Self-Guided Walking Tour of Saint Leo Abbey
Welcome, this brochure will highlight for you several areas of the Abbey that have perennial interest: the Church itself, the Grottos across State Road 52, and more. The Saint Leo University campus is to the East of the Church. Holy Name Monastery, the Benedictine Sisters, is on Wichers Road, just west on State Road 52. We hope you enjoy your visit and will remember the monks in your daily prayers. May God continue to bless you and yours.
This is the Order of the Benedictine Monks of Florida. The Benedictine Order was founded over 1500 years ago in Italy. The Saint Leo Abbey Church was consecrated in 1948. Saint Leo Abbey was founded in 1889 by Belmont Abbey, a community in North Carolina. This Abbey was founded by a group of monks from Saint Vincent’s Archabbey, Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 1889. The Abbey is named after Pope Leo XIII (440-461), and Abbot Leo Haid, OSB (Order of Saint Benedict), of Mary Help of Christians Abbey of Belmont, NC. Abbot Haid accepted responsibility for the fledgling Saint Leo community from Saint Vincent’s Archabbey.
~ Saint Leo ~
“Saint Leo was a fifth century Pope. He was the first Pope to hold the title of “Great,” Saint Leo, the Great. He devoted himself to keep his city and country safe against the invaders that continually tried to destroy not only the city but the church itself. It is from this protection that he worked continually to persevere the faith. To keep the Orthodox faith and it is thanks to him that we have the Church as we know it, in its integrity. Saint Leo University holds that name of Saint Leo in inspiration to keep knowledge and faith alive. We are a Benedictine institution that upholds orthodoxy.
Saint Leo was a man with love for God, first of all, second for his “people and the faith that he inherited from his predecessors. Finally, in his wisdom, Saint Leo tried hard to share the right doctrine with others, and a faithful way to inspire the Church and all its members. This is why it is an honor for us to be in a university that holds the name of such a great historical figure. Saint Leo, not a lion, was a man that stood strong against those who attacked the Church and the city that was loved by him. “ ~ Abbot Isaac Camacho, Homily, Feast of St Leo November 10, 2018
~ Saint Benedict ~
This patriarch of Western monasticism was born at Nursia, in central Italy, about 480. In his youth, seeing the corruption in the world, he left home to live a hermit’s life of penance and prayer in a cave in the mountain of Subiaco, near Rome, where he was instructed in Christian asceticism by Romanus, a Solitary of the vicinity.
Benedict’s reputation for sanctity gathered a large number of disciples around him, for whom he erected monasteries in which they lived a community life under a prescribed rule. In the year 529, he left Subiaco for Monte Cassino, and there founded the great Abbey which became the center of religious life in Europe.
The principles of the Rule written by Saint Benedict became the basis of religious life for all Western religious orders and congregations after his time. It shows the ways to religious perfection by the practice of self-conquest, mortification, humility, obedience, prayer, silence, retirement, and detachment from the world.
Saint (and Abbot) Benedict died March 21, 543 as he stood before the altar of Monte Cassino immediately after receiving Holy Communion. Benedict had a twin sister, Scholastica, who lived in a nearby Monastery. She presided over a monastery of nuns near Monte Cassino.
~ Saint Leo Abbey Church ~ The Entrance Doors ~
As you enter the Abbey Church, the carved doors were designed and built by Brother Paul. The Abbey was blessed to have Bishop Robert Lynch of the Diocese of Saint Petersburg bless our new doors during a visit to the monastic community in late 1997. Ora et Labora, prayer and work, the Rule of Benedict; the inside doors are a hand-carved depiction of Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica.
~ Crucifix ~
The first item of interest is the monumental crucifix on the North end of the sanctuary. The actual corpus, based on the image of our Savior, has been preserved for us on the burial shroud of Turin. It was carved by Tom Watson from Tennessee Rose Marble, and weighs over 21,000 pounds. Frank Aretz completed the whole unit, including the blue mosaic in 1947, the year before the Abbey Church was consecrated, which was in January, 1948.
~ Monastic Furniture ~
The church is set differently from a parish church because of the needs of the monastic community. The monks gather in the church to do the Opus Dei (Work of God), that is, chanting of the psalms, one of the most ancient traditions of the church and in the history of the Bible. The Jewish people also use the Psalms every day in order to pray to God. The monastic way of prayer is from one choir to the other. The psalms are designed to be said or chanted. The monks do this several times a day.
When entering the Church, you see rows of pews and the monastic choir stalls where the monks sit for praying the Divine Office four times a day. The choir stalls face each other as the monastic community believes we see Christ in each other each and every day. The Divine Office (Psalms chanted or recited) has an alternating rhythm between both sets of stalls.
Proclamation of the Word of God and the continuing Liturgy of the Eucharist are central to all Catholic Christians.
The monastic way in worshiping is to be fully attentive and this is achieved by prayerful standing. We hope and pray that you will respect our tradition.
