Monday, May 16, 2011

s. brendan the monk

few saints have been so influential on my life as has brendan.  as jennifer kennedy dean writes, "as we conform our lives to our stories, we find we are transformed."

it was, not surprisingly, the story of brendan the courageous navigator that caught my attention first.  i had been taking some "time off" from my "job" as a missionary bishop to the wilds of fayetteville, arkansas, to take care of my ailing mother, and when she became well enough for me to leave again, i thought a kayak trip would be just the thing.  so, i bought a beautiful red saxon boat, broke a bottle of guiness on the bow and called her "brendan."  off i paddled, on what would be a life-changing trip.  along the way, i became an accidental hermit. my little r&r trip stretched over three years, paddling more than 9,000 miles, and completely enjoying being bounced about on the sea, protected by the prayers of s. brendan--and of course also of s. nicholas.

in the years since i came to shore, i often feel nostalgia for that time, for the nights when the sea receives the red sun to the chant of ravens at vespers, for the mornings veiled in the cloud brooding on the face of the waters as another day is created.  evenings and mornings are certainly beautiful where i live now, in a small apartment in the ozarks, but it's easy to feel that my life is not very courageous.

it is that context that two bits of wisdom from the church have helped me this s. brendan's day.  the first is a word from abba isaac of the desert--i fondly call my little apartment s. chad's disseart  "the person who recognizes and overcomes his passions is greater than the person who raises the dead."  certainly recognizing and overcoming my passions takes more courage than floating on the surface of the sea.

the second is the ikos for the feast at matins:
"putting forth from the coasts of thy homeland, o holy one, thou didst set sail in a boat of skins, traversing the tumultuous waters of the sea, guided by the providence of the almighty.  yet in vain didst thou search the watery realm for theisle of the blessed, for their abode is not within the confines of this world.  wherefore, thou didst return to dry land, to the monasteries thou hast founded; and losing the life of thy body, thou didst find the realm of bliss which thou hadst sought.  o venerable father brendan, divinely wise and most holy, entreat christ god that our souls be saved."