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Posts tagged ‘Rule of Saint Benedict’

Trappist Monks.


Trappist Monk

Trappist monk praying at the Abbey of Mount St. Bernard (circa 1931).

Photo: Getty Images

Ascetic Trappists Seem a Remnant of Medieval Times.

Trappist monks and nuns fascinate many Christians because of their isolated and ascetic lifestyle, and at first glance seem a carryover from medieval times.The Cistercian order, parent group of the Trappists, was founded in 1098 in France, but life inside the monasteries has changed much over the centuries. The most obvious development was a split in the 16th century into two branches: the Cistercian Order, or common observance, and the Cistercians of the Strict Observance, or Trappists.Trappists take their name from the Abbey of La Trappe, about 85 miles from Paris, France. The order includes both monks and nuns, who are called Trappistines. Today more than 2,100 monks and about 1,800 nuns live at 170 Trappist monasteries scattered throughout the world.

Quiet But Not Silent

Trappists closely follow the Rule of Benedict, a set of instructions laid down in the sixth century to govern monasteries and individual behavior.It’s widely believed these monks and nuns take a vow of silence, but that has never been the case. While talking is strongly discouraged in monasteries, it is not forbidden. In some areas, such as the church or hallways, conversation may be prohibited, but in other spaces, monks or nuns may converse with each other or family members who visit.

Centuries ago, when quiet was more strictly enforced, the monks came up with a simple sign language to express common words or questions. Monks’ sign language is rarely used in monasteries today.

The three vows in the Rule of Benedict cover obedience, poverty, and chastity. Since the monks or nuns live in community, no one actually owns anything, except their shoes, eyeglasses, and personal toiletry items. Supplies are kept in common. Food is simple, consisting of grains, beans, and vegetables, with occasional fish, but no meat.

Daily Life for Trappist Monks and Nuns

Trappist monks and nuns live a routine of prayer and silent contemplation. They rise very early, gather every day for mass, and meet six or seven times a day for organized prayer.Although these religious men and women may worship, eat, and work together, each has their own cell, or small individual room. Cells are very simple, with a bed, small table or writing desk, and perhaps a kneeling bench for prayer.

In many abbeys, air conditioning is restricted to the infirmary and visitors’ rooms, but the entire structure has heat, to maintain good health.

Benedict’s Rule demands that each monastery be self-supporting, so Trappist monks have become inventive in making products popular with the public.Trappist beer is regarded by connoisseurs as one of the best beers in the world. Brewed by monks in seven Trappist abbeys in Belgium and the Netherlands, it ages in the bottle unlike other beers, and becomes better with time.

Trappist monasteries also sell such things as cheese, eggs, mushrooms, fudge, chocolate truffles, fruitcakes, cookies, fruit preserves, and caskets.

Isolated for Prayer

Benedict taught that monks and cloistered nuns could do much good praying for others. Heavy emphasis is put on discovering one’s true self and on experiencing God through centering prayer.While Protestants may see monastic life as unbiblical and violating the Great Commission, Catholic Trappists say the world is sorely in need of prayer and repentance. Many monasteries take prayer requests and habitually pray for the church and God’s people.

Two Trappist monks made the order famous in the 20th century: Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating. Merton (1915-1968), a monk at Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, wrote an autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, which sold over one million copies. Royalties from his 70 books help finance Trappists today. Merton was a supporter of the civil rights movement and opened a dialogue with Buddhists on shared ideas in contemplation. However, today’s abbot at Gethsemani is quick to point out that Merton’s celebrity was hardly typical of Trappist monks.

Keating, now 89, a monk in Snowmass, Colorado, is one of the founders of the centering prayer movement and the organization Contemplative Outreach, which teaches and fosters contemplative prayer. His book, Open Mind, Open Heart, is a modern manual on this ancient form of meditative prayer.

(Sources: cistercian.orgosco.orgnewadvent.orgmertoninstitute.org,contemplativeoutreach.org, and stuffyerface.com.)

From 

Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack’s Bio Page.

Monastic Orders.


