What about the house? Lent.
In the monastery, we observe the penitential season of Lent much as other Catholics and Christians do around the world, but we do have (you guessed it!) some customs particular to us. First of all, each monk is expected to submit the penances they have chosen for Lent to the Abbot for his approval on a Bona Opera form.
"Bona Opera" is Latin for "good works," and we are encouraged to choose penances related to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We place the form in a basket in the church on Ash Wednesday before we receive our ashes from the abbot.
Monks traditionally receive the ashes on the top of our head instead of on our forehead, and this custom dates to when monks wore their tonsure (think Friar Tuck's haircut) at all times. The abbot returns the Bona Opera forms to us later that day with his mark of approval or, if he wishes, with suggestions for improvement.
Since St. Benedict advises in his Rule that the life of the monk should be a continuous Lent, we abstain from meat on Friday all year round, and then in Lent, we abstain from it also on Wednesdays (along with dessert). We serve wine at table only on Sundays and major feast days during Lent (such as the on Feast of St. Benedict on March 21st).
Lastly, the Abbot conducts "cell visitations," in which he visits the private room of each monk to ensure that it is clean, in good order, and that its contents are in keeping with the spirit of monastic poverty. Lent in our monastery is not extraordinarily burdensome, but it is enough to remind us of why we are here and why we are always in need of God's mercy and grace.
Feb 1-10: We had the Mass and burial of our confrere Archbishop Daniel Buechlein, and many guests were in attendance, including family, friends, coworkers, and priests and bishops from many places.
Br. John Mark and Archabbot Kurt attended the annual prior and abbot's workshop at St. Joseph's Abbey in Covington, Louisiana, where Br. John Mark was the primary presenter on the topic of "Culture of Vocations."
We also enjoyed a wonderful concert of sacred music for choir and organ presented by the Bloomington Chapter of the American Guild of Organists at Indiana University and the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Organ Department.
Feb 11-28: Many monks continued visiting parishes on weekends for "St. Meinrad Sundays." We observed Ash Wednesday with quiet solemnity, and on that day we also enjoyed our first Lenten conference presented by the abbot.
Fr. Adrian presented a thoughtful conference the following Wednesday on humility in the Rule of St. Benedict, and our last conference for the month was given to us by Erin Meyer of the county's Purdue Extension Office, who spoke on poverty in the local area and of how we can better understand and assist our neighbors in need.
Brothers Simon and Stanley, and Brothers Cajetan and Justin from Abbaye de L’Ascension (who live with us as they study in our school), received the ministry of lector, and Br. Damien of Prince of Peace Abbey made his deacon promises. Prayerful congratulations to all!
Saint Meinrad Archabbey was named the 2017 Indiana Tree Farmer of the Year for our responsible forest agriculture, thanks to our forester and confrere Fr. Guy, our forestry consultant Mike Gregg, and our Physical Facilities grounds crew.
Our confrere Br. John presented a paper at Indiana University on his dissertation work in musicology, and NPR Bloomington also interviewed him, along with his dissertation advisor. Fr. Guerric, Br. John Mark, and Br. Joel were glad to be in attendance during his presentation and offer their fraternal support.
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.