A night at the Abbey

We toasted generosity Saturday night during a fascinating evening in a place that holds great meaning to both my husband and me.

Invited by our friends, Guy and Gina, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at St. Procopius Abbey, home of the Benedictine Monks.

The Abbey, cited by the American Institute of Architects as one of the most outstanding buildings in the United States, forms the base of a square that includes Benet Academy, Benedictine University and the Sacred Heart Monastery of Benedictine sisters on the south edge of Lisle, Illinois.

Vince and all eight of his siblings graduated from Benet Academy, and from 1987-89 I worked as the Sports Information Director at Benedictine University. During those years we attended many masses at the Abbey, drawn by its quiet, spiritual interior and convenient 11 a.m. Sunday mass.

Until this weekend, when Abbot Hugh Anderson gave us a tour, we had no idea how much thought and symbolism went into its design. Architect Edward Dart, who also drew plans for the famed Water Tower Place and many other Chicago landmarks, lived with the monks for a week to prepare for the job, and then told the story of the Benedictine Community through his design of their new home.

The long path leading into the church traces the exit from the secular world. A stark altar represents the community’s focus on the body of Christ and the Word. Simple private rooms celebrate nature with giant bay windows that look out at a courtyard. A grooved, cement interior honors strength.

Following the tour, we enjoyed a meal prepared by gourmet chef, Brother Kevin Coffey and some lively conversation with several members of the community. The evening naturally honored St. Benedict’s tenets of balance, good zeal, good works, discretion and peace.

Brother Hugh
Abbot Hugh Anderson, O.S.B., VIII Abbot of the Abbey, was the vice-principal of Benet Academy during my husband’s high school years. Today he is president of the American Cassinese Congregation and travels all over the world. He has been a monk for 56 years. Vince encouraged me to take this shot of Brother Hugh reflected in the holy water in the entrance of the Abbey.
St. Precopius
The Abbey is named for St. Procopius, though many of its residents are not fond of this stark sculpture in its entrance.
Outside world
This path is meant to represent the transition from secular life to monastic life.
Altar Design
The interior of the abbey’s church celebrates the two most sacred things to the community, the consecration and the word. There are no kneelers in the Abbey church because mass is meant to be a celebration.
An impressive organ overlooks a seating area in the church. When we attended mass in the late 80s, this area was filled with resident brothers. Today 25 men call St. Procopius Abbey home.
Father Ed
Benedictine brothers belong to one monastery for their whole lives.
Brother Kevin
Brother Kevin prepared a delicious meal and, thankfully, found some time to help us celebrate it.
Abbot Hugh
Abbot Hugh proved to be an excellent tour guide.
A toast
Our host and friend Guy.
Our hostess and friend Gina.
A visiting brother
A visiting brother helped serve the meal.
The whole group
Here’s the whole group. We left with happy bellies and a keener understanding of St. Procopius Abbey and the kind, generous and enjoyable men who live there.

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