Saint Meinrad: The Man, the Place, the Tradition

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Saint Meinrad story is about the life of a Benedictine monk who dedicated his life to prayer and compassion; a location that becomes a place of prayer, work and learning; and a tradition that lives on through the monks, alumni, students and others who continue its legacy of holiness and hospitality.

The Man

Born about 800 in what is now Germany, Meinrad was a Benedictine monk who lived as a hermit for much of his life, dedicated to prayer and solitude. Even as a hermit, his reputation as a wise and holy man led people to seek him out for counsel and prayer. Despite his desire for solitude, the monk graciously attended to his guests' needs, physical as well as spiritual.

In 861, two robbers came to Meinrad's hermitage, believing he had treasures hidden there - gifts from the people he had counseled. In spite of a premonition of his impending death, Meinrad invited the robbers in and offered them food and drink.

The men murdered him and fled in fear without taking anything. Meinrad's death earned him the title of "Martyr of Hospitality."

Meinrad's hermitage became the site of the Abbey of Einsiedeln in the 11th century. When, in 1854, Einsiedeln established a foundation in America, the name chosen for the new abbey was Saint Meinrad.

The Place

Nearly 1,000 years after Meinrad's death, two monks from Einsiedeln were sent to America to assess the feasibility of a new foundation. They purchased 160 acres in Spencer County, Indiana, with the goal to minister to the German-speaking Catholics of the area and begin a seminary. In 1854, the monks moved into a small log cabin and began their work.

Although those early monks faced many hardships, within a decade they had opened a secondary school, begun their ministry to local parishes and purchased a used printing press that led to the start of Abbey Press.

Today, the Benedictine monks of Saint Meinrad carry on the tradition they inherited from their namesake and their predecessors:

  • The value of prayer as a primary work of the monastery

  • The educational work of the community, fostered by the monastic tradition

  • The cooperative venture with others, who are not monks, but share in the work and prayer of the community

  • The natural beauty and peacefulness of the place

  • The hospitality that has become synonymous with Saint Meinrad.

The Tradition

The tradition of Saint Meinrad is more about the future than the past. It is about seeking and finding God, about worshipping God in spirit and in truth, about service to any who are in need, about hospitality to those who journey. It is about how the Kingdom of God transforms us into the image of the Lord.

Saint Meinrad's tradition focuses on spreading the Word of God to others. Through its work of educating men for the priesthood and the permanent diaconate, and men and women for lay ministry, its retreat programs, pastoral assistance to parishes, and sharing its resources with others, Saint Meinrad each day writes another chapter in the story begun more than a millennium ago.