A Priest Writes His Friends Before He Dies

Brother Mark Dohle shared this, from his fellow monk at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. Father James Behrens sent it out by email to his friends a few days before he died. “I do believe that on some level he knew that he did not have much time left in this world,” Brother Mark wrote. Brother Mark’s reflections on waiting with his friend’s body can be read here and his reflection on the funeral here


“We hold this treasure in earthen vessels that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.”

When I read the opening line from the first reading about the treasure that we hold in these earthen vessels of our bodies, the treasure being the life of Jesus that is within us, I thought back to a homily Gerard gave many years ago. He spoke of how we grow old and weak. And it is then that we are in need of the care of another, care that we are no longer able to provide for ourselves. For most of our lives, we can depend on our health and strength to fortify us, to keep at bay the need for another to feed us, bathe us, comfort us.

We are then stripped of whatever defenses we had used to resist the ravages of human weakness. For there comes a time when we learn what it means to be limited, finite, and in need of another to care for us. It is then, in the nakedness of our own vulnerability, that we receive in its fullness the richness of the treasure that lies within us. The love and tenderness that is God comes to us through the caring hands of another. We can no longer keep a safe distance from our weakness as it strips us of the last shreds of our self-reliance.

But it is precisely through human weakness, our vulnerability, which we come to know a deep and abiding love that is ours through the gift of another who cares for us. And we learn as well the richness of the treasure that is Christ within us, a treasure whose wealth becomes fully ours only when we no longer have the strength to resist it.

— James Stephen Behrens, O.C.S.O

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