Since becoming Abbot (and before then), I have encountered many benefactors and guests of the Abbey who spoke eloquently about the role of the Retreat Center in our Archdiocese and beyond. It’s more than a place, they tell me. It is a holy experience.
Here, they say, you find respite from an increasingly secular society. Whether you visit the Hilltop to encounter Christ and deepen your faith, to enter into prayerful quiet, or to interact with monks, spiritual directors and fellow guests, the ancient rhythms of this place seep into your heart, inviting God’s love into your daily life.
In the 6th century, Saint Benedict voiced a revolutionary vision for receiving guests and recognizing Christ in them. Similarly, in our day, Mount Angel Abbey is called to contribute to the American cultural scene, where relations between people can be so difficult. I think that’s one reason why people visit our hilltop. They long for a place where you don’t have to earn kindness or buy it or deserve it. They know that, if you go to Mount Angel, you will be treated with grace. It doesn’t matter who you are.
The Benedictine life has inspired some of the greatest architecture in the history of Western Europe. In that spirit, we don’t want to just fix up this building because it’s falling down. We want this project to match the beauty and integrity of the Abbey library and Annunciation, the seminary’s learning center. In those cases, the vision of the monks was not to build store rooms for books or merely functional classrooms, but to create spaces that inspire excellence because they themselves are excellent.
Over centuries, monks have learned how to create virtual domains. With their monasteries, they have created worlds apart – not to keep the rest of the world out, but to show what the world could be. With their monasteries monks have shown how people can live together, what their buildings could look like, what their homes could look like, how they should eat, how to study and work – in short, how they do anything. This “world apart” is the treasure we want to offer lay people and clergy, bishops and seekers, Catholics and non-Catholics.
St. Benedict taught his monks to “greet all guests as Christ.” This is a Benedictine value that encourages each of us to grow in faith and charity. Greeting guests as Christ is our spiritual ministry and commitment at Mount Angel.
Since we first began exploring this project in 2014, under the leadership of Abbot Gregory Duerr, it has been quite a journey. Construction began in 2017, laying the foundation on the south side of the building for the expansion.
This project is a big dream for me and my community. We believe Mount Angel Abbey is called to offer a welcoming Christian space that is open to everybody. This is a place where the monks themselves are growing and expressing their own monastic conversion, by developing the capacity within themselves to recognize Christ in each guest. I sincerely hope you share our dream to transform the Retreat Center to meet the spiritual needs of so many.
To close with the words St. Benedict prescribed for the monastery’s old Porter, each time he greeted guests, “Thanks be to God. Your blessing, please!”
Please pray for us at Mount Angel Abbey. Thanks be to God for you.
Sincerely in Christ,
Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B.
Mount Angel Abbey
Just the other day I was asked by a guest: Do you like being Guest Master?
Another way of asking that is: “Do you love the monastic life?”
The Abbey Guest Master is a visible point of hospitality, but he is little to nothing without the Abbot and community he represents. If there is no praying community here, there is no reason to come to Mount Angel. If our guests encounter no one here striving to live a life of charity, one might as well go elsewhere.
Our vision for the Saint Benedict Guesthouse and Retreat Center is that of a place of true encounter with Christ. In the newly renovated guesthouse, a gracious spirit of welcome will be physically evident with a parking-level entry that offers a clear sense of arrival to the retreat center. There will be a drop-off area, new lobby, and parking lot turnaround.
After welcoming the guest “with all the courtesy of love,” St. Benedict says in his Rule that we are to “pray together,” and then “the divine law is read to the guest for his instruction.” After that, “every kindness is shown to him.” In other words, feed guests well in body and soul. Provide a clean and safe place to sleep. And welcome them into the heart of the community, into its life of liturgical prayer.
Peace is Christ’s gift to us. The monks of Mount Angel Abbey want our renewed and expanded Guesthouse and Retreat Center to be a place where together we can carry the gift of Christ’s Peace to our families, friends, and to all the world.
Fr. Pius X Harding, O.S.B.
Mount Angel Abbey
When the Abbey asked if I would agree to write a message on behalf of the campaign for the Saint Benedict Guesthouse and Retreat Center, I replied that I prefer to keep a low profile. But if it will help their effort to renovate their aging retreat center, I have to say “yes.”
My wife, Liz, and I became involved with the monks at Mount Angel Abbey about eight years ago. Since then, our main mission has been fundraising and providing direction for new initiatives at the Abbey.
Over these years, I have come to admire the monks and their Benedictine spirituality. Each monk is unique and has his own reasons for having joined the monastery, but the thing they have in common is an attraction to a prayerful life. Prayer is the glue that makes them a spiritual community.
They have a beautiful church where they gather five times a day to pray, in addition to daily Mass. They operate a seminary dedicated to the formation of priests, a world-class library, and a guesthouse focused on spiritual retreats.
Most of the facilities at the Abbey are adequate for their intended purpose, except the guesthouse and retreat center. Yet, it is needed now, more than ever, as a place of spiritual respite for Catholics, non-Catholics, clergy, and lay people. That’s why the monks have embraced the mission to transform the building.
My dear sweet wife, Liz, had a deep devotion to Mary and the rosary. She died in 2016. She would be most pleased that the renovated and expanded guesthouse will have a rosary garden with a Visitation statue (shown at right, in an architect’s rendering) and quiet corners for prayer and reflection.
At the time of this writing, fall of 2017, we have received gifts and pledges for about $8 million dollars. The total cost is estimated to come close to $15 million. My focus as a primary fundraiser is to determine how we can raise another $7 million. We are all praying the Holy Spirit will inspire the hearts of Mount Angel Abbey’s friends and supporters to complete the funding.
Please join us in prayer for this important initiative. If you have the means – or if you can influence others who have the means – consider helping with this campaign. With our help, the monks can provide a welcoming place of refuge, free of distractions, where all can encounter God and find joy, happiness, and inner peace.
Abbey Foundation of Oregon Trustee
Campaign Update – Since writing this letter in the fall of 2017, here is where we are at today: We have gratefully received gifts and pledges that cover 92% of the total cost, with $1.4 million to go! If you would like to help, please see our Guesthouse Campaign page.