I have just returned home from the Liturgy and switched the computer on to find an e-mail from Dom James of Christminster, sharing the news that Abbot Augustine of the Benedictine Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Royal has reposed in the Lord. Dom Augustine led the monastery into the bosom of the Church in the early 1960s and they were received into the Russian Church Abroad in 1975. He was a great father to the Western Rite monastics in the Church Abroad and no doubt a source of inspiration elsewhere, and it was to him that St John of San Francisco uttered the now famous words:
Never, never, never let anyone tell you that, in order to be Orthodox, you must also be eastern. The West was Orthodox for a thousand years and her venerable Liturgy is far older than any of her heresies.In a blessed falling asleep, grant rest, O Lord, to the soul of thy servant the Abbot Augustine, and make his memory to be eternal.
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost 2010
We at Christminster received news this morning of the repose last night of Dom Augustine Whitfield, Abbot of Mount Royal. It was he who not merely brought the western-rite monastic community of Mount Royal into the Russian Church, but also - over many years, and in the face of many difficulties, and often alone - sustained and maintained that mission and vision, handing it on eventually to Christminster and to Holyrood Hermitage in Florida, under its Abbot Dom David Pierce. Abbot David has been a most faithful and dear son to Dom Augustine for many years and cared for him at the end with the Church's holy Mysteries and prayers. He and we at Christminster are the happy inheritors of Dom Augustine's long and lonely struggle.
Thus it is with mixed feelings of sadness and joy that we greet his repose: sad because we have lost a long-time friend and mentor, and joy that he can now receive the thanks he so much deserved for his often thankless task. May God greet his homecoming son as we pray he might greet each of us: Well done, thou good and faithful servant! Because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things. Enter into the joy of thy Lord."
According to his wishes he will be buried privately in a local Orthodox cemetery. There will be a solemn memorial Requiem scheduled for him in early August - possibly at Christminster - to enable all those who would honour his life and work to gather and pray for his eternal repose and heavenly reward.
May his sins lie lightly upon him and may he come to see, face to face, that one Face we all long to see and to adore and praise for all eternity. May this unsung hero of western-rite Orthodoxy and monasticism truly enter into the joy of his Lord. A Mass of Requiem will be offered for him tomorrow at Christminster. Further details will follow.
Dom James M. Deschene
Abbot of Christminster