Fr. John's Memoir

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Fr. John died at the age of 83 on June 2nd after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis. The reception of the body and viewing was held in the Abbey church. The service was attended by many friends and acquaintances. In order to accommodate the large number that attended the funeral Mass, it was held in the school’s Devine Theater.

Fr. John was from the St. Louis area and one of twelve siblings. He joined the monastery at age nineteen and earned his degree of doctorate in Sacred Theology at The Catholic University of America. He taught religion in the Abbey School and theology at various local schools and theologates, as well as eight summers at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA. He authored a number of books and articles on theological subjects, was a co-founder of the local chapter of the International Thomas Merton Society, and many years chaplain to a Team of Our Lady in Potomac, MD.

Fr. John gave his brother monks, his family and many friends a noble example of how to face bravely the diminishments and neediness that came with the gradual progress of his disease. He will be missed by all his brother monks and all those whose lives he touched by his example of a sure faith in God’s love and mercy, and by his friendship.

Revealed and Discovered: Reflections on a Life Seeking God’s Way

“The split between the Gospel and culture is without a doubt the drama of our time . . . .”

Pope Paul VI wrote this in his On Evangelization in the Modern World ( Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975), 20). And he added:

What matters is to evangelize man’s culture and cultures (not in a purely decorative way as it were by applying a thin veneer, but in a vital way, in depth and right to their very roots), in the wide and rich sense which these terms have in Gaudium et Spes, always taking the person as one’s starting-point and always coming back to the relationships of people among themselves and with God (20).

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Chapter One: Family Life and Early Influences

My parents, John Farrelly and Cordelia Gross, were married in 1920 and had a quick succession of children: John (1921), William (1922), Caroline (1923), Elizabeth (1925), “the four big kids,” and then Thomas (1926) and myself (October 1927). I was born in a St. Louis suburb, Normandy, where my mother had grown up.

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Chapter Two: Early Years at St. Anselm’s Priory: 1947-1955

I entered St. Anselm’s Priory on July 8, 1947, the feast of St. Thomas More. St. Anselm’s was a small Priory of the English Benedictine Congregation. We consider Thomas Verner Moore to be our main founder. Moore (1877-1969) became a Paulist and after his priestly ordination studied for a doctorate in psychology, partly under Wundt in Germany, and then taught this at the Catholic University of America.

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Chapter Three: Ministries and Further Studies: 1955-1962

When I returned from St. Louis there were some months in which I was not given time consuming tasks, other than rather regular weekend supply or help at a parish in Newark, New Jersey. When I was returning to Washington on the train one Sunday afternoon, our train struck a young boy. I got off the train and prayed over the shattered remains of the boy, even offering him conditional baptism, and I gave train officials my name to hand on to his parents, with my condolences and information of my praying for the boy. It seems that he was returning from playing baseball that afternoon and rushed across the train track without seeing the oncoming train.

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Chapter Four: 1962-1972: A Transformative Decade

This decade was transformative for both the Church and our country. The Second Vatican Council began its first of four sessions in October of 1962. It was followed by dramatic changes in the liturgy and in religious and priestly life as well as in the life of the laity. For the country, it was a traumatic decade: the assassination of President Kennedy, the civil rights movement and laws erasing much discrimination against blacks in our country, the counter-cultural movement, the later assassination of Martin Luther King and city riots of 1968, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, and the Vietnam War. – It also was transformative for my religious community and for me – a very difficult decade for both my community and me.

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Chapter Five: 1972-1982: Life in the Monastery and Enlarging Service Outside

In the following decade , while the country faced the trauma of the Vietnam war, the resignation of President Nixon under a cloud, and so much more, our monastic life, like that of most monasteries in the country, gradually stabilized after the post-Vatican II changes and experienced a change in leadership but a decline in numbers.

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Chapter Six: 1982-1992: The Unexpected in the Monastery and Ministry

The next decade was once more full of surprises for me, some of them quite fascinating, though initially daunting. The major surprises were travels to Eastern Asia with philosophers at the invitation of Fr. George McLean, O.M.I. . Other surprises shared with many other Benedictine communities in the United States were changes within our community.

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Chapter Seven: God’s Mysterious Ways amid Continuing Change and Division: 1992-2000

The next decade saw many changes in our larger world – e.g., increasing individualism in the United States and globalization in the larger world, a radical diminishment of the Cold War and the beginning of an American experience of terror from a radical segment of Islam.

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Chapter Eight: Later Years

The themes in my life in these later years were in continuity with those in my earlier years, though there were, of course, still surprises, joyous events and disappointments. Difficulties one copes with, whether interior or exterior, tend to continue; and growth in holiness comes, in my view, largely from continuing to turn to the Lord in need, in thanksgiving, in trust and in love.

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