A Trappist Monk with a Contemplative Eye on the Modern World
Father James Stephen Behrens, OCSO, was a unique observer of the human condition. His artful writings and intriguing photographs reflect on the significance of the ordinary—the sacredness of what comes our way every day and seems to recede from our grasp. His fresh, down-to-earth reflections show how modern monasticism can have a powerful impact on the lives and spirituality of people living far beyond cloister walls. This memorial edition includes all the stories from his two major collections, Grace is Everywhere and Memories of Grace, as well as his seminal essay “Andy’s Diner” and excerpts from his award-winning book of photographs Portraits of Grace.
A Note from the Publisher
When one of us dies, we all die just a little bit. Just as when one of us is born, we are all reborn in a way.
The author of this collection, Fr. James Behrens, OCSO, died suddenly and unexpectedly on August 15, 2019, from complications of a biopsy being done on his lungs (yes, his lifetime of smoking finally did do him in). He was just back home at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, after a very un-Trappist-like trip around the world on tramp steamers and other vehicles.
I talked with him when he got back. “Jeff” was his parent-given name, the one I always called him, the one he used before taking the name James as his religious name when he joined the Trappists. James was the name of Jeff’s twin brother, who died in a car accident as a teenager. For a beautiful tribute to James by Jeff, see the very last entry in this book.
Jeff and I talked shortly before he died. Feeling no sense of urgency, we talked about everything: our families, how my adult children (whom Jeff has known since they were very young) were doing, his life in the monastery and mine in the world, the state of the church and the nation, and where we were each experiencing the divine presence these days.
In the end of his story “The Coney Island Pub,” the last story in this book, Jeff wrote what I will always consider his own obituary: “As my friend and I drove out of the pub and onto the road, there was another sign: ‘Leave with Gratitude and Care.’ I certainly did.”
Gregory F. Augustine Pierce
Publisher, ACTA Publications
Read Greg Pierce's remembrance in National Catholic Reporter here.
Read the eulogy and other reflections from the Monastery of the Holy Spirit here.