Abbot Leonard Wangler Blessing Mass

Published: May 7, 2015

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at St. Benedict Church at Subiaco Abbey on Thursday, May 7, 2015. The readings for the Mass were: Proverbs 2:1-9; Psalms 34; Colossians 3:12-17; and Luke 12:35-44.

Bishop Taylor

In my years as a priest in Oklahoma, I've followed pastors who did well and had to fill in to replace a couple of pastors who did poorly. You'd think it might be better to follow someone who did poorly because then you could be a hero. But it doesn't work that way. It's far better to follow someone who did well because all of the high regard they had for your beloved predecessor gets transferred on to you.

A pastor who serves well leaves behind a community that is united, confident and in love with the Lord. And Abbot Leonard, you follow one of the finest abbots ever to guide a Benedictine community anywhere in the United States. We owe an immense debt of gratitude to the Lord for the way he has guided Subiaco for the past 25 years through Abbot Jerome. And now you inherit not only responsibility for this community, but also a rich patrimony of blessings high regard built up under Abbot Jerome and all the rest of your predecessors over the course of the last 137 years.

This patrimony includes material possessions and apostolic endeavors, like the academy and Coury House Retreat Center, and of course Monk Sauce, peanut brittle and sausage. But humanly speaking, the greatest treasure you inherit by far is your brother monks, of whom you have now become father. How does it feel to have 40 sons all of a sudden: More than half of whom are older than you? Sons who need to receive from you everything any son needs to receive from his father. 

I can tell you from personal experience that the Lord will provide you with every grace and everything else you need to be a good father to this monastic community.

This will require of you all the virtues about which we just heard in our second reading from Colossians — virtues that will require of you death to self. Patience, love, a good example and on occasion, giving a specific monk helpful reminders of how he can improve his participation in the life of the community — expressed with fatherly solicitude ... and fatherly authority. Obedience that to a certain degree is mutual because it is born of a listening, loving heart. The kind of wisdom about which we heard in our first reading from Proverbs.

But I must warn you: Leadership in the Church is not for the faint of heart. It never has been. You already know that from your work as prior of this community. And so, you must be watchful, vigilant and faithful, which Jesus emphasizes in the three brief parables in the Gospel you chose for this ceremony of blessing. "Gird your loins" means be ready for action when action is required. "Light your lamps" means keep your eyes open. We know all too well the disasters that occur when church leaders turn a blind eye to problems that must be addressed and fail to shine the light of truth on evils that need to be exposed and eradicated. This will sometimes require of you a great deal of intestinal fortitude. And you must always be prepared because such things will come to your attention "at an hour you do not expect." 

So, Abbot Leonard, have I scared you off? No need to fear. I can tell you from personal experience that the Lord will provide you with every grace and everything else you need to be a good father to this monastic community. Moreover, you have excellent human resources to draw on too — all of your monastic brothers and especially Father Jerome. And it gives me great joy to give you my blessing, and above all, that of the Lord.