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175th Anniversary

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Weekly Reflections
175th Anniversary »

Beginning with Founders' Day on Nov. 19, 2020, Saint Vincent will begin celebrating its 175th Anniversary - our demi-semi-sept-centennial.

As we celebrate this milestone in our history, we will be commemorating the occasion throughout the coming year, concluding on Founders' Day 2021. As part of this celebration, there will be a series of weekly reflections emails, written by members of the Saint Vincent monastic and college communities, as well as alumni and friends. You can sign up here to receive these weekly emails. We will also be posting these reflections here on a weekly basis. Be sure to stay tuned to the website and your inbox for more to come as we celebrate 175 years of Saint Vincent! 

  • Reflection 9 - Jan. 20, 2021: Jerome C. Foss, Ph.D.

    The great crack of the Liberty Bell came about in the year 1846. News of it must have been ominous, for it was a difficult year:

    • California declared independence from Mexico, and Texas was annexed to the United States. These events triggered a war that had been brewing between Mexico and America.

    • In the U.S. House of Representatives, a young Whig named Abraham Lincoln challenged President Polk’s defense of the war, claiming it was based on false reports.

    • Frederick Douglas saw the war as an attempt to further the interests of slave-holding states; he trembled thinking about the future of his country.

    • The world was battling the third wave of a horrible cholera pandemic that is thought to have killed 150,000 Americans between 1832 and 1849.

    • Ireland was in the early stages of the potato famine that would claim the lives of 1,000,000 people in the span of five years. Countless others would immigrate to places like the United States.

    • The new pope, Pius IX, issued his first encyclical, Qui pluribus, cautioning Catholics and others against ideologies such as communism and nationalism.

    The world seemed to be coming apart. Ancient foundations were shaking. The cause of liberty looked ephemeral and depleted. Who but Boniface Wimmer would have thought it a good year to found a new community and a new college? What hope! What faith! What a dreamer!

    It takes such dreamers to see past the cracks of our world in difficult times. One bell may fall silent, but new ones arise and fill the smug air with notes of goodness, beauty, and truth.

    “PROCLAIM LIBERTY THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF. LEV XXV.X” (the words inscribed onto the Liberty Bell, taken from Leviticus 25:10).

    Jerome C. Foss, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Politics
    Director, Saint Vincent Center for Catholic Thought and Culture
  • Reflection 8 - Jan. 14, 2021: Fr. Thomas M. Hart, O.S.B.

    Visitors to the campus of Saint Vincent notice many things, where they say they can actually “feel” welcomed here, students greeting them, people holding doors for each other and more. Many of them wonder why so many of the doors have chalk markings on them, as in: 20 + C+ M+ B + 21.

    Catholics have a venerable custom to bless the home each year around the feast of the Epiphany (on or close to Jan. 6). It has often been called “chalking the door” because the priest would bless the house and all who dwell therein, then use chalk to write above the main entrance the specific year, separated by the letters C, M and B, thusly: 20 +C + M + B + 21.

    The letters stand for the Latin blessing: Christus Mansionem Benedicat (May Christ Bless this House), as well as the legendary names for the three Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, most often seen symbolically to represent respectively: Asia, Europe and Africa, and thus that God wishes everyone to be saved, regardless of race, language or way of life.

    In this new year, our prayers go up for everyone, to have the freedom to live a life that is healthy, happy and peaceful. May you and those whom you cherish be blessed in ways unmistakable!

    Fr. Thomas M. Hart, O.S.B.; S ‘88
  • Reflection 7 - Dec. 30, 2020: Fr. Maurus B. Mount, O.S.B.

    A work of love and dedication by the monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey, the crèche has featured prominently in the celebration of Christmas at the basilica for generations. For the past forty to fifty years at least, with slight variation, the large impressive display consists of three scenes related to the story of Our Lord's Nativity and Infancy, viz.: a desert scene with the three wise men en route to worship Christ; a pastoral scene depicting the apparition of the angel to the shepherds, which features a river with running water, calling to mind the Twenty-Third Psalm; the stable featuring the central figures of Our Lord, Our Lady and Saint Joseph.

