Brother Stephen

For those who are friends and visitors of Mount Saviour Monastery ….

Brother Stephen Galban, slept peacefully into eternity early in the morning of January 20, 2018.

For more information visit the monastery website ….  Mount Saviour Monastery


I went to chapel early yesterday so that I’d have a little time for quiet reading before others arrived for morning service. As I entered I noticed someone sitting where I often sit. It wasn’t where she was sitting that caught my eye, but that she was using her cellphone. As quickly as it bothered me that someone was distracted by their phone from being present in sacred space, it occurred to me that I was doing the same thing, distracted from where I was and why I was there.

As I turned my focus inward, I gazed up at the ceiling, the beams supporting the chapel roof, the steeple. I wondered what stories those beams could tell, about those that come to the chapel at Mount Saviour, stories about events, holidays, about the people who enter, their needs, how they gather around the table, and pray with community.

I sensed someone looking at me and as I turned I saw it was the person I’d noticed using her phone earlier. She turned away before I saw her face fully, but I noticed her beautiful dark skin. And then I wondered why it may be that she had no hair. Had I actually been so distracted by the glowing phone that I never noticed the person holding it? Later as I exchanged ‘peace’ with her, I saw she had warm brown eyes and a gentleness about her. I added a welcome message to my greeting and her eyes lit up as she smiled.

Hospitality, it is a focus of this monastery, Mount Saviour where this chapel, Our Lady Queen of Peace, is located. Yesterday I was reminded that while the beams of the chapel demonstrate hospitality by physically supporting space for praying in community, as an Oblate of this monastery I am called to make an extra effort to practice hospitality personally, for I never know who I will encounter. Yesterday’s gospel reading echoed how we should greet and care for each other … how to be mindful of what we do for the “least of these”…

The image shown is of the chapel being set up for Easter, the beams coming together behind the candles here.

It has been said that 3am is the hour of writers. I personally find this to be true. At 3am … all is quiet and until dawn, no one, no thing, needs my attention. It is becoming a habit, and a good one I think, that if I wake as I normally do, a little before sunrise, I read and the reflect on my Vigils reading for that day. If I wake much earlier, I catch up on writing.

It has obviously, not been for this blog. Instead I have been working on a variety of things. Collections of quotes, ideas, and practices, to be used for retreats, group discussions, for work, and personal writing, palm-of-the-hand writings. While I embrace quiet time for writing, I am not embracing rising every morning at 3am. Thus, I have started to set aside a little bit of time in the day, a time where I naturally pause to transition to being indoors, thinking about supper and evening. I chose this time after a weekly meeting with one of the monks at the monastery, during which time I am teaching him some textile work. He mentioned that during a particular time each day, his task is to study. Hmm..

Other changes and transitions this season. I am no longer helping to homeschool a grandson, something that while it has meant a bit of schedule juggling, I am grateful for having had the opportunity to be ‘teacher’ for a time for this bright young man, to have helped him think out of the box, beyond what he reads in a book. He is adjusting very well in his school and just yesterday I helped him with his homework. And I have settled into a rhythm, a schedule for work at the monastery. I thought this new found time would mean more time in the garden, but in reality, that hasn’t happened. Not sure why, but anyway, the gardens have gone to pot.

Curious about the phrase ‘gone to pot’, I researched it. I’ve always thought it meant something falling apart, but apparently it comes from a 17th century expression referring to those who had fallen victim to cannibals. Either way, it fits, the gardens look like they’ve fallen victim to ‘something’.. Thankfully, the colors of autumn give us a beautiful landscape wherever we look.

All this to mention that if you are an Oblate of Mount Saviour Monastery or just interested in Oblates or Mount Saviour in general, check out one of the things I’ve been working on, the new blog for the Oblates of Mount Saviour. Though I am still adding links and such, I have posted a report on the most recent Oblate retreat.


