of her watercolors and pastels in the Abbey lobby and conference room on the occasion of this 60th jubilee.

Some of the paintings and accompanying poems by Mother Maria-Thomas that were displayed at the reception following the celebration of the Eucharist.
A special joy was the presence of several family members of the Jubilarian, who had traveled from Germany and the Netherlands. Also attending were friends from her days as a 5th-grade teacher in Eichstaett, at the school run by our mother house, the Abtei St. Walburg.

Friday, July 15, 2016

When there's smoke, somewhere there's fire

Summertime on the Front Range in Colorado brings garden produce, colorful flowers, pleasant evening breezes -- and wildfires. While our Abbey is not itself in any danger from fire at the moment, we follow with concern the large fires raging in several places in our state, and throughout the arid West.

The one closest to us is the Beaver Creek fire on the border of Colorado and Wyoming, northwest of our location. It currently affects more that 20,000 acres of forest, and is being fueled by deadwood from trees killed by the pine bark beetle infestations of recent years. When the wind, temperature, and humidity are just right (or just wrong, perhaps), smoke drifts in our direction, a pervasive haze that hovers over the valley and makes for dramatic red sunsets.

Another fire, dubbed Cold Springs, is burning in the mountains 10 miles west of our old hometown of  Boulder, Colorado. Several residences have been destroyed by that blaze -- by God's grace, no one has been injured.

We join with all our neighbors in praying for the safety of the firefighters, and that rain may soon come to their aid in controlling these blazes.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Summertime, and the livin' is busy...

We've been busy celebrating Solemnities and getting the bumper crop of hay baled, so the Chronicler is a bit late with this post. Friday, June 24th was the celebration of the Birth of John the Baptist, and Wednesday, June 29th, was the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. Next week we look forward to the Solemnity of St. Benedict, Father of Western Monasticism, on July 11.

We hope to be incorporating this Chronicler's Blog into the rest of the Abbey website soon, so stay tuned.
Some of the bountiful harvest of grass hay in the Abbey fields.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Making Hay

Wild roses bloom in profusion by the side of a partly-mown hayfield.

After all of our rain, the gardens and fields at the Abbey are green and lush. Now is the time to mow those fields whose grass is destined to become hay to keep the livestock over the winter.

Sr. Maria Walburga mowing hay.

Monday, June 13, 2016

New Director for the Oblate Program

Sunday's oblate meeting marked the official turnover of the oblate program to its new director, Sr. Lioba Headlee, OSB. Abbess Emerita Mother Maria-Thomas Beil, who is now "retiring" from being co-director (along with Sr. Genevieve), took the opportunity of this meeting to go over the meaning and significance of the Rite of Oblation, and the rights and duties of Benedictine Oblates.

Benedictine Oblates are men and women who feel drawn to the spirituality of the Rule of St. Benedict, but are not called to the vowed consecrated life of a nun or monk. Rather, Benedictine spirituality serves as their guiding principle as they fulfill their family and work obligations as lay persons living in the world. The oblate community associated with a particular abbey or monastery is a means of support to the oblates as they strive to bring Christian values to their homes and workplaces.

The first oblates at our monastery were organized in the early 1980s by Mother Maria-Thomas; we first celebrated the Rite of Oblation, whereby they dedicate themselves to God in the Benedictine path, in 1985. Over the years other oblate directors have included Sr. Simone Conlin, Sr. Ancilla Armijo, Sr. Hildegard Dubnick, and Sr. Genevieve Glen.

We are always awed by the dedication and commitment to prayer and service undertaken by our oblates, in the midst of busy lives raising families and pursuing careers and studies. They form an inner circle of the many friends and benefactors who help our monastic community through their prayers and material support.

For more information on the oblate program, visit our oblate blog at

Monday, June 6, 2016

Thirty Years Later -- Photographer Valari Jack returns to the Abbey

Back in 1987, photographer Valari Jack, then living in Boulder, spent a lot of time at our monastery (also then located near Boulder) taking photographs. LOTS of photographs. She documented at least a year of life at the monastery; by God's providence there were clothings, a funeral, and other major ceremonial events in the life of the community. But she also captured still life compositions of garden tools casting shadows, Sisters awaiting the beginning of the liturgy, Sisters kneading loaves for bread, and other prosaic everyday scenes.

Back in those days, real film was involved in photography. Valari shot black and white film (fitting enough for us in our Benedictine black), and was so kind as to teach Sr. Ancilla and Sr. Hildegard the rudiments of film developing and printing in a homemade darkroom in one of our guest buildings.

Valari now lives in Washington State, but she came by for a few days last week and, of course, brought her camera. Nowadays, she shoots digital pictures, in color -- we're excited to see what she will come up. She did say that our spirit is still the same -- maybe not so surprising to us, since our Spirit is definitely still the same.

Here are a couple of Valari's photos; for more on her work, please contact her at
The bell tower in front of the main entrance of the Abbey.

The community gathers at the back of the Abbey Church after Compline to sing the Salve Regina.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Corpus Christi Weekend -- Chant Workshop and Eucharistic Procession

 This past Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ -- still known popularly by its former Latin name, Corpus Chisti. We took advantage of the beautiful Latin Vespers and Mass propers of the day's liturgy to schedule our annual Gregorian Chant Workshop for the days preceding the feast.
Chant workshop participants sing with Sr. Hildegard as they practice the Latin Introit for Sunday's Mass of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.
 We had fifteen chanters this year, ranging in age from 10 to 83 years old, and coming from New Mexico, Montana, and even Minnesota as well as from Colorado.

Nuns, retreatants, and visitors gather around an outdoor altar in the guest courtyard after Sunday Mass to pray at our first stop in our Eucharistic Procession on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
The weather smiled upon our Corpus Christi procession, with cool temperatures and fluffy white clouds scudding through the blue Colorado sky to give some relief from the sun, especially for those of us dressed in black. We sang our way around the Abbey building, pausing to pray at four altars which had been tastefully decorated by teams of Sisters with textiles, statues, and flower arrangements.