The Trappist monk Thomas Merton describes the monk as "a man who has been called by the Holy Spirit to relinquish the cares, desires and ambitions of other men, and devote his entire life to seeking God. A monk is therefore one who is called to give himself exclusively and perfectly to the one thing necessary for all men--the search for God. He withdraws from 'the world' and gives himself entirely to prayer, meditation, study, labor, and penance under the eyes of God."
The joy of monastic life is the fruit of a centuries old Rule for monasteries, written by St. Benedict in the 6th century, and revived by our own founder, St. Bernard Tolomei, in the year 1319. The life of a monk can best be described in three categories:
The monastic life is dedicated principally to prayer. The monk's desire is to "pray unceasingly." Since monks live together as a community, their prayer will be primarily a communal expression. St. Benedict referred to this most central moment of the monastic day as the "Opus Dei"--the Work of God. The daily chanting of the Divine Office will be truly our daily bread, influencing both our private prayer and spiritual reading. The scriptures should be the food of our prayer life, as St. Benedict emphasized throughout his Rule. The daily Eucharist is the central prayer of the monk's day. Thus, the monk enters more profoundly into the mysteries of Christ.
The reading enjoined by the Rule of St. Benedict is not mere intellectual study, but is designed to help the monks in their spiritual life and also in the recitation of the Divine Office. "Lectio Divina" (sacred reading) is a slow, meditative spiritual reading which the monk practices on a daily basis. "The act of reading symbolizes something of what monastic life is all about: withdrawal from what is apparent to seek the reality that underlies appearances, in solitude, in silence, in recollection." -Michael Casey, O.C.S.O.
Apart from the time spent in church, in sacred reading and in private prayer, monks spend the remainder of their time at work. This may be study, practical craftsmanship, or ordinary manual labor. St. Benedict's insistence on the manual labor demonstrates a true balance evident in the Rule. As far as possible, every monk is given work which utilizes and develops one's personal talents.
The Rule clearly demonstrates that work is not one occupation and prayer another. The time spent in manual work or handicrafts is equally meant to bring us closer to God.
Anyone wishing to learn more about the life of an Olivetan monk can contact Abbot James (ext. 14) or at the phone number listed below, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . We would be happy to hear from you and answer any questions you may have.
168 Monastery Lane | Opelousas, LA | 70570 (337) 543-2237 Email