March 21, 2007


Benedictine monasteries commemorate the death of St. Benedict today.

This is a fresco at the Abbey of Monte Cassino. It is known by two names, "The Glory of Saint Benedict," and "The Benedictine Paradise." It depicts saintly monks, nuns, abbots, bishops and popes who were Benedictines. The central figure is Saint Benedict.

BENEDICTINE MONKS are members of an uninterrupted tradition of more than one thousand four hundred years in the Church-- a tradition that seeks God through worship and prayer, work and community life.

Saint Benedict's "Rule for Monks" (written before A.D. 547) is a short book of spiritual teaching and practical regulations governing the lives of monks. In it St. Benedict states concisely that a monk is a man who obeys and serves God and his fellow monks in the context of:
(1) permanence in one community of fellow monks for life...

(2) under the discipline of a "rule" (a specific code of regulations governing monastic life)...

(3) and under the leadership of an abbot (the superior of an abbey or monastery).
The three vows that St. Benedict formulated for monks may be said to correspond to the above three points:
(1) the vow of stability unites a monk to one community for life;
(2) the vow of conversion binds a man to observe the specific disciplines of monastic life (essentially including the obligations of celibacy and of poverty or "community of goods");
(3) the vow of obedience places him under the leadership of both his abbot and his community.

-- Essential Practical Elements

Apart from the hours necessary for sleeping and eating, the "Rule" of St. Benedict divides the daily schedule of monastic life among three activities. These are liturgical worship in common, private prayerful spiritual reading, and work.

The daily hours of liturgical service in common are composed of the various Divine Offices throughout the day (i.e., Vigils, Lauds, Sext, Vespers, Compline) and the daily celebration of the Holy Mass.

The several hours of private prayer and reading are devoted especially to Sacred Scripture, but also may include other writings of spiritual, religious and theological importance.

Most Benedictine monasteries take up some sort of work relatively "outside" the immediate orbit of monastic life. These "outside" works might include parish ministry, schools or retreat centers. However, Benedictine life as specifically monastic requires the monks to be responsible for a rather domestic form of living: the monks themselves should do the cooking, cleaning, laundry, grounds keeping and whatever else is necessary to maintain their household and community life.


Blogger 4HisChurch said...

Love the Benedictines. I still miss my old Benedictine parish.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

You are the only Benedictine I know, Fr. S. Can you provide links to others like yourself on the web?

1:13 AM  
Anonymous Bob Farrell said...

So...what's a dad to do when he gets strange looks from his wife and kids when speaks with admiration for the monastic life?

Rhetorical question.

7:11 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

The following page has links the blogs of clergy and religious.

Here is a page with links to the websites of individual monastics.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

certain principles of Benedictine monastery life can be applied in family life.

The primacy of worship and prayer.

Then, the following three points held in mutual counterbalance.

1. Respect for community life, for the interests and preferences of the community.

2. Obedience to the Gospel, to the commandments of God and the precepts of the Church.

3. Respect for leadership.

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Bob Farrell said...

Interesting you said that Father.

After we discussed the rule in class the other day, a parent gave me this book to read:

12:54 PM  
Anonymous Loyolalaw98 said...


What I find to be the most admirable Bendictine trait, at least in monasteries wherein the vows are followed - ala Christ the King or Mount Angel - is the concurrent presence of:
1.) Palpable holiness
2.) Total lack of a judgemental attitude

To find men who are holy, striving daily to be holy, and at the same time unbelievably humble is - well- surprising.

I AM NOT here talking about people who will "bend" the truth, no far from it. I am talking about men who BY THEIR EXAMPLE make you want to be better.

They are asking us not merely to do what they say, but to do what they do too. (I imagine that this is akin to the elan of early Christianity when it made serious inroads in the Roman Empire while being actively persecuted.)

So many of the "religious" or pious people in our society - that is people who are publicly religious or pious - seem to base their sanctity on others depravity.

I'm going on retreat this weekend at Mt. Angel - for their Lenten Men's retreat - I was up two months ago for another retreat. Their attitude of a "sanctity that doesn't judge" (my poor choice of words) is inspiring!

Thank God for St. Benedict and his sons!

9:19 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Dear Loyola,

I have friends among the monks there: Fr. Jeremy Driscoll and Fr. Jerome Young.

I also have friends among the Carmelites who live and study at Mt. Angel: Bro. James, Bro. Thomas, Bro. Mark, etc. I am "co-responsible" for many of them responding to their vocations.

Two monks of my own monastery are studying there: Bro. Michel, Bro. Paul.

Greet any whom you may meet that know me.

Pray for me.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Jeron said...

Father, thank you for this post. I was having a discussion of what a monk is, a Benedictine, etc. w/a Protestant co-worker yesterday who just didn't get it. This post helped clarify things immensely.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted to thank you very much for writing a brief description of the Rule. Its simpler language helped me to explain this to my son as well as do his homework about St. Benedict! Thank you soooo much.

4:47 PM  

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