Brother Joseph Woods - Founding Member Born 30 March 1915 Entered 3 March 1943 Professed 9 September 1948 Died 11th July 1986 Brother Joseph (John) was one of twin brothers born at Loughglynn, Co. Roscommon in 1915. He began his monastic life at Mount Saint Joseph Abbey, Roscrea, in 1943. While still only in temporary vows he was chosen as one of the founders for the monastery at Nunraw, Scotland. With his previous experience on the home-farm, he was soon put in charge of the dairy herd. He was also called upon from time to time for service in the guesthouse and for cooking in the monastery kitchen. The kitchen ceiling bore the marks of his less successful experiments with the pressure cooker. His efforts in the guesthouse were more rewarding. In his gentle way he made many friends. He loved children too and had an easy way with them that won their hearts. In 1966 he had the joy of becoming a fully integrated monk and of exchanging the brother's brown habit for the Cistercian black and white habit and white cowl. This and the many changes for renewal of Vatican II only served to confirm his life of kindly zeal and gentle simplicity, although he much preferred the old Liturgy of the Mass which he loved to serve. In 1983, while making the Stations of the Cross one morning, he suffered a serious stroke from which he only partially recovered. After several other strokes, he was finally taken to the Eastern General Hospital, Edinburgh. With the Abbot beside him, Br. Joseph died peacefully two days later, the 11th July 1986. Br. Joseph -Entries in the Community Chronicle Community Chronicle 16th February 1982 - At Castle Moffat, Br. Joseph has presently 112 livestock to care for: 42 heifers, 69 stirks and one handsome looking bull. "Spot", Br. Joseph's excellent cattle dog, is now showing his age - he was ten years old last June, but is still leader in the field over all the rest of our farm dogs. His hairs round his mouth are greying and his eyes are not so bright as of yore. 8 December 1983 - Fr. Raymond has come off twice, in the last 24 hours, from Br. Joseph's motor scooter - it has an erratic accelerator control. Perhaps it was this technical fault that pitched Br. Joseph into a ditch alongside the avenue, whilst going down to the guesthouse, a few days before collapsing in the Church. So the scooter is in the dock … 11 July 1986 - Just after Mass, the Abbot, who had been all night beside Br. Joseph, phoned to tell us that our good brother had gone forth at 5.00 am, - about a quarter of an hour after we had begun Mass. Perhaps we were singing the Response, "The just man, Lord, shall on your holy mountain.", as he went forth to be for ever in the presence of the Lord. He was the last of the Roscrea brothers. Over the past few months he was particularly lonely, after Br. Anthony died, there was no one around to really share his Roscrea experience. He was an excellent monk, being very faithful to his Office, Reading and devotions. He was 71 years old when he died; not only did he miss the Roscrea brethren but also the wide open spaces of Castle Moffat. Being more or less confined to his room was irksome. Two of the brethren were discussing whether he and 'Spot', his collie dog, will meet in heaven; there was some doubt about Spot being up there right now, he had been such a gluttonous rogue that we felt that he was is a doggy purgatory doing expiation for his villainy. Maybe with Br. J. going up to heaven, Spot might be released to go with him. Br. Joseph was a hidden monk, he never sought notice, just lived the life with fidelity. He was gentle and very friendly, with a good humour - not caustic - but a feel for the truly funny. He probably never hurt anyone, but sadly, was often hurt in the early years, especially on the farm. He will be the 19th monk to be buried in our cemeteries. 12 July 1986 - Br. Joseph's remains arrived at about 10.15, there were some dozen folk to greet them. We had a commemoration for him in the evening at which our Abbot gave a homily, drawing attention to Br. Joseph's very ordinary approach to Faith, no fuss, no extravagances, a realistic acceptance of the Sacraments, the monastic life, and devotion to friends and family. 14 July 1986 - An excellent day weather wise for Br. Joseph's funeral. There was a marvellous turn-out of friends of Br. Joseph's, many of his relatives, including his twin brother Dan, arrived for the occasion. And too, the Cardinal, Fr. Carey, Fr. Summers and Fr. Eddy Sherry, Fr. Michael's brother from Australia - a Columban Missionary, also came. The Mass went beautifully, a mixture of sorrow and happiness. There had lain on the coffin for two days, all on its own, one Mass card. It was from Zanie Frazer, a twelve year old girl, living in southern England. She had met Br. Joseph a number of times at the guesthouse. The card said something about Br. Joseph, - he loved children and they loved him. The Abbot's homily was good, but the chronicler can't remember any of it. After the funeral, the community met the family and friends in the monastery refectory. Regional Newsletter, Christmas 1986 Br. Woods R.I.P. Br. Joseph of Nunraw died in hospital in Edinburgh on St. Benedict's day, July 11th, after several years of ill health following a stroke. He was 71 years of age and a lovable and gentle character. Born in Co. Roscommon, he spent his early years working on the family farm, and so it was natural that when he thought of a religious vocation he should turn to Roscrea with its agricultural work where a family friend, the late Br. Albert had preceded him. In correspondence with the Father Master of the Brothers before entering he addressed the envelope, not to 'The Novicemaster' but, most perceptively, to 'The Master Novice'. The Master continues to be a disciple! John Woods entered Roscrea in 1943 and three years later left for the new foundation at Nunraw, settling easily and happily into his new home. With the exception of a few years in the kitchen and a year in the tailor's shop, Br. Joseph spent all his working life on the farm. For a number of years he looked after the dairy herd in the cow house where everything was kept with the greatest cleanliness. On one occasion his ample frame was seen on top of the cow house scrubbing the asbestos roof, only to be reminded by Abbot Columban that he was not a featherweight! After completing his time with the dairy herd, he was put in charge of the farm at Castle Moffat, on the hills overlooking the monastery. Here, with his genial temperament and droll