Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Saint Among Us---Brother Roger

My church is St. Hilda St. Patrick's in Edmonds, WA. A gift was bestowed upon us a few years ago when the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia sent us a retired priest to lift us out of some divisive issues. I have learned more from this man, Peter Snow, in just the last three years than in all of my lifetime of church going previously. He is orginally from England so he has deep Anglican roots; he knew from the time he was 15 that he would be a priest; he is extremely bright and Cambridge educated; and he is the most honestly spiritual Jesus following person I have ever known. As a member of our community, he writes along with other religious leaders for the Worship Column in the Mukilteo Beacon. http://www.mukilteobeacon.com/columnistsworship.html

He flips through the Gospels and points out inconsistencies and explains the various translations of Hebrew or Greek and puts things into historical perspective so easily. He has a story telling gift for vividly explaining Jesus like no other--turning Him into a dusty dirty rabble rouser struggling with His not too bright disciples. But then he has a way of hitting us over the head with the indescribable reality of His Resurrection and what is offered to us for our personal spiritual journeys with the Christ.

Last Sunday, Father Peter talked about Brother Roger. I will admit right here that I did not know who Brother Roger was. Somehow, I have managed to go through my life unaware of some obvious things and this is one of them. Brother Roger had a group of monks in Taize, France and evidently his center has drawn thousands of pilgrims yearly. Brother Roger was not Roman Catholic, being the son of a Swiss Calvinist pastor and French Protestant mother, though some of his monks are. His community includes Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans and Evangelicals. The story of his life was explained by Father Peter in relation to the passage where Jesus says, "Who do you say that I am?" Brother Roger answered the same way St. Peter answered and God took it from there.

During WW2, he smuggled Jewish children out of Nazi occupied territory. Although he attempted to live a life of devotion as a monk and contemplate, God had other plans. Over the years he had a knack for drawing crowds of young people with a message of joy, simplicity, compassion, and peace. He sought greater unity among all Christians and he focused on young people in an attempt to spawn their spiritual sides. In our services, we use some of the prayers and chants created in Taize, I learned on Sunday. Furthermore, our Father Peter was one of those young people in the early 70's to find his way to Brother Roger's feet.

How I have missed this over the years, I'll never know. But now it is too late. Brother Roger was murdered--stabbed to death by a deranged woman--during a service a week ago today. He was 90 years old.

And from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/18/international/europe/18roger.html

"Pope Benedict XVI, who knew Brother Roger personally, said at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo yesterday that the "sad and terrifying" news "strikes me even more because just yesterday I received a very moving and very friendly letter from him."
The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the head of the Church of England, said, "Brother Roger was one of the best-loved Christian leaders of our time.'"

Father Peter said many are asking why God would allow such a horrible turn of events. But Father Peter answered.....

......"Brother Roger would never have asked the question."

In a strange sort of way, Brother Roger helps me to understand why Jesus had to be crucified. Three days ago, I didn't know who he was. And now because of his brutal death, I know.

Now I know.