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MONK LIFE From the Vocations Office of Saint Meinrad Archabbey

The Road to Solemn Vows Vocation Narration: Fr. Christian Raab

Benedictine Perspectives: Scholarship and the Benedictine Tradition Cover: Br. Dominic Warnecke prepares the incense for Mass.

Summer 2014 • No. 2

MONK LIFE On the cover: Br. Dominic Warnecke, OSB, prepares the incense for Mass. FEATURES 2.....................................................From the Vocation Director 3...............................................................The Road to Solemn Vows 5-6......................................................................Vocation Narration 7-8......................................................Benedictine Perspectives 9 ......................................................................Monk Spotlight 10 ................................................................Ministry Spotlight Produced by the Vocations Office and the Communications Office of Saint Meinrad Archabbey. Vocations Office, Saint Meinrad Archabbey 100 Hill Drive, St. Meinrad, IN 47577, (812) 357-6318 © 2014

From the Vocation Director Br. John Mark Falkenhain, OSB Happy Easter! I can’t remember a year when we were more eager for spring to arrive, and I imagine that was the sentiment of so many around the country. In fact, I think the monks were even looking forward to Lent – as it was at least a sign of warmer things to come (not to mention the Resurrection!). But now spring and Easter have truly arrived, and we are all the more grateful for the changing of seasons and the beauty and meaning that come with the gift of time. This May, we received two new candidates and we are planning for three or four more in October. We take men twice a year, and this year 2

we are excited by the many fine young men who are interested in joining us on this inward adventure of the monastic life. Of course, it is more accurate to say that these young men are joining us to further explore and test their monastic calling, because discernment is not over once a man enters the monastic formation program. I am fond of saying that formation is just as much about discernment, because the goal of the beginnings of monastic life is simply to try it on, so to speak – like a coat or a pair of slacks (or a habit) to see how it fits. In the monastery, we expect all men to grow. It’s impossible not to grow in monastic formation. Some will find themselves growing into this life; others might find themselves growing, but in other directions.

Either way, at the end of each stage of formation – candidacy, novitiate, temporary vows – men arrive at a certain clarity about whether this life is still for them. The clues are whether monastic life has proven its capacity for conversion in their lives and whether it holds promise for greater conversion in the future. In the months ahead, I invite you to pray for the men who have entered formation and who are considering jumping into this beautiful but challenging way of life. Formation is hard, but good, work. Then again, following Christ and continuing to be formed in His image is always hard, but good, work. The best work! ✢

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The Road to Solemn Vows: Making my commitment to monastic life By Br. Luke Waugh, OSB The day of my solemn vows has finally arrived. In the middle of a long, tiresome winter that seemed to throw every conceivable weather condition at us, I am preparing to make my solemn vows. This is the biggest day in a monk’s life, the day he becomes permanently “wedded” to this way of life and this community. It has certainly been an adventure, an adventure that started long before I actually entered Saint Meinrad.

I was drawn to the monastic life with its set times of prayer throughout the day. This was the one thing missing from my life. I was fairly regular at praying in the mornings, but my life was so hectic that I seldom prayed at any other time of the day. Any time I visited a monastery, the monks would stop what they were doing when the bell rang and go to prayer. My spiritual director was a big help in my discernment, and it was he who originally suggested that I look at Saint Meinrad. So I visited the monastery and thoroughly enjoyed it. After visiting again on an official “Come and See” weekend, I eventually applied, and entered the monastery in the fall of 2008.

One of the biggest challenges I had to face was my work assignment. In the middle of my novitiate year, I was assigned to work in our music office. All of our chant music is in a database. Since I have a background in IT, my superiors thought I’d do a good job.

of the job. I enjoyed working with people to solve problems. Problems were like puzzles with several people working together to solve the puzzle. No single individual had the total answer, but was part of the solution. With this knowledge of myself, I’ve been asked to work more with guests. I give tours and help lead the devotions during May and October at Monte Cassino, our Marian shrine. I’ve also used this R

Several years before entering the monastery, I had undergone a major conversion. I returned to the faith after several years of being away from the Church. It was during this time that I started to discern a call to monastic life.

