Are monks still enclosed?


I thought monks (as opposed to friars) never went out and spent all their time in prayer. However recently I saw a picture of the Abbot Primate of the Order of St Benedict on stage playing an electric guitar! (apparently he’s a member of a Christian rock group).

I’m sure this would’ve been unthinkable at one time (before Vatican II?), but now everythings back the front. Is it that none are enclosed anymore or only some? Whats the situation now? Thanks.


Some monasteries do not require strict enclosure. Benedictines may have an apostolate outside the enclosure (such as a school or parish).


[quote="Vico, post:2, topic:242774"]
Some monasteries do not require strict enclosure. Benedictines may have an apostolate outside the enclosure (such as a school or parish).


Yes, during the period of mass European immigration to the US in the 19th century, Benedictines were often pressured by the local bishop into serving in parishes and schools. (source:The Benedictine Order in the United States: An Interpretative History, 1990)

According to the old Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright 1913, such functions were common elsewhere:

Parochial work is undertaken by the following congregations: Cassinese, English, Swiss, Bavarian, Gallican, American-Cassinese, Swiss-American, Beuronese, Cassinese P. O., Austrian (both), Hungarian, and the Abbey of Fort Augustus. In the majority of these congregations the missions are attached to certain abbeys and the monks serving them are under the almost exclusive control of their own monastic superiors; in others the monks only supply the place of the secular clergy and are, therefore, for the time being, under their respective diocesan bishops.

The work of education is common to all congregations of the order. It takes the form in different places of seminaries for ecclesiastical studies, schools, and gymnasia for secondary education not strictly ecclesiastical, or of colleges for a higher or university course. In Austria and Bavaria many of the government lycees or gymnasia are entrusted to the care of the monks. In England and America the Benedictine schools rank high amongst the educational establishments of those countries, and compete successfully with the non-Catholic schools of a similar class. Those of the American Cassinese congregation have already been enumerated; they include three seminaries, fourteen schools and colleges, and an orphanage, with a total of nearly two thousand students-The Swiss American congregation carries on scholastic work at five of its abbeys. At St. Meinrad's, besides the seminary, there is a commercial college; at Spielerville (Arkansas) and Mount Angel (Oregon) are seminaries; and at Conception, Spielerville, Covington (Louisiana), and Mount Angel are colleges. The English Benedictines have large and flourishing colleges attached to each of their abbeys, and belonging to Downside are also two other smaller schools, one a "grammar school" at Ealing, London, and the other a preparatory school recently established at Enniscorthy, Ireland.


I think the Carthusians and Cistercians are the only strictly enclosed Orders. The others, as far as I know, are a mixed bag.


To be perfectly honest, the idea of "strict enclosure" was not prominent even to St. Benedict himself. From the foundation of his rule until the 1300's, there was no such idea of a strict, total enclosure. When St. Dominic went to reform the nuns of San Sisto in the 1210's, for example, they were a very queer mix of different ideas and rules. He imposed a sort of half-enclosed that was something close to the strictness of later ones. I believe Benedict himself wrote about "gyrovagarians", monks who went to new monasteries when they got bored of an old one.

It's a shifting and moving set of ideas over time. I'd prefer monks to be enclosed and friars to be the apostolate-oriented ones, but there's so much variety in the Church! It's great!


Well yes, but St. Benedict didn’t have kind things to say about gyrovagues. His rule sought to put a stop to such a practice, hence the vow of Stability. But you are also correct that he did recognize that occasionally there was a need to travel from the monastery, and perhaps stay elsewhere for a time.


Not mentioned yet are the Carmelites and Poor Clares, both contemplative.


My branch of Benedictines (Olivetans-olivetani) travel. 4 hours in both directions to be at some of our Oblate meetings:eek:


the Camaldolese are pretty contemplative too


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