Wednesday, January 9th, 2019
Chapter 7 First Reflection- The Death of His Uncle
He Returns Again to his Parents, and Again Endeavors to Obtain Their Consent for him to go to La Trappe
by Timothy Hughes Duff
Now that we return to ordinary time in the new year of 2019, it is time once again to reflect on the life of our patron.
The death of Benedict Joseph’s uncle (pastor of Erin) left an impressible mark on his spirit. Death can certainly do that. The event is a moment of grace not only for the person who dies, but also for those left behind who had a close relationship with the deceased. Fr Marconi comments: “It is in this school of death that true Christians are formed to virtue…God immediately becomes the only object of his desires.” P1
For Benedict Joseph, this was a spiritual experience. The death of his uncle pushed him into a more contemplative and pious state. Fr Marconi recalls that these reflections gave our saint a stronger desire for solitude. The vocation to religious life became first and foremost in his mind and heart: “ He increased the number of prayers and doubled his fervor in his devotions, and by the practice of penance and in particular, mortifications, he laid deep the foundation of that life poverty, austerity, and self-denial which he afterwards carried to so great a degree of perfection.” P2
At this time, Benedict Joseph petitioned his confessor (the author) to hear another general confession. Fr Marconi recounts that it was this state of mind that rendered Benedict Joseph more ready to live the religious life.
Immediately afterwards, he petitioned his parents once again for their consent to leave for the monastery at La Trappe. However, he met with more of a repulse this time than in the past. Not only his mother but also his whole family was now against his decision. Benedict Joseph continued his penance and prayer and waited for Divine Providence to answer.
His family observed his penances and prayer and they were moved with compassion. At last, he won out and his parents consented. Our saint was filled with peace and consolation at last. What a trek he would soon make.The eighteen year-old Benedict Joseph had to walk across the French Alps to reach the monastery of La Trappe. He was resolved and showed more firmness and resolution for his vocation. The long deadly trip only increased his zeal and determination to visit holy place. What would happen to our saint?
Fr Marconi states: “He now thought himself secure of the object of his wishes, but here he found a new trial of his virtue, where he has hoped to have found a place of rest and repose.” P4
Just recently the monastery has lost quite a few of its members due to the religious state of their rigorous way of life. The Abbot, with the advice of others, had just passed a rule at La Trappe that there woud be no more admissions to the monastery unless candidates were already formed and proved capable of conforming to their rule and strict way of life.
When they saw our saint and now, how feeble and sickly he was currently, due to his long journey, along with severe penances he had been practicing, they did not accept him.
Fr. Marconi reiterated that the regret of the experiences could not be expressed properly. St. Benedict Joseph was devastated but he bore it with the patience and resignation which gave him the grace to grow in holiness. Fr. Marconi calls him a “true Christian” when referring to our patron at this time and states: “He immediately returned again to his father’s house, to wait with submission to the decrees of Divine Providence for a more favorable time to put his project into execution.” P5 One could imagine the state of Benedict's health once returning home yet once again.
Prayer after this week's Reflection
by Anne Costa
Heavenly Father, give us the grace to grow in holiness in the same way that you equipped our Saint Benedict Joseph. Help us to bear our disappointments as he did, with total trust in your divine providence. When we are filled with anxiety or fearful of the unknown, let us remember that you will come to our aid to sooth our hearts and quiet our minds. Jesus, we trust in you. Amen.