Note: Fr. Julian reflected on gratitude in the annual report
published earlier this month for The Einsiedeln Society, a Saint
Meinrad donor recognition society.
There is a wonderful novel about a monastery of Benedictine nuns
in England titled InThis House of Brede by Rumer Godden.
It was made into a movie in the 1970s, and it has been one of my
personal favorites for the past 30-some years.
One poignant scene has the Lady Abbess giving a consoling word
to one of the nuns: "When everything seems too much for you, go
down to the bottom of the garden, and turn, and look back up here
at Brede, riding against the sky like a great proud ship, and think
of all of us within, think of those who were here 100 years ago,
and those who will be here 100 years from now, this long unbroken
line of care and companionship.…"
Then toward the end of the movie (seemingly some years later),
that same nun is departing to be part of a foundation in Japan, and
she tells the Lady Abbess: "I hope that it will be just enough like
Brede that in a hundred years our Japanese sisters can go to the
bottom of the garden and turn, and feel this unspeakable pride and
gratitude, a sense of belonging, not just in the House, in the
When I was asked to reflect on gratitude with regard to my
vocation as a Christian, as a monk of Saint Meinrad and a priest of
the Church, I immediately thought of these scenes from In This
House of Brede. For one thing, to me, gratitude is a lot about
remembering. It's about remembering all those who have loved me
into being - family and friends who have helped to make me who I am
It's about remembering my maternal grandmother, who used to take
me to church with her and instilled in me a love for cooking and
baking. It's about remembering the stories of ancestors in the
faith and forebearers on the Hill whose legacy I have been called
It's remembering my confrere Br. David Petry, who when I (as a
young monk) complained about some work, simply said, "Brother,
sometimes we have to do things we don't like to do." Meanwhile, he
himself was in the end stages of liver cancer.
It's remembering that I am part of something much bigger than
myself, my world, my immediate concerns and circumstances.
But gratitude isn't all wrapped up with the past; it is very
much connected to the present. It's about being mindful of those
who accompany and support me now through my "middle years." I'm
fortunate to still have both my parents in this life, and a little
sister who has grown up to be a great friend.
It's about acknowledging the people who touch my life in so many
different ways - some very constant and personal, others more
removed and occasional. There's the nurse I worked with during my
Clinical Pastoral Education over 25 years ago who still calls me to
get together for coffee, and the parish secretary who "took care of
me" on a weekend assignment.
It's about understanding that people who are in my life today
are part of the unfolding of God's mysterious plan, whether they be
friend or foe. Simply saying "thank you" for the people and the
resources that make it possible for me to be who I am today, doing
what I do.
And for me, gratitude is forward looking, about promise and
possibility. It's knowing that there will be others to follow me -
in the world, in the Church and at Saint Meinrad - who will carry
on where I leave off, building on what I've done, transforming it
to meet the challenges of their day. It's the seminarians who I
hope will be better priests than I have ever been, and the young
monks plodding through my Latin class.
Like so many things in life, gratitude is a dynamic that can wax
and wane. I'm not always so mindful of all the graces operative in
my life. Sometimes I need to stop, and remember to remember.
So when things seem too much for me, I walk down by the lakes,
and I turn and look up at the Saint Meinrad complex, riding against
the sky like a great proud ship. And I connect with that sense of
belonging, that feeling of unspeakable pride and gratitude - for
all that has been, all that is and that which is yet to be.