Saint Meinrad Archabbey

A catholic monastery devoted to the teachings of St. Benedict

December 2013

(1) Father Mark is our Mass Heb on this First Sunday of Advent.  +++  It's been a quiet weekend on the hill-not too many retreatants or seminarians during the Thanksgiving break! That will change, at least in part, tomorrow: classes in our Seminary and School of Theology resume.

(2) About 60 students from Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis are concluding a two-day retreat here on the hill. 

(3) This is the feast of St. Francis Xavier, co-patron of our Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Father Mark, our Mass Heb, presided and preached at the Conventual Mass.  +++  This evening many in the seminary community attended a "practice lecture" given by the second of three candidates applying for a teaching position in sacramental-liturgical theology; we hope to have the position filled in time for the 2014-15 academic year.

(4) Father Gavin gave an Advent Conference to the monastic community this afternoon in the Chapter Room.  +++  The temperature reached almost 70 today, but we're bracing-as is much of the area around us-for severe winter weather, predicted to arrive within the next 36 to 48 hours.

(5) The main activity on the Hill today seemed to be revising plans and making preparations in light of the severe winter storm forecast to be upon us in the wee hours tomorrow morning. Various trips have been cancelled or moved up or back a day or two. And, of course, our Physical Facilities Department is checking equipment and sand and salt supplies.

(6) Father Mark, our Mass Heb, preached at the Conventual  Mass this morning.  +++  It's beautiful outside, but you don't want to be out driving in it. The snow began shortly before noon and lasted until five, with an accumulation of 4.5 inches. We had four retreat groups of varying sizes scheduled to be with us over the weekend. Two have canceled out, two trudged on, arrived safely, and this evening began to enjoy our warm hospitality.

(7) The snow is beautiful but it's also a hazard. One of our younger monks was in a sledding accident shortly before noon: he was t-boned by another monk as both were speeding down one of our hills. In "an abundance of caution," he was taken to the hospital, where he was treated and released. Several hours after that, three of our "visiting Benedictines" were in a car accident; fortunately, none of them was hurt. We're supposed to get a bit of ice overnight … best to stay indoors?!

(8) Father Joseph is our Mass Heb for this Second Sunday (and week) of Advent.  +++  The two retreat groups successfully managing the winter weather and storm were 50 members of the Barth-Hamilton Retreat, a retreat that has been meeting at Saint Meinrad for well over 40 years. Father Brendan was their retreat master, speaking about "The New Evangelization."  Father Colman led the other group, some 25 guests in and around the St. Louis area. We wish them-and all our weekend guests-a safe return home.

(9) On this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Abbot Justin presided and Deacon Brother Macario Martinez, one of our visiting Benedictines, assisted and preached. Brother Macario is from Conception Abbey, Missouri, and so this was a most appropriate day for him in several ways: in addition to Mary Immaculate being a co-patron of his monastery, today is also the 140th anniversary of the founding of Conception Abbey. Ad multos annos, brother confreres!  +++  We in the monastery enjoyed "Sunday schedule" today, and had colloquium at our main (midday) meal. In the seminary, however, it's the last week of the semester-which also means final exams-and so, other than the liturgical celebration of this feast, it's not entirely a day of rest!  +++ However once again, our seminarians know how to strive for integration and balance! This evening they presented an Advent Lessons and Carol Service. Entitled "From Eden to Heaven: The Story of Salvation," the roughly 75-minute presentation told the story of Christ through alternating the reading of Scripture and the singing of hymns and carols.

(10)  Today we received word that Father Urban Federer was elected the 59th abbot of Einsiedeln, our mother abbey in Switzerland, on November 23. His solemn blessing and inauguration will be on December 22. We congratulate Abbot Urban-an alumnus! Abbot Urban spent a pastoral year at our monastery and seminary in 1993-94. And on a personal note: I'm pleased to say that he invited me to represent us at his ordination to the priesthood and his First Mass in June 1994. It was a wonderful time-my first and only trip to our mother abbey!

(11) Father Guy gave an Advent Conference to the community this afternoon in the Chapter Room.  +++  The 60 participants on the Hill for the three-day meeting of the National Religious Vocations Conference concluded their sessions at noon today.

(12) On this feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Brother Macario-our deacon from this past Sunday-again assisted at Mass and preached. He and most of our "visiting Benedictine students" will be returning to their own monasteries over the weekend.