Monastic formation can be challenging and rewarding. It’s a time to learn about being a monk and it’s a time to learn more about yourself. It’s rewarding when you develop friendships with other monks and draw closer to Christ through prayer. The challenges can take the rough edges off and the self-knowledge can help make you a better person.

Br. Luke Waugh, OSB, prepares to sing during communion after making his solemn profession on January 25.

Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about music. I didn’t understand the elements within the database and how they all fit together. It didn’t make sense to me. And there wasn’t anyone who could show me how things were supposed to work. I was really frustrated. This was one of the most difficult experiences of my novitiate. Eventually, I was assigned a different job, and in the process I learned quite a bit about myself. I realized that in my old IT job, I missed the people aspects



Br. Luke Waugh, OSB, processes into church with his brother monks. For more images, visit

knowledge to discern a possible call to priesthood. What started as a big challenge has turned into a blessing. My private prayer has also been a blessing for me. Time for private prayer is worked into the monastic schedule. It is a force that keeps me going throughout the day. My private prayer has been enhanced by taking classes in our Seminary and School of Theology.

After five years of living the monastic life, I am ready to fully commit myself to persevere in this life. As I wait for the Mass where I will make my solemn profession to begin, I hear all six bells ringing and I remember ringing those bells for other monks when they made their solemn vows. I consider those monks good friends.


Waiting for the bells to finish ringing, I stand in line ready to enter the Archabbey Church. My hair is cut with the monastic R

All of the monks in formation are encouraged to take classes as part of their formation. The classes on human formation, psalms, Scripture and some of the electives, such as a class on one of the mystics, have enhanced my prayer life.

I think about the monks still in formation, all good men learning the monastic way of life. And I think about the monks who have lived this life for 60 and 70 years. All have had an influence on my monastic call, and I appreciate each one.

corona. I hold in my hand my vow chart, which I will chant in front of my abbot and place on the altar during Mass. It is symbolic of placing myself on the altar. Soon I will sing, “Uphold me, O God, according to your promise and I shall live. And do not confound me in my expectation.” May God bring to completion what He has begun in me. ✢

Br. Luke Waugh’s vow chart rests on the altar during his solemn profession.

VOCATION NARRATION Fr. Christian Raab, OSB Even from an early age, I entertained thoughts about becoming a priest. But the thing about high school is that it’s a time in your life where all possible futures are open and you don’t really need to decide on anything. Next to a burgeoning dream of being a priest, I also dreamed of being an anthropologist, a doctor, a politician and a rock star. I also had a girlfriend, about whom I was very serious. So, there was that dream, too – the dream of being a husband and father. During my first two years of college, I drifted away from the Church and from a good moral life. I was directionless and considerably unhappy. At the end of sophomore year, I started to pray. It was different from the rote prayers I had learned as a child. I began to speak honestly to the Lord about all the confusions in my life. Through the conversation, I was given the gift of hope. I started to go to Mass again and to surround myself more with people who would support me in positive decisions. In fall semester of junior year, I went on a Newman Center-sponsored retreat at Saint Meinrad Archabbey. By then, the choice of what I was supposed to do with my life felt pressing. During one of the liturgies, I had an overwhelming sense of peace and freedom as I contemplated the

possibility of giving my life to God and becoming a priest. First Things First As powerful as that feeling was, I was not quite ready to do anything about it. The truth is I was rather frightened of what it all meant. I was afraid of being alone (unmarried), and of what my friends and family would think. Fortunately, I met a good spiritual director. He encouraged me to concern myself first with becoming a good disciple – praying, frequenting the sacraments, doing service, living well. He said that if I gave good time to these things, I would eventually gain the strength to do what God was calling me to do, whatever that may be. He was right. After college, I got a job teaching at St. Benedict High School in Chicago. I stayed in that position for four years. I liked it very much and loved my students, but I had the sense that, if I stayed there for another 20 years, I would ultimately be disappointed with my life choice. Something was missing. My thoughts and feelings about priesthood kept resurfacing. By now, I was in a stronger position in my relation with God and willing to take the risks that I had earlier felt unable to take. I had continued to meet with my spiritual director, and we agreed that it was time for me to do some exploring. When I shared the news with my friends and family that I was looking into

