Saint Meinrad Archabbey

A catholic monastery devoted to the teachings of St. Benedict

Frequently Asked Questions

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 FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Monastic Life

  1. What age can you join the monastery?
  2. How many monks reside at Saint Meinrad?
  3. What do you do all day?
  4. What is your schedule like?
  5. Can you ever leave the monastery?
  6. Do Benedictine monks take a vow of silence?
  7. Will I still be able to see family and friends?
  8. Do you ever have any time for yourself?
  9. When do you wear a habit?
  10. How important is prayer in your life?
  11. Is prayer always easy for you?
  12. What is the difference between a brother and a priest?
  13. How long does it take to become a member of the monastic community
  14. Can you keep your name?
  15. What is a tonsure?
  16. What is the process for joining the monastery?
  17. What if I want to become a monk but am currently tied to other commitments?
  18. What is a monastic vow?
  19. What are the vows that Benedictine monks take?
  20. What are the rooms like?

1. What age can you join the monastery?

Age 20-40, single Roman Catholic men are eligible to enter the monastery.
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2. How many monks are at Saint Meinrad?

Saint Meinrad Archabbey is the third largest Benedictine monastic community for men in North America. It is home to about 90 monks - brothers and priests - who range in age from 20s to 90s. About 60 monks reside at Saint Meinrad, while others are away on parish or chaplain assignments, teaching or attending school, or giving retreats.
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3. What do you do all day?

What a monk does with his day is so varied and complex that only a sampling can be given here. Prayer, work and leisure are all necessary for a healthy life. We try to make sure we have a balance of all these, but we don't always succeed. Work is an important dimension of monastic life. At Saint Meinrad, many of us have one main occupation, such as teaching, carpentry, administration, health care, maintenance, spiritual direction, art or parish ministry. In addition, various jobs in the monastery must be done so that we can live together, such as cleaning, waiting tables, preparing food for breakfast, reading in church or at table, etc. Novices spend about half their day studying and the other half doing various chores.
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4. What is your schedule like?

Through the week, the daily schedule might look like this:

5:30 a.m. Morning Prayer
6:15 a.m. Breakfast
6:45 a.m. Lectio divina
7:30 a.m. Mass
8:30 a.m. Assigned work or study
12:00 p.m. Noon Prayer
12:15 p.m. Lunch
1:00 p.m. Assigned work or study
5:00 p.m. Vespers
5:30 p.m. Lectio divina
6:00 p.m. Supper
6:30 p.m.Free
7:00 p.m. Compline
10:00 p.m. Silence

On Sundays and great feasts, Morning Prayer begins at 7:15 a.m. with Mass at 9:30 a.m., and the main meal comes after Noon Prayer. On Tuesdays and Fridays, the novices and junior monks gather at 7 p.m. for common recreation. In the evenings, some watch the news on television or play cards in the calefactory (the community room). Others pursue hobbies or read. Students often use the time for schoolwork.
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5. Once you are a monk, can you ever leave the monastery?

Yes. Monks come and go for various kinds of business. Some spend extended time away at school. Some are stationed outside the monastery in parishes. A number of monks give retreats and talks throughout the United States and sometimes farther away. The novices, as a group, visit the local area from time to time to get to know the neighborhood and have a bit of fun. Except for the annual overnight trip to the Abbey of Gethsemane or an important event in their immediate family, novices do not spend a night away from the monastery.
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6. Do Benedictine monks take a vow of silence?

No. Silence is a matter of time and place. We have times when we are silent, for example between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., and we have places we are silent, for example the church and the hallways of the monastery. While silence is an important part of monastic life, it is only one piece. It is with our voice that we give communal praise to God, offer support to our brothers and share with one another the events of our day-to-day lives. Just as we have times and places where we are more silent, we also have times and places where we are more social. St. Benedict invites the monk to "listen with the ear of the heart." For that, both true silence and authentic communication are necessary.
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7. Will I still be able to see family and friends?

Yes. Coming to the monastery doesn't mean saying good-bye to family and friends forever. In many regards, coming to the monastery is not much different than getting married and moving to another town. Monks are not cut off from the world or banished from those they love. We keep in contact through correspondence, phone calls and emails, and many of us spend at least part of our vacation each year with family and friends. Family and friends are also welcome to visit at Saint Meinrad.
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8. Do you ever have any time to yourself?

Being alone is part of being a monk. Although there are designated times when we come together for prayer, meals and recreation, there is also time to be alone, whether for private prayer, meditation, reading and hobbies.
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9. When do you wear a habit?

We generally wear our habits to church. We wear them for the main meal of the day and in other formal situations. Some monks wear their habits most of the time, and others wear them less. That depends somewhat on the type of work that people are doing. Frankly, habits are ordinary clothes for us, and there is really no discussion about whether we should or shouldn't wear them. There are certain times when we always wear them, and times when we don't.
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10. How important is prayer in your life?

Prayer is central to the monastic life, which is organized so that five times a day we gather to pray in church. In addition to Mass, the monastery gathers for Morning Prayer (45 minutes), Noon Prayer (15 minutes), Evening Prayer or Vespers (30 minutes) and Compline (60 minutes). Both in the morning and afternoon, there is a 30-minute period designated for lectio divina, which is a way of praying the Scriptures. Except in designated areas of the monastery, a prayerful quiet pervades the monastery. Each monk's room, or cell as we call it, is also a personal sacred space where he can pray and study the things of God. All of this helps us to focus our life on God revealed to us through Jesus the Word.
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11. Is prayer always easy for you?

