The following comes from The Statesman Journal:
Six years ago, Mount Angel Abbey's serene hilltop campus shook, as leather-clad Bobby Love rolled in on his motorcycle. Love removed his helmet revealing pierced ears and a mop of dreadlocks. With tattoos on his hands, arms and neck, he looked like an extra on "Sons of Anarchy" not a someone attending a retreat for those who might become Catholic monks.
"One of my biggest fears is being a cliche," Love said.
As a child, Love rebelled against his successful father, a successful businessman who didn't think art was a real career.
"I made a commitment to live by my brushes. I was going to make my living as an artist, and I wasn't going to compromise," Love said. "One of the first things I did was I got my knuckles and my neck tattooed, because back in those days, in the late 80s and early 90s, we called them 'job stoppers.' You are completely unemployable once you get your hands and your neck tattooed."
As he dismounted his bike at the discernment retreat, he was aware of the images on his skin and the absurdity of his arrival.
"It was pretty funny," Love said. "I rode up here on my motorcycle and was just like, 'What?' They were doing the same. They were looking at me like, 'What?' "
Prior of Mount Angel Abbey Vincent Trujillo remembers that moment.
"We tried not to be judgmental looking at his appearance, but it certainly makes an impression," Trujillo said. "We welcome everybody to those discernment retreats."
Love spent the weekend learning about the Benedictine way of life.
"The checking out worked both ways," Trujillo said. "He was observing and so were we."
"I stayed the weekend, had a wonderful time and then kind of went away," Love said. "With an idea that this is a option, not part of my options but an option for somebody."
Six years later, Love's lean frame sports a black tunic and scapular. His brown hair is trimmed close to the scalp. As he stands in his choir stall praying Noon Prayer with nearly 50 monks, John Lennon glasses and a 3-inch goatee distinguish him from the others. So do his tattoos.
Above the neckline of his black hood, his neck tattoos remain. His hands are marked with a spiderweb, women's faces, an alpha and omega, and "HOLD FAST" on his knuckles. A red heart marks his palm. His name is Love after all.
His first name is no longer Bobby. He's "Brother Andre," named after an uneducated man who wanted to join the highly-educated Order of the Holy Cross. They didn't know what to do with him so they made him the church's doorman. Andre prayed with visitors. His prayers were answered, and he's remembered now as a saint.
In 2010, Mount Angel's monastic leadership made Love assistant to the curator of the abbey's museum.
"I was supposed to unlock the doors and clean the toilet," Love said.
When the curator was transferred to Portland, Love realized that the collection needed care and stepped up. He had no idea what he was doing.
The abbey's collection is overwhelming and eclectic containing a taxidermy collection of North American animals and pottery from before the birth of Christ. Storage shelves are packed with statues of saints, Japanese artifacts, oil lamps and preserved snakes and puffer fish. There's even a gourd carved by Walt Disney.
"It's like a garden," Love said . "If you don't weed it, you get some crazy plants."