Memorial of Saint Philip Neri
Acts 25:13b-21, John 21:15-19
On this day in 1951, Father Gerard McGinley planted a simple wooden cross on the highest point of the property. It bore the inscription: “Foundation of the monastery of Blessed Mary of the Genesee, May 26, 1951. May God be glorified in all things. Serve the Lord with gladness.” He and the founding group of monks came to the “Valley of Mary’s Smile” to found a new monastery in the service of Christ our true King. Having ascended to the heights, the community returned to the plain and began the work of building the monastery, and of being built into a spiritual temple made of living stones where the Most High would dwell.
On a 570-acre parcel of land, nestled in the green and silent region of the valley that had once been the Eden of the Seneca Indians, the brothers set to live a life that was “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). Through the solicitude and industry of Dom Gerard the community grew in love of the Rule and of the place. Day by day, they rendered God a service that was humble and noble. They saw the establishment of a claustral paradise as an act of faith whereby they were doing something beautiful for God. Here, on the Beautiful Banks of the Genesee River, the brothers sought to establish a place of prayer where they would be able to know themselves and God better.
The monastery, which is a School of the Lord’s Service, exists as an oasis in a troubled and unfeeling world. The community of brothers who responded to God’s call is an expression of the mystery of the Church where nothing is preferred to the love of Christ. It is hoped that through fidelity to the monastic way of life, Isaiah’s peaceable Kingdom would become a reality: “They will neither hurt nor destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11:9). Consumed by the love of Christ, the brothers strive to love one another and to live in harmony. Whenever a rupture occurs, they seek the balm of reconciliation. This bond of love becomes the seedbed of hospitality to all who knock at the door.
Many local people helped the brothers put up the buildings. Those who worked alongside the brothers were invited to partake in their hospitality. By the sweat of their brow, they got to sample some fresh-baked bread. While breaking bread at table, the brothers recognized the living Lord in their guests. With that in mind, let us turn our attention to the conversation between Peter and Jesus at Lake Tiberias.
The Lord, who was recognized by the disciples journeying to Emmaus in the breaking of the bread, is recognized by John as he stood on the shore at the breaking of a new day. Having heard the voice of the Master, the disciples joined him in a meal of loaves and fish. Once the plates were empty, the disciples and Master sat back and enjoyed the pleasure of each other’s presence. I can imagine Jesus leaning over and picking up a crust of bread off the table, breaking it, and giving a morsel to Peter. As soon as Peter took the bread, the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him. In that moment of communion, he recognized himself. He knew that he was loved by the Lord he loved even though he had denied him. May we who have come to these Pleasant Banks prefer nothing whatever to the love of Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.