~ Blessed Sacrament Chapel and Side Chapels ~
Facing the altar, the small chapel to the left is in honor of Our Lady and houses the tabernacle. The monks encourage visitors to stop and rest a while here and pray. This chapel receives decorations at the major feasts for Mary. The tabernacle is appropriately decorated depending upon the liturgical season of the year.
Opposite this chapel, on the far right of the altar, is the Saint Joseph Chapel. The adjacent door has a wall dedicated to one of the most important contributions of the Benedictine Order to the world, Lectio Divina. The monks, according to Saint Benedict, have to do Lectio Divina, Divine Reading, every day for almost 4 hours. This is the continual rumination of the word of God. We read, meditate, pray and contemplate. It is from this continual practice that the monks come to be familiar with the Sacred Scriptures and with God.
This wall is celebrating the four gospels: Matthew, the divine man, Mark, the winged lion, Luke, the winged ox, and John, the rising eagle. Note the quote over the arch of the exit door nearby, “Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way, the love of Christ must come before anything else.” RB (Rule of Benedict) 4:20 and 21. Abbot Isaac chose this quote from the Rule of Saint Benedict because that is the invitation that Christ makes to all of us, to be holy, to be different from the world’s way. Be holy, different, because God your Father is Holy.
On the left side of the church is the Saint Benedict Chapel with the appropriate stained glass scenes from the Life of Saint Benedict, our founder and author of the Rule of Lifethat governs our daily activities. This is summarized in our motto “Ora et Labora”, meaning, “Prayer and Work”.
While facing the main altar, the rear right side of the altar, behind the ambo, is a small chapel in the Northeast corner of the sanctuary through the wrought iron doors. These doors were designed and built by the one-armed Brother Christopher in the 1940’s. Back then, this chapel was designated as the Sick Chapel. The elderly or infirmed monks had mass there. They were taken care of by another monk when they were in the chapel.
Today, The Easter candles of previous years are stored here. The Easter Candle represents Christ. It is used for any baptisms and funerals. It is the symbol of our faith, the light that we are supposed to keep burning all throughout our lives, from baptism to the day we die. The community no longer has burials. The cremains of the monks are kept in this chapel. It is a beautiful place where the albs of the monks, waiting for prayers, and the cremains of the previous monks, join together in prayer from heaven.
In the nave of the church, the Side Altars, are dedicated to important saints of the Church ~ Saint Leo, Saint Boniface, Saint Scholastica, Saint Placidus and Saint Maurus, and our Lord, the Sacred Heart of Jesus. They are venerated on their respective feast days. The sandstone construction, as well as the trim on the exterior walls of the church, was imported from Saint Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana when the Church was being constructed from 1937-1948 in exchange for oranges grown by Saint Leo Abbey. Thus, the Abbey Church came to be known as “ the church that orange juice built.”
~ Stained Glass Windows ~
The stained glass windows are a famous feature of the Abbey Church. Those on the upper half of the Church were designed and installed by Brother Paul to replace the loose and broken, original windows. There are 16 windows of the saints that are the major founders or contributors to the more well-known religious orders of the world. The original windows were designed and installed by the Bavarian Mueller Studio of Zephyrhills when the church was originally constructed in the 1940’s. Most of the original windows remain.
~ The Cloister Walk/ Entrance to St Leo Hall ~
Outside of the church, along its east wall, is the Cloister Walk. Through the doors, down the hall, on your left is a large white board where you may leave a prayer request for the monks. Behind you is Abbot Isaac’s prayer (also on back cover). To your right is the hall to the lobby and visitors office. This is the 2nd floor of Saint Leo Hall; adult group retreats are held on the 3rd and 4th floors. There is also a women’s restroom down this hall on your left. Men’s restrooms are both up and down the stairs on your right.
~ The Father Damien Duquesnay, O.S.B., Garden ~
July 24,1918 – May 8, 2015. Father Damien was a Monk here for 73 years. He lived his life serving the people of God as a monk, priest, professor, chaplain and as a spiritual director to a great number of people. All who knew him recall his goodness and kindness. He made Saint Leo Abbey a place of peace and beauty with his presence and with his gardening skills. He lives in the hearts of many Benedictines and members of the Saint Leo community.
Because he touched so many lives and was well known to many alumni, members of the Abbey, and Sisters of the Holy Name, and many more, the monks decided to dedicate this Garden to him.
~ The Monastic Cemetery ~
From the Saint Leo University Library, follow the curved sidewalk toward the northeast, guided by signs, past the Saint Leo Student Union, and on your right, is the monastic cemetery.
~ The Gift Shop ~
Continuing the mission to receive guests as Christ, the Gift Shop serves the retreatants, guests, and the local members of the greater Saint Leo community. You will find a copy of the original 72 rules of Saint Benedict here and many reference books and gifts for your enjoyment.
