The Monks and the Modernist: What the Benedictines Built at Collegeville

“The Monks and the Modernist: What the Benedictines Built at Collegeville” by Albert Eisele.

From Commonweal, April 6, 2012, reprinted with permission.






4 responses to “The Monks and the Modernist: What the Benedictines Built at Collegeville”

  1. Fr. Ron Krisman Avatar
    Fr. Ron Krisman

    Thanks for reprinting this wonderful article.

    And even greater thanks to Marcel Breuer and past and present members of the Saint John Abbey community for your inspiration and farsightedness.

    1. Bruce Byrolly Avatar

      @Fr. Ron Krisman – comment #1:

      My email is

      and my home phone is 410 901-9977.

      Please get in touch with me .


  2. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    One of the great privileges of my life was to be an undergraduate at Collegeville during the years in which Vatican II was in session.

    When I say that to anyone, I always immediately add “but, of course, Saint John’s was already post Vatican II even before the Council.” Certainly the Church is a great example of that. Remember its 50th anniversary has already been observed.

    My memories of the Church are mostly of chanting Vespers in Latin with the monks while seated in the brothers’ stalls with some of my friends. From time to time we would go downstairs to the Brothers’ chapel where they did Vespers in English to the Gelineau Psalms. All this evolution fitted so comfortably into this Church built for the coming centuries.

    Of course, the evolution was not without its glitches. As Mass evolved into English, it became apparent that we students had some different ideas of music (guitars and folk songs) than some of the monks. That tension resulted in a separate Folk Mass in the afternoon. Many of us avid supporters of the Folk Mass were the same people who sang Vespers in Latin. The notion that there might be conflict among Gregorian chant, Gelineau Psalms and Folk music had not occurred to us.

    A couple of years ago I attended a presentation that chronicled the succeeding “folk songs” in the following decades, and it occurred to me for the first time why I was in favor of them. I had grown up with the ever changing “hit parade” of secular songs that changed weekly and assumed that a changing hit parade of “folk songs” was desirable.

    I trust the Collegeville Church will comfortably house many and varied expressions of worship for centuries to come.

  3. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    This may shock some people but I am a fan of well done modern church architecture, Saint John’s Abby being a fine example. I’ve only been there once and liked it very much except for how high the celebrant’s chair is. I am sure there are splendid liturgies there too. Other examples of modern churches which I think are absolutely stunning (especially the inside) are St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco and the new cathedral in Oakland. San Francisco’s interior has stunning art work for the various devotional areas and is quite spacious for any and all cathedral type liturgies.

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