A Day in the Life

The life of a monk of St. Bernard Abbey, begins each day while it is still dark. The community gathers in the Abbey Church to pray the first Office of the day, Matins. Throughout the night, the community has observed “Grand Silence.” This silence in broken by the first words of the office, “O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.” Immediately following Matins, the monks pray Lauds. By the time both of these Offices are completed, the sky is light and the day has begun in prayer.

There is a twenty-minute period of private prayer between the conclusion of Lauds and breakfast. Most monks use this time to do Lectio Divina, or Sacred Reading. Breakfast is eaten in silence in the Monastic Refectory. After breakfast, each member of the community begins his assigned tasks. For some, this means teaching in our school, for others it may mean working on the grounds; there are many different jobs that keep a monastery and school running.

Around noon, the monks stop their work and return to the church to pray mid-day prayer, or Sext. Next comes lunch, normally the only meal at which talking is allowed.

The various work of the monks continues in the afternoon. Around four o’clock, it is time to prepare for Mass. Before Mass, many monks spend time in private prayer in their cells (rooms) or in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

Mass begins at five o’clock, followed by Vespers (evening prayer). Supper is then taken in the Refectory in silence, with table reading. On feast days, there is a more festive meal and talking is allowed. After supper, there is about half an hour of recreation time. Some monks use this time to chat with their confreres, go for a walk, or just relax.  The last Office of the day, Compline, is then prayed.

 

After Compline, the abbot blesses each monk with holy water as he leaves the church. With this, the day ends. Many monks spend the time after Compline to read, study, or perhaps prepare for the next day.

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