Saturday, July 16, 2016



Fr. Mark O.S.B. 1951-2016
A week ago today I visited Fr. Mark Payne, O.S.B. in the hospice facility. My friend and colleague since 1974 was comatose,but surrounded by a dozen people who loved him: family, fellow monks, friends, and former students. His Alzheimer’s disease had progressed rapidly in recent months, and even more rapidly in just a few days.

Fr. Mark passed away the next afternoon. My relationship with Fr. Mark was very different from my relationship with Fr.Boniface who died five or six weeks ago, such that I really don’t want to do another of those “funeral posts.” If you’d like to know more about this extraordinary man, and read the abbot's funeral homily, you may click here.


I spent three days preparing for Mark’s funeral: gathering musicians, deciding on music, double-checking the details (will the vocalist be able to sing the offertory song if we transpose it to the key of D so the tin whistle can play it?), printing up the worship aid (do we have enough blue paper?). The music was a true community effort involving about twelve instrumentalists and singers,and I was delighted to be part of it.

Just the same, though, by Thursday morning, the day of the funeral, I was feeling harried and worn out. I was assigned to say mass for the Benedictine Sisters in Elizabeth at 7:00 a.m., and preached on the passage that includes Christ’s words, Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”  

During my morning meditation, as I read the passage in Greek, I was delighted to see that the word “labor” translates a Greek word that comes from the root verb “to hack, chop.” So my private translation that morning fit my mood perfectly: “Come to me, you who are feeling as if you’re being  chopped up, and I will give you rest.”  I sat with that passage, and let the Lord give me rest.

The second half of the passage reads “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” Those adjectives would allow for this interpretation: “Learn that you depend on God for everything, and God will take care of you.” That was an even better point for my meditation.


This morning, still recovering from the busy week of preparing and grieving, I read the gospel for tomorrow (Sunday), the story of the sisters, Martha and Mary. Once again I went to the Greek, and found another interesting word in the passage, “Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me.'”  The Greek word “burdened” has the connotation that could allow us to translate the phrase as “Martha, who is in an emotional uproar with much serving….” This was a salutary encouragement, now that the hectic week is over, to return my Benedictine balance of  praying and working, of Mary’s “seeing” and Martha’s “doing.”

So, while I admit to getting slightly “chopped up” this week, I think I avoided getting into “an uproar” over the busyness. In any case, now I can rest, and take some time to grieve.

Rest in Peace, Father Mark!

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