Introit: If you, O Lord, should mark our sins, Lord, who could survive? But with you there is mercy and forgiveness.
Most of the old Abbeys have their cemeteries right next to the Church, walled in, with a big iron gate over which there’s a Latin inscription meaning:
‘Remember as you pass by:
What you are, I once was,
What I am, you will become. Pray for me!”
That’s what we do today in our Monthly Mass for Dead:
Remember the names and faces of all our deceased relatives, friends, benefactors, all our dead monks, and pray for them.
Knowing that, one day, the Church will be praying for us!
Loving Father, you are our Creator, it was you who knit us together in our mother’s womb, do not discard the work of your hands, Lord have mercy.
We are sinners, yet you trust us with the Precious Body and Blood of your Son, Christ have mercy.
We have strayed, yet you send your Holy Spirit to forgive our sins and put a new heart within us, Lord have mercy.
The Gospel: Matt 6:19-23
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.
But store up treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
“The lamp of the body is the eye.
If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light;
but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.
And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”
After the Gospel:
We join an Abbey to stay there for the rest of our lives, and ultimately, to die and be buried there.
At Gethsemani, all of us have seen at least one death, been part of the continual Vigil beside the body, then watched as the body was lowered into the grave, back to the mother earth from which it was taken, the common ground which bears us all.
Each Brother we buried expected prayers after his death.
That’s what we’re doing today.
Many of us remember Brother René Ritchie, who died ten years ago.
For some of us, he was Undermaster,
taught us how to mop floors,
how to bake large Communion breads early each morning from the wheat he ground for us,
how to mix cement and pour sidewalks,
how to drive the garden tractor, since we didn’t have golf carts yet, and we needed a little garden tractor to do small maintenance jobs, and trundle laundry carts back and forth up to the Family Guest house.
In what’s now our computer room, some of us helped him experiment making Bourbon Fudge as our new product.
It didn’t take much to see that Br René had a great devotion to Mary, or that he prayed the Rosary. His beads came from the plants he grew in front of the Retreat House, Job’s Tears, whose seeds became rosaries he made and gave away.
There always seemed to be a rosary in his hand, Job’s Tears, the beads getting more and more polished as they passed between his fingers.
When he died, at age 83, it was not easy, there was cancer in his jaw and throat,
but a rosary still in his hand.
During my last visit with him, as we reminisced about those ‘good old days,’
I reminded him of something twenty years earlier:
my final visit as a Monastic Observer,
we were over in the woods clearing away weeds from the Statues,
and I asked to leave early because the Vocation Director had set up our final interview,
to announce a YES or NO on moving ahead.
“I’m nervous, Brother,” I said. “Please pray for me.”
At which Br René held up the hand with the rosary, and said:
“I’ll finish this rosary for you.
Just have faith that, if God wants you here, He’ll get you here.”
Of course, there were so many memories about working with candidates and novices …
he didn’t remember that one,
But Br René smiled through the cancer,
reached out with the hand holding his rosary, and said:
“OK, I prayed for you then.
Now it’s your turn to pray for me. I’m counting on it.
And don’t forget to pray for me after I’m dead. I’m counting on that, too.”
Today is our chance.
Br René … and who else among our deceased relatives, friends, benefactors, all our dead monks…
Br. Rene Ritchie, OCSO
who else is counting on our prayers?