Monastery of Christ in the Desert

I’m waiting for an airplane out of Albuquerque. So I’ve got a little bit of time to think about this week’s experiences at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert. I’m coming through thirty-five pages of material from my journal — so there’s no lack of material. Concision is the challenge!

I’ll probably try to think more deeply and write more articulately in the coming days. But for a quick airport highlight reel, there are four things that stood out to me during my time at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert:

Ash Wednesday

When I booked my travel to New Mexico, it didn’t even occur to me that my first full day at the monastery would be Ash-freaking-Wednesday! Kind of a big deal for Catholics, but obviously not as big of a deal for me. Until this Ash Wednesday. I followed the monks’ full “Daily Schedule.” I had the sign of the cross marked on my forehead with ash from the finger of the abbot. And I felt deeply moved by the traditional Ash Wednesday phrasing: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” I also happened to read Isaiah 40:7, James 1:11, and 1 Peter 1:24 over the course of Ash Wednesday — and it all seemed to point to something I’ve been working on for a while now: Remembering my smallness (dustiness, grassiness, finite nature) and God’s Greatness (as Creator, Sustainer, Savior, and Infinite Power).


The Monastery of Christ in the Desert was super-silent! The monks were silent, except for when they were praying in Gregorian chant. The monastery was silent. And the natural landscape of northern New Mexico was silent: especially with a fair amount of snow happening to fall while I was there. There aren’t many other places I can think of that are as silent as the Monastery of Christ in the Desert. The Benedictusberg (the only other monastery I’ve ever visited) was more sociable. The desert of Joshua Tree National Park was more windy. Really, the only other places I can think of on this level are Muir Woods and the Mariposa Grove in Northern California. The silence was uncomfortable at times (especially living without the internet for three days!). Still, it felt so good for my soul to soak in that kind of silence.

Exposition and Eucharistic Adoration

The Daily Schedule of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert includes twelve distinct activities — seven of which are liturgical services in the sanctuary! They’re called things like Vigils and Lauds and Terce and so on… but they all amount to a lot of prayer. But by far, my favorite piece of the Daily Schedule was the part where one of the monks lit two votive candles and set up an ornamental stand with a tiny little window in it for the host to be literally exposed and adored from 5:20 PM to 5:50 PM every day. All in complete silence. This was hugely instrumental in reminding me to prioritize the presence of God — so I’m especially hopeful for more reflection on this point.

God’s Greatest Hits, Remixed

The silence and the schedule of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert allowed me a lot of time and space to replay many of the refrains that God has given to me through the years. This includes significant sections of scripture, like 2 Peter 1:3 and Proverbs 3:5-6. And it also includes phrases that have become anchored in my memory, like “Faithfully Farming My Forty Acres” and “Prioritizing the Presence of God” and remembering that “Jesus is the Savior of the world; not Eric.” They’re “oldies” but “goodies.” God used them this week to freshly strengthen my walk with Him. But I feel like He also gave me some new angles and new interpretations to these old truths. And I felt really thankful for that.

More to Come

I’m going to keep thinking about these things and praying about these things as I head back to Ohio. And if it crosses your mind, I’d love to have your prayer support for me in this as well!

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