The Monastic Lifestyle and other questions

  1. Do cloistered monks have close relationships with their families ? Are phone calls allowed or is that something that is up to the decision of the abbot ?
  2. Are wooden clappers the standard for waking up monks ? What are the different methods that monks are woken by ?
  3. How many hours of sleep is a monk allowed in the various monastic orders ?
  4. When a person becomes a novice are they required to give up personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes and dental floss ?
  5. Does a person give up all personal items in general when entering the novitiate ?
  6. Do monks celebrate mass on a daily basis ?
  7. Is confession available to monks on a daily basis ?

Interesting questions and most of your questions, if not all, Q28, will vary according to each monastery - but it will be very interesting indeed to read what customs do apply in various monasteries. I am female and I see you are only looking for responses re males i.e. monks.

PS If you don’t get many responses in the Spirituality forum, you might get more by putting your thread into Vocations forum.

I will never be a monk, but that’s only because I don’t fit the gender bill. :stuck_out_tongue: However, I believe I can answer your questions.

  1. It depends on the order. Some are allowed to call once a week, once a month, etc. Some orders allow the monk’s family to visit throughout the year, and sometimes on holidays. Personal visits vary highly from order to order, although in most cases, you will have to visit your family behind a metal grate.

  2. This, too, depends on the order. I believe with the Cistercians here in America, they ring a very large, very loud bell to wake the monks up. Wooden clappers are still used, but it’s mostly bells now from what I’ve seen through research. Some orders even use alarm clocks now, as it’s much easier to wake up to something ringing right in your ear rather than many yards away.

  3. From my research, sleep can range anywhere from 5-9 hours. Some orders have midnight and/or 3am Holy Hour(s), in which you wake, along with all of the other monks, to go to Chapel and pray and/or chant, and after you finish that, you go back to bed. It just depends.

  4. Haha, nope! :stuck_out_tongue: Personal hygiene items remain personal. When they say you can’t own “anything,” they mean personal property/belongings, like jewelry, or toys, or something like that. They certainly don’t expect you to share hygiene items, especially today since we know about all the different bacteria and diseases we could get from sharing such things.

  5. This really depends on the order. Some orders don’t require you to give up everything, but to just bring what you need, and that can range from a small stuffed animal, to a book, to a Rosary from a family member, and even to a journal. Obviously, if you can’t see without glasses, you will have to bring those, and what are a pair of glasses? A personal item. It’s just a trick with words, in my opinion, but this is definitely something to discuss with the Vocations Director/Novitiate Director before you decide to enter as a Postulant, and not before you enter as a Novice.

  6. Most do, but this, too, depends on the order. Some orders only have weekly Mass, along with Masses on Holy Days of Obligations, while other orders have morning and evening Mass. But, not only does it depend on the order, it also depends on if a Priest is available for daily Mass.

  7. This is something one should ask the order directly, as I do not know of an order that has Confession every day, but only 1-3 times throughout the week. Although, I do believe you can ask the Priest or the order director to have a private Confession, if it’s something you really need.

I hope I could help you out! I don’t know what order(s) you’re looking into, but if you’d like to say which ones, I’d be more than happy to find more information for you.

Hey thanks so much for responding to this thread. Additional questions I have are:
8. Is facial hair shaved off when a person receives a tonsure in the various orders ?
9. Are families allowed to attend when a novice takes his vows to become ordained a monk ?

No problem! :slight_smile: Alright.

  1. I believe that’s a yes, however, I do know there is one order that doesn’t do that. Most times it’s just the hair on your head that’s shaved off.

  2. Yep, I believe this goes for all orders. :slight_smile: Not only when entering the Novitiate, but also for Final, or Perpetual Vows, as those are your final vows that bind you both to your order (and new family) and also to God, which can be broken, but never should be.

Is there an order you are looking into?

I’m interested in learning about the Carmelite Order and the Discalced Carmelite Order.
10. What are the biggest differences between the Carmelite Order and the Discalced Carmelite Order ?

