1. “What is the difference between a monk and a priest?” When someone enters a male monastic community the first step is that of becoming a MONK. The entire community is made up of both brothers AND priests and all of these are MONKS. The term MONK is not synonymous with the word PRIEST. The term MONK refers to the lifestyle of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthose living within a monastery, and the members of the monastery are made up of both brothers and priests.

2. “What is the difference, then, between a priest and a brother?” Both priests and brothers in the monastery are, first of all, MONKS. When someone first comes to the monastery and takes vows as a Benedictine they are called Brother _______. Some of these brothers remain brothers for the rest of their lives while others decide to pursue the priesthood. To become a priest the monk then goes through four years of seminary training, just like any other Catholic priest, and is then ordained to the priesthood. After ordination the monk is then called Father ________.

3. “When someone enters a religious order do you have to change your first name?” The changing of one’s name in religious life is not a requirement unless someone else already has the same name as you in the community. We have some monks who have the same name that they were baptized with but many have changed their name upon entering the monastery, choosing a particular saint as their patron.

4. “What kind of retreats do you offer at the monastery?” Although we do not host large group retreats, St. Bede does have several guest rooms available for people to make private retreats at our monastery. Some people like to come and spend time alone in silence while others come for spiritual direction from one of the monks. Guests are invited to attend our celebration of the Eucharist, the Divine Office and meals with the monks. Retreatants often comment on how much they appreciate the peaceful environment of the gardens and woods surrounding the abbey.

5. “Is there an age limit for acceptance into the monastery?” Most monasteries will probably tell you that they have a cutoff age of 40 or 45. We likewise have an age limit.  We do not accept anyone younger than age 21 or until after they have finished college and do not accept anyone over the age of 45.   Most of the men in our community entered when they were young, in their early twenties, but it seems that today most people delay a decision about the religious life.

6. “What is the formation program like at Saint Bede and how long is it?” Click here to read “How Does One Become a Monk?”.

7. “What kind of educational background does one need to enter a monastery?” If someone is thinking about the religious life and is concerned that they have a certain type of degree there are different issues to consider. First of all, if priesthood is what someone plans for the future a degree or a minor in philosophy is required before acceptance into a major seminary. This type of degree is not required, however, of someone who is simply interested in joining a religious community and is not sure of their future role within the community. The primary focus of someone entering our community is on learning how to live the monastic life, which is a life of both prayer and work. If someone joins and later decides they want to go on for the priesthood and do not have any background in philosophy they can be sent away to study for this before going into a major seminary.

8. “Does the Abbot say Mass every day in the monastery or do all of the priests take turns?” The Abbot is the main celebrant at Mass only on specific feasts and solemnities which include Christmas, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, and holy days of obligation. Priests in our monastery take turns celebrating Mass on Sundays, and during the week one priest will be the celebrant on Monday through Wednesday and another on Thursday through Saturday.100_0204

9. “Where is Peru, Illinois?” Peru, Illinois is 100 miles southwest of Chicago, about 2 miles south of Interstate I-80 and about 60 miles north of Peoria. Saint Bede is on Route 6 between the towns of Spring Valley and Peru.

10. “What vows do Benedictines take?” Benedictines take the vows of obedience, stability, and conversatio morem suorum (conversion of morals), which have been understood in modern times as the three Benedictine Vows. In St. Benedict’s time these were considered as “obligations” rather than as vows as we know them to be in modern times. In the Middle Ages religious began taking the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience, known as the three “evangelical counsels”. The first monks simply promised to live the full monastic life as it was practiced in a particular monastery and defined by a particular rule. The vow of obedience has the clearest meaning: the monk surrenders his own will to the will of the Abbot who represents Christ within the community and to the Rule of Saint Benedict. The vow of stability is a vow that only monks take in a particular community. It means that the monk is to persevere until death in the same monastery. The third vow is probably the hardest to explain. Translated it simply means a “conversion of one’s behavior”, the abandonment of secular habits and adherence to monastic practice. In more simpler terms it means that the monk promises to live a life of celibacy and poverty.

11. “Do monks get days off and vacations?” This is a very common question that most people ask us as monks. Monks in simple vows are allowed one week of vacation and monks in final (solemn) vows are allowed two weeks vacation every year. Monks who are in final vows also are allowed to take a day off once a month and are given the use of a car for the day if necessary.

12. “What is an appropriate gift for a monk?” Those of us who live in the monastery are asked this question often, especially at times when a monk is going to be ordained, making his profession, or celebrating an anniversary. Monks live simple lives and do not normally need anything that is superfluous. Cash gifts and gift certificates are what most people give us as gifts, but other useful gifts include things like pre-paid phone cards or anything in the like which can be used as cash.


Benedictine Vows

The three vows which Benedictine monks take at monastic profession are:

1. Obedience
2. Stability
3. Conversatio morum suorum

The vow of obedience means that the monk is to follow the commands of his abbot and other superiors, who take the place of Christ within the monastery.

The vow of stability is unique to the Benedictine order. What this means is that the monastery where one makes profession is home for the rest of his life. This is unlike other religious orders where persons are transferred from one religious house to another. True, some Benedictines are sent out to do work in parishes, hospitals and other ministries but the monastery where he professed will always be their ‘home’, where they always return for important community events and for retirement.

The third vow, conversatio morum suorum, can literally be translated as “conversion of one’s behavior”. For Benedictines this encompasses the other traditional vows which all religious profess — chastity and poverty.

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