Justin Read-Smith

This past week was a busy one in our household. The kids are back at school, reestablishing routines forgotten in the lazy days of summer. In a blink, summer is over. Our lives are ones of transition, from summer to fall, from fall to winter… And so it goes.

I’ve been reflecting lately about transitions, particularly life transitions. Last week, I saw a news piece about the reestablished monastery in Norcia (Nursia), Italy, the birthplace of St. Benedict. The monks there have just released a CD of monastic chant.

It was intriguing to see the life of the monks in the short eight-minute clip. But what really struck me was the interview with the prior (head monk) of the monastery. The prior, Father Cassian, was asked by the reporter about his recent re-occurrence of cancer. The reporter asked a pointed question: How do you feel about death?

Father Cassian gave an interesting reply. He noted we can view death in one of two ways: as a thief or as a messenger. If we view death as a thief, it robs us of what might have been, of what we will lose. However, if we view death as a messenger, then we see the one who sent the message; an invitation to relationship. Since watching the interview, I’ve not been able to get that illustration out of my head. I’m personally not facing imminent death, at least not that I know of, but the illustration I think applies to more than just death.

With the kids back at school, the summer slowly dwindling, life transitions too can be viewed as a thief or a messenger. The oncoming fall, the beginning of a new school year, these things can be viewed as a thief, robbing us of the lazy, hazy days of summer – and the freedom that accompanies them. But what if we view them as a messenger, rather than a thief? A messenger of what is to come, the joy and wonder of the seasonal transitions. The messenger of the great life events yet to be discovered.

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But more importantly, these transitions are a messenger from someone, calling us to live more fully into the life we were created to live; to more fully discover the divine presence throughout our lives. In Revelation chapter 3, Jesus states: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” The promise is one of relationship. The promise is one of intimacy.

As we approach the upcoming fall and succeeding winter, as our children journey deeper into the school year, do we view these life transitions as a thief or a messenger? Do they rob us of something like a thief? Or do they bear good tidings like a messenger?

So what do you think? Thief or messenger? Our perspective makes all the difference.


Father Justin Read-Smith is the rector of Community of Saint Columba, 113 W. Front St., Suite 301. He can be reached at 406-219-1352 or rector@stcolumbamissoula.org.

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