Abbot Jeremy travels to Rome

Abbot Jeremy traveled to Rome in early February to participate in a plenary assembly of the Dicastery for Divine Worship. Those in attendance included cardinals, archbishops, and bishops from around the world. One of 3 main speakers at the plenaria, Abbot Jeremy spoke about the curriculum at Mount Angel Seminary, which is centered on Communion Ecclesiology and emphasizes the liturgical formation of seminarians.

During their meeting, Pope Francis addressed the Dicastery for Divine Worship and greeted each participant individually.

Benedictines present at the plenaria assembly of Dicastery of Divine Worship in 2024.

The picture (left) shows the strong Benedictine influence at the plenaria. Left to right: Abbot Olivier-Marie Sarr, OSB, abbot of Keur Moussa (Senegal) and a former student of Abbot Jeremy’s at Sant’Anselmo; Archbishop Aurelio Garcia Macias, under-secretary of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and professor at Sant’Anselmo; Abbot Jeremy; Cardinal Arthur Roche, prefect of the Dicastery for Divine Worship; Archbishop Vittorio Viola, OFM, secretary of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and professor at Sant’Anselmo; Fr. Bernhard Eckerstorfer, OSB, rector of Sant’Anselmo; and Fr. Pierangelo Muroni, professor at Sant’Anselmo.

Fr Israel Sanchez, OSB; Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, OSB; Fr. Ephrem Martinez, OSB at Sant'Anselmo, Rome, 2024.

While in Rome, Abbot Jeremy stayed at Sant’Anselmo, where he taught a semester each year for nearly two decades and spent time with Fr. Israel Sanchez, OSB, and Fr. Ephrem Martinez, OSB, two monks of Mount Angel who currently live at Sant’Anselmo while pursuing advanced degrees in theology. Fr. Israel is studying patristics at the Pontifical Institute Augustinianum, while Fr. Ephrem is studying spiritual theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Abbot Jeremy also received honors from his alma mater, the Benedictine College of Sant’Anselmo, where Fr. Bernard A. Eckerstorfer, OSB (rector), granted him the honor and title of “Professor Emeritus” of the Faculty of Theology at Sant’Anselmo. On behalf of the Athenaeum’s academic community, Fr. Bernard also bestowed on Abbot Jeremy the “Diploma of Merit,” an honor given to those who have left a profound mark on the culture, research, and life of Sant’Anselmo and the life of the Church and the Benedictine Confederation.

Abbot Jeremy responded, “I carry Sant’Anselmo in my heart. Returning here, I still find that peace that we breathe and that every student can breathe. It was a grace to study and then teach in a place like Sant’Anselmo.”

Upon his return to Mount Angel, Abbot Jeremy talked about his experience at the plenaria and shared some of his reflections on the Eucharistic liturgy in spiritual life of all the faithful on Mater Dei Radio’s morning program.

Categories: Monastery, Seminary, Uncategorized

Pope Francis meets with Benedictine oblates

The 5th World Congress of Benedictine oblates was held in Rome in September, and three of our oblates were privileged to attend the Congress with 150 other oblates from around the world. One of the highlights of the event was the private audience with Pope Francis, in which he gave the oblates an address and shook the hands of each individual oblate.

Oblate Mary Gallagher meets Pope Francis.

In his address, Pope Francis spoke of three aspects of an “expanded heart” (prologue 49, in RB 1980 it is translated as “hearts overflowing”). The three aspects are the search for God, enthusiasm for the gospel, and hospitality. In their search for God, Benedictine oblates seek God in every aspect of their lives. They seek him in their lectio divina, nature, daily challenges, work, and the people they encounter. God is present everywhere, and if we seek him, we will find him. The second aspect of an expanded heart is the enthusiasm for the gospel. This joy of the oblates radiates into the whole world. Quoting Lumen Gentium, the Pope says that the laity are called, “to seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in the temporal affairs” ( 31 ). They do this by simply adopting and being faithful to the simple Benedictine motto of ora at labora, pray and work. This prayer and work in the life of the oblate is like the daily expansion and contraction of the heart that gives life to the rest of the body, the Church. The third aspect of an expanded heart is the practice of hospitality. Here, Pope Francis quotes chapter 53 from the Holy Rule, “all guests who present themselves are to be received as Christ.” We do this by sharing with our guests what we consider most important, namely, prayer and a meal together. We do this by providing a welcoming and inviting environment in our homes and workplace. In this way, we open the door to receive Christ in the stranger.

