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I have ascended to the highest in me, and look! The Lord is towering above that. In my curiosity I have descended to explore my lowest depths, yet I found God even deeper. If I looked outside myself, I saw God stretching beyond the furthest I could see; and if I looked within, God was yet further within. Then I knew the truth of what I had read, “In God we live and move and have our being.”

—Bernard of Clairvaux, Cistercian, 12th Century

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Sister Kathy with Pope
Sr. Kathy greets Pope Francis at OCSO Papal audience, September 2022

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May 24, 2024

In May and October of 1968, Thomas Merton gave two extended conferences at our monastery. It was literally taped on a reel to reel tape recorder. The sisters had kept these tapes in our archives. David Ordorisio, PhD, of Pacifica Graduate Institute, with much scholarship and patience, faithfully transcribed the [...]

In May and October of 1968, Thomas Merton gave two extended conferences at our monastery.  It was literally taped on a reel to reel tape recorder.  The sisters had kept these tapes in our archives.  David Ordorisio, PhD, of Pacifica Graduate Institute, with much scholarship and patience, faithfully transcribed the over  twenty-six hours of previously unpublished material.   These are Thomas Merton’s actual words and exchanges with the participants of the conferences covering a variety of topics including ecology and consciousness, yoga and Hinduism, Native American ritual and rites of passage, Sufi spirituality, and inter-religious dialogue.  There are also extended discussions on prayer and the contemplative life. 

David is currently traveling the country speaking about Thomas Merton in California and inspiring new interest in one of the greatest spiritual thinkers and writers of the twentieth century, Thomas Merton.

The material presented in these talks reveals Merton’s wide-ranging intellectual and spiritual pursuits in the final year of his life, and fills a long-standing lacuna around Merton’s visits to Redwoods Monastery, forming a necessary bridge to the Asian journey that was to come. Practical and applicable, as well as searching and inspired, Thomas Merton in California is essential for Merton readers and scholars, and all those interested in deepening their spiritual lives.

~Liturgical Press Website

Merton in California gives readers the privilege to sense for themselves the formidable creative charge of those encounters as if they were there. What higher praise could there be for this book?”  

~ Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB, monk, author

 “Obviously, Merton scholars will be very interested in this material since it was so close to Merton’s death. However, I would encourage those readers who are not scholars to imagine themselves as part of these retreat gatherings, anxious to hear what Merton has to say about contemplative prayer, about how God is manifested in our humanity. The following excerpt from the beginning of his conferences in May surely draws the reader into this interactive gathering of monastic and spiritual seekers. It speaks of the human person’s capacity for God (capax Dei), the capacity to embody the life of Christ, the gospel horizon where God’s love is the force of healing, transformation, and forgiveness. This stunning statement puts in bas-relief the immediate and end goal of the spiritual life:

The fundamental, deepest thing that man has found is himself, his true self. Which is in God. Because in finding his true self, he finds God. He finds the root; he finds the ground. And that is because man is a very peculiar kind of being. Man is the being in whose consciousness God manifests Himself. In a certain sense, man is delegated by God to be God's consciousness of Himself in a creature.Man has the vocation to be conscious as creature of his Ground in God, and in such an intimate way that when man confesses and witnesses to his rootedness in God, it is God Himself who is confessing and witnessing this.'

The historical period in which Merton offered these words is not so different from the times in which we find ourselves today. May these conferences as a whole offer a hopeful reminder of our common vocation and of the ultimate rootedness of our “Ground in God.”

~Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess, OCSO, Our Lady of the Redwoods Abbey, Whitethorn, California

Quoted from the Forward, Thomas Merton in California



May 1, 2024

The risen Jesus never tires of offering himself to us over and over, now under one image, now under another. What he wants to be for us is such a mysterious and profound reality that it cannot be reduced to only one image. Last Sunday he presented himself as the [...]

The risen Jesus never tires of offering himself to us over and over, now under one image, now under another. What he wants to be for us is such a mysterious and profound reality that it cannot be reduced to only one image. Last Sunday he presented himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep; today he tells us the parable of the Vine and the Branches. This metaphor invites us to consider the absolute need for the branches to remain attached to the vine, and this verb remain (or abide) recurs no fewer than seven times in the gospel text. Jesus’ message is clear: ‘Whatever you do, make sure you do not detach yourselves from me!’ Life laid down by the Good Shepherd; life infused by the stock into the branches: whatever the image, we should never forget that we do not generate our own life but must receive it from the One who loves us.

