Benedictine Abbot Patrick Regan, retired abbot of St. Joseph Abbey whose passion in religious life was the study of the liturgy, died Feb. 8 at St. Benedict, Louisiana, after a long battle with leukemia.
He was 79 years old. He served as abbot of St. Joseph Abbey from 1982 to 2001 and spearheaded a major restoration of St. Joseph Abbey Church.
“I will remember his great love and passion for the liturgy – the liturgy celebrated prayerfully and meaningfully,” said Abbot Justin Brown, who succeeded Abbot Patrick in 2001. “He gave great emphasis to the beauty of the liturgy, which is so much a part of the Benedictine heritage. That love of the liturgy was really in his blood.”
That passion led Abbot Patrick to spearhead an ambitious renovation of “the sacred space” of St. Joseph Abbey Church in the late 1990s, Abbot Justin said, which included a new organ.
“There were great financial challenges, which we first had to overcome,” Abbot Justin said. “There were challenges to the renovation, but Patrick was very patient and persistent. I would say he loved the light and the luminosity that the renovation brought to the church. I also think he loved that the church was brought more in line with the purity of its Romanesque architecture.”
“Jack” Regan graduated from Holy Cross High School in 1955 and entered the junior college division of St. Joseph Seminary. In 1958, he was received into the novitiate of St. Joseph Abbey, and he made his profession as a Benedictine monk in 1959, when he was given the name Patrick.
He continued studies at Notre Dame Seminary and Loyola University in New Orleans and later at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. After ordination to the priesthood in 1965, he began studies at the Institut Catholique and the Institut Supérieur de Liturgie in Paris, where he earned a doctorate in theology in 1971.
In 1982, he was elected the fourth abbot of St. Joseph Abbey.
While abbot of St. Joseph, Abbot Patrick was elected abbot president of the Swiss-American Benedictine Congregation, an office in which he served from 1987-99. He was also a member of the international board and president of the North American board, of Alliance Inter Monastère (A.I.M.), which provides support for Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries in developing countries.
Upon his resignation as abbot in 2001, he accepted a faculty appointment, which lasted until 2013, in the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy at the Pontificio Ateneo Sant’ Anselmo, the Benedictine university in Rome. He also held several positions in the monastic community at the Collegio Sant’ Anselmo.
He wrote frequently on the Mass. His final work, “Advent to Pentecost”(2012), compares the structure and content of the Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter seasons in the post-Tridentine and post-Vatican II liturgies.
In 2013, Abbot Patrick was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. He returned to Louisiana for treatment.
A silent message
In a 2014 interview with the Clarion Herald, Abbot Patrick spoke about the rigors and idiosyncracies of monastic life. He once went into his study room and found the legs of his chair wrapped in cloth and nailed to the floor.
Apparently, he had been making too much noise sliding his chair in and out. It was the unspoken message from his classmates.
“There were pros and cons to that,” he said. “Maybe they should have just told me, ‘Look, you’re making too much doggone noise with that chair. Stop it!’”
By living in community as spiritual brothers, Abbot Patrick said, monks learn how to accept reality, not flee from it.
“I guess it’s an acceptance of reality that that’s the way a person is and there’s not much you can do to change him, so you’ve just got to come to terms with it and learn how to bear with it,” Abbot Patrick said. “It’s the acceptance of others as they are. Sometimes these things work themselves out with time.
“The nature of the human condition is that we are all ‘other’ unto each other. You’re never going to find another who is identical to you. But that pain of living with the other brings self-growth, precisely through conflicts with those who are different.”