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Monks invite visitors to celebrate Benedictine values, enjoy local food, drink, and lawn games.

COURTESY PHOTO: MOUNT ANGEL ABBEY - Brother Anselm Flores, Order of St. Benedict, challenges all-comers to lawn jenga at last summer's St. Benedict Festival. This year, the festival is on July 7 at Mount Angel Abbey, home to a monastic community of more than 50 Benedictine monks.Mount Angel Abbey is hosting its fourth annual St. Benedict Festival July 7. The festival is a celebration of the Benedictine way of life and an opportunity for visitors and friends to share an afternoon with the monks.

This year's theme is pilgrimage, inspired partly by the abbey itself, according to Mount Angel Abbey communications manager Theresa Myers. The abbey's location on a hilltop in the middle of the Willamette Valley makes traveling to it a bit of a pilgrimage, Myers said.

"There are beautiful vistas up here and cool breezes in the heat of summer," she said. "There are quiet spots to sit and reflect, and families like to come up and have picnics."

The other inspiration was the idea of life as a pilgrimage, and especially the monastic life.

"We are all really striving toward a better life, and in a monastic life their whole lives are about journeying toward an eternal peace," Myers said.

The monks of Mount Angel Abbey will share a bountiful picnic lunch prepared with local ingredients, influenced by the flavors a traveler would savor near great pilgrimage sites. Think of the foods found in destinations like Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, in Jerusalem, or in Rome, Italy.

"It's a unique opportunity to spend an afternoon at a Benedictine monastery, interacting with the monks," said Father Pius X Harding, the Abbey's guest master, in a press release. "The festival begins and ends with prayer, because that's an important value in our life." Hospitality is a primary value for the monks, in line with the teachings of St. Benedict, their sixth-century founder.

This festival celebrates "the Abbey's rootedness in the Willamette Valley and the greater community," Harding said in the release. "The long-term partnerships we enjoy with local farms and ranches will come together with Bon Appetit chefs to produce flavors to enjoy all afternoon."

The Abbey's own Benedictine Brewery will pour several of Father Martin Grassel's favorite recipes, including an Oktoberfest lager, a hefeweizen and a Belgium tripel. For those who prefer, Willamette Valley wineries will serve their great vintages as well.

Visitors can join in noon prayer and vespers at the Abbey Church, challenge a monk to a lawn game like bocce or jenga, listen to monks share stories of their personal pilgrimage to the priesthood and the Benedictine way of life, stroll through the Abbey's museum with relics and local historical items, peruse the Abbey's famous library, designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, and view the quiet Abbey cemetery, the resting place for some 170 monks who have served at Mount Angel through its century-plus history.

In addition to praying, eating and conversing with the monks, guests at the festival can bid on silent auction items, visit the Monks' Experience booth and see a working scriptorium and learn to make rosaries, or purchase a variety of curios and curiosities from the "Abbot's Attic." Proceeds will support the Abbey's library, guesthouse and monastery.

The festival starts at noon and lasts until about 4:30 p.m. Saturday, July 7.Tickets for the adults-only (21-plus) event are $50 per person. A ticket covers all activities, lunch and snacks, and two glasses of beer or wine. Tickets are available at mountangelabbey.org/saint-benedict-festival, or can be requested through mail. Send a check (note the quantity of tickets) to: Abbey Foundation of Oregon, P.O. Box 497, St. Benedict, OR 97373.

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