Solar Eclipse

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The monks were ready for the Solar Eclipse 2017. Br. Cyprian and Br. Matthew were so excited they wore their eclipse glasses around in the morning.

It ended up being a most cloudy day- not the ideal conditions for viewing the eclipse. We happened to be just within the path that would get about 16-20 seconds of total eclipse.

Below: Monks, seminarians, and faculty watch the eclipse.

The rays still shined through the mostly cloudy sky. With the glasses one could see the moon blocking out a significant portion of the sun, but as the time for total coverage came close, then thick clouds prevented us from seeing it.

It was still a great experience and the best thing was that we didn’t have to travel to see it! It was remarkable how dark then light it got as the moon was blocking out the sun.

Entrance to Novitiate

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On Monday, August 14, the novice master Fr. Xavier Nacke, O.S.B., led the three postulants from the entrance of the Abbey Basilica to the altar where they were met with this question: “What is your request?” Standing before Abbot Benedict Neenan, OSB, and in the presence of the entire monastic community, the three postulants responded in unison, “I seek the mercy of God and fellowship in this community.”

These three men came before the monastic community and before God because they seek God. And, by God’s grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, this “seeking” in their life has led them to discern their vocation as a Benedictine monk of Conception Abbey.

During the brief ceremony Monday afternoon, Abbot Benedict instructed the novices on how they should go about seeking and serving the Lord. He said, “You have the promise of God to help you if you trust Him. You also have our promise as brothers to support you with our prayer and encouragement.”

At the conclusion of Abbot Benedict’s admonition, the postulants were clothed in the traditional habit for novices, which includes the tunic, belt, and short scapular. The ceremony concluded with the Kiss of Peace, as all of the members of the monastic community welcomed these men and assured them of their prayers and fraternal support.

The novitiate lasts one year and is an intensified period of discernment of one’s monastic vocation. During this year, the three novices will study the Rule of St. Benedict, Sacred Scripture, Monastic History, grow in the practice of lectio divina and engage in a variety of work around the monastery. In observing the novices throughout the course of the year, the Novice Master, Fr. Xavier will discern if each novice is docile and teachable. He will use the criteria that St. Benedict outlined in his Rule and ask: Does the novice truly seek God?

With great joy, the monks of Conception Abbey welcome Arturo Hernandez (Overland Park, KS), Justin King (Olathe, KS), and Walter Pugh (Sac City, IA).

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Above from left to right: Fr. Xavier, Novice Arturo, Abbot Benedict, Novice Justin, Novice Walter, Br. David

On August 15, the Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For the monks, it is a special feast day for another reason. Many of the monks professed vows on this day.

Here is a list of the monks who celebrated the anniversary of their profession on August 15.

Br. Thomas, 1969
Br. Bernard and Fr. Martin, 1970
Br. Justin, 1973
Br. Jude, 1986
Br. Jeremiah, 1997
Br. Elias, 1998
Fr. Pachomius, 2002
Fr. Guerric, 2003
Fr. Macario, 2004
Br. David and Fr. Victor, 2005
Fr. Paul, 2006
Br. Placid, 2008
Br. Maximilian, 2009
Br. Etienne, 2010
Br. Luke, 2015

Kan Jam

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Last weekend we had a couple vocation candidates visiting. Recently, on these beautiful summer days we have been playing the Frisbee game, Kan Jam, during our normal recreation period. The game is played 2 vs. 2, with teammates on opposite sides of the field. One teammate throws the Frisbee, the other teammate tries to knock or deflect the Frisbee with his hand into the black can for 3 points. Other scoring involves, 1 point for a deflection (Frisbee hits the outside of the can), and 2 points if the thrower hits the can directly, unassisted by the teammate. The game is played to 21 points. The monks have enjoyed this fun backyard game.

