June 10, 2016

Editorial

Welcome, Archabbot Kurt

On June 2, the monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad elected the 10th abbot and seventh archabbot in their community’s history. Benedictine Father Kurt Stasiak was chosen by his brother monks to become their spiritual father and, as proscribed by the Rule of St. Benedict, to take the place of Christ in the monastery.

Archabbot Kurt is a soft-spoken, humble man. He has served as prior (second in leadership) for the past six years, and before that as vocation director and secretary to the archabbot.

In addition, he has taught sacramental theology and served as vice-rector, provost and director of spiritual formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary School of Theology.

He is a man of experience and learning, and he brings to his new responsibilities the combination of discretion and moderation that St. Benedict admonishes the abbot to possess. “Let him be discreet and moderate in the tasks which he imposes, bearing in mind the discretion of Jacob when he said: If I cause my flock to be overdriven, they will all die one day” (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 64).

The Church in central and southern Indiana welcomes Archabbot Kurt to this new position of spiritual and temporal leadership. Saint Meinrad is a treasure that has graced this local Church since the first monastery—a primitive log cabin—was solemnly dedicated on property located about six miles south of Ferdinand, Ind., on March 21, 1854.

The monks’ prayer and work has enriched the Church in this region immeasurably. It has provided a refuge for visitors and retreatants from all over the world; it has provided exceptional pastoral formation for priests, deacons and lay leaders; it has given profound witness to the renewal of the sacred liturgy and the Church’s musica sacra; and it has been a model of fidelity to authentic Catholic faith and practice during times of great turmoil in our Church’s history.

Archabbot Kurt assumes his new role at a time when the monastic community at Saint Meinrad is stable and secure in its witness to the Benedictine way of life. At the same time, like every other Catholic institution in the United States today, Saint Meinrad cannot take its future for granted. Nor can it presume growth—in vocations, in the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours, which Benedictines call the Work of God, or in the apostolic works that the community is called to carry out consistent with its monastic way of life.

The Bible verse, “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor” (Ps 127:1), is as true for monks as it is for the Church as a whole. We must all cooperate with God’s grace, but we should never presume that we can do anything of significance or value without it.

This means that Archabbot Kurt has his work cut out for him. St. Benedict’s Rule admonishes the abbot to “always bear in mind what a burden he has taken on himself.” He further counsels the abbot to “be well-versed in the Divine Law, that he may know whence to bring forth new things and old.”

Again, the virtue of discretion is key to the abbot’s success. Of course, the abbot must himself be a man of virtue. “He must be chaste, sober, and merciful.”

And in words that are especially familiar to us during this Holy Year of Mercy, St. Benedict decrees that the abbot must “always exalt mercy above judgment that he himself may find mercy. Let him love the brethren while hating their vices.”

Finally, knowing something about the burdens of abbatial leadership from his own—sometimes painful—experience, St. Benedict warns the abbot “not to be turbulent and overanxious, over-exacting and headstrong, jealous and prone to suspicion, for otherwise he will never have rest” (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 64).

To carry out these responsibilities without undue anxiety or turbulence, Archabbot Kurt will need the help of our prayers. He will also need the wise counsel and fraternal support of monks, diocesan clergy and lay leaders who love Saint Meinrad and wish to see the community flourish now and in the future.

Archabbot Kurt, welcome to your new ministry in the Church as Archabbot of Saint Meinrad. Please be assured of our prayers, our counsel and our support. May you be a good and faithful steward of the great gift that Saint Meinrad is to the Church. And may our Lord grant you the gift of discretion, which St. Benedict calls the mother of virtue, so that “the strong may find something they will do with zeal and the weak will not be disheartened” (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 64).

—Daniel Conway

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