Oblates Mary and Tim Gallagher and Fr. John Forman were the oblates representing Mount Angel Abbey at the Oblate World Congress in Rome in September.

Categories: Monastery, Uncategorized

Eulogy for Br. Gregory Benavidez, OSB | 1980-2023

Brother Gregory Benavidez was a really good man and a really good monk.

In life, he was first of all a good son and brother, nephew, uncle and friend. He was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1980, the youngest of nine children. He was duly baptized with the name Joshua, or in Spanish, Josué – meaning in Hebrew, “God is deliverance,” a name he was very proud of. Josué was formed by his family relationships, the Mexican American culture and language, the places he grew up in – Texas, North Carolina, Mexico, and Oregon – and the education, life and work experiences that he had over the years. For a time, not unusual these days, his family tried other faith traditions. Eventually his family moved to Salem in 1993. By this time his parents were divorced. Josué found the difficulties of growing up in a broken home with a struggling single mother, along with other challenges he had encountered along the way, a real trial. It was why he often said to those close to him later on, that he understood well the tough circumstances many people go through in life, because he had experienced it first-hand.

His best friend, Brandt, described him as a nerdy kind of fellow, not unlike himself. They became close friends in high school and remained so to this day. They enjoyed Marvel and DC comic books, Batman and Star Wars. Brandt got Br. Gregory his first really good light saber, which he brought out for special occasions when he went into Obi-Wan Kenobi mode. They enjoyed going to Comic Con conventions, being outdoors, swimming in the summer, and just hanging out together.

Josué graduated from high school in 1999. He found his first jobs working in local restaurants. But it was while working in construction with his brother that he found the work he liked best. He enjoyed being outdoors. He was good working with his hands, using small equipment, driving trucks, and the usual banter among workers. Many of the jobs he liked and did best were ones where he could work hard, but still had time with his own thoughts and music in his earphones.

It was around the year 2000 that Josué’s elderly mother, Rose, became frail. Initially, Josué devoted his time to her care, but eventually it became a near full-time job. Rose made the decision to go into assisted living at the facility where she had worked in meal preparation. As a result of a tragic accident and complications, she died in 2002. Her death – and the circumstances around it – were a huge personal blow to Josué.

Rose, however had given him a gift: She shared with her son the deep faith and devotion to God that kept her going and made life possible. She told him over and over again that only God could love him more than she did. With some of those memories to guide him, Josué went back to work, but by 2006 he had begun to move in the direction of the Catholic faith of his Baptism. Because he had not been a practicing Catholic for many years, it was recommended that he join the program for people joining the church, often called RCIA – the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Josué found journeying with other people, learning about the Catholic faith, attending and participating in the liturgy and devotions of the parish, studying the lives of the saints, and preparing for the Easter sacraments a profound and personally moving experience. All of this was a really positive, uplifting, and life-changing time for him. He “re-activated his membership,” as we sometimes call it. He found that God did indeed love him very deeply and personally.

At the Easter Vigil that year, Josué made a Profession of Faith and received the sacraments of Reconciliation, Confirmation, and Eucharist. He got involved with individuals in the wider parish, going to Mass often, and helping out wherever he could.

With the encouragement of folks at St. Joseph Parish in Salem, Josué began in 2008 to come to Mount Angel Abbey for discernment retreats, offered to young men who were thinking about monastic life. In 2009 he entered Mount Angel Abbey to begin his monastic life and journey and made his profession in 2010. During the novitiate years, a novice is thinking about the name he will receive at his first profession of vows. Josué, recognizing his Mexican heritage, was considering the name St. Miguel Pro, who was a Jesuit priest martyred in Mexico in 1927.

