Local members of the Red Cross have organized a blood drive in memory of our beloved Fr. Dwyer, who died suddenly on October 6, 2021. See details on the poster below:
There will be a wake at Our Lady of Lourdes in Windsor from 4-6 p.m. today, followed by a vigil Mass at 6:00. According to Msgr. Putano, the vigil Mass will be live-streamed on the YouTube channel of St. Thomas Aquinas, Binghamton, “if we can get it going”. In any case, it will be posted later on the same YouTube channel. The link is: tinyurl.com/12W5eun.
The funeral Mass will be held tomorrow at Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica, NY, Fr. Dwyer’s home church, at 11:00. Here’s the link for he live streaming of the funeral
YouTube.com – search Our Lady of Lourdes Utica, NY–
Rev. Msgr. John P. PutanoSt. Patrick and St. Thomas AquinasBinghamton, NY 13905
We will be praying the Office of the Dead for Father at Matins, Midday Prayer and Vespers today.
Thank you all for your many comforting messages of condolence.
Our faithful chaplain, Father Robert Dwyer, entered into eternal life early this morning. He was on his way to pray in our chapel at 6:00 a.m., as was his custom, and fell next to the driveway. When Sr. Donald found him, at 6:25, he was trying to sit up, was saying, “Help,” but otherwise couldn’t speak. By the time the ambulance arrived, 15 minutes later, there was no heartbeat. The EMTs gave him CPR for what seemed like a long time and were ready to give up, when they detected a faint pulse, and so decided to keep trying and take him to the hospital. He died shortly thereafter, or perhaps on the way. We weren’t given any further information because we weren’t family.
We feel extraordinarily privileged to have had Fr. Dwyer as our chaplain for the past 10 years. Thanks to his presence, we have been blessed to have had daily Mass, the grace of which we have felt even more strongly since March, when so many have been denied the Eucharist because of COVID. Father was devoted not only to us, but to the wider community of Windsor and nearby towns where there is no parish priest. Although retired and in his 80’s, he often said Sunday Mass in three different parishes, in addition to the Saturday night Vigil Mass of Sunday at the monastery. He was always available for visiting the sick and funerals. His ministry was nourished by a deep life of prayer. Twice a day, he would spend an hour praying in our chapel, reading his breviary in silence or out loud, and often walking up and down and praying in tongues.
Yesterday, Father was out visiting people in his car and digging in his garden. Although we are glad he didn’t suffer, his departure is a huge loss for all of us.
Since Monk went to meet his Maker in March and our good neighbor, Mike, helped us set up a bird feeder, we have seen a proliferation of red and gray squirrels, chipmunks, bunnies, and groundhogs. Today a bear cub eyed us through the refectory windows as we were eating lunch. They will eat whatever treats they can scavenge, but the chipmunks seem to have a predilection for pansies and rose petals. The birds are also a pleasure to watch: goldfinches, purple finches, chickadees, a woodpecker, a couple of cardinals, a ruby-breasted grosbeak, hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles, with grackles, doves and crows on the ground.
We look forward to adopting Ruby at the end of the month, when she finishes raising her final litter of puppies. Perhaps she will help keep some of the bolder creatures in check, despite her laid-back personality.
This icon of the Holy Trinity was written by a Benedictine nun who is currently visiting us from another monastery. If you have stayed in our guest hermitage, you may recognize the ceiling tiles at the top of the photo.
The mutual indwelling of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity has a profound message for us, especially in the light of the events of the past week. When God created humans in God’s image, God created them in the plural: male and female. (Gen. 1:27) As above, so below: created in God’s image, in the image of the Holy Trinity, we “inter-are”, to borrow a favorite word of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. St. Paul tells us that in Christ there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Gal. 3:28). COVID 19 is delivering the same message: we are all in this together, and how we choose to react to this microscopic element in our midst affects everyone in our immediate neighborhood and beyond.
The inter-being of the Persons of the Holy Trinity negates the us-them mentality that has characterized race relations in the Americas since the arrival of the first European settlers, and which the tragic events of the past week have again brought to our attention. The image of the Trinity reminds us that we are all interconnected, we are all brothers and sisters, no matter what our race, religion, gender or national origin. Jesus said, “Whatever you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it unto me.” (Mt. 25:45) Because we all inter-are, in the image of God, in the image of the Holy Trinity, whatever we say or do to each other affects all of us.
This illuminated letter O by the Camaldolese monk, Lorenzo Monaco (“Lorenzo the Monk”, c. 1370-1425), depicts two parallel passages from today’s Mass readings, the upper half from Acts 2, in which the disciples are all together in one place and tongues of fire come to rest on each one of them, while the lower half evokes John 20:19: “the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews.” Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is the central figure in the upper room, the only figure with not only a flame, but also the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove above her head, recalling Jesus’ baptism: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mt. 3:17) Her face is serene, as are those of the two young, beardless men below her, one of whom is surely St. John. The older, bearded men look sleepy. doubtful, anxious, and in the case of the one immediately to Mary’s left, downright suspicious, perhaps representing a range of human responses to the eruptions of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The two figures in the lower half of the picture might challenge us today to consider whom we may be excluding from our faith communities, because of fear or prejudice based on race, social class or cultural differences. Or, in the context of the current pandemic, the two figures may bring to mind those who feel keenly the closing of church doors.
On this particular Pentecost Sunday, we are struck by the contrast between the fire of the Spirit that unites us in God’s love and the fires being lit throughout our country in reaction to a racially motivated murder. What a difference, what an impact any of us can make, in spreading either good or evil in our world!
