Monastic Life

Carisma 16

 

Christian monastic life originates first in the East, with St. Anthony taking to the desert of Egypt in the early medieval period.  This type of solitary monasticism got its inspiration from important figures in the Christian faith such as St. John the Baptist, the Prophet Elijah, and Jesus’ time spent in the desert.  There were many others who embraced this early type of monasticism, including St. Benedict in the beginning of his spiritual life.


Monastic life based on community-living rather than isolation came forth in the 4th century.  Monks who live in monastic communities like this are called “cenobites”, compared to monks who choose to live in solitude called  “hermits” or “anchorites”.  This was a different approach to spiritual life.  The monastery became a sort of spiritual family, well organized, with rules and structure.  Life is centered on obedience to God, and to their abbot.  St. Benedict embraced this community style of monasticism and went on to inspire the world by writing the Rule of St. Benedict, a sacred handwritten document creating organization, uniformity, and guidance for his vision of life inside the monastery.

 

Daily life in the abbey is supported by two solid pillars:  prayer and work.  When the monks are not praying they are working.  Every member of the monastery community has an important job and duty.  There are many different jobs that a monk may undertake, for example receiving pilgrims and visitors, book binding, event organization, maintaining the libraries and archives, and agricultural activities such as growing plants and herbs for the pharmacy.  With work and prayer, the monks learn humility, obedience, collaboration, charity, and avoid idleness, which St. Benedict considered “the enemy of the soul”

 

Historically the monastery has been of immense importance to the world outside it.  They stood as spiritual centers and supported education, preservation of ancient books, manuscript making, as well as the preservation of art.