Sunday, December 23, 2012

Reflections of a recent Abbey graduate

A former Abbey student and good friend, Nathan Brown, reflects on his time at the college.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Queermont Abbey

In the fashion of the contemporary Abbey male debutante. White, homeschooled, upper-middle class. Neoconservative leaning monarchist. See, ultramontanist.  
For a conservative Catholic college in rural North Carolina, the Abbey attracts its fair share of homosexual students.

Most Abbey students and professors are wonderfully tolerant, open-minded people.

Nevertheless, the Abbey is bulwark of the conservative American Catholic powerhouse. It has a political mission, uses the media to its advantage, and grooms its students to enter into the “culture wars” on the Church’s side.

In my experience, gay students are either lucky enough to transfer, live a double life, or forever hide in the back of the sacristy closet – fleeing to the Traditional Latin Mass, archconservativism, and the religious life as a way to escape (and perhaps even change) their sexuality.

There are (obviously) no organizations or networks to support gay students, and it isn’t uncommon to be confronted on a daily basis with posters advertising polemical lectures about marriage, sexuality, and how the world is going to shit because of gays.

Of course, these are all aimed at preaching to the converted.

The real life of a gay student at Belmont Abbey is complex.

We go to a school were a sizeable number of students smoke pipe tobacco, drink hot tea, and attempt to live a retro-Catholic vogue in some kind of romantic Brideshead Revisited style.

If you want to fit in, get a bow tie, a chapel veil, and a copy of anything by Chesterton (no need to actually read it)

Attending a moral theology class, you learn you are “gravely disordered” and that the Church will never alter these teachings because they are “natural law”. No shock there, it’s a Catholic college. You get what you pay for.

You also learn, however, that “natural law” is pretty much whatever the most popular EWTN personality thinks it is.

An anonymous friend, raised in a strictly conservative Catholic home, regularly has his cellphone calls monitored by his parents.

Any male friends he grows close to are blocked from calling. They consider the Abbey a safe place to monitor their son’s “deviancy”.

And that’s probably true, because the Abbey reacts strongly against what it considers “unorthodox” student behavior.

Others are scared (without reason) that identifying as gay on campus could be grounds for some kind of expulsion. There are a few people, even couples, out here and there – but since I arrived at the Abbey they have made it clear that conformity is the most important hallmark.

Another friend informed me the first time he attempted to go to student counseling at the Abbey, he was told his homosexuality could be an issue and that it might be possible to change. From what I understand, that counselor is no longer at the college.

When several of my belongings were being confiscated last year, literature from the Charlotte Diocese Gay ministry was removed from my suite and never returned. Among these items was a rainbow flag, belonging to another friend.

Most gays (especially on the athletic teams) are content to hide, networking secretly online for “discreet” gay meet ups right in the Residence Halls.

Not exactly the most healthy environment, and definitely not the place to come if you have hopes of finding a loving, committed relationship.

Course, some of us ended up here and stayed. And there have been some good times. 

But if you’re looking for a school that encourages diversity and conversation, keep looking. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Gospel according to Memes

A couple reflections on life at Belmont Abbey -- the first is my take, the second is my suitemate's. Both pretty accurate ;).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Toasting the Abbey

Serving my time at the Abbey, I've met some pretty amazing people and made some pretty amazing memories.

I've watched with sadness the passing of several beloved members of the monastic community (RIP, Fr. Matthew) and the graduation of good friends.

The faces have all changed, save for the solemn-set gaze on the statue of St. Benedict -- beckoning new students to pray and work with one another.

Invited to become a Hintemeyer scholar in 2009, I entered a wild eyed, wet behind the ears freshman. I quickly fell in love with the Abbey. Now that I'm entering my senior year, I think about what kind of person I'll be when I leave.

Some of the differences between my arrival and my departure will have been obvious and life changing: I arrived as a Roman Catholic, I'm departing as an Anglican.

Other changes happen subtlety, and are often unnoticed. Grace moves, infusing its gifts into our very being, just as the hot days of a North Carolina Summer imperceptibly change to Fall.

Not only have I changed, but my perception of the Abbey has too. My fling began like an impassioned love affair, and it was a long time before I noticed the flaws and blemishes of my new lover.

I wonder for the class of 2016. I wonder if they will enter with the same naive idealism. I wonder if they will fall in love with the place, like I did.

The Abbey, too, has changed.

Newer, more conservative students swoop in to fill the ranks. More politics. More polemics. They're just realities you come to terms with.

My point, though, isn't to point out all the pockmarks. Rather, I propose a toast to new adventures and new adventurers.

Us old curmudgeons have been burned before, so excuse us if we grumble. We'd tell you to stay away from the stove, but it's probably better that you figure it out for yourself.

Ever new and ever the same, this year will also bring changes to Belmont Abbey. So crack open a cold one and enjoy, it's a special place.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Patrick's Day

As you can see from the video above, St. Patrick's Day was enjoyed very much in my neck of the woods. The Unstable provided all of us - lay students, seminarians, monks, priests, and guests of all ages - with the right mix of entertainment, food, and good company. There were $1 bottles of Smithwicks (a delicious ale made by Guinness) and enough cans of Guinness to reach the moon. Several kinds of cookies were available for free, and of course, the staff busied itself making sure everyone was taken care of with fresh pizza from the oven.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Catching up

We're around. I've been extremely busy this year and have neglected my blogging duties -- interning for the Catholic News Herald in Charlotte (which I've enjoyed, greatly).

Things at the Abbey are more or less the same, excepting the fact we're at the center of a major lawsuit that no one seems to really care about.

Hang around awhile and you'll see more updates here. The weather is getting warmer.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A New Ministry

Hello Again Back Pew!

I know I haven't posted in a while...a LONG while. I've missed you all greatly, but I have been quite busy with goings on at the Abbey.

I have been experiencing some pretty heinous life changes recently (not going into detail here), but I am trying to turn my sloppy sobbery into something good.

I am starting a ministry for the homeless! I have been crocheting like mad to distract myself and it occurred to me that there are people, lots in Charlotte, that could use a nice woolen scarf or hat on a cold winter's night.

I've contacted the local parish about partnering with their prayer shawl ministry and hope I get some yarn donations since my college pockets can't clothe the poor alone (much less me).

If any of you readers or fellow bloggers have any helpful ideas or would like to contribute please Email me at

Thank You and Pax Vobiscum!