Saint Meinrad Archabbey

A catholic monastery devoted to the teachings of St. Benedict

December 2012

(1) This first day of December is also the patronal feast day of Father Richard. Not counting our superiors and retired abbots, Father Richard is the second most senior monk in our house. At 90 years of age, Father is in his 69th year of monastic profession and his 65th year of priesthood. Many of our alumni will know Father Richard from his many years of teaching biology in our college. Father Richard has been residing in our monastery infirmary for 2+ years now; a stroke in the summer of 2011 left him blind, at which time the progression of his Alzheimer's accelerated. Father attends Mass in our Infirmary Chapel every day and receives from the cup. He may not be completely aware of all that is going on around him, but he is always the gentleman, responding graciously to any and all who call him by name or take his hand at the kiss of peace. We pray for Father Richard, and for all our ill and aging confreres.

(2) Father Sean is our Mass Heb on this First Sunday of Advent.  +++  Father Jeremy concluded the offering of the traditional Barth-Hamilton Retreat at our Guest House this weekend; 60 men participated in the retreat, entitled "Vatican2: Rediscovering the Treasure."  +++  St. Benedict Cathedral Parish in Evansville had its "Centennial Kick-Off Mass and Brunch" this morning. Father Gregory, rector of the Cathedral, was well enough to get out and enjoy many of the festivities. He continues to make slow progress from his cancer therapies last month (and those continue throughout this month), but his good spirits added to this Sunday's celebration! Father Abbot Justin and Father Abbot Bonaventure were among the monks who traveled to Evansville for the celebration.  +++  A number of our confreres were in Indianapolis this evening, participating in the Evening Prayer at the Cathedral on this eve of the installation of Bishop Joseph Tobin as Archbishop of Indianapolis. We were privileged to have Archbishop Joseph stay with us in the monastery this past week, as he made a private retreat in preparation for his installation.  +++  Two rather large groups of young retreatants are with us today: 23 students from Greenville College, Illinois, are concluding the retreat they began several days ago; 39 senior boys from Bishop Chatard in Indianapolis are here with us today and tomorrow for their retreat. We welcome all, and are happy to have them join us in prayer!

(3) Father Sean, our Mass Heb, preached on this feast of Francis Xavier, co-patron of the Archdiocese.  +++  Further to the north, Archbishop Joseph Tobin was installed as the sixth archbishop of Indianapolis. Father Abbot Justin, Archabbot Bonaventure, and Fathers Jonathan, Julian and Denis were among those representing the monastery and seminary. God's blessings upon Joseph, our Bishop, and Christopher (Coyne), his assistant bishop!  +++  Elsewhere in Indianapolis this evening, Father Cyprian was awarded the Eli Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his "extraordinary contributions to the field of history." Congratulations, Father Cyprian!  +++  And back here on the hill, Father Subprior Guerric gave our first Advent conference in the Chapter Room after Compline.

(4) Our seminary's schola presented "From Eden to Heaven: The Story of Salvation," in the Archabbey Church this evening. Their hour-long performance told the story of Christ throughout alternating Scripture readings and the singing of hymns and carols.

(5) The monastic chapter meet after Compline this evening, and formally accepted two monks from the now-closed Blue Cloud Abbey-Abbot Alan Berndt and Father Cletus Miller-into the Saint Meinrad community. It is a full circle: Abbot Alan and Father Cletus were originally monks of our house, prior to their transferring their stability to the newly established foundation in Marvin, South Dakota, in the early 1950s.

(6) A quiet day in our house, although next door the event of the day was the St. Nicholas banquet in the seminary, planned and hosted by our deacon class. St. Nic himself made a cameo appearance, in the person of Deacon Nic Brown, a seminarian from the Archdiocese of Louisville.

(7) About 80 of our oblates joined us for I Vespers of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception this evening, prior to beginning their annual retreat. The retreat master, Father Eugene, will be speaking on "Lectio Divina: Listening to the Scriptures with the Ear of Your Heart."

(8) We followed our Sunday schedule today for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Father Abbot Justin presided at our Eucharist and Father Sean, our Mass Heb this week, preached. Brother Victor from Conception Abbey, Missouri, assisted as deacon.

(9) Father Harry is our Mass Heb on this Second Sunday (and during this second week) of Advent. Deacon Scott Carroll, a seminarian from the Diocese of Toledo, assisted at our 9:30 Eucharist, and then joined us in our refectory for the midday meal.