As used in the Old Testament, the image of God the vinedresser and Israel as God’s vine evokes a general religious conviction: that Israel is God’s People and that God takes good care of what belongs to him. But there is a great novelty when Jesus uses this image today because it points to the specific intimacy that exists between Jesus and those who deliberately choose to follow him and adhere to him. Much more than the shepherd who stands in the midst of his sheep but is still distinct from them, Jesus is now the stump to which all are bound and out of which all grow: I am the vine, you are the branches. Where does the vine end and where do the branches begin? You really can’t tell because they are, in fact, but one inseparable thing.

These branches bear not their own but his fruit, another key term here that recurs no less than six times. And please note the mutual dependency implied by the image: if it is true that the branches quite depend on the sap transmitted to them by the stock (Without me you can do nothing), it is also true that the stock extends itself into the branches, which it cannot do without for the production of fruit. Yes, the Messiah and his followers belong to each other in an intensely organic and necessary way.

We’ve seen that this gospel makes a great deal of the concept of remaining or abiding, so much so that we can consider this word the heart of its message. Just as vine and branches are mutually dependent, so too the Messiah has invited his disciples to collaborate with him in the Redemption of the world. Incredibly, Jesus does not wish to save the world without our participation in that task. He says: Those who abide in me, and I in them, bear much fruit. There is, therefore, a double consensual abiding here, thanks to which divine life circulates and transmits itself; and the fruit of that mutual abiding in love then goes forth out of this relationship into a hungry world.

A little further on, Jesus specifies how this transmission of life is realized: If you abide in me and my words abide in you…, he says. This is the absolute condition: the Lord dwells in us and transmits God’s life to us—and from us to the world—through the indwelling of his words in our heart. But we are not mere passive receivers; we must allow Christ’s words to abide actively, explosively, in us. It is the words of the Master that transmit life. But let’s be realistic: this can happen only to the extent that they abide and take root in the heart of the disciple. Only then can they have their effect. And these are the same words that serve the Father as tools to prune and clean the branches, so that they may bear even more fruit. To allow the Lord to abide in us, to allow him to stand in the midst of our community as the Risen One appearing to the frightened disciples, to allow him to prune us, means letting his words indwell all our feelings, thoughts, words and actions dynamically, and thus inspire, direct and condition us.

At the conclusion of today’s gospel Jesus manifests to us the keenest desire of the Father: By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. The Father is thus glorified by whatever manifests his generative, parental action and care: precisely a vine—the Church, ourselves—that bears fruit. Here Jesus uses a peculiar turn of phrase, for he declares that the Father is glorified not only by our bearing much fruit but also by our becoming his Son’s disciples. What can this mean, since this gospel already begins with the words, Jesus said to his disciples…? Were they not his disciples already, before Jesus’ instruction on the vine? How can he encourage them to become his disciples when they were such already?

As someone has wisely observed, in every other religion the disciple longs to “graduate” and become a master some day; only in Christianity does the disciple long to become, ever more deeply, a truer disciple! Indeed, the greatest fruit of belonging to Jesus is to continue growing as disciples of the Risen One, since growth is the surest sign of the presence of life. We must long to be ever more intimately bound to him, grafted into him, receiving life from him, in a dynamic process that is never completed. Such a proposition requires much patience and effort but also instils boundless hope, joy and gratitude.

This magnificent Parable of the Vine, then, speaks to us of our call to intimacy with the risen Christ. It also speaks to us, more starkly, of our need for a sharp Grace to come and cut off the dead branches in our soul, and prune the fruitful branches. Above all, however, this gospel reveals to us our deepest identity which, at a mundane level, we are constantly in danger of forgetting out of fear and isolation: namely, that we are members of Christ and, in Christ, of one another, and that we derive our common life from this mutual coinherence which the Father has so generously created. This is not a static doctrine to be merely believed but a dynamic sacramental mystery, realized and concretely lived in the one Eucharistic Sacrifice we are now invited to celebrate. 

Monastic Internship Program

Every journey is a liminal space, an in-between time, spanning where I am now and where I hope to end up. While a journey often involves some physical travel, a meaningful journey is accompanied by a displacement of a habitual dispositions and mindsets, while engaging an inner dimension….
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