Saint Meinrad Archabbey

A catholic monastery devoted to the teachings of St. Benedict

January 2013


(1) This first day of the new year is an O.P.-ranked solemnity, Mary the Mother of God. Father Prior Kurt presided, and Archabbot Lambert preached, at our 9:30 a.m. Conventual Mass. We enjoyed our Sunday schedule today, which included a modest gaudeamus after our evening buffet meal.

(2) Father Stephen remains in the hospital in Jasper. +++ We received word that the Subcommittee on the Catechism, under the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the USCCB, recently published a Handbook on the Conformity Review Process. They dedicated the work to Archbishop Daniel, honoring his "significant contribution to the work of catechesis in our country." The archbishop had served as founding chairman of the original Ad Hoc Committee for the implementation of the Catechism from 1994-2002. Congratulations, Archbishop Daniel, and many thanks for your important work!

(3) We received the body of Father Odilo Burkhardt, OSB, a monk of Blue Cloud Abbey, this morning. Father Odilo died December 30, at the care facility in South Dakota where he had been for the past several years. Since Blue Cloud Abbey closed in July and there is no longer a resident monastic community there, Abbot Justin agreed to Blue Cloud Abbot Dennis Quinkert's request that Fr. Odilo be buried at Saint Meinrad (where he made his first profession and from which he became a founding member of Blue Cloud). A funeral Mass was said in South Dakota on January 2, after which the body was transported to Becher Funeral Home in Ferdinand, who have for years handled our arrangements. Fathers Abbot and Prior and a half dozen monks, as well as over a dozen of Father Odilo's nephews and nieces from the Indianapolis and Wabash areas, were on hand to receive the body at 10 o'clock; they placed it in the Archabbey Church and had a brief prayer service. The monastic community and more guests gathered at 11 o'clock for the traditional Office of the Dead, at which Abbot Justin presided. Abbot Dennis offered the remembrance. After the Office, we processed to the cemetery and, after blessing our newest grave, lowered the coffin into the earth. May Father Odilo's soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace!

(4) Father Jonathan left for Rome today, to join Fr. Denis and our fourth-year seminarians (deacon class), who are enjoying a two-week study tour. Those who know Father Jonathan know he will bring back pictures and stories! We wish him and his fellow pilgrims safe travels and enjoyable times. +++ Nine men from Carmel, Indiana, arrived on the hill today to begin their Maker's Dozen Men's Retreat. They'll be with us through the weekend. +++ Father Stephen is not doing well at all. He was transferred to St. Mary's Hospital in Evansville this afternoon.

(5) Father Stephen returned to our infirmary today, via ambulance, from St. Mary's Hospital, Evansville. We began our customary visitation with him around 7 o'clock, and will continue throughout the night. +++ Thirty-eight members of St. Charles Borromeo Parish from Bloomington, Indiana, are making their Confirmation retreat with us today and tomorrow.

(6) Father Abbot Justin presided and preached on this Solemnity of the Epiphany; we continued the celebration in our refectory, with colloquium at the midday meal. +++ Just as we were concluding our meal, Father Stephen died peacefully in our infirmary. We now pray for the repose of his soul.

(7) Fr. Bob Robeson of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis is accompanying 37 young men from the Bishop Simon Brute House for a three-day retreat.

(8) A Certificates In Supervision session, coordinated by Agnes Kovacs, our associate director of Lay Degree Programs, is under way for the next few days. Nine individuals are participating.

(9) After Midday Prayer we received the body of Father Stephen at our entry way. A monk is brought through these "great doors" only twice during his life: at his novitiate, as he is led into the monastery by his novice master, and after his death, as six of his confreres walk his coffin into our house. The brief ceremony includes the blessing of the body with holy water and the placing of the monk's vow chart on top of his coffin. In place of Compline this evening, we prayed the Office of the Dead, which included a personal "remembrance" of Father Stephen, prepared and offered by Father Jeremy.

