Sunday, February 28, 2010


Friends, I present to you the culmination of a bit of research on my part stemming from a conversation I had recently about archabbeys. I once learned that there were 5 archabbeys in the world, with St. Meinrad and St. Vincent being the two in the US. This was incorrect, as there are 11 in the world. I will recount the results, the sources, and a bit of the quest for this information.

To my knowledge, there does not exist a nice list anywhere, in English or otherwise, of the archabbeys in the world. Try searching google or wikipedia for archabbeys or the like and you won't find a nice list. I did however, come to find that there are indeed 11 in the world. St. Meinrad's website has a citation, claiming "There are only 11 archabbeys in the world, one other in the United States." This is repeated on the wikipedia entry on Indiana. This seemed to me to confirm that I had 11 to find.

I knew of a few, and decided the best way to get to this was to search for a parital list, to see if I could find a full list. I searched google for "pannonhalma beuron ottilien meinrad vincent", which were 5 I was able to find via looking through wikipedia. The only useful entry I found was a web forum in Italian. In case, at some point that link fails to work, I will post here the pertinent entry:
Originariamente scritto da Fidei Depositum Vedi messaggio
1) Sì. In tutto le arciabbazie sono 11 (secondo il sito dell'abbazia di san Meinrado): di queste conosco Montecassino, Pannonhalma (UNG), Beuron (GER), Emming(GER), San Meinrado (USA), San Vincenzo (USA), San Pietro a Salisburgo (AUT).
Se qualcuno mi sa dire quali manchino, ben venga.
Ringraziando Henry O'Shea e il sito, cui ho chiesto informazioni, posso fornirvi l'elenco completo delle 11 arciabbazie al mondo (ho completato aggiungendo ad ognuna il link al sito ufficiale):

1) Montecassino;
2) Monte Oliveto Maggiore;
3) Vallombrosa;
4) Arpino (monache)(non hanno sito web);
5) Beuron (DEU);
6) Sankt Ottilien (DEU);
7) Brevnov (CZE);
8) Pannonhalma (HUN);
9) Saint Vincent (USA);
10) Saint Meinrad (USA);
11) Sao Sebastiao em Salvador (BRA)(non hanno sito web).
So, I had a list. I knew some of these, but not all. I also was pointed to the Benedictine's central site, which has a nice search feature (called atlas). This however was not the end of my quest.

I decided that I must confirm that indeed each of these are Archabbeys, as I had my doubts (for instance about Montecassino). A confirmation, I decided, was some mention, on the internet, especially in something official (like their website) that it is an archabbey.

I will cut to the chase a little bit. I did not confirm this list completely, I was able to confirm 10 of the 11, and found another one, which makes 11. I will present them all below, with sources and such.

First, Montecassino in Italy. This one threw me for a loop, because none of the official websites refer to it as anything but the Abbey of Montecassino. A little bit of poking around, and I found a Vatican itinerary on the Holy See's website stating "Celebration of Vespers with the Benedictine Abbots and the Community of Benedictine Monks and Nuns gathered in the Archabbey of Montecassino." I call that confirmed.

Next, Monte Oliveto Maggiore, also in Italy, was another tough one. Their website, and that of the Benedictines didn't refer to it as an archabbey. But, I did find a letter of Pope John Paul II to the Olivetian Benedictines, which says: " united to the Archabbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore that they form a single family by a juridical bond..." If it's good enough for the Pope, then it is good enough for me.

I was unable to confirm #3 on the list, Vallombrosa, but I did confirm #4 Arpino. This was the hardest of all, because searching for Arpino in the website of the Benedictines didn't yield a result. In a sense, the confirmation was easy, searching Google for "Arpino archabbey" yielded the 2006 charitable giving of the Knights of Columbus: "Benedictine Archabbey of Arpino, Romania — New monastery". By having the Benedictine website list all the territorial abbeys, one can find the listing for Arpino. That gives you at least a little bit about it, and thanks to the crack record keeping of the Knights, we know it to be an archabbey of nuns.

Beuron archabbey in Germany is one of the few archabbeys with the word "archabbey" in the wikipedia page. Likewise, their website lists them as an archabbey (erzabtei in German).

Saint Ottilien, also in Germany, is also listed as an "Erzabtei" on the OSB website.

Brevnov, located in the Czech Republic, is listed as a "Benediktinske arciopatstvi" which would seem to be Czech for Benedictine archabbey. A quick glance at their website's German version also confirms that it is an erzabtei, or archabbey.

I add in, now, St. Peter's in Salzburg, Austria, another confirmed case of "Erzabtei" thanks to the OSB website.

Pannonhalma, Hungary, is one of the oldest abbeys in the world. Hungarian is a much different beast of a language, but luckily, they have an English version of their homepage, with a note signed "Archabbot Asztrik Várszegi".

St. Vincent in Latrobe and St. Meinrad in Indiana, both proudly call themselves archabbeys.

Which leaves us with the last of our list, being called "Sao Sebastiao em Salvado" in Brazil by the list we had. Though I know no Portuguese, I can gather that this is St. Sebastian in Salvador (Bahia) Brazil. The wikipedia entry for the archdiocese mentions "Basílica Arquiabacial de São Sebastião (first benedictine monastery in the New World)" as a notable Church. Google translate luckily tells me that "arqui abacial" would translate "arch abbey". Additionally, their entry in the OSB atlas gives an email address for the abbey as "", and again, google translate tells me that this would be archabbot Emanuel. Looking at their website, they would seem to best be called the Monestary of St. Benedict at the Archabbey of St. Sebastion. Their site further seems to indicate that they were raised to the status of archabbey in 1982.

