Fr Abbot Brendan OSB
John Francis Barry was born on 24th day of March 1928 into a family of three boys and three girls. He entered the monastery of Glenstal on 11th March 1947 taking the name Anselm and became a member of this fledgling community. Fr Anselm spent much of his long monastic life in Wald, Germany, as chaplain to the nuns and to the school. Here he made lifelong friends and put down very deep roots. Anselm was at home in Wald and Wald was very good to Anselm.
As it happens, Fr Anselm was very aptly named. St Anselm his patron was born in Aosta, in Italy, became a monk at Bec in Normandy and ended up being Archbishop of Canterbury. Was he Italian, French or English? I’m not sure the question ever really bothered him. Our Fr Anselm was the same. He was truly international and he too spent some years of his later life in Italy, at St Paul’s in Rome. Many a bemused civil servant has struggled over the years to comprehend this Irish monk with German health insurance and pension. However, wherever Fr Anselm was, he lived a similar daily routine.
The daily rhythm of the monk has two pivotal moments, sunrise and sunset. For a monk the day begins and ends in the church and Anselm was always present. As the day moves on and the sun makes its way across the sky shedding its warm light and heat upon us, it is easy to take it all for granted. However, at the rising and the setting of the sun, we take note and we look up.
Fr Anselm was particularly fond of the early mornings. He was often the first to rise; he would make the coffee and while he was still able set off for a short early morning stroll, the first of several during the day. He saw many dawns in his long life and he admired the beauty and wonder of this daily miracle.
Once the sun rises, it gets on with its business. For Fr Anselm here in this monastery that meant work in the library, in Wald it was the school and chaplaincy and in Rome hearing confessions and giving tours of the basilica. We thank him for all of his work on earth. All that we do is done under the light of the sun, yet we hardly notice her presence because we are all so busy with our tasks. The same could be said of the course of a human life. We are largely unaware of the gift that each living soul is until their sun begins to set and their light starts to fade. The odd thing about the setting sun is that, as it sets and its heat and light begin to fail, it seems somehow to grow in size. The same was true of Fr Anselm. An unassuming presence, in these last years, his presence somehow seemed to grow in size.
Our life is such a mystery, a gift of God that comes upon us unawares, filling us with wonder. All we really know is that one day this gift of life will return to its source, the Giver of Life. Living to a ripe old age is in itself no assurance or mark of success. For any one of us, of any age, real success is understanding truth, living with God in love and sharing that love with others. The call from God to a monastic vocation in the Church is a great grace and a solemn responsibility. It is a lifelong vocation, regardless of what happens along the way. Fidelity and perseverance are very monastic virtues. Fr Anselm understood this and remained faithful as a monk to the end.
The sun went down for the last time on the life of Fr Anselm on the evening before the sixth day of May and he was ready and waiting. He passed from this world in the loving care of the staff of St Anthony’s, Pallasgreen, for which we thank them. It is from God that we come when we enter life, and it is to him we return when we leave it. May God guard our Brother Anselm’s going, on this his final walk into paradise, just as he guarded his coming.
Go, in the name of Patriarchs and Prophets;
Of Apostles and Evangelists,
Of Martyrs and Confessors; in the name
Of holy Monks and Hermits; in the name
Of Holy Virgins; and all Saints of God,
Both men and women, go! Go on your course;
And may your place today be found in peace,
And may your dwelling be the Holy Mount