(10) We don't wish to be irreverent, but we monks do find humor in the unexpected-even in the sacred and liturgically unexpected. With 30 seconds to go before beginning the entrance procession for the funeral liturgy of Father Stephen, the smoke detectors and fire alarms were activated throughout the church and St. Anselm Hall (adjacent to the church). Needless to say, as they weren't in tune with the mode of the planned Entrance Antiphon, we waited…for a good three minutes, before our crew was able to reset the system. As Father Stephen worked in construction for so many years and was familiar with building codes and systems-and, as after inspection, the cause of the alarms going off could not be discovered-well,…we monks find humor even in the sacred and liturgically unexpected. The remainder of Father's funeral liturgy was no less dramatic, weather-wise. A steady rain necessitated a much-abbreviated procession to the cemetery, with Fr. Stephen's casket being accompanied only by Fathers Abbot and Prior, six monk-pallbearers, a few ministers, a couple of monks, and a handful of guests and visitors, instead of the full complement of the monastic community and mourners as usual. Father Abbot presided at the Mass and Father Sean preached; Father Abbot also said the prayers at the abbreviated service at the graveyard itself. The casket was lowered into the ground, the shovel of dirt was thrown on top,…and the rain stopped.

(11) This evening Father Jeremy began offering his weekend retreat to 19 permanent deacon candidates of the Belleville Diocese and their wives, titled "Vatican 2: Rediscovering the Treasure."

(12) It seems as though half the monastery is down with one of two versions of the flu: one, which expresses its effects mainly through headaches and coughing, the other, nastier, since it necessitates constantly checking to determine the location of the nearest restroom. All of our confreres in our infirmary are sick, and infected monks and students (quite of few of them as well) have been told to stay in their rooms and, yes, drink plenty of fluids. Our health services and infirmary staff are proving themselves characteristically heroic, caring both for their patients and their patients' rooms and facilities. There is good news: it seems the flu-and, thankfully, its symptoms-lasts less than 72 hours.

(13) On this feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, Father Jeremy is our Mass Heb. We began our Eucharist this morning with the blessing of the holy water font. +++ Care for our many sick confreres and students continues, and extra washings and precautions are under way in our kitchens.

(14) This evening after Compline, the Saint Meinrad Chapter (all monks in solemn vows) formally welcomed Abbot Alan and Father Cletus, formerly of Blue Cloud Abbey, into the Chapter. Abbot Alan's and Father Cletus' request to transfer their stability to Saint Meinrad (where both had originally professed their vows) was approved by the Chapter in November. Ordinarily a one-year probation period would follow, but this was waived by the Chapter in a subsequent vote. We welcome our new members!

(15) Father Harry has put together an exhibit, "The Second Vatican Council: Looking Back after Fifty Years," that the Archabbey Library is now hosting. The exhibit contains documents, photographs, artifacts, newspaper and magazine articles, and books and journals, some of which have been obtained from regional bishops who participated in the Council.

(16) We're making final plans for Archbishop Joseph Tobin's "official welcome" at Saint Meinrad this coming Monday the 21st. That's also the solemnity of our patron, and the eighth anniversary of the blessing of Archabbot Justin. Plenty of reasons to celebrate!

(17) Delta Chi "A"s' Leadership Academy from Iowa City, Iowa, is having its annual meeting on the hill this week. We have grown pleasantly accustomed to their annual visit these past seven years or so. Their staff and facilitators have been arriving over the past few days, and participants will be arriving tomorrow, to stay through Monday morning. We welcome these 170 members of Delta Chi!

(18) Our Father Harold Hammerstein died shortly after 8 o'clock this evening at the Little Sisters of the Poor in Evansville, Indiana, under whose care he had been for the past six weeks. Father Harold was 89 years old, had been professed as a monk for 68 years, and was in his 64th year of priesthood. May he rest in peace!

(19) January is the main month we have our "Saint Meinrad Sundays" in parishes throughout our neighboring dioceses. This weekend 22 parishes in the Evansville Diocese are allowing us the opportunity to speak at their Sunday Masses about our various works on the hill and ask for the continued prayerful, moral and financial support of the parishioners. We are grateful for those who support our prayer and work, and ask God's blessings upon them.

(20) Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. Father Meinrad is our Mass Heb this week, although he will be a bit shortchanged due to feasts and funerals. +++ Father Prior Cassian from Monastero di San Benedetto in Norcia, Italy, is with us for a few days. Welcome home, Father Prior Cassian!

