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.
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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).
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
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.
This morning the monks decorated the various rooms in the monastery for Christmas. Sign-up lists were posted on the bulletin board and the monks worked in small groups to give the monastery a seasonal look.
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The monks of Conception Abbey are grateful for so many of God’s blessings!
During these beautiful summer months the monks go outside after supper as a community. Many times we simply sit outside or walk around the sidewalk and enjoy one another’s company. It is a time to relax, let the food digest, before we return to the Basilica for Compline, our final prayer of the evening.
Here are a few pictures of the monks during the recreation period.
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On Tuesday evenings during Lent, the monks have a community conference after Vespers. Abbot Gregory decided to have some of the members give presentations on the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. These works are particularly good areas of reflection during this Jubilee Year of Mercy.
This evening Br. Anselm gave a conference on the Spiritual Works of Mercy, namely, “To instruct the ignorant and to counsel the doubtful.”
Above: Br. Anselm gives his presentation before the community in the chapter room.
Below: Br. Jacob looks on.
The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) has helpful information on both the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. This is what they have to say about the two topics Br. Anselm explored.
COUNSELING THE DOUBTFUL
Everyone has moments of doubt in their faith journey. Nevertheless, we should always remember that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and turn to him along our way.
- Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may eventually become wise” (Prov 19:20)
- The Cross of Christ “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1:25)
- Has someone asked you for advice? Orient your response to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life
- Follow Christ with the witness of your life so that others may see God’s love revealed in your actions
- Accompany a friend who is struggling with believing to join a parish group for service or faith formation, share a book you found useful in dealing with your friend’s faith concern, and worship at Sunday Mass
INSTRUCTING THE IGNORANT
Learn about our faith and be open to talking with others about our beliefs. There is always something more to discover about our faith.
- Go on a service trip or short term mission trip. No time? Donate to support someone on their service trip
- Volunteer to help with religious education programs at your parish
- Invite someone to go to mass with you this weekend
- Know your faith! Read through the USCCA to find out more about the Catholic faith and how to live it
After the conference, the monks gather for their weekly social hour, also known as Haustus. It is a time when all of the monks who are home gather together, including those of us who work in the seminary. It is one of four meals throughout the week where we have conversation and we have different appetizers available. Haustus during Lent, however, is simpler and there is not as much variety of food.
Above: Fr. Samuel and others serve as waiter for the week.
Below: Br. Michael catches me taking a photo and says hi.
Above: Abbot Gregory leads the monks in the prayer before the meal.
Below: Fr. Xavier gets in an animated conversation with Fr. Quentin while waiting in the food line.
It’s that time of year when grown men dressed in black robes channel their inner child and gather with great excitement to decorate the Christmas tree. Okay, maybe I’m only referring to Br. Cyprian.
The monks had their annual tree trimming party in the monastery recreation room. Several monks contributed ornaments to the trees and relaxed to enjoy one another’s company. These days before and after Christmas are especially fun and blessed days for life in community.Above: Br. Cyprian takes a step back to survey the progress.
Below: Br. Placid hangs an ornament on the tree. Above: Br. Michael picks out a nice ornament
Below: Br. Maximilian’s ornament shows his enthusiasm for Star Wars.
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Below: The Holy Spirit painting that is on the ceiling of the chapter room in the newly renovated monastery.
Pentecost is a very special feast for me personally. Two years ago, when I was ordained a priest, the first Sunday Mass I celebrated at my home parish in Stillwater, Oklahoma was on Pentecost Sunday.
Two years later, Pentecost still leaves a great impression, especially this year as I was blessed to bring three new members into the Church. Three students involved at Northwest Missouri State University’s Newman Center were received into the Church at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, in Kansas City, Missouri.
I baptized and confirmed Josh Smith, and confirmed Jordan Johnson and Emily Casady. It was an occasion celebrated with great joy in the presence of family and friends.