But something else intervened. According to a monastic tradition, the first novice to make first profession of vows under a new abbot often receives the abbot’s name. Br. Gregory was the first in his group to make profession under Abbot Gregory, hence they share the name. Br. Gregory said of this later that he was “deeply honored to be named after this great saint, Saint Gregory the Great, who has done so much for our beautiful Church and for the monastic tradition.” He said he was also grateful to share the same name as Abbot Gregory, who helped him in so many ways as novice master during his formation and in personal meetings.

Listen is one of the first and most important words in the Rule of St. Benedict. Seeking God is the criterion St. Benedict uses for someone entering the monastery. It is seeking God and listening to the voice of God calling us on a daily basis, in the context of a community of brothers, the Rule, and the Abbot, that is at the heart of our lives. Our lives of prayer and work support this calling. Br. Gregory enjoyed life in community and with his brothers, being faithful to his assignments and chores, but always in a quiet and unobtrusive way.

In his monastic life, Br. Gregory was seeking God in the community of brothers, in common prayer, in our common life, and especially in the two works with which he was primarily occupied: sacristan and the guesthouse. He loved the whole aspect of preparing the vessels for the altar and setting out the vestments and books for Mass. He assisted guest priests and monks to help them celebrate Mass with us. He often worked hard and quietly, almost out of sight. We heard recently stories from guests about how Br. Gregory would give them impromptu tours around the Hilltop. In the church, he would explain the relics of saints to visitors and then patiently answer questions.

Br. Gregory took to heart St. Benedict’s instruction that, “all guests who arrive shall be received as Christ.” He did all of the following small but essential duties in the guesthouse each week for almost the last 10 years: vacuuming and setting up and tearing down the two large conference rooms, often sometimes several times a week, filling, loading and unloading laundry bins containing all the bedding and towels for 40 rooms, going to and from the laundry, sometimes twice a week, putting garbage and recycling bins out each Wednesday, assisting housekeepers with vacuuming hallways and the dining room, and in a pinch, helping them prepare rooms between one group and the next. He also could be counted on to set up and tear down tables and chairs for banquets and socials. In the Visitation Garden, Br. Gregory would water and weed flower beds and clean and maintain the water feature. He maintained the terraces and the roof-top terrace herb garden, and made pots of coffee and provided ice water for guests – on most mornings before 6 am as well as during the day. And those are just the works I can readily remember! Br. Gregory did them faithfully and thoroughly.

When I was not available as Guest Master or we were very busy with groups, Br. Gregory was attentive to individual guests, especially if he sensed that someone was dealing with something painful. He often sat with guests at meals, talking with them. What I found was really quite beautiful is that, even though Br. Gregory had many difficulties and challenges in his own years growing up, he seemed to want to make sure others didn’t suffer what he did. It was one of the aspects of his ministry in the guesthouse that was always done with great simplicity, kindness, and gentleness. Nothing flashy, just genuine care and concern, offering what he could to help.

Br. Gregory was a shy person by nature and temperament. He found large groups tough to navigate, but in the last month of his life, when he was appointed Assistant Guest Master, he would lead the prayer at lunch and help with checking guests in. He was also learning the computer for reservations and room assignments. It wasn’t always easy for Br. Gregory to form deep relationships or friendships, but once formed, Br. Gregory was a fiercely loyal friend to be treasured.

Br. Gregory was especially close to the guesthouse staff and volunteers, particularly those with whom he worked each day. The kitchen staff came to love him and made sure he had corn tortillas in the fridge. Br. Gregory would often make tacos as an alternative to whatever was served.

Br. Gregory remembered birthdays and special occasions of his family and friends. He sometimes sent rap-like video greetings to his family. When he wrote notes to monastic superiors, either asking for a permission to do something or go somewhere, there was always a kind sentence or two of appreciation, and the word thanks.

As I come to the end of these reflections on Brother Gregory’s life, I am struck by special characteristics or virtues that were consistent and remain as inspiration and lessons for us. In particular, I recall his strong, deep love of God that came from his mother and was furthered by his own personal commitment to his faith and his monastic life. He had a clear sense of duty and felt the need to come through for others in his prayer and in his work. I recall his love and loyalty in friendships and in personal dealings with community members, family, friends and co-workers, his kindness in reaching out to others, and his great sense of humor and light-heartedness as demonstrated in his nerdy collection of comic books and his love of Batman, light sabers, and weird and scary movies. Abbot Gregory put it best in writing about Brother Gregory in the printed obituary: “Brother Gregory was a big man with a very tender heart.”