(21) We followed our Sunday schedule on this solemnity of St. Meinrad, our patron, and were happy to have Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin with us as we officially welcomed him into our Archabbey Church and into our home. The archbishop presided and preached at our Eucharist, and then joined us for a social in our calefactory, at which Abbot Justin presented him with an original print of St. Alphonsus Liguori (the founder of the Redemptorists), designed and created by our Br. Martin Erspamer

(22) After our Midday Prayer we processed from the church to our entry way, where we received the body of Father Harold. Father Prior Kurt presided at this brief ceremony. At 7 o'clock this evening, Father Prior presided over the Office of the Dead, at which Father Timothy offered the remembrance.

(23) Father Abbot Justin presided, and Abbot Lambert preached, at the funeral Mass of Father Harold. This is our third burial in a short period of time (we buried Fr. Odilo Burkhardt of Blue Cloud Abbey on the 3rd, and Fr. Stephen on the 10th), and so we had to use a "non-carpenter shop" casket for the first time in many years. (Father Germain, our carpenter, could not construct a casket in time for Father Harold's burial.) Our Abbey Caskets produced a simple casket, nearly identical those our monk-carpenters have fashioned close to half a century. We may well be relying more on our Abbey Caskets in the future, given Father Germain's workload and the "graying" and aging of our community.

(24) Most of our seminarians have been off the hill this week, making their annual retreat at various locations; our first-year theology seminarians continue our practice of "Towards Jerusalem" at Maple Mount, Kentucky. All will be returning this weekend; classes for the second semester begin on Monday!

(25) We celebrated the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, and Father Meinrad, our Mass Heb, presided and preached. We also heard from Father Paul, whose feast is today-who informed us with great joy that he has finished the work for his SSL (Licentiate in Sacred Scripture) degree. Since he is studying in Rome, a visit to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls would be in order!

(26) Over 80 of our lay degree students are on the hill this weekend, taking another round of weekend courses. Classes and instructors include "Christology," taught by Dr. Keith Lemna, "Catholic Sacraments," by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, OFM, "Pentateuch and Historical Books," by Fr. Damian Dietlein, OSB, "Synoptics, Acts and General Epistles," by Dr. Clayton Jefford, "Early Church History," by Dr. Alexander Hwang and "Foundations of Spirituality," by Father Eugene.

(27) We celebrate the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time! Father Pius is our Mass Heb, but is out on parish assignment for the weekend, and so Father Germain filled in for him, presiding and preaching at the Conventual Mass. We also welcomed Bishop Joseph Siegel, an alumnus from our college ('84), and auxiliary bishop of the Joliet Diocese; the bishop will be speaking to our seminarians tomorrow evening; we enjoyed sharing our main meal with him today.

(28) First day of classes for the second semester. Good timing, as it's also the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, a familiar source of, and a patron for, seminary studies and students!

(29) We monks had a community meeting yesterday evening in the Chapter Room. We continued discussing some of the topics and suggestions coming from our visitation this past October.

(30) Today we observed the one-year anniversary of the deaths of Father Donald Walpole and Father Eric Lies. It is the actual day of death of Father Eric; Father Donald died last year on January 27. Because this year's 27th is a Sunday, we transferred the anniversary so as to observe both on the 30th. This wasn't just for "convenience"; it was also an "honest nod" to their relationship with each other. Fathers Donald and Eric were profession classmates (1940), and Father Eric died last year just a few hours after we buried Father Donald! May they, and all the faithful departed, rest in peace!

(31) On this last day of the month, we're having our first major snow of the season. We've had flurries a few times through December and January, but this promises to be more. Snow began during Vespers and-late evening as I write this-continues.

And now, from St. Benedict's Rule

The abbot should focus all his attention on the care of wayward brothers, for "it is not the healthy but the sick who need a physician." Thus he should use all the means that a wise physician would. For example, he might send in senpectae, that is, wise, elderly brothers who know how to comfort the wavering brother as if in secret. By this means, they can urge him to make humble satisfaction and also "console him so that he be not devoured by too much sorrow."

Chapter 27, "The Abbot's Preoccupation with the Excommunicated"
Translation by Fr. Terence Kardong, OSB, monk of Assumption Abbey

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.