An old hymn goes, “oh these long years in exile here, these ages of delay.” When the Bridegroom [Christ] comes forth from his tent: He will come as a conquering hero. The kingdom, which seems to crumble in this passing world, will be restored in all of its glory. As Brothers, we are watchers in the night. Our whole life is oriented toward the new creation, the final victory over sin and death. Many have come to see and expect this hope because we stand, with our faces directed at the first light of dawn.
In the dell itself they found recent traces of a fire, and other signs of a hasty camp. There were some fallen rocks on the edge of the dell nearest to the hill. Behind them Sam came upon a small store of firewood neatly stacked.
Rangers are the mystery figures in J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. As the story unfolds the author plants small seeds of information about their world, but only enough to peak and not to satisfy our interest. It is through the figure of Aragorn that we come to understand them. He is the “type” or model of every Ranger.
They wander through the wildernesses of Middle Earth. They travel in pairs and rarely alone. They continue an ancient war which is more difficult because for a long time the enemy has worked in secret, unknown to the ‘ordinary’ peoples of the area. Many do not understand these warriors, or do not fully realize their efforts; some openly scorn them. Their ‘function’ does not seem to be necessary for the society of the day.
For a long time the image of Ranger has been my favored one for understanding life in the Brotherhood of Hope. Of course, no image is perfect, but I love this one because it plays on our deepest romances: adventure and wilderness, brotherhood amidst a great and ongoing struggle, and the zeal of men who fight alongside their King [indeed even ‘in the image’ of their King]. I believe that the key values and characteristics which enraptured me while reading Tolkein’s work, have been en-fleshed in a powerful way through pursuing a vocation.
Rangers of the wild, hunters – but hunters ever of the servants of the Enemy; for they are found in many places, not in Mordor only…Many evil things there are that strong walls and bright swords do not stay. Peace and freedom? The North would have known them little but for us. Fear would have destroyed them.
The ‘hunter’s snare’ continues to be a danger for the People of God. Perhaps more than ever in this age because so few are aware that an enemy exists. When I arrived at Florida State University, I did not see the long-term effects my decisions could have. Life seemed simple and I freely pursued the various excitements and pleasures which it offered. However, after I experienced God in a new way, I become aware that “two laws” were at work in me. St. Paul describes this inner ‘warfare’ in Romans:].
If there had not been Brothers ‘wandering the tracks’ of my campus, I might easily have fallen into the traps described by St. Paul. False relationships ensnared my will. Fleeting pleasures clouded my mind and [along with many of my fellow college students] led to actions I deeply regret. The lies of the enemy directly attacked me: the desire for popularity, self-doubt, anxiety, fear, depression, and anger at the hardships of life.
Peace and freedom come from knowing we are sons and daughters of God. A house built on any other reality will be washed into the sea, for it is built on sand. Therefore, the enemy’s greatest tool is fear; he teaches us to fear God and to move away from a conversion instead of toward it. Some fear that “church-life” is not fun. Others dread the lost of their freedom. Still others become darkened and addicted to pleasures – they feel they cannot “live without them”. As Churchill said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
I thought you knew enough Elvish at least to know dun-adan: Man of the West, Numenorean. But this is not time for lessons!
Is it safe to say that ninety-five percent of Catholics have never heard of Brothers, or at least do not understand the vocation? When I attended my first Catholic Student Union event, I did not know much about Brotherhood or the Church. Fortunately, students at the outreach took me ‘under their wing’. I also met regularly with two of the Brothers who served as campus ministers. I was fascinated to discover this new world: I saw mystery in the sacraments, power in the way a faith-community could live Christianity to the full. Also, I experienced a strange attraction to the life of these grey-shirted men; their sacrifices felt unattainable, but their life together was like an adventure waiting to unfold.
Much like the Dunadan (another name for ‘rangers’), Religious Brothers have dignity because of their state, not whatever ministerial role they perform. Is it too much of an exaggeration to say they carry the “royal blood of the Church”, unknown in our midst? Religious follow a long line of saints and martyrs, stretching back to the dawn of Church life. Before even the Paschal Mystery, the prophetess Anna spent her days within the temple, continually at prayer before the Lord.
As Brothers, our primary duty is worship. We support the life of the Church externally, but we strive for her perfection amidst our community. This ideal [presented in Acts 2] is the cornerstone of our life, from finances to clothing to dinner conversation. To worship is to serve, and we not only want to serve our King, but to configure ourselves to Him, to be willing to suffer and die for Him, and to know the glory of his resurrection. Just as readers ‘know’ the Rangers because they come to ‘know’ Aragorn, may they ‘know’ us by a resemblance to the Lord Jesus Christ!