FR. NOEL MUELLER: My name is Fr. Noël Mueller. I'm originally from Louisville, Kentucky.
KRISTA HALL: Are you the first Noel in the community?
FR. NOEL: I am the first Noel in the community. The first noel, of course, is Jesus Christ, but I'm the first one that took that name here.
BR. KOLBE WOLNIAKOWSKI: You're listening to Echoes from the Bell Tower. Stories of wit and wisdom from Benedictine monks who live, work and pray in southern Indiana. We're your hosts, Br. Kolbe.
BR. JOEL BLAIZE: And Br. Joel. Last week we released an episode about monastic names. If you didn't have a chance to listen to it then, we recommend you go back and do that now. This week we have a couple of extra stories that didn't fit into last week's episode.
BR. KOLBE: We are going to kick our episode off with Fr. Noël, who was named Donald before entering the monastery. When it came time for him to start thinking about a monastic name, he wanted a patron saint he could look up to.
FR. NOEL: Well, let me first of all say that I submitted like everyone else three names, and my first choice is what I got, Saint Noël Chabanel. My second choice was Carol and that is the Latin form for Charles, and I was going to have Saint Charles Borromeo. And the other was Leo the Great, but I took, with my last name being Mueller, I took Leon, which is the German approach. And the nice thing about Leon is it's Noël backwards, so I would have got Noël one way or another.
BR. JOEL: Fr. Noël's patron, Noel Chabanel, was a Jesuit priest from Toulouse, France. He was a professor of rhetoric and, when the missions began in New France, which is now Canada, he petitioned to go. He eventually became one of the eight North American martyrs.
BR. KOLBE: Fr. Noël really wanted a patron he could emulate, pray to and find inspiring. For Fr. Noël, his patron was especially inspiring during the 10 years he served at a mission in Peru. Here's Fr. Noël with a couple memories about receiving his name from the abbot and writing out his vow chart before his first profession in 1963.
FR. NOEL: Abbot Bonaventure was the abbot when I first professed. And at that time, a profession was like at maybe 9:30, 10:00 in the morning, and we received just an hour or two before our names. You wrote out your vow formula and you left the space for the name, and because you didn't know what it was going to be. I was in a novitiate class of 13, 11 of them were professed with temporary vows and then only four of us with solemn vows. And I was professed in Latin because the Mass was in Latin those days. It was 1963, and so the new liturgy from Vatican II had not arrived yet.
And so Noël, amazingly, in Latin is Natalis. So after I was professed, some of the monks said, "You didn't take Natalie, did you?" And I said, "No, Noël." And I've loved the name and it just basically means the incarnation, God is born.
BR. FRANCIS: My name is Br. Francis Wagner, as in Francis de Sales Wagner.
BR. JOEL: Br. Francis knew long before he came to the monastery, while he was still discerning his vocation, that Francis was the name he would want. In the late '90s, he was working forThe Bladenewspaper in Toledo, Ohio, and had the name Craig. This was before he had his spiritual reawakening, so he wasn't interested in saints or the Church.
BR. FRANCIS: Every day I parked my truck in this parking lot right across the street fromThe Blade, and backed up to that parking lot was a brick building, which was obviously a church. It was the back of a church. But I was not interested at that point in time as to what kind of church it was, or what the name of it was, or anything. Once I had my spiritual reawakening, which is another story altogether, I became interested. I went around to the front, and it was called Saint Francis de Sales Parish.
BR. KOLBE: As it turns out, that church was the original cathedral in Toledo and Francis de Sales was the original patron saint for the Diocese of Toledo.
BR. FRANCIS: I did not know that at the time. I didn't know anything about Saint Francis de Sales. I became curious. I was like, "Well, who is this guy?" I did some research, and I discovered that he's the patron saint of writers and of the press. I thought, "Well, that makes sense. It's right across the street from the newspaper." I became even more interested, especially given my writing background, that he was the patron saint of writers and authors as well.
BR. JOEL: Francis de Sales believed in the universal call to holiness. He maintained that everyone, no matter what state of life they're in, is called to holiness.
