Homily #573: In the Breaking of the Bread

Mass of Christian Burial of Father Paschal Cheline, O.S.B.

Mount Angel Abbey, March 23, 2015

My dear friends in Christ: Most Reverend Archbishop and Bishops[1], Right Reverend Abbots, Reverend Monsignors, Reverend Clergy, Confreres, Seminarians, Family, Relatives, Guests, and Friends of Father Paschal. You are many(!), and your very number is such a telling tribute to Father Paschal and to his influence in the lives of so many people over the P1080960 copyyears… and in my life, too, for he and I journeyed together on this holy mountain for 63 years as classmates and close friends. We were in the same class in the seminary that he joined as a high school sophomore in 1952, the first of those 63 years. Later, in 1957, we entered the monastery together, made our monastic profession together in 1958, were ordained to the priesthood together in 1964—kneeling, I might add, on these very steps where I now stand—and last May, 50 years later, we shared the joy of celebrating our golden jubilee of ordination to the holy priesthood. I am so very pleased that two other original classmates of ours, Bishop Emeritus William Weigand of Sacramento and Al Miller of Portland, are with us this morning as we lift up our dear friend to the throne of the Divine Mercy and celebrate his birth into everlasting Glory! Two other classmates of ours, Father Norbert and Father Meinrad, who shared seminary,

L-R Kneeling: Fr. Paschal, Fr. Meinrad and Abbot Gregory

L-R Kneeling: Fr. Paschal, Fr. Meinrad and Abbot Gregory

monastic profession and priestly ordination with Father Paschal and myself, are now monks at the Monastery of the Ascension which was founded by Mount Angel Abbey in 1965, not far from Father Paschal’s home town of Twin Falls, Idaho, whose lights one can see at night from the Monastery of the Ascension…

My brothers and sisters, on Thursday, the 12th of March, 2015, the day before he passed to the Lord, Father Paschal and I visited together for the last time. He gave me a little book called Hope, From the Cross—Reflections on Jesus’ Seven Last Words, by the noted English Benedictine Cardinal Basil Hume, former Abbot of Ampleforth and Archbishop of Westminster. What Father Paschal gave me in book-form he had given to so many other people in his own words of hope and encouragement over the years as teacher, spiritual director, mentor and friend. In our last visit I told him of his being so blessed in the imminent fulfillment of the wonderful hope, the deep desire, that we had expressed so many times in the Divine Office in the beautiful verses of Psalm 27:

My heart said: “Come and seek his face!” Your face, O Lord, I will seek; do not hide your face from me. … I believe I will look upon the beauty of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:8-9a.13, Abbot Bonaventure’s translation)

IMG_1662 copy

One of Fr. Paschal’s favorite place for lectio divina.

…which, in our earlier days in the monastery, we had prayed in the Latin Office: Credo videre bona Domini in terra viventium

On the same day as our final visit Father Paschal also composed—with the help of a faithful and loving scribe—a letter to the monastic community that he loved so dearly, and I would like to share that letter with you:

                                                                                                      March 12, 2015

Dear Abbot Gregory and Confreres,

It seems fairly obvious to me that my earthly days are reaching their conclusion. As this comes to be, I would like to say a profound Thank You! to God for life, faith, you my confreres, my family, vocation and friends.

I loved my childhood days in Idaho and have loved my life at Mount Angel over   these 63 years. I thank all of you who have been a part of my life at Mount Angel. The monastic life is a wonderful charism in the Church and has resonated well with my life: community, silence, choir, obedience and reading—all growing out of the Liturgy. I have loved the teaching charism in the Seminary. Teaching those who will carry on the faith is a privilege for which I am very grateful.

Some of you may have heard of my plan of life for all of us: Jesus Christ, Church, Liturgy, and novels. (Novels teach us the mystery of the human family—our brothers and sisters on their own journey to the glory of God.)

And so, my brothers, I thank you for the privilege of spending my life in this Monastery with you. Please pray for me and know that I will be praying for you.

In the Lord and Saint Benedict,

Father Paschal

My brothers and sisters, the main reason why I wanted to share with you Father Paschal’s last letter to his community is to let you know what is so clear in its lines, namely his profound gratitude to God for what he experienced as so many precious gifts in his life, those special treasures that he noted in his letter as his very life, his cherished faith, his monastic community, his beloved family, his vocation as monk and priest, and, yes, his countless friends! Father Paschal was also i_MG_1298deeply grateful for what he called in his letter the “teaching charism,” which defined so much of his life’s work, especially in the seminary; for him it was a great privilege to teach those who would in turn be teachers of the faith. And he had his own version of the seminary’s four pillars of formation; he called it his “plan of life,” and its four essential elements, as he noted in his letter, were Jesus Christ, Church, Liturgy and… Novels! Well, I’m afraid I wouldn’t pass the test on that fourth element, but he found—and wanted others to find—in novels so many journey-stories that shed light on the mystery of the human journey to God.

