The Deacon's Bench

Like a lot of people, I get inundated with pleas for money from various religious orders. But I claim a soft spot in my heart for a hearty band of Trappists who live in the homeland of my grandparents: they are the monks of Novy Dvur and Sept Fons, in the Czech Republic.

There, they have managed to transform an aging farm into a thriving and beautiful place of prayer. Spartan in simplicity, but elegant in design, the monastery is truly a work of architectural wonder and serenity. I was pleased to discover they have a multi-lingual website. Pay them a visit for more information.

Meantime, the newsletter that I receive from them has published this tribute to one of the monks, from 1953. I found it moving and humbling — and something for all of us to ponder as we trudge through the final days of Lent:

Small, sickly, always ill: from a physical perspective he was a loser. He was small, but sincere and generous, one of those small guys whom God likes and who is far from mediocre. Weak in all things, mediocre in nothing, great in the essentials.

He fulfilled his obligations as a monk with great diligence, and, above all, his obligation to come closer to God through a life of prayer. His praying was continual, intense. It was easy to observe, as he behaved so simply as a monk, without any human respect. During his comings and goings, he always held onto his rosary, full of holy medals. He would often walk with his rosary in one hand and his glasses case in the other, revealing papers on which were written exclamatory prayers; he would recite them, with gravity, while taking short steps. I had noticed his many daily visits to the church and to the various images of the Holy Virgin.

To maintain this practically non-stop prayer, Brother Jacques showed caution and delicacy. To avoid falling asleep, he would often change places during the same visit to the church; I never saw him doze off. Likewise, during the days spent in the vestry, mending stockings or folding handkerchiefs, he would place a small card in front of him on which he had written his favorite invocations: always seeking to satisfy the duty of finding God. These small means, used with constancy, require great energy.

I also remember a period when he was serving for me at holy mass. After communion, when he presented the cruets, I would hear him whisper, very intensely: “… with all the power of my heart, with all the power of my heart.”

He thus lived in prayer…

There’s much more. Visit this link for the rest.

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