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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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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I finished editing some more video. This brief video features Abbot Benedict Neenan sharing his vocation story and call to monastic life.
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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
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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.
A few days ago, Brothers Michael and Placid worked on packaging up the old Stations of the Cross. The Stations were in the original Basilica and they will be restored and put into the current Basilica church. The monks are very excited about this project which has been a long time in the making. The Beuronese artwork of the Stations of the Cross actually predates the murals in the Basilica. They will need to be cleaned and restored. For this reason, they are being sent to New York, and we expect to have them back to put in the Basilica later this year.
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.
There are plenty of good things happening around the Abbey during this first week of June. For example, Br. Anselm received three queen bees in the mail for his beehives. I saw him walking back from the post office in front of the monastery, looking rather closely at the box he tore open. I just figured someone had sent him some chocolate and he was really hungry. But, instead, I saw a sight I’ve never seen. Bees shipped in the mail! Have a look yourself.
For several years Br. Anselm has been keeping bees on the Abbey property, but since he lost one of his hives during the winter, he is working to replace it and continue his work.
In other news, a seminarian who is working here this summer was flying a small drone (not the drone I fly) and he got it stuck in the tree outside the westside of the monastery. I called our friendly neighbor and electrician, Darrell Schieber, to see if he would retrieve it for us. Darrell gladly assisted, venturing up to the upper part of the large tree in his bucket lift and plucking it off the branch with his hand. It’s wonderful to know such good people.
Speaking of aerial photography, I took a few more beautiful pictures during sunset the other evening. We are having some gorgeous evenings.
I’ve been working on some videos lately, so be sure to check back to see some of the videos when I publish them.
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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.