Arms and the Monk – Our Current Refectory Book



In July, the monks of New Melleray will celebrate the 170th anniversary of our monastery, and have been talking together concerning how best to mark this unique moment in our history.  By way of preparation, our current refectory reading is “Arms and the Monk: The Trappist Saga in Mid-America” by M.M. Hoffman.  Each day at mid-day meal the monks listen to the “saga’ prompted by the great famine in Ireland in the middle of the 19th century.  Abbot Bruno, of Mount Melleray Abbey, concerned about the future of his community amidst the ravaging effects of the famine, undertook to make a new foundation in America which led him, ultimately, to the current site of our monastery outside of Dubuque Iowa.  It is a story of remarkable faith and courage, which recounts many fascinating details and distinctive human personalities and most of all, the mysterious will of God unfolding in events.  The foundation would eventually cost several monks their lives as they succumbed to cholera on the voyage across the Atlantic to begin the foundation.  Listening to the book read, brothers have commented how different is the world we live in today and how different the challenges that face us.  Having recalled the story of our foundation, we are better disposed to celebrate our anniversary with gratitude and a quiet sense of wonder at God’s working in human hearts and events.