Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the “Abbatial Blessing” of the 1st Abbot of Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey. The above photo slideshow doesn’t really do it justice.
This Benedictine monastery is located in northeastern Oklahoma, about an hour’s drive from Tulsa. It is a monastic foundation of the French Abbey Notre Dame de Fontgombault, itself a foundation of Saint Pierre de Solesmes. It was started about 10 years ago and just in February, I believe, they were raised to the status of an abbey and given independence from Fontgombault. (I believe the proceeding was all accurately stated …).
The following description of the Rite is from the program given to those in attendance:
The Rite of the blessing of an Abbot by the Bishop is referred to in the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict and attested to a half century later under Pope Saint Gregory the Great, then in the eight century. The Bishop surrounded by other Prelates, conferred on the new abbot his crozier and sandals. In our day, the present Rite brings out the liturgical enrichment over the course of the centuries.
The blessing takes place during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, after the Gospel. The Rite of blessing is composed of the presentation of the Abbot to the Bishop by two of his monks, a brief questioning afte the homily of the Bishop, and finally the solemn Blessing, which is preceded by the Litany of the Saints. The Rite is concluded with the handing over of the Rule and the Abbatial Insignia (ring, miter, and crozier) and the kiss of peace, followed by the obedience of the new Abbot’s monks.
The Father Abbot concelebrates Holy Mass beside the Bishop.
As described, this is pretty much what happened. The Mass was in Latin, according to the Benedictine tradition, as was to be expected. I don’t know how many people were in attendance, but the crypt Church was filled to capacity, with additional seating in the vestibule and outside as well. The number was easily 700 or more and I saw many friends and other notable people from Tulsa’s Catholic community.
There was also another bishop attending as well as abbots from other monasteries in the US and France.
A particularly interesting part of the Rite was the interrogation of the Abbot-elect by the Bishop, prior to giving his official blessing. I don’t know the origin of this, but here is the English translation of the questions asked by Bishop Slattery of the Tulsa Diocese, in Latin:
Holy Mother Church’s Ancient Tradition teaches and prescribes us to question him who has been chosen to lead his brethren in the name of Christ: the Bishop himself must ascertain whether the new abbot is determined to fill his charge fittingly. That is why, very dear Brother, following her wise guidance, I now ask:
Will you remain faithful in your monastic commitment to observe the Rule of Saint Benedict and will you incite your brothers to do the same, and lead them thus to the love of God, in the life of the Gospel and fraternal charity?
Will you teach your brothers by your constant dedication to monastic life, by sound doctrine, and by the good example of your own deeds rather than by mere words?
Will you lead your brothers to God taking to heart the spiritual good of those entrusted to your care?
Will you faithfully watch over the goods of your monastery with the duty of suing them wisely for the benefit of your brothers, of the poor and of the pilgrims?
Will you always and in all matters be loyal, obedient, and reverent to the holy Church and to our Holy Father the Pope and his successors?
May the Lord grant you these and all good things, and guard you always and everywhere.
The Prayer of the Abbatial Blessing follows after the singing of the Litany of the Saints.
It was a beautiful day and the lands of the monastery were very pretty at this early spring time, the tree just coming into full leaf and the redbuds and wild flowers in bloom. I was very glad to have attended this special rite of the Church, something that I may never be able to witness again in the future.
Note: The Mass and Abbatial Blessing took place in the Crypt Church of the Monastery. Since it is only 10 years old, they have only completed construction of a portion of the monastery, which includes cells for the monks, the refectory, guest quarters, offices, and the crypt (basement) part of the church. The main church will be built above the crypt church at some point in the future. In one of the photos above, you can see some of the monks ringing the monastery bells, which are in a ground level building, awaiting the day when they can be installed in a proper bell tower.
The monks support themselves by the raising of sheep, cattle, and other farming activities. Currently, there are 34 monks at the abbey.
Learn more about the monks of Our Lady of the Assumption at Clear Creek Abbey at www.clearcreekmonks.org.
There’s a terrific slideshow at the Diocese of Tulsa website, that you can see here.