Final Post – Visits to “Bandelier National Monument” and “Christ in the Desert” Monastery

May 14, 2007

Sorry for the delay in making this final post of my sabbatical but our plans to visit Bandelier Monument were delayed and I wanted to include my visit to Christ in the Desert Monastery. We have all been busy getting ready to leave by cleaning up Sangre Center, mailing packages home and packing.

My sabbatical has been a wonderful opportunity for prayer, study and priestly renewal. I have made some wonderful friends and look forward to keeping in touch with them. But it is now time to leave Sangre and return to my life at St. Brigid’s in Westbury where I have been serving as a parish priest for the past 2 1/2 years.

Please enjoy these last photos.

Pueblo ruins at Bandelier

The “Long House” at Bandelier. The holes in the mountain wall indicate where the wooden posts jotted out that formed the platform for the roof of the pueblo building.

Front entrance of the chapel at Christ in the Desert Monastery

Fr. Ron MacDonell and I pose for a picture by Christ in the Desert Monastery

Beautiful Mural of Christ in the guest area of the Monastery

View near Christ in the Desert Monastery

View leaving Christ in the Desert Monastery.


Water Coloring Classes Come To An End – May 2, 2007

May 3, 2007

This past Monday I completed the Water Coloring Class part of my sabbatical. It was a great experience learning the basics of this art form. I hope that I will be able to continue studying water coloring and become more proficient as an artist.

Br. Jospeh Schmidt (seated) instructs us on various techniques of painting.

I invite you now to view my last three paintings.

Learning the technique of painting mirror imaging in a lake setting.

Continuing to use the technique of mirror imaging and adding the technique of negative painting (The sails of the boats are created using tape. The tape is removed when the painting is completed giving the sense of the sails being painted white.)

For our last picture we were free to paint any scene of our choice. This is my version of a famous water color painting by Benson.

Next Thursday, May 10, 2007, I will post the last blog of my sabbatical. Please join me for the last time next week. I will be returning to St. Brigid’s Church in Westbury, New York on Tuesday, May 15, 2007.

“Free Weekend” Trip to the Grand Canyon – April 13-15, 2007

April 21, 2007

Last weekend we were free to leave Sangre and visit any place of our choice. Fourteen of us decided to visit the Grand Canyon in Arizona, an eight hour drive from Santa Fe, New Mexico. While on the way to the Canyon, we made several stops visting some exciting and beautiful places including the Painted Desert, the Puerco Ruins and the Petrified Forest.

Please enjoy the photos!

After arriving at the Painting Desert, we stopped at the “Welcome Center,” viewed a film about the area and now pose for a picture after having enjoyed some lunch before taking in the sights.

View of “The Painted Desert.”

The Painted Desert

The Painted Desert

Tee-Pee Formation of rocks in the Painted Desert (named this because the color lines remind one of a Tee-Pee)

The “Newspaper” Rock with Petrographs.

Close-up view of petrographs.

After millions of years a petrified tree trunk that was buried under rock sediment is exposed due to subsequent erosion.

Pausing for a photo by the trunk of a petrified tree.

Views of the Grand Canyon.




A section of the Colorado River which over millions of years carved the Grand Canyon.

Easter Sunday – April 8, 2007

April 8, 2007

A most Happy and Blessed Easter to Everyone!

“Retabla” Resurrection (Stations of the Cross, St. Francis of Assisi Basilica Cathedral, Santa Fe)

You might recall that last week we concluded our “Eight Day Silent Retreat” the evening before Palm Sunday. On Palm Sunday we were free as nothing was scheduled that day at Sangre. Some of us went to a Beethoven Concert while others went to “Cities of Gold,” a local casino, for a meal. Well, while we were there we decided to try our luck at the slot machines. One of the other participants, whose initials are Tim Mulligan, gave me $5.00 telling me he was feeling lucky that day and asked if I would play a couple of games for him (while he went to the Beethoven Concert). Well, I was able to win $22.00 for him. I gave the money to Tim in an envelope with the words, “Behold, I am your faithful stewart. Master you gave me $5.00, see I have made you $17.00 more.” I guess this is taking the “Scriptures” out of context but it works for me. With my own $5.00 I was able to earn myself $15.00 more. Yes, it was a profitable Palm Sunday indeed! Spent $10.00 and came back with $42.00, not bad for a first timer.

