The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Big catch

My 4-year-old nephew Evan, shown here with his Dad, Ty, recently caught his very first fish--from the waters of the Ohio River, which make up their back yard (lucky ducks!). While it may look like a rather small catch to us, one's first fish is always a BIG deal. Evan, who had tried his hand at fishing (sort of, when he wasn't distracted by other stuff) last summer when he was here visiting at Saint Meinrad, was very excited about his big catch, I'm told. What's more, the fish he caught was used as bait on a drop line in the river, which brought in this whopper:

Monday, August 15, 2016

Newly professed

 On this Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, congratulations are in order for three monks (THREE!), who today professed solemn and perpetual vows as monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey. These are Br. Peduru Fonseka, Br. James Jensen, and Br. William Sprauer (kneeling, left to right, in the photo above). It has been quite some time since we’ve had three make solemn vows all at once.

To read more about these three, click here. To see photos from the ceremony itself (and moments both before and after), click here.

Please keep Br. Peduru, Br. James, and Br. William in your prayers. Pray as well for all the monks of this archabbey, that they may be sustained by God's grace in their monastic prayer and work, and for an increase of vocations to our way of life.

"Uphold me O Lord, according to your promise,
and I shall live.
And do not confound me
in my expectation."

Solemn profession formula
(Psalm 119:16)

Monday, August 8, 2016

God bless this mess

Work on the geothermal field continues.

This has certainly been a summer of transition here at Saint Meinrad--and a rather hectic, sometimes messy one at that. As with many things in life, however, even good things are often hectic and a little messy before they come to fruition.

As you know, we elected a new abbot in June. In itself, that requires a number of adjustments in several respects -- though I must say, the transition seems to have been fairly smooth thus far. Things began to get a bit more hectic and messy toward the end of July, and have stayed that way for a while. First, there was the abbatial blessing on July 26, and all the preparation and logistical work that goes into such a grand event (for more on the blessing ceremony, click here). Then, quickly on the heels of that were monastic profession anniversary (60 years) celebrations on July 31 for five monks (more on that here), the annual Alumni Reunion July 31-August 2 (drawing about 270 Alumni and guests), and the first profession of one our novices on August 6 (congratulations to former Novice Tony, now Br. Kolbe! Read more about him here).

Oh, and while all that was going on, in addition to normal day-to-day tasks and ongoing projects, monks and co-workers were busy getting us moved back into the newly renovated monastery!

Furnishings stacked in the monastery vesting area wait to be
restored to their rightful place (most of it was removed today).
As you may recall, we monks had been displaced since May of 2015, moving into spaces normally reserved for students and guests in Anselm and Benet halls. Naturally, the "domino effect" of all this placed a premium on space here on the Hill during the last 14-15 months. However, it was all necessary so that the monastery (where we monks live) could undergo extensive renovations. The current building, completed in the early 1980s, needed a complete overhaul of heating/cooling and plumbing systems throughout, as well as extensive work to address chronic moisture issues. In addition, two areas underwent even more improvement--our dining hall (refectory) and the infirmary, where our elderly and ill monks reside. The refectory was expanded and updated, gained a new roof and flooring and improved drainage system (much of it related to the moisture issues). Meanwhile, the infirmary space is being expanded and updated significantly. Other improvements in the monastery have included new windows, carpeting, and bathroom fixtures throughout, and a new elevator on one side of the building.

To accomplish all that, all of us--and every stick of furniture, all personal possessions, and all common property had to be completely removed from the monastery in May 2015. Well, from August 1-5, all of that had to be moved back to the monastery. The timing was critical, because the space we had been occupying in Anselm and Benet halls for the last year is needed for guests and especially for students, who will be arriving for the fall semester in a matter of days!

So last week, especially, was hectic and messy. And not simply for us monks--but for many of our co-workers--particularly those in physical facilities and housekeeping. They not only did much of the heavy lifting, but also had to do one heck of a lot of cleaning! We were also assisted by members of the Durhholz family and friends in Evansville, some of our oblates, and a member of the Tell City Knights of Columbus. May God bless them all for their hard work and generosity.

The monastery courtyard is still a construction zone.
And the work continues. While most of the monks and their belongings--as well as the monastery's common furnishings--have been moved back, it will take a while before everything is back in its rightful place and operating normally. A few renovation details and adjustments still need to be taken care of. There's also an awful lot of cleaning to do--heavy construction, as you know, tends to leave a bit of a mess. Contractors and co-workers and monks have been attending to that bit by bit each day. Some areas of the monastery are still under construction -- the refectory, the infirmary, and the courtyard. So, we cannot access those areas yet. Meanwhile, we continue to take our meals in Anselm Hall, and the infirm monks continue to live in their temporary quarters. Hopefully, both the newly renovated refectory and infirmary will be up and running in a couple weeks.

The refectory is not quite ready--but it's getting there.
Most of the residential areas--rooms and hallways--in the monastery are finished and occupied, however.

Meanwhile, work on the new geothermal system--which will heat and cool the monastery--will continue until probably October (for now, the old system is being accessed for heating/cooling). The geothermal field is right outside the front of the monastery alongside the north fact of the Archabbey Church. Anyone who has been on the Hill the last 14-15 months knows where I'm talking about. And yes, it too, is a mess.

But, when everything is finished and cleaned up and put away, our living conditions will have improved in significant fashion. The work was desperately needed. What has been replaced/updated had undergone substantial deterioration and failure.

