Saturday, June 4, 2016
A LIFE WELL-LIVED
Friday morning (June 3), our senior monk, 86-year old Fr. Boniface Treanor, O.S.B., was not at 6:00 morning prayer. When one of our novices was sent to check on him, he found him dead in his room, apparently preparing to come down for prayers. Since, despite the many infirmities of old age, he had been working at his job in the business office the day before, his death came as a surprise -- to the extent that the death of an 86-year old can be considered a surprise.
I went up to his room to say a prayer, and found the EMT people there making phone calls and filling out forms. So, after saying a brief prayer and a sad goodbye to my friend Boniface, I went down to church to sit for awhile.
As I entered the dark church, the tower bell began to toll. One of the four bells that rang out with joy on Easter morning was now tolling slowly, one ring for each year of Boniface’s life. I sat in the back of the church, which was beautifully decorated for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and started to think about Father Bon.
A bittersweet mixture of memories began crowding in on me: the algebra teacher who would give you a smack if you made a really silly mistake, the rabid fan of both the Yankees and the New York Giants, more and more time spent alone in church in the past couple of years, his work in the business office -- which included badgering staff members to get their credit card receipts in, a brother who willingly did whatever was asked of him by the abbot or the school’s headmaster. I remember how, in the mid 1970’s he helped with the bicycle hike by driving the “sag wagon” that accompanied the student bikers, which required sleeping in a pup tent.
All of these memories came back as I sat listening to the bell toll away the years of his life. I watched as several red vigil lights, part of the decorations for the solemnity of the Sacred Heart, shone by using themselves up to give light to the feast. Straight ahead of me, the tall paschal candle towered over the baptismal font, summarizing Fr. Boniface's life in Christ, from his baptism to his homegoing an hour ago.
As the bell kept tolling, I got a sense of how many years he had spent faithfully living his life as a monk. The years kept slowly tolling and tolling. The sound was chilling, as it reminded me that some day it will be tolling for me.
My thoughts and my mood began to grow more and more somber as each passing year was rung away, and the number drew ever closer to eighty-six. Then I noticed that the birds outside the half-open stained glass window were chirping loudly as they do every morning at sunrise, and so I glanced toward the window and saw that the sun was already up and bathing the garden, the church and the monastery in its warm, life-giving rays. Christ, our Light, was dawning.
At that moment the tolling stopped, leaving in its wake a strange, hollow silence for a minute or two. Feather Bon’s earthly life was over, and a new day had dawned; for us monks another day on earth, and for him, his first day in heaven.
Thank you, Bon!Rest in peace.