Michael Komechak.jpegBenedictine culture is very interesting. I find this to be true for 2 reasons: after 1500 years of Benedictine monasticism a refined style of humanity and relationship with God is constitutive and monasteries have interesting people as monks and nuns. The famous Rule of Saint Benedict encourages the monk to praise and worship God through a proper ordering of life and interest. Few Benedictines I know are not proficient in works of culture (in the true meaning of the word) like music, vestment making, bee keeping, keeping the library, preparing good lessons for the classroom, cooking, music writing, preaching, study and the like.

The late Father Michael Komechak, a monk of Saint Procopius Abbey (Lisle, IL) did interesting things because he believed the Christ’s entering human history gave him the grace to be interested in life, divine and human, expressed in art. He and I would speak with some frequency when I worked as an editor in Chicago for LTP several years ago. Let me say at the outset that this reflection would be too precious to speak of a monk who would spend time collecting art, spending money that could be used for the poor, and could realistically seek to do other inspiring things for the Kingdom of God if I didn’t mention that it was recognizing Christ in the medium of art that made opened the human heart anew. Art has a distinct characteristic of being a point of communion with God and among peoples. Though Father Michael might not explicitly say that he met Christ and therefore he became absolutely interested in everything, but I think he would agree with the idea. The encounter with the Risen Lord gives rise to a deeper encounter with one’s humanity and culture, not the other way around. The Holy Spirit creates an affinity for something deeper than the superficial and art draws the soul deeper, a lot like gospel narrative of Zacchaeus or the narrative of the old man being born anew. Art charts man and woman’s path to Christ (eschatologically speaking), it a companion on a path to destiny.
Father Michael was engaged in the art world until his death on 30 August 2009 of cancer. After studies at the University of Notre Dame (my alma mater, too) Father Michael turned his interest to teaching and to projects at Benedictine University  which included collecting and curating art pieces; but the cataloguing of the collection was not done before Father Michael died, nor was his dream of a museum realized. The monk was responsible for the building of the new abbey for the monastic community under the guidance of then Abbot Daniel. Now some friends are trying to raise the $6 million it would take to build a proper space. Perhaps you could share in a Benedictine’s love of art so that God be glorified.
Susan Dibble’s article speaks of the renewed interest in bringing Father Michael’s work to completion.