What about the house? Christmas.
Christmas in the monastery is a beautiful, sentimental, and of course, hectic, season.
Each year the community looks forward to setting up the Christmas trees, baking treats, and sipping eggnog by the fireplace - just like many other families. However, we have a couple of traditions in our monastery that you probably won't find anywhere else.
First, on the night of Christmas Eve shortly before Mass, a group of the monks walk through the monastery singing the "Angel's Song," a beautiful, short carol set to music by Anselm Meier, a monk of Saint Meinrad in the late 1800s. It's a lovely custom that we've preserved for well over a hundred years that sets the mood for the evening and calls the brothers to prayer. You can listen to a portion of the song here.
Second, on Christmas Day, the entire monastic community gathers together before Christmas lunch and sings the Latin carol, "Resonet in Laudibus," in beautiful four-part harmony.
This is a custom that we inherited from our founding monastery in Einsiedeln, Switzerland, and it has been sung every Christmas since the founding of Saint Meinrad. Many of the older brothers have learned their parts by heart, and this song invariably brings to mind memories of Christmases past and confreres passed away, but not forgotten.
A reader asks if we have any special Christmas decorations in the Archabbey Church and the monastery. Yes, we do! Br. Kim, as sacristan and churchcustos, is responsible for decorating the Archabbey Church, and every year the community looks forward to seeing his handmade nativity set, as well as the Christmas trees, candles, and banners.
In the monastery refectory, or dining room, Br. Martin decorates the refectory with a large Advent wreath suspended from the ceiling and paper banners with very beautiful and intricate designs cut out of them, also suspended from the ceiling.
This year, our confreres Br. John Mark, Br. Kolbe, and Br. Joel baked a larger gingerbread version of the Archabbey Church that also graced the refectory, before it moved to the guest house to be enjoyed by our guests and co-workers.
December 1-15: Many monks were busy finishing up the school semester by writing and grading papers and exams. The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception offered us the chance to turn our attention from schoolwork to God and the example of the Blessed Virgin through the liturgy.
Many monks also enjoyed the annual "Lessons and Carols" performed in the Seminary and School of Theology by seminarians, graduate students, monks, coworkers, and other friends of Saint Meinrad. The monastic community also took part in an Advent penance service, and many of those present availed themselves of the sacrament of reconciliation.
We also enjoyed our first Advent conference offered by Fr. Eugene. Finally, Fr. Justin offered the annual oblate retreat, and on December 9th, 11 candidates were invested as oblate novices, while 13 more novices made their oblation. Our new oblates were recognized by the whole monastic community at Vespers and received a special blessing by Archabbot Kurt.
The monastery was abuzz with a flurry of preparations for the Christmas season. Treats were baked, trees set up, and music practiced, and fire alarms tested by our physical facilities co-workers. Confreres who live away from the monastery were welcomed home warmly.
Fr. Colman offered the second Advent conference, and the community began taking our main meal of the day "family style," as planned. On Dec. 20, there was an anointing service held as part of Vespers, and several of our ill and aging confreres received the sacrament. The Service of the Longest Night, a liturgy to commemorate lost loved ones and comfort those who mourn, was celebrated in the guest house chapel.
December 22-31: The novices and junior monks took their bi-annual outing, and this time they enjoyed lunch at Old Chicago Pizza in Evansville, followed by a game of bowling. Speaking of monastic vocations, the monastic community has welcomed several discerners of our way of life as visitors; let us continue to pray for vocations!
The monastic community was also grateful for those guests who braved the cold and inclement weather on Christmas Eve for midnight Mass, and the monks have spent the Christmas season enjoying each other's company, playing games, cooking, cleaning, trying to stay warm (as we have been experiencing some technical difficulties with our heating system), and most importantly, praying.
As always, feel free to submit any questions you might have about our life here at Saint Meinrad to firstname.lastname@example.org, and perhaps you will see one featured in next month's edition. If you submitted a question and didn't see it featured this month, look forward to next month's edition, and maybe it will make an appearance after all!