That is 11. Assuming there are indeed only 11 archabbeys in the world, this is therefore a complete list. I repeat now, the list:

1) Montecassino; Italy
2) Monte Oliveto Maggiore; Italy
3) Arpino (nuns); Italy
4) Beuron; Germany
5) St. Ottilien; Germany
6) Brevnov; Czech Republic
7) St. Peter; Austria
8) Pannonhalma; Hungary
9) Saint Vincent; USA
10) Saint Meinrad; USA
11) St. Sebastion; Brazil

[EDIT: The list of Territorial Abbeys is incomplete, and as such I have removed it. If you are interested the Wikipedia entry on territorial abbeys might be a useful starting point. I will note that though I can't exactly confirm the list, because I don't know if I can put an actual limit on the number of Archabbeys, it seems reasonable. (Actually Catholic Hierarchy and OSB international disagree on the list of territorial abbeys, that is, the OSB site doesn't list Einsiedeln, Subiaco, or Tokwon.) I might buy the Catholic Heirarchy list of male territorial abbeys, but the Wikipedia list leaves out Arpino and Isola San Giulio, which are abbeys of Nuns, so though independent of a local ordinary, they they might not have territorial control over parishes, for instance.]

There you have it, a (possibly) complete list, in English, of all the archabbeys in the world.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Design Argument

Today, I attended a lecture sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Culture by Stephen M. Barr, entitled The Argument from Design for the Existence of God and the Laws of Physics. He also wrote the book Modern Physics and Ancient Faith and writes occasionally for the Journal First Things. I was turned on to his writing by my Pastor (who also attended the lecture) and have started reading his book.

He started his talk by contrasting his views with the intelligent design view. He had recently wrote an article on the First Things internet site critiquing the Intelligent Design position. The idea is that intelligent design and atheism both see God and science an in competition. Intelligent Design relies on arguments from biology, whereas the Bible and early Christian writers (of which he quoted maybe 6) focused on astronomy and natural order, rather than on biological arguments. The idea is that order in the universe implies a lawgiver. Also, he pointed out that monotheism really ends in an expectation of a natural order, and that Judeo-Christian views have been positive to a scientific explanation of the world.

He then went on to define the three different types of design argument for the existence of God. The three were Cosmic, Biological, and Providential. The Cosmic argument relies on the beauty, order, and structure of the universe to argue for a creator. The Biological relies on bio-complexity. The providential is a midpoint between them. It sees order in the world as moving toward the "good" of creation. It sees and argues from a purpose in the universe and relies heavily on the anthropic principle. Both the cosmic and the biological can be weakened by arguments from atheists relying on simple Darwinism.

The rest of the talk focused on the "Cosmic" argument for the existence of God. Essentially the cosmic view sees the mathematical beauty of the physical world to point toward a creator. The theist would say that seeing an arrangement implies an arranger, aka God. The Law, that is the physical law, does not explain the necessity of the Law. It just is. Consider walking into a room, and seeing a room with a neat arrangement of chairs. Would you assume the arrangement occurred spontaneously or was deigned by some intelligence? The chairs follow a "law" but that is not a necessary law (they could have followed some other law/had some other arrangement). Some laws, however, are necessary; the fundamental laws of mathematics (1+1=2) and logic (a statement cannot be both true and false) are both examples.

The postulate was put forward that order cannot emerge if order is not already extant. If a bunch of hard spheres (marbles, for instance) are put in a box, they will settle into a hexagonal close packing arrangement. This arrangement has less symmetry than an individual sphere. Thus, order at higher levels, which we observe (think, crystals) emerge from even stronger order at deeper levels. All of this comes down from the symmetries we observe in nature, which drive the development of modern fundamental physical laws.

He concluded by critiquing Richard Dawkins. The argument of Dawkins and his ilk is that order builds up from disorder, a bottom up approach. This, Prof. Barr claims, is an illusion (rather than a delusion) which comes from a superficial understanding of science. A simplistic understanding of Science, as a zoologist might have, might think that this is the way the world works. Physics claims that lower order, which we observe, stems from a higher symmetry principle, which may or may not be part of our direct experience.

I was impressed. I have enjoyed the things I have read by Prof. Barr, and this talk beat expectations. I don't need a Cosmic design argument for the existence of God; I am a believer. Even ontological arguments, like that of Anselm, I don't need, but it is at least an idea which can be used to defend the reasonableness of the Theistic position. I look forward to finishing his book.

The above was taken mostly from my notes, but I have been reflecting on this and have a couple more thoughts to add. Professor Barr is a Physicist, this is important to remember. With this in mind, think about what a tough job he has. As a believer, he might be in the minority in his field. At the very least, the most vocal physicists in the question of Faith are the nonbelievers. Then, when he gives talks like this, as the Q&A session bore out, he will be attacked, or at least challenged/questioned on his philosophical and/or theological grounds. He's not a philosopher, nor is he a theologian, so to respond to those points will often be unfulfilling to those groups. He's not alone, but he is almost alone.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

February Intentions

I'm excited about the Pope's general prayer intentions for the month of February, because he's praying for me:
That by means of sincere search for the truth scholars and intellectuals may arrive at an understanding of the one true God.
I like it!