Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

God's Future

The weather was absolutely perfect for Francis' memorial service. The sun shone, a breeze blew off the Cooper River, and it was merely warm instead of oppressively hot. Golden sunshine mixed with the shadows of the huge oaks and tangles of Spanish moss rocking in the breeze.

Sadly, it was Friday, the beginning of the Labor Day weekend, and the expected crowd of a thousand or more turned out to be more like a couple hundred. Even a great man's death can't compete with vacation plans, it seems.

A small ensemble of strings and woodwinds played a few pieces between speakers. A half-dozen people took to the podium to eulogize Francis' various achievements. The governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, spoke of Francis' political achievements; an activist spoke of the abbot's environmental work to preserve the local landscape and historical sites. These were all nice remembrances, certainly intended to be tributes to the breadth of Francis' abilities and achievements. But they all seemed so superficial, compared to the man himself, and his primary spiritual vision. A fellow Trappist spoke, and quoted extensively from T.S. Eliott's The Four Quartets; he, at least, seemed to understand the via negativa that Francis had followed, forsaking the relative known for the eternal Unknown. But even he portrayed Francis in terms of childlike innocence, which did not fit at all, and even did a disservice to the complexity of the man. One slight woman got up and chirpped about the father's musical accomplishments; she sounded like a freakin' brochure for the Low Country.

But then, at the end, Father Stan got up, and read from a letter from Francis himself. This is what he read:

I came home to Mepkin for good on March 16, 2006, and this is where I will

I am now with God. He is my only option... The cancer is very active...
I cannot leave the monastery, literally. I use a cane. I must withdraw a lot
from the community for rest, especially in the afternoon. Yet I am always here
with them, in a way I never was before... The brothers are extremely solicitous
and tender. We are moving forward with this illness together, much united, much
concerned for one another, and discovering a fraternal love that I have never
tasted before. Now that some months have passed, we are learning to trust the
time God gives and to plan for the future and not weep about the past. Instead,
we weep with joy about the future, God's future, not Mepkin's.

God has spoken. His Word has changed me into a contemplative which I
never thought I would become. By that I mean I feel totally taken over by God.
Quite literally I have no one else. Nor do I wish for any one else. My deepest
desires flow out of this experience. I want to share this with you, the Region,
those who are dearest to me in the Order. I wish that you would pray with me for
this Mepkin community. This is how we remain united, when we pray with and for
each other. In this unity of prayer, let us determine to run together...toward
the heavenly homeland. It is closer to all of us than we think.

I wept. I knew that that was what I had come here to hear.


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