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Happy Feast of the Angels, Michael, Raphael and Gabriel! This is, in many ways, a secondary patronal feast for the monks of Conception Abbey. In celebration of the angels, the freshmen and sophomore seminary dormitory, St. Michael’s Hall had its annual open house. Monks and seminarians were invited to check out the living quarters of the seminarians and socialize for a while Thursday evening. Snacks and refreshments were provided.
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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.
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.
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Mass for the Alumni Reunion was on Friday late afternoon and the principal celebrant was Abbot Gregory. This would be the last Mass he would celebrate in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception before he departed for Rome.
The prayers and readings focused on the theme of mercy as Abbot Gregory (below) delivers his homily.
Below: Alumnus Keith Jiron, who has served in lay ministry in the Catholic Church since he completed his Pre-Theology degree from Conception Seminary College received the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Keith was joined by his wife Kate and their four sons.
Below: After Mass, the alumni gathered for a group photo in the nave of the Basilica.
There was a social in St. Michael’s Plaza following Mass, a time for seminarians, monks, and alumni to visit.
Sunday morning Abbot Gregory departed Conception Abbey. Please keep him in your prayers as he begins his assignment as Abbot Primate.
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On Wednesday evening the monks had a reception and banquet in honor of Abbot Gregory. It was a time to gather as a monastic community as say “thank you” to Abbot Gregory for almost 20 years of service as abbot, as he soon departs for Rome, Italy to begin serving as Abbot Primate.
Above: Fr. Roger and Abbot Gregory
Below: Archbishop Jerome and Fr. Quentin
Above: Br. Bernard and Fr. Martin
Below: Fr. Allan and Fr. Peter
Above: Fr. Sebastian and Fr. Roger
Below: Fr. Joel and Fr. Xavier
Above: Abbot Gregory and Br. Thomas
Below: Fr. Allan and Br. Justin
Above: Fr. Norbert and Br. David
Below: Fr. John Rini and Fr. Xavier
Above: Fr. Guerric
Below: Fr. Daniel and Br. Anselm
Above: Fr. Daniel offers a toast at the head table at the banquet in honor of Abbot Gregory in the monastic dining room.
Below: Archbishop Jerome presents Abbot Gregory with a pectoral cross that he had received from Pope Benedict during an ad limina visit in 2012.
Above: The pectoral cross is based on the crucifixion scene in the monastery church of S. Anselmo in Rome where Abbot Gregory will be serving as Abbot Primate.
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After being elected Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation on Saturday, September 10th, Abbot Gregory was set to return home to Conception Abbey last night. However, his flight out of Rome was delayed, so the original plan of welcoming him at 8:30 PM was pushed back to just before 11:00 PM Saturday evening. The Prior, Fr. Daniel, picked Abbot Gregory up from the airport.
Several of the monks and I stayed up well past our bed time because we wanted to greet and welcome the man who had served our community so faithfully for 20 years as abbot. We know that his few returning days among us are limited until he is set to return to Rome by October 1st to begin his 8 year term as Abbot Primate. While there is great joy in receiving the new Abbot Primate, there is also sadness in knowing that he is no longer Abbot of Conception Abbey.
A good and warm welcome calls for signs and decorations…
Above: Br. Luke worked on a nice balloon display, Br. Placid made Abbot Gregory popcorn, and many monks left cards expressing their appreciation and gratitude.
Below: I designed a sign featuring the churches from Conception and San Anselmo in Rome, which was placed on the door to his office.
Below: The parking spot upon their return was clearly marked for the Abbot Primate.
Below: The car pulled in just before 11:00 PM.
Above: Abbot Gregory, still looking sharp after overseas travels, flanked by Br. Anselm (sporting the painter’s pants) and Fr. Albert (going old school with the Companion Camp T-shirt, circa 2003).
Below: Abbot Gregory embraces his classmate, Fr. Albert.
Above and Below: Br. Maximilian greets Abbot Gregory in the monastery hallway.
Below: Abbot Gregory, worn out from traveling and what must have been two long and difficult weeks at the Abbot’s Congress is able to smile for the camera as he begins his transition and starts a new chapter in his life.
Monastic life forms strong bonds of fraternity founded in faith. While it is very joyful to have Abbot Gregory back for these 7-10 days, we realize that he will be departing to serve the Church miles away from Northwest Missouri. Our prayers are with him!