I set the kitchen clock on the porch counter to get a good picture of what the temperature was yesterday. The numbers on the bottom right corner show the outside temp. It went up a few more degrees a little bit later. I’ve not heard if we broke a local record for highest temperature in February, but if not, we had to be close.

With the sudden increase in temps I encountered wasps in the enclosed porch. That ‘gun’ in the image is actually a bug vacuum I found for my grandson when he was a small boy. He no longer uses it to capture and examine bugs and so it now has a second life as what I use to capture bugs and release them outdoors.

The weather yesterday was a delight for those longing for warmer, sunny days. While walking down a road towards the monastery chapel I noted caterpillars and other wildlife I don’t remember ever seeing in February. I passed a guest sitting in the sunshine and he mentioned how wonderful it was to have this spring weather.

Not wanting to spoil his visit and his enjoyment of the warm weather, I continued on my way thinking … it would be nice to have this weather, if only it was spring. We are however in the middle of winter when freezing weather is the norm and in the season of rest and growth that isn’t visible to the eye. If we stay in warm weather too many days, fruit trees and many more things will suffer when things freeze up again. My thoughts as I walked were… for everything there is a season.

I was reminded of the book I read this fall, along with a group that meets weekly. The book is by Joan Chittister and it covers the topics below..

A time…

to be born

to lose

to love

to laugh

for war

to heal

to sow

to die

to kill

to build up

to embrace

to reap

to weep

to refrain from embracing

to gain

for peace

for every purpose under the heaven.

So much of what was going on in the fall and winter, the elections, the media, and constant noise seemed to be things reflected upon in this book. If you have not read it, I recommend it.

Noisy times require times of silence as a balance, I welcomed the colder weather when the hard to travel roads or freezing temps felt like a good reason to stay in and get some projects done. I’m pleased with how many things I’ve ticked off my list. Some are art and textile projects, others retreat planning, and writing projects.

One of the projects is a blog for those of us who are oblates of Mount Saviour Monastery. I have the pages set up, am working on the introduction and then hopefully it will be ready to launch in a week or so. What is taking me so long is that I’ve been reading everything I could about the founding of Mount Saviour and some of the first oblates. There is a lot I didn’t know and I’m enjoying exploring it all.

As for the weather, today it has been raining hard on and off. I went to chapel, then to practice tai chi and then enjoyed a chair massage before having to prepare the main guest meal at noon. At mid afternoon it was 43F outside, getting closer to where it should be. While yesterday’s walk in warm weather was enjoyable, the rain today is comforting. We’ve not had enough precipitation this winter and the sound of the rain against the windows nearby makes it easy to concentrate on reading and writing, and when that is done, a nap while listening to raindrops may be a good thing.

I came across this photo I took years ago while walking up Monastery Rd. It is one of my favorite photos because there is a memory attached to it.

It was a time when I had accepted that my life as I had imagined it when I was younger, was not to be. And that somehow in all the stripping of pretense and of doing what pleased others, I had learned to embrace aloneness, solitude. During that time I would often park my car at the end of the road and walk uphill to the monastery. I’d walked that hill many times before that day, but not so often in late Winter. As I walked I realized I could see St. Peter’s barn through the trees.

Somewhere I’ve read how Winter strips leaves from around us so we can see what was concealed. While I love the greening of Spring, lushness of Summer, and the celebration of color in Autumn, it is in Winter, when the trees are stripped bare of leaves as in the photo, that we can see the farthest. Less is more.

I fell asleep on the window seat last night while reading a book on my ipad. The moon shining large and bright woke me at 3am. Rather than go back to sleep, I stayed up to watch the moon. It occurred to me that I am often looking towards the light, be it the sky, the sun, a window, candles. Sometimes that light shines on me, other times I can only see it from a distance, shining on something or someone else.

Now as I watched the light reflected on the water, it shimmered, it danced.