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people, and ignite in them the fire of your love, you who have gathered together people of all languages in the unity of faith.
This illumination on vellum depicting the Three Marys at the Tomb, by Lorenzo Monaco (c. 1370-c.1425), a Camaldolese monk, is currently at the Louvre (closed to the public), and online at Wikimedia Commons (open to the public).
The empty tomb, hope and the pandemic:
In French there are two words for “hope”. Espoir, akin to our adjective hopeful, combines a wish for and a guarded expectation of a positive outcome: with scientists working hard to find a cure, healthcare workers giving their all, and the general public taking precautions, we can hope that the pandemic will end soon. It may or may not happen.
Espérance, by contrast, is the theological virtue to which St. Paul refers in I Corinthians 13: “Faith, hope and love abide, these three…”, and the hope of which we sing in the Easter sequence: Surrexit Christus, spes mea. This hope, emanating from the empty tomb, is presaged in the Song of Songs: “Love is strong as death” (8:6), and in the Book of Job: “Though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” (19:26) Yes, Christ is risen indeed, and in light of the current situation, these verses and the empty tomb point poignantly to the persistence of God’s love, no matter what. Death will come for all of us eventually, whether through the virus or by some other means, but God’s love will continue to hold us, shining through the gloom and lifting us into the Divine Presence, where dwells the risen Christ.
The glory and hope of the Resurrection are visible in the many ways God-as-Love is made manifest in this crisis: in those who risk their lives by caring for the sick, or by working in grocery stores, pharmacies, post offices, hardware stores and soup kitchens; in those seeking a cure; in those building tiny houses for the homeless; in companies and individuals making free masks and hand sanitizer; and in all those going out of their way to raise our spirits and emphasize our global connectedness as a human family, with online musical events, hotlines for the lonely, and myriad efforts to help those not used to solitude to remain sane. Death is with us, but so is Love, strong as death.
Christ our Passover
After an arduous two weeks of Eucharistic fast during Lent, in solidarity with the general population, we decided to return to daily Mass in our chapel the Saturday before Palm Sunday. Christ is the focus of our life, our raison d’être as a community, Whose Presence in the Eucharist is the tie that binds, and without Whom we would be simply three elderly ladies in odd clothes trying to live together in harmony. Since we have the immense good fortune to have a chaplain and daily Mass, it didn’t seem right to continue to stay away, besides which, it was becoming too hard. We continue to include in our prayers all those for whom this fast is a time of painful deprivation.
We are grateful for the support of so many of our friends, and we pray that all of you are staying safe and healthy.
Following a fruitful fraternal visitation during the second week of February, the Camaldolese nuns of Poppi, Italy, voted to let the three of us transfer our vows to their community. We are very grateful for their welcome and we look forward to developing a closer relationship with them. The photo above shows Sister Graziana, Prioress of Poppi, Father Alessandro, Father General of the Camaldolese and immediate superior of the nuns, together with our community in the refectory. Absent from the photo is Father Cyprian, Prior of the Camaldolese community in Big Sur, CA, who came as interpreter and took the picture.
In the wee hours of last Monday morning, our beloved Monk went to meet his Maker. He showered all and sundry with his unconditional love, whether they wanted it or not, although as he got older, he became more sensitive to those who wanted him to keep his distance. His pure, impartial affection was a constant role model for us humans who keep forgetting how to love one another. During the past few months, his hind legs had become progressively weaker, apparently a common ailment in elderly labs. As his left hind leg lost all muscle tone and feeling, he continued to enjoy life on three legs. Our vet said there was a tumor on his spine, but didn’t know how fast it would progress. On Friday the 13th, Monk was his usual ebullient self and had a great day. He was able to hop into the car for a ride and came to Compline after supper. Early Saturday morning, he collapsed on the grass. The tumor had affected the right hind leg, and he needed help to walk the few steps back inside, where he lay down, began shaking violently and then didn’t move for 24 hours. On Sunday, he was more alert and even walked a few steps, but then rapidly became weaker and died during the night, sparing us the heart-rending decision to “put him to sleep”. May his joyful, loving nature continue to inspire us. Rest in peace, sweet sweet boy.
He shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.
Like everyone else in New York State, we are being asked to self-isolate, which is allowing us to enjoy an unplanned retreat: nothing to do, nowhere to go, just be here and be present to the Presence that is all around us, especially in our beautiful natural surroundings. The scheduled guests, groups and retreats have all cancelled, so we have time to read, regroup, go for long walks, catch up on this and that and reconnect with family and friends via phone and the Internet.
The monastery, like the rest of the Church, is subject to the ban on public Masses. We sisters could have continued to have Mass with Fr. Dwyer, our chaplain, but since he is allowed to say only a private Mass, excluding the few people from the outside who might show up, we didn’t think it was fair for us to have Mass while everyone else was deprived. We would have been setting ourselves apart as a kind of elite, based on the fact that we are nuns, and that didn’t seem right. Many of our friends are feeling that the Church has abandoned them at a time when they most need spiritual sustenance. In solidarity with them, we have decided not to attend Mass until such time as the ban on public Masses has been lifted. Fr. Dwyer has continued to say daily Mass alone, in our chapel. Yesterday, he brought up the fact that he could have one acolyte, a role usually filled by one of the sisters, but because we feel strongly about our position, he has asked a local Knight of Columbus who often serves at Mass during the week to join him. We continue to offer our prayer and our lives for the healing of the human race and of our planet.