Thought for the Day – 26 April – Thursday of the Fourth Week of Eastertide and the Memorial of St Rafael Arnáiz Barón (1911-1938)
“This humble worship that surely is more pleasing to God than many deeds that the world calls charity. . . How much greater in God’s eyes is a heartfelt ‘Hail Mary’ than even the greatest thing done without wholehearted love for God.”
Rafael had only four more years to live. A few months after entering the monastery, he was diagnosed with a virulent form of diabetes. The illness brought with it melancholy and perplexity. Three times the novice’s superiors sent him home to rest and recover his strength. Drafted into the Nationalist Army at the very height of the Spanish Civil War, Rafael was declared unfit for active duty. Returning to the monastery for the last time, he was received as a regular oblate, that is, a man living within the cloister without vows and following a personal rule of life approved by the abbot. Regular oblates were, at that time, somewhat marginalised in monastic communities. Their peculiar status — monks living without vows and without the security that comes from having made profession — was not without its own challenges. Rafael entered fully into the vocation of the oblate, understanding that the oblate is destined for the altar, that is, for sacrifice.
St Rafael, in spite of the brevity and discontinuity of his monastic experience, lived it fully. He remained faithful in the face of bewildering contradictions, uncertainties and apparent failure. He found the Will of God in weakness, in illness, in war, in the inability to make monastic profession and in the sufferings inherent in community life.
Brother Rafael Maria was humble because he accepted one humiliation after another without ever despairing of the mercy of God. He died stripped of everything, without having fulfilled even the legitimate human aspirations that so appealed to him. Configured to the poor and crucified Jesus, he died in the splendour of the Resurrection on 26 April 1938 at the age of 27.
St Pope John Paul II proclaimed Rafael a model for today’s youth but for me, he is a model for us all on how to learn to love suffering, how to learn to love the Cross of Christ and thus suffering in our own crosses in total abandonment to Divine Providence.
“The whole community is gathered in adoration
to ask the Lord for peace,
to pray for those who are dying and to make reparation for so many sins . . .
But one mustn’t spread discouragement. . . .
When we ask for mercy and pardon, we are doing as David did . . .
that is, the Lord will blot out all our sins and those of the whole world,
not by any poor merits of ours
but by the multitude and the greatness of His mercy.”