Crossing Ending and Beginning

Crossing, Ending, and Beginning

 In most Catholic parishes around the world, if you were to attend Mass this March 21, the celebration would be that of a normal weekday in Lent. And if you were to ask the liturgist when St. Benedict’s feast day is, the most likely answer would be July 11. It’s a correct answer—that’s when Benedict is celebrated in the so-called “universal calendar.” If you were to check the ritual books in my office, you’d see July 11 named as the Solemnity of Benedict, Patriarch of Western Monasticism.

We Benedictines, though, get to celebrate two feast days for Benedict. In addition to July 11, we observe March 21 as the Solemnity of the Passing of Our Holy Father Benedict. Before the Second Vatican Council, this was Benedict’s feast in the universal calendar, commemorating the presumed day in 547 when he died. A feast day commemorating the day of a saint’s death is sometimes called by its Latin name, transitus: thus, the Transitus of Benedict recalls the day he passed over from earthly life, from one state of being to the next.

In a prayer often heard at funeral Masses, we remember that for God’s faithful, “life is changed not ended; and when this earthly dwelling [the body] turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.”

In a church, a community, a family, and even an individual life, when something ends, God says once again, “Behold: I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). In his Life of Benedict, St. Gregory relates that Benedict, foreseeing his own death, had himself taken to church, received communion, and died standing with arms outstretched. In this, he conformed himself to the death of Christ, arms outstretched on the cross, expressing his hope to rise with Christ.

As we observe this feast of Benedict’s passing, let us give thanks for endings, for changes, and for beginnings. What is God bringing to an end in your life this Lent? What new life awaits this Easter and beyond?

Stephen Kasperick-Postellon is the Director of Liturgy and Music for St. Paul’s Monastery since 2022. He is an oblate of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie (PA).