Brother Stephen HeenanBorn 13 Nov 1919Entered Abbey 8 Sept 1952Temp. Profession 19 Mar 1955Sol. Profession 8 May 1958Prior 1976-93Died 13 Feb 2008May he rest in Peace.John Heenan was born the first of a large family of ten children, 5 boys, 5 girls, of Thomas and Helen Heenan, in Townhead, Glasgow. He was Baptised in the Cathedral Parish of St. Andrew. Br. Stephen is survived by his sisters Betty and Julie and brothers Thomas (Br. Kentigern) and Charles, and nieces and nephews to the third generation.His first school was the primary of St. Andrew, from where he went on to St. Mungo’s Academy. After school he joined his father’s business as Bookmaker. In later years his gestures would sometimes reveal his expertise as a boxer. In the first stages of the Second World War he joined the Army and served in the Artillery Defenses off the south coast of England, 1939-45.In 1952 he decided to follow his younger brother in joining the monks at Nunraw. He made the contemplative monastic life his single minded aim. True to that calling his own character took shape and was moulded by the Lord as by the master potter. To begin with, his earnestness was almost his undoing. He learned quickly to such good effect that he was able to make his Solemn Profession 8 May 1958.Many changes took place in the course of years in the monastery. With his gentle wisdom he quietly corresponded to the will of God in the times and needs of the community. Stephen’s vocation was, from start to finish, that of simple prayer and fidelity in ordinary things. In Glasgow they would call him an ‘ordinary punter’. That description was as true of him in the monastery as it had been in the streets, and as it was to be appreciated by the people whose counsel they came to seek in later years.A major change took place in the 60s. He joined the community as one of the Brothers who wore a brown habit and had their own life style distinctive from the Choir monks. In the changing times, Br. Stephen took the option of the White Cowl and the liturgical office of the choir. No problem. For him it was a decision as simple and straightforward as his whole life. He came to be one of the monks to be counted on for regularity.Of course, when he became Prior, the first time a non-priest became Prior, Br. Stephen did not change. He continued in the utter simplicity and dedication of his work and prayer. In 1983, it is on record, one monk commented to another about the elderly monk (Br. Stephen) regularly and frequently sweeping the cloister and washing the extensive windows, “What shall we do when he is gone?” Some 20 years later he was still lending a hand.As Prior he could, with the same calm, preside at the Chapter Meetings of the community. When the Abbot was away at a General Chapter (1987), Stephen took the occasion to use some words from the Abbot General, “charity between brethren was the main import; there’s been a shift in the Cistercian life from an emphasis on fidelity to observance to fidelity in caring and charity towards one’s brethren, quite revolutionary, though tension between the two fidelities will never be resolved”.An Email of condolence on the death of Br. Stephen echoes in many hearts“My deepest heartfelt prayers for Br. Stephen. I will also pray for him to be welcomed into the arms of his Heavenly Father. He has touched so many lives and just when I needed to speak with someone, traveling alone, weary and persevering in my call, I met this beautiful brother. His character and vibrant life in the spirit will be a memory I shall never forget. I am truly blessed to have spent time with him and share in the life at the abbey with all the brothers and the faithful there. I always think of Nunraw Abbey as my home.Abundant Blessings and I shall see you all again”.Resumé of the homily by Abbot Raymond at Brother Stephen’s RequiemBy Abbot RaymondWe welcome the family of Br. Stephen and his friends.There are certain rules in the Liturgical celebration of the Mass, and with his Eminence behind me I must keep to those rules. One of those rules is that the Gospel Homily must be a Gospel Homily and not a panegyric on the good soul we are laying to rest.However with Br. Stephen no such problem arises because Stephen’s own life was such a commentary on the Gospel that there is no contradiction between the two.. So that makes it quite easy for me to take the Gospel today. Jesus opening words, “All that the Father gives to me will come to me” (Jn. 6:37). ‘All that the Father gives me’, this is looking right into Br. Stephen’s mind-set of his whole life when he came to Nunraw. He knew that the vocation he had been given made him a gift to Christ, he belonged to Christ and Christ could be jealous of his possession of him. And he responded to that jealous claim of Christ of his life, responded absolutely.Jesus says in this Gospel, ‘I came from not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me’. Stephen came from Glasgow to Nunraw not to do his own will but the will of the one who called him. That was his life. He had an incredible singleness of purpose in that aim in life. It was really outstanding.Br Stephen was a man of most unusual singleness of purpose. He knew that by his vocation he was consecrated to Christ and lived that consecration utterly. He put on the mind of Christ in a life of praise of the heavenly father and of intercession for all the worlds needs and of thanksgiving for all God’s graces and benefits to his children.Most monks have some kind of hobby or pastime; some kind of craft or interest consonant with their monastic life. Indeed they are encouraged to do so. “If the bow is always bent taught it will snap sooner or later”. After all, we are only human beings, not angels! However it was not so with Br Stephen, his bow was always bent and the arrow of his mind and heart always pointed towards his God. I never saw him with any other books than his Bible and the Rule of St Benedict.In Community life he latterly played the role of the “senpectae” as St Benedict calls them. These were genial old monks whom the Abbot could nudge to go and speak with a brother who was in some kind of depression or trouble or at variance with the abbot himself. Br Stephen was a persona grata to everyone and could always approach or be approached by anyone. He always had a sure and simple word of encouragement and appeasement. Even the Abbot would go to him and tell him his troubles!He did however have one “hobby”, if you like to call it that, and this was his concern for anyone in trouble or pain of any kind. Providence arranged that a constant procession of such people were led to visit him and seek his advice and comfort. Indeed so much did this mean to him that even in his last few weeks of life, while his physical and mental resources were at their lowest, all that was needed to bring him a new surge of energy and zest was for him to receive a visit from some person seeking his help.Finally, I was privileged to get very close to him during his last months at Nunraw. His room was right next to mine, so it was I who answered his buzzer whenever he needed help. When we first got him the buzzer, I tied a ribbon onto it so that he could hang it round his neck and thus always have it by him in emergencies. However, the first time he buzzed me I went in and found him lying on the floor beside his bed. The floor was carpeted but he was badly bruised and in pain. Then I discovered that he had actually fallen in the hard tiled floor of the bathroom and had to crawl to his bedside to get the buzzer to call me.I said to him “Brother, you’ve lived a life of perfect obedience and now you nearly died through one little act of disobedience!” But perhaps it was only forgetfulness. In any case, he certainly always wore the buzzer round his neck after that.One last story about the buzzer: He would sometimes say to me in all simplicity: “Jesus came to me last night”, or sometimes it was Mary, or sometimes even the devil came and gave him a rough time. So I said to him: “Brother, if Jesus comes or Mary, would you give me a buzz. I would love to meet them; but if it’s the devil that comes you’re on your own!”And finally this time, Stephen was one of the three Musketeers of the community, the old and the very old seniors of the community, Br. Stephen and Fr. Stephen and Fr. Luke.Now each and every one of those three is a gem in our community. They are always peaceful, always with a smile, never any complaints. It is wonderful for us to have them. So now we have only the two Muskateers and I hope the third who has gone to heaven will keep them in his prayers and keep them in the same spirit to the very end of their days.Br. Stephen, then, was all things to all men and all monks, and he is now, I am sure, all things he ought to be to his God. May he rest in peace. Amen.
The Heenan brothers - Brother Kentigern & Brother Stephen