Reflection by Abbot John Klassen, OSB

January 14, 2009

Reflection by Abbot John Klassen, OSB, at Memorial Service for Br. Dietrich Reinhart, OSB
Jan. 15, 2009
Saint John's Abbey Church

There are so many things I could say on an occasion such as this.
So I will limit myself to three. 
First, funerals and memorial services such as this are not for the deceased.
Brother Dietrich is in a great place, free from pain and harm. 
We hear Jesus’ wonderful promise:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. 
Believe in God, believe also in me. 
My Father’s house has many rooms.
So while I grieve the loss of our brother
and such a strong leader for the past 17+ years,
I also am deeply grateful for his presence in the monastic community
and for all of us.

This service, then, is for us, the living,
to gather strength and vision for our own lives.
It is a quintessential learning moment – a good thing in a university!
And the learnings are many – surely at the top is the fragility of our lives. 
Unfortunately, this is a cliché, truly hard to take seriously
until death comes suddenly, relentlessly to someone close to us. 
It is difficult to treasure the gift of life,
to live each day fully, to stay focused on our purpose,
both as individuals and as an institution. 
Each of us has our own set of distracters
that so easily take us off course. 
One reason for a monastery to be is to testify, to witness to this fragility of life
and to the Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ
and its significance for all of us. 

Second, even though he graduated from Saint John’s in 1971
and left the classroom in 1991, the year some of you were born,
he never lost the sure sense of what it is like to be an undergraduate;
learning and discovering,
almost always behind in the reading, studying for exams,
trying to have a large sense of one’s life
and the vista against which our lives are lived;
a sense of the necessary frustrations and disappointments,
as well as new beginnings that are part of an education,
the stability and durability of the friendships that are forged in these years. 
Dietrich also always remembered how crucial and delicate
the interaction between students and a dedicated faculty is.
Our lives come together for a time,
and then necessarily part, but the impact goes both ways
and it is huge. 
Dietrich understood a liberal arts education as a big platform
on which to stand, to look out and make sense of things,
and make a contribution to the world. 

Third, Dietrich loved the word “gladness.” 
It seemed to capture for him the combination
of happiness, joy, and peace that come for a purposeful life,
when we are truly living out of our strengths and gifts,
and meeting real needs in the world. 
He often quoted a German theologian and writer Friedrich Buechner –
that the most creative, Spirit-filled edges are those
where our deep gladness meets with worlds most aching need. 
For me, the take-home message is this:
as wonderful as a liberal arts education is,
it is not all about us – it is meant for the world.

I have known Dietrich we were freshmen in 1967,
we were freshmen then,
but we really became friends as monastic classmates from 1971 on. 
Over these past weeks a thousand memories washed over me:
Dietrich’s self-deprecating complaint
that he never got to drive the tractor during novitiate;
his capacity to be late for any and all occasions
because he was always getting one more thing done;
his absolute commitment to never eat at a fast food restaurant;
on a road trip, you go to Hans and Annie’s or Ellen’s. 
When in restaurant in a foreign country, be adventuresome. 
Take long hikes under any conditions: sun, rain, cold, snow, fog, sleet, mud, wind… 
the countless times I heard the wheels of his luggage on the rough floor of Breuer,
as he was heading to the airport over the past 17 years;
his love of the word “scheme” 
(Projectenmacher for Boniface Wimmer) always meant a creative response to a problem;
and I could go on – I am sure each of you has your own list. 

Truly Brother Dietrich was a faithful servant,
ready for our Lord’s call. 
We live our lives with faith in Jesus Christ,
knowing ourselves as adopted children of God.
The Word became flesh so that Dietrich and all of our loved ones
might live in God. 

Abbot John Klassen, OSB
Jan. 15, 2009