Br. Mary Evagrius (Dominic ’08) Hayden, O.S.B., is a Benedictine monk at the Monastero San Benedetto in Norcia, Italy, the birthplace of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica. The 1,000-year-old monastery had fallen into a 200-year period of disuse until refounded by a group of American Benedictines in the great Jubilee Year of 2,000. Br. Evagrius, as he is known, is now one of two Thomas Aquinas College alumni pursuing vocations there, the other being the community’s subprior, Rev. Thomas (David’96) Bolin, O.S.B.
In August, Br. Evagrius made his solemn profession, and shortly afterward sent the following reflection about the experience to the College’s president, Dr. Michael F. McLean:
“Mortuus sum, et vita mea est abscondita cum Christo in Deo.” “I am dead, and my life is hidden with Christ in God.”
This was the hymn that echoed above me as I lay stretched out upon the cold floor, a black funeral shroud draped over my still body. The funeral bells rang their mournful cry announcing the passage of another soul from this world … and I wept. I had given God all that I had: money, time, energy, even my own life dedicated fully to Him. But of what value are the things that I seek to give to Him when He possesses the universe? My gifts are like ashes and smoke.
A wise Abba once told me, “In the end all that we can give to God is our dying, and that pleases the spouse very much.” I had finally given that little gift to Him as well, prefiguring my own death in the flesh with my death from the world. Now I have nothing left, except the years of waiting until I am finally brought in to the wedding feast of the lamb.
When will my death be consummated so that I can be with the Spouse? I do not know. But until that day comes I must prepare myself, for as the same Abba told me, “The monastic life is a preparation for martyrdom.”
The hymn continued: “Non moriar sed vivam, et narrabo opera Domini.” “I will not die but I shall live, and I will proclaim the works of the Lord.”
Having made my solemn vows, I am now given a mission, to proclaim the works of the Lord by my life until that time when He should call me to lay it down out of love, a holocaust consumed, emptied as Christ emptied himself, to die just as He did. Then death loses its sting, it is no longer a tragedy of pain, fear and sorrow, but rather a separation from the obstacles that keep the soul from union with God, a joyful transformation from orphan-hood to son-ship, a resurrection to life everlasting.