We will all miss you very much, Brother Gregory. You have our love and promise to pray for you often because of how you touched our lives. And now we commend you to the loving mercy of God, that you may enjoy eternal life with all your confreres, family members, and friends who have gone before you.

Fr. Philip Waibel, OSB

Categories: Monastery, Uncategorized

Benedictine Brewery adds barrel-aged beer to repertoire

Benedictine Brewery with Fr. Martin Grassel, OSBIn preparation for the Saint Benedict Festival on July 8, 2023, Fr. Martin Grassel, OSB, general manager at the Benedictine Brewery, has been hard at work cultivating the craft of barrel-aged beer. As the name suggests, barrel-aging is the process by which a beer is stored in a wooden barrel for a time, absorbing the flavors of the wood and the previous contents of the barrel. At the festival, the brewery will debut four beers that have been aging in bourbon barrels: Dark Night, St. Rafael, St. Gabriel, and Black Habit.

Fr. Martin saw barrel-aging as a way of presenting a variety of new beer flavors at the festival without creating new beer recipes, a time-consuming process amid an already busy production schedule. As he learned the craft through reading books and experimenting, Fr. Martin was surprised that “it’s taken a lot more time than I expected,” considering that “it adds a whole new dimension to your production.” Unlike traditional brewing, the science behind the barrel-aging process is not as developed, so it requires more curiosity and artistry.

For those who see variety as the spice of life, the barrel-aged beer is an exciting development that guarantees a diversity of flavor. Because of the nature of the barrel-aging process, “you’ll never maybe have the same thing twice. You can maybe have more consistency with bourbon aging, but there will be variation from year to year with that,” explains Fr. Martin. Some customers have their favorite beers and standard orders, while others prefer trying new things all the time. The barrel-aged beer will be a welcome addition for those with an adventurous palate.

While the initial impetus for barrel-aged beer was the Saint Benedict Festival, Fr. Martin shares that he “would love to have barrel-aging on a regular basis here [at the brewery].” For him, it’s a way of continuously improving the quality of the beer with elegance and finesse. “God gave us the gifts to serve him; let’s use those gifts the best we can, in his service, to glorify him,” reflects Fr. Martin.

– Ethan Alano

Categories: Monastery

Chamber choir performs sacred music

On March 19, 2023, a full audience packed the Abbey church to listen to the inaugural concert of the Mount Angel Chamber Choir, directed by Myrna Keough, Associate Professor of Music at Mount Angel Seminary. Composed of monks, seminarians, and friends of Mount Angel, the chamber choir performed a repertoire of sacred music. The concert also included a piece by the Mount Angel Seminary Choir and some instrumental performances by monks and seminarians.

Mount Angel Chamber Choir

The chamber choir began, in part, as an answer to a deep hunger for live choral music after an absence of it for nearly two years due to the pandemic. During that time, a number of monks and seminarians asked Keough if she would consider starting a polyphony choir once group singing became possible again. With the help and support of the Mount Angel Institute, the chamber choir began rehearsals in the fall of 2022. While it was a breath of fresh air to be singing together, there was a steeper learning curve in rehearsals than initially expected. “I underestimated how much that the pandemic, almost two years of not singing, would affect all of us,” shares Keough.

The large turnout for the concert illustrated to Keough that “this really met a need or filled a niche, which is wonderful; there really isn’t another choir like this in this area.” The concert lasted nearly an hour, and the audience was invited to hold their applause until the conclusion of the final piece. The nature of the compositions and the silence between pieces, not to mention the venue of the Abbey church itself, created an atmosphere of reverence and awe. “My prayer coming into [the concert] was that people’s hearts really would experience some of the beauty of heaven and find comfort wherever they happened to be in that moment,” remarks Keough.

Keough specifically chose compositions that could be employed in the liturgy and enhance the beauty of it. “The kind of music that is easily learned and easily played and often played is not satisfactory when it comes up against the kinds of things that we’re all dealing with in our lives of faith,” she reflects. Having liturgical music that requires practice, patience, and excellence helps serve the need people have for a more profound experience of God.

