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!
Father’s Day 2021
Rod Dreher proposed “The Benedict Option” as a way to move forward in our challenging times. He described how the Rule of Saint Benedict provides the culture-changing wisdom that could create a leaven to transform our world from the ground up. In my own reflections, it seems to me that Saint Benedict actually promotes “The Joseph Option.” His wisdom for monasteries helps them to become another Nazareth where we live the lives of Mary and Joseph always in the presence of Jesus. In Nazareth, the Gospel principles were lived out in such an unremarkable way that the locals were shocked when Jesus declared himself to be the Messiah (cf. Luke 4). And yet the Gospel principles were lived out in such a powerful way that God himself was always fully present, and it became the starting place of a new creation.
We can see the connections of Benedict and Nazareth in several ways. A Benedictine monastery is founded on the vow of stability so that the collective holiness from living out God’s will steadily permeates the place and it becomes an oasis of peace for visitors. I like to imagine that Nazareth was quite a peaceful place to visit and that the Holy Family was a wonderful model of hospitality in the decades they dwelt there. In a Benedictine monastery, the keynote is found in chapter 19 of the Rule: “We believe that the divine presence is everywhere . . .” and the orientation of everything in the monastery fosters greater awareness of that fact. In Nazareth, Mary and Joseph helped each other remember that their little boy was the Incarnate Word of God and they did everything in the divine presence. Saint Benedict described the monastery as a “school for the Lord’s service” (RB Prologue 45) and Pope Saint Paul VI described Nazareth as “the school in which we begin to understand the life of Jesus. It is the school of the Gospel” (Homily 5 January 1964 in Nazareth).
At Saint Vincent, we have another Nazareth where countless people have come in the last 175 years to enter into the divine presence. In the peace that comes from the first moments on the grounds to encounters with the various residents and finding a high point in the Basilica and the liturgy, hearts are changed, love grows, the Gospel is internalized and our world is improved a little bit at a time. It is providential that the Year of Saint Joseph coincides with our 175th anniversary. As we approach Father’s Day let us invoke our fathers Saint Joseph and Saint Benedict to help us foster another Nazareth and bring Jesus more tangibly into our world, so that “in all things God may be glorified!” (Rule 57:9; based on 1 Peter 4:11).
Fr. Boniface P. Hicks, O.S.B., Ph.D.; Seminary ’04
Author: “Through the Heart of Saint Joseph” (2021)
Spiritual Director Saint Vincent Seminary http://saintvincentseminary.edu/
Manager and Host of We Are One Body® radio https://www.waob.org/
Prayer from Patris Corde
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
And defend us from every evil.
Archabbot Alfred Koch, O.S.B. (1879-1951)
Alfred Koch was the fifth archabbot of Saint Vincent. He spent the first 12 years of his priesthood as a member of the Society of the Divine Word, a missionary order. In 1916, at the age of 36, he entered the Benedictine novitiate at Saint Vincent and was professed as a monk of the archabbey the following year. For the next 13 years, he taught sacred scripture, exegesis and homiletics in Saint Vincent Seminary and served as the seminary’s prefect and spiritual director.
Father Alfred was an affable yet demanding professor, administrator and spiritual guide. His approachable personality, together with his clear vision, spiritual depth and decisiveness, made him a popular teacher and spiritual adviser. Unlike the previous three archabbots, he had not come to Saint Vincent in his youth nor had he been nurtured in the archabbey’s schools. His experience in the community’s apostolates was limited to the seminary, and his relatively recent profession made him junior to all the monks his age and to many of those younger than he. He was considered a newcomer by some and an outsider by a few. But his easy manner, natural brilliance and palpable holiness marked him as a leader and eventually won the confidence of the entire community.
Upon the sudden death of Archabbot Aurelius, the monks elected Father Alfred their archabbot. He shepherded Saint Vincent through the traumatic aftermath of the first China mission and led the archabbey and schools safely through the threat of bankruptcy, the Depression, and World War II. He oversaw a trying period of retrenchment and belt-tightening and then led the community’s successful financial recovery. Under him Saint Vincent joyfully celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding in 1946.
Archabbot Alfred became ill and stepped down from the abbacy in 1949, turning the leadership over to his successor, Archabbot Denis Strittmatter. In retirement, he remained, as he had always been, beloved of all the monks in the community. Remembering him many years after his death, one of the senior members of the community, who had been a novice when Alfred Koch was archabbot, said of him, “We all loved Archabbot Alfred. He was a beautiful human being, an ideal Benedictine, a true father for all of us.” A humble and faithful monk, he lived his life so that in all things God might be glorified.
Jerome Oetgen, Ph.D.
C’69, S’73, and Biographer for the Archabbots of Saint Vincent
Cherished Memories on the Feast of Corpus Christi (2021)
Back in the Summer of 2017 an article entitled Saint Vincent Bread Tradition Alive in Patton was slated to be published (See Heart to Heart, https://issuu.com/saintvincentarchabbey/docs/2017_summer_heart_to_heart_sm p. 18). I warned my secretary of the impending tsunami of phone calls and emails that were looming on the horizon. Sure enough, the article went to press and the inquiries, began. Could they “pick up three loaves on Tuesday?” Would you “be kind enough to mail a loaf to Wyoming?” “Can you send it just like they did in the old days wrapped in butchers’ paper and tied with twine?”
