Tuesday, November 24

St. Therese and the Requiem Mass for Father de Feydeau

November 18th : Preached this morning from the requiem by the Prior, Father Anderson - who on Saturday buried his own mother.

+ Requiem Mass
The Reverend Father Dom Francois de Feydeau de Saint-Christophe November 17, 2009

For unto thy faithful, O Lord, life is changed, not taken away: and the abode of this earthly sojourn being dissolved, an eternal dwelling is prepared in heaven (Preface of the Dead)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ;
My very dear Brother Monks,

The words just quoted from the Preface for the Requiem Mass express the Faith of the Church that shines in the face of the darkest trial that assails the human heart—that is to say the sad reality of death.
Rooted in the Most Precious Blood and water that poured forth from the side of the Savior on Calvary, the Faith comes to our aid in this moment of sorrow, reminding us of Christ’s eternal victory over sin, the world and the “enemy death that shall be destroyed last, until he hath put all his enemies under his feet”. (I Cor. 15:26)

Sharing in this same Faith and making it “earn interest” like the good servant of the parable, that great Theologian of the Little Way, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus of Lisieux gives us her particular insight into the reality of bodily death. As she neared her own end at the age of twenty-four this young Doctor of the Church made the boldest of
affirmations: “I die not; I enter into life.” When a man or a woman--in particular a religious--comes to that crucial moment of the great passage to the other side of things, the truth comes forth without pretention. Saint Therese affirms her belief in eternal life, not in order simply to comfort us, but rather because it is the truth.

Of course, the Saint of Lisieux did not mean to dismiss the possibility of Hell or Purgatory, but having made her great discovery concerning the Merciful Love of God, to which she consecrated herself as a victim of Divine Mercy, she simply was beyond doubting that the Judge of Heaven and Earth would forgive her every fault if she only remained small--very small--with the trust of a little child. And lest we be tempted to think that it was on her merits as a Carmelite nun that she felt so bold in presenting herself to the just Judge, she affirms categorically that she will appear before Him with “empty hands”, that is to say without the merits any good works to speak of--save her childlike confidence itself.

Saint Therese liked to quote the line from that other great doctor of Carmel, Saint John of the Cross, who said that “on the evening of this life it is on love that we will be judged”. Although she felt quite incapable of performing the feats of asceticism that we so admire in the great Saints, she knew for a fact that there was immense love in her heart—better yet, she knew that her vocation was to be the love in the heart of her mother the Church.

As we prepare to commit the mortal remains of a beloved monk to the earth, to that very earth from which the first man was taken, we do well not to forget the luminous path traced by so many saints—from Our Blessed Father Saint Benedict to Saint Therese of Lisieux--that have illumined the world and transfigured the experience of death. Above all we must not forget what Our Lord said about the need for the grain of wheat to die, in order that it not remain sterile but produce much fruit. If we cannot help feeling the bitter grief of seeing a father and brother stolen away from the visible plane of our existence, we must not act like the pagans of yesterday and today, who live without real love in this world and without hope for the next.

May Our Lady of a Happy Dying, Notre-Dame du Bien Mourir, so venerated at Fontgombault Abbey, our mother-house in France, who manifestly helped our brother through the narrow passage of his last days, obtain for us all to die so well. Thus having followed the path of our monastic spirituality, in imitation of the Ecce, Fiat of the Virgin of Nazareth, may we all come to take our places in the eternal liturgical celebrations of Heaven in the presence of God and of the Lamb. Amen.

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