By Jake Inman
Each year, the VAMPY Humanities class goes on multiple field trips to supplement the discussions that we have in class. These trips are to various places of worship and religious sites located nearby. Tuesday we went to St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana, one of the perennial favorites among the students. There we were able to give our campers a little glimpse into the lifestyle of Benedictine monks.
We were met by Brother Gene as soon as we arrived at the guest house this morning. He began our tour by fielding preliminary questions from the kids. With that initial curiosity sated, he led us out for our first glimpse of the gorgeous chapel. As we walked, he told us of the basics of his chosen lifestyle. Once inside the church, he explained to us some of the stories behind the artwork around the building. He showed us stained glass windows depicting the life and story of both St. Meinrad, the patron saint of the abbey, and St. Benedict, who wrote the rules that the monks follow daily. The highlight of the chapel is a beautiful triptych depicting the life of St. Meinrad that overhangs a relic of the church – a glass case containing a finger bone of St. Meinrad himself. Our next stop was the serene reflecting gardens located right outside the chapel. The students absolutely loved walking through the peaceful scenery. Our visit was cut short by the tolling bells signifying that the midday prayer was about to start. We rushed there and arrived just in time to participate. There, the kids were able to hear authentic Gregorian chants being recited. Our final major stop was at the shrine of Monte Cassino, a small building located a short drive away from the main abbey. This was the site of a hermitage that is credited for helping curb the tide of a smallpox outbreak in the area.
Our students seemed to truly enjoy this glimpse into a very different lifestyle than their own. They asked insightful questions, kept an open mind, and showed immense respect for the holy site and the people worshipping there. I have no doubt in my mind that they learned a lot and enjoyed the experience that they had today. Each day, this group of kids impresses me more and more. I can’t wait for next week’s field trip!