Prayer is every day and several times a day in the monastery. Sometimes the bell rings, and you would rather continue working on a project or talking with someone, but when the bell rings you go. Prayer is an expression of our relationship to God, and it includes other people. Just as it is sometimes hard to be present to other people, sometimes it is hard to be present to God. Just as it is hard to relate to people, even people we know well and care about, so also prayer can be hard. Like all relationships, prayer is constantly changing. Sometimes it is growing and sometimes it is not. Part of monastic formation helps people learn the basics of prayer and the ways in which the life of prayer can develop. It is not always easy.
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12. What is the difference between a brother and a priest?

Whether ordained or not, we are all monks, and that is the primary vocation for everyone in the monastery at Saint Meinrad. Some monks have been ordained priests to help with the pastoral and sacramental ministry of the Church, and this has been an important part of the life at Saint Meinrad since its founding. However, it is only one part; being a monk is the central part. When you look at the monks of Saint Meinrad, you cannot tell the difference between those who are ordained priests and those who are not. You can see only that they are monks, because that is their first and most important vocation. Monks who are also priests use the title "Father," while those who are not ordained go by the title "Brother."
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13. How long does it take to become a member of the monastic community?

Men come for a candidacy of three months. During that time, they live in the monastery and obtain more experience of our way of life before becoming a novice. After that, a person begins the novitiate, which lasts a year and a day. A novice is an individual who is a member of the community and is in the process of formation in becoming a monk. At the end of that year, the novices become junior monks by making vows for three years. Although a person may extend the time of temporary vows, junior monks often make solemn vows at the end of three years and so become full-fledged monks of the monastery.
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14. Can you keep your name?

Taking a new name is a sign of conversion in the monastic tradition. At. Saint Meinrad, the novices - just before they make their first profession of vows - give a list of three names to Father Archabbot, who designates one of the three as the novice's monastic name. If no one in the community has the novice's baptismal name, a novice may ask for that.
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15. What is a tonsure?

The tonsure was an ancient practice of cutting one's hair to indicate that one was a monk. At Saint Meinrad, the practice takes place at two times: for entrance into the novitiate and for solemn vows. It is a visible sign that one has decided to embrace a new and different way of life.
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16. What is the process for joining the monastery?

When an individual becomes serious about joining a monastery and selects Saint Meinrad Archabbey, there are three basics steps. The first step is to begin visiting the monastery and become acquainted with some members of the monastic community. If there is still interest after visiting, the next step is to be interviewed by the vocation committee, which consists of six monks, to discern if our lifestyle will help the individual get closer to God. If the individual and vocation committee discern that entrance into the monastery would be appropriate, then the third step consists of finishing up the necessary requirements for entrance into the candidacy program: application, physical exam, psychological and psychiatric evaluations. Each individual approaches these three steps at his own pace as he discerns how God is leading him.
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17. What if I want to become a monk but am currently tied to other commitments, e.g. school?

We sponsor an off-campus affiliation program for men who wish to formalize their relationship with Saint Meinrad Archabbey but who are delayed in entering candidacy because of commitments to family, work or school. Affiliates maintain a relationship with the monastery through consistent visits. They practice their faith in a parish and begin to participate in monastic practices, such as praying lectio divina and the Liturgy of the Hours on their own. A monk is assigned to serve as their discernment guide.
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18. What is a monastic vow?

A monastic vow is a solemn promise made freely by an individual to give his or her life to God by living the monastic life.
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19. What are the vows that Benedictine monks take?

Benedictines take vows of obedience, stability, and fidelity to the monastic way of life. By obedience, a monk vows to follow the call of the community, particularly through the abbot, to serve the common good of the monastery. Obedience is a way of conforming oneself to Christ through concrete service to the community and to the Church.

By stability, a monk binds himself to a specific monastery. It is often said that Benedictines do not have a generic vocation to be a monk, but a vocation to be a monk of a specific monastery. Each monastery has its own history and character, which shapes those who come to join.

The vow of fidelity to the monastic way of life is a promise to become more and more a monk. This does not happen in a moment or even in several years, but it is a project for a lifetime. Part of becoming a monk means giving up the right to own property. As monks, we hold everything in common. So if you need something, you ask the superior for it. If you have something you don't need any longer, then you pass it on to someone who needs it. For Benedictines, no one person owns anything, but the community owns everything and distributes things as people have need. The monastic life is also a call to celibate chastity. This is one way in which monks witness to the spiritual values that transcend the passing world that we live in.

Celibate chastity is a call to give life to others - the life of God in Christ. Monastic life is also movement toward God by prayer and by a life of humble love. Benedict calls monks to live a life of truth. He calls them to accept the reality of their lives and then to move toward "that love which when perfect casts out fear." Again, this is not something accomplished easily or quickly; it is the project of a lifetime.
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20. What are the rooms like?

At Saint Meinrad, all of the monks have a room with a small private bath. The rooms are not large, but individual monks do not need lots of things for themselves. We refer to our rooms as cells.
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