Life as a Benedictine monk means life lived in community: eating, praying, working and growing in holiness with other men who desire a deeper relationship with God. The Scriptures and our Catholic theology teach us that God is sought both in an intense one-on-one relationship with Him alone, but also in the people who share our lives.
The number and variety of men who live in the monastery mean that we will face both the joys and the challenges of learning to love our fellow monks. Great rewards come with developing life-long friendships with confreres; however, a monk should not be surprised when he finds himself upset with or even occasionally scandalized by another member of the community.
In the end, these difficult relationships provide a monk with the opportunity to practice the conversion he came to the monastery seeking: a conversion to Christ, who modeled what it means to love perfectly when He laid down His life for both friend and enemy, saint and sinner alike.
In the end, there is an intimacy - a sense of knowing and being known - that develops among monks. Years of living together in a monastery yields a familiarity that enables monks to anticipate one another's needs, to accommodate for another's weaknesses and to discreetly hold one another accountable for living as Christians.
In his Rule, St. Benedict encourages us: "May we learn to prefer nothing to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life."
With 85 or so monks, Saint Meinrad Archabbey is one of the largest monasteries in the United States. At Saint Meinrad, Benedict's emphasis on community is lived out in our common meals, our common prayer, our shared works, and our formal and informal periods of community recreation.
Table reading, community retreats, abbot's conferences and culpa services (acknowledging our failings in community life to one another) are all means by which we are formed as a group and grow together in holiness. The size of our community affords us an abundance of gifts, talents and energies, all of which enliven and ennoble our life together.