Happy Feast Day! Today, we've been celebrating the life and death of Benedict here at the monastery. Our priest in residence, a monk from North Dakota, had a wonderful homily sharing our Benedictine life and vows to the many visitors from the lake and from around town.
A central theme to his homily was the importance of community life. It was community life that I missed most while attending university in Milwaukee. Community becomes our family in religious life; my sisters hold me up in my times of need and I support them when the time comes. A small reminder of this care for each other happened yesterday during first Vespers. One of our elders who is 102 and has celebrated over 80 years of religious profession was seated in her wheelchair at the front of Chapel. Partway through organizing Vespers her carefully organized prayerbooks slid to the floor. Without missing a beat, another of the sisters slid across the aisle and shared books so prayer continued to flow. A small gesture? Maybe, but our life is filled with these little moments of community life; none of us can make it alone.
The statue in the picture is of the death of St. Benedict. This sign of community is in one of the central courtyards at the monastery of Monte Cassiono. Benedict is looking into the glories of heaven while two of his brother monks hold him up
to help him pray down to his last breath. This story was told in Gregory the Great's version of his life.
"In the same year when he was to leave this life, he foretold the day of his most holy death to some disciples living with him and to the day of his most holy death to some disciples living with him and to others living some distance away. He told the former to keep silent about what they heard and explained to the latter what kind of sign would be seen when his soul would leave his body.
"Six days before his death, he ordered his tomb to be opened. Soon he was attacked by fever and was weakened with severe suffering. As the illness grew worse every day, he asked his disciples to carry him into the oratory. There he strengthened himself for his departure by receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord. While the hands of his disciples held up his weak limbs, he stood with his hands raised to heaven and breathed his last breath amidst words of prayer."