by Fr. David May.
Unless a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest (Jn 12:24).
But before the seed falls to the ground and dies, it must first grow on a stalk and develop. For this, it needs certain conditions, such as sun and rain. And when the seed is us, the condition it needs is love.
If we are to have the courage and trust to fall into the ground and die, we have to first meet and receive love.
Ronnie’s family and others involved in his upbringing showed him that love, and that gift of love continued at Madonna House, especially through Catherine Doherty and Fr. Emile Brière.
When we know we are loved, by God ultimately, we can fall into His hands with a certain abandon, and the dying will be what it will be.
A good example of this dying, a story Ronnie would often tell, was of his time with Joe Hogan and Joe Walker at Madonna House’s first farm on the House of Gold Road.
On winter nights—and temperatures here can go down to minus thirty—he remembered lying in bed and looking at the stars through gaps in the walls.
Why were these three men there? Because there were a couple of cows to look after!
That was the beginning of apostolic farming in Madonna House: seeing stars and shivering in the cold.
To be involved like that, as Ronnie was, was a sheer act of faith. This was the Madonna House style—pioneer version—of a complete act of faith.
How does anybody do that? How could Ronnie do it? He would say he just did it.
In the Gospel, we hear Jesus saying where I am my servant will be too (Jn 12:26). Ronnie never did any of this alone. Christ asked him to do it and he did it with Christ.
I think that House of Gold Farm was Jesus’ kind of place. It was a lot like the places he lived in during his own life on earth: Bethlehem—cold and dark—and Nazareth—hidden.
The Lord likes those dark places because he can bring light: the desert because he can make it bloom, the cold places because he can warm them, our hearts because he can transform them.
Later in the Gospel, Jesus says his soul is troubled and then that glory will come out of it all. As an apostle of Madonna House, Ronnie had his share of troubles, his share in Christ’s sufferings. But we can have a certain equanimity about these sufferings if we are rooted in the Father’s love. Ronnie had that equanimity.
When I think about Ronnie’s equanimity, I think about typewriters. When I was a young staff worker living at the farm, I used to hear him typing in the evening. How many letters did he write? He was always writing them, letters with news and encouragement, letters about farming and "economies of communion."
In Liberia, those with him tell us that even when the bombs were flying, he would be typing. That was the duty of the moment, and he would do it as long as he could.
Letters connected him to people, and Ronnie was a great believer in people, in people helping people.
His faith in people was founded on them being made in the image of God. Ronnie knew that if you are a child of God, you are destined for glory—that the whole of creation is destined for glory—even though you and it might groan along the way.
Farmers especially know this. They see it in a sunrise, in the birth of a lamb, in the beauty of a field of cabbages. They have a sense that ultimately a victory is coming. Ronnie had that, and he lived it. He knew that the last word is not groaning but freedom, resurrection, glory.
—Adapted from the homily at Ronnie’s funeral Mass.
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