Friday, September 12, 2008

In Remembrance of Father Thomas O'Connor

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine. Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord. Et lux perpetua luceat eis. And let perpetual light shine upon them. Amen.

I didn’t have the privilege of a long relationship with him but the few years that I did have, in fact, the few hours that I was privileged to sit, listen, and talk with him, are cherished pearls. This gentle, peaceful Benedictine monk made a remarkable impression on me, especially at an important transitional time in my life. I was at the confluence of two streams. One was flowing and carrying me into the Catholic Church. One was flowing and carrying me into Benedictine spirituality.

These two, in a real sense, became one stream in October, 2006 at St. Bernard Abbey when Father Thomas O’Connor accepted my First Promise as an Oblate of St. Benedict. I had, after decades of wandering, finally found my way home and it happened that Father O’Connor was the porter at the door who welcomed me in.

I received the news of Father’s death a few days ago at our local Oblate meeting at St. Joseph’s. I felt a tinge of deep mournful grief. I felt that I had lost a dear spiritual parent. I also felt great joy on behalf of Father O’Connor. He had left behind people who deeply loved him as a brother and a priest but, in leaving us behind, he had gone to where he desired to go. He had gone to see the face of the Lord whom he had so loved and served for many years. He died in his sleep at age 89, only a few days after being retired as Prior and Oblate Director at St. Bernard Abbey.

I always visit the monastery cemetery when I visit the abbey, walking slowly along the gravel pathway leading to it and the cemetery chapel, taking time to meditate on the Stations of the Cross as I walk. Before now there has been no personal familiarity with any of the names on the little crosses marking the graves of the brothers. These brothers, although I never knew them personally, are representatives of my own “Hero’s Hall of Faith,” role models in a world that desperately needs their testimony, one now quietly proclaimed by the markers that bear their names. Father O’Connor’s quiet, gentle voice now joins their quiet testimony, one that speaks louder than words. I'll visit Father when I'm there.

Draw near unto him,
O kingdom of priests,
You race set apart
For his sacred feast.
From burdens and sorrow,
From laboring cease.
For God will himself
Be our Sabbath of rest.

For the repose of the soul of Father Thomas O’Connor … Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women. And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.