Abbot Marc Crilly

St Benedict Abbey

The third of eleven children, Abbot Marc Crilly was raised in a devout and lively family in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. He began visiting the Abbey while a student at Indian Hills High School. Even though the whole family would visit the Abbey while on vacation, they were disappointed when they brought fewer than five or ten friends along as well. After finishing high school in 1976, he decided to join the community. Professing monastic vows on September 8, 1981, he completed his college education at the Abbey, and then completed his studies for the priesthood at St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, Mass. Fr. Marc was ordained to the priesthood on May 29, 1993.

Over the years, Fr. Marc has been assistant to Fr. Anthony at the barn (when the Abbey had 120 dairy cows). He was also handy in the kitchen but his main work has been Music Director, teacher and Novice Master

On May 15, 2021, Fr. Marc was elected as Abbot Marc. He succeeded Abbot Xavier Connelly, who was elected in June 2010 and resigned in March, 2021, because of illness. Abbot Xavier passed away April 8, 2021.

On August 15, 2021, Bishop McManus, Bishop of the Diocese of Worcester officially blessed him in St. John’s Church in Clinton, Massachusetts where some 650 friends of the abbey gathered for the celebration.

Bishop McManus was main celebrant of the Novus Ordo Mass, a Latin Mass like the monks celebrate at the abbey, which while prayed in Latin is similar to the English Mass many Catholics are familiar with.

“The Church is structured around the successors of the apostles – the bishops,” he said. The bishop, representing his diocese, recognizes the authority of an abbot, who is not directly under his authority but heads a community in the diocese. And “the abbot and the community recognize the role the bishop has in that central structure of the Church, and therefore they ask for the bishop to bless what they’re doing,” Abbot Crilly said.  “It shows the important relationship that every monastery has to the universal Church,” Abbot Crilly said.

In a prepared talk for the Abbatial Blessing Mass, that he shortened because of the heat, Abbot Crilly said they used St. John’s Church, rather than the abbey, because of the number of people attending. In addition, he wrote: “We realized that this is not just an abbey event, but a Church event,” presided over by the diocese’s bishop.

“Today’s ceremony is about monastic life … a life of seeking God in a community of godly men … in the dignity of liturgical worship … in the daily living out of our vows. But it is also about seeking God in a place.” That place is their community – and the diocese.

Abbot Crilly said their main charism, as members of the Benedictine Order, is to make their liturgical prayer beautiful, and to give that to God. Those prayers are primarily Mass and Liturgy of the Hours, mostly in Latin.

“Our main prayer is done in common with others, so we’re praising God all together with one voice … together as a manifestation of the Body of Christ,” he said.

His coat of arms bears a winged lion for St. Mark, whose Gospel calls Christ “Son of Mary,” and a Benedictine cross combined with a Marian cross. A poppy in the cross’ center symbolizes joy.

Abbot Crilly said he chose his motto – “Caritas congaudet veritati” (“Charity rejoices in the truth,” from 1 Cor. 13:6) – because “I want to foster joy in the community … a joy that comes from knowing the truth and living the truth.”

Asked how he hopes to do that, he said, “I think that … to have joy is to live the truth, which for a monk would be to live the life well. Sanctity is found in the little things” one does.

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