The Rhythm of Fly Fishing: The Story of Fr. Marion Charboneau

Like Reverend McLean in A River Runs Through It, Fr. Marion Charboneau is an educated man.  He is a religious man.  And he’s a fly fisherman.

Born in 1971 to Donald and Joyce Charboneau in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Marc Charboneau was the seventh of eight children.  His formative years were spent in Council Grove, Kan., after his family moved there in 1978.  

Although raised Catholic, Marc never really gave faith much priority.  “I had a Catholic education that frankly, because of my own stubbornness, I didn’t pick up very well.”   But at the age of 12, he confided to a friend his thoughts of becoming a priest.  “Her father was a minister, so it was safe to tell her.”

Marc attended Emporia State University for both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history.  “I was a typical college kid, rebellious at times, doing some things I shouldn’t have been doing.  But I always went to Mass.  It was a habit I was accustomed to.”

While pursuing his master’s degree, Marc had an unusual conversion experience.  “I was doing my Friday night thing at the local bar, watching an oblivious group, acting like idiots.   And I had an insight: I’m right in the middle of this.”  Marc went home.  

In Mass that Sunday, Marc decided it was time to do things God’s way.   A vocations director advised him to consider the seminary.  

One Sunday, while praying the rosary, Marc was compelled  to check out St. Benedict’s Abbey.   “I called Fr. Meinrad, and he suggested I visit.  I didn’t know anyone at the Abbey.  I had never been to Atchison.”

After some time in discernment, Marc entered St. Benedict’s as a postulant in 1997.  “It just seemed right.  The other paths hadn’t felt right.  But this was the right place.  God wanted me here.”    He would become Br. Marion, eventually professing Solemn Vows in 2001.   He was ordained to the priesthood in 2006.

Today Fr. Marion continues his education, pursuing his doctorate in history at Kansas State University.   Like many of his confreres at the Abbey, Fr. Marion hopes to teach.  “We monks devote a good deal of our life to acquiring knowledge and passing it on.  The goal in that, however, is not knowledge, but wisdom.   This might be why St. Benedict valued learning: knowledge can lead us to wisdom, that is, to God.”

Fr. Marion hopes to follow in the path of so many gifted monk-educators.  “We constantly meet people, from both Benedictine College and Maur Hill Prep, whose lives have been touched by a monk in the classroom.  I hope that my teaching will have the same impact.”

 Not unlike others in society, monks have their hobbies, including Fr. Marion.

“I’ve been fishing as long as I can remember.  I was passionate about it as a boy.  I prefer fly fishing because you’re more active in the process.”  

Fly fishing takes a certain rhythm, constantly moving the fly rod from the 10 o’clock to the 2 o’clock position, trying to softly land your bait and watch a fish rise.  Fr. Marion experiences a similar rhythm in monastic life.   

It’s a rhythm rooted in prayer, and in prayer is found strength.  The foundation of all that each monk is lies in his commitment to prayer.  A monk’s commitment to the Liturgy of the Hours, praying in community five times each day, best exemplifies the rhythm of monastic life. 

Fr. Marion, compares the rhythm of fly fishing to faith. 

“Effectively faith is a kind of communion, and according to certain rules you practice it a certain way to make it work.  A fly cast has to be done correctly or you’ll end up with a pile of line at your feet.”

Fr. Marion Charboneau strives to be humble in his faith.

“There is a line in the rule of St. Benedict that quotes scripture.  It’s one of the steps of humility:  ‘I am a worm and no man’ (RB 7:52).  Everything I have been blessed with comes from God.  He is the source of everything.  In the end, that’s where my hope lies.”

Fr. Marion Charboneau is an educated man, soon to return to teaching.   He’s a fly fisherman and priest at St. Benedict’s Abbey.  If you haven’t met him personally, treat yourself by coming to the Abbey.  Maybe Fr. Marion will teach you the fly cast.