Vatican City Nuns

Monastic orders may include both monks and nuns.

Photo: Getty Images

Major Religious Orders of Monks and Nuns

Monastic orders are groups of men or women who dedicate themselves to God and live in an isolated community or alone. Typically, monks and cloistered nuns practice an ascetic lifestyle, wearing plain clothing or robes, eating simple food, praying and meditating several times a day, and taking vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience.Monks are divided into two types, eremitic, who are solitary hermits, and cenobitic, who live together in community.In third and fourth century Egypt, hermits were of two types: anchorites, who went into the desert and stayed in one place, and hermits who remained solitary but roamed about.

Hermits would gather together for prayer, which eventually led to the founding of monasteries, places where a group of monks would live together. One of the first rules, or set of instructions for monks, was written by Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430), a bishop of the early church in North Africa.

Other rules followed, written by Basil of Caesurea (330-379), Benedict of Nursia (480-543), and Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). Basil is considered the founder of Eastern Orthodox monasticism, Benedict the founder of western monasticism.

A monastery usually has an abbot, from the Aramaic word “abba,” or father, who is the organization’s spiritual leader; a prior, who is second in command; and deans, who each supervise ten monks.

Following are the major monastic orders, each of which may have dozens of sub-orders:

Augustinian:

Founded in 1244, this order follows the Rule of Augustine. Martin Luther was an Augustinian, but was a friar, not a monk. Friars have pastoral duties in the outside world; monks are cloistered in a monastery. Augustinians wear black robes, symbolizing death to the world, and include both men and women (nuns).

Basilian:

Founded in 356, these monks and nuns follow the Rule of Basil the Great. This order is primarily Eastern Orthodox. Nuns work in schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations.

Benedictine:

Benedict founded the abbey of Monte Cassino in Italy about 540, although technically he did not begin a separate order. Monasteries following the Benedictine Rule spread to England, much of Europe, then to North and South America. Benedictines also include nuns. The order is involved in education and missionary work.

Carmelite:

Founded in 1247, the Carmelites include friars, nuns, and lay people. They follow the rule of Albert Avogadro, which includes poverty, chastity, obedience, manual labor, and silence for much of the day. Carmelites practice contemplation and meditation. Famous Carmelites include the mysticsJohn of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux.

Carthusian:

An eremitical order founded in 1084, this group consists of 24 houses on three continents, dedicated to contemplation. Except for daily mass and a Sunday meal, much of their time is spent in their room (cell). Visits are limited to family or relatives once or twice a year. Each house is self-supporting, but sales of an herb-based green liqueur called Chartreuse, made in France, help finance the order.

Cistercian:

Founded by Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), this order has two branches, Cistercians of the Common Observance and Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappist). In following the rule of Benedict, the Strict Observance houses abstain from meat and take a vow of silence. The 20th century Trappist monks Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating were largely responsible for the rebirth of contemplative prayer among Catholic laity.

Dominican:

This Catholic “Order of Preachers” founded by Dominic about 1206 follows the rule of Augustine. Consecrated members live in community and take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Women may live cloistered in a monastery as nuns or may be apostolic sisters who work in schools, hospitals and social settings. The order also has lay members.

Franciscan:

Founded by Francis of Assisi about 1209, Franciscans include three orders: Friars Minor; Poor Clares, or nuns; and a third order of lay people. Friars are further divided into Friars Minor Conventual and Friars Minor Capuchin. The Conventual branch owns some property (monasteries, churches, schools), while the Capuchins closely follow the rule of Francis. The order includes priests, brothers, and nuns who wear brown robes.

Norbertine:

Also known as the Premonstratensians, this order was founded by Norbert in the early 12th century in western Europe. It includes Catholic priests, brothers, and sisters. They profess poverty, celibacy and obedience and divide their time between contemplation in their community and work in the outside world.(Sources: augustinians.netbasiliansisters.orgnewadvent.orgorcarm.orgchartreux.org,osb.orgdomlife.orgnewadvent.org, and premontre.org.)

From 

Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack’s Bio Page.

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