Benedictine, Cistercian, Trappist?


#1

It is my understanding that these are three different religious orders that each apply the Rule of St. Benedict in a different way, according to the traditions of their founder/reformer.

This website tells me:
religious-vocation.com/differences_religious_orders.html

That there is often not much difference in the way that the Rule is practised in communities today, but Cistercians and Trappists are stricter in their observances. So, they will often abstain from meat, be more self-sufficient - farming animals and so on, and never leave the monastery grounds.

I understand that the Cistercian and Trappist communities are reforms of the Benedictine's, and were created because of a perceived relaxation in Benedictine communities at the time.

Because there is often not much difference between the three as practised today, does this mean the "laxness" has been sorted out? If Benedictines tend to be less strict in their application, such as allowing monks to work outside the monastery or relying on means outside the community, is this a "bad" thing? Do Cistercians feel that the thier application is more in tune with what St. Benedict himself wanted, to the extent that they feel he would be displeased with the way the Benedictines follow his rule? For example, St. Benedict did say in his rule that communities were to be as self-sufficient as possible and were to abstain from meat - yet many Benedictine communities (correct my ignorance if I am wrong) do not do this.

Just trying to understand the way that these differences have come about.

Thanks


#2

From what I understand, the Cistercians and especially the Trappists are way tougher than the Benedictines. I knew one old priest who had to leave the Trappists because it was too physically tough. Lots of fasting. Was hard on his stomach. But, boy! You talk about one heck of a confessor! If we were talking football, we'd be talking Probowl candidate!


#3

I spent eight months in 2009-2010 trying life at a Cistercian monastery, so this is a question that is close to my heart.

You're essentially correct about the history -- the Cistercians arose in the 11th century as a reform movement within Benedictine monasticism. They wanted to apply the Rule of St Benedict more literally than the Benedictines of their time did. (As the amount and elaboration of liturgical prayer expanded, the Benedictines were doing less and less manual labor to support themselves, as the Rule envisions.) By the 17th century, the same thing was happening to the Cistercians, and that's when the Trappists emerged as Cistercian reform.

The Benedictines (OSB) are far the largest order of the three, and by now their monastic observance is quite diverse: Some are very contemplative and cloistered, as St Benedict envisioned, others more "apostolic", with the monks having responsibility for schools or parishes.

The "Common Order" Cistercians (O.Cist.) suffered terribly during the French Revolution -- many monasteries closed, others went exile, and others to justify their existence took on apostolic works, again like schools and parishes. That allowed them to survive, but it had the effect of compromising the Cistercians' contemplative nature. These days, 200 years later, a number of Cistercian communities are trying to get back to their original tradition.

The Cistercians of the "Strict Observance" (OCSO), as the Trappists are called, have been consistent about maintaining their contemplative focus, although the 4 or 5 Trappist monasteries I've visited are not quite as austere as the Trappists traditionally were.

The OCists and the OCSO's collaborate on many things, and it's certainly possible that they could reconcile and reunite at some point. The monastic observance of the OCist monastery where I tried the life is fairly similar to the OCSO house a few hours away, and the two have friendly relations. Relations with the OSB's are generally pretty good, too -- a couple of our monks studied at a Benedictine seminary.

I hope that helps!


#4

The current OSB’s are a far cry from those centuries ago when the Trappist and CIstercian reforms were created. The OSB vows are obedience, stability and conversion provide ample opportunity in these to observe as much austerity as you desire. The OSB’s are not cloistered in the usual way. For example, as they often teach, they can leave to attend conferences and pursue their advanced degrees. They also observe the ancient Benedictine tradition of hospitality and welcome visitors into their monasteries. They have tken over parishes in the past, but may be abandoning this as their numbers dwindle.

I notice that you live in the UK and are “wanting to be Catholic” . You may want to visit any one of a number of Anglican UK monasteries in the UK, in addition to the OSB one, Mt. St. Bernard. The RC and AC Benedictine monasteries are on excellent terms with each other. If you go to the Benedictine uber-website, www.osb.org, at the bottom you wil find links to communities outside the OSB confederation, including the Camaldolese, Trappists, Cistercians, Carthusians–and Anglican OSB’s. There is also the Friends of St. Benedictine, which offers a lot of resources for you.


#5

If you’re interested in Benedictine life, I highly recommend a visit to the Monastery of St. Benedict in Norcia, Italy. Founded by an American from St. Meinrad’s in Indiana, the community is striving for a return to full observance of the Benedictine rule, and a revival of Benedictine monasticism in Italy. They celebrate both forms of the Roman rite with great reverence and devotion and are committed to a life of prayer, austerity, and hospitality. The monks there are some of the holiest and happiest I’ve ever met.

Though most of the monks are American, one is from England, one from Scotland, and one from Indonesia. Check out their website here: osbnorcia.org/

I also recommend their month-long discernment program that is held each summer, and was essential in my own discernment (I’m now applying to the Capuchins). The deadline to apply for this year’s program is fast approaching: osbnorcia.org/cras/discernment-program/

Be assured of my prayers!


