MELLERAY ABBEY. Within the borders of Iowa has existed for eighty years a
community of the Trappist Monks, whose good works, whose austere and simple
life, have been celebrated in literature and history for centuries. The Trappist
Monks, now known as Reformed Cisterians of the Strict Observance, follow the
rule of St. Benedict and devote themselves to the esthetic or contemplative
life, in which prayer is the principal occupation, mingled with manual labor.
The Trappists are also committed to the practice of silence, except as speech is
necessary, and in their community life no general conversation is permitted.
However, many of the stories regarding the Trappists are erroneous. They lead a
cheerful, wholesome life, refraining from meat, but otherwise having a wholesome
dietary, ample periods of sleep, and, as has been officially stated, their life
is so tempered by thousands of peoples of both sexes, age and condition. The
Trappist has better health and a longer life than the generality of mankind.
The home of the Trappist Monks in Iowa is known as the New
Melleray Abbey, located at Peosta, about twelve miles from Dubuque. When, on
October 28, 1928, the new public chapel and guest house was dedicated,
Archbishop James J. Keane in the course of his address described the founding of
the community in a few brief sentences. "In 1849," he said, "when
these great stretches of fertile land were little more than a wilderness,
fifteen members of the Cisterian community of Mt. Melleray in Ireland embarked
at Liverpool for Dubuque, then an outpost of civilization. They would, like
Jacob, raise a 'holy place' in the wilderness. They landed at New Orleans on the
forty-ninth day out, and after a brief rest, took passage on a river boat for
the north. Scarcely had the boat weighed anchor when cholera broke out among the
passengers and within a week claimed six of the band, already weakened by the
sufferings and privations of the voyage. They were buried with all possible
reverence on the banks of the river.
"The survivors reached Dubuque in December, 1849. They
had a second baptism of suffering during the winter which had already set in and
was to try their spirit in the make-shift home, the best that could be offered
them. In the spring they set to work to erect the temporary buildings which
enabled them to lead the regular monastic life until 1875, when the stately
monastic buildings then, and even now as much admired, replaced the old frame
"The monks brought with them the traditions and the
spirit of a great institution- that of monasticism to which St. Benedict in the
early part of the sixth century gave form and life and undying energy.
"These traditions were revived and that spirit was
renewed by the great reformers of monasticism, St. Robert De Rance and St.
Bernard. Those who have looked into the history of the Church know something of
the great service rendered to Christian religion and civilization by the monks.
"The purpose of the guest house in this, as in other
Trappist monasteries, is to provide accommodation for gentlemen, lay and cleric,
who may desire to come aside for a little while from the pressure of business,
home and social duties to attend to life's greatest interest-their immortal
souls. This house of retreat has been long looked for, longed for, and very many
rejoice in this morning that it is now equipped for the splendid service for
which it was erected.
"This public chapel will afford opportunity for
those who desire to attend the monastic services so solemn and so inspiring. The
community is today too limited in number, but we have every confidence that New
Melleray will now draw large numbers of young men to that service of God in
which it is engaged.
"I am authorized to say that the guest house is now open
to receive those who may desire to spend some days in quiet recollection and
prayer, and that the good prior and his associates will meet with as cordial a
welcome those who may wish to join them as the saintly bishop of pioneer days
extended to the first members who laid the foundation of this home of peace,
this shrine of spiritual life."