medieval monks and nuns: a day in the life. the benedictine rule in 530 st. benedict established a...

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  • Slide 1
  • Medieval Monks and Nuns: A Day in the Life
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  • The Benedictine Rule In 530 St. Benedict established a monastery in Southern Italy The Benedictine Rule- or order of life- spread across Europe Monks and Nuns took 3 vows: poverty, chastity, and obedience
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  • Cared for poor and sick Set up schools Gave travellers food and lodging Missionaries- travelled spreading the Gospel A Life of Service
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  • Centers of Learning Preserved works of Ancient authors- Romans and Greeks Copied beautiful manuscripts Kept learning alive in Europe
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  • Convents Women could be independent and escape limits of society Women could receive an education In the later Middle Ages, the Church put more restrictions on women They still made many contributions
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  • 'A Day in the Life of a Monk' It often comes as a surprise to learn that they are also real people, living and working in the twenty-first century. For there are still monasteries of monks and nuns in England, most of them belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, all of them witnessing to God by their life of prayer and by a rich variety of works including teaching, running parishes, giving retreats, creating beautiful objects like stained glass and ceramics, and inspiring others with uplifting music and worship. By Dom Dunstan O'Keeffe Downside Abbey, Somerset
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  • A Day in the Life... of a Monk Unlike missionaries and friars, who travel about quite a lot in the course of their work, monks tend to stay put in one place, so that the monastery which they make their home becomes a focus for the prayer life of the local community and a stable point in a rapidly changing world. My home is at Downside Abbey in Somerset, where I live with about thirty other monks. I have several different jobs, which I carry out in the gaps between the fixed times of prayer when all the monks come together to praise God.
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  • A Day in the Life... of a Monk This is a typical day: 6.00 a.m. The day begins with the service of VIGILS in the Abbey Church: this is the first and longest part of the 'Divine Office' which gives a framework to the monastic day. During Vigils we sing psalms and canticles from the Bible and listen to the Word of God and to the writings of Church Fathers. There follows a half-hour break for private prayer. LAUDS. This if the Office of Praise, when we joyfully greet the dawn and ask God's blessing on the day's work; Lauds is shorter than Vigils, and more 'upbeat' in tone. 7.05 a.m.
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  • Breakfast, taken in silence in the Monks' Refectory. 7.30 a.m. 8.35 a.m. MASS. The whole community is gathered together for the celebration of the Eucharist, in which we remember the saving sacrifice of Christ, and renew the offering of ourselves to God. At Mass, since I am Choirmaster, I lead the monks in their singing of Gregorian chant. Together with the choir from our boarding school, we have made two very successful CDs of our singing. The whole school joins us for Mass on Sunday mornings.
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  • 9.15 a.m. After Mass, the monks go about their different jobs, whether it be teaching in the school, looking after a local parish, or dealing with visitors. A lot of my time is taken up with computer work, as I edit our quarterly journal, The Downside Review, and most jobs that need IT skills seem to come my way. I also run our Conference Centre, so there will be 'phone calls, e-mails and letters to sort out. 1.10 p.m. MIDDAY PRAYER. In the middle of our working day, we pause to remember that it is God who gives value to our work and sustains us in our labours. This if followed by lunch. We begin by singing grace together; then, as we eat in silence, one of the brethren reads to us an extract which the Abbot has chosen: it might be an academic article from a journal, or a sermon or lecture.
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  • In the afternoons I try to get away from my computer screen, though I don't always succeed. If at all possible I will try to do something more physical, and there are always jobs to be done. I spend quite a lot of time maintaining a hostel for student groups which I look after. 5.45 p.m. VESPERS. Together with Lauds, Vespers is one of the 'hinges' of the day. For most of the community, the working day is done, and it is time to give thanks to God for the graces he has given during the day, in prayer and singing. After Vespers, there is another half-hour of silence so that we can pray privately or meditate on a passage of the Bible.
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  • 6.45 p.m. Supper. As with the other meals, this is taken in silence, but the reading is lighter and more entertaining: it may be biography, history or travel writing. 7.15 p.m. Community Recreation. After we have tidied up in the refectory, this is the time to relax together as a monastic family, to swap news, ideas, stories, and just to be together. It is important to have this time for conversation, as monasteries are very busy places, and people might not otherwise get the chance to talk.
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  • 8.00 p.m. Compline. The last part of the Divine Office, which we sing by heart in the darkened Church. After Compline there is silence in the monastery until breakfast the next morning. Some will go to bed soon afterwards; for others there is still work to be done: the school will not quieten down until 11.30 p.m. I tend to get to bed around 10.30 p.m.
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  • Each of the monks has his own room, which we call 'cells', though they are more comfortable than prison cells! I do most of my work from my own room, so it functions also as an office, with lots of filing trays and hundreds of books. I find I have to be very imaginative about making best use of the space! Life as a monk is not as leisurely as it can seem from the outside, and can be compared to the swan gliding gracefully on the surface of the water, while underneath its feet are working frantically. But for those who are suited to its orderliness and