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Oregon abbot produces inspirational Catholic videos during isolation

J-P Mauro - published on 04/30/20

The Mount Angel Abbey website offers energizing religious talks, live-streamed Chruch services, and a whole lot more.

Along with movie theaters, bowling alleys, and dine-in restaurants, Oregon’s Mount Angel Abbey has been shut down for the duration of the coronavirus quarantine. The grounds, normally lively with visitors, seminarians, and retreat goers, are uncharacteristically quiet, even as the trees are beginning to bud with the promise of renewed life.

With such a major disruption to daily life, Abbot Jeremy Driscoll has a lot more time on his hands than usual, but now the teacher-monk is using the down-time to produce short inspirational videos that bring Catholic perspective to this time of isolation and social distance. The videos, gathered in a series called A Word From Abbot Jeremy, can be viewed on the Mount Angel Abbey website, where there are already 13 installments listed.

There is something distinctly charming in this video series. Abbot Jeremy, who exudes a calm kindness and an emphatic appreciation of life, seems as though he is speaking extemporaneously, rather than reading from a prepared script. This makes the brief talks almost feel like a conversation; in some instances seeming as though we were sitting with the Abbot for afternoon tea.

The installments are divided into four groups so far: “Blessings in Troubled Times,” “Holy Week at Home,” “A Word from Abbot Jeremy,” and “Stella Caeli Prayer,” a 14th-century prayer of deliverance from the Black Plague, which the monks recite for protection from infection. The abbot encourages all who visit the site to pray the Stella Caeli with them.

In one video, titled “The Risen Life Within Us,” Abbot Jeremy suggests that those who cannot make it to Mass should read the Gospel of the day, in order to remain mindful of the Easter season.

“Every day, in the liturgy of the Mass, a different Gospel account is read of one of the Lord’s resurrection appearances. So in eight days, every resurrection appearance of the Lord has been read. Why not do that in your own homes? Just find what’s read on each day and see what’s there.”

The 69-year-old Abbot then highlights one of the things we’ve been missing most about church: a good homily. Sitting with dignified humility and clear intelligence behind his eyes, Abbot Jeremy expertly links the Gospel to the current troubles of the day, bringing Catholic perspective to the COVID-19 quarantine. He said:

“I was struck by this in Tuesday’s Gospel, which tells the story of Mary Magdalene seeing Him in the garden, seeing the Risen Lord in the garden, but thinking that He was the gardener. Then, she recognizes him when He said her name, and he says ‘Do not touch me,’ as she goes to embrace him. I thought ‘Wow, that sounds like COVID-19 instructions,’ ‘Don’t touch me, don’t touch surfaces, don’t touch your face …’ “But that’s not Jesus’s ‘Don’t Touch Me.’ Jesus’s ‘Don’t Touch Me,’ is to say ‘Hey, it’s a whole new realm. It’s not like before. It’s more.’ If you touch me as one other, or one thing, then you don’t understand resurrection.’ Resurrection is the Lord’s life invading us entirely, through the universe. Happy Easter everybody, The monks of Mount Angel are thinking about you, praying for you. Bless you.”

Although each part of the series is between three and five minutes, they give faithful viewers food for thought for the rest of the day.

The Mount Angel Abbey website also offers other important Catholic viewing, in the form of live-steamed church services. On weekdays, they streams Vigils, Lauds, Mass, Noon Prayer, and Vespers, and on Sunday they have similar programming, except for the vigils. Visit the website to learn their scheduling.

Also included is a collection of Abbot Jeremy’s fine homilies and talks. These date all the way back to 2017, so there is no shortage of pious words of Catholic inspiration to be explored. Click here for more details.

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