As we celebrate the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls’) I thought it would be of some interest to the readers of Pray Tell for me to transcribe some portions of Fr. Godfrey Deikmann’s Advent 1999 letter to “family and friends.” One of the members of the Carondolet Village community with whom I celebrated an All Saints’ Day Mass yesterday, kindly gave me a copy of the letter in Fr. Godfrey’s handwriting and good-naturedly referred to it as a “fourth-class relic” (I presume because it was Xeroxed). She believes that it was the last letter he wrote before his death.
Dear Family and Friends,
First of all: my prayerful best wishes and the Mass of Christmas, for all of you; and may the great Year of Jubilee be for all of you one of peace and joy in Christ….
Most of you know that doctors had advised me a year ago last August that I would probably die before Christmas (of 1998). And here I am, scooting around on my walker and, apart from an annoyingly tricky memory, and an arthritic hip, happily enjoying the life that God is allowing me. Only now, it seems to me have I really begun to appreciate the blessing of community life: of loving and supportive brothers.
But why the delay of sister death, of my final homecoming? Yes, time for repenting; especially for not heeding sufficiently St. Leo’s famous axiom: “Christian, remember your dignity,” of sharing the divine nature, of truly being sons and daughters of God.
But also, perhaps, time to gather my thoughts about heaven, and sharing them. For I am convinced that we have seriously undervalued God’s final and greatest gift to us. Last year, in my letter, I wrote of heaven as a wedding feast: as a “seeing,” i.e. of our experiencing God with the ecstasy of a honeymoon love. Heaven is an eternal, supreme life, not just a requies aeterna.
The enclosed homily of St. Augustine, from a recent evening Office [later in the letter Fr. Godfrey notes that “I just can’t seem to find it any more. Forgetfulness? Disorder? Wastebasket?”], set me on a new train of thought. God is not only the True and the Good. He is also Beauty. Heaven, therefore, means experiencing Infinite Beauty, to each one’s ultimate capacity…. Thank God, that the late Urs von Balthasar made it one of his chief efforts to recover that tradition for the West.
And God has granted us vivid foreshadowings of that heavenly joy. But it is only now that I am beginning to recognize them as such. For instance. One of the memorable experiences of my life was to hear Rostopovich playing Bach’s Unaccompanied Suite for Cello for a jam-packed audience in Lincoln Center, Washington. When he finished, he received the ultimate tribute: a long, total silence – until some stupido began to applaud loudly….
It is truly exciting (grace filled) to live in daily expectation of “seeing God.” Rarely a day passes without some phrase in the daily psalmody taking on a new depth, new relevance. So one chooses that phrase for a day or more as a “mantra,” (ejaculatory prayer). During Advent, the frequently recurring refrain “Come, Lord Jesus” now assumes a totally new dimension….
Family News. Very little change in my sister Marie’s condition (Alzheimers). Will she or I first see God? Again I must express my unbounded gratitude to St. Benedict’s Center for their expert and loving care for her these past eight years. Please pray for us both. And herewith my promise that all of you will be on page one of my heavenly list of friends and benefactors. And what a joy it will be to truly love you in God! And be of much more help to you than is possible for me now!
“In charity unfeigned,” your brother and friend,
Godfrey Diekmann O.S.B.