– Ethan Alano

Categories: Monastery, Seminary, Uncategorized

Vocational outreach includes liturgy with 17,000 young adults

New Year’s Day 2023 was the start of an exciting adventure for Br. Anselm Flores, OSB, and me (at left in photo). Usually, we would arise early and join our brother monks for lauds, the first hour of prayer on Sunday. That morning, however, Br. Jesse Ochoa, OSB, drove us to the Portland airport to catch a flight to St. Louis, Missouri. Our monastery on a hilltop in rural Oregon is our usual place of ministry, but for the first week of January, we were asked to attend and host a booth at the annual SEEK College Conference, sponsored by FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students).

At the conference, we met with college students, hoping to inspire them in their faith as well as introduce them to our Benedictine monastic life at Mount Angel Abbey. We brought icons, books, and merchandise from our Benedictine Brewery – such as hats, T-shirts and coasters – to share with them. We even hosted a ring toss with Benedictine Beer bottles, making our booth a favorite stop among the students.

Among the many highlights of the conference, one of the best was connecting with a number of young men interested in monastic life. The presence and joy of the universal Church, so palpable in the young adults present, was truly inspiring for Br. Anselm and me. We returned to Mount Angel renewed in our vocation and grateful for the opportunity to nurture the seeds of a monastic vocation in at least a few conference participants.

Thank you for your support of Mount Angel Abbey, which makes vocational outreach like this possible. We go to introduce people to our Benedictine way of life, yet we also receive much from those we meet. A special grace was participating in beautiful liturgies with over 17,000 people. Please pray with us for vocations to our monastic community so that in all things, God may be glorified.

Br. Charles Gonzalez, OSB

Categories: Monastery, Uncategorized

Monks welcome Christ with coffee

Abbey Bookstore <em>&</em> CoffeehouseIn the summer of 2022, the Abbey Coffeehouse at Mount Angel, located with the bookstore in the Abbey Press building, celebrated its grand re-opening after more than two years of closure. While the pandemic instigated the initial closure in the spring of 2020, the hiatus also provided an opportunity for envisioning a new design and ethos for the coffeehouse, spearheaded by Br. Alfredo Miranda, OSB.

When planning the renovation, Br. Alfredo drew inspiration from the Seven Rich Ways of Benedictine monastic life articulated by Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, especially the rich ways of hospitality and life together. Unlike coffee shops where one simply buys a coffee and departs, the Abbey Coffeehouse at Mount Angel is “designed as a space in which people can gather and be together,” says Br. Alfredo.

The Abbey Coffeehouse proudly serves coffee made with beans from Coava Coffee Roasters in Portland, Oregon, which Br. Ambrose Stewart, OSB, playfully describes as “the ‘Platonic Form’ of coffee – in other words, when God created coffee, this is what he had in mind.” According to Br. Alfredo, this emphasis on serving high-quality coffee and other specialty drinks is not for the sake of sophisticated marketing but rather for expressing Benedictine hospitality. “If we are receiving Christ through [our guests], we’re going to try to give them the best that we can,” he says.

A thoroughly monastic atmosphere pervades the whole Abbey Bookstore and Coffeehouse. Visitors frequently enjoy their coffee and reading while Gregorian chant or other sacred music plays in the background. The main coffee drinks are served in the sizes of novice, junior, and senior, reflecting the stages of monastic formation. Some drink specials include monastic terms found in the Holy Rule of St. Benedict, such as cenobite and sarabaite. Of course, the most monastic element in the Abbey Bookstore and Coffeehouse is the presence of the monks themselves, some of whom serve as baristas. For some visitors to the Hilltop, ordering their coffee may be their first interaction with a monk at Mount Angel. This casual, welcoming environment can lead to interesting discussions about the monastic way of life and an introduction to the Hilltop.

For more information and hours, please visit the webpage for the Abbey Bookstore and Coffeehouse.