priesthood, I discovered that few were surprised and almost all were supportive. I was happy to hear my dad say: “I’ve always thought this is what you should be doing.” Finding the Right Fit I now had the support from others and personal willingness to become a priest, but the question was: “where?” Thus began what I call my “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” experience of discerning a religious community. Interestingly, the notion of being a monk was rather far from my mind. I thought I was called to be a missionary, which seemed to me the opposite of being a monk. I was taking graduate courses at Loyola University Chicago and so made some visits to the Jesuit community there. I liked their intellectual life and their focus on transforming secular culture. However, I found I had a hard time clicking with the individuals, and I found myself longing for a more transcendent sense of beauty in the liturgy. I visited a few other religious communities – Franciscans, Carmelites – but just didn’t feel I was a good fit for them. I knew I needed space and time to read and work on creative projects, but still wanted to actively engage in some external apostolates. I attended a discernment group with the Chicago Archdiocese, but, as


Fr. Christian Raab, OSB, on the campus of R The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, where he is studying sacred theology.

much as I respected it, parish priesthood had never really captured my imagination. At this point, my spiritual director said something to the effect of: “Surely there has to be some place that you feel would be right for you. I simply don’t believe God has never shown you.” At these words, I realized I was comparing everything to Saint Meinrad. He encouraged me to make another visit there. I did and my feelings of peace and freedom came back. Two weeks later, I moved into the monastery. What Attracted Me In hindsight, the things that attracted me to Saint Meinrad were: the beauty of the place, especially its liturgy; its tangible connection to the pastoral work of the Church; and the community life. I had initially wanted to be a missionary, but, as I came to know monasticism, I realized that the monastery actually has a strong evangelizing aspect. The monastic way of evangelization is to build a sacred space within the world to which people are welcomed and where they are invited to encounter God. I often think of life at Saint Meinrad as a living out of Isaiah 2 or Mark 1:45: “He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from all around.” In truth, non-Christians are far more likely to visit the monastery than they are to show up at St. Mary’s parish down the block. The place has a transformative effect on people. They see the beautiful witness of a community centered on Christ, and they participate in 6

prayer, and they are changed by it. In the words of an Eastern monk, “People come to the monastery as tourists, but they leave as pilgrims.” Saint Meinrad also has a tangible connection to the pastoral work of the Church. Through the Seminary and School of Theology, the abbey has a ripple effect through the priests, deacons and lay people who are educated and formed there. The abbey also takes care of a couple of parishes and ministry at a nearby prison. Many monks lead retreats on or off the Hill. Stability at Saint Meinrad could be compared to an aircraft carrier. The planes are often taking off and going on missions, but then they return to home base. This is not foreign to St. Benedict’s Rule (See RB 50 and 67). I liked it then that there were these great opportunities to minister, and I love it now that I am able to contribute. Finally, there is the community. Visiting Saint Meinrad, I was moved by the

humility and joy of the brethren, especially the older ones. They were friendly and funny. It seemed to me that, on a natural level, I shared their wiring, and that if I gave my life to the same project they had, in time, the Holy Spirit might make me similarly humble and joyful. I like to think I am getting there. ✢


Benedictine Perspectives: Scholarship and the Benedictine Tradition By Br. Matthew Mattingly, OSB In the late 17th century, two French monks, Jean Mabillon and Armand-Jean de Rancé, engaged in a heated debate about the role of scholarly studies in the monastic life. Rancé, the founder of the Trappist order, favored a literal reading of the Rule of St. Benedict and believed that manual labor was the only proper activity for monks apart from prayer. Mabillon, a traditional Benedictine who is also widely considered the father of modern historical studies, argued that serious scholarship had long been a part of the monastic tradition and, even more, was foundational to its spirituality focused as it is on a devotion to the Word of God. As a Benedictine and a prospective scholar, I am inclined to side with Mabillon on this one. In fact, I find the pursuit of scholarship to be an integral and essential part of my own monastic vocation. Rancé based his position on St. Benedict’s statement in the Rule concerning manual labor: “When they live by the work of their own hands, just as our fathers and the apostles did, then they are truly monks” (RB 48). While this sounds very straightforward, in reality it is not quite so simple. Two things need to be borne in mind when reading this passage.