    The abbey received the high-quality plaster images for the crèche in 1971 from the nuns of the Latrobe Carmel, who had been gifted the figures from a church that had been closed. The quality of the plaster, and the manner of their construction indicate that they were made at some point before the beginning of World War II, perhaps even at the turn of the last century. One by one they are being restored by a priest of the monastery. The restoration and erection of the crèche owes its success to monks past and present (the late Patrick Lacey, O.S.B., as well as the novices and juniors deserve special mention), as well as the generosity of the parishioners and faithful who come to see it each year.

    In this singular act of devotion, everything about the annual display of our Christmas Crèche represents our desire, “that in all things God may be glorified” (Rule of Saint Benedict 57:9; based on 1 Peter 4:11).

    Fr. Maurus B. Mount, O.S.B.; Dr.phil; S’06

    O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature and still more wonderfully restored it, grant, we pray, that we may share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

    Collect Prayer on Christmas Day
    The Roman Missal
  • Reflection 6 - Dec. 23, 2020: Mary Collins, Vice President for Student Affairs

    That in All Things, God May Be Glorified, Including Our Hope

    May the hope which was born at Christmas “fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in him, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

    Abbot Boniface Wimmer had a hope that propelled him across the sea to a remote and isolated part of Pennsylvania. Hope was needed in the beginning to establish Saint Vincent, and hope helped carry the Monastery and College through many years of challenges, including wars, a flu pandemic, a depression and a devastating fire.

    Through all of that, hopes were realized in continued growth, transformed lives and new missions and service.

    It’s our turn now, as Benedictines, students, faculty, staff, alumni, families and friends, to face with that same unfailing hope our challenges, including safely living and learning with Covid-19, economic struggles, political strife, racial inequalities and social injustices.

    Together we can overcome them and emerge with the wisdom to continue to fulfill our founders’ dreams, form new ones and pass on the inheritance of hope to those who will come after us.

    A Blessed Christmas to everyone. Hope is born this day!

    Mary Collins, Vice President for Student Affairs
  • Reflection 5 - Dec. 17, 2020: Fr. Vincent de Paul Crosby, O.S.B.; SVS ’72

    The O Antiphons

    The Advent/Christmas season is rich in symbolism and tradition. I have experienced many Advents now in the course of my monastic life and I never seem to tire of its customs and rituals. Throughout its 175 year history, the Benedictine monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey have kept alive an ancient tradition. During the Octave before Christmas Eve, a time which is called the "Golden Nights,” the seven "O Antiphons" are chanted during the Magnificat at Evening Prayer. Each Antiphon begins with "O" and addresses Jesus with a unique title that comes from the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah. The Antiphons are as follows:

    O Sapientia - December 17: “O Wisdom.”

    O Adonai - December 18: “O sacred Lord.”

    O Radix Jesse: - December 19: “O Root of Jesse’s stem.”

    O Clavis David: - December 20: “O Key of David.”

    O Oriens: - December 21: “O Rising Sun.”

    O Rex Gentium: - December 22: “O King of all the nations.”

    O Emmanuel: - December 23: “O Emmanuel.”

    December 24: Centuries ago the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose in mind. On December 24, the monk would start with the last title and take the first letter of each one - Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia – and read the Latin words Ero Cras, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for during Advent now assures us He will soon be here. These “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, they also bring it to a joyful conclusion.

    For an amplification of this tradition in word and art, see:;

    My hope is that these images might serve to take this tradition from within the walls of the monastery and capture the imagination of the Faithful.

    Fr. Vincent de Paul Crosby, OSB; SVS ’72
  • Reflection 4 - Dec. 10, 2020: The Very Reverend Edward M. Mazich, O.S.B.

    During the Advent season the readings and prayers at Mass express great joy over the nearness of the birth of Christ. Zephaniah, for example, says: “the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst” (Zeph 3:15), and Isaiah cries out: “among you is the great and Holy One of Israel” (Isa 12:6). In other words, there is an awareness that the Messiah is not only near, but is already here, though not yet fully recognized.

    We modern-day believers in Christ celebrate with even greater joy than Isaiah and Zephaniah because we know that Jesus our Messiah is here, and that in him we find not only justice but mercy, compassion and a new beginning — a true cause to “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4)!