Just why is it that this very ordinary monastic mixture of flour, water, salt, yeast and vital wheat gluten causes such a flood of memories, conjures such complex emotions, induces such impassioned reactions in those who hold Saint Vincent dear?
Maybe it’s because that particular bread represents the hard work of the monks who tilled and planted, harvested and ground. Maybe it’s the drops of sweat dripping like dew from heaven from the bakers’ brow anointing the manna as they pulled 80, 8-pound loaves from the cavernous ovens. Maybe it’s the memory of “Sister Bread” who plated a day-old slab of stale bread, maternally slathering it with gravy in order to create a palatable portion of “Saint Vincent Steak” for some Scholastic or Prepster. Maybe it’s the memory of countless thousands of down-and-outs who presented themselves in Abbey bread lines and who found in those crusts both sustenance and hope. Is it any wonder that Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a woman baking bread (Matt 13:33; Luke 13:20-21)?
Whatever the reason, bread, all bread, has always elicited feelings of home and hearth and the mystique of Saint Vincent Bread is no exception. Mythologized, even modernized after the loss of the ovens in the great fire, it makes little difference. Bread is life sustaining, pure and simple. Jesus knew that. That’s why He used that! “On the night he was betrayed, he took bread, and gave you thanks” (Eucharistic Prayer, from the Roman Missal).
Those who bake bread will tell you that there is something deeply satisfying about employing an ancient tradition in these present days to create, as Peter Reinhart says in Brother Juniper’s Bread Book, “a modern incarnation of a metaphor for goodness.”
I believe Saint Vincent Bread is nothing more and nothing less than a tangible reminder that a handful of monastics came to a foreign land in order to pray and work and be leaven in the Kingdom by rising above and far beyond the confines of the Enclosure in order to feed any, all and every hungry soul with bread – whether it’s fashioned with flour, water, salt and yeast or charity, self-sacrifice and service. It only matters that “in all things God may be glorified.”
Those latter ingredients mixed, combined, kneaded, formed and raised should elicit just as passionate a response in those who hunger in their souls. Once nourished may their renewed life allow them to do good in the Name of Christ. After all, a little leaven goes a long way. So . . . believe it or not, it is possible to feed the hungry masses Saint Vincent “bread,” even though the ovens are no more.
℣. You have given them bread from heaven.
℟. Having all sweetness within it!
(The Rite of Benediction)
Fr. Ananias G. Buccicone, O.S.B.; SVC ‘88; Seminary ‘93
Pastor, Our Lady Queen of Peace; Patton, PA
For Memorial Day 2021
It was smaller then
You’d pass the Library
And the old stadium.
When the weather was good
And there was time before study hall,
Scholastics would walk around the cemetery
His head shot off!
Wimmer had sent the College’s Math teacher
To serve the people of God
In Kentucky and Tennessee.
So Emmeran Bliemel, O.S.B.
10th Tennessee Infantry Regiment
(Veterans care about the unit or the ship.)
Died anointing the dying
Battle of Jonesboro.
Will there be a Confederate flag (gasp!)
In Tuscumbia, Colbert County, Alabama,
Holy Cross Cemetery, on Memorial Day?
Yes! Frater Colman told us as we walked.
For Fr. Emmeran.
Sometimes, later, in the afternoon,
A Pater and an Ave having been said,
Willy and I would pluck a rose
Unopened and fresh
From the pile on some new grave.
It would live with us
A day or two longer!
It’s a long walk now.
I like especially among the crosses
When the little flags have been posted
On some monks’ graves
On Colman’s and Archabbot Paul’s
Mass at the Mausoleum now
Some comfort in the old rites
And the Archabbot presiding.
But the numbers
The numbers intrude.
What pain or demon or memory
Or loss of Hope
Causes the suicides,
Veterans who will not feel
The soft breezes of May
Wafting of viburnum and lilac
And the first of the roses
On Memorial Days?
Rest in peace now, brothers and sisters!
Richard Schulte P’64 C’68
SP5, 2/9 Infantry MANCHU, 1969-70
“Keep Up the Fire!”
I am filled with optimism that our community in the future will continue to draw young fellow missionaries to complete their formation and to be vibrant contributors to our apostolate. Our Benedictine community in Taiwan is happy to be committed to the Gospel of Jesus and the vast treasures of our Catholic faith.
I have been at Saint Vincent for thirty-plus years
And I have shared many a beer.
I started in as a young one when my mind was new
And now I am someone with a view.
I have become friends with students, monks, faculty, and staff
We all have had many a laugh.
I love my job, sometimes it can be trying
But I always will keep flying.
My family grew up here and it means a lot
To see the love that is fought.
When I look over the horizon, I see the rolling mountains
When I look over campus, I see the flowing fountains.
The beauty of Saint Vincent will always be in my heart
Because this is where I got my start.
Saint Vincent Post Office
They came with the gifts of youth: vibrancy, enthusiasm and first fervor. Time and grace matured these gifts into steadfastness, dedication and true service. Whenever they dished out meat, poured coffee, baked cakes, washed dishes, dropped buns from balconies or decorated Christmas cribs, they gave us the feeling of family, home, rootedness and sisterly (and sometimes motherly) love. Their gentleness rubbed off on us so that we have become a little more gentle. Yet they also taught us perseverance, because who but dedicated and God-seeking individuals can smile and serve people for more than 50 years?