#6

http://images.encyclopediadramatica.com/images/thumb/4/4e/Pain5.jpg/800px-Pain5.jpg


#7

Thanks for the help everyone!

cara1

I notice that you live in the UK and are "wanting to be Catholic" . You may want to visit any one of a number of Anglican UK monasteries in the UK, in addition to the OSB one, Mt. St. Bernard. The RC and AC Benedictine monasteries are on excellent terms with each other. If you go to the Benedictine uber-website, www.osb.org, at the bottom you wil find links to communities outside the OSB confederation, including the Camaldolese, Trappists, Cistercians, Carthusians--and Anglican OSB's. There is also the Friends of St. Benedictine, which offers a lot of resources for you.

Thanks. Mt. St. Bernard is a Trappist monastary though. I plan to at least try and visit some of the Benedictine monastary's here in the UK summer next year. I will hopefully be Catholic by then and it will give me a great chance to see what Religious life is like.

Thepeug

If you're interested in Benedictine life, I highly recommend a visit to the Monastery of St. Benedict in Norcia, Italy. Founded by an American from St. Meinrad's in Indiana, the community is striving for a return to full observance of the Benedictine rule, and a revival of Benedictine monasticism in Italy. They celebrate both forms of the Roman rite with great reverence and devotion and are committed to a life of prayer, austerity, and hospitality. The monks there are some of the holiest and happiest I've ever met.

At the moment I am just looking at Monastaries in the UK, but this is definitly something to think about. Thier monastary looks beautiful!


#8

There is no better or worse when it comes to religious communities.

Each has its own role to play. Trappist (who ARE Cistercians of the STRICT OBSERVANCE) may leave their monasteries (look at Fr. Louis, better known as Thomas Merton). They used to have a vow of silence, but now they are allowed to talk as needed, etc.

Each community does its own thing.

Trappists mostly pray, and work (and their work is offered up as prayer). They strictly observe the Liturgy of the Hours. They do tend to stay within their own grounds, and they do not eat meat unless it is prescribed by a physician. They don't talk any more than is necessary. Unless they are either too old, or too ill, they MUST perform work each and every day. They do retreats, but ONLY at their monasteries.

Other communities interact with the public much more. Many of them have parishes that they man, do retreats in the community, etc.

The "Rule of St. Benedict", in one form or another, is utilized by most religious communities.


#9

Hi
I have a dream.
Despite my wheelchair, I wish to stay ca 2 weeks this summer at a monastery anywhere in Europe, where I get to enjoy as much as possible of this:
-silence
-noble silence (=nobody speaks anything at all - not even “hello” anytime 24/7 or for as long time-intervals as possible. I stayed at a ZEN temple before, but they only had noble-silence from 9pm-10am…)

  • monks sing canto gregoriano daily and i can listen

Can anyone please recommend such a place?
I don’t care what type of Christians the monks are, as long as above wishes are met.
Thank You
Peter from Stockholm Sweden.

Here are more details:

Dear Sir,
My personal care assistant (PCA) Joakim and I would love to stay with you for ideally two weeks this summer sometime during dates week 25 (17/6) and week 30 (21/7) and IF possible be home again july 8, or otherwise be home july 21?

My dream is to experience the silence & perhaps canto gregoriano.

Below my PCA describes us and our dream in further detail:

Hello,

My name is Joakim, and I am a personal care assistant for a man named Peter who is in a wheelchair. Peter would like to come stay at the monastery and partake in silence during a period this summer. Peter would bring all the equipment he needs for the stay himself. He has everything he needs: ramps, shower chair, portable lift, etc. He uses no life-sustaining apparatus and requires no medical care. I will accompany him and see to all his needs. I have been his assistant for several years, so I can do this without the need for verbal communication.

Due to the perilous task of transporting the equipment he needs, we wonder if it is possible to stay slightly longer than 8 days? Perhaps 14 days would be possible? That way we will both have the time to partake of the silence and return home at the end of the journey with renewed spiritual vigor.

Both me and Peter have for a long time been practicing meditation on a daily basis. Peter has also lived at a zen buddhist temple for a time (but missed the silence), learning meditation from the monks there, as well as in ashram in india. He has also learned qigong in china, which he practices regularly. Peter has also been in Lourdes and bathed in the holy mary’s waters.

We are both of christian conviction.

What are your vacancies during june/july?

Best wishes,

Joakim and Peter


Med vänlig hälsning / Kindest Regards
Peter Cederholm


#10

[quote="Scoobyshme, post:2, topic:235486"]
From what I understand, the Cistercians and especially the Trappists are way tougher than the Benedictines. I knew one old priest who had to leave the Trappists because it was too physically tough. Lots of fasting. Was hard on his stomach. But, boy! You talk about one heck of a confessor! If we were talking football, we'd be talking Probowl candidate!

[/quote]

Agreed, the Trappists make wonderful confessors. I have gone to a Trappist monastery for confession with a priest I knew and we spent 30 minutes together in the confessional, he gave advice and talked to me about each sin. And at the end consecrated me to Mary. Wonderful!


#11

I would recommend the Abbey of the Genesee in New York. They have a bread making factory and they keep a really strict silence and it is in the country side of New York. I loved it there. They even have a monastery book store with a lot of Thomas Merton books. It is a great place for a retreat. I've also been to Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina which is beautiful but not as strict as Genesee in my opinion.


#12

They are also the venue that inspired The Genesee Diary, an excellent book by Henri Nouwen.

Fr Steve Petrica
Detroit


#13

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