On the feast of the Baptism of the Lord in a liturgy resplendent with symbolism Abbot Timothy Kelly was blessed as the ninth abbot of Saint John’s Abbey. It was a family affair with invitations to students, faculty, the many other laity who share our work, members of our parishes, friends and personal contacts. Even the conferral of the abbatial blessing by our local diocesan bishop, an action that signified the relationship of Saint John’s to the universal Church, was performed by a member of the extended Benedictine family, St. Cloud’s Bishop Jerome Hanus, OSB, former abbot of Conception Abbey in Missouri.
In his homily Bishop Hanus called attention to the way in which the feast of the Baptism and the abbatial blessing were “strangely similar and connected to one another”: the baptism in which “Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit and commissioned by God for his ministry among people and … the blessing of Abbot Timothy” whose ministry as abbot could “very well take as its model the way that Jesus related to the people following his baptism.”
Because the presider was a fellow Benedictine, Bishop Hanus was able to bring to the occasion very special Benedictine insights.
At the end of the mass Abbot Timothy noted that the shepherd’s staff he had received pointed to the teaching of Saint Benedict that the abbot is “believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery.” He is taking Christ the Good Shepherd as his model. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for others, but only time would tell how he would be able to fulfill the task placed on him.
In the meantime a member of Saint John’s extended family, Luke Schaaf, a freshman in the university from Crystal, had shown what it means to risk one’s life for another. One week before, Luke had endangered his own life to rescue a mother and small boy who had broken through the ice of Twin Lake. To make sure that Luke would be present at the blessing, he had been appointed a Communion minister at the Mass. Abbot Timothy asked Luke to stand and receive our thanks.
The theme of family was continued at the well-organized finger-food supper that followed in the Old Gym. To allow as many of the kitchen and other support staff as possible to share the supper with the rest of the family and guests, monks volunteered to serve. It must be admitted that a very efficient skeleton kitchen crew behind the screens made the supper go well.
St. John’s Abbey Quarterly