What is life all about?
(Community remembrance for Br. Alan)
“Think of Me in My human life more often, for in this way you will draw the power to imitate Me. You must take all the means: look at Me, call Me, love Me.”
December 11—Holy Hour.
Bossis, Gabrielle. He and I (Kindle Locations 3083-3085).
Pauline Books and Media. Kindle Edition.
When a community member dies, after a few days, the community will gather to talk about the departed brother, and to share experiences that each had with him.
What is a human life? Who are we, and what? St. Paul says that we do not at this time know that answer, but it has a lot to do with our rootedness in Christ Jesus.
Last night we gathered to discuss Br. Alan. These are important events, and in the past, I would skip some of them because of my closeness to the monk who died. It was a cop-out I know since I have trouble showing deep emotion in front of a group, even my community. Though, as time goes on this is lessening.
As each monk shared their experiences with Br. Alan, he became more real after each revelation. For myself, I am very happy that I was able to be one of his caregivers. I learned a lot about him, and also experienced his sense of humor, his deep faith, as well as his crankiness, that often comes with old age. I see this in myself. I can be quite cranky at times if I do lose touch with myself.
I had an interesting experience this week that showed me what it will be like when I die. For almost 50 years I had the same room, same bed, same bookcases, and a big desk for the last 30 years. As well as the same carpet. It was a good place for me to go and pray, read, or just relax with a book of light reading. For the last 7 years, I also have a room in the retreat-house that is set aside for the guest-master. So my ‘real’ room has not been used all that much. Yet it was my room. I have found that if a room is not really used, it in some way dies, becomes a stranger of sorts, and the process of the growth of chaos seems to speed up. Even though I would keep my room neat, it still became chaotic, at least to me.
The rooms in my wing are being redone. We are doing away with carpet, and putting in floors that look like wood but are of substance that is quiet, not tile, and easy to take care of, and yes, much easier to keep clean.
So I cleaned out my room, divested myself of many years of ‘stuff’, and now have a new space that I have vowed to keep simple. It is books that I have to worry about. Once I get a book, I hate to let go of them, but now I will simply not keep a book after I read it, unless it is something that I know that I will reread. I have a small collection of books like that, and I find that a good aspect of getting old. I no longer have to read a great deal, but simply go over older reads and get much out of each re-acquaintance. I still read new books of course, but the number has lessened.
So now when I pass by the room, while it is unoccupied for the time being, when I look into it, all new, all furniture removed, no carpet, there is no trace left of me, it is as if I was never there. I find the experience chilling, comforting, and challenging at the same time.
So with Br. Alan. He is gone, it is almost as if he was never here, but not quite. For we will remember him every year on the day of his death, at our community Mass, and the Divine Office. I have a picture of him on my prayer altar, as well as pictures, and memories of many others. Since we pray for the dead,, and believe that they are still part of our lives, it also brings them to mind. On All Souls Day, we pray for them as well. So our dead, in monasteries, are not forgotten. We also do not forget our family, friends, benefactors, and those buried in our 'green cemetery'. Well, we actually pray for everyone who has died.
Br. Alan, like all people was a complex, intelligent man, with a deep inner life and a deeper unconscious. We are all mysteries to one another, and not least at times, to ourselves. Yet in being with him, talking with him, has allowed me a little into that deep mystery that was the Alan that we all knew in our own ways.
Those who pray for the dead, do not stop, it becomes a natural part of life. We are connected in ways that we do not understand. The world is vast, the spiritual is vaster.
I believe that Jesus shows the reason for our lives. We learn that by looking at his life, and pondering how he related and spoke to others and treated them. He shows us the value of every human being.
We are called to love, to show mercy, and when we die, what we take with us is love, and we will be judged on love. Sounds soupy to you, well try living it out, you will find out that it will from time to time cause you to sweat blood, at least on the inside.—Br.MD
PS: Br. Alan is the 6th monk in the front row from your right as you look at the picture of the community