St. Michael’s Abbey is a place where heaven and earth meet, and where God calls people to encounter Him as Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. A few weeks ago we rejoiced to welcome Dr. Jordan Peterson and his wife Tammy for an afternoon visit to the abbey. They came to see the rich liturgical art in the new church and to witness our vibrant, young, and growing religious community.
Their visit began in the abbey church, where the Petersons marveled at the architecture and artistic decoration. Dr. Peterson spoke with the Norbertines who gathered to welcome him and Tammy, reflecting at some length on the rich symbolism and theological significance the art represents, especially the apocalyptic mosaic in the apse and triumphal arch. He complimented us particularly on having the courage to build something so permanent – in stone, steel, glass mosaic tiles, marble – in a world that is so transitory and fleeting. Since their visit didn’t coincide with one of the hours of the Divine Office, we wanted them to experience our sung prayer. Therefore, we sang for them the solemn Salve Regina, and then the abbey schola cantorum sang a confrere-composed motet. Jordan and Tammy were transfixed by our sung prayer, and Jordan remarked, “We could sit here and listen to you all sing all day!”
Our visit moved into the beautifully appointed special collections library, where the Petersons enjoyed lunch with a small group of confreres, and where our conversation continued. Jordan was especially excited to speak about how our abbey offers to the young men who are joining in such great numbers the sense of adventure and heroism that young people seek so ardently. Tammy spoke about the Holy Rosary and the role of Our Lady in her life. Both of our new friends were happy to hear the stories of how the young confreres found their way to such a countercultural way of life, and how giving themselves completely to the closer following of Jesus Christ has changed their lives. All of the threads of the conversation converged on the idea that abbeys and monasteries are unique epicenters of culture – where authentic culture is created, where culture is preserved and maintained.
St. Michael’s Abbey appeals to all kinds of people who are seeking the good, the true, and the beautiful. When we live an authentic Christian life in all its fullness, sustained by religious consecration and the common life, nourished by the Sacraments and the life of liturgical prayer, heaven and earth meet in such a way that someone who is seeking will find God Himself, who is Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. The seeker who finds his way to our abbey may be Catholic, non-Catholic, or someone who is on the way, but he will certainly find God here. Dr. Peterson’s visit helps to remind us that our abbey is also a place of serious thought and intellectual exploration. The culture that we create and preserve here draws all kinds of people closer to an encounter with Our Blessed Lord.
The Peterson’s visit was too brief, and we hope to welcome them back again. Before they left, they received a beautiful and large icon written by one of the junior confreres as a farewell gift. It is the icon of the Holy Face of Our Lord in gold leaf and egg tempera, a copy of the famous icon of Our Lord from St. Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai. Dr. Peterson recognized the image immediately, of course, and was happy to be able to have it in their home in Canada. When he and Tammy look upon it and pray before that Holy Face, we pray that it will remind them of their visit to St. Michael’s, and that through it, Our Lord will draw them closer to Himself.