Fine wine, conversation highlight Abbey festival

Fr Ralph at the Saint Benedict Festival 2018For one gorgeous summer afternoon, the peaceful atmosphere at Mount Angel Abbey was filled with the sounds of mellow jazz, lawn games, animated conversation, and laughter.

Judging by the reaction of those attending the event, the Saint Benedict Festival on Saturday, July 7, was a massive success.

Dave Fisher of Monitor, who graduated from Mount Angel Prep more than a few decades ago, said he sometimes visits to browse the Abbey library or bookstore, or to walk and contemplate. But, at the festival, he was content to bask in the sunshine and chat with old acquaintances and new friends.

"The festival is very nice, very elegant," he said. "My favorite part of the event is standing right here with a glass of wine talking to people in the warm sunshine."

Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., observing a spirited lawn game of cornhole, said this exactly is what the festival is about. 

"Obviously, this breaks up the peace and quiet a bit," Abbot Jeremy said, smiling. "Why not though? It's a happy party and a gentle party – there's nothing raucous about it. When you get 1,000 people together, this is pretty sweet behavior, and that's Mount Angel." 

Some of the guests lingered in the shade listening to jazz, while others sampled the three types of Benedictine Brewery beers.

Cornhole at the Saint Benedict Festival 2018Georgeann Truszkowski opted to visit the icon exhibit in Annunciation Hall, one of several monk-led tours festival guests could choose to learn more about monastic life and spirituality. 

"I'm overwhelmed with the beauty of the icons," Truszkowski said. "It's awesome. It surprised me so and made our whole trip (from Portland) very much worth it."

Sitting under a tent with her sister Annette Levy, Judy Dennison said the festival was "just absolutely unbelievable. We came with friends and, next year we'll bring more!"

Levy said their first direct exposure to the Abbey had been at the annual Seminary Benefit Dinner in Portland a few years ago. She said they "fell in love with the Benedictine spirit" from the moment they arrived. In fact, they consider Mount Angel Seminary an essential ministry for the future of the Church. 

"I'm really happy to receive so many guests and to let them know that, in a sense, this place belongs to them," Abbot Jeremy said. "God has blessed this mountain, and he wants people to come here and have communion with him and with one another in him. That's what Mount Angel is and has always been." 

– Steve Ritchie for Mount Angel Abbey