Friday, September 9, 2016

      Father Cassian Folsom leads the monastic community at the Benedictine monastery in Norcia/Nursia, Italy.  While Norcia was the birthplace of St. Benedict, the founder of western Christian monasticism, until a few years ago, there hadn't been a monastery in his home town since the early 1800's. Fr. Cassian was picked to re-establish the presence. In this interview, Fr. Cassian talks about how the townspeople have welcomed them back, trust them, and enjoy the beer that the monastery produces.  He also talks about how those who've been diagnosed with cancer have come to confide in him, as he, too, has had that experience.
       The interviewer, Judy Valente, asked Fr. Cassian, "You’ve dedicated your entire life to seeking God, to service to others and to God. Did you ever feel, 'Gee, I deserve a little better than two diagnoses of cancer, a serious cancer?'” To which he answers, "It’s just a part of life, that’s all. I would say this: we can look at death as a thief or a messenger. A thief comes and steals what is most valuable to us, and so we’re afraid. A messenger who comes to tell us that our beloved is at the door, we respond much differently, don’t we? So that’s the kind of choice we have to make. Is it a thief or a messenger?"  And he observes, "As anybody who is diagnosed with cancer, it changes your life. I think it has given me greater patience, greater tolerance, looking at things from a 'not everything matters as much as you might think it does'.”
        Later on the same day that I heard that interview, Tim McGraw's song, "Live Like You Were Dying", came onto the radio.  I was surprised to hear it, since I'd never heard a "country" song on the station to which I was listening. So I guess I listened a little more closely, and the lyrics so much seemed to echo Fr. Cassian:

 I spent most of the next days
Looking at the x-rays
Talkin' 'bout the options
And talkin' 'bout sweet time"
I asked him
"When it sank in
That this might really be the real end
How's it hit you
When you get that kind of news?
Man, what'd you do?"

He said
"I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying"
And he said
"Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying"*

        This meditation is not meant to be a sort of "downer" at the beginning of a new academic year.  Nor was it occasioned by anything other than the coincidence of hearing these two things on the same day.  Quite the contrary!  At the start of any endeavor, such as a school year or a career, I try to hold in mind one of Steven Covey's "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People":  Habit 2 "Being with the end in mind".  That maxim often helps me stay on track, to avoid "mission creep" as I develop my agenda, or work on a paper/sermon. But, at the beginning of a school year, especially in light of Fr. Cassian's and Tim McGraw's "meditations", I think it's important to keep in mind that our focus on one "end" (i.e., finishing a paper or finishing school or getting the "perfect" job) can keep us from another, maybe more important:  making beer, or "Rocky Mountain climbing", or loving deeply.
        All the best for the coming months!



* Taken from  The official music video can be found here.

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