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Art And The Monastic Life At Mount Angel

OPB | March 12, 2013 7:15 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 27, 2013 3:50 p.m.

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Father Martin Grassel is a monk at Mount Angel Abbey, a Benedictine monastery and seminary on the outskirts of Mount Angel, Oregon, about 15 miles northeast of Salem.

The monks at Mount Angel pray, sing and share meals in silence at the beginning, middle and end of the day. In between those dedicated times, monks spend their time working.

Father Martin, in addition to his duties as procurator (the Catholic church equivalent to a CFO), works in the Abbey’s art studio as a mosaicist. Before he committed to life as a monk, he worked as an engineer for Honeywell. You can see an engineer’s exactitude at work as he crafts the intricate mosaics.

He comes from a family without a practicing faith life and resisted the call to the monastic life. “After a couple years of going to church, he says, “I started having these crazy thoughts of becoming a priest. And for a couple of years I tried to kill those thoughts, but they never went away.”

He entered the Monastery in 1999 and says, “As soon as I crossed the threshold of the door, I felt home. I knew I was home.”

Father Martin ponders the role of art in a lifestyle that is meant to be humble. “Monastic life is supposed to be a life of simplicity and poverty, so we don’t want opulence,” he says. “But we do glorify God with art. You can walk into some of the great old churches and just be overwhelmed by the art you find in them.”

To hear more from some of the monks at Mount Angel Abbey, listen to Think Out Loud‘s conversation about “What’s Next for the Catholic Church?

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