- What does Monastic Profession entail?
- Are all monks priests?
- What role do you have in the Church?
- What is meant by serving under a Rule and an Abbot?
- What is the place of the Eucharist in a monk’s life?
- What is Mary’s place in the life of a monk here?
- What do you mean by Divine Office?
- What is Lectio Divina?
- What kind of work does a monk do?
- Do you never speak?
- Aren’t you very remote from events outside the monastery?
- Are monks vegetarians?
- Why pray so early in the morning?
What does Monastic Profession entail?
By monastic profession a brother is consecrated to God and joined with the monastic community that receives him. At this time the consecration received in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation is renewed and given vitality. The brother binds himself in faithful stability to a sincere conversion of life through ready obedience until death.
Are all monks priests?
No, but every brother is given time and help to engage in studies of Scripture, theology, philosophy, monastic spirituality, etc. It is on the basis of the monk’s personal vocation, the needs of the community, and the call of the Abbot that a brother may receive the Sacrament of Orders from the hands of the Bishop of the diocese.
What role do you have in the Church?
Fidelity to the monastic way of life is closely related to zeal for the Kingdom of God and for the salvation of the whole human race. We monks bear this apostolic concern in our hearts. It is contemplative life itself that is our way of participating in the mission of Christ and his Church and of being part of the local Church. Moreover we welcome staying guests and callers, who in God’s providence come our way to find Christ’s peace, healing and encouragement. Our Church and our grounds are open to all.
What is meant by serving under a Rule and an Abbot?
Benedict did not found an Order, and his Rule, which we Cistercians follow, is neither a set of regulations nor a legal code. Rather it indicates a way .The Rule of Saint Benedict is read in the monks’ refectory and is frequently commented on by the Abbot, who through his teachings and example encourages each monk to be inspired by it.
What is the place of the Eucharist in a Monks life?
The Eucharist is for the monk, as indeed for every Christian, the centre and summit of his day and his life, for the Eucharist is Christ who gives himself to us, thus continually building up his Church, and monks are people who endeavour to live at the heart of the Church.
The relationship of the Eucharist to monastic life is to be seen particularly in the prophetic vision of monks who find in the Eucharist the strength needed for the radical following of Christ.
Pope Benedict XVI points out that Christian antiquity used the same words, Corpus Christi, to designate Christ’s body born of the Virgin Mary, his Eucharistic body, and his body the Church. It is interesting to note that the introduction of the feast of Corpus Christi into the Church was occasioned by the spread of the local appeal of the extraordinary devotion to the Blessed Sacrament of a thirteenth century Belgium Cistercian Nun, Saint Juliana of Mount Cornillon. In the west window, high up over the entrance to our Church, Juliana is depicted holding the monstrance.
“And nothing is to be preferred to the love of Christ” RB 72.11
What is Mary’s place in the life of a monk here?
Her place in the lives of the Irish people goes back to the days of Saint Patrick. He is believed to have come to us in the year 432, just after the Council of Ephesus had defined the doctrine that Mary is truly the Mother of God. In the middle ages Saint Bernard, the best known of all Cistercians, sang the praises of Mary. In a famous sermon he explains that -“as long as we think of her we do not err.” The Lourdes grottoes at Mount Saint Joseph testify to the eminent place Mary has always held in the history of the Abbey. The three windows in the apse of the Church depict the mysteries of the rosary, a devotion dear to many of the monks. Incidentally we have enshrined in the Church a rosary which the 29-year-old abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Boyle Co. Roscommon had in his hands when he was martyred in Dublin, 21 November 1580. Each day ends with the singing of the “Salve Regina” (“Hail Holy Queen”) in a darkened Church before the statue of Our Lady of Mount Saint Joseph.
What do you mean by the Divine Office?
Life in the monastery is organised so that the monks can gather in the Church seven times a day to praise God. Saint Benedict calls this gathering the “Work of God to which nothing is to be preferred.” This is what is known as the Divine Office. When prayer dwells in the monk, the liturgy of the hours gives him the opportunity to pour out the over-abundance of love, which fills his heart. “Lord open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise”. If the monk strays from the memory of God then the daily offices give him an opportunity to turn back. “God come to my aid, Lord make haste to help me”.
What is Lectio Divina?
Lectio Divina is a way of reading the Scriptures that has developed in western monasticism over more than fifteen hundred years. It is both deep and rich. “Divina” (divine) here shows we are not dealing with any kind of reading… it is more than even spiritual reading. It is not preparation for prayer, but prayer itself. Careful Lectio Divina greatly strengthens the brother’s faith in God. This excellent monastic practice, by which God’s Word is heard and pondered, is a source of prayer and a school of contemplation where the monk speaks heart to heart with God. Its most notable characteristic is immense reverence for the Word of God.
“For the Word of God is living and full of energy; it cuts more effectively than any double edged sword and it penetrates all the way through the boundary of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It makes judgement on the desires and thoughts of the heart.”
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What kind of work does a monk do?
There is a great variety of work in the monastery, and much of the monks’ work is done with lay people. Some monks are employed on the farm, which has a large herd of dairy cows and beef cattle, and which provides the main source of income for the upkeep of the monastery. Other monks welcome visitors to the guesthouse or tend to their needs in the religious goods’ shop.
In the woodlands, gardens and orchards they tend the trees, flowers and fruit trees. In the bakery monks make the bread for the monastery and guesthouse. Our well-stocked library requires a librarian and some of the monks engage in scholarly pursuits. Some look after the sick. Cloisters, refectory, sacristy and cemetery are maintained by other monks.
Then there is general administration to be seen to. The daily liturgy must be prepared and this requires musical skills. Playing the organ is another task to be undertaken. There are Masses to be offered for the community and the neighbourhood. Some of the community are involved in the apostolate of the confessional.
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Do you never speak?
Indeed we do. But in line with monastic tradition from early Christian times, we regard silence as one of our principle values. Living in the close proximity of community togetherness, silence guarantees a space in our lives before God, which is respected by our brothers, and which we in turn respect in their lives. This is a precious heritage.
However the demands of one’s job may involve a good deal of speaking for some. Normal human relations and the odd bit of fun are part of community living. Then not all have an equal gift for the appreciation of silence. In practice however our monastery gives one the opportunity for much silence, and at nightime this silence is pretty well total.
Aren’t you very remote from events outside the monastery?
Yes, the monastic tradition involves a certain degree of physical separation, but a monk’s prayer embraces the concerns of our times. It is the contemplative life itself that is our way of participating in the mission of Christ and his Church. Nevertheless we keep abreast of affairs through the prudent use of books, newspapers, magazines and radio. Above all, we share the concerns of those who ask our prayers.
Are monks vegetarians?
Yes, in the monastery refectory most of the monks never have meat. Meat however is permitted to the sick. Apart from that our diet is pretty normal.
Why pray so early in the morning?
Monks pray early in the morning because Christ himself did so.
“In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house and went off to a lonely place and prayed there.” Mk. 1:35
It is easier to pray in the morning. In the dark, all is silent and still. This liberates the heart for prayer. Yesterday’s distractions have subsided, today’s have not begun.
“We watch, for we do not know the hour at which the Lord will come.”Cistercian Breviary