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Bill Thayer

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Arms and the Monk!
The Trappist Saga in Mid-America

[Msgr.] M[athias] M[artin] Hoffman

[image ALT: A photograph of a man in late middle age, almost completely bald, with a kindly expression. He wears glasses and is dressed in the jacket and collar of a Catholic priest. He is Monsignor Mathias Martin Hoffman, the author of the book introduced on this webpage.]

The Right Reverend Dr. M. M. Hoffman

[From the book jacket:]

Monsignor Hoffman, a recognized authority on the church history of the Northwest as well as on the history of his native state of Iowa, was educated at Loras College, the St. Paul Seminary, the Catholic University of America and Oxford University, England. A veteran of both World Wars, he was cited for valor as a combat chaplain in France in the first struggle, and emerged as a colonel in the chaplains' corps from the second. Between wars he was head of the social science department in Loras College, and for twelve years was editor of the Iowa Catholic Historical Journal. A contributor to the leading western historical journals, he is also the author of several outstanding volumes on midwestern church history and on Iowa's beginnings. A leading rural educator and pastor in his state today, he rests unchallenged in his position of authority on the subject of the Trappist history in Mid-America.

 p. vi Author of:

Antique Dubuque: 1673‑1833

The Church Founders of the Northwest:

Loras and Cretin and other Captains of Christ

The Centennial History of the Archdiocese of Dubuque: 1837‑1937

The Story of Loras College

Young and Fair is Iowa

 p. vii "St. Benedict intended the Holy Rule to serve as a guide in the Military Service which the Monastic Institute is, and where those who are called to that service are trained to fight under our Lord Jesus Christ as King and Captain." — Abbot Maurus of Mount Melleray.

"We place, O Lord, on the head of this Thy Abbot and warrior, a helmet of defense and salvation to the end that having his forehead ennobled and his head safe-guarded by the horns of both testaments he may appear terrible to the enemies of the truth, and by Thy Grace bestowed upon him, he may prove a robust champion against them." — Prayer from the Blessing of an Abbot.

Though this superscription reflects the personal experience of the author, both it and the title are misleading: the Cistercians are not a military order and what parallels they have with an army, the author does not emphasize. The subject of the book, at any rate, is the history of the Cistercian abbey of New Melleray, Iowa. The unfortunate, mannered title (which will come to jar the reader twice again, pp15 and 212) is misleading also in another way, boding ill for the work as a whole — but the threat is mercifully not realized: it's a solid, informative book and though the style is pious, as might be expected, it is not obtrusively so, being congruous with the subject, which after all really is the achievement of a holy life.

Dramatis Personae


Monte Cassino to Iowa


The Mellerays of France and Ireland


America — Trappist Land of Promise


The Odyssey of Prior Clement


Dom Bruno Leads the Charge


— While Brother Ambrose Holds the Fort


Trappist Tragedy and Triumph on the Mississippi


The Rule of Prior Francis


Trappists Become Americans — but not Abbots


Two Trappist Bishops


Another Crisis and a Few Letters Thereon


Introducing Briefly — the Abbey!


The Chicago Tribune and the Abbey


Material Progress


Debacle and Deliverance


The Second Abbot


Darkness — then Dawn!


The Second Century of the Iowa Trappists


The Daughter House: Our Story's Finale


Historical Sidelights




[decorative delimiter]

Technical Details

Edition Used

The edition transcribed here is the original — and to my knowledge only — edition, published by Wm. C. Brown Company, Dubuque, Iowa, 1952. It is in the public domain because the copyright was not renewed in the appropriate years according to the then law (1979 or 1980), and has therefore lapsed: details here on the copyright law involved.

Ecclesiastical Clearances

The edition bears the following permissions:

Nihil Obstat:

Anthony Kreimer, Ph. D.
Censor Librorum


✠ Henry P. Rohlman
Archbishop of Dubuque

May 15th, 1952

The Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur do not apply to my notes, of course.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

This transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The edition I followed was not so well proofread, with a fair number of typographical errors. I marked my corrections, when important (or unavoidable because inside a link), with a bullet like this;º and when trivial, with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet or the underscored words to read the variant. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

Many of the proper names were manifestly misspelled, or inconsistently spelled. I fixed those that I could, but the obscurity of some of the people and places involved made others very hard to check and almost guarantees that in my transcription some are still wrong: you should not rely on those I haven't corrected.

A small number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.


In addition to the author's portrait on the back cover of the jacket, the book includes six illustrations. I've moved them the better to accompany the text. There is no table of illustrations but here is mine, with the original page numbers (also marked in the sourcecode of the various webpages):

Mathias Loras, First Bishop of Dubuque


Bruno Fitzpatrick, Lord Abbot of Mount Melleray


Clement Smyth, Second Bishop of Dubuque


James Myles O'Gorman, First Bishop of Omaha


The Remains of What Was the Original New Melleray Abbey Building Started in 1849.


The Chapter Room, La Grande Trappe Abbey, France


Pagination and Local Links

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.

[image ALT: A photograph of a small wooden building with a sharply pitched roof, accompanied on the viewer's left by the graphic of a Latin cross. The image is further explained in the text of this webpage and serves as the icon on this site for the book 'Arms and the Monk!'.]

The icon I use for this book derives from the photograph (p132) of what's left of the original 19c abbey building, and the (slightly damaged) cover of my print copy. In the header bars of the various chapters, for the old building the "next" icon substitutes a partial color photograph of today's monastery, taken from its site.

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Site updated: 25 May 13