EWTN is giving the faithful a tour of the Norbertines’ brand new $120 million St. Michael’s Abbey, in Orange County, California, a beautiful new home for the order as well as seminarians studying for priesthood. In a video just under five minutes long, EWTN makes a strong case for vocations with dazzling views of the grounds and the magnificent Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, all supported by encouraging testimonies from several of the abbey’s priests.
The video opens up with the stereotypical sights of beaches, palm trees, and tourist traps that come to mind when thinking of California, which are juxtaposed nicely with shots of a Mass procession at the secluded abbey. The change of setting is accompanied by a musical shift to monastic chanting, which sets the tone for the beautiful shots of the church’s interior. These cinematic glimpses illustrate the words of Fr. Ambrose Criste, who explains:
“It’s sort of the perfect distance between the busyness of the city, where we need to be doing our apostolic work, and the quiet of the desert, where we need to find Jesus in contemplation,” said Father Ambrose Criste, a priest at the abbey, speaking to EWTN Correspondent Colm Flynn in an interview for EWTN News In Depth.
St. Michael’s Abbey is currently the newest Catholic abbey in the world, opened in 2021. The order originally came to America in 1961, when seven Hungarian priests brought it with them when they fled Communism to settle in California. For decades the Norbertines educated boys in their nationally-renown St. Michael’s Preparatory School, as well as future priests in their seminary.
The high school was unfortunately forced to shut down when they moved to the new abbey, but they continue to educate seminarians, with a current class of around 40 and more waiting for admission. This is no small feat in a time when vocations in the US are dwindling, but Fr. Criste explains how the Norbertines and the abbey have been drawing them in by the dozen:
“I don’t think it’s rocket science. We say our prayers, we wear our religious habit, we live according to the charism of our order and the traditions of our order and we’ve never really given any of that up. And so that’s why young people want to come and be a part of it.”
The interview turns next to Father Chrysostom Baer, who has been with the order for more than 30 years. As the camera captures the opulence of the grand mosaic above the altar, Father Baer commented:
“It’s filled with the Catholic truth and the solemn celebration of the liturgy. It’s a place to work out your salvation, to grow in virtue, to overcome your vices, and help lead people to heaven.”
The beauty of St. Michael’s Abbey and the faithful sentiments of its priests are downright gorgeous in their own right, but possibly more striking are the youthful appearances of the priests. Each one has a full head of gray hair with almost boyish faces showing barely a crack or wrinkle. Maybe there’s something about a life of prayer and chant that keeps one youthful.
Learn more about St. Michael’s Abbey and the Norbertine order at their official website.