A group of men studying to become priests at St. Michael’s Abbey in California. (EWTN News In Depth)
Francesca Pollio Fenton
Catholic News Agency
Just outside the City of Angels lies an abbey whose residents are praying to the angels. St. Michael’s Abbey outside of Los Angeles in Orange County opened in 2021 and is one of the newest abbeys in the world.
“It’s sort of the perfect distance between the busyness of the city, where we need to be doing our apostolic work, and the quiet of the desert, where we need to find Jesus in contemplation,” Father Ambrose Criste, a priest at the abbey, told EWTN Correspondent Colm Flynn in an interview for “EWTN News In Depth.”
The Very Rev. Chrysostom Baer, prior of St. Michael’s Abbey, shared that it is like “heaven on earth.”
“It’s filled with the Catholic truth and the solemn celebration of the liturgy. It’s a place to work out your salvation, to grow in virtue, to overcome your vices, and help lead people to heaven,” he added.
Despite the recent decline in religious vocations in many parts of the world, St. Michael’s Abbey has 42 men studying for the priesthood and many more waiting to enter. This past summer, the order established a new priory in Springfield, Illinois, where seven of the California Norbertine priests now live.
Criste believes young men are being drawn to the community because the abbey has stayed true to the order’s traditions.
“We say our prayers; we wear our religious habit; we live according to the charism of our order and the traditions of our order, and we’ve never really given any of that up,” he said. “And that’s why young people want to come and be a part of it.”
The abbey follows the canons of the Norbertines, which was founded in 1121 by St. Norbert in France.
The order’s mother abbey is called the Abbey of Csorna, which is in Hungary. In 1950, the police warned the Norbertines in the country that they would be taken away under the Communist regime and never be allowed back into Hungary. A small group of priests then sought and received permission to leave the country in order to keep the order alive elsewhere.
Today, St. Michael’s Abbey has 70 men living in it, half of whom are priests and the other half who are seminarians.
“Those religious communities and those seminaries that represent authentic, full-bodied traditional Catholicisim — the young people are flocking to it because it’s exactly what the young people want,” Criste explained. “It’s what the world needs.”
Baer said he hopes, first and foremost, that the abbey will “save souls and be a beacon of light and hope in a very strange land, a land that thinks that it’s gone beyond God and doesn’t need him anymore.”
“We’re trying to fill that gap in the human heart with the truth of Christ and the love of the Holy Spirit,” he said.
The segment about St. Michael’s Abbey on “EWTN News In Depth” can be viewed below.