In any event, it is GOOD to be home, and may God bless the mess that remains while we settle back into our improved quarters. Next up during this summer of transition--the solemn profession of three junior monks (Br. Peduru, Br. James, and Br. William) on Monday, August 15. In the end, we are pilgrims on this earth, and all works in progress as we strive toward our heavenly home.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hope, Hold Firm, Take Heart

Photo by Krista Hall

Today was the abbatial blessing of Archabbot Kurt Stasiak, OSB, with Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR presiding at Mass and conferring the blessing. In my time here, I have never seen the Archabbey Church so full -- with visiting abbots, bishops, priests, deacons, alumni, students, faculty members, co-workers, oblates, other guests, personal friends of Fr. Abbot, and more. I hate to hazard a guess, but I'd say there were well over 300 people present -- possibly 400. At times, such as at Communion, it was a little tricky to maneuver!

It was certainly a festive day, and all the stops were pulled liturgically and otherwise: the church was adorned with flowers and banners (and with flags outside), and the air was filled with incense, the mellifluous voices of all those worshipers, and the resounding notes of organ and brass instruments. Particularly moving was the litany of the saints, chanted by the entire congregation as Archabbot Kurt lay prostrate on the floor in front of Archbishop Tobin. After the litany, the archbishop presented Fr. Abbot with The Holy Rule of St. Benedict, and his ring, miter, and crozier. (To see a slideshow of the occasion, click here. And, to view even more photos of the event, click here.)

The picture above, taken by Krista Hall of our Development Office, is the combined coat of arms for Saint Meinrad Archabbey and Archabbot Kurt, which was placed above the main entrance to the church for the day's festivities. On the left side of the shield are two ravens representing the Abbey of Einsiedeln (our mother house in Switzerland), and a ship symbolizing the arrival of the first monks from Einsiedeln who came here to establish Saint Meinrad in 1854. Fr. Abbot's coat of arms on the right (which was created by our Br. Martin Erspamer, O.S.B.) depicts an eagle, evoking the coat of arms for Germany, where Fr. Abbot was born in 1952. Below the eagle is a representation of the U.S. Air Force insignia, with its star and outstretched wings. (Fr. Abbot grew up in a military family, having been adopted shortly after his birth by an American Air Force officer and his wife, who were living in Germany at the time; he is to this day very much an aviation enthusiast.)

Incidentally, Archabbot Kurt has chosen for his abbatial motto words from Psalm 26 (Grail translation): "Hope, Hold Firm, Take Heart."

Please join in praying for him and our entire monastic community, with this prayer from the Rite of Solemn Blessing of an Abbot:

Give him the gifts of your Spirit.
Set him on fire with love
for your glory and for the service
of your church,
and may he in turn
inflame with zeal
the hearts of his brothers.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pondering the Word (No. 6)

"There is need of only one thing."
Luke 10:42

Today's first reading (Genesis 18:1-10; Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C) is about providing hospitality. So is the Gospel (Luke 10:38-42), but from a radically different perspective. The well-known story of Martha and Mary demonstrates that before we can provide hospitality to others, we must first receive what is provided by God alone. We must first benefit from the hospitality and wisdom of Christ--in our time, through Scripture, Sacrament, and prayer.

Yes, there is a time to act, to provide hospitality, to do good works, but how can we possibly know what these should consist of, in what manner they should be done, or to what extent? What is God's will? This should always be our primary concern and motivation. This is the "one thing necessary" of which Jesus speaks. Mary, he says, "has chosen the better part" by sitting at the Lord's feet and listening to what he has to say.

How often do we truly find ourselves in the posture of Mary--attentive to what God is saying to us in Scripture, Sacrament, and prayer? Honestly? Are we truly receptive to what God alone offers to provide us--which is his very self?

Or, like Martha, are we burdened with the many activities and works we have taken upon ourselves, resentful of carrying such a load, and ultimately telling Jesus what to do?!

If we, like Martha, are "anxious and worried about many things," could it be that we have forgotten the "one thing necessary"? Have we neglected to choose the "better part" -- first and foremost, sitting at the feet of the Lord in prayer and listening to him?

Have we taken the time, before busying about ourselves, to first receive what the Lord has to offer--indeed, what he alone can provide?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Wisdom's mystery

"The trees and the stones will teach you
what you will never learn from the masters."

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Pondering the Word (No. 5)

Sometimes we can make religion too complicated. Following God's will for our lives, Moses says in today's first reading (Deuteronomy 30:10-14) is not something "too mysterious or remote for you." God's will for us, he says, is "already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out."

In the Gospel reading (Luke 10:25-37), a scholar would rather quibble and justify himself than pay heed to such a simple instruction regarding what he must do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus asks him what his understanding amounts to, the scholar replies: "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."

Bingo, Jesus says (essentially).

But that's not good enough for this questioner. He presses: "And who is my neighbor?"

Jesus responds by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan that we know so well. Which of the people in the story, he asks, "was neighbor to the robbers' victim?"

Again, the scholar gives the glaringly obvious answer: "The one who treated him with mercy."

To, this, Jesus simply says, "Go and do likewise." Nothing complicated about that. Love God above all else, know God's love for you, and treat others as you would like to be treated--indeed, as you desire God to treat you, with mercy.

As God's creatures made in his image, mercy is already in our hearts. We have only to carry it out. "Do this and you will live."

Who is your neighbor? The answer, most likely, is right in front of you.