Even though Fr Brendan was elected Abbot of Glenstal twelve weeks ago, the community waited until after the completion of the current phase of the renovation of the church before celebrating the solemn Rite of Blessing of an Abbot.
The abbatial blessing was conferred by Archbishop, the Most Reverend Kieran O’Reilly SMA of Cashel and Emly.
The Glenstal community was joined in choir by twenty-five abbots, abbesses, monks and nuns from Benedictine, Cistercian and Poor Clare monasteries from both Ireland and abroad, including the Abbot President of the Benedictine congregation, Abt Ansgar Schmidt OSB from Trier, Germany, and the Abbot of the monastery that founded Glenstal, P. Abbé Bernard Lorent OSB from Maredsous, Belgium. Five other bishops concelebrated the Mass with the Archbishop and Abbot Brendan, including the retired Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dr Dermot Clifford, the retired Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Willie Walsh, who ordained Abbot Brendan priest in 1995. The Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, Dr Kenneth Kearon, was also present in choir.
The Rite of Blessing took place after the Gospel. Abbot Brendan was escorted to the Archbishop by his two immediate predecessors, Frs Christopher Dillon OSB and Mark Patrick Hederman OSB. The Prior of the monastery, Fr Senan Furlong OSB, then formally presented the Abbot to the Archbishop and asked him to confer the blessing.
In the homily that followed, Archbishop O’Reilly addressed first the Abbot, then the monastic community, and then the large congregation of relatives and friends, staff and neighbours, oblates and associates who had gathered for the liturgy. Looking at the heritage of Glenstal and the Benedictine spiritual tradition, the Archbishop quoted the Apostolic Letter written by Pope Francis for the Year of Consecrated Life, inviting religious men and women to look to the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion and to look to the future with hope. He encouraged the monks to allow the new phase in their community’s life inaugurated by the choosing of a new abbot to be a time of renewed reflection on their own calling and role in the community. Finally, the Archbishop invited Abbot Brendan and the Glenstal community to be part of an upcoming biblical initiative in the diocese. “We are truly blessed in this diocese to have a community devoted to the Office and the Sacred Scriptures. When I came to this archdiocese I stated that I would like to broaden the biblical apostolate here and it is with this in mind that I invite you, Abbot Brendan, and your community, with the priests and people of the archdiocese, to undertake with me a journey of discovery and rediscovery of the Sacred Scriptures.”
After the homily came the Examination of the Abbot. The Archbishop questioned Abbot Brendan “on matters concerning his office”, inviting him to commit himself to observing the Rule of St Benedict and to teaching the brethren to do the same, so as to “encourage them in the love of God, in the life of the Gospel, and in fraternal charity”. After the Examination, the Archbishop invited everyone present to pray for the new Abbot. The Abbot prostrated before the new altar, and everyone else knelt, while the chanters intoned the Litany of the Saints, calling on the prayers of Mary the Mother of God, and all the angels and saints.
The solemn Prayer of Blessing followed the Litany, with the Abbot kneeling before the Archbishop. The prayer concluded, “Give him the gifts of your Spirit. Set him on fire with love for your glory and for the service of your Church, and may he in turn inflame with zeal the hearts of his brothers. In his life and in his teaching may he set Christ above all things, and when the day of judgment dawns, receive him, in the company of his brothers, into your kingdom.”
The newly-blessed Abbot Brendan was then presented with various symbols related to his office. He first received a copy of the Rule of St Benedict. He then received a silver ring, to be worn as a sign of fidelity, with the instruction to “wear it as the symbol of constancy and maintain this monastic family in the bond of brotherly love”. Finally, the Archbishop presented the Abbot with a wooden crozier, a shepherd’s staff, admonishing him to “show loving care for the brothers whom the Lord has entrusted to you; for he will demand an account of your stewardship”. After this he took his place beside the Archbishop and was greeted with applause. Abbot Brendan then received the sign of peace from the Archbishop and his assistants, before moving into the centre of the choir, to share the same fraternal greeting with all of the monastic men and women present.
Just before the end of Mass, Abbot Brendan addressed the congregation. Asking for their prayers that he might be a good abbot, he cited St Bernard’s advice to new abbots – “Notice everything. Turn a blind eye to some things. Correct a little. Cherish the brethren.” The liturgy concluded with the chanting of the Church’s great hymn of praise, the Te Deum, while the church bells were rung.
You can see photos of the celebration HERE.