“The heart will linger in the place where its most cherished possessions are to be found.
Fundamentally, this is a spiritual connection that is not reducible to any particular experience, devotion, exercise, or activity – although it may subsist and express itself in any of them.”
(Fr. Michael Casey, Fully Human Fully Divine, 2004)
In the Spring of 2014, my 90 year mother Regina died. I was with her at the end and felt the instinctive desire to honour her whole Life in another way. Soon after I went to Regina’s place of spiritual connection, Tarrawarra Cistercian Abbey Yarra Glen, the home of her brother and best friend Br Leonardo. My uncle had died many years ago in 1999. His enduring presence and the companionship of his best friends, the monks, called me. I went unquestioning, not simply to grieve but instinctively to renew myself; and in another way to bring together my wider family. I was welcomed and at home. I returned lighter and deepened.
I offer this Sharing after a writing absence of three years, on the eve of my mother’s third anniversary. This time I invited three other deep friends and colleagues of Spirit Works to join me, for I was again called to the Abbey – this precious time to honour Fr. Carthage, Leonardo’s closest companion and confessor: “I’m struggling to reach 90…promising you a warm welcome if you can possibly spend a few days here. Devotedly yours, Carthage.”
In those few days each of us travelled profoundly within – far, wide and even beyond. My fellow Pilgrims had never been to a monastery and were not Catholics. I, in my seventh visitation at the Abbey, felt Present and vibrantly Alive. There was no place I would rather Be. My Being was Home.
For the first time ever, at 1.30 in the morning I awoke with an intense excitement to join with the monks at the 4am Church Vigil. I tingled with an excited desire to simply be there whether I knew or understood the ritual, chants or prayers, or not. I was in the Good Company of Love and Devotion. Nothing else mattered.
This deep sense of Love and Devotion came over me in the many interactions – big and small – fun and meaningful conversations at meal times, simply washing up, savouring the garden roses, watching the cows graze, naturally talking with uncle at the simple gravesite, and wandering the fields. Every place and space I encountered, I felt Met and Found.
The most tender and memorable moments were with Carthage, sitting with him, holding his hand, speaking about matters of Love and of his passing to come. He was at peace. I was profoundly grateful to be with such a dedicated Soul. With Fr Michael Casey, a world-renowned theologian and writer, I felt and still feel the Joy of sharing with such trustworthy Wisdom and wonderful wit! The lively conversation with Fr David, a retired Abbot full of vitality now at 80 years, regaling great stories and exuding active compassion. One of David’s key activities is to look after the infirmary: “It is my absolute pleasure to look after Carthage and the others. They looked after me when I was Abbot and busy. Now it is my gift to give back to them.”
All the monks, young or old, whether they tendered the fields and cows, remained in silent prayer, or cared for the many visitors and retreatants, all graced us with their collective Presence of Beingness. Each monk gives his Being into every act he does, every contact he makes. This rhythm, in their chants sung seven times throughout the day and night, through every moment, every year, flows for their Whole lives, and for the Wholeness of all lives. Now back home at Tree Song, I am deepened and renewed for I was given the grace to intimately Meet Love and Devotion. I Feel my Being and know I am creatively changed forever. For I too want to Meet the world with this enduring grace of Love and Devotion.
“What will we do? What are we ‘supposed to’ do? What does ‘God want us to’ do?… the answer I propose is Be!
Be creative, be interactive, be agape, give being, unite, be whole, be in every possible way, be new.”
(Dr Beatrice Bruteau, God’s Ecstasy, 1997)