BR. FRANCIS: That really resonated with me. He also has a very gentle, if you read his letters and other writings, a very gentle and practical way of addressing people and meeting them where they're at. That appealed to me. All of those things combined were why I was initially drawn to him.
BR. KOLBE: Fr. Justin was abbot at the time Br. Francis made his first profession. Br. Francis remembers receiving his name from the abbot on a piece of paper in his mailbox.
BR. FRANCIS: It felt right. It was the name that I wanted from the very beginning, so I was very happy. I was very pleased. I told the abbot afterwards, I said, "I like my name, Fr. Abbot." He said, "Well, now you have to live up to it."
People choose their names for profession for a lot of different reasons. But for me, it had to be someone that I could identify with, someone that could inspire me, someone that could guide me, someone that could intercede for me. Francis de Sales was that person.
BR. STANLEY: Receiving my new name was more of a confirmation that my baptismal name, Joseph, still means something. And now my monastic name, Stanley, is building upon what God has already started.
BR. JOEL: Br. Stanley is possibly the first person to take Stanley Rother as his holy patron. Stanley Rother was beatified on September 23, 2017, and Br. Stanley made his first profession four months later on January 20, 2018. When he was looking for a monastic name, he was trying to find one that honored the Polish side of his family and the German side.
BR. STANLEY: And if you know anything about world history, finding a name that would satisfy the German and Polish sides of my family would, well, it was quite difficult.
BR. JOEL: Br. Stanley first heard about Stanley Rother during a homily in the Archabbey Church. That made him go out and find Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda's book,The Shepherd Who Didn't Run.
BR. STANLEY: And it was after reading Maria's book that Stanley was my first choice for several reasons, primarily among them was because Stanley Rother was German American, but Stanley was also the name of my great-grandfather, who was the first of my mother's family to immigrate from Poland.
And then the other one, the not as serious, I guess you could say, not a serious reason. When I was a high school history and theology teacher, my students used to call me Mr. Swagner and now my email username is swagner. So I also remembered my former students when asking for Stanley.
BR. KOLBE: Br. Stanley identified with Stanley Rother for several reasons. Stanley Rother was a priest for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and was ordained in 1963 on the feast day of Saint Bede, the patron saint of historians. Br. Stanley was a history teacher before coming to Saint Meinrad. Blessed Stanley was intelligent, but was not a good student.
BR. STANLEY: For me, I kind of have the same problem with school. I'm a very intelligent person, but school doesn't necessarily appeal to me, another reason why Stanley is now my holy patron. He was eventually ordained a priest after kind of a rocky path in the seminary. And then after five years of parish ministry in Oklahoma, he asked to become a missionary to Guatemala.
BR. JOEL: Stanley Rother went to Guatemala in 1968 and established a hospital and served the people who came into his rectory in Santiago Atitlan.
BR. STANLEY: Unfortunately, the government was not impressed with his charity and justice and mercy and love, even though he wasn't doing anything against Gospel teaching. And so right after midnight on July 28, 1981, three gunmen broke into his rectory and, after a short struggle, they shot him. The people of Santiago Atitlan, after he died, they requested that they keep his heart as a relic, as a symbol of the love that he had for his people.
BR. KOLBE: Br. Stanley feels like he has a special bond the Stanley Rother. In the last year, he says he has learned what it means to have a holy patron.
BR. STANLEY: He's still very much interceding for me. And that's one thing I've learned. This isn't just a relationship on paper that you have with your holy patron. This is very much a relationship that you would have with someone who lives right next to you, or your best friend or a parent, or a brother or sister, or what have you. It's very much a tangible relationship.
BR. JOEL: Our last story is about how Br. Kolbe chose his monastic name after Maximilian Kolbe. If you listened to our first podcast episode on monastic names that was released in April 2016, Br. Kolbe was then Novice Tony. Four short months later, Novice Tony made his first profession and took the name Kolbe.
BR. KOLBE: And I kind of remember thinking, "What are people going to think of this name?" Because one, it was his surname. And two, I think I pronounce Kolbe a little different than most people. I kind of pronounce it like if you spell it with a C and the Y at the end. And so most times when I say my name, people are like, "What's your name?" I'm like "The cheese."
