Abbot Gregory Polan of Conception Abbey in Missouri has been elected Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Order. All the Benedictine abbots of the world are meeting this week and next in Rome, and the election was held this morning.
Abbot Gregory will be known to Pray Tell readers and to the liturgical world as the translator of the Revised Grail Psalter, which appears in English-language hymnals since the Missal was retranslated in 2011. This psalm translation has been approved by the Vatican as the text for use in all forthcoming liturgical books in the U.S., such as the forthcoming lectionary. Abbot Gregory is also composer of the lovely Conception Abbey psalm tones.
Abbot Gregory has been a monk of Conception since 1970, and abbot there since 1996, for nearly 20 years. He received a masters degree in theology from Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville.
Pope Leo XIII created the office of abbot primate in 1886, famously saying that the Benedictines were an “ordo sine ordine” – an order without order. But the abbot primate has no jurisdiction over other abbots or monasteries, each of which remain autonomous in the ancient Benedictine tradition. The abbot primate is a liaison to the Vatican, promotes unity among Benedictine monasteries and congregations, and represents Benedictines at religious gatherings throughout the world.
Polan is the tenth abbot primate of the Benedictine order since 1886. He is the fourth American (after Rembert Weakland of St. Vincent’s in Latrobe, Jerome Theisen of St. John’s in Collegeville, and Marcel Rooney who is also from Conception.) Incidentally, here is a fun fact: there have been five monks from German-speaking lands (Germany and Switzerland) at the head of the order, serving for a total of 83 of the 120 years of the office’s existence.
As abbot primate, Polan will serves as head of the Benedictine university at Sant’ Anselmo in Rome. Sant’ Anselmo is home of the renowned Pontificio Istituto Liturgico, the pontifical liturgical institute, which has been instrumental in liturgical reform for the universal church.