If you have never heard of a monastery, here is the simplest answer: “A monastery is the place where monks live, work and pray.” Sometimes you hear it called an Abbey. Benedictines call themselves “monks” and live in a monastery.
Certain men in religious orders refer to themselves as “monks.” At Mount Angel Abbey, or monastery, all the members are monks but only some of them are ordained priests. A religious brother-monk is addressed as “Brother” and a priest-monk is addressed as “Father.” All of us are monks.
St. Benedict was a monk who lived from 480 to 543. He was 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 life 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.
Discernment – A candidate is encouraged to attend at least one 3-day discernment retreat. He stays in our guesthouse, but eats and prays with the monks. He may extend his stay upon approval of the monastic 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 (schedule), 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 to know God’s calling, he is provided with an in depth focus on our customs, 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 monastic 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.