No secret - I love the monastic life. Had I arrived on this Earth a different gender, drawn to a different denomination and with a different calling......I would have been a monk. Spend my days with the liturgy of the hours and like minded people in a community of prayer? Sign me up. As it turns out, that is not my calling, but the life I live is forever better from time spent in their homes.
The Abbey of Gethsemani will forever hold a special place in my life as the first monastery where I spent much time with the daily office. But, in recent years, mostly due to location, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA has become a second home to me. The schedule is rigid, but the monks are more laid back, easy to talk to, and several have a
Father Corley was the first monk to welcome me the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. He was animated and friendly and such a wonderful example of one content to be living out his true calling. He died last week just 2 months shy of his 100th birthday and I've been thinking ever since how much I love the way monks care for the sick and dying.
The monastery infirmary has 10 rooms and 4 additional rooms serve as assisted living. Brother Amelio had this to say about caring for one of the monks dying there -
"I am amazed at his calmness, something I am sure that I would not have if it was me going through this procedure. He is a man of deep faith, prayerful, kind, thoughtful and insightful, so he has a lot of maturity that he is bringing with him to the table. I suppose his whole life has prepared him for this moment. It is no accident that he is this way, his maturity is based on a multitude of small choices over the years, that have led him to be the man he is today. Growing old in a graceful manner is not an accident, at least in my opinion."
They care for each other. They are committed to working out their differences and living together in harmony. The strong help the weak and the weak accept support when needed. In my experience there, the living care for the dying and the dying inspire and encourage the living. And not just physically. It's a place where you can be whatever you are at the moment. Strong, weak, questioning, filled with answers, assured, insecure, angry, peaceful, hurt, confused......it's fine as long as you're committed to finding God at that particular juncture on your journey. And at the heart of those who love Him, who isn't?
The answers to death and dying in the monastic life are simple - Be there. Show up. Don't shy away from the heartbreak of death when people need you most. Be alive in your grief and be present every moment of every day. Come to think of it - that's how they do most things.
I'm grateful for Father Corley and the many monks there that allow fellow travelers to find Christ in all circumstances as a guest in their home. I've found many answers within those walls and will continue to. But, the next time I go, I'm pretty certain it will feel like someone is missing.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let your perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.