Saturday, September 29, 2007

Last Post From Week II -- The Abbey Cemetery, and Thoughts on Work Unfinished

Looking out the church front doors, which are in the collage below, one can see down a path to the abbey's cemetery. It is a serene spot, surrounded by trees and flowers, and there is a secluded bench where I like to sit during the silent retreats. I don't especially love grave sites, so don't be concerned--but it really is a lovely spot.

This year I began the retreat with many conflicting ideas, questions, doubts and feelings of failure. Only an hour or so after arriving I entered the retreat center's tiny library. I don't know why I did, because we are encouraged not to read books but to concentrate on short passages of scripture. On the wall was something that may have been there during previous visits and remained unnoticed. Upon reading it, I hurried (as much as is possible when one is walking slowly) back to my little room for my notebook. I felt a great weight lift from my spirit. This was what I copied. The bold print is my addition. The peace it gave me was a precious beginning to the time of prayer and silence. I hope it encourages you as well.

Creating the Church of Tomorrow
Archbishop Oscar Romero

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

We accomplish in our lifetime a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.

Nothing we do is complete. Which is a way of saying that the Kingdom of God lies beyond us.

No statement says all the would be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the church's vision. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:
We plant seed that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.

Nothing we do is complete.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something and do it well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, or a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

Nothing we do is complete. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the Master Builder and the worker.
We are the workers, not the Master Builder, ministers not Messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

Later I took the notebook and my Bible and sat at the cemetery as the warm evening light faded. I pondered, what might these Norbertine priests and brothers, now gone from earth, have desired from life? Did they feel, as St. Paul did, that they had finished the course and kept the faith? Had they pursued the wrong things? Did they feel they were leaving too soon? Was work undone, spiritual seeds unplanted, unwatered or unharvested? (If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can see some of their names and dates of their deaths.) Yet here I sat, seeking new focus and direction for my own life and work, and I watched the sun set and listened to a large flock of Canadian geese excitedly honk encouragement to one another as they practiced their formations for the upcoming migration. Life was continuing. God's presence was with me, and God's divine plans will proceed. I am only a worker, not Master Builder, and I do not have to understand the end.
Glory be to Jesus, the author and finisher (Master Builder) of our faith!
Postscript: I wanted to know more about Oscar Romero, since his words touched me deeply. Here is an interesting and brief article if you'd like to know more as well.
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rev h-d said...

Thank you for this post! I read the poem and the article. It led me to post on my blog. Your retreat sounds amazing!

Anonymous said...

Coincidentally I am teaching on "serving" in a women's bible class this morning. I find that many Christian women/wives/mothers have trouble in this area due to not understanding what the bible teaches us about how (not just why) to serve& how not to serve. These words are an encouragement that I will share with them. (You minister far & wide dear Dorcas!) love, Maureen

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

(((Maureen)))) Sure do wish you were closer. I'm praying for the class.

zorra said...

On a more trivial note--you've been tagged!

Anonymous said...

Great post, The realization that I may not see my own endeavors for The Kingdom come to fruition gives me a clearer vision of the "bigger picture", and of the timelessness of God, the enormity of God, of His power, and of His Kingdom. Awesome!

Dr Laura Marie Grimes said...

Thank you for this quote dear Singing Owl--I may post it on my blog because it has a lot to say to us Independent Catholics in our pioneering little call.

Anonymous said...

A good comment it is, but from Archbishop Romero it is not. No reputable Romero scholars believes that he authored this or ever spoke it.

Check your sources better next time.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Anonymous, I apologize if this was incorrectly attributed to Romero. Not being acquainted with any "Romero scholars" I took the fact that it was posted in a Catholic Abbey, plus seeing it attributed to him elsewhere, as a relliable indication,

Anonymous said...

Rereading this, I see I was a bit snippy. Sorry about that! It isn't in your job description to be a Romero scholar. :)

This prayer, like the so-called "Prayer of St. Francis," has had such a widespread distribution with false attribution that I'm not surprised you would find a Catholic abbey claiming it was from him. Unlike the "Prayer of St. Francis," whose 19th century French priest authorship is pretty well documented, nobody has stepped forward to claim authorship of this wonderful piece.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

So are you a Romero scholar? I found what I read about him pretty compelling stuff. Well, whoever penned or spoke this piece, it certainly ministered to my heart. :-)