Beethoven Concert Participants

Cities of Gold “Gamblers”

Earlier this week we visited Pecos National Park. This was originally a “pueblo” occupied by the Pecos Indians who eventually abandoned their home pueblo. I’d like to share some pictures I took at Pecos with some Native American Proverbs beneath them.

“When you have learned about love, you have learned about God.” (Fox)

“When you know a man, you know his face but not his heart.” (Seneca)

It is not good enough to cry peace, we must act peace, live peace, and live in peace.” (Shenandoah)

Read the rest of this entry »

Palm Sunday – April 1, 2007

April 2, 2007

On Saturday evening, March 31, our “Eight Day Silent Retreat” was brought to a conclusion with the celebration of the Vigil Mass of Palm Sunday. The retreat was a very powerful experience for me. It was only by going through the experience of silence for eight days that I came to realize how really conducive silence is for the interior work we were doing during the retreat.

I met with my spiritual director each day for a half hour to talk about what was going on in my life through my prayer. We reflected on the topics that I wrote about in my journal. I would say that this has been the finest retreat experience I have ever had. As I reflected last week, the work that went into the preparation for this retreat was really one of the main reasons why it was so successful for me and the rest of us. I was also blessed with a wonderful spiritual director, Br. Joseph Schmidt. Actually, there are four very fine spiritual directors on the staff at Sangre. We are blessed to have them working with us.

Earlier in the week we celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation. I would like to share with you the print and poem that decorated the front of the altar in our chapel.

The Annunciation by Henry Tanner

“On her bed of doubt
in wrinkled night garment,
She sat, glancing with fear
at the golden shaft of streaming light,
pondering perhaps, “Was this
but a sequel to a dream?”
This light too bright for disbelief,
yet its silence eased not her trembing.
Somehow she murmered a “YES”
And with that the light’s love and life
pierced her womb.
The room remained the same
-rug still needed smoothing,
-jug and paten awaited using.
Now all was different
In a maiden’s
soft but firm “FIAT.”
(Robert F. Morneau)

We were encouraged to spend soome time in doing some sort of artwork so I decided to create three additional “Ojos de Dios.” They are pictured below.

First “Ojo” using the colors of the altar cloth in our chapel

Second “Ojo”

Third “Ojo”

Here are some photos of the closing liturgy of the retreat: the Vigil of Palm Sunday.

Fr. Frank Dolye, OSA, opens our Palm Sunday Liturgy outside the main entrance to Sangre with the “Celebration of the Lord’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.”

The “Celebration of the Lord’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem” continues.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Part of our Palm Sunday Environment.

As we enter Holy Week let me close with a beautiful print that I call “The Full Measure of God’s Love.”


I wish you all the blessings and graces of this week we call “Holy.”

Eight Day Silent Retreat – Beginning March 23, 2007

March 24, 2007

Hi Everyone:

This evening we began an “Eight Day Silent Retreat.” I have never been silent for 24 hour straight so this will be very interesting!

Fr. Frank Doyle, OSA, who is assisting in conducting our retreat, reflected with us that we have never been more prepared to enter into a retreat. He is right! In the last several weeks we have been exploring our experience of grief and loss, sexuality and affect, life changes and transitions, and learning to honor our feelings and dreams. Besides these topics we have been given three wonderful tools: journaling, the “enneagram” and weekly spiritual direction.

Please pray for me and my friends here at Sangre that the Lord will bless these next eight days of intense spiritual reflection and discovery. Please pray for our spiritual directors that the Lord will give them the grace to lead us through this wonderful opportunity to grow in our awareness of God’s great love and mercy.


I couldn’t leave you without sharing my third water color painting which is a study in the art of painting flowers.

My third “Water Color” Painting: “Dogwood” Flowers

My next blog will be published the evening of Palm Sunday!

Fourth Sunday in Lent – March 18, 2007

March 19, 2007

I thought this week I would publish another series of photos to highlight some of the wonderful experiences I had during the past week.

We had the opportunity to paint our second water colors this week. We were studying “silhouettes” in art. The painting of the silhouettes incorporated all the previous lessions we had in water color with the addition of understanding how to create the silhouette in water colors.

Second Water Color: Silhouette of a Man Walking His Dog

I was the main celebrant at the Mass that concluded our “desert day.”

Proclaiming the Gospel

At the end of the week two Christian Brothers taught us how to make “Ojos de Dios” or “Eye of God.” This art form goes back many years. The “Ojos” always symbolized good and prayer to an all-seeing God for good health, good furtune, and good crops or prosperity. As to its meaning and history, the symbol for the all-seeing eye of God goes back to the Egytians. Most primitive people recognized God’s all seeing power in some form.

