August 3, 2022
“The mercies of the Lord are renewed each morning –
So great is His faithfulness.”
These words might be seen as truly a summation of the life and spirit of our Fr Seamus, whom the Lord has now called to Himself. He was one who was truly aware of those mercies of the Lord and who strove to express that same mercy toward all whom his life touched.
He was born in Ireland and there quickly learned the extent to which the religious wars separated one from another. He responded to this with openness of mind and heart to all, but especially to any who might be seen as the under dog of society. This sympathy and openness to all extended throughout his life, in all of his varied ministries and vocations.
His life might be divided into periods of more or less twenty years. At the age of 17, he joined the Irish Christian Brothers and was a member of that Order for almost 20 years. After receiving his own education, he was sent to South Africa to assist in the ministry to that area. There he witnessed the conflict between the native Africans and the whites of the area. He sympathized with the oppressed of that society, particularly as he shared in the ministry of teaching those young men.
In due time, he returned to the States and continued in teaching. However, he felt the need to minister more directly to the poor and needy of society. “What can separate us from the love of Christ? If God is for us, who can be against us”. Accordingly, he felt called to the priesthood. He was ordained as a priest of the diocese of Palm Beach, Florida. He served in various ministries, including several years as rector of the Cathedral of St Ignatius. But such a ministry to the more affluent of society did not fully satisfy him.
However, while still in high school he had read the life of Thomas Merton and felt a call to the monastic life. And so, after twenty years as a Christian Brother and another twenty years as a diocesan priest, he applied to Gethsemani. “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”. By this time, he was already about 65 years old and was aware of the fact that most communities would not even accept a person of that age. However, he said to himself: “What do I have to lose? If they refuse me, at least I will know God’s Will.”
The Vocation Director was more hesitant about considering someone of his age. But Fr Damien, who was Abbot, felt that he would be a good possibility and accepted him. When the time came for him to be a novice, they asked him by what name he would be called. He said simply: “James”. But they explained that there was already a James. He told me later that he felt that I should simply give him the name and take another myself. But such did not occur. He was offered the name of Seamus – which is Gaelic for James, and he seemed satisfied.
During his years as monk, he filled a number of positions in work. For a time, he was Infirmarian. With his patience and charity, he fitted in very well. It was during that time that he became good friends with Bro. Giuseppe, who served also as Infirmarian. His care for the sick was marked by his charity and patience and understanding. Later he worked in the Laundry and then in the Gift Shop in the new Visitors Center. In that position he worked with Bro Camillus, who had also entered religious life very young. His artistic abilities made him perfect for that position. He was also very good in dealing with the many visitors who came. Later he was also Guestmaster and again made use of his ministerial abilities in dealing with the retreatants.
During his free times, he loved to indulge in artistic endeavors. He was no Lavrans, yet I suspect that if he had had the opportunities that Lavrans had, he would run at least a close second. Some of his artwork will be seen in the 2023 calendar.
In general, he was an excellent member of the community. He was one whom you could ask to fill in and he readily agreed. He will be sorely missed. He was one who exemplified the words of Jesus: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” He truly radiated this Christ in his person and his mannerism. He will be sorely missed.
We can now turn to him in prayer, asking him to send us more men to take his place, whether young or older. and to serve Christ with love and humility. That is what is needed in every monk who strives to express his love of Christ through his love and service of his brothers.
Fr. Seamus, we thank you for your twenty years of service to our community. You show us that age is not the first criterion for a monk, but rather humility and willingness to serve all for the love of Christ.