(13) The threat of a winter storm, predicted to begin overnight, didn't keep over 70 of our oblates from coming to the Hill for a pre-Christmas retreat. Father Eugene is the retreat master, leading participants through "The Infancy Narratives of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke."  Beginning this Friday evening, the retreat will conclude at noon on Sunday.

(14) The winter storm seems to be holding off, at least for the time being, which encouraged many to come to the Hill this evening for a splendid concert given by 68 grade and high school students from Kentucky and Indiana, who comprise the Kentucky Youth Chorale. Known for their performances with the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, as well as tour performances regionally and internationally, the group, ranging in age from 8 to 16, presented a variety of Christmas and holiday music.

(15) Father Denis is our Mass Heb on this Third Sunday of Advent and throughout the week.

(16) We had our Advent Penance Service after Compline this evening. Father Barnabas presided, and he and Fathers Cletus, Meinrad, Ephrem and Joseph served as confessors.

(17) Father John McMullen from the recently closed Blue Cloud Abbey in Marvin, South Dakota, arrived today. Similar to former Blue Cloud monks Abbot Alan and Father Cletus, Father John is one of Blue Cloud's "monks in transition," and will spend a period of time with us before formally petitioning to transfer his stability to Saint Meinrad Archabbey. Father John was professed on August 15, 1961, and ordained on May 29, 1966. He had been serving as pastor of St. Mary's Church in Wilmot, South Dakota. Father John is an alumnus of our college class of 1940, and so actually we welcome him back!  +++  (Background on Blue Cloud Abbey: Blue Cloud was founded by Saint Meinrad in 1950, became a priory in 1952 and was raised to the status of an abbey in 1954. The decision was made to close the monastery in 2012. There remain 10 monks "in transition," seeking new canonical status. When all have achieved this status, the monastery will be officially dissolved.)

(18) Many monks-and a good number of our neighbors-enjoyed a special treat yesterday evening. The Heritage Hills High School band and jazz choir presented a fine Christmas program in the Archabbey Church. Heritage Hill High School is near Santa Claus and Lincoln City, Indiana, a dozen or so miles from the Hill.  +++  This evening during Vespers, Abbot Justin anointed nine of our confreres who had asked to receive the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. After Vespers, he anointed another six confreres who had remained in their infirmary rooms.

(19) Father Christian and Brother Matthew have arrived back on the Hill, home for the holidays from their graduate studies at, respectively, The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and the University of Toronto. We welcome them back and look forward to getting caught up on things with them.

(20) Father Subprior Guerric landed in Zurich, Switzerland, sometime in the early hours of the morning-our time. He is representing Abbot Justin and our community at the blessing of Einsiedeln's (our mother abbey) new abbot on the 22nd.  +++  Our novice and junior monks arranged everything just right, and we trimmed our Christmas tree in the calefactory after Compline this evening. Various refreshments fortified the trimmers and attracted the onlookers.

(21) This shortest day of the year yields to the longest night, of course, and this year, for some three dozen people, it concluded with a rather unusual time of prayer and reflection at our Guest House. I asked Father Adrian to describe it for you:

On Saturday, December 21, the "longest night" of the year, Abbey Caskets staff members Jenny Keller and Teresa Dilger, with Father Adrian as presiding minister, offered an opportunity for some 35 people to gather in our Guest House chapel for a "Service of The Longest Night" with prayers and hymns, scripture and preaching. The intention of the service was to offer a spiritual context for embracing sorrow and facing loss with faith. In a candle-lighting ritual, participants were given a large votive candle, which they took home afterward to continue praying with their grief as a way to let it move on. After the 50-minute service, light refreshments were provided by Abbey Caskets. Participants were coworkers and clients of Abbey Caskets; two ladies drove three hours to come for the service and were happy they did - it was coincidently their first visit to Saint Meinrad! Jenny says she hopes to do this again in 2014.

(22) Father Julian is our Mass Heb on this Fourth Sunday (and week) of Advent. He'll have a short week, of course, since Christmas and St. Stephen's Day are, respectively, an O.A. and an O.P.  +++  Father Sebastian arrived very early yesterday morning (1:30 or so), due to some weather-delayed flights. He's enjoying the break from his teaching and chaplaincy duties at The Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut. We welcome him home!  +++  Saint Meinrad Alumnus (Theology, 1994) Father Urban Federer was blessed as the 59th abbot of the monastery of Einsiedeln in Switzerland, our mother abbey. We ask God's continued blessings upon his prayer and work! Father Subprior Guerric represented us at the blessing, as did two of our monks who are pursuing graduate studies in Europe-Father Paul and Father Thomas.

