Why do we need monks? Br. Martin Burkhard

A reflection by Fr. David Metz

Br. Martin Burkhard, OSB

Br. Martin Burkhard, OSB

My relationship with the monks goes back to the end of my sophomore year in high school.  I began my high school journey at Savior of the World Seminary in Kansas City, Kansas.  However, it was decided at the end of my sophomore year to close the seminary, but continue the program at Maur Hill.  

There were some exemplary monks on the staff that I was able to know and learn from: Fr. Edwin Watson, Abbot Barnabas Senecal, Fr. Thomas Flaherty, Fr. Camillus Wurtz.  The monk that really made an impression on me was the junior dorm prefect, Br. Martin Burkhard.  His outward personality may have been a little gruff, but he had a heart of gold.  Brother Martin was the one who asked me if I ever thought about becoming a monk.  I had not, because my dream was to be a diocesan priest. He did take me to Mass one Saturday at the Abbey and I was even a guest in the refectory for lunch.  My love for the Benedictine way of life grew from there and it became stronger during my days in the seminary at St. Meinrad School of Theology.  I did go on to be a diocesan priest in the Diocese of Salina, but I can trace my Benedictine roots back to Maur Hill and the friendship of Brother Martin.

More about the life of Br. Martin:

Brother Martin Burkhard was born May 7, 1916 in Anaheim, California, the son of John and Clara (Depweg) Burkhard.

Br. Martin attended Anaheim Union High School in the early 1930s. He first tried the monastic life with the Trappist monks in Pecos, New Mexico (that community has since moved to Oregon), and in 1949 he came to St. Benedict's Abbey as a claustural oblate. During his early years here he worked in maintenance around the Abbey and college grounds, and in 1970-1971 He worked in the St. Benedict's College offices. In 1973 Br. Martin decided to become a vowed member of the Abbey community and entered the novitiate. He professed his vows as a monk on July 11, 1974.

Following novitiate, Br. Martin worked in the art department at Maur Hill until 1978. From 1978-1989 he was the prefect of Junior class students in their dorm. After retiring from Maur Hill, Br. Martin helped around the Abbey in various roles. In recent years he made a contribution to community life by placing works of art that highlighted the liturgical season and Feasts of the day in the Abbey Refectory and the main hallway. He recently made a wood and ceramic cross that is placed in the abbey's north courtyard. He also volunteered at the Sacred Heart Thrift Store in Atchison. Volunteers who worked with him at the thrift store appreciated Br. Martin's steady work and his peaceful manner. In his quiet way Br. Martin witnessed to the presence of Christ.

Br. Martin was always present at community prayer, faithful to Lectio Divina, and to the work assigned him. He was a model for monks, young and old, of the value of trusting in God in the simple, ordinary day-to-day life. A particular gift of his was the way he greeted you. Monks assigned to parish work, or monks returning from studies or home visits remarked about the warm welcome they received from Br. Martin.