In the first place, scholarship in the age of St. Benedict and all through the Middle Ages was as much a physical activity as it was an intellectual one. Commentators often assume that in this passage Benedict is referring to agricultural work in the fields, but we must remember that work in the monastic scriptorium would equally have been considered manual labor. Medieval monasteries in need of books had to produce them themselves; there were no printing presses or any book dealers to speak of. Not only did the monks have to copy them out by hand – no easy task – but they had to manufacture their own material for doing so: parchment produced from animal hides, pens from the feathers of birds, and ink from a variety of plants and minerals are just a few of the tiresome jobs that had to be performed before study and scholarship were even possible. While scholars today have the luxury, not only of printed books, but of the Internet and other electronic resources as well, there remains a physical, material aspect to serious scholarship that remains my favorite part, be it the acquiring and organization of research material, the handling of an ancient manuscript or the exploration of dusty archives. A second consideration for understanding Benedict’s attitude toward proper monastic activity must also be taken into account. For

medieval monks, every written text, particularly a religious text like the holy Rule, had potentially two levels of meaning: a literal and a spiritual. From the literal point of view, this passage means exactly what it says: the ideal monk should earn his living from his own labor, whether that be working in the fields, copying manuscripts or whatever else circumstances call for. On the spiritual level, however, read from the perspective of a monk’s broader life of prayer and seeking God, the agricultural context of this passage might call to mind the words of Christ: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4). Just as the provision for our physical nourishment entails hard work, sweat and cultivation, so too does our spiritual nourishment require sustained effort and discipline. The two basic practices of this Benedictine spirituality are liturgical prayer and lectio divina (sacred reading). Both are founded on the sacred Scriptures and are intended to integrate the spirit of these Scriptures deeply into the character of the monk and the monastic community. This Word of God, which is the focus of our devotion, has been preserved for us in written texts, composed in languages that are quite foreign to our own. 7


This task, I believe, is the role of the Christian scholar, and it is one of the particular callings (though certainly not the only one) of Benedictine monks.

Fr. Harry Hagan, OSB, teaches a weekend course on “Prophets and Poetry.”


Likewise, it has been handed down to us through traditions and institutions whose initial establishment is equally distant. Unless we make a constant effort to re-interpret and re-translate this Word into current modes of thought, unless we are able to recontextualize the ancient and venerable institutions that preserve it to meet our own experience, then we run the risk of these texts losing their meaning and our traditions becoming dead and lifeless.

Fr. Mark O’Keefe, OSB, is a moral theology professor and the author of nine books.

Scholarship – be it study of the Bible, of theology, of history, of language, or of any other discipline engaged in understanding the human experience – can be a great and holy endeavor. Saint Meinrad Archabbey has a long tradition of promoting learning and scholarly studies, and it remains an important part of the individual vocation of many of our monks, myself included. ✢

Twitter: @SMAVocations



Q. Where and when were you born? Where did you grow up? A. I was born in 1959 in Peoria, IL, and grew up there, and then Metamora, IL, followed by Bloomington, IL. Q. What is your prior work/life experience? A. I obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in international business from Quincy University, and worked at a bank for five years. I worked in the loan department and liked my job and the people with whom I worked, but I wanted to explore the seminary possibility. When I was growing up, I was an altar boy and had been impressed by the priests for whom I served. I was attracted to the priesthood and wanted to be a priest, and my parents encouraged me. I used to “play Mass” using grape juice and bread. With the open end of a drinking glass, I could cut out of a slice of bread a perfectly round host. As I went into high school and college, the attraction to priesthood waned and I found other interests. Working at the bank was good, but I did not feel fulfilled. The possibility of priesthood was still in the back of my mind, so I decided that it was time to try the seminary and