(10) We observed the thirtieth day anniversary of Father Simeon's death, with a special prayer and intercessions at our morning Eucharist, at which Father Harry presided.  +++  After Compline this evening, Father Mark gave our second Advent conference in the Chapter Room.

(11) This Tuesday brings with it a few more smiles on the faces of students, faculty and staff than usual: it's the last day of classes for the semester. It's also the day of final exams for some courses; by Friday, all will have been accomplished and by Saturday, all if not most, should have departed for the Christmas break.

(12) Today some seminarians are fulfilling their last ministerial assignments of the semester. Most of our own "visiting Benedictines" are preparing to head to their respective monasteries for the Christmas break. Our prayers go with them, especially with Brother Simon Baker; he and his confreres at  St. Benedict's Abbey, Atchison, Kansas, will be electing a new abbot shortly after Christmas.

(13) Father Eugene is getting ready to offer his weekend retreat, beginning tomorrow, to about two dozen participants at our Guest House and Retreat Center. His topic is "Reflections on the Letters of John and the Johannine Community."

(14) We grieve with the rest of our country today, as we mourn the victims of the senseless massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. We pray for the victims, that the Good Shepherd hold them tightly in His arms. We pray for their families and for all who mourn them, that God's peace may shape their hearts and minds.

(15) Abbot Dennis Quinkert, the "designated superior" of our daughter house, Blue Cloud Abbey (Marvin, South Dakota), arrived today for a several-day visit. As my readers may recall, Blue Cloud Abbey had its last public liturgy this past August, and its monks are in the process of relocating to other monasteries throughout the country. As for Abbot Dennis: not many monks are elected abbot, and he belongs to an even more exclusive club. Abbot Dennis was elected abbot of Blue Cloud in 1986 and served five-and-a-half years before resigning. He was re-elected abbot in 2009!

(16) Father Tobias is our Mass Heb on this Third Sunday (and week) of Advent; he wore the special rose-colored vestments to mark the celebration of Gaudete ("Rejoice") Sunday. Beginning today, and continuing throughout the week, we will include an intercession for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre this past Friday. May they and all who mourn them know God's love and peace.

(17) We began the "O Antiphons" at Vespers this evening, the first being "O, Sapientia," "O, Wisdom!"  +++  Father Prior Kurt presided at our Advent Penance Service in the Archabbey Church this evening. As a superior of the house, he was not one of the confessors; this ministry was fulfilled by Fathers Cletus, Columba, Meinrad, Barnabas and Joseph. Father Gavin proclaimed the reading-Luke 3:7-9-and offered the homily. 

(18) This week before Christmas is a busy one, especially for our co-workers in the Development Office. They and a number of monks are on the roads, making visits and delivering Christmas gifts to some of our friends and benefactors. We're grateful to all who support us in our prayer and work, and ask God's blessings upon them!  +++  The "O Antiphon" for this evening: "O, Adonai," "O, Sacred One of Israel!"

(19) Father Abbot Justin presided at a communal celebration of the Anointing of the Sick during Vespers this evening. He anointed nine of our confreres in the Archabbey Church. After Vespers Father Prior Kurt (who serves also as Master of Ceremonies) accompanied him to the infirmary, where they imposed hands upon another six confreres before Father Abbot anointed them. May God strengthen and sustain our ill and aged brothers.  +++  The "O Antiphon" for this evening: "O, Radix," "O, Root of Jesse!"

(20) After Compline we held our Christmas tree-trimming party in the calefactory-one of the rooms in our house where a majestic tree has been "planted" for the season. Assorted goodies and various "strengths" of eggnog sustained those stringing lights and hanging ornaments.  +++  The "O Antiphon" for this evening: "O, Clavis," "O, Key of David!"

(21) A calm and quiet Friday in the house, although it was howling outside throughout the day. Winds were reported as being a "steady 25," with gusts up to 45 mph. A drive around the hill in the late afternoon showed dozens of branches-some of them quite large-strewn about our property.  +++  The "O Antiphon" for this evening: "O, Oriens," "O, Radiant Dawn!"

(22) It's a working Saturday for many of the monks on the hill: cleaning common and individual rooms, restocking supplies, putting in another few hours of preparation for the holy days.  +++  The "O Antiphon" for this evening: "O, Rex," "O, King of the nations!"

