Information on Catholic and Benedictine life
Why are they called Benedictines?
Benedictines were founded by Saint Benedict of Nursia of Italy.
The date of his birth is 480, he wrote the Rule for Monasteries,
also called the Rule of Saint Benedict in about 540.
He was influenced by Christian monks and hermits in Egypt.
The formal name is the Order of Saint Benedict (OSB).
The Rule of Saint Benedict became the officially
approved guide for monasteries in Europe around the time of Charlemagne
Monasteries became wealthy and complacent. Reforms
of the Benedictines happened in the 1000s (11th century)- Carthusians,
Camoldolese, Cistercians. These still exist today, but are not as
numerous as the Benedictines.
There are a variety of congregations of
Benedictines, groups of monasteries somewhat related to each other
(perhaps founded by the same mother house). There are two major
congregations of Benedictine monasteries in the U.S. with about 15 in
the Swiss-American Congregation (founded and descended from two
monasteries in Switzerland that came to the U.S. about 1850) and the
American-Cassinese Congregation (founded from a visionary Benedictine,
Boniface Wimmer, from Bavaria who came to the U.S. in about 1850). Saint
Martin’s belongs to the American-Cassinese Congregation because
it was founded by Saint John’s in Minnesota which was founded by
Saint Vincent in Pennsylvania which was the original monastery founded in the U.S. by
Boniface Wimmer of Bavaria.
What is the Rule of Saint Benedict?
It is sometimes shortened as “RB.”
It was originally written in Latin, and has been
translated in many languages.
The RB has 73 chapters of various lengths on
spiritual topics such as obedience and humility. He emphasizes silence.
He talks about specific prayers to be said, mostly from the book of
Psalms from the Bible. He talks about practical matters like certain
monks assigned to do certain things, who should do the dishes, who
should ring the bells for prayer, how many possessions monks should
There are probably a few copies of the RB in the
O’Grady Library and can be found easily online. It is helpful to have a
commentary with the RB itself.
The RB provides a model for Benedictine life, but
these have also been filtered through a document called "constitutions
and directories" which are more specific and practical guidelines for
One who belongs to the Order of Saint Benedict
and follows the religious life according to the Rule of Saint
Benedict. Women also belong to the Order of Saint
Benedict and have O.S.B. after their names and live according to the RB.|
One who lives a monastic life,
or communal religious life. Buddhists living communal religious
lives are also monks. The RB is a Rule for Monasteries. All
Benedictines are monks. The Benedictines are a monastic order.|
Title for a man who has taken vows to live the religious
life in a particular community.|
Title for a man who has been
ordained to the priesthood. The title of father supersedes that
of brother when a brother becomes a priest.|
Man who has gone through four
years of seminary training and been ordained formally by a
bishop for the sacramental ministry of celebrating the
Eucharist, baptisms, hearing confessions, weddings, etc… Some
monks are also priests, some monks are not priests. Not all
priests are monks or belong to religious orders. All priests
must have a superior, if they do not belong to a religious
order, their superior must be a bishop (or archbishop).|
Benedictine life is a specific
form of monastic life - one that follows the Rule of Saint Benedict. |
A life of living together in
community, sharing resources, food, housing, common work,
gathering for prayer together, meals together, decisions
together. Monasticism is also found in Hinduism, Buddhism,
Judaism, and maybe Islam? It is only a small part of
Christianity. Benedictines are the largest monastic order in
Catholicism (remember, the Rule of Benedict was given official
approval in the time of Charlemagne).|
Organization within the
Catholic Church of men or women committed to live a certain kind
of organized spirituality- a communal life, a life of common
prayer, a life of ministry to the poor, a life of ministry
through teaching. They were usually founded by someone with a
vision for spiritual life - Saint Francis, Saint Ignatius, etc…|
|Stages of formation|
No particular amount of time. Saint Martin’s focuses on men at or below the age of 40.
Make contact with vocation director, visit the monastery. Fill out application.|
Six months, often beginning in
the summer (after graduations in recent cases).
Move into the monastery and
live monastic life. May take classes in university. Usually
manual work around monastery.|
Recently begins with a
ceremony on January 1. Lasts one year and one day, according to
canon law requirements.
Limited interaction with
outside world, even the university. TV and telephone
restrictions (one call per month). Takes a religious name at the
beginning - gives three choices from which the abbot chooses one.
Classes in the monastery on Psalms, RB, Benedictine history,
church fathers. Manual work around monastery|
Begins with taking of first
vows or simple vows. Three years of annual renewable vows.
Monk may be given work in the
university. Lives monastic life according to the rest of the
monastery, but has not made a final commitment and may not be
given official positions in the monastery. Also limitations on
(Full monastic life, no formal title)
Senior monk or capitular (not commonly used)
Begins with the taking of
solemn vows or final vows, the life-commitment to monastic life.
Monk may now go on for further
education-to be used in the university or for training in the
What vows do the Benedictines take?
The RB itself states that monks should take the vow
of obedience (to the abbot and community), stability (to stay with one
monastery for life) and conversion of life (to live one’s life according
to the RB).