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The monastic day

Five o’clock in the morning

"Let the monks be always ready to rise without delay when the signal is given and hasten to be before one another at the Work of God, yet with all gravity and decorum." (Rule of Saint Benedict, ch. 22).


The bell awakens the monks for the first prayer of the day, Matins, during which we sing psalms for a good hour.

When this has finished, the monks have about forty-five minutes for private prayer or reading the bible. At seven thirty, laudes welcome the sunrise, and invite all creation to praise God.

After breakfast, most of the monks have at least an hour for reading or prayer before the bells ring for mass at half past nine.

The summit of the day

The monks assemble in the chapter to sing Terce. From there, they process, intoning the Introit, into the abbey church, to celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice, the core and summit of daily prayer of any Christian community.

After mass it is time for monastic and intellectual formation for the novices. The novices study the Rule of Saint Benedict, monastic history and the fundaments of spiritual life under the direction of the novice master. These student monks receive a formation in philosophy and theology which takes several years. The history of monastic life over the centuries demonstrates the that quality of this doctrinal and intellectual formation is the guarantor the quality of our spiritual life. This is why the monks have always loved their books and taken care of their library.

The middle of the day

Sext, in the middle of the day, signals the end of morning activities.

It is immediately followed by lunch. Meals are taken in the great refectory in silence, accompanied by readings. Guests “who are welcomed as Christ", take their meals in the refectory with the monks. Lunch is followed by recreation, which encourages brotherly conversation in the community.

Manual work

None marks the end of recreation, followed itself by manual work, whether it be the multitude of lowly tasks required in the maintenance of the huge buildings or in the housekeeping for this community of thirty monks, or in the painting restoration or book binding workshop.


"Idleness is the enemy of the soul.Therefore the brothers should be occupiedat certain times in manual labor,and again at fixed hours in sacred reading" (Rule of Saint Benedict, ch. 48).

 

The end of the day

At 17.10, the bells give the signal for the end of work and announce the office of vespers, which is traditionally accorded particular solemnity.

After vespers has taken place, the office of the chapter is held in the capitular room. Prayers for the faithful departed are recited, and then a brother reads a chapter of the Rule of Saint Benedict. Father Abbot may either make a commentary on what has been read, or lead a spiritual discussion, or speak to the brothers on a subject of interest to the whole community.

When the office of chapter is finished, the brothers have over an hour before the evening meal to return to their spiritual reading or study, or prayer, in the liberty of children of God and in the Benedictine tradition.

Entering the silence of the night

Dinner is eaten in the refectory at 19.30. On fast days, it is replaced by a simple snack.

At 20.30, the brothers return to the chapter for a few minutes of reading, before going into church to sing Compline, the last office of the day.

Thus the day ends, with the solemn singing of an antiphon to the Mother of God, and in the vast silence of the night, the monks find the repose they need to joyfully greet the new day and continue praising God.