Silently the new church instantly lit up. 

The assembled emitted a hushed, brief gasp at a moment meant to remind them that Christ, as Scripture says, is a “light to enlighten the nations.”  

The dramatic illumination, which followed the lighting of the altar, was among several time-honored traditions celebrated on Tuesday, May 4,  at the dedication of the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption at the new St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado Canyon. 

The long-awaited dedication, delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and two major fires in 2020, marked a cherished milestone after more than 15 years of planning, design and construction of the nearly $120 million St. Michael’s Abbey, a seminary and home to the Norbertine Fathers. 

Unstable land and a growing community of Norbertines forced the relocation of the abbey from its original location just nine miles away in Trabuco Canyon. Private donations made the new home possible, and ground was broken on March 18, 2018. 

“We are gathered here with joy to dedicate a new church by celebrating the Lord’s sacrifice,” Bishop Kevin Vann said at the start of the dedication in the courtyard of the 40-acre main complex, which includes a monastery, convent, administration building, and a cemetery with a chapel. The new abbey was designed by French architect Jean-Louis Pagès….

Although St. Michael’s Abbey is not a parish church, it will offer daily Mass to the public, in addition to eventually hosting retreats, providing adult educational opportunities, and serving as a regional center for music, history, culture, art, and literature. 

The 3 ½-hour dedication ceremony began outside the church with a procession on a sunny morning as bright-orange California poppies bloomed on land ringed by canyon ridges. 

Leading the procession was an icon of St. Norbert, commissioned by Abbot Rev. Eugene Hayes, that depicts St. Norbert in a central panel surrounded by 12 scenes from his life. It was followed by a Reliquary Ark, carried by five prelates, their red and gold silk damask copes gently rippling in the breeze, that contained sacred relics that later were placed inside the altar — including a portion of the rib of St. Norbert. 

Abbot Hayes delivered the homily during the dedication Mass inside the church, built in a Roman basilica architectural style with colorful and bright blown stained glass. The jewel of the art in the church will be a bright Venetian mosaic of stone, tile, and glass depicting our Lady of the Assumption (17 feet tall) on the Triumphal Arch, yet to be installed but projected onto the proscenium as an image for the dedication….

The above comes from a May 20 story by Greg Hardesty in the OC Catholic.