By FATHER JAMES BEHRENS, OCSO | Published December 20, 2018
“For I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand; it is I who say to you, do not fear, I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13
In our refectory we have been listening to “Born from the Gaze of God” by Christophe Lebreton, a Trappist monk who was martyred in Algeria in May of 1996. It is his journal, which was given to him as a gift and which he used to write the thoughts that came to him during lectio as well as random accounts and impressions of the day-to-day life at the monastery, Our Lady of Atlas, in Algeria.
Listening to his words, the thought has crossed my mind more than once as to what, if any, were the hopes he held in his heart for the help of God. He and the six monks who died with him were well aware of a possibility, which became a probability, concerning their deaths. And yet they stayed. And Christophe wrote. And now we listen.
The entry for July 7, 1994: “You have received everything as pure gift / Give everything as pure gift. That is what it means to consent / completely and simply to the Gift.”
And nothing else seemed matter to Christophe Lebreton save the awareness and acceptance of this Gift, the freedom to seek God in this life, to be loved by God and to love as God loves. That is the meaning of life. It is the aim of the Christian life to live that meaning and the aim of the monastic life to further nurture it through our way of life. It seems that Christophe reached a point where he no longer saw it necessary to ask for God’s help. He had arrived to a place where he was deeply aware of God’s presence to him, a presence that was with him in life and would be with him in death. That is all that mattered.
A Christian life is a process of losing everything—and yet gaining everything, and having even more. Christophe likened this awareness to that of entering into a new dimension.
“Only dying to myself will allow me to enter this new dimension and commune in the work of the Cross,” he wrote. (March 4, 1996). He had arrived and entered a living mystery that was always within him. Death no longer had power over him.
The last entry in his diary, written on the Feast of Saint Joseph in March 1996, consists of fragments from Psalm 100: “My song is about kindness and justice. … I shall walk the way of perfection. When will you come to me?… I shall walk with a perfect heart.”
Christ is coming to show us once again where he is to be found in our lives. He will teach us the truth as to what it means to walk with a perfect heart.
He came to Christophe Lebreton, a familiar face Christophe had already seen before in the faces of those he grew to love, including those who took his life.
Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers.