The Benedictine life is a life centered on prayer -- which means that it is a life marked by the search for God. Throughout the centuries, the Benedictine monastic way of life has testified to the need to put God first. Or as some of our documents put it, our charism witnesses to the primacy of God.
The importance of prayer is seen in our commitment to the Divine Office, also known as the Liturgy of the Hours, and to the Eucharist. St. Benedict calls the Divine Office the "work of God" and he says that nothing is to be preferred to it (Rule of St. Benedict, chap. 43). Thus, the monks gather four or five times a day to pray the Divine Office or the Mass as a community.
Also, the monks pray privately, especially with Scripture. Each day a monk devotes at least half an hour to praying lectio divina, which is the prayerful reading of and meditation upon a biblical passage. In this way, the mind and heart are nourished and fortified by God's word.
"Drawing therefore upon the authentic sources of Christian spirituality, members of religious communities should resolutely cultivate both the spirit and practice of prayer. In the first place they should have recourse daily to the Holy Scriptures in order that, by reading and meditating on Holy Writ, they may learn 'the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ' (Phil. 3:8). They should celebrate the sacred liturgy, especially the holy sacrifice of the Mass, with both lips and heart as the Church desires and so nourish their spiritual life from this richest of sources" (Perfectae Caritatis 6, from the Second Vatican Council).
Photo credit: Copyright Peter Hoffman, used with permission
- Rule of Saint Benedict (or in Latin); a printed edition is available from Liturgical Press.
- Perfectae Caritatis, Vatican II's decree on the renewal and adaptation of religious life.
- Bl John Paul II, Vita Consecrata (The consecrated life).
- Renew and Create, A Statement on Benedictine life within the American-Cassinese congregation of monasteries, June 1969.
- Constitutions and Directory of the American-Cassinese Congregation of Benedictine monasteries.