Thursday, September 21, 2006

Abbot Francis Kline: a memorial

A beautiful memorial to Fr. Francis Kline, the Abbot of Mepkin who died on August 27, 2006. Again, all of us from the Diocese of Charleston are so blessed to have had him serve the Church all these years, and I am particularly grateful for the times that I had with him.
There was the renunciation – music. Various combinations were tried, the practical problem of finding practice time in a highly structured monastic schedule that regularly prayed in the Church where the instrument was; in a Community which at that time was blessed with a very accomplished musician. In addition there were two or three others who played and who did need practice. Brother Francis as Joseph Kline had practiced eight to ten to twelve hours a day! But it was not the confusion of schedules nor just time that he needed, Francis was sure that God wanted him to surrender his music totally. The novice master had doubts. The practical reality was this meant a monk to work and not work time to practice organ.

This went on for weeks but there were rumors of the organ being played in the middle of the night; there was novice Francis sleeping over his reading. In one of the weekly session the topic of midnight organ recitals was brought-up. It wasn’t easy to convince him – radicalness of his commitment; his life as a monk depended on leaving everything. We reflected together on communication and how we communicate with God, how we say in all truth who we are. For Francis obviously music was his way of communication. There was an agreement to respond to the Lord by music and we would discern it again.
One is hard pressed to say what one force was the core of Abbot Francis’ spiritual response; certainly Jesus from the Scriptures. He was acquainted with modern biblical scholarship, but not impressed. His inspiration was the patristic literature. But perhaps even more it was his personal lectio – that monastic discipline of daily meditating on the scriptures. The Rule of Benedict was another source. He knew the Rule and used it constantly in showing others the monastic way. His priesthood was something of an identity for him, something to which he was always faithful and never hesitated to give witness. His love of the Church was central and above all the persons who are the Church. The list is without end. Whenever a person, a cause or an intellectual concern touched him, Francis was unstinting in his pursuit. If he was not interested, it was obvious. This was the case at most general chapters of the order and other such meetings. His very close friend Abbot Peter McCarthy described it perfectly in the funeral homily. “I have never before or since ever experienced anyone who could register near cosmic boredom in every facial feature no matter how sensitive the occasion might be.”
[Hattip to Catholic Sensibility]
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Neil said...

Thank you for the hat tip. Incidentally, I'm a fellow Indian-American Catholic. Perhaps we can speculate about whether there is a distinct Indian-American Catholic experience of irreducible theologian significance ... or not.


Neil said...

That would be "theological" significance, of course.

Gashwin said...

Hey Neil: hmm ... I am a convert, and I've spent a little less than half of my life in India, so I think our life trajectories might be a little different.

And, in the South, Indian-American Catholics are quite rare! :)