Monday, August 28, 2006

Abbot Francis Kline, RIP

I just got this in the inbox ... Fr. Francis Kline, OCSO, the Abbot of the Abbey of Our Lady of Mepkin, near Moncks Corner, passed away yesterday. He had been suffering from leukemia for several years now.
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.

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.”
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 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..


St. Elizabeth of Cayce said...

One evening this past week I heard on local Public Radio about a celebration the Abbey was planning to honor the Africans and African-Americans buried there. There was a lot of discussion on the program about what we owed to all of those who worked the land and whose labor made this such a sacred space.

As I listened, I recalled our visit last spring, and how good it was to see and hear Abbot Kline playing in the liturgy--giving what he could for as long as he could.

There is a beautiful homily on the Abbey's website given last June 24 that addresses John the Baptist's proclamation: He must increase and I must decrease."

I praise you for I am wonderfully made. And unmade.

What says the Gospel? “He must increase. I must decrease.”

Before our eyes, one in our midst is doing just that. And this decreasing, this dying, is not just the slow diminishment of a brother who has lived out in fidelity his fourscore and ten and now can prepare for his eternal rest. This is the diminishment of our Father Abbot at the very peak of his powers, at the apogee of his influence on our community and on the larger ecclesial, human, esthetic and environmental communities.

What a tragedy! What a waste!

But I am absolutely convinced that God is working here. Grace and love are enfolding our Abbot and our community from many, many different quarters. Grace and love are here for our choosing---and choose we must. Grace and love hang by a thread, the future is offered us, but it is balanced on a precipice. A false move one way or another and we can lose this kairos, this graced moment, this moment of truth and love.

Definitely read the rest.

Anonymous said...

I have been Francis' friend since I was 13 and he was 14 . We met at St. Joe's Prep and since we both became professional musicians, our bond was always through music. We spent many hours in NYC together when he was in treatments at Sloan-Kettering and even spent one Christmas Eve dinner at his apt. He was a rare man in many ways. I last saw him at Mepkin about 3 months before he died- he gave me a score of the Bach trios sonatas, 6 pieces we both loved and we both cried as we embraced each other for what we knew would be the last time. I miss him a great deal but he will always live in my heart.