Our Father Andrew has gone from us to God. For this he was born; for this he responded to God’s call to enter the new monastery, Our Lady of the Holy Cross, when this community was less than three years old. As Father Andrew told me just ten days before he died, it was for this that he was ready to go to God, that he was prepared to go to God. Andrew’s was a holy death, being, as he was, at peace with God and with himself.
Many had heard about the new community of Trappists in Berryville in the early 1950’s. They were drawn to the monks’ dedication to God and they asked to join. But Fr. Andrew was the first of the monks who joined then who persevered in his vocation here. He professed his Solemn Vows in this church at Mass and a year later was ordained a priest for the monastery where he now rests. Over the years Andrew served the community in many important responsibilities: Prior, Novice Master, Infirmarian–almost everything but cook.
When his health began to fail five years ago, I discussed with Andrew the possibility of care from the Daughters of Charity at the Carroll Manor Nursing Home. Of course no one wants to reach that point; but he recognized the necessity and accepted it with the same generosity that he displayed in accepting everything asked of him for the community. And there, at Carroll Manor, he was a great support to our Brother James Summers. Before long, Brother Gerald joined them and then Father Edward–Andrew was there for each of them.
They had preceded him to their final rest and now he is once more with them. But for me, to have Father Andrew at Carroll Manor with our other brothers lifted a heavy burden off my shoulders. Although I visited our men as often as I could, I could count on Andrew to be alert to their needs and progress. His years as this Abbey’s infirmarian bore unexpected fruit there and he was all I could have wished for, given his solicitude for our brothers. I am so grateful for his generosity of heart and acceptance of God’s disposition of his life and gifts.
This past year father Andrew weakened greatly. When I visited him on September 16, he told me that he was ready to go. His voice was but a whisper though his mind was clear: he was ready to go home to God. His doctor helped me place him in Hospice care and then it was a matter of waiting on God’s time. And so he slipped away quietly in the early hours of September 27, eager to go, like a true monk.
Like the rest of us who have the sad task of burying our brother’s remains in the monastic cemetery, I feel his loss as you do. To you, Margaret, Andrew’s big sister, he is the second of your brothers that you have given back to God–Henry was the first. You and your three beloved children, Peggy, Richard and John, will feel deeply the loss of your brother and uncle. But you have the great consolation of knowing how truly happy Andrew was to choose as he did, answering God’s call to enter the monastery. My love and prayers, the love and prayers of this community, go out to you.
I know Margaret, that your faith is strong, the Catholic faith that your parents bequeathed to you; when a loved one dies, our faith is the greatest blessing we can know. We are sure that Andrew is with God and had reached his fulfillment as a Christian and as a monk. He sought only to fulfill God’s will and now he comes before the Lord with empty hands–empty, since anything he did in this life was God’s gift too him. Empty, so he can receive from the good Lord all the love and mercy God can give. And Andrew was indeed blessed with that humble trust in God’s love for him.
Do not let your heats be troubled…Have faith in me…I go to prepare a place for you…I will come back and take you to myself, so that where I am you also will be.
Many do not know such consolation, too many are fearful and unable to trust the Lord’s words. We who have faith can experience that peace of Christ which the world cannot give and our own peace of heart shows to any who would see, God’s love and providence for all people. Father Andrew would wish that peace of Christ to each of you today; and we can trust Andrew to intercede for us now to the Lord.