There are two good reasons why I should offer these reflections about Fr. Edmund: first, as his abbot and, second, because Fr. Edmund and I shared so much of our personal lives as monks together. We both entered this monastery at the beginning of the 1960’s when the Abbey was only ten years old and we received our novitiate formation together. After professing our solemn vows together in 1966, we were sent to Catholic University to study theology, driving to Washington weekly in our white pick-up truck, much to the amusement of faculty and students. Bishop Russell of Richmond came to ordain us to the priesthood here in this monastic church on May 19, 1970. There was much that Fr. Edmund and I shared together during those formation years of our monastic life. Now I have the duty to bury my brother monk of over fifty years in our cemetery, alongside all the monks with whom we lived so long and who have gone before us in the monastic life.
The call from God to a monastic vocation in the Church is a great grace and a solemn responsibility, a pure gift of God’s love to us who are called to this and to the Church. We hold a special place in God’s work for the salvation of souls. The Reading today from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans describes so dramatically the vocation every Christian shares in the redemption of God’s creation: The Spirit bears witness…that we are children of God…and joint heirs with Christ…if only we suffer with him that we may also be glorified with him. Fr. Edmund understood his life as a monk in this way: to share intimately in the sufferings Christ endured for us, that all might come to the glorious redemption as God’s children. The sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.
For the last three years of Fr. Edmund’s life, he needed to live at the nursing home in Washington, D.C., Carroll Manor, a decision which was forced on us by his deteriorating leg disease which left him completely bed-ridden. He accepted this final trial with equanimity and generosity of heart. It was certainly not what he would have wanted but it was what God had disposed for him. We are so blessed to be the recipients of the care and dedication shown to Fr. Edmund by the Daughters of Charity and their medical staff–and particularly by Edmund’s social worker, Tom Floyd–that same care and love they have shown to everyone of our monks who have needed their help.
Edmund William Flynn grew up in the strong Catholic Atmosphere of Scranton, Pennsylvania, in the 1930’s and ’40’s. He went to college at Notre Dame University and, finally, to the University of Illinois, where he was awarded a Ph.D in chemistry. There was break for several years between his college and post graduate studies, when Uncle Sam drafted Edmund to serve during the Korean War in the Nevada desert where his scientific expertise was put to good use near the government’s atomic test sites. He related how he was required to eat and sleep with a Geiger counter by his side. Was God preparing Edmund for the rigors of Trappist life?
Edmund’s older brother, Thomas Flynn, was already ordained a priest in the Diocese of Scranton. We are so grateful to have the retired Bishop of Scranton, Bishop James Timlin, come all this way to share our celebration; they had been in high school together. Edmund felt strongly led by our Lord to the young monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Cross, here in Virginia. He was accepted to enter in June, 1960 and remained here, with his community, through many changes in the life of the Church and of the Order, faithful to his vows and his monastic commitment to live as a true disciple of St. Benedict. The Wisdom of St. Benedict’s Rule for monasteries formed him and guided his life in Christ.
Fr. Edmund had many major roles in the service of this community over those years, having been appointed Treasurer while still in temporary vows, he prudently fulfilled the job for almost a half century. He served as Prior several times. He was our Guest Master, welcoming potential candidates to our life and greeting all those who came here seeking God more deeply. People found him a generous and wise spiritual counsellor. Beyond any such role, he was a faithful monk and brother to his community.
Now Fr. Edmund has come to the moment he long desired, reaching the fulfillment of his calling from God to enter the joy of his Lord. We pray today for our brother, Fr. Edmund, that whatever may still need purification in his soul may swiftly be accomplished by our prayers. We place the long life he lived with us in the hands of our merciful Lord, to receive him according to his promise to us in today’s Gospel: I go to prepare a place for you. I will come back again and take you to myself, so where I am you also may be.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.