Dear Associates and Friends,
The Lord be with you!
Orchids turned out to be the sturdiest symbol of death and resurrection for us this year. The Easter lilies' glorious trumpets lasted a week, then withered. Orchids are rooted in dead or decaying wood, but their flowers are magnificent in vivid color and variety. Brothers Gabriela and Joseph had them lined across the altar's base and they lasted the whole Easter season.
Fr. Basil's mother died on Easter Monday in Vietnam, so he traveled there to be with the family for her funeral Mass of Resurrection. Fr. Thaddeus also went, and was able to prepare Br. Peter Tuy's application in better form for his next interview applying for a Religious Worker visa to the United States.
Holy Saturday is rather barren of Liturgy, so our monks have begun the practice of praying together our outdoor Stations of the Cross during that morning.
The trio of rabbits living within our courtyard did great work eating any and all dandelions in the lawn. However, they also kept cropping the rose buds and bushes there, so they lost their happy home.
The Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, began a new foundation in the Ava
countryside some fifteen miles from our monastery. They are quite traditional in religious habit and in their Liturgy. Their chaplain offers the Tridentine Mass approved by the Holy See, and they pray the Divine Office using Gregorian Chant. Bishop Edward Rice blessed their temporary monastic dwelling, and commented in his homily that Ava seems to becoming a prayer center of this diocese.
Fr. Bruno's Green Card (Permanent Residence) arrived just four days before his journey for a home visit to Vietnam. Nice timing. Abbot Mark Scott visited us from our mother house, New Melleray Abbey near Dubuque IA, for a few days. They have had so much rain also that it is hard for the farmers to get into their fields. Our Midwest has had its share of bad storms. A tornado touched down directly on our bakery manager, Michael Hampton's, house. The quiet still eye of the tornado passed directly over his home with the family in the basement. No damage at all to their dwelling, but on both sides the circling funnel tore up trees and collapsed his barn with most of his machinery inside it. We thank God for the deliverance of his family and home.
Please keep our Family Brother, Dick Ortez, in your prayers. The Veteran Service is providing hospital care for him, but his condition after his long coma still is challenging.
RETURN TO THE
Fr. Leon Brockman, a Trappist hermit of our community and a co-founder in 1976 of Nazareth Hermitage, died May 16th attended by his hermit sisters and brother. He died at Nazareth Hermitage, where he served as chaplain for over forty years. He was born September 15, 1928 at Oldenburg, Indiana, and died on May 16, 2019. His passing during Easter Season reflected our Lord's return to the Father.
As a young man he tried his vocation with the Holy Cross Brothers, but Thomas Merton's Seven Story Mountain moved him to enter Gethsemani Abbey in 1949. When still a novice, he was sent with the founding monks to Our Lady of Mepkin Abbey, South Carolina.
Fr. Leon completed his formation period, made final vows, and was ordained a priest at Mepkin Abbey. Then he was sent to the Trappist Generalate in Rome for further studies in Theology and Sacred Scripture.
Later in 1971, Fr. Leon joined the group of seven volunteer monks from five different American monasteries, who lived six months in the old monastic building at Ava, preparing to make a new Trappist foundation in the Philippines. They planned to begin their new life in nipa huts and then construct true community buildings. However, Fr. Leon felt drawn to the hermit life. He asked if Assumption Abbey would accept him as a hermit. We had recently elected our only hermit, Fr. Robert Matter, to be our abbot, so we were open to his request.
Fr. Leon built a new hermitage here and moved in. A couple of years later two hermit nuns in California asked if he would become their chaplain there. He agreed to try. In time their situation in California did not work out, so they obtained permission from our bishop Bernard Law, and from our community, to begin Nazareth Hermitage here. Over many years Fr. Leon constructed seven or eight separate hermitages, a chapel, a work shop and a common building, along the ridge of the 200 acres of woods we donated to them. He proved to be a skilled material and spiritual builder of the laura of hermits at Nazareth, as well as a prolific gardener.
In his eighties Fr. Leon suffered a heart attack and had five way by-pass surgery, which left him with only thirty percent heart function. Gradually he weakened, hindered by recurring infections. His condition became critical in 2016, and he entered hospice care. Fr. Leon's strong spirit and the hermit's loving care pulled him through the worst. He lived two more years in the infirmary hermitage attached to the chapel. Fr. Leon breathed his last at night attended by two of the hermit nuns.
Our bishop Edward Rice and former bishop John Leibrecht celebrated Fr. Leon's funeral Mass in our monastery Church and he was buried beside Sr. Mary, one of the Nazareth founders, outside Nazareth Chapel.
In the Sacred Heart,
Your Ava Monks.