About 100 people joined the monks at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison to worship, dodge scattered rainfall and grill food. Because what’s an eclipse without a little tailgating?
“We are guaranteed one thing today, clouds or not: It will get dark,” Abbot James Albers said during a special morning Mass.
And it did.
Glimpses of the moon passing the sun’s path were few. When the clouds occasionally thinned enough to behold the eclipse, cheers erupted from the crowd gathered down the hill at Benedictine University’s stadium.
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Eclipse watchers had driven from as far north as Des Moines and as far south as Dallas.
Many who gathered at the abbey reminisced about the times they’d seen partial eclipses, whether through holes in boxes or a father’s welding goggles.
Brother Joseph Ryan, a monk at St. Benedict’s for nearly 24 years, studied astronomy and physics at Benedictine University. Before burgers were served Monday, he gave a brief talk to those gathered about what they might see, from daytime darkness to confused skunks wandering out of the brush overlooking the Missouri River. This was his second eclipse.
“Growing up I just loved watching the stars,” Ryan said. “It actually helped me join the monastery. You see the sad things, but then you see the awe all around us. Basically that’s what we’re here for, the awe of God.”
As the moon’s shadow covered Atchison, many wowed and smiled and laughed.
“It was eerie, especially when it got dark so fast,” said Sister Anne of Sisters of Charity in Leavenworth. “Awesome. Just awesome.”