Every fall the novices and juniors have an outing. This time around, I was in charge of organizing the event and taking them. I asked them what they would like to do for fun. Bowling? Mini-golf? They were all interested in going to a rock climbing gym. So, I called around and found a place in Blue Springs, Missouri that gave us a great group rate.
The primary purpose of our outing was to visit one of our monastic confreres who is in the hospital. We all loaded up in a mini-van after having celebrated Vigils, Lauds, and Mass. We prayed the Rosary together on our way to the Kansas City area. After a nice visit with our confrere in the hospital, we ate our sack lunch as we drove to the gym in Blue Springs.
It was a great team-building exercise. The Ibex Climbing Gym in Blue Springs was a great place for a group of six energetic men. First we went through a one hour long training course where we learned how to tie our own knots and how to belay one another.
Above: Novice Arturo, Novice Walter, and Br. Luke practice tying their knots. Safety first!
Above: The climbing instructor had us practicing how to belay one another, giving us the proper commands so that no one got hurt. Br. Luke belays (below) Novice Justin.
Above: Fr. Paul and Br. Matthew scale the wall.
In addition to climbing with harness and rope, the gym also offers “bouldering”- a form of rock climbing that is performed on large boulders, small rock formations or artificial rock walls, without the use of ropes or harnesses. Novice Walter (below) demonstrates.
Novice Arturo (above and below) uses various training equipment.
This past weekend was the Seminary’s annual Family Weekend. The bulk of the festivities took place Saturday afternoon and evening. Fr. Etienne, freshmen chaplain and Kitchenmaster, organized the outdoor picnic and the food tent. He spent most of the day preparing some delicious ribs! The weather was very pleasant for late-September and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. We welcomed around 150 guests on campus for the weekend.
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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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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.
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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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.
Many young people feel the call to religious life, but many things hold them back. Some do not know the best way to discern their vocation. Abbot Benedict offers this practical advice for those who might find themselves in this situation. Obviously, prayer is the first and primary factor when it comes to discernment, but Abbot Benedict rightly adds that it is important to “test” one’s vocation.
Please share this video with those you may know who are discerning religious life.
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May 10, 1891 was the Dedication of the Abbey Basilica. Every year we celebrate its anniversary, and now we are up to 126 years. For Conception Abbey it is observed as a Solemnity. We are grateful for being able to worship in such a beautiful church.
Yesterday evening we celebrated First Vespers of the Solemnity and the seminarians were present.
Today we celebrated Mass of the Anniversary of the Dedication and Abbot Benedict presided.
Below: On this special day, we light all of the candles that on are on the pillars of the Basilica.