BR. JOEL: When Br. Kolbe was considering names, he was also looking for a name that would link his Polish and German heritages.
BR. KOLBE: With a last name like Wolniakowski, a lot of times when people ask me what nationality would be my background, even though I'm more German than Polish, I always would say Polish first. But Maximillian Kolbe actually even fits that category really great, because Kolbe is his surname and that's an actual German surname but from a Polish saint.
And so I kind of get two parts of my identity a little bit in there. I also wanted something that was going to be a little shorter, because the idea of saying Maximilian Wolniakowski just felt like a mouthful every time.
BR. JOEL: Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan friar who was a prisoner in the Auschwitz German concentration camp in 1941. Some prisoners had escaped and the Germans chose 10 people to starve to death to take the place of the ones who escaped and to punish everyone.
BR. KOLBE: One of the men they chose, he started begging the Germans to spare his life because he had a family, and he wanted to see his kids again, and he wanted to live. And Maximilian Kolbe then stepped forward and said, "I will take his place. Choose me instead." And the Nazis agreed and took Maximilian Kolbe and stuck him in prison. And him and these 10 other people, it's reported that they were singing psalms and praying together, and Maximilian Kolbe was just ministering to these men who were dying with them the whole time.
BR. JOEL: After two weeks, Maximilian Kolbe was the last of the 10 prisoners alive, so the guards killed him by lethal injection.
BR. KOLBE: He was sitting in the prison cell, I believe it was dark, cold, naked, and I mean I got a chance to see the prison cell, and it,s just a miserable place. And the fact that he volunteered for that, and then even while he was there, it never was about him. It was always about receiving his neighbor as his neighbor. He exemplifies so many areas of my life that I really hope to continue to try to achieve.
BR. JOEL: Br. Kolbe has learned and is still learning a lot from his patron. One of the major things he's learned is to keep an open heart.
BR. KOLBE: I think in so many times in our life, we have the option of turning our heart almost into a concentration camp where we lock people away because they make us angry or they upset us or we jump to judgment about them, and we lock them away in our heart, and we refuse to let them change and to grow to be a better person. I keep thinking of Auschwitz and realizing I do not want my heart to be a concentration camp where I lock people away.
Pope Francis uses the image as the Church as a field tent and a battleground where people are coming in and out, and I imagine all sides of that tent are open. I would like my heart to look more like that.
BR. JOEL: Thanks for listening to our podcast today. If you missed our previous episodes on monastic names, I recommend you go back and give them a listen. They are the third episode and 24th episode at saintmeinrad.edu/echoes. I talked about my monastic name in the episode we released in 2016.
BR. KOLBE: Our editor and producer is Krista Hall. This episode came together with the help of Mary Jeanne Schumacher, Tammy Schuetter, Jim Paquette, Christian Mocek, Br. Joel Blaize and me, Br. Kolbe Wolniakowski. Br. Joel wrote and produced the music you heard in this episode.
BR. JOEL: Thanks again to Archabbot Kurt Stasiak, Fr. Denis Robinson, Fr. Harry Hagan, Fr. Christian Raab, Br. Francis Wagner, Fr. Noël Mueller, Br. Stanley Wagner, Fr. Mateo Zamora and Br. Kolbe for sharing the stories behind your names.
BR. KOLBE: If you missed the last episode's blog post, we reposted those pictures of some of the monks with items that symbolizes their name or patron saint. Fr. Abbot has a little icon he keeps in his office that has the artwork that was used for his first profession invitations. Check it out at saintmeinrad.edu/echoes.
BR. JOEL: If you're enjoying our podcast, please share it with a friend.
BR. KOLBE: This episode came together with the help of Mary Jeanne Schumacher, Tammy Shooter, Jean…Jean! I called him Jean!
BR. JOEL: And Schuetter, not Shooter.
BR. KOLBE: Shooter? Schuetter? What is it?
BR. JOEL: Schuetter.
BR. KOLBE: Schuetter.