Categories: Monastery

Br. Charles Gonzalez, OSB, ordained a deacon

On Saturday, December 10, 2022, the monks of Mount Angel Abbey welcomed Archbishop Alexander K. Sample to the Abbey church to ordain Br. Charles Borromeo Gonzalez, OSB, to the diaconate during the celebration of Mass. Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, and Abbot Austin Cadiz, OSB, current abbot of Our Lady of Montserrat Abbey in Manila, Philippines, served as the principal concelebrants. Family and friends of Br. Charles and other guests filled the Abbey church while others followed the liturgy on livestream.

After the proclamation of the gospel, Abbot Jeremy presented Br. Charles to Archbishop Sample as a candidate for ordination. The congregation applauded to voice their support for his ordination as a deacon. During the homily, Archbishop Sample preached on the sacred duty of the deacon to proclaim the Word of God and to evangelize. Turning to Br. Charles, the archbishop prayed that “the Lord touch your lips today to place his words there so that you may boldly proclaim Jesus Christ to the world.”

Following the homily, Br. Charles stood in front of Archbishop Sample and made the promises of a deacon, after which he prostrated himself on the floor while the monastic schola chanted the litany of the saints. His classmate, Deacon Sylvester Chanda of the Archdiocese of Seattle, then assisted Br. Charles as he put on the stole and dalmatic, the vestments proper to the deacon. After receiving the book of the gospels, Br. Charles exchanged the sign of peace with Archbishop Sample, Abbots Jeremy and Austin, and the other deacons assisting with the liturgy. From there, Br. Charles exercised his sacred duties as a deacon during the rest of the Mass.

The monastic community gives thanks to God for the gift of Br. Charles’s diaconate ordination and asks for prayers for him as he begins this new ministry of service.

–Ethan Alano

Categories: Monastery, Seminary, Uncategorized

170 years of love, faith, fidelity

During Sunday Mass on September 25, three monks of Mount Angel celebrated their Jubilee of Monastic Profession. Abbot Peter Eberle, OSB, and Br. James Bartos, OSB, who served as principal celebrant and deacon for the Mass, respectively, both commemorated 60 years of monastic profession. Br. Simon Hepner, OSB, observed 50 years of profession.

After the homily, the jubilarians stood before Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, who prayed a blessing over them for their continued perseverance in monastic life. Each jubilarian then read his profession document anew and laid it on the altar. Standing before Abbot Jeremy again with arms outstretched, they sang the Suscipe as they did for their solemn professions many decades ago.

After Mass, the monastic community and other attendees congratulated the jubilarians in a reception outside the Abbey church.

Categories: Monastery, Uncategorized

Br. La Vang Nguyen, O.S.B., professes Solemn Vows

On Tuesday, September 13, the monks of Mount Angel Abbey gathered in the Abbey church for a Pontifical Mass of Solemn Profession. A number of visiting priests, seminarians, family, friends and other guests joined the monks to witness Br. La Vang Nguyen, OSB, profess solemn vows during the centuries-old ceremony.

The monastic schola led the congregation in chanting the entrance antiphon from Psalm 122: “I was glad when they said to me; let us go up to the house of the Lord.” The text set a joyful tone for the solemn celebration. Br. La Vang served as lector, reading the Scriptures which highlighted the profundity of his lifelong consecration to God as a monk. During the homily, Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., turned to Br. La Vang directly and reminded him that “solemn monastic vows is a bountiful reaping, and there is much promise in this for the one who does it.”

As he did three years prior for his profession of simple vows, Br. La Vang read his profession document out loud to those gathered and signed it on the altar, making permanent his vows of obedience, conversion of life, and stability at Mount Angel Abbey. After receiving the cuculla, the pleated choir robe worn only by solemnly professed monks, Br. La Vang exchanged the kiss of peace with all of the permanent monks of Mount Angel as the monastic schola chanted from Psalm 84: “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, God of hosts.” During the entire Eucharistic prayer, he prostrated himself on the sanctuary floor, covered with a black pall in an act of “mystical burial,” dying to the old man and rising in Christ.

Mount Angel Abbey is a Benedictine community founded in 1882 from the Abbey of Engelberg in Switzerland. Situated on a hilltop overlooking Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the monks of Mount Angel weave together a place of prayer, hospitality, education, and reflection deeply rooted in the Rule of St. Benedict.

Categories: Monastery, Uncategorized

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