Celebrating a Life Lived in Love and Service

Father Raphael Simon, O.C.S.O. 1909-2006





SPENCER— Father Raphael Simon, OCSO, age 97, a Trappist monk of St. Joseph's Abbey, 167 North Spencer Road, died Sunday, November 12, 2006 in the Abbey infirmary after a long battle with cancer. Born Kenneth Alwyn Simon in New York City in 1909, he was a graduate of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), spending his third collegiate year in Germany studying philosophy at the University of Berlin. He received the degree of Doctor of Medicine from the University of Chicago, after which he interned at Oak Park Hospital in Chicago and as a clinical psychiatrist at Bellevue Hospital in New York. In 1940 he entered the Trappist monastery of Our Lady of the Valley in Lonsdale, Rhode Island, professing his life vows in 1946. He was ordained a priest there in 1947. After a disastrous fire destroyed the Rhode Island monastery in 1950 the monks moved to Spencer, Massachusetts, building what became St. Joseph's Abbey. Once the monastic community was re-established Father Raphael assumed duties at the monastery as a confessor, spiritual director, advisor, retreat master and published writer for many years.

St. Joseph's Abbey

Hammer & Fire

Hammer & Fire is a guide to Christian prayer and contemplation. In simple but evocative prose, the author - a contemplative monk, retreat master, and spiritual director - guides the reader towards discovering a deeper prayer life, and a closer union with God.

Fr. Raphael describes his approach in the book's Introduction: 

"The human personality is not fulfilled by the inauthentic, the false, the incomplete. On the contrary, these are the sources of dissatisfaction, frustration, warping of the mind and heart, anxiety, depression, neuroses, impulse and personality disorders.... To become fully human and alive, to be integrated and mature, to be effective in our service and undertakings, we need to be transformed into Jesus Christ through a transforming union, through which we become truly ourselves. This book is about that transforming union."

The Glory of Thy People

RELIGION, CHRISTIANITY, MEMOIR, CATHOLICISM, TRAPPIST MONKS: "The Glory of Thy People: The Story of a Conversion," by M. Raphael Simon, O.C.S.O.; Preface by Fulton J. Sheen, D.D. (Remnant of Israel, 1986, second edition). 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 Trade Paperback. 159 pages.

DESCRIPTION (from cover notes): "The spiritual autobiography of a Jewish psychiatrist, a convert to the Catholic faith, who left a promising career to become a monk in one of the strictest orders of the Church."

The Logo Institute:  Fr. Raphael - Formation of the Priest        Formation of the Priest - Download Free PDF

Hammer & Fire is a guide to Christian prayer and contemplation. In simple but evocative prose, the author - a contemplative monk, retreat master, and spiritual director - guides the reader towards discovering a deeper prayer life, and a closer union with God.

About Fr. Raphael Simon O.C.S.O.

Fr. Raphael Simon received his M.D. at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). He did psychiatric internships at Bellevue Hospital and Brooklyn State Hospital in New York City, and was psychiatrist at an institution for delinquent boys, Lincoln Hall, Lincolndale, New York. He became a priest in the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance and is a monk of Saint Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts. He has given retreats to the monks of his Order in the United States and Ireland and has been a retreat master and director for monks, priests and lay people. The story of his conversion from Judaism is told in his book The Glory of Thy People.


Praise for Hammer & Fire

"It seems that God raises up, for each era, a spiritual master to write a guidebook for those who desire to make progress in the spiritual life. 
Past eras have had Thomas à Kempis' Imitation of Christ, St. Teresa of Avila's Way of Perfection, and St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life. Today we have Fr. Raphael Simon's Hammer & Fire, whose author, a Jewish psychiatrist turned Trappist monk, integrates the wisdom of past spiritual classics, his own experience as a contemplative monk, and a deep knowledge of contemporary psychology, to produce a spiritual guide uniquely suited to our time. This eminently practical guide is an invaluable resource for the man or woman of today who is seeking to find the one true happiness in this life — union with God."
—Roy Schoeman, author Salvation is from the Jews


"Hammer & Fire is an accessible and inspiring guide to the riches of the Catholic faith. Those who have had the good fortune of having known Fr. Raphael as a spiritual director will appreciate that now many others can experience the clear, simple, and beautiful wisdom of his guidance. A son of Abraham and a psychiatrist, by God’s grace Fr. Raphael became a most faithful monk and son of the Church. I highly recommend this excellent and very orthodox book."
—Fr. Matthew Lamb
Chairman and Professor
Department of Theology
Ave Maria University


"With its message of God’s fatherly love and affection, Hammer & Fire is a blessing for every reader. The author's compassionate advice for those who suffer emotional ills addresses the necessary integration of the spiritual and psychological dimensions of the human person. As a psychotherapist who specializes in the treatment of emotional-spiritual afflictions from a Catholic perspective, I highly recommend this timeless work."
—Suzanne M. Baars, M.A., In His Image Christian Counseling


"In its discussion of sin, virtues, happiness, and prayer we return to basic Catholic teachings which are the underpinnings of mental health. As such, this classic may be even more relevant today than when it was first published."
—Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic


"A book worth reading and rereading."
—Steven Riddle, Flos Carmeli web log