What is it like to pray with the monks?
I recently completed a video of Vespers, our evening Office of Thanksgiving. As a major hour of the Divine Office, the monks line up in order of seniority in the monastery glass hallway. The Abbot, Prior, and Subprior are at the head of the line, followed by those who professed vows earliest, with the newest members of the community taking the final place at the end of the line. This time in statio and in silence is intended to allow the monk to recollect before chanting the Psalms. The Psalms at Vespers communicate thanksgiving to God.
Benedictine prayer comprises both Mass and the Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours—the daily round of praise and thanks we offer to God for his countless gifts to us, especially our salvation in Jesus Christ. We strive to make our prayer both beautiful and accessible, modifying ancient forms of Gregorian chant for effective expression in English. Our prayer is augmented by holy reading and a spirit of contemplative silence. We offer witness to a frantic and fast-paced society: the peace we all hunger for is ours in Christ our Savior.
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Classes in the seminary began on Monday and we have 99 seminarians this year. The summer certainly went by quickly but the monastic community too is ready for another academic year. There are 25 monks involved in some aspect of seminary formation, which might include serving as a professor, chaplain, spiritual director, or other member of the faculty. Conception Seminary College is our primary work, so it takes a lot of energy and resources to ensure proper seminary formation.
This year I was appointed as a part-time spiritual director in the seminary. I have six freshmen for spiritual direction. For the past few years, some of the college students from Northwest Missouri State have also been seeing me for spiritual direction. I appreciate the opportunity to see God’s grace at work in other people’s lives.
The past few days have been cool and comfortable, with temperatures in the 70s. It is pleasant weather for the seminarians as they adjust to a new schedule, and for some, a new environment altogether. Monday evening the monastic community was outside for the recreation period which is from the conclusion of supper until Compline (Night Prayer) at 7:15 PM.
During monastic recreation, the monks enjoy one another’s company and usually sit on the benches or on the porch on the east side of the monastery building. At that time in the evening, the monastery shields us from direct sunlight and we can enjoy the outdoors without heating up under our black habit. While life gets busier for many of the monks involved in the seminary, it is still important for us to foster a healthy community life and relax in good company.
I took these pictures below on Monday evening at recreation.
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Today the Church celebrates 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, including me. Today is actually my 10th anniversary of profession.
Here is a list of the monks who celebrate the anniversary of their profession on August 15.
Br. Thomas, 1969
Br. Bernard and Fr. Martin, 1970
Br. Justin, 1973
Br. Jude, 1986
Fr. Frowin and 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
It is also an exciting day since all of the new students will arrive on campus by 5:00 PM. Some of the seminarians from the orientation team are already back and welcoming the new seminarians to campus. Please pray for a good school year!
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For the past two weeks, I have been filling in for the pastor, Fr. Aquinas, at the Basilica of St. John in Des Moines, Iowa. Fr. Aquinas has been taking these days away for vacation. I was able to help out at this beautiful parish last summer as well. It is one of the highlights of my summer these past two years. The Basilica church, as you can see below, is stunning, and the people are wonderful. I have enjoyed their company and many nice dinner invites during these past two weeks. I was responsible for celebrating the daily Mass at noon, Saturday Vigil Mass at 4:00 PM (1 hour of confessions beforehand), Masses at 8:30 and 10:30 AM on Sunday. Fr. Aquinas returns, so I return to Conception Abbey this afternoon.
Below: The interior of the Basilica of St. John.
I also took the opportunity to visit Iowa’s State Capitol recently. The gold dome is clearly visible to the east of downtown. I was able to go inside and take some pictures of this amazing architecture.
Above: Ornate wooden staircase and railing.
Below: The inside of the dome.
Below: The Capitol’s Library is particularly remarkable. I really enjoyed seeing the spiral staircase.
Below: The Cathedral of St. Ambrose is in the heart of downtown. It is another beautiful church in Des Moines.
Below: The Sculpture Garden right near downtown Des Moines is another nice place to walk around. There were many people at the park playing Pokemon Go. I, however, was not.
Below: The last thing I really wanted to see was the famous High Trestle Bridge at night. I biked the trail to the bridge last year, but that was during the day. At night, many people walk to the bridge to see it lit up with fluorescent blue. It was worth the drive north of the city near Madrid, and the mile walk.