And as I watched the moon, I thought about the last few days, weeks, and months that felt like darkness for many and how each night I looked for the stars and the moon in the sky. Because I knew in the darkest day and in the darkest night there would still be light. I also know that sometimes only in darkness will I notice light, it is there all the time but I do not see it.

One of my favorite places to sit in darkness is in chapel during Compline when the cooler weather brings longer nights. A couple of candles are the only source of light and the dark chapel feels like a blanket I can wrap around me. Everything else fades and all I can see clearly are the candles. At times like these, I am reminded that night and darkness can be holy, but with our limited vision, we need light from a source, so we can find our way.

During my pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago, my group stayed a night in a hotel located in a fairly busy part of Tui, Spain. My room had a small balcony and I looked out to see how much would be illuminated and if I might be able to see the dark sky that night. I felt disappointed at all the buildings and street lamps I could see in the distance. I would not be able to see the night sky.

After a late supper, a few in our group decided to go for a walk. As we stepped outside, we noticed lights strung high above the streets. Some of them were arranged in the shape of a shell, similar to the one pilgrims on the Camino wear. The shell design is everywhere, some of them pointing in the direction we should go. This the shell I wore on my pilgrimage.

And the lights welcoming pilgrims on the way..

We noticed that we could hear music and shortly after saw more lights strung across some of the streets.

Although we knew we had to be up early to start our hike, we decided to follow the lights and the music. Down a side street we caught a glimpse of colored lights and walked towards them. We discovered a festival!

And music!

We didn’t stay long because we were hiking the next day and the festival hadn’t quite started, people were just arriving when we were leaving. I didn’t see the moon and the stars that night, but I certainly saw plenty of light (and celebration!) in the darkness.

Light comes, it always does. Knowing that, we need to look for it, for what may not be obvious. In today’s reading, a blind man calls to Jesus as he approaches Jericho. He calls out “Jesus, son of God, have pity on me!”

” I am the light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows me will have the light of life.”

Recently I traveled with a group of peregrinos to Portugal and Spain with the intention of walking the Portuguese trail of El Camino Santiago. Before the walk we visited what is known as the Basilica of Fatima.

We arrived in Portugal on my feast day, St Hildegard, and I was happy to be able to celebrate it at Fatima. The following images are from that visit. Some of the photos are not very clear, but I think it is still possible to have a sense of what I encountered. Some of the photos were captured by my companions and used with permission.

From my window on the plane, a view of the sun rising as we traveled to Lisbon.

After arriving, a van took us to our hotel in Fatima. We set out to find a place to eat and found a restaurant. Photo is of sea bass. Note the blue and white tile. We saw a variety of blue and white patterns on walls, floors, pottery.

Our hotel was only a few blocks from the basilica and so we were able to see the steeple and hear the bells ringing as we approached. The first thing I noticed was how quiet and peaceful it seemed despite the number of people present.

Then I noticed there were people walking on a long path made of marble, some on their knees, some carrying babies. The day was sunny and hot and occasionally a companion walked by their side, shielding a baby from direct sun. I wondered, will those babies ever know how much their father or mother or grandmother loved them that they would do this?

A few photos of the Chapel of Apparitions, the people and more… We stayed only a short while so we could rest before returning in the evening.

Back at the hotel outside of the dining room, I saw this… Closed it would look like any other cabinet. I wonder if there is a specific name for this.

And just because…

When we returned in the evening, we found people gathering on the steps of the basilica and around the Chapel of the Apparitions. We estimated there were 25,000 present. All joined in praying the rosary in several languages that somehow all blended together.

Afterwards we joined in the candlelight procession singing Salve Regina. Again, despite the number of people present it felt very peaceful and instead of feeling crowded, it felt to me like breathing in a wide open space.

The next day we returned for Mass which was held outdoors due to the size of the crowd. It was a hot day and so along with many others, we tried to stay in the shade as much as possible. A few brave souls stood in the center.

