Brother Clem

 

Br. Clement was a very senior Brother when I came to the monastery. He was no longer able to work, but he spent many hours in prayer in church. I was always very edified to see him sitting in his regular place in front of the statue of St. Joseph. I do not recall ever seeing him with a prayer book.

In his latter days, shortly before he was confined to bed, he began to be a little addled. On one occasion a sign went up saying that we wanted to keep watch with him 24 hours in the day. It seems he asked someone for a match. He said he had cleaned up his garden and wanted to burn the trash. The trash it turned out was all the furniture of his cell. A match there might easily wipe out the monastery. I got to know Br. Clement during the many hours of watching that I put in over a period of six month or so. He had no idea why he had so much company.

Once he was no longer considered a threat and the watching stopped, I continued to visit him. Although he was not all there, he had some lovely pious expressions that impressed me. After he had died, I wrote some of them down on 3 x 5s. Because at one point Brother had noted that he and Fr. Abbot Ignatius were very special friends and that Fr. Abbot would come to him for a blessing before he went on his longer trips, I thought it would be nice to show my notes to Fr. Abbot and did.

He called me to his office after he had read them to thank me and to talk a bit about Br. Clement. Among other things he remarked that on his Bona Opera, an instrument of good resolutions for Lenten practice submitted by the monks to the Abbot every Ash Wednesday, Br. Clement put down that he would visit the cemetery twice a day during lent. At the time he took such short steps that the walk to the cemetery must have taken close to a half hour.

I was so edified by that that I began putting in my Bona Opera each year that I would visit the cemetery to pray for the dead once each day. That was in 1945.I am sure that I never mentioned this practice to anyone for almost 50 years. It was a private and personal devotion prompted by the piety of that old, addled monk.

Then for the next few years before I had to give it up the practice because of physical disability, I would collar anyone within reach to tell them the story of how a young, idealistic monk was so touched by the old manís piety that he imitated him in a small way for almost the rest of his life. The power of good example continues to touch hearts. That confused old man so touched me that I continue to admire him and try to imitate his devotion to this day.

Copyright © 2003 Saint Meinrad Archabbey