To be a Benedictine or Trappist Monk


Hey, I believe that my vocation is to be a Benedictine or Trappist Monk. What books or articles should I read about them? Also, I have considered being a dominican and I thought my previous vocation would be priesthood (Later discounted that after I read To Save a Thousand Souls as I do not have all of the qualifications and requirements for being a Priest) I am trying to get deeper in to the Faith and trying to get out of Mortal Sin constantly.


I suppose the Rule of St Benedict would be a good place to start. As an aside, part of a monastic vocation is a calling to join a particular community - that is, a particular abbey or monastery - since those in monastic orders take a vow of stability meaning that they usually do not move from the community they originally joined.


As was mentioned, reading about the rule of St. Benedict would be good. This site has the Rule, and has excellent commentary by the Abbot of Christ in the Desert Monastery. I’ve read thru the whole thing there myself and I think his commentary is very insightful and helpful. Even if you’ve already read the Rule, I’d still highly recommend going over it again and reading the Abbot’s commentary on it.

Have u visited any communities yet, and have u talked all of this over with a spiritual director?


Yes, most monasteries have “come and see” opportunities, where potential aspirants can try out the life for a short time, to see if they are a good fit. Be it a Benedictine or a Cistercian monastery, they all have vocation directors ready to help, and most all of them have informative websites too, where you can see the monks’ daily schedule and make first contact. God bless you, whatever you decide!

If you are in Stafford, you are relatively close to Holy Cross, the Trappist abbey in Berryville. Maybe start there.


Keep in mind that Trappists ARE Benedictines, of a strict reform. That is, they follow the Benedictine Rule. So you need to think about the way that you might want to live out the Rule, not the Rule itself, in deciding between them.


Have you read any of Thomas Merton’s books? He became a Trappist, and gives great insight into Benedictine/ Trappist prayer and life. Seven Story Mountain is a good place to start, and Seeds of Contemplation. There are many books written by and about him.

Trappists live a more cloistered and silent life, and pray the entire seven Liturgical Hours of the Ofice, usually in Latin. Benedictines are more active, pray a shorter Office. Both are wonderful vocations. I would recommend getting a Spiritual Director if you do not already have one.


How about a Carthusian…


I would agree that this is a great place to start. I myself am considering life as a Benedictine monk :slight_smile:


The monastic journey written by fr. Thomas Merton is indeed good one… :slight_smile:


As others have told you, both the Benedictines and the Trappists are sons and daughters of Saint Benedict.

Yes, it is good to read the Rule, which is freely available on-line, but I would caution that what you will read is going to be different from what is lived in the 21st century.

It’s important to understand that each community has its own personality. They are unique. You would need to think about – and experience – the different communities in the concrete in order to discover what you are attracted to.

You write that you are in Virginia.

There is the Abbey of the Holy Cross in Berryville, Virginia, which is Trappist. They live a life focused on the monastic observance without external apostolate. As far as the Trappist observance, I would assume that this is physically the closest to you. They are a small community and different from, for example, Gethsemane Abbey in Trappist, Kentucky.

On the Benedictine side…I would assume the abbeys closest to you are Mother of the Church in Richmond, Virginia, and Saint Anselm’s in Washington, DC. Both run preparatory schools. Saint Anselm is unique in that is one of three abbeys in the United States that is of the English Congregation – the monasteries in their “family” are principally in the United Kingdom. They both are small communities and their apostolic work is focused on what the Americans call “High School Education”. If you have no attraction to working in education at that age level…that would be problematic.

A bit further afield would be Belmont Abbey in North Carolina or Saint Vincent’s Archabbey in Pennsylvania. They run colleges. Saint Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana runs an inter-diocesan seminary. Prince of Peace Abbey in California, on the other hand, has no outside apostolate but lives a more contemplative life.

Your discernment would have to focus on the type of life you are seeking and the type of work you are potentially drawn to and whether you would be more attracted to a large community or a small one.

The only way to really decide is to visit the communities and live with them for a time. As others have said, monasteries offer or arrange for a “Come and see” experience. You would live some aspect of the community life and have a chance to see what the community is like – and they get to see and meet you. What you think you may like may be, in fact, not what you thought it was at all.

Also, it has to be said, it is not only a matter of what you discern but also what the community discerns about you and whether or not you fit into their community or have a vocation to their life/community.

I assure you of my prayers.


A very good point, as my oblate director says, in the 21st century the Rule is inspiration, rather than legislation, and not all parts of the Rule make sense any longer (for example an oblate in St. Benedict’s day was a chile offered to the monastery by his parents).

And as Fr. Ruggero points out, in addition to the Benedictine charism, each house has its own special character, and even the Gregorian chant (in houses still using it) will sound different from one place to another. Each has its own “voice” as it were. I’ve travelled to a few monasteries here (Canada) and in Europe and have experienced this.


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