Here I am posing with the “ojo de Dios” I created

On Saturday we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a wonderful party.

Our Grand Marshals all hailing from the Emerald Isle: Fr. Jim Nolan, Br. James Needham, Sr. Bernadette Healy and Fr. Chris McAneny

Everyone’s on their feet dancing up a storm

Br. Joe Schmidt points out the only green he had to wear

Br. Jim Scher borrows a “green” paper clip so he has something green to wear to our party

Member of my small prayer group: Sr. Cheryl Marie Wagner, Sr. Guia Jambalos, Fr. Richard Nalepa, Br. Jim Scher, Sr. Diana Hayes and myself

Here I pose with St. Patrick himself

Third Sunday in Lent – March 11, 2007

March 12, 2007

Well, this past Monday we had our second class in Water Coloring. We learned the difference between a “hue” and a “tint,” weepy brushes and happy brushes, subtracting, the use and combination of the primary colors (red, yellow and blue), cool and warm colors, hard and soft edges and the proper way to set up your “studio.” But after all the technical stuff we went to work on our first “painting.” But first we went outsde on a little class trip to view the sky and the mountains. We observed that the sky was a lighter color, the furthest mountains were darker than the sky and a set of mountains that were closer to us were a darker color then both the sky and the furthest mountain. Br. Joe Schmidt, our instructor, told us that in water coloring you need to first determine what you were going to put in the painting and where each object will be placed. Unlike painting with oils, where you can paint over and cover something, in water coloring you can not do this. I know that you can’t wait to see my first water color painting. So, here it is!

My first “water color” painting.

This past week we took a nine session course on “Sexuality and Affect.” We examined what the church has taught about human sexuality over time, what the Scriptures teach us about the dignity of the human person and how sexuality is a gift from God, we explored the difference between an “Addictive and Healthy Sexuality,” and other aspects of human love. It was our presenters’ hope that we would deepen our apprecation that our lives as celibates are not to be measured by what we have given up but, more importantly, by the call to deep personal relationships and the generative service we provide to the church and the world. One fun part of the course was the “triple dance” we all participated in. One person was the dancer, another mirrored the dance of the dancer and the third served as a “container” to make sure that the dancer and the mirror dancer were safe in their dance. Believe it or not, I was once the dancer, once the mirror dancer and once the “container.” Thank God no cameras nor video recorders were allowed in the room at the time. Thank God for “small” favors! Sorry folks, no photos!

Each week we have a “desert day” which is spent in quiet prayer and solitutude. This gives us a larger block of time for some rest, private prayer, reading, taking a small walk or hike on one of the moutain trails or some other relaxing activity. The day ends with the celebration of the Eucharist at 5:15 PM followed by the evening meal. The evening is open for some community time or additional time alone.

On Friday, we visited Albuquerque which is about an hour and a half south of Santa Fe. When we arrived in Albuquerque we immediately stopped at the visitors center that housed a museum that had a moving exhibit on the “Code Talkers” (made famous in the recent movie, “The Wind Talkers”). These were the native Americans who were used to communicate during World War II using codes based on their native language which the Japanese could not decipher. Most of these soldiers grew up in places where they were discouraged, or forbidden, to use their native language, and many of whom were not treated as full citizens when they returned from serving our country at the end of the war.

In another part of the museum there was a very interesting exhibit showing the different “pueblos” of Indians that occuppied what is present day New Mexico, the positive and negative influence of the settlers (conquistadors) and the positive and negative impact that Christianity had on the lives of these native peoples.

Later that day I had lunch at a Mexican Restaurant, visited the Museum of Natural History and did some window shopping.

Well, enough with words. Enjoy some of the pictures printed below.

Stained Glass Window in Sangre Chapel

The “Kiva” Room at Sangre (Named for the type of fireplace/stove used)

Part of the Rio Grande in Santa Fe after almost six years of drought

Stained glass window above main door of St. Francis Basilica Cathedral in Santa Fe (Jesus among the teachers)

Holy Spirit Window in St. Francis Basilica Cathedral in Santa Fe

Front Door of St. Francis Basilica Cathedral in Santa Fe

Second Sunday in Lent – March 4, 2007

March 5, 2007

This past week I had the opportunity to begin a “Water Coloring” class being held at the Center. It is a ten session course. Watch out Georgia O’Keefe! Anyone who is familiar with the works of Georgia O’Keefe knows that I offer her no competition, for now! The course runs each Monday afternoon for the next 9 weeks. We are learning the basics of water coloring. Now that we can distinguish between a paint brush and paint we can proceed with creating our own master pieces. (By the way I visited the Georgia O’Keefe Art Gallery in Santa Fe last week. Quite impressive!

