Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fr. Simeon's moment of grace


Fr. Simeon Daly, O.S.B.
May 9, 1922-November 10, 2012

On Saturday evening, Fr. Simeon Daly, O.S.B., died at the age of 90. Although he had encountered a number of health problems—some quite serious, even approaching death a time or two—in recent years, he was still quite fit mentally, and active physically, up until just a few days ago. May he rest in God’s peace. (Read his full obituary here.)

Fr. Simeon was the Archabbey librarian for almost 50 years. More recently, he helped out in the Development Office, and even penned a couple items for us at the Abbey Press (the last being just a few months ago). He was also a primary impetus in the book project I am currently completing at the Abbey Press—which will feature the Stations of the Cross artwork of the recently deceased Fr. Donald Walpole, O.S.B. Fr. Simeon took it upon himself a couple years ago to catalogue all the work Fr. Donald had done and which is displayed all over the country, so that there would be a record of it for posterity’s sake. He had also helped the Development Office put together some devotional booklets on the Stations for Saint Meinrad alumni a few years ago.

I am still getting used to the reality that he is gone. Of the 11 monks that have died in my 6 years here, I was probably closest to him—though many others certainly knew him longer and better. Fr. Simeon passed on some valuable insight to me, particularly when I was a novice, and I was always edified by his monastic example—his regular presence at the Divine Office, his pitching in to do dishes shortly after his recovery from yet another health scare, his daily commitment to feeding an ill confrere too weak to look after himself, and his genuine joy in arm-wrestling with One Bread One Cup participants.

I will miss him.

In a way, he was the first monk of Saint Meinrad that I became acquainted with in-depth, due to his writing. Although he was not what one might call a prodigious or prolific author, he was a story-teller, and wrote from the heart. On my first visit to Saint Meinrad Archabbey as a retreatant in August 2005, I purchased his newly published book Finding Grace in the Moment: Stories and Other Musings of an Aged Monk, a collection of short, simple, but personally profound, entertaining, and heart-warming essays, poems, homilies, and reflections he penned over the years. Many of these had grown out of stories he had told but had never intended to be published. Friends and benefactors encouraged him to record them (first on cassettes, then on CDs), and eventually, to put them into writing. All of these are now on his personal website, which he took a great deal of pride in: http://www.fathersimeon.com/index.asp (I still have my copy of both the book and CDs).

The website also contains a number of photos from his life and musings, and if you visit it, you will instantly be greeted by Fr. Simeon personally in a short video. Through all these, you can see for yourself that he was a sentimental, thoughtful, gracious, caring, gentle, humble, sweet, and genuinely holy monk. All in all, a good man—about as good as they come, and he sincerely touched the hearts of many, many people during his lifetime.

When I was a novice, I was assigned to Fr. Simeon on a couple occasions to help him clean out his office. This was after his recovery from a serious health crisis, and it was time for him to downsize, and to begin to put things in order, as it were. He would no longer need an office; all the items within it— large and small—had to be disposed of in one way or another.

My mistake at the time was to view it as just another assignment—some work which I was anxious to complete so I could move on to the next thing. I began picking things up, stacking them, carting them, and then impatiently awaiting instructions on what to do with it all. Fr. Simeon was in no hurry. Every single object or scrap of paper had a story, some special significance. Sensing my antsy nature, he finally said to me, gently but firmly: “Put that down and just listen. Don’t be in such a hurry.” And so I did, reluctantly at first. Then, as he began unfolding his memories of people, places, and events behind all the piles of what I initially viewed as just stuff, I became drawn into them, intrigued, and enamored.

He passed on a lot of wisdom in the process, and even gave me a memento or two. Eventually, I began looking forward to my few hours with Fr. Simeon, and the time seemed to pass too quickly. I don’t think we really got much work accomplished, but I realize now that wasn’t the point. He had a story to tell. He needed someone to hear it, and he needed someone to help him close what must have been a very difficult chapter in his life. He didn’t need someone to lift boxes as much as he needed someone to listen. It was one of my first monastic lessons. Fr. Simeon taught me, as the title of his book suggests, to find grace in the moment. As a novice, I needed to learn that lesson. So, we both had something to offer the other as we each transitioned into new chapters in our lives.

The following is a short poem Fr. Simeon wrote about 30 years ago, during another transition in his life--when he moved from his cell in the old monastery to what was then the newly built one. He had lived in that old cell for more than 30 years, and the poem attests to his keen sense for the significance of the seemingly simple, and of his ability to find grace in the moment:


Farewell
From one who leaves this place,
Knowing full well,
No other space will so long serve his needs
Before he’s gone.

 Since August 16, 1951,
You have harbored one
Not kind to your face,
But who loved his place
Where you sheltered his comings and goings.

Thank you!

Fond aieu,
Sweet door!
Nevermore will you welcome or hide
This one who is grateful for the shade
You have so long provided.

Rest in peace, Fr. Simeon. Pray for us who are still on the other side of that narrow door through which you have passed.

3 comments:

  1. Dear Brother Francis.

    Thank you for these moving and beautiful words. No doubt you learned a valuable lesson of life from Father Simeon and I think he loved to teach you gently.

    I came across Father Simeon's website long time ago, and I still remember one of the stories he told there... about Miss Anna Casson.

    Father Simeon gave the impression of being a humble and very sincere man, and I am glad to know you got close to him.
    In the Land of Eternity he is now praying for his Brothers.

    Rest in peace Father Simeon.

    Tulle.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your story about Fr. Simeon, Br. Francis. I was working with him on a project for our alumni reunion this coming summer, and he said we better work on it sooner rather than later because he didn't know how much longer he would be around. Well, he got me started on the right track. What a humble and peaceful man!

    -Tim

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  3. Is there a way to subscribe to this blog? My name is Judy Cisco...jcisco@comporium.net. I found it reading about Fr. Simeon.

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