And so, yes, Father Paschal was a profoundly grateful man who loved life and all that so greatly enriched his experience of it. In a word, he loved much, and as a result he was much loved. That’s how love’s law of reciprocity works: love given draws a response of love, and that may be the key to Father Paschal’s popularity. He was endowed by the Lord with a wonderful, joyful and attractive personality which matured and deepened over the years, such that one found in him also a deep spirituality, a personal commitment to Jesus Christ whom he encountered daily in his prayerful lectio on the Scriptures and in his celebration of the sacred liturgy which claimed the center of his every day in the Eucharist and in the Hours that he so loved to sing. “Lectio, liturgy and life” would be another way to express the “plan of life” that he so wholeheartedly embraced—the fruits of which he so graciously shared with the many people who gifted and graced his life. Yes, in loving much, he was much loved; he touched and influenced so many lives, and rightly did Mount Angel Seminary confer on Father Paschal its highest award, the Lumen Gentium. “Lumen Gentium” means “Light of the Nations,” and it was at the special St. Benedict’s Day dinner last year marking Mount Angel Seminary’s 125th anniversary that Msgr. Betschart presented the Lumen Gentium award to Father Paschal. Let me read it to you:

MOUNT ANGEL SEMINARY—LUMEN GENTIUM AWARD

      —With thanksgiving to God for the men and women He raises up to serve the Church and stand as beacons of light to the world;

In recognition of a faithful and luminous servant of the Church as monk, priest, educator, formator and spiritual director, and one graced with the capacity to attract souls to God;

With sincere appreciation for his many years of zealous and dedicated service to Mount Angel Seminary;

      —With deep gratitude for one who has constantly given evidence to his confreres and to all the members of the Mount Angel Seminary community of his desire for God and a love for learning, his devotion to the liturgy and his enthusiasm in teaching it;

Inspired by God’s sustaining grace in the Church, expressing gratitude and manifesting deep appreciation for the many ways in which he has been “a light to the nations,”

Mount Angel Seminary honors

Father Paschal Cheline, O.S.B.

as a light to the nations who, by his life and work, has contributed significantly to the pastoral mission of the Church and the good of Mount Angel Seminary.

Accordingly,

this Seminary proudly presents to him this

LUMEN GENTIUM AWARD

in the year of our Lord, 2014.

                             

P1070886My brothers and sisters, late one afternoon, against the setting sun, two disciples of Jesus were dejectedly walking along the road leading from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Three days earlier their Master had been crucified—their Master in whom they had placed so much hope for the restoration of Israel—and even the news of an empty tomb and an appearance to Peter didn’t seem to restore their flagging spirits. And so they left Jerusalem. As they walked along, downcast, someone joined them. They didn’t recognize that it was actually Jesus. This stranger began interpreting the Scriptures to them, and at his words they experienced a kind of burning excitement in their hearts. But it was getting late, and so they invited him to “Stay with us” that night, and he accepted their hospitality. Luke’s Gospel goes on to say that when they sat down to dinner that evening…

…he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. (Lk 24:30-31)P1070855 copy

At that the two disciples rushed back to Jerusalem and excitedly reported to the apostles and disciples how they had recognized Jesus IN THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD!

What a wonderful journey story, a journey that culminates in the recognition of the risen Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread, an early name for Eucharist! I chose this amazing Gospel for Father Paschal’s Mass of Christian Burial because it reminded me of Father Paschal’s own spiritual journey. To say—as is so true—that he loved the liturgy, is perhaps to touch upon the deepest wellspring of Father Paschal’s encounter with Jesus—in his personal contemplation of the Sacred Scriptures that revealed to him the mystery of Jesus as God’s saving Love, and in his daily Meeting with the Lord in the Breaking of the Bread at the Eucharistic table that is here in the heart of this house of God which Father Paschal made his home 58 years ago. Yes, Father Paschal was more than just a delightful and attractive personality. I recall that a seminarian many years ago told me that he sensed that Father Paschal “had” something, and he added that he wanted to have that “something” too. Father Paschal did indeed “have” something special, and it was the loving Spirit of Jesus, which he shared so graciously and joyfully with so many people, the many who came to call him their dear friend, their mentor, their guide—the many who would share the grateful sentiment of the lady who wrote these words to Father Paschal on the day before he passed to the Lord: “Please know I am such a better person from having known you and spent time with you…”

[1] Most Rev. John G. Vlazny, Archbishop Emeritus of Portland, Oregon; Most Rev. Peter Smith, Auxiliary Bishop of Portland, Oregon; Most Rev. Kenneth D. Steiner, Retired Auxiliary Bishop of Portland, Oregon; Most Rev. William K. Weigand, Bishop Emeritus of Sacramento, California; Most Rev. Liam Cary, Bishop of Baker, Oregon

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4 thoughts on “Homily #573: In the Breaking of the Bread

  1. Truly lovely homily today, Father Abbot. And a wonderful celebration of a marvelous, grace-filled life. Thanks you. Fr. Ray Carey

  2. Thank you for posting this homily. I listened during the funeral Mass; I am listening anew now thankful for the opportunity to savor your words,Abbot Gregory, and those penned by dear Fr. Paschal. The witness of your long friendship shines forth. Blessings, Nancy Holt

  3. Pingback: What Novels Teach Us | The Golden Echo

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