Earlier in the Spring, I devoted several blogs to explaining the procedures for an abbatial election. Within three months of the election (June 4), the blessing of the new abbot should take place (alright, we’ll miss it by a few days). I have been remiss in not blogging more explanatory material about the upcoming blessing (September 10), an extraordinary event in the life of our community. However, below you will find a brief overview of the blessing ceremony. The ceremony will be webcast live at the College’s website, www.anselm.edu.
The blessing of an abbot is a rare though not unique event in the life of a monastery and the local church. The blessing of Abbot Mark Cooper on Monday, September 10 will be but the fifth blessing in the history of Saint Anselm’s, the first since 1986. Abbot Mark was elected on June 4, and has had the full authority of an abbot since he was elected and confirmed that morning. The ritual for the blessing of the abbot will not confer any new authority upon him. Rather it is an opportunity for the monastic community and its new abbot to gather with the diocesan bishop, who is the head of the local church, and the faithful of the wider community and pray for God’s blessing.
The celebration of the blessing typically occurs in the context of Mass. While the local Bishop, the Most Reverend Peter Libasci, will preside, the principal celebrant of the Mass will be Bishop Joseph Gerry, OSB, former Abbot of Saint Anselm Abbey, and the uncle of the new abbot. Before the blessing is conferred by Bishop Joseph, the bishop will ascertain that the new abbot has been duly elected, and then question the abbot as to his willingness and suitability for the task. Calling upon the help of various saints in the litany, the bishop will then impart the blessing. Abbot Mark will then receive a copy of the Rule of Saint Benedict, a signet ring, a miter, and a staff. The rule and the staff are the most ancient signs of the abbot’s authority, but the church has for centuries permitted abbots to use the pontifical insignia of a ring and a miter. Following the blessing and the presentation of the pontifical insignia, Abbot Mark will receive the kiss of peace from the bishops and abbots present, as well as the members of the monastic community.