(23) Father Raymond is home for the holidays, enjoying a bit of a break from his teaching duties at The Catholic University of America.  +++  For the most part, it's been "a quiet day of much hustle-bustle," if that doesn't seem to be too much of a paradox. Wreaths were hung, presents wrapped and the monastery fireplace cleaned. Tonight at Vespers, we sang the last of the "O Antiphons,"O Emmanuel. Come, Lord Jesus!

(24) We began Christmas 2013 with I Vespers, Archabbot Justin presiding. About a half-hour after supper, we returned to the Archabbey Church for Vigils, which included the famous (and fabulous) Christmas sermon by Pope Leo the Great (died 461). Leo's words are much awaited each year. Our midnight Mass was at 10 o'clock, and we were joined by about 100 or so guests. Abbot Justin presided and preached, and Father Brendan sang the Gospel of the nativity.

(25) Wines, eggnog and bread pudding awaited us in the refectory after "midnight Mass" yesterday evening. The liturgy ended around 11:30, and good cheer continued for another three-quarters of an hour or so. Abbot Bonaventure presided at the optional Missa in aurora (the "Mass at Dawn," the second of the three Christmas Masses) in our infirmary chapel at seven this morning. The community came together for Lauds at eight, and then a low-key pontifical (miter and crozier only on the way in and the way out) at 9:30, with Abbot Justin again presiding and preaching. We concluded with II Vespers, a buffet supper (with plenty of "extras"), and then Compline.

(26) The feast of St. Stephen, deacon and the Church's first martyr, is an O.P.-ranked feast, and so Father Prior Kurt presided and preached at the Conventual Mass. We're still very much in the Christmas spirit, and so we followed the Sunday schedule today, enjoying a later rising and the main meal at noon. And we give feast day greetings to Brother Stephen Lawson, one of our visiting Benedictines; he's at his monastery, St. Anselm's in New Hampshire, enjoying being with his confreres after a successful first semester in our seminary.

(27) We continue with our Sunday schedule as we celebrate the feast of the evangelist St. John. This is one of only two O.S.-ranked feasts (Order of the Subprior) in our liturgical calendar (the other being Easter Tuesday). Subprior Guerric is in Switzerland, however, where he attended the blessing this past Sunday of Einsiedeln Abbey's newly elected abbot, and so Father Julian was asked to be Office and Mass Hebdomadarian in his stead.  +++  This afternoon many monks visited the Guest House, to say farewell to Jayne Mattingly, our faithful switchboard operator of 35 years! We're grateful for her faithful, competent and cheerful service spanning three-and-one-half decades, and wish her well in her new ventures!

(28) This Saturday we returned to our weekday schedule-for one day! Father Patrick presided at the Conventual Mass, wherein we commemorated the Holy Innocents.  +++  Yesterday evening four young men arrived just before Vespers, to begin a Monastic Observance Program that will last through Tuesday morning.

(29) This Sunday after Christmas is celebrated as the Feast of the Holy Family. Father Patrick is our Mass Heb this week, and so he presided and preached at the Conventual Mass.

(30) The year is all but over. End-of-the-year chores such as office and cell cleanings, figuring out the last details of budgets, and making resolutions for the coming year seem to be the more visible goings-on and topics of conversation.

(31) In what has become his "custom," Father Abbot gave a conference to the community on this last day of the year. We congratulate Father Abbot on this, the ninth anniversary of his election as our abbot, and promise him our continued prayerful and fraternal support!  +++  After the "introductory selections" at our table reading this evening-the readings from the Rule, the martyrology and the necrology-we monks enjoyed music in place of the customary table reading, a bit of a change of pace we turn to a few times during the year. Our selection this year, recommended by Brother John, was "Perpetual Motion" by Béla Fleck-a collection of banjo transcriptions of classical works.

As 2013 comes to a close, we thank God for the many blessings we have enjoyed. We are particularly grateful for our friends, our benefactors, our co-workers, those who bring out the best in us and those who help us do our best.

We also remember those who have not been so fortunate-those who would not think of 2013 as "a good year." May God grant them perseverance, patience, endurance-and a lasting hope. And may God send them His angels and their friends, so they do not carry their burdens alone. We pray that, in this coming year, they may indeed find a strong and lasting peace, a calm and confident cheerfulness.



Each day the monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey write another page in the long history of Benedictine monks throughout the world. Here are recent events chronicled at Saint Meinrad.