Fr. John Braganza, OSB
Abbot, Westminster Abbey
Mission, British Colombia
A crazy thought for each of us: one of the deepest motivations of my faith and my vocation has been this: my life began not in my mother’s womb but in the heart of my Father in heaven who knew me in his Son Jesus before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:3-6). The craziness of this thought came through my faith in God’s Word and in the example of married love and joy of my parents. The love of my parents was such that up to 18 years of age I was certain that to find happiness I should marry and have a large family. However, the love of God was such that the love he put in one human heart, through these parents, was too much for just one person! He wanted me for Himself and me for all his children, his Church.
At the heart of my vocation was one thought: I wanted to do now what I would be doing for all eternity. I was impatient! Little did I realize that St. Benedict in his Rule actually exhorts his monks to “do now that which will profit them for all eternity.” But what does one do in eternity? I was certain of one thing – all creatures praise God, rejoice in Him who has created them and redeemed them. This insight of praise is how I came to see the centrality of the Liturgy in the monastery – “to prefer nothing to the work of God.”
As human things go many men and women dedicate the largest portion of their lives perfecting one profession and still cannot achieve a permanent perfection – death or/and age grips everyone.
As divine things go, what work can we speak of? Creation is his masterpiece – but man and woman fully alive to praise him, is his glory. Yet who can boast that he knows how to praise God perfectly, unless we speak of Jesus, the Son of God, true God and true man? So every Benedictine monk makes his life-long profession the careful study of every word and action of the Son of God, through the liturgical celebrations which are nothng else but the daily sacramental memorial of His Life. And he may repeat this yearly cycle for 60 years or more! But of all Jesus’ actions his culminating act and word, which summarized his whole life was His Passion, Death and Resurrection: Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. To bathed in this fountainhead of the Gospels is to understand the Divine Master from within. At the Easter Triduum the personal love of each monk and the monastic community’s raison d’ étre is revealed. All humanity and the universe is held together by this mystery of God’s love! So is the monk and the monastic community.
And what has an Abbot to do with such a focussed life? To keep that focus on Jesus in all the activities and prayers of the individual monks, and the community as a whole. To do that he must become a father, a brother, a friend, a confidant, a support, a judge, an intercessor, a wise physician of souls, a gardener with pruning skills, a planter of seed, a cleaner of toilets, a washer of feet and a punching bag at times! All so that God may be glorified in all things and that souls may advance joyfully, peacefully and steadily to God and so arrive at eternal life. To be like Him, to do His work, to find Him in all and return all to Him. Crazy isn’t it, this side of Eden?