I am speaking for a men’s Benedictine monastery.

  1. Phone calls are allowed; there are no restrictions other than observing the hours of silence (from 9 pm until after Terce).
  2. Bells are used.
  3. From after Compline (8 pm) until 5 am (Vigils), but after 9 pm all monks are expected to be in bed. So that means 8 hours is the norm.
  4. No of course not. Those objects are communal property but for personal use.
  5. For the most part, yes.
  6. In the Benedictine tradition, yes, daily.
  7. Confession is always “available” in case of need, but there are specific times set aside.

That is no longer the case for most communities of Benedictine men. In our abbey, monks can meet family members, or members of the public (for spiritual counseling), in a series of parlors outside the cloistered area. Benedictine men no longer observe the papal enclosure for the most part. However, what you say is true for Benedictine nuns (not necessarily Benedictine sisters).

I drifted off into the nun’s part. My bad. :o I know that at least for Discalced Carmelite (nuns) they do still talk through a grate. I didn’t know that Benedictines also had Sisters. From my research, I only found they had cloistered nuns.

  1. Are monks of all orders allowed to wear the black zuchetto ? If not what order allows it’s monks to wear a zuchetto ?
    “All ordained members of the Catholic Church (Roman Rite) are entitled to wear the black zucchetto”. Is this quote from wikipedia true of false ?

Monks wear the habit prescribed by their community when in community. In the Benedictine example, a black habit and scapular. Cistercians have white habits and black scapulars. Some Benedictines have white habits (Olivetans, and some monasteries in very hot climates) or grey (also usually in very hot climes).

One important thing to note about Benedictines is that in the community, other than at Mass the non-ordained brothers and the ordained monks are indistinguishable from each other (unless one is presiding at a solemn Office like Vespers). So the ordained monks will wear no outward sign of their ordination. Monks are to be treated as equals except for the functions of the altar which are limited to the ordained ministries (deacon, priest). At Mass of course the concelebrating priest-monks will be vested as priests, and the assisting deacons will be vested as per their office.

However when out in public monks will often wear a clerical shirt and roman collar instead, or a short hooded monastic tunic and trousers (shirt-length) because a habit is not particularly comfortable for travel especially in public transport.

  1. Is there an intended symbolism of the black of the Benedictine habbit ? If so what is that intended symbolism ?
    Also thanks for also answering my questions OraLabora !

I don’t think there’s any clear understanding. The colour of the habit is not in the Rule of St. Benedict.

the website has this to say:

The color of the habit is not specified in the Rule but it is conjectured that the earliest Benedictines wore white or grey, as being the natural color of undyed wool. For many centuries, however, black has been the prevailing color, hence the term “Black Monk” has come to signify a Benedictine. Some independent or reform congregations have adopted a distinctive color; e.g., the Camaldolese, Cistercians, and Olivetans wear white. The Sylvestrine’s habit used to be blue. Members of the St. Ottilien Congregation used to wear a red sash to signify their special missionary character.

The actual original source is, I think, the Catholic Encyclopedia.

@Ora Labora you mentioned before that Benedictine Monks are able to visit their families in a series of parlors outside the cloistered area. Who in the order has the authority to do away with the metal grating ?

I It wasn’t done away with. It was only a necessity for women’s monasteries:

I was reading a book by a Benedictine monk titled ‘The View from a Monastery’ by Brother Benet Tvedten. I recall he mentioned in his book that certain books were locked away in something called ‘The Devils Closet’. Is this practice particular to the monastery the author was speaking about or is this a common practice ?

The Discalced Carmelites are a little more eremitical and mystical, and they place a heavy emphasis on the study of St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. Other than that, there really is no difference.

The Carmelites of the Ancient Observance have largely cleaned up their order, but 500 years ago, there were big differences.

No idea. I do know our abbey’s library has 50,000 books in it, and not just religious books.

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