Wendell Berry, born in 1934, could be considered the American poet of the early 21st century. Even though his first collection of poems were published in 1964, you may consider his themes of imaginative literature, poetry and social criticism to be “current.” Before Gen X’ers, Hipsters, or even Millennials, Berry presented a way of life and world view that America is struggling to preserve in today’s age of technology and information. This world view can be summarized in one word, “rootedness.” Today, people are
connected in more unique ways that affect all aspect of our lives. Consider that work is no longer 8 to 5, friends do not have to live on the same block, and education can take place virtually. Yet, Wendell Berry, along with “life” in cyberspace, echo the same theme of needing to being connected or reconnected. One may ponder whether Berry is a prophet, or a man with strong foresight. While not claiming either, he is clearly in touch with reality, which seems to be slipping through the fingers of the youth of today.
Consider poem “V” from Berry’s collection of the sabbath poems, those that he writes on Sundays. This particular collection was published as A Small Porch: Sabbath Poems 2014 and 2015. You probably have read this poem as posted above, but I ask you to read it again, slowly and thoughtfully.
The believe they’ve understood
belief in “the transcendent”
by disbelieving it.
Some mental feats remain
impossible even to the best
of human minds.
Often it is said to me that the belief in God limits man, rather than man becoming limitless when one has faith in God. A man’s reason is limited by his own mental capacity to reason. Belief in God frees man from corporal restraints. I propose that to be rooted, means to know and see reality, which can only happen to the fullest extent when man is in touch with the transcendent, not confined to his or another’s reason.
I begin with some thoughts about today’s feast of St. Scholastica, the sister of St. Benedict. A story often told about the two them concerns their last evening together. Once a year the two of them would come together at a house outside of the monastery in Monte Cassino. At this last meeting they passed the day in prayer and conversation. As the day came to an end, St. Scholastica implored her brother to stay and pray with her into the evening. Though he was moved by her emotion, St. Benedict insisted that the time was right for him to leave. She turned her prayers to God and fervently asked for his intercession. Our Lord responded with a thunderstorm that shook the area and lessened St. Benedict’s resolve to leave. He stayed with her and they prayed through the evening. She died only a few days later after that meeting. The story is told as an example of St. Scholastica’s great love for God.
Today, we in Northwest Arkansas had the visitation and rosary for a young man of the community, Noah Antony. He was suddenly taken from this world a week ago and tomorrow will be his funeral mass. The young vibrant life of Noah touched so many. My family and I are new to the area but we see the reach he has had among his peers at college, in high school and in his family’s faith community at St. Raphael’s and beyond. This week has begun a time of loss and suffering for his parents, siblings and family.
I mention St. Scholastica and the Antony family, because as they suffer this week and in the time to come, it is in fervent love and solid faith that they are an example to those who know them and see them in this time of grief. The love that St. Scholastica offered up to God to pray with her brother through the evening, I see in them. Even now in their time of grief, they are offering such similar prayers of faith that show a profound love for God.
May we, their friends and family, truly offer up prayers for them and the soul of Noah with the purity and fervor of St. Scholastica tonight, tomorrow and the days to come. Let us ask our Lord to grant them peace and the Blessed Virgin Mary to embrace them as she did the infant Jesus, wrapping him in swaddling clothes to keep Him warm and close to her heart.