We left Fatima after our noon meal, our stay feeling way too short and so I hope to return and explore Fatima and Portugal more fully. But since our goal was to walk the Camino, we gathered our things and started the next phase of our pilgrimage. More photos soon….

In September I prepared to go on a pilgrimage. My goal was to walk the Portuguese trail of the Camino de Santiago with my daughter and six other companions. Knowing we would be doing a lot of walking during this pilgrimage, I had been walking daily. I was pretty set for my trip but decided to go on a hike with a fully loaded backpack to determine how I would need it adjusted for wearing it for hours at a time.

My daughter and I chose to hike the overlook trail at a nearby nature center for our practice hike. The trails are well marked and include a variety of easy and challenging paths. At the overlook, which was about midway through the hike, I took this photo.

Though it had been a bit strenuous hiking to the overlook, I knew, or at least I thought I knew that going back would be easier. I’d taken off my backpack to rest for a moment while taking the photos and had put it back on without buckling all the straps. Starting back I was talking, not paying attention and tripped down a steep path. My loose backpack shifted and I pitched forward. I was able to turn enough to let my pack take the brunt of the fall. Though I suffered injuries to my arm and leg, I realized I could have been more seriously injured.

I also realized there was a lesson to be learned from my fall.. that the most important things for me to remember during my walking pilgrimage would be to be silent and to pay attention to where and how I walk.

This photo is of the walking trails.

This photo is of some journals I created from papers I made with paper pulp from recycled materials. My grandson helped bind one as a gift for my daughter.

I will be posting photos of the pilgrimage shortly…


This past weekend Benedictine Oblates came together for the annual Oblates retreat at Mount Saviour Monastery. We attended lectures led by Fr. Donald Raila, OSB, oblate director at St.Vincent Archabbey. Latrobe PA. In between the lectures, we enjoyed the meals with the monks, and the free time for resting, reflecting, taking in the beautiful autumn colors of the surrounding hills.

Some of the oblates that come to these retreats travel a distance. The time that we have between lectures and meals allows us to get to know each other a little better. As oblates we already have a lot in common in that we have made a commitment to daily time of work and prayer. I have also found that most of the oblates are involved in some type of work that is of service to others.

This fit right in with the theme of the retreat… Mercy, misericordia, compassion, kindness, commitment, service, hospitality. Fr. Donald also talked about the role of oblates, monks, community and how we support each other, encourage each other. We couldn’t have asked for a better weekend all around.

And on the topic of encouraging others….

During the weekend I had an encounter with a monastery guest, someone not part of the oblate retreat. He sought me out and asked if I was the author of the blog Perennial Grace. We talked for only a few minutes but it was long enough for me to realize my musings matter to others.

I have taken on a few things in the last few years that have left me with little time for writing. I have been helping to homeschool a grandson and I am in charge of caring for the women (and sometimes men) guests at the monastery, I sometimes facilitate groups, retreats and more. Along with everyday life and interests, my days fill up quickly and blog writing had taken a back seat to other things.

To this guest, you know who you are. Thank you, thank you for the encouragement to continue with my writing. There are times when this type of writing feels much like talking to oneself. It matters a lot that what I write impacts others in a positive way.

About the word Encourage. I collect words (keys) and after the encounter I mentioned above, I looked up some of my notes on the word encourage and courage. Here are a few…

When you encourage someone, you give him or her the courage or confidence to do something.


The word encourage comes from the Old French word encourager, meaning ” make strong, hearten.” Encourage can also mean to inspire with hope.

“Have courage,” we often say to one another. Courage is a spiritual virtue. The word courage comes from the Latin word cor, which means “heart. A courageous act is an act coming from the heart.

Finally, I must put in a plug for the new hoodies being sold in the monastery gift shop. We opened the boxes full of them on Monday and by the end of the week had only one left. They come in sizes S – XXL. They will soon be available for ordering through Mount Saviour Monastery’s website.


