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Eleven years ago today, a man with no identifiable motive killed two monks, wounded two others and then committed suicide. Robert Lloyd Jeffress, 71, changed Benedictine life at Conception Abbey forever.

A few years ago a monk from Conception told me the unforeseen effect of this event has brought the community together in a deeper way.

“When brutal deeds are enacted, it calls for heroic and radical forgiveness. Such acts of violence as happened here on Monday, could only have come from someone in desperate need of help. Hatred, anger, and an unwillingness to forgive only keep us crippled and bound by the evils that surround us. If we endure evil and do not allow it to conquer us, we will share in the victory of Jesus Christ, in the hidden life of the resurrection of Jesus.”

(Taken from Abbot Gregory homily at the funeral Mass for Father Philip and Brother Damian)

May God me be merciful to Father Philip and Brother Damian, but also to their monastic community and to Mr Jeffress.
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Paul Johnson writes about the event in Murder and Redemption at a Benedictine Abbey. But more than a narrative of what happened in the abbey, this book speaks to a radical metonoia (a change of heart) of a man who despaired of God’s mercy of which the Benedictines provided a canvas.

Jay Kanzler also produced a 2009 documentary on the Benedictines with these tragic events providing grist for the mill. “St Benedict’s Rule” more than sensationalizing the monastic life or trivializing the deaths of monks, Kanzler’s work earned him an award for the narrative.