A Benedictine Priest, the Saint Ignatius Institute, and True Friendships

Over this past weekend, it was a great honor to witness, along with many other friends, not only the Priestly Ordination of another long time friend, Fr. Bede Clark, OSB, but also his Mass of Thanksgiving the following day. The ordination took place on Saturday, July 8 at Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, California through the apostolic authority of Bishop Steven J. Lopes, the college roommate of Fr. Bede, and our mutual friend. Bishop Lopes is the first Bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Here is Bishop Lopes’ Ordination to the Priesthood Homily.

Laying on of Hands

I have known Fr. Bede since 1994 (we graduated in 1997), when we were students in the Saint Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco. Along with others, many who attended this weekend, quickly became friends over twenty years ago because of our mutual interest for Catholic culture, philosophy, literature, theology, sports, and the overall love of being university students in a city as beautiful as San Francisco.

These friendships were planted in such rich soil, that even now, over 20 years later, many returned this past weekend to witness Fr. Bede ordained to the Catholic Priesthood. As one friend said, we all have skin in this game. It was a long journey filled with many pitfalls and sufferings for not only Fr. Bede, but for many of us who accompanied him along the way. In his toast to Fr. Bede during Friday night’s dinner, Bishop Lopes quoting Fr. Joseph Fessio said that Fr. Bede is the glue that has kept us all together. Although some friends were not able to make it due to difficult circumstances, they were there with us in spirit.

With Fr. Bede after he blessed me during his first blessings.

Personally, the weekend was a token into the past, into the city, and into the friendships, where I truly learned about Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church for the first time, just as I experienced in June 2015. It was in the Saint Ignatius Institute where my heart was spiritually awakened and my mind began to understand my Catholic faith intellectually, the beginning of my true conversion to Christ and his Church. The three years I spent in the Saint Ignatius Institute were the best three years of my twenties.

I can remember spending many nights in the library, in the dorms, and in the classroom with Fr. Bede and many of the friends who attended this weekend. Some of my most memorable laughter comes from the words and actions of Fr. Bede, like when he threw a book out the window or when he called the aforementioned order that was educating us a bunch of crackpots.

The weekend was not only a look into the past, but an apparition of the present and the future. When friendships are planted, watered, and pruned as these friendships have been for over 20 years, you may not see them frequently, but when you do, you can pick up right where you left off. Since these friendships are rooted in virtue, goodness, and beauty, they are rightly true friendships [bold is mine], as the Greek philosopher Aristotle says.

For me, this weekend was very needed. It seems to be a pattern that when I need to see these true friends, they are there to spend time with, laugh with, and reminisce about the past and talk about our present lives. The ability to see another long time friend ordained as a priest forever, as well as seeing many true friends and the religious and lay people who taught us and guided us was needed and appreciated. It was a blessed weekend!

Fr. Bede blessing Sister Ignatius.

As I conclude this article, I ask you to pray for four things –

1. Please pray for Fr. Bede Clark as he begins his priestly ministry among his Benedictine brothers and to the people the monastery serves in San Diego.

2. Pray for vocations to the Catholic Priesthood and also among the Order of St. Benedict.

3. Pray for the rise and continued growth of good Catholic universities and institutions, like the once great Saint Ignatius Institute.

4. Pray for good, selfless, self-sacrificial friendships rooted in virtue, goodness, and beauty. As St. Thomas Aquinas said, “there is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

This blog post is dedicated to not only Fr. Bede Clark, but to all the administrators, students and professors of the St. Ignatius Institute between the years of 1976-2001. 

Newly ordained Fr. Bede with Bishop Steven J. Lopes behind him.

“Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Einsiedeln

Over this past weekend, I spent most of my time at Prince of Peace Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery in Oceanside, California for my friend’s Ordination to the Priesthood (see my article later this week). Although I have been here many times before to visit Fr. Bede, I saved this article on Our Lady of Einsiedeln for today simply because I wasn’t aware of it until today.

I knew that I wanted to incorporate today’s “Mondays with Mary” with the Benedictines but didn’t know how to do so until about 5 minutes before departing to drive back to Arizona. One of the women working in the gift shop showed me a picture of Our Lady of Einsiedeln hanging in the gathering area at the monastery. Once I arrived home, I looked it up online and found some history in regards to this Marian title, which is obviously closely associated with the Benedictines. The story is as follows –

A Benedictine monk, St. Meinrad (the Archabbey here in the US is named for him), in the 9th century, departed from a local monastery to construct a hermitage in the wilderness, which would later come Einsiedeln. As he left, he took a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a gift from Abbess Hildegarde of Zurich, which was known to be miraculous. Once arriving in the village, his reputation grew because people knew him to be kind and holy – he often received many visitors.

On January 21, 861, St. Meinrad was killed by two thieves who struck him with a candlestick. They thought he would have a large treasure in his hermitage. Legend says they were both captured after two ravens followed them all the way back to Zurich and began squawking very loudly near them. It is believed that the two ravens were guardians to St. Meinrad.

Many years later, in the year 940, a small band of Benedictine monks turned St. Meinrad’s small hermitage into the Lady Chapel. It has been said that Jesus Christ himself consecrated the chapel on September 14, 948. Although the local Bishop was to consecrate the chapel, he had a vision where he saw the entire chapel lit by a very bright light, where Christ himself approached the altar. When he went into the chapel the next day, he heard a voice saying that the chapel had already been consecrated through divine intervention. Sixteen years later, in 964, Pope Leo VIII confirmed the miracle with a papal bull.

Our Lady of Einsiedeln

In his possession with him till his death, St. Meinrad had the Black Madonna statue as an altarpiece in his small hermitage. After his death, the statue was placed in the Lady Chapel so that others could venerate it. The statue became known as Our Lady of Einsiedeln. There were many miracles that were attributed to it and around the year 1000 A.D., pilgrims began to show up to view the statue as well. During the Middle Ages, it is believed that 50,000 pilgrims would pass though the monastery on a weekly basis.

In the year 1620, the Benedictine monastery at Einsiedeln became a school of theology for it’s own clerics and men training to become priests. It’s a small school only having more than 30 students once in its history. Even with attacks and setbacks during the Protestant Reformation and French Revolution, the shrine continues to welcome pilgrims to this day.

The statue that is currently at the shrine is not the original statue but a copy that was made and finished in the year 1466. The original is said to have burned in a fire. It’s a work of art measuring around four feet in height and is art of the late Gothic period. It was brought from Southern Germany or Switzerland. The figure, which is made of wood, is painted strawberry red and gold.

The Mother and child faces were first painted, but have since darkened due to the smoke from the votive candles below it, making it silvery black. It’s been black for many years. For festive occasions, the Benedictine monks dress up the statue. There is a replica of this statue in the abbey church at Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, California.

Our Lady of Einsiedeln…Pray for Us

St. Meinrad…Pray for Us