enrolled at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology. After studying for the priesthood at Saint Meinrad, I was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Peoria. I was assistant pastor at St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island, IL, for three years. I was then pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Annawan, IL, for four years. I enjoyed the diocesan priesthood, but I was looking for a deeper prayer life and a community to live with. I asked my bishop if I could try the monastic life at Saint Meinrad Archabbey, and he said “Yes.” I then entered Saint Meinrad in 1997 and professed solemn vows in 2001. As a junior monk, I began to work in the Archabbey Library and studied library science at Indiana University, where I received a master’s degree. Q. Describe your current work for the monastery. A. I work in the library with cataloging, library software and reference. Additionally, I am the secretary for the Archabbey Chapter and the Archabbot’s Council. I also work as the assistant

oblate director, and occasionally do weekend parish work and give retreats and parish missions. Q. What attracted you to monastic life? A. A scheduled day with prayer as the most important parts of the day, a balanced approach to prayer and work, the long history and tradition (more than 1,700 years) of Christian monasticism. When I was in the School of Theology, I was inspired by the prayerfulness and dedication of the monks who were my teachers; living in a community of people with the common purpose of seeking God; good liturgy and music; an environment infused with culture, art and learning; and the Benedictine habit. Q. What advice would you give to those considering a monastic vocation? A. Pray about it and be open to where God may be leading you. Visit Saint Meinrad Archabbey or a monastery near you and get to know some of the monks. Each day pray, “Oh Lord, help me to be what you want me to be.” ✢ 9

Ministry Spotlight: Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology By Fr. Denis Robinson, OSB, President-Rector Interestingly, for a monk with a vow of stability, I am writing this column from Rome in early April. I am in Rome with a group of our seminary Overseers who are enjoying (and praying) a pilgrimage to the holy places of the Eternal City. All of this is part of my ministry as president-rector of our seminary. When I became rector six years ago, I was a bit familiar to the job but I had no idea what it really meant. I knew that I had the responsibility of overseeing the programs of our school, to care for the seminarians, the lay students and our permanent deacon candidates in our formal programs.

I knew that, as president-rector, I was responsible for looking at the reputation of our school among benefactors and this included raising money to keep our programs going. I knew all of this, but I was not prepared for what it really meant. I discovered that it 10

As I moved forward as rector, I discovered that all of those “seminarians” that I had charge of were real men, from real families, each having real needs that precluded them being lumped into the generic category of seminarians. I learned that our lay degree students were also real folks with real jobs and families who made real sacrifices to be with us at Saint Meinrad for very lively events. I learned that our deacon candidates in far-flung places like Louisiana and Wyoming and Bahamas were also men who had real needs, with real folks already dependent upon them long before their ordinations. All of this is not to mention our overseers, benefactors, alumni, friends R

I knew that I also had the responsibility of overseeing the reputation of the school in other quarters as well, with our external board of overseers, with bishops and with those in dioceses charged with preparing lay ministers and deacon candidates.

was all true, but there was another component – the human and divine factor.

and those who just make their way to Saint Meinrad for a weekend, a visit, a tour, a retreat. All of this is also not to mention our faculty, our staff, our loyal co-workers, all of whom have fully devoted their lives to the service of this call. As president-rector, I have a very full schedule, which includes a lot of traveling (to Rome, for example). I often find, however, that the schedule is interrupted by this or that one who needs a little extra guidance, a little extra support, a little extra prayer. Flexibility is definitely a benefit of being rector, some days more than others. In the past six years, my job has become much more. It has become a real ministry, a wonderful opportunity to spread the Gospel of Christ in a remote, yet very universal place called Saint Meinrad. ✢

Fr. Denis Robinson, OSB, teaches class in the Seminary and School of Theology.

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S I PRAY, REveal to me your way for me to you, lord god.


Monk Life + Summer 2014  

The monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey invite you to explore our way of life.