Life of a Monk
Vocations > Life of a Monk
Rule of St. Benedict Chapter 58
" ...If after due reflection he promises to observe everything and to obey every command given him, let him then be received into the community. But he must be well aware that, as the law of the rule establishes from this day he is no longer free to leave the monastery, nor to shake from his neck the yoke of the rule which, in the course of so prolonged a period of reflection, he was free either to reject or to accept."
The Life of a Monk - St. Bernard Abbey
St. Bernard Abbey is a vibrant monastic community of Catholic men who follow the 1500-year Benedictine tradition of worship and work through daily prayer and service in ministries that include education, hospitality, parish ministry and spiritual retreats.
In 1891, German speaking monks from St. Vincent Abbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania gathered to establish St. Bernard Abbey in the picturesque Appalachian foothills of northern Alabama, near Cullman. It was an apt location for a monastic community because of the natural beauty, silence and solitude so necessary for the contemplative life. Today, well over a century later, St. Bernard Abbey monastic retreatsis an active monastic group which combines contemplative aspects with ministerial apostolates.
A monastery of men is a group of monks who share life together with one binding purpose: striving to imitate Christ and to seek God’s kingdom above all else. An abbey is a monastery under the leadership of an abbot (from
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the Aramaic word ‘ABBA’ meaning ‘father’), who is the head and spiritual father charged and empowered by God to lead and guide the monks in worship, service, and growth. Life as a monk is one of service to God. The monks forego marriage and renounce personal ownership of money and material goods, thus demonstrating their total dependence upon God.
St. Bernard Abbey is such a place. The monks live in a family-like atmosphere where not only prayers and sustenance are shared, but also where the monks relate joys, sorrows, and the excitement of their lives and ministries. In doing so, they find support, friendship and encouragement from one another. In coming together to seek God first and foremost through prayer and vows they, like all Christians, are simply responding to the love of God, who loved them first (1 John 4:19).
St. Bernard Abbey has a distinct rhythm, marked by the gathering of monks throughout each day to publicly celebrate the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours: Morning Prayer, Midday Prayer, Evening Prayer (Vespers), and Night Prayer (Compline). The monk’s day also contains time for private prayer called ‘lectio divina’ (meditative holy reading).
The Scriptures are the primary material for lectio divina, but whatever is read, it is the listening heart which is at work in coming to a greater knowledge of God. Through this means, the message of God as conveyed in Scripture and interpreted by the Church Fathers and saints is heard and appropriated for the monk’s own spiritual development and growth. The daily schedule amply provides for quiet, solitary prayer and study in ones living quarters, the library or the surrounding woods.
Monks at St. Bernard Abbey operate a retreat and conference center as well as the world famous Ave Maria Grotto, live and work in several mission parishes, teach at St. Bernard Preparatory School and become involved in various forms of ministry. The ever growing number of people who make up the extended ‘Abbey Family’ include alumni, parents, friends, benefactors and oblates.
The monks also tend to the daily maintenance of the monastery. This includes work in the kitchen, the library, the bookstore, the infirmary, the information and activities center, the care of the buildings and grounds and serving the needs of the many monastery guests.
St. Bernard Abbey is a spirited community that enjoys the many surprises and challenges that life brings. In community, the monks help each other see every experience as an opportunity to follow and grow in the Spirit of God. By their very monastic lives, they seek to convey the way of Jesus through simplicity, humility, obedience, and service to each other and the community.
What is an abbey or monastery, and why would a person join one? First of all a monastery of men is a group of monks who share life together with one binding purpose: union with God. An abbey is simply a monastery under the leadership of an abbot.
St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama is such a place. The 30 monks who make up the monastery community share life in common, and that includes prayer, work, housing, property, meals, recreation, etc. In coming together to seek God they, like all Christians, are merely responding to the love of God who, after all, loved them first (I John 4:19).
At. St. Bernard Abbey the monks come together in the abbey church at least five times a day for worship in common. Their life of prayer and work also includes a great deal of private prayer, meditation, spiritual reading, and of course a variety of labors, such as care of its more than 900 acres of property, operating a college Preparatory school, running a retreat center, and working in several parishes in the state of Alabama. The monastery owns and operates the Ave Maria Grotto, located on the grounds.
As St. Paul recommends (I Cor. 7:32-35), monks do not marry. The monk, like Christ, sacrifices the good things called marriage and personal possessions so that he may give his life totally to God.
We invite you to come to St. Bernard so you can meet us and see in person our community and find out more about us.
For information regarding vocations to the monastic life contact:
Fr. Jacob, O.S.B.
Vocation Director firstname.lastname@example.org