The “Angel Door” was carved by Brother Paul and installed in September 1997. Nine different paintings by Brother Paul are available in the gift shop as prints or note cards. The Gift Shop is open Tuesday through Saturday 9-11 and 1:30-4; Sunday 11-11:45 AM and 1:30-4PM. Call 352-588-2606.
Our Facilities: The Guest House ~ Feeney Hall
The Carpenter Shop ~ The Greenhouse ~ The Youth retreat dormitories
The Guest House is open to anyone desiring a day or more here to retreat and find peace. Visit our website https://saintleoabbey.org/visit-guest-house/. To book, contact 352-588-8184.
The buildings are designated to the people who come to retreats. Some are for adults, others for youth; they are not open to the public.
The other buildings are meeting rooms, dormitories, lunch rooms and recreation rooms for all retreats.
~The Lourdes and Gethsemane Grottos~
Across State Route 52, next to the Golf Course, are the Abbey’s grottos, constructed in 1916-1917, from creek stones by Henry Moeller and others. There are walking paths to several meditative and historical spots.
Located at the head of the path that leads to the grottos is a Statue of the Risen Lord, donated by Father Vincent Crawford, OSB. At his feet are the names of the young members of Saint Leo University, who died during World War II and the Korean conflict.
The Grotto is dedicated to our Lady of Lourdes. It is here that the first Abbot, Charles Mohr, OSB (Order of Saint Benedict), 1902-1931 is buried. The path is marked with the Stations of the Cross, a Lenten prayer.
At the left of the gate of this Grotto, there is a plaque declaring Pope Pius XI, in February 1925, decreed this site for a plenary indulgence.The faithful who visit leave small notes and prayers folded and tucked into the stones. Feel free to join them and leave your intentions here as well.
The second grotto depicts Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. This grotto was a project of Abbot Francis in 1933 as a pilgrim site for prayer. Using natural stones, Florida coral, limestone and flint in its construction, it was designed by Father Lewis Feser and built by local men from San Antonio.
General Information about Monastic Life
~ Oblates Lay Community ~
A Benedictine oblate is a man or women from any Christian background who makes a promise to live a spiritual life patterned after the Rule of Saint Benedict as his or her life permits. Saint Leo Abbey has men and women oblates. Oblates do not live at the abbey. They wear regular clothes and often have a spouse and a job. Oblates are “admitted into spiritual affiliation with the monks so they may share in the spiritual life, prayers, and good works of the community.” Oblate information is in the rear of the church or ask in the gift shop. Oblate Sunday is the first Sunday of the month. You do not need to be an oblate to attend all classes. Oblate Sunday begins with 10:00 am Mass and includes the novice class, midday prayer with the monks, lunch with the monks, and the oblate class led by Abbot Isaac ending at 2:45 pm. Then is Coffee Talks, an informal discussion among oblates about the oblate life from 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm. Call 352-888-7755 to hear recorded information about the oblate program and how to become an oblate or contact Brother Giovanni (John Bakas) at 813-228-8015 or StLeoOblates@gmail.com. Visit the abbey’s website https://saintleoabbey.org/
~ Retreat ~ Groups or Private ~
Saint Leo Abbey is an oasis of hospitality in Florida. Schooled in The Rule of Saint Benedict, the monks welcome everyone who comes looking for retreat and spiritual refreshment. Many seek just a few minutes in the Abbey Church, or in the Grottos, whether with the monks in prayer or simply alone with the Lord. All are welcome.
- “A Day at the Abbey” is offered Monday through Saturday, from 9-3 with monk’s lectures, noon prayer and mass, lunch and walking tour. Contact 352-588-8184
- “Guest House” for private retreat, visit our website https://saintleoabbey.org/visit-guest-house/. To book, contact 352-588-8184 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- “Adult and youth group retreats” available for a day, a week or a weekend. Contact 352-588-8631.
Prayer Schedule as of June, 2019
Check website or board at the front of the Church for updates
Weekday: (Monday- Friday)
|7:00 AM||Morning Prayer|
|12:00||Mass and Midday Prayer combined|
|7:00 AM||Morning Prayer|
|Sunday and Solemnities|
As you join us, we ask that you follow the rhythm of the community. If there is a podium center of the front of the church with brochures stacked up, please take one so you can follow along.
Memorial bricks may be purchased in the Gift Shop; Forms are also available in the rear of the Church.
Donation box at the entrance of the church. Contact 352-588-8631 or 352-588-2606with questions.
You may include us in your last will and testament;please do it as follows: Order of Saint Benedict of Florida 33601 State Road 52, Post Office 2350 ,Saint Leo, FL 33574 If you prefer to Donate by using your credit card please call Brother James, Gift Shop manager, at 352-588-2606 or Abbey Business
Office Manager, at 352-588-8631
Saint Leo Abbey
PO Box 2350
Or, 33601 State Road 52, St Leo, Fl. 33574