Irish humour, he quickly made friends with the small number of people living around the farmstead of whom special mention must be made of His Eminence Cardinal Gray. The Cardinal had a very small cottage at Castle Moffat. This he called his Castel Gandolfo, which he used as a place of retreat from the worries and cares of his diocese. This dwelling was looked after by Br. Joseph. On his frequent visits a chat with Joe was clealy part of the tonic, whose friendly blather was obviously a welcome change from diocesan business in Edinburgh. The two men were great friends and it was most fitting that the Cardinal was able to be present at Br. Joseph's funeral. Above all Br. Joseph was a good monk, devoted to the Mass, Lectio Divina and prayer. It was this personal commitment to Christ that enhanced his already affectionate and attractive character. Final Appreciation: Abbot's Homily at Brother Joseph's Funeral Mass The Lord Jesus says, "I go to prepare a place for you, and I will come again to take you to myself." Three years ago in this very Church, (25 Nov. 1983), Br. Joseph was making his regular Stations of the Cross when he suffered his first major stroke. Sitting by him during his last illness I experienced the best hours of prayer I had for a long time. In his condition, Br. Joseph could not answer back - but his life was the response I listened to, and to which the Lord listened. He was already well prepared and his acceptance was full of trust, "Whether we live or whether we die, we are in the Lord's hands." And it is precisely in this humble, unobtrusive pattern that faith sees the glory of the Lord embodied. One can never be the same again after suffering a severe stroke, after a close encounter with death. Br. Joseph had three years after this experience which he used to the full to prepare for death. Every time he had a hair cut, and he was very careful of his appearance, he would remark half in fun and wholly in earnest, "Ah well, that will see me out." It was during this time that the special qualities which were always unobtrusively present became so clear. It is true that the Church and each vocation to which one is called is the Lord's special help, means, given to make our path to God easy. But it is always a great mystery how some individuals almost without trying seem to find their way so naturally - to find a place which seems to suit them perfectly in following Christ as the way, the truth and the life. Br. Joseph was in his twenties when he felt the urge towards the religious life. Would he join the active apostolate in the Salesian congregation or would he enter the monastery of Roscrea. His Parish Priest, very wisely, gave him his first lesson in decision making. "You choose for yourself", he said, "because if I direct you one way or the other and it doesn't work out, then you will blame me." So he made his decision to become a monk and I am not aware that he ever questioned that full commitment of his life. One can view the religious and monastic vocation and love of the Church in rather general terms. It is all the more wonderful when the full relevance of this calling can be identified in the individual, like Br. Joseph. What is most impressive and enduring is the mystery by which some individuals seem, in a childlike way, to find their ambience in the Church and in the monastery as in a family, and to make it their home without feeling any great struggle of choices. In the monastic Rule, St. Benedict makes humility the foundation of the life of the monk and community. This humility is like the cement which binds the stones of the monastery, or as it has been described, "Humility has no other aim than to unite without being noticed. It wants to be there, while seeming not to be. It has no need to excel." One could be talking here of Br. Joseph. He in fact excelled so much in the ordinary things that it is only afterwards that we take notice and appreciate it fully. For example, it has been said that Godliness is next to cleanliness. Wherever he went to work Br. Joseph quickly made his mark not with any radical revolution but with his infallible formula of washing soda, scrubbing brush and paint brush. On one occasion his zeal in refurbishing the dairy extended to the outside roof cladding. Abbot Columban found him busy cleaning green moss from the roof of the cow house but pointed out to him that he was no feather weight and that he could easily fall through. St. Benedict gives a list of the twelve degrees of humility. In the eighth a monk wishes to do nothing except what is endorsed by the common rule and example of the seniors, or as it has been translated, "to wish to plunge head first into the rhythm of community life with all your heart." Br. Joseph had great human qualities and the community was essential to him. He was an excellent monk but he was in no way a solitary, a loner, a hard-man, . He had a great sense of the community of the Church which came out very strikingly not in affirmations, but in the critical moments especially of illness. If he felt death was near he immediately turned to his brethren to be with him, and asked for the Sacraments, the Anointing of the Sick - the ordinary things of the Church, things that call most for the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. And in that, as in the medical care of the infirmarian or doctor, it was more the personal attention which was most important to him. Any fear he had of death was of death in isolation, fear that death should be impersonal. For him death was something sacred, inseparable from the community, the Church, the communion of Saints. Part of the same character, no doubt, is the great love he had for his family and friends. That was something which was always with him but it was especially noticeable in his own time of sickness and nearness to death. When he was being nursed back to his first recovery in St. Raphael's Hospital, Sr. Frances, who was supposed to be on night duty, found herself serving as his secretary writing letters to other sick people and to the bereaved. When it came to the priorities of life, his heart always led the way. One cannot help feeling he had something in common with Christ's own human feelings which are so evident in the story of Bethany. Martha said to Jesus, "If you had been here, Lazarus, would not have died." The appeal to human feelings did but reflect the supernatural and spiritual outlook in which Jesus and Martha were in complete agreement, an agreement in which our Joseph fully shared.