Thus am I a feather on the breath of God – Hildegard of Bingen

My word for 2015 was Dance. Dance, I have. On the first day of the year I joined a fitness club after hearing about the yoga and dance classes offered. Since then along with the usual walking and activities I do daily, twice a week I practice yoga, twice a week I dance. With little change to my diet, the extras pounds I was carrying have vanished. I am stronger, I have regained my balance.

As movement became easier, my reactions to everyday situations have become, if not always easier, at least more grace filled. Having rediscovered the joy of doing something I love, I am more open to trying new things or returning to some things I’d enjoyed but had set aside. How I use my time and my hands, how I interact with others, how I live, all have changed.

Towards the end of summer I agreed to care for a women’s guest house and guests at a monastery where I am an oblate. Shortly afterwards I co-facilitated a women’s retreat there. Surrounded by trees splendid in their autumn colors, we celebrated the seasons of our lives, we danced.

I tried not to think about my word for 2016 while still embracing the word Dance. Still, several words kept showing themselves to me. Most had to do with walking, way, path. I dismissed these words thinking they came to me because I am planning a walking pilgrimage sometime in the future and thoughts about preparing for such a walk is often on my mind.

Then as I do yearly, I celebrated Winter Solstice and the anniversary of my mother’s death and birth into a new life by participating in a group candlelight labyrinth walk. As we gather in a circle around the perimeter of the labyrinth, the candles are lit, participants blessed, the readings shared, and then the walk.

Up to the evening I’ve had a full day. A companion and I met with a man who restores books, documents, sacred texts. After a pleasant drive I was able to spend hours with this gifted man, exploring his workshop and tools, listening to his stories about traveling to other countries in order to help protect or restore their precious books and papers, looking through his photos.

I shared my experience of working in book repair and restoration in a library when I was a teenager. And about my love of old books and my knowledge of fibers and papers. Recognizing a kindred spirit, he gifts me with handmade paper and a video of the process for making Japanese paper. He also offers to give me ‘tuition’ in book binding when he comes to the monastery for a visit. Afterwards a meal with my companion feels like the breaking of bread, a blessing.

My ‘day’ is still with me as the solstice celebration starts, my mind wandering. When my candle flame flickers and dies out, I approach someone near me so I can relight my candle. My thoughts wander again, my flame flickers and dies, I once again light my candle. The third time the flame dies I notice that I am the only person having this problem. I feel as if my mother is nudging me and I think “alright already, I’m paying attention” and although my mother passed into her new life nineteen years ago, I feel her presence.

As I walk the path of the labyrinth I look down at my feet, at the pavers forming the path. They remind me of the floor around the altar at the monastery and how they form a star pattern. I often gaze at the bricks and stone in that floor and how they form a path that one could walk on. I think about walking, pilgrimages, my path in life and a song, Psalms chanted in chapel, that includes the words ” and walk in his way”. I am thinking that maybe there is a word in there somewhere and open myself to receiving what comes.

Two words have chosen me.

One of them is Mother.

The other is Pilgrim.

When I think of Pilgrim, I think of a pilgrimage, portal, ingress, guide, inner journey, mission. I am reminded of something I read by Henri Nouwen. He speaks of the questions we often ask about our futures, to which there are no answers. He suggests that instead of a great beam that would take shadows away, what we need instead is just enough light to see the next step: to do what we have to do in the coming hour or the following day. That when we are able to trust there will be enough light, we can walk with joy and be surprised at how far we go.

I am also reminded of something else by Henri Nouwen, it may have been from the same discussion or book. He speaks of times when we have to ‘step over’ some things, negative feelings and places. It does not mean we should ignore them, but that at some point we need to be done with exploring them and then move on, leaving them behind.

My Pilgrim prayer is that there be just enough light for me to see the next step, and what to step over, as I practice the art of living a step at a time.

Photos show the stone floor in Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel at Mount Saviour Monastery and the entrance steps to the chapel.


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