The annual tradition of celebrating Michaelmas – the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel – dates back to ancient times.
THE EVENING SUN SHINES THROUGH THE ROSE-STAINED GLASS WINDOW AT ST. MICHAEL’S ABBEY DURING THE MICHAELMAS MASS CELEBRATED ON SEPT. 29, 2022. PHOTOS BY KIERNAN COLIFLORES/DIOCESE OF ORANGE
Catholics have been celebrating St. Michael since at least the fifth century. The “Leonine Sacramentary,” which is the oldest surviving liturgical text in the Church, mentions that a basilica built along the ancient road called Via Salaria near Rome was consecrated to the Archangels on Sept. 30. The “Gelasian Sacramentary” and “Gregorian Sacramentary,” written in the following 200 years, clarify that this was a celebration of St. Michael, and that the accurate anniversary of the basilica’s consecration was Sept. 29 – the date we continue to celebrate Michaelmas.
A MASS WAS CELEBRATED IN HONOR OF MICHAELMAS ON SEPT. 29, 2022, AT ST. MICHAEL’S ABBEY IN SILVERADO CANYON.
In honor of its patron, St. Michael’s Abbey was designed so precisely by architect Jean-Louis Pagès that on each Michaelmas, at the beginning of Evening Prayer (Vespers), the sun’s light will pass through the rose-stained glass window and rest on the altar – creating a magnificent reminder of God’s presence.
The date of Michaelmas happens to coincide with the Fall Equinox – a fruitful time of harvest – and dating back to the Middle Ages, the faithful have celebrated with feasts and beer.
On Sept. 29, 2022, the Norbertines at the Abbey also hosted a feast of sorts – a reception held in the courtyard following Mass that featured Monastic brews (beer) produced in the Abbey’s kitchen by its seminarians and overseen by Fr. Peter Adrian Miller.
Fr. Peter Adrian said that they’ve been brewing for the last several years as a special project for events like Michaelmas.
The Abbey’s seminarians have allotted time dedicated to manual labor which can include many things like cleaning the Abbey and yard work. Occasionally, they are allowed to use a small percentage of that time for brewing, at the discretion of their superiors and depending on what needs to be done at the Abbey.
“Obviously beer is not that important,” said Frater Gereon Maxwell Mullenax, one of the Abbey’s brewers. “Taking care of the Abbey is way more important.”
FRATER ATHANASIUS BASIL INMAN POURS BEERS FOR GUESTS DURING A MICHAELMAS RECEPTION AT ST. MICHAEL’S ABBEY ON SEPT. 29, 2022.
The time from purchasing the grain and grinding it, to drinking the finished product, can take anywhere from one week to a year.
A SPECIAL BOTTLE OF BEER BREWED BY THE SEMINARIANS AT ST. MICHAEL’S ABBEY IN SILVERADO CANYON WAS FEATURED DURING A MICHAELMAS RECEPTION HELD ON SEPT. 29, 2022.
The Abbey’s seminarians follow a one-barrel system (1BBL) of brewing. Generous friends (and brewery
owners) of the Abbey have lent the necessary equipment.
“A lot of the beers we brew take a week to two weeks to ferment,” said Fr. Peter Adrian. “Once you get into the rhythm of things, it’s pretty easy,” he added.
That rhythm includes a vigorous sanitation process and according to Fr. Peter Adrian, “To be a good brewer you need to be both a janitor and a chemist.”
There is also a special Rite of Blessing for the beer. For Michaelmas, the seminarians brewed 100 gallons of beer and although they have produced all kinds of styles, they focused on just three for this event – Rosa Mystica, an English Ale; Dolorosa, an Oatmeal Stout; and Domus Aurea, a Belgian Golden.
Frater Gereon said that oftentimes, people will ask why their beers are given names associated with the Blessed Mother.
“For people not of the faith and wondering about it, it plants a seed in their head of who is this Blessed
Virgin and why are we naming these delicious beers after her when some of the other beers out there are named after pretty awful, demonic things,” he said.
The Norbertines who participate in the brewing project at the Abbey do it not just because they are interested in the process and steep tradition – Norbertine Abbeys have been making beer for 900 years – they also make beer to show gratitude.
“One of the main reasons why we brew is for events like [Michaelmas] to give back to the people who give to us and support our ministries,” said Frater Gereon.