Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation. New York: Continuum, 1995. 151 pages
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Chapter 8. Bernie
Keating offers the story of Brother Bernie O'Shea to illustrate what consenting to the goodness of oneself and nature might look like in real life. Bernie became a Trappist monk when the lifestyle was very simple and there was a tendency to disapprove of any kind of enjoyment. A very warm and loving young man, he enjoyed people and even overcame the rule of silence by becoming a sign language chatterbox. He had a deep love for nature and enjoyed serving and pleasing others in his role as cook for the community.
Because his style was so at variance with most others in his order, Bernie often expressed self-doubts; but he was always faithful and obedient. When the order relaxed its strictness after Vatican II, he developed his service into an art. "Bernie challenged us to accept his special acts of kindness by making us feel as if we were doing him a favor."
"Instead of treating me like everybody else, he went out of his way to find out what food I liked and what food I could not eat, in addition to all his other ever-increasing activities. I remember reflecting, 'This must be the way God is!' When someone treats you in such a way that it makes you think of God, that person clearly is a sacrament of God's presence."
Bernie died of a massive heart attack. Keating reflects, "I never knew anyone who resembled sunshine more than this man. No one ever loved life so genuinely and consented to its goodness so unreservedly. Yet, in one second, at God's request, he dropped everything. That is true detachment - accepting everything that God wants us to accept and letting go of everything that God wants us to let go of, at a moment's notice."