- Written by Father Blaine Schultz
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As guest master for many years, it has been instructive for me to observe and compare the differences and similarities of each house visited. One feature they all had in common was a warm, welcoming, friendly attitude.
Kathleen Norris, in Amazing Grace, writes that Benedictines often tell her, as did I, that they receive so much from their guests that they could never repay, and many guests feel the same way about the hospitality they receive.
Prior to 1959, visiting relatives of monks wanting to spend the night in Atchison had few choices of suitable housing since the abbey had no guest quarters. Most drove to St. Joseph, Mo. or Leavenworth, Ks.
That situation would change with the 1956 decision of the monastic chapter to build a guest house. A At the ground-breaking ceremonies for the guest house on October 28, 1957, two months after the blessing of the new Abbey church on August 11, Abbot Cuthbert McDonald told those present: "Every abbey needs a guest house."
He was, of course, recalling St. Benedict’s injunction in Chapter 53 of the Rule (On the Reception of Guests] that “guests are to be received as Christ."
At the blessing ceremony on May 28, 1959, Abbot Cuthbert said: "St. Benedict's Abbey can now follow the spirit of Chapter 53 of the Rule We can now show to our guests the kindness, charity, humility and hospitality which St. Benedict desired in his followers."
Physically, the guest house is two stories and measures 96' X 482 lt was designed by Barry Byrne & Parks, architects of the abbey Church. Nine guest rooms, each with twin beds and adjoining bath and a VIP suite occupy the second floor.
On the first floor are the switchboard, the abbey's business and development offices, three reception parlors and quarters for the porter, Brother Ioseph. In the basement is a large recreation area, a small kitchen and storage areas.
The guest house is rarely without guests.
While requests for rooms from monks expecting guests receive first consideration, when space is available, outsiders may also reserve rooms.
They include guests of Benedictine College, parents of BC students, small retreat groups and individuals on a private retreat.
Some stay only one night; others may stay up to five days. All may attend services with the monks and join the community for meals. Payment is by way of a free-will offering.
Last year, 871 guests were registered. Among the distinguished guests who have occupied the VIP suite are Abbot Primate Notker Wolf, O.S.B., Archbishop Joseph Naumann, Senator and Mrs. Robert Dole and Lou Holtz.