MAY 26, 2011- 60TH
ANNIVERSARY OF FOUNDING OF ABBEY OF THE GENESEE
COL 3:12-17 ;
SIXTY YEARS AGO today
marked the founding of this community of the Genesee.
There can be no more fitting manner of commemorating the founding of this
monastery than by this memorial of our Lord’s Paschal mystery that continues to
serve as the living source of our community life as it has been for these sixty
years. The sacrifice of the mass is the spiritual stream from which the bonds
of community flow. The Eucharist itself, we do well to recall, is a memorial of
a unique character in that it not only calls to mind the events of our Lord’s
passion, death, and resurrection that took place some two thousand years ago.
This sacred offering actually makes them present in our midst here and now.
This is a divine mystery that transcends the limits of this material universe.
For Christ Jesus himself acts through his ministers at
the interface of time and eternity. At this altar we participate in a reality
that takes place in two spheres, belonging to our world of time and to the
spiritual world of eternity. Our Eucharistic gathering today remains the living
center of our community as it has been the heart of the whole Catholic Church
from the earliest days of its existence.
A few of us here today were present at the beginning of this
foundation when the word that a new foundation was to be made in the Genesee Valley. New York seemed distant in those days when
travel was usually by train. I myself recall only vaguely a brief meeting with
Father Gerard, the Prior at Gethsemani, who was named the superior of the
planned foundation. I was barely aware
of the detailed preparations, being a still in the solitary environment of the novitiate
that I had entered in 1950, less than a year before the designated brothers
left. The majority of the founders was young in monastic experience, and had
been novices with me, having only recently made simple vows when they left in
the spring of 1951. Then, as now, our country was involved in war being fought
in far away Korea
as a response to aggressive communist expansion. The general climate of the
country and of Europe in those years was
markedly tense due to the heightened threat of expanding communism. Among other
pressures there had recently been a general persecution to the Church in China
during that period.
Sixty years later as we review the history of this community
in the context of the larger developments in the Church and of world events in
light of today’s Gospel we have much to reflect upon. Jesus words in the Gospel
today remind us, even in this season when we celebrate his resurrection, that
entry into the true life is preceded by suffering: “you will know pain, but
your suffering will be turned into joy.” The suffering and death of three
officers of the foundation in the early years would seem to have been one of
the ways this prophecy was fulfilled in the life of our community: Frater Dennis, still in his twenties, the cellarer Father
Simon, the novice master, both died in the first year, and were followed in
death in just a few years by Dom Gerard, the first abbot, though he was still
in his forties. Our Lord went on to compare the new life he brings to
childbirth, accompanied by pain but resulting in a solid happiness. The new
born appears in the world through pain, but brings with it hope and new life.
A monastic community is a sign of that hope which faith in
the living, risen Christ makes present in the place in which it is planted. Saint Paul states the
reason very movingly in the first reading this evening when he writes to the
Colossians: “As God’s chosen holy ones and beloved, cloth yourself with sincere
compassion. . . . Be grateful; let the word
of Christ dwell within you. Teach and give advice to each other, in all wisdom.
With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God; and
let all you do in word and work be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving
thanks to God through him.” May this be the program we live out in the years to
come as we continue to witness as a community to the truth and vitality of the
Gospel revealed in Jesus our Savior. Ω
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