Saint Rafael Arnáiz Barón is a recently canonized saint of our Order, though, in truth, he had only a very brief experience as a Trappist monk. Rafael loved Christ most ardently and embodied the Cistercian ideal despite all the complexities and contradictions of his personal vocational journey. Forced to interrupt his novitiate because of severe illness, he finally was allowed to return to his monastery of San Isidro as an oblate living in the infirmary. Rafael's life was one of great simplicity and humility. Often described as "crazed by the love of God," he was only 27 years old when he died on 26 April 1938.
Christ guided Rafael through a series of bewildering contradictions - illness, war, the impossibility of ever pronouncing vows, and difficult community relations. Humiliations were constant, but Rafael learned to surrender himself in peace and joy.
Things often do not turn out as we had hoped or planned. And we soon learn that contradictions and dead ends are part of the journey. But what to do with them? Saint Rafael shows us a way. Despite all he had to endure, he refused ever to be selfish or self-absorbed. He simply loved - Christ, Our Lady, the Cross, his brothers. May we follow in his footsteps.