One of TAI’s most recent Rotating Exhibit Network panels focuses on sacred chant at St. Meinrad Archabbey, a Roman Catholic Benedictine monastery and seminary in Spencer County. For St. Meinrad monks, practicing this communal form of sung prayer grounds daily life in shared beliefs and a centuries-old monastic tradition.
On a visit to the archabbey in the fall of 2011, St. Meinrad public relations staff Mary Jeanne Schumaker introduced me to several monks who serve the community through creative work. I had the opportunity to interview Father Columba Kelly, a scholar and teacher of Christian chant; Brother Kim Malloy, who weaves and sews vestments worn by St. Meinrad priests; and Brother Martin Erspamer, who creates liturgical visual art in several media. Our conversations addressed the place of these practices in the coordinated, collective social life of the monastery.
Drawing on my meetings with the monks, our REN exhibit highlights chant as a form of music and prayer at the center of St. Meinrad’s monastic life. The monks organize their worship according to the Liturgy of the Hours, a regimen by which they gather at appointed times throughout the day in the St. Meinrad church. Within the liturgy, chant serves as the primary format of worship. This “sung speech,” as Father Kelly identifies chant, gives musical contour to scriptural texts and prayers. With organ accompaniment, the monks raise their voices in a unified expression of devotion. Primarily, chant functions as a form of worship. In the process, St. Meinrad monks define themselves as a religious community and articulate their place in Benedictine and Roman Catholic traditions.
Click below to listen to the monks chant The Lord’s Prayer at the Vespers service I attended in 2011:
Find more information about the St. Meinrad Archabbey at the following website: