Posts Tagged ‘St. Leo Abbey’


Thursday, March 21st, 2013
Father Hoge

Father Hoge. Photo courtesy St. Leo University.

Word has come to me through St. Leo University that God called Father James C. Hoge, O.S.B. to Himself last Saturday afternoon. Father Hoge was 96 years old and had been professed with the Benedictine community of St. Leo Abbey since 1938. Had he lived long enough to come to next Tuesday’s Chrism Mass I would have honored him on the occasion of his 70th anniversary of his priestly ordination. What makes Father Hoge so unique in our diocesan history was his service to this local Church in its northern counties (Pasco, Hernando and Citus). Instrumental in the establishment and founding of all six parishes in Citrus country, he became known and beloved by almost all Catholics living in our northernmost county. He also was instrumental in pushing for the establishment of Pope John Paul II elementary school which began its life as “Citrus County Catholic Elementary School.”

St. Benedict, in founding the religious community which bears his name, told his monks in their “way of life” that two things were absolutely essential: “ora et labora” or “Prayer and work.” Tireless in spreading the Gospel in the church, first as a teacher at St. Leo Prep School in Pasco County, and then for many years as a parish priest and pastor, this man was truly a builder. He was a model of Benedict’s view of the perfect monk, working hard and praying harder. It was painful for him when retirement finally came and he did not take to it well. Ever ready to help out in parishes on weekends, especially in those he founded and where he left such great friends, returning to the routine of monastery life was hard for him.

So many people were the beneficiaries of his priestly presence, diocesan priests, religious women, lay men and women, children. He was there for them all. To be cut off from his pastoral life-blood was very hard and he suffered physically and emotionally in his final years. I, too, dread the time when my medical-surrogate, a long time priest friend, comes and says to me , “Bob, I need the car keys.” I hope I will be more at peace in that moment than dear Father Hoge was for most of the time it is a moment of “tough love” of those who care for us in our old age. When he was a the “top of his game” the priesthood was very much in vogue for Father Hoge and he gave it his all, and wished to do so until his last breath.

In addition to being a great pastor of souls, Father Hoge was born in Charleston, West Virginia, as I was, and he loved railroads, as I do. He would bring me books about the railroads of west central Florida, where they went and what they carried. It was great fun for me when I first came to the diocese to learn the history of the “northern exposure” of the Church of St. Petersburg. What he did not share with me, Monsignor George Cummings did, and he would have been sitting right next to Father Jim next Tuesday at the Chrism Mass. See, Monsignor George will be ninety-five this year and will observe very quietly he has warned me, his seventieth anniversary of priestly ordination. These men were truly priestly pioneers, giants of their time, and devoted evangelizers of the Gospel. Father Jim, rest in peace, dear friend, with Benedict and his sister Scholastica, with your parents, the five abbots of St. Leo whom you knew and under whom you served and your many deceased Benedictine brothers. We send our prayers and sentiments of sympathy to the monks of St. Leo Abbey and the Sisters of Holy Name Monastery and members of your family on the occasion of this significant loss.

When Hoge was in vogue, the faith was alive and the love of Christ abounded.

NOTE ADDED 3/22: I will be celebrating a Memorial Mass for Father Hoge at 6:00PM on Wednesday, March 27, 2013, at St. Scholastica Parish in Lecanto. All are invited to attend.



Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

The Abbey Church at St. Leo Monastery

Last Sunday night I celebrated the student liturgy at St. Leo University and confirmed six of their members and offered First Eucharist to one. First let me begin by saying that it was a lovely liturgy and they had a roughly ten person choir who provided very appropriate and beautiful music for the liturgy. Father Stephan Brown, S.V.D. is in charge of Campus Ministry and invited me to be with his community. Normally I do not ever confirm during Lent but I made an exception this time at Father Brown’s request since Easter falls so late and there are only ten days of sch0ol left at St. Leo after the Easter break.

The liturgy on Sunday night took place in the Abbey Church although it usually occurs in a room at the student union. I suspect that St. Leo had a large share of students who go home on week-ends because they live so close to the University. Attendance of students at this liturgy was not large and the fact that Sunday Eucharist is celebrated in the Board Room of the student union indicates the challenges inherent in a campus ministry program for a school such as this.

St. Leo University has grown significantly in the last twenty-five years, for the first ten or eleven under the leadership of Monsignor Frank Mouch and for the last thirteen under the current president, Dr. Arthur Kirk, Jr. While its residential program on campus numbers about 2000 traditional four-year students, its outreach through distance learning and programs on military bases makes St. Leo about the fifteenth or sixteenth largest Catholic university in the nation.

I know a lot of graduates of our high schools who attend St. Leo and love it. They are certain that they are getting a first rate education for life after college and the graduates students are grateful for for the opportunities afforded them as well. It’s local, it’s Catholic, it’s educationally sound. – all good things. Soon they will dedicate a new building housing the School of Business and the campus has experienced such growth that it is impossible for me to locate a single picture which does the whole justice. St. Leo Prep which preceded St. Leo College which preceded St. Leo University was for many years an apostolic work of the Benedictine monks of St. Leo Abbey. A number of years ago the title and ownership of the college was turned over to basically a lay board of trustees who have taken bold ownership while still remaining committed to the Benedictine spirit and tradition of ora et labora, or “prayer and work.” Another part of the Benedictine spirit from their founder is that of hospitality and it was certainly in evidence on Sunday night. Congratulations to the confirmandi, to the campus ministry and peer ministry program and to all who keep the light of Saint Benedict and his sister Saint Scholastica alive.



Friday, June 18th, 2010

A thoughtful reader of the previous entry reminded me quite appropriately that another distinction between diocesan and religious priests is that the former do not take vows but rather promise obedience at ordination to their bishop and his successor but the latter take vows of obedience and poverty and chastity. Since diocesans promise celibacy as well, the vow of poverty becomes a distinguishing characteristic. There is a distinction without a difference, however, between a promise and a vow. I thank the reader for reminding me of this distinction.

Last week a bishop friend of mine and I had the opportunity to visit the Trappist Monastery of St. Benedict which is located in the community of Snowmass, Colorado, about twenty miles outside of Aspen. I had always heard that the monastery was built in one of the most beautiful spots in the United States and that certainly is the case. The Trappists basically own a valley.

St. Benedict's Monastery, Snowmass, Colorado

There are about twenty monks in the present community who rise early in the morning to pray and retire to bed early in the evening so that they can rise again early in the morning. I sometimes am asked, what is a monastery and what is a cloistered community and what is a contemplative community, so in this blog I will try to tackle all three questions. A monastery is home to a group of men, usually lay brothers and a few priests, who pray the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours at the appropriate times throughout the day and celebrate liturgy daily. When not praying, the monks are usually working with some time built into their lives for rest or reading.

The Snowmass Trappists work a large agricultural field and make and sell jelly to support themselves. If the monks seldom leave the confines of the monastery building itself or the grounds, then they are “cloistered.” There was a time when one or two monks would be chosen by the community and only they could speak to outsiders, the monks could never or very rarely leave the cloister, even to visit their natural families, and they remained silent throughout the day. These extremes of the life have now given way to a little more contact with outsiders and/or visitors and there are fewer and fewer monasteries where absolute silence except for prayer remains the rule. However, even today some monasteries still maintain a relatively strict cloister into which only the members are allowed inside. That seemed the case at Snowmass as there were signs everywhere asking that one not enter the cloister or private confines of the monks.

A "hermitage" at the Trappist Monastery at Snowmass

The Trappists are one expression of monastic life and their monasteries and Abbeys throughout the country often contain retreat quarters for individuals wishing to make a silent retreat. Snowmass also has hermitages (very small one-room houses away from everyone else) if you really want to be alone. The monks provide spiritual direction to the retreatants who are invited to attend the recitation of the Office and Eucharist but the visitors sleep, eat and pray in a different place throughout the day if they choose to do so. It was at the famous Trappist monastery at Gethsemani in Kentucky that Father Thomas Merton lived, prayed and wrote. If you would like to experience what a retreat is like in a Trappist monastic setting, the abbeys at Conyers, Georgia and Mepkin, South Carolina welcome retreatants for private, directed retreats. Food is basic. No one starves.

The Benedictine Monastery of St. Leo Abbey just outside of San Antonio in Pasco county welcomes retreat groups.

So that answers the question of what is a cloister and a monastic community. There is one more iteration which deserves mention here and that is what is a “contemplative” order. Traditionally a “contemplative” order is one whose primary charism is prayer, non-stop prayer allowing the member time to contemplate, for example, on the life and death of the Lord. They often have as their apostolic work praying for others, an obligation they take seriously. Time is spent in the presence of the exposed Blessed Sacrament. These strict communities are dying in the United States but almost every monastic community provides as a part of their daily life periods of prayer and contemplation. So remnants remain today of the contemplative life.

There are priests and brothers who live in monasteries and whose life is spent in work and prayer. Those were the two foundational elements of St. Benedict, ora et labora, in Latin meaning “prayer and work.” I hope this has been somewhat interesting to the reader and if I have not exhausted a possible treatise on religious life, I can assure you I have exhausted my personal knowledge of the topic.



Thursday, February 18th, 2010

I mentioned that I would post the homily at the funeral Mass for Sister Germaine Bevans, OSB, Vicar for Religious for the Diocese of St. Petersburg. She was buried from the Abbey Church of St. Leo Benedictine Monastery with a full Church and in the presence of her family from Belize and elsewhere. I think you will be able to tell that I will miss her even though in both my heart and mind I know she is in a better place. For the homily, please click here.