The Rev. Francis Kline, the abbot of Mepkin Abbey and an influencial spiritual force in the life of South Carolina, died Sunday after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 57.Here's a link to an excerpt from his fantastic book on the monastic vocation: Lovers of the Place. I didn't expect the emotional response that I had to hearing this news ... Abbot Kline has been a kind of a role model and spiritual guide of sorts for me ... I've had the privilege of meeting him on several occasions, and he always asked about my spiritual welfare and vocation. He had given me an open invitation to come visit and pray at the Abbey at any time. I had wanted to do that before I left for India, in May, however, it just didn't work out. I am so grateful that I did write him a short note expressing my gratitude for his support and prayers.
A Juilliard-trained organist, Father Francis was the longtime leader of the Trappist monastic community founded on the Cooper River at Moncks Corner in 1949. But the cerebral, soft-spoken monk was much more to those who claimed him as wise counselor and reverent friend.
“He was someone that just had a remarkable level of personal grace in the way he handled himself,” Gov. Mark Sanford said. “He was able to have this incredibly deep well of spirituality and the ability to look deeply at ideas of faith, and then this ability to care what was happening in the world around him.”
A few years ago we'd invited him to give a talk at the parish, as part of a Lenten guest lecture series. Here's what I remember him saying about Peter and the Petrine ministry: "In traditional iconography, Peter is always depicted with these two riven clefts of tears running down his cheeks. These are tears of repentance. He who was called the Rock was the one who betrayed His Lord three times. The Rock is flawed ... it is only the Lord who makes him solid."
The last issue of Mepkin's newsletter, "Chapter and Verse" has a wonderful piece on Lectio Divina written by Abbot Kline. Soon, I'll transcribe it to the net ... it's not available online.
I am also grateful that on a day retreat to Mepkin in the spring, I got to see him at Nones and Vespers. He seemed so frail ... yet he still accompanied the chanting on the organ.
Now, my next visit to Mepkin (whenever that might be) will be a pilgrimage to pray at his graveside.
Dear Fr. Francis, I take solace in the fact that you are now free of the pain and suffering of the cancer, and enjoying the Beatific Vision, and adding your own unique harmony to the celestial choir. Pray for us who still struggle in this valley of tears. One day, the Lord willing, we will all sing the praises of God around the throne of the Lamb.
Requiescat in pace.
[Pictures from the last visit to Mepkin. Here, here, here and the Flickr set..