I’d like to share with you a beautiful prayer that was used earlier this week at one of our community prayer services. It is called, “Heart of Mercy” and was composed by Joyce Rupp and can be found in her book “Prayers to Sophia.”

“My mistakes and failings keep me humble.
They chide me with their blaming voices and pester me with their mocking comments.
They badger me with their poking fingers of disgrace and condemnation.
They hound me with the blame and guilt and a thousand other recriminations.

Walk with me through my mistakes and failings.
Let me hear your understanding and merciful voice.
We both know that I am not a perfect person.
Assure me that I am not a bad person either.
Keep teaching me about myself, about life, about you through these characteristics I would rather not have.
Remind me that they are my friends, not my enemies, that they are my teachers, not my wardens.

May I befriend the unwanted parts of myself and continually learn wisdom from them.
Thank you for lovingly embracing me as I am, while the murky layers
of my shortcomings are slowly transformed into Love.”

This past week we have been exploring “Losses and Grief.” We were blessed with the presence of Joan Guntzelman, a practicing psychologist and popular speaker and author, who leads seminars about the experience of grief and learning to mourn our losses. During the seminar we learned how to reverence our losses and how to express grief and mourning. Joan invited us to put together a “Loss History” (deaths, failed relationships, changes in assignments, etc.) so that we could review our own experience of loss and how we dealt with them in the past. These sessions were concluded with a very powerful prayer service put together by the Sangre Staff.

On Friday of this week we had the opportunity to visit a very popular shrine in Chimayo, New Mexico called “El Sanctuario.” The trip to Chimayo took about 45 minutes. “El Sanctuario” is called the Lourdes of America. The highlight of the year occurs each Good Friday when apprximately 25,000 – 30,000 pilgrims “walk” to this shrine from all over New Mexico some traveling throughout the night to reach “El Sanctuario.”

Below are some photos I shot of “El Sanctuario” during my visit to the shrine.

“El Sanctuario” of Chimayo

Rear Shrine in “El Sanctuario”

Sanctuary Area

Close-up of “Mayan Style” Cross

After we visited the shrine we traveled a short distance to visit “Ortegas” famous for their beautiful woven pieces. You can enjoy several of the highlights of that store by viewing the photos below.

Weaving Demonstration

Colorful Weavings

Weaved Pillows

Weaver’s Tool

First Sunday in Lent – February 25, 2007

February 26, 2007

This past week we were introduced to the theory and practice of “journaling.” Br. Joseph Schmidt has been teaching us this valuable tool that can be used by anyone who wishes to grow in the spiritual life while being attentive to their regular experiences of life and bringing those experiences to prayer. I will be using this spiritual tool throughout the sabbatical and hope that once I have become proficient in it’s use that I can continue using it after leaving Sangre.

Br. Dennis Galvin spent Saturday morning introducing us to some of the newer concepts being discussed in the world of theology; namely, Creation Theology. It explores the relationship we have as men and women with all of creation. I enjoyed our morning discussion and two of the poems we studied which I am printing below.

ASINIIG (Written by Louise Erdich)

A thousand generations of you live and die
In the space of a single one of our thoughts.
A complete thought is a mountain.
We don’t have very many ideas.

When the original fire which formed us subsided,
We thought of you.
We allowed you to occur.
We are still deciding whether that was wise.


Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of an owl?
Who has it, and who doesn’t?
I keep looking around me.
The face of a moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness.
One question leads to another.
Does it have shape? Like an iceberg?
Like the eye of a hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?
Why should I have it, and not the anteater
who loves her children?
Why should I have it, and not the camel?
Come to think of it, what about the maple trees?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?
What about the roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?
What about the grass?

Here are some more photos I shot while visiting Santa Fe this past week.

St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral Basilica (Santa Fe, New Mexico)

Cathedral Sanctuary

Statue of the Blessed Mother brought to the original Conquistador Chapel in 1625

Crucifix in the Conquistador Chapel (Christ Figure has human hair)

Some pictures of several of the buildings in Santa Fe with the typical Southwest Design.