What is a monastery?
If you have never heard of a monastery, the simplest answer is, "Is the place where monks live, work and pray." Sometimes you hear it called an Abbey. Benedictines call them-selves "monks" and live in a monastery.
Who is a monk?
Certain men in religious orders refer to themselves as "monks." At Mount Angel Abbey or Monastery all the members are monks but only part of them are ordained priests. A religious brother-monk would be addressed as "Brother" and a priest-monk would be addressed as "Father." All of us are monks.
Who is St. Benedict?
St. Benedict was a monk who lived from 480-543 A.D. He is from a town in Italy called Norcia. When he was young he went to school in Rome but decided to become a monk. First he lived alone in a cave called Subiaco. Later he became the head of a monastery at Montecassino in Italy. He was then known as an abbot. While he was there he wrote a little book called The Rule. It became the rule of living for monks in other monasteries, too. Since they followed The Rule of St. Benedict, they became known as Benedictine Monks, and lived in Benedictine Monasteries or Abbeys.
What is the Holy Rule?
The Holy Rule is the little book of rules written by St. Benedict that Benedictine monks, nuns and sisters follow. Even though it is very old, we still use it. Some of the Rules have changed to meet the changing times. Monks didn’t have any rules about cell phones in the year 520 AD, but we do!
What is the Liturgy of the Hours?
Sometimes we refer to our prayer services as The Divine Office. These prayers are the official prayers of the Catholic Church. Lots of people use a prayer book (or an app on their smart phone) called The Liturgy of the Hours. Sometimes they refer to the book as a breviary. In the monastery we usually refers to these prayers as The Divine Office. When we pray the Liturgy of the Hours we join all the members of the Church all around the world and all the saints and angels in heaven to pray together to God.
Discernment – a candidate is encouraged to attend atleast one 3-day discernment retreat. He stays in our guest house but eats and prays with the monks. He may extend his stay upon approval of the vocation council, to live inside the cloister for a week and join the monks in prayer, work and recreation. This is also the period where one seeks approval to apply to enter the monastery.
Postulancy – a candidate is received to live inside the cloister. He receives a tunic and follows the daily monastic horarium, attends formation classes and is assigned with house works while he seriously discerns his monastic vocation in our community.
Novitiate – as the novice continues his quest for God’s calling, he is provided with an in-depth focus on our customary, history and traditions of monasticism, the Scripture, the Psalms and the Rule of St. Benedict. He receives a scapular and will be presented to the Chapter for petition for simple vows after one year.
Juniorate – a junior monk makes simple vows for three years. It is a commitment to live-out his monastic vows with fidelity and fervor. He receives a full habit and a new name to mark his transformation to a life according to the way of the Gospel.
Solemn Vows – this final vow is for life. It is a lifelong commitment to live the commands of the Gospel through fidelity to the monastic vows of obedience, stability and ongoing conversion of life. The monk may aspire to respond to the call of Holy Orders as a fruit of his monastic gift.
Our OBEDIENCE is to Christ and His Church. We live this obedience under a Rule and an abbot, who rules the monastery more by example than by legislation: the purpose of the Holy Rule being an assistance and guide in following the Holy Gospel.
STABILITY has been described as the vow that stops us from running from the Cross. While community life lived in charity is a great deal of hard work, God always supplies us sufficient grace and love to resolve human difficulties, and in the process, our transformation is ensured.
The vow of “conversatio” is a promise to daily follow the monastic way of life, which is very much about CONVERSION. If the Holy Rule presumes anything, is that by God’s grace, and our cooperation with it, change is possible. Over the years, even entrenched vices can be transformed into virtues.