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One Bread, One Cup

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Each summer, St. Meinrad hosts several “One Bread, One Cup” gatherings. At these five-day liturgical leadership conferences, youth and adults discover the Catholic Church’s treasures of Word, Sacrament and Mission and enjoy opportunities for fellowship and fun (team building, outdoor recreation, variety show and dance). Participants come to appreciate the Benedictine balance of prayer, work and recreation.

This year, the One Bread, One Cup program found its way to Conception Abbey for the first time. The program ran during the week of July 17-21. It was great to welcome so many young people for an experience of faith and the Benedictine tradition.

Last Tuesday I gave a 60-minute presentation to the high school students on lectio divina. I was also able to celebrate Mass and preach for the group on Tuesday afternoon. My interactions with the college interns and the students were very positive. About twenty-five of the participants were from the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming. I had met many of the kids from Wyoming on previous retreats and vocations events that I had traveled to. It was good to welcome them to my home.

Below: I was able to visit with Steve Angrisano and enjoy his music. He is a very kind man of faith. He is a very effective and versatile ministry leaders in the Church.

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Above: Interns compete against the participants in a game of Ultimate Frisbee.
Below, pictured on the right: Alumnus Cameron Smith (C 2006) was one of the youth ministers who attended the week, bringing the large contingency from Cheyenne.IMG_0122IMG_0129IMG_0135IMG_0136

Receiving a New Postulant

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This morning we received our fourth postulant for the summer- praise God! Nicholas hails from Jacksonville, Florida and has come such a long distance to seek God at Conception Abbey. The community is excited to welcome him as he begins his journey in monastic life. Please keep Nicholas, and our other men in formation, in your prayers.

Mid-July Update

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The workers are making lots of progress on the Infirmary addition. The framework for the chapel was built up during this past week. I decided to take some aerial photos of the progress to give an interesting perspective.

We continue to enjoy beautiful and sunny weather with just enough rain to keep everything green.


Abbot Benedict’s Crosier and Cross

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Friday after Day Prayer, Archbishop Jerome blessed Abbot Benedict’s pastoral staff (crosier) and his pectoral cross which was specially crafted for him as a gift on behalf of his classmates who were present for the ceremony. The crosier was made by former-monk and friend Cassian Heath who crafted the staff primarily from walnut that was taken from the Abbey property. Abbot Benedict offered his words of thanks to his friends and classmates as he continues to serve as the shepherd of this monastic community.

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3 Men Received as Postulants

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This morning we welcomed three men into the monastery as postulants. They are Arturo Hernandez, Justin King, and Walter Pugh. It is a joyful occasion to receive these men as they begin their monastic journey.

The small ceremony begins with the men knocking on the front door of the monastery desiring entrance. In Chapter 58 of the Rule of St. Benedict, he writes: “Do not grant newcomers to the monastic life an easy entry, but, as the Apostle says, “Test the spirits to see if they are from God,” (1 John 4:1). Therefore, if someone comes and keeps knocking at the door, and if at the end of four or five days he has shown himself patient in bearing his harsh treatment and difficulty of entry, and has persisted in his request, then he should be allowed to enter and stay in the guest quarters for a few days. After that, he should live in the novitiate, where the novices study, eat and sleep.”

We didn’t make them wait four or five days, but their discernment leading up to this point certainly lasted much longer. After knocking once, however, there was no answer at the door. But, after persisting by knocking a second time, Abbot Benedict open the door and welcomed the men inside.

During his exhortation, Abbot Benedict encouraged the men to perseverance. He also stated that St. Benedict said every good work should begin with prayer. Abbot Benedict then led the men to pray in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the Basilica.

St. Benedict wrote, “A senior chosen for his skill in winning souls should be appointed to look after them with careful attention.” Fr. Xavier, the Novice-Junior Master, will oversee the formation of the junior monks, novices, and postulants. St. Benedict continued, “The concern must be whether the novice truly seeks God and whether he shows eagerness for the Work of God, for obedience and for trials. The novice should be clearly told all the hardships and difficulties that will lead him to God.”

Please pray for these men as they begin following Christ in monastic life.