By Richard G. Biever
Hospitality is a virtue by which Hoosiers are known to live. But there’s a place in southern Indiana that provides hospitality in the name of its saintly martyr.
The Saint Meinrad Archabbey, a world-renowned site of Roman Catholic religious study and vocation, is also an extraordinary destination for visitors of any faith seeking a spiritual retreat or peaceful vacation. The archabbey’s monks and staff have been quietly serving visitors amid the rolling hills and farmlands since its founding in 1854.
“Saint Meinrad is welcoming to all,” said Mary Jeanne Schumacher, director of communications at Saint Meinrad. “If you’ve wondered what monks do, where they live and how they pray, a visit to Saint Meinrad is a good way to see for yourself. You can enjoy the peace and quiet, take part in Gregorian chant, walk through historic buildings, and enjoy the art and architecture of a place with a 165-year history.”
Though the archabbey has been welcoming guests almost since its beginning, the first actual guest house was built around 1960. A new one opened in 2005. The guest house offers 31 private air-conditioned simply-furnished rooms with twin beds. All are up to date with private bathrooms and WiFi access. The guest house also features a dining room and meals, a chapel, and conference rooms equipped with the latest technology. There are even parking spaces with two charging stations for electric vehicles.
“Hospitality is an important charism to Benedictines, and particularly to Saint Meinrad,” Schumacher said. “The Rule of St. Benedict tells followers to treat all guests as Christ Himself.”
Throughout the year, the archabbey schedules workshops and retreats, most of which are open to the public. Guest rooms may be unavailable at certain times because of these events, but guest rooms and conference facilities can be booked by outside groups or individuals upon availability.
In addition to its scenic 250-acre campus, Saint Meinrad is conveniently located near the Hoosier National Forest to the east for guests wanting to commune with nature, Spencer County’s significant Abraham Lincoln boyhood historical sites, and the many activities at Holiday World in Santa Claus.
Spring’s renewal arrives sooner in the southern tier of counties than elsewhere in Indiana. It’s an especially beautiful time to visit the archabbey. The blooming dapples of dogwood and sprays of redbuds around the grounds and in the nearby woodlands will join the pealing bells in the archabbey’s twin towers to call the faithful to worship. “The Holy Week and Easter liturgies are very special,” said Schumacher, “and open to the public.”
If you go …
Guided tours, led by a Benedictine monk, are given each Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Central Time.
Self-guided tours are available anytime. A free Visitor’s Guide, which includes a walking tour of
the campus, is available at the Guest House, Memorial Lobby or the Saint Meinrad Archabbey Gift Shop.
• Spiritual Integration: Fitness, Health and Physical Well-being, April 12-14.
• The Leaven of Christ: That in All Things God May be Glorified! (Holy Week Retreat), April 17-21.
• Being Creative, Being Divine: Freedom and an Ethics of Creativity,
• The Abbey Gift Shop offers a selection of inspirational gifts, books, Bibles, music and DVDs along with gifts handcrafted from Saint Meinrad’s monastery and other monasteries across the country and
• Monte Cassino Shrine, located on a hill about a mile east of the archabbey, is a chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
More info at www.saintmeinrad.org.
Saint treated guests with Christ-like hospitality
Meinrad was a Benedictine hermit monk who was born around the year 800 along what is today the border of Germany and Switzerland. Despite his desire to live in prayer and solitude, visitors frequently sought his wise counsel and prayers. In the way of the Benedictines, he treated all his guests at his forest hermitage with Christ-like hospitality.
In return, he was often given valuable gifts that he would pass on to the poor. On Jan. 21, 861, two men, believing he had the treasures hidden, came to his hermitage. In spite of a premonition of his impending death, Meinrad invited the men in and offered them food and drink. The men murdered him, and then fled in fear. Meinrad’s death earned him the moniker “Martyr of Hospitality.”
A half century later, the Abbey of Einsiedeln was built on the site of Meinrad’s hermitage. When Einsiedeln established an abbey in Indiana in 1854, it honored the saint by naming it for him.
The feast of St. Meinrad is celebrated on his day of death, Jan. 21.
Richard G. Biever is senior editor of Indiana Connection.