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I finally finished editing and publishing these last two Ask a Monk videos of Fr. Victor and Br. Michael.
This completes 15, I believe, videos total. I hope you have found them entertaining and insight into our community and the many personalities.
There is a lot of excitement as the monks finished choosing which room they will occupy when it is time to move into the newly renovated monastery. How are the monks choosing rooms? It is based on seniority. There were three rounds of room selections. When I mention “rounds” you might equate it with some sort of boxing match or NFL Draft style, but it was less dramatic. The first round of the “older monks” (or those who entered monastic life earliest) were able to suggest their “top 3″ rooms to the Abbot. Then, the next day a list was posted on the bulletin board showing which monks were occupying which rooms. The second and third rounds followed in the same way. But, for those younger monks (like myself), subject to the 3rd and final round, our top choices may have been selected already. So, we were able to see which rooms were still available and who is staying where.
The great blessing is that each room will now have a sink and some built in storage. We are all grateful for the little things, and I don’t really think there is a bad room in the house.
Amid all the excitement, I decided to scope the monastery out on Saturday and see how well things were progressing. July 1 will be here sooner than we realize and it will be time to go through the big move again.
This is perhaps the most fascinating part of the monastery deconstruction. On the northeast side of the monastery, looking from the 3rd floor, the old stairs were taken away, so you can see all the way to the ground level. A new fire-safe stairwell will go in here.
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Abbot Gregory presides over Ash Wednesday Mass and the distribution of ashes.
As ashes were distributed, each person was marked with the sign of the cross and heard the formula: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”
There are several different practices that the monks observe for the Lenten season.
- Ash Wednesday is a Day of Recollection for the monastic community
- Within the community, Fridays of Lent are observed as fast days, with simpler meals served
- Silence is observed on Fridays, which includes no community recreation
- Friday evenings from 7:45-8:45pm we will have a Holy Hour for Monastic Vocations
- Additionally, prior to the start of Lent, each monk submits his bona opera (good works) for the Abbot’s approval and blessing
Chapter 49 of the Rule of St. Benedict instructs the monks in this way:
The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial. During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food or drink, so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of his own will, “with the joy of the Holy Spirit,” (1 Thess 1:6). In other words, let each one deny himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.
Everyone should, however, make known to the abbot what he intends to do, since it ought to be done with his prayer and approval. Whatever is undertaken without the permission of the spiritual father will be reckoned as presumption and vain glory, not deserving reward. Therefore, everything must be done with the abbot’s approval.
The seminarians hosted their annual Mardi Gras Party this evening. The theme was “Casino Night.” The junior class was responsible for organizing the event. It was a lot of fun and seemed to be a big success. There was good food, games, and the chance to relax and catch up before Lent begins.
Pray for the seminarians, they begin Lent with a three day silent retreat! The monks also have Ash Wednesday as a Day of Recollection. I will have Ash Wednesday Mass on the campus of Northwest Missouri State and noon.
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On Friday I headed out to attend a couple of vocation events. First, I traveled to Manhattan, Kansas for the Kansas Catholic College Student Convention. There were close to 300 students at the event and I set up a display promoting the monks of Conception Abbey. It was good to see so many Catholic college students from all over Kansas attending this event which featured several speakers, worship music, and smaller breakout sessions.
Early Sunday morning I flew from Kansas City to Houston, and then took a ground shuttle to College Station to the campus of Texas A&M University.
At St. Mary’s Catholic church in student center, I helped out with a busy student retreat. There were several religious men and women helping out with this retreat. I was one of four priests, and we had a great group of religious women helping out as well. I had seven students that I was directing for the retreat and I met with them for 30 minutes each day for spiritual direction. I gave them scripture passages to reflect on during the day, and we met the next day to discuss some of their insights from their meditations.
The Catholic presence at Texas A&M University is very impressive. From the very moment I arrived, I was struck by the great hospitality shown to all of us. The students were very friendly and joyful and the faith life is alive and vibrant. It is so hard to believe how many different student events occur each day, and all the various opportunities offered for the students to grow in their faith. The staff at St. Mary’s was absolutely an amazing and very hospitable. It is all very encouraging to witness and it instills a lot of hope for the future of the church.
I had the opportunity to celebrate Mass for the students on Tuesday evening. There are more than 200 students who regularly attend daily Mass. We also had a gathering for the students to meet the religious men and women on Tuesday evening. We shared with all of them the joy and blessings of committing our lives to Christ, and showed them that religious have a good sense of humor too!
My meetings were mostly scheduled in the mornings, which was nice, because it left the afternoons somewhat flexible for me to get outside and explore campus. The weather was absolutely beautiful, in the 70s and 80s, and I enjoyed going outside for exercise, or just walking campus.
Below: Sister and I took turns trying out a longboard.
Below: I spent my free time on Thursday at the Student Recreation Center on campus. I climbed the rock wall five times. My arms are sore!
Upon my return to Kansas City, I traveled to Columbia, Missouri to attend the NOVA (Night of Vocation Awareness) benefit dinner for the Diocese of Jefferson City. Abbot Gregory and Fr. Samuel also represented the monastic community at this fundraiser event. It was a nice evening and good to see many of our priest alumni. We even got a picture with Pope Francis!
As the sign indicates below, “TET” is the Vietnamese New Year. We had a fun celebration on Wednesday afternoon. The celebration kicked off with a bunch of loud fireworks that were strung up in front of St. Maur Hall. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed some delicious Vietnamese food. There was plenty to go around! This event was hosted by the CMC Brothers, who study at Conception Seminary College and have their religious house in Carthage, Missouri.
Conception Seminary College’s basketball team played in the annual seminary basketball tournament at Mundelein (near Chicago). Last year they finished 3rd overall, but they lost some key players who had graduated.
It was a successful evening in Kansas City, at the 22nd Annual Support Our Seminarians (SOS) event. The proceeds from the dinner and auction benefit Conception Seminary College and the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and Kansas City-St. Joseph.
Conception Abbey’s baked good (“Abbey Oven”) were on sale during the event- bread, cookies, and our new product, granola. It went over very well and we sold about everything that we brought.
Below: Watch the video that was shown at the dinner.
Below: Follow the link to watch a time lapse I filmed from one of the hotel’s top floors of downtown Kansas City.