    As Saint Vincent celebrates its 175th anniversary, let us strive to recognize the presence of the Lord in all whom we meet, so that together we might joyfully continue the mission of our founder Boniface Wimmer and hasten the coming of the Kingdom of God.

    The Very Reverend Edward M. Mazich, OSB; S.S.L.; S.T.L.; DPhil
    Rector of Saint Vincent Seminary; SVS ‘98
  • Reflection 3 - Dec. 3, 2020: Jerome Oetgen, Ph.D., SVC ’69; SVS ’73; and Wimmer Biographer

    Boniface Wimmer, founder and first archabbot of Saint Vincent, was an astute and enthusiastic student of history. He knew that during the Middle Ages, Benedictine monks had converted whole nations in Europe to Christ, nations like England, Germany, Hungary and Poland.

    It was Wimmer’s knowledge of history, combined with his evangelical zeal, that inspired in him a plan to transfer the ancient Order of St. Benedict across the Atlantic. “When we consider North America today,” he said in 1845, “we see at a glance that there is no other country in the world that offers greater opportunities for the Benedictine Order than the United States does, no other country that is so much like our old Europe was.”

    But Wimmer faced great obstacles when he tried to make his plan a reality. Many in Europe opposed him. Some of his Benedictine confreres laughed at him and called him a Projektenmacher, a “plan-maker,” an unrealistic dreamer. “Why go to America when there is so much work to be done here at home?” they asked.

    Wimmer’s answer was succinct. “We must go because we have to preach the Gospel to immigrants in America. We have to spread the Faith. We belong to the whole world!”

    Wimmer proved that those who thought he was an unrealistic dreamer were wrong. He was a dreamer, but he knew how to make his dream real. He came to America in 1846 and founded Saint Vincent. Today it is the largest Benedictine monastery in the world, and its community of Benedictine monks carries on educational, pastoral and missionary apostolates in the United States, Brazil and China. Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus!

    Jerome Oetgen, Ph.D.

    SVC ’69; SVS ’73; and Wimmer Biographer
  • Reflection 2 - Nov. 25, 2020: SVC President Father Paul R. Taylor, O.S.B.

    In the fall of 1846, just after beginning the first academic year at Saint Vincent, Boniface Wimmer wrote:

    “With respect to myself, nobody can be filled with greater fear than I. Yet we must remember that God can raise children of Abraham from stones. This is the basis of my hope and confidence. The foundation is laid, the beginning made, the temporal support given – not only for me and my companions but also for others who are willing to work with us.”*

    Today, 175 years later, when we look around at all that confronts us, we could also be filled with fear, but we have hope and confidence in the same way and for the same reason that Wimmer did – God is with us. Scripture exhorts us, “to give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), and so for both the blessings and the challenges Divine Providence sends our way, we are thankful. Blessed Thanksgiving.

    *Boniface Wimmer to Joseph Müller, Letter of October 26, 1846.

    Rev. Paul R. Taylor, O.S.B., Ph.D.
    Saint Vincent College
  • Reflection 1 - Nov. 19, 2020: Archabbot Martin de Porres Bartel, O.S.B.

    History is important. Remembering the past gives insight into the future, recalls accomplishments, and provides wisdom. We begin our observance of the 175th anniversary of the founding of Saint Vincent by remembering the people and the moments who made us who we are.

    In 1846, before a brick was laid or a shovel turned, Saint Vincent was a dream in the minds and hearts of a small band of people. Dreams realized saw a community of tens of thousands sent forth on a mission—people educated and formed through our commitment to education, nurtured in the Catholic faith through liturgy and worship, engaged in the world through service, and dedicated to the arts and culture. We could not have become what we celebrate today, without the commitment of monks, students, parents, grandparents, and countless friends.

    George Santayana wrote, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I prefer, “Those who remember, take to heart, and learn from history, are blessed to repeat it.” As we celebrate the past, we eagerly embrace the next 175 years confident ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus, that in all things God may be glorified! (Rule of Saint Benedict 57:9; based on 1 Peter 4:11). 
    Archabbot Martin de Porres Bartel, O.S.B. 
    12th Archabbot of Saint Vincent