(23) Father Bede is our Mass Heb on this Fourth Sunday of Advent. He'll have "abbreviated duty" this week, since Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are, respectively, an O.A., an O.P., and an O.S.!  +++  The "O Antiphon" for this evening, the last of the seven: "O, Emmanuel!" Now for the hidden treat: take the first letter of each of the "O Antiphons" (e.g., S for Sapientia, A for Adonai, etc.) and spell them out: you have "sarc ore," which means‚Ķnothing. Reverse the letters, however, and you have ero cras, which, in Latin, means "I will be (with you) tomorrow." And tomorrow, with First Vespers and Midnight Mass, we do indeed celebrate the coming of our God into the world as one of us!

(24)  We began our celebration of the Lord's Nativity with I Vespers at five o'clock. Following a short break after supper, we prayed Vigils, which included the famous Christmas sermon by Pope St. Leo the Great, "Christians, heed your dignity!" We celebrated "Midnight Mass" at 10 o'clock, with Father Abbot Justin presiding and preaching. Following Mass, and after some refreshments to keep us up just beyond the midnight hour, most of us retired shortly thereafter.

(25) A special schedule for us on this Christmas Day. After Solemn Lauds at eight o'clock, at which Abbot Justin presided, we took a short break before returning to church for the Christmas Mass in die ("during the day"). Father Abbot again presided and preached.  +++  We monks enjoyed a rare "cocktail half-hour" before our Midday Meal. Naps and calefactory conversations rounded out the afternoon until we again gathered in church at five o'clock for Second Vespers of Christmas.  +++  As we all know all too often, even Christmas joy is sometimes diluted with tears. This morning we received word that only 20 minutes before the monks of Assumption Abbey, Richardton, North Dakota, began their Midnight Mass yesterday evening, their prior, Brother Basil Kirsch, 68 years old, died of a heart attack. We support our brothers in prayer in their loss, and pray for the repose of the soul of Brother Basil and all the faithful departed.

(26) This feast of St. Stephen, the Church's first martyr, is an O.P.-ranked feast, and so Father Prior Kurt presided and preached. Our celebration continued in the refectory, with a festive midday meal and a gaudeamus following our evening buffet.

(27) The feast of St. John, beloved disciple of the Lord, is a "rare" O.S.-Order of the Subprior. Father Subprior Guerric, then, presided and preached at our morning Eucharist.  +++  We're reading about trip cancellations and complications from the bad weather throughout the country, but so far we have received only a light dusting and a drop in temperature. We do have one traveler who began a journey this morning that continues for some 29 hours. Brother Peduru is flying from Louisville to Newark to Brussels to Mumbai to his home in Sri Lanka-his first visit with his family in eight years. We wish him safe travels and fine times!

(28) The feast of the Holy Innocents-a day with a special poignancy this year, given the recent massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. We pray for all victims of violence and terrorism, as we pray for those who strive to protect us from these evils.

(29) We have five young men who began our Monastic Observance program on Thursday, the 27th. They'll be with us through next Tuesday, and will get an inside look at our prayer and work, as they join us in the house for meals, work and recreation.

(30) Father Julian is our Mass Heb during this last 2012-beginning week, and on this feast of the Holy Family.  +++  We received word this morning that Father Odilo Burkhardt, OSB, died shortly after eight o'clock. Father Odilo, 94 years old, was a founding member of Blue Cloud Abbey, our daughter house in South Dakota that closed this past August. Father was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and was residing at St. William's Care Center in Milbank, South Dakota. There will be a funeral Mass for him in South Dakota, and then we will bring his body down to Saint Meinrad for burial in our monastery cemetery, perhaps 3-4 days from now. (Father Odilo professed his vows as a monk of Saint Meinrad in 1945. He transferred his stability to our daughter house in 1954.) At his death, Father Odilo was the oldest member of Blue Cloud Abbey and of the Swiss-American Benedictine Congregation.

(31) This last day of the year is also the eighth anniversary of the election of Abbot Justin. As has been his custom, he gave the community a conference in the Chapter Room after Compline. Prior to that, we monks enjoyed music in place of table reading at our evening meal, a pleasant change of pace we turn to several times during the year. This evening's composer and work was Johann Sebastian Bach and his "Weihnactsoratorium."

As we conclude 2012, we thank God for the many blessings we at Saint Meinrad have enjoyed. We thank God 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 2012 as "a good year." May God send them perseverance, patience and endurance. And may God send them His angels and their friends, so they do not carry their burdens alone, and so they may in this coming year indeed find reason to hope and travel steadily and surely on the way to peace.

Each day the monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey write another page in the long history of Benedictine monks throughout the world. Here Father Prior Kurt reports on some of last month's events at Saint Meinrad.