Every now and then when I meet someone and we speak of the new foundation in Tasmania, I am asked if the monks will make wine. The pragmatic answer is something like: "Who knows? Possibly. Tasmania produces some excellent quality wines, and it might be worth looking into". The enigmatic answer would be more like: "But monks are wine". How is that? Well it all goes back to a certain wedding feast in a town called Cana of Galilee. And it just so happened that the Mother of Jesus was invited. And Jesus too was there with His disciples. You know the story, how the wine failed and, thanks to Our Lady's maternal intercession, the situation was saved for the newlyweds. But that is just the historical narrative. The reality is much, much deeper. St Augustine tells us that the best wine kept for last is the Gospel, which God reserved for these latter days.
On a personal level, I have always been struck by many aspects of the mysterious event commemorated on the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany. For today, I will highlight just one. Jesus commands the jars to be filled with water, which was a perfectly hopeless way of meeting an embarrassing situation. It was actually a good way to make it more embarrassing still! There is no more wine, well, here's some good well water!
In reality, the Saviour was here testing the faith of the servants and even more their obedience to what was seemingly a senseless command. They provide the water, the many gallons of water that had to be drawn laboriously from the well. Their humble, apparently useless efforts, are what allows Jesus to perform the astounding miracle: the tasteless, insipid, fruitless efforts of human beings, are transformed by the Divine Word, and they become the sweet, delicious heart-mending and mind-invigorating wine of Divine Love and Grace.
So what does this have to do with monks? Many years ago, faced with the continual requests for an Australian foundation, I turned to Our Lady, and I said to her, "Tell Jesus, 'They have no monks'!". Well, She heard that prayer and Jesus has allowed Himself to be moved. Australia is about to have its monks, and they, like the tasteless water of Cana, are perfectly incapable of satisfying anyone's desire for nourishing spiritual wine. But if the Divine Word steps into our lives, and hears the further prayers of His Mother, then we can hope that the monks to be will truly become men of His Sacred Heart, and that they will offer, with incessant praise and labour, the life and example and words of salvation for many souls who will come their way in the hope of finding God.
Thank you for praying for Notre Dame Priory, the monastery of Our Lady of Cana, whose patronal feast is this Sunday, 15th January. Pray that it may be firmly established and grow and prosper, and that all of its members may ever walk in the ways of salvation and perfection.