I first met that Irish monk years ago on the sidewalk.
I was alone, hesitant, looking for belonging
It was just the two of us standing there before Mass
when I found myself disappearing into the vast recesses of his robe
lost in the most loving, enrapturing hug I could possibly imagine
along with the thought that I could fly that day.
Later I watched as people lined up for those hugs
in single file or flocking closely together
touching and waiting for the kind words
the generous friendship
love, his greatest commodity
radiated and touched everyone out on the lawn
lifting them all just a little bit off the ground.
He was that way with the land and the valley too
the pastures and creeks
the forested terrain and hillsides scrubbed with aromatic sage
the beasts and birds of the air
creatures large and small
the singing coyotes and berry-filled bears
the noble elk and snowshoe hare
all who wandered under his stewardship
where they felt safe
and were his brothers.
We listened to him speak
with thoughtfulness and consideration
as he weaved scripture and meaning into the folds of our lives
with simple thoughts and carefully spun yarns.
As we gathered together for communion
he helped us to release the angst of our humanity
onto the hard brick floor
as the guitar played the strings in our hearts
and our hopes wafted high up to blend into the rafters of an exalted ceiling.
Like Hercules going through the back door
he quietly shouldered the world for us.
A gentle giant with great heart
perpetual humility, and unending perseverance
read the stars
the complex sequencing of basement pipes
dueled with beaver and porcupine
brought people together
protected and guided
consoled and carried us
so that we could soar.
I had a dream about that Irish monk
where he flew a plane above rough terrain
towing a smaller plane behind him
lifting that plane up on morning thermals
while dodging electrical wires
lifting his brothers and showing us all
how to circumnavigate ever higher to God,
the way a father would
like the wind beneath our wings.
Robbin T. Hartridge
In celebration of the life of Fr. Joseph Boyle 1941-2018
Abbott of St. Benedict’s Monastery