Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was one of my spiritual heroes, a deeply spiritual man. He was Archbishop of Chicago from 1982 until his untimely death in December 1996. Shortly before his death, his book, The Gift of Peace was published. In it, he wrote how he came to deal with his terminal illness and how in the end, he accepted and welcomed his eventual crossing over to eternal life. The night his death was announced on the national news broadcasts, I broke into tears, moved by his courage in coping with his illness. Each year, I read this book to remind myself that in the end our fate is not of our own choosing but that of God’s and to have complete faith in him and to trust in him. Below is the letter that the Cardinal included in the book.
“As I conclude this book, I am both exhausted and exhilarated. Exhausted because the fatigue caused by the cancer is overwhelming. Exhilarated because I have finished a book that has been very important to me.
As I write these final words, my heart is filled with joy. I am at peace.
It is the first day of November, and fall is giving way to winter. Soon the trees will lose the vibrant colors of their leaves and snow will cover the ground. The earth will shut down, and people will race to and from their destinations bundled up for warmth. Chicago winters are harsh. It is a time of dying.
But we know that spring will soon come with all its new life and wonder.
It is quite clear that I will not be alive in the spring. But I will soon experience new life in a different way. Although I do not know what to expect in the afterlife, I do know that just as God has called me to serve him to the best of my ability throughout my life on earth, he is now calling me home.
Many people have asked me to tell them about heaven and the afterlife. I sometimes smile at the request because I do not know any more than they do. Yet, when one young man asked if I looked forward to being united with God and all those who have gone before me, I made a connection to something I said earlier in this book. The first time I traveled with my mother and sister to my parents’ homeland of Tonadico di Primiero, in northern Italy, I felt as if I had been there before. After years of looking through my mother’s photo albums, I knew the mountains, the land, the houses, the people. As soon as we entered the valley, I said, “My God, I know this place. I am home.” Somehow I think crossing from this life into life eternal will be similar. I will be home.
What I would like to leave behind is a simple prayer that each of you may find what I have found – God’s special gift to us all: the gift of peace. When we are at peace, we find the freedom to be most fully who we are, even in the worst of times. We let go of what is nonessential and embrace what is essential. We empty ourselves so that God may more fully work within us. And we become instruments in the hands of the Lord.
As I have said so often, if we seek communion with the Lord, we must pray. One of my favorite prayers is attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi. Let us conclude by reciting it together.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
Recently started classes online at Boston College and their School of Theology and Ministry. Taking classes through the Crossroads program which consist of non credit continuing education courses five to six weeks length in duration. Since I enjoyed going through the required reading which was part of my formation year at Incarnation Monastery and recently concluded reading list on the hermit life,I have wanted to take additional courses in Scripture, liturgy and the Rule for some time. I’ll be taking a couple of courses on the Gospels of John, Matthew and the birth of Jesus. Looking forward to the classes and the opportunity to study at one of the finest Catholic universities in the country. Also discovered on the websites for both Christ in the Desert Monastery in New Mexico and Stonebrook Abbey in England excellent commentaries for both the Rule of St. Benedict, the Divine Office,the Sayings of the Desert Fathers and Monastic History. I’ll be reading them throughout this year.
4 thoughts on “Oblate House Blog February 2022”
Ever since the very start
God was hiding in our heart,
GOD AS ALL, He plays each part,
God’s Love and Power is off-the-chart!
The vicious ego is so offended,
It’s many plots are now up-ended,
So now it has no place to go
it’s time to bow out of the show.
This is massive shift in story
to let God shine in all His glory,
Majestic Love as all – is vast,
We are each a star in His cast.
With Love to all,
Where was the picture taken ?
It was taken in the Cardinal’s private chapel prior to his daily mass.
I needed to read this today. It’s easy to loose Hope and be discouraged but your words shines through and extends God’s love, comfort and healing. Thank you.