Published April 14, 2005
Brother Placid Scheiding, 80, of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance (Trappist) at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, died Wednesday, April 6.
He entered into the monastic life on June 26, 1946, and made his solemn profession on Jan. 1, 1952.
As customary, the body of a deceased brother is received by the community at the church entrance before vespers. An all-night prayer vigil then begins, with two brothers sitting and praying before the body until the funeral Mass.
Brother Placid’s body was received at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, and the funeral Mass took place on Friday, April 8, at 10 a.m. in the monastery church.
Francis James Scheiding was born in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on April 24, 1924. At age 19, he joined the Marine Corps on March 2, 1943, and eventually fought on the front lines in the Pacific Ocean Area. Only years later did he tell of his experience of the horrors of combat, especially the Battle of Okinawa—the last major campaign of the Pacific War and known as the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War.
As a child, Francis had a desire to join a religious order. Working on a farm, he loved to hear the bells of nearby St. Stephen Church. It wasn’t until he was in a tent on a Pacific island that he first learned of the Trappist monks. He was given a Catholic magazine with an article about a new Trappist monastery in Georgia. Enthralled with the rigors of the monastic life, Francis wrote the abbot, Father James Fox, to ask about joining the monastery.
After discharge from the Marines on February 16, 1946, Francis returned home to Wisconsin. Four months later, on June 26, 1946, he entered the monastery in Conyers. He always enjoyed telling of walking for miles on a muddy road from the train station in Conyers to the monastery gate. Such was the determination of the former Marine to become a monk.
Upon entrance into the lay brother novitiate, he was given the religious name Placid. (St. Placid, who died in 541, was one of the first disciples of St. Benedict.) Brother Placid was a tireless worker. He relished the life of a lay brother, where working long hours at hard physical labor never deterred him. He was working for the Lord, he later reflected. For Placid, there was no one more worthy. After several years of milking cows, he worked with raising livestock. From there, he went to the fields where he cured and harvested over 250 acres of hay fields. In the late 1980s, he led a short-lived venture into raising emus and ostriches.
Brother Placid’s journey to the monastery was noted by Father Thomas Merton, a Cistercian monk who wrote of his own journey in “The Seven Storey Mountain” (1948). In “The Waters of Siloe” (1949), Merton wrote: “There was a young corporal in the United States Marines who found out at very close quarters what happened to the dead bodies of men left unburied at Okinawa. Then he read a newspaper article about Trappist monks who had started a new monastery in Georgia. When he got out of the Marines, he went home to his family in Wisconsin and told them what was on his mind. They were Catholics, but they did not like the idea of his becoming a Trappist. They told him so with emphasis. His uncle offered him a forty-acre farm, ten head of milk cows, and a team if he would give up his foolish notion. The young man said no.”
Brother Placid’s “yes” to monastic life was for life. While vocations as lay brothers came and left, Brother Placid persevered through the trials and challenges of monastic life. After Vatican II, when the categories of lay brothers and choir religious were discontinued, Brother Placid (as was permitted for monks already designated as lay brothers) opted to continue as a lay brother.
Just weeks prior to his death, he was cutting vegetables for the cooks and made peanut butter for the community. For years, Brother Placid arose at 2 a.m. and went to pray in the church. After the Night Office, he would then serve at the Latin Mass celebrated by Father Francis Xavier.
Brother Placid was the third of six children in his family. Survivors include his sisters, Florence Incavo and Lucille Pyszkinski, and brother, Lawrence Scheiding. He was preceded in death by two brothers.