North Carolina chaplain is a Benedictine through-and-through
Abbot Placid Solari says it was “absolute fate” that he would one day join the Order of St. Benedict. Growing up in Richmond, Va., he had an older brother who was a Benedictine monk. Solari was taught by Benedictine monks and sisters from grade school through high school, and he has been a monk of Belmont Abbey in Belmont, N.C., since 1974. Ordained in 1980, Abbot Solari was elected the eighth abbot of Belmont Abbey in 1999, and today, at 63, is Belmont Abbey College’s chancellor. He serves as chaplain of Legatus’ Charlotte Chapter, which chartered on June 30. He spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.
What was it about Benedictine spirituality that appealed to you?
When we would visit my brother when I was a boy, we would go to vespers with the monks. And for some reason, that was just a very peaceful experience. I couldn’t articulate what was going on then, but it really struck me as a young boy with the real feeling of peace during that time. I also knew the monks from high school and my parish. They seemed like very talented men who were doing something good and I wanted to be a part of that.
Other things that played into that were the vow of stability that’s unique to Benedictine life. You join one community and stay with that community.
The spirituality of monastic life is really based on the liturgy and the Bible, which are the pillars of Christian life. I thought if I was going make a commitment to celibate chastity, I would be better living that with the support of a community.
How has the Rule of St. Benedict continued to impact men and women over the centuries?
It was written in the sixth century, and there hasn’t been a day since then when there hasn’t been at least one community using that rule as its fundamental constitution for life.
If you can imagine all the differences in worldviews, political systems, cultures, economic systems and technology in the last 1,500 years, the Rule has been adapted to so many different times, places and situations. That’s why it’s still being used and continually lived today.
What are an abbot’s duties?
Ultimately, the abbot’s responsibility is to make decisions after listening to the community. The abbot has a vision of how life according to St. Benedict’s Rule is to be lived in this particular time and place — and to offer that to the community for their consideration. What comes out of that continued dialogue between the abbot, the community, and the Rule will be the form of Benedictine monastic life in that particular abbey.
How did you become acquainted with Legatus?
I had heard of the organization in the past two years. Our college president — Dr. Bill Thierfelder — is a member and has done several speaking engagements for Legatus chapters. I didn’t realize they were going to start a Charlotte Chapter until Bishop [Peter] Jugis contacted me and asked if I’d be willing to be the chaplain.
What are your impressions of Legatus so far?
It’s been very good. One of reasons why I accepted the bishop’s request is that lay organizations such as Legatus are extremely important for the Church’s mission of evangelization today. Given the rapid changes in the culture, with a sort of suspicion perhaps of organized religion, lay Catholics, particularly those who are proficient and successful in their professional careers, have a unique ability to contact and form relationships with their colleagues and peers in a way that the clergy do not. Part of Legatus’ mission is to help members integrate their faith into their professional lives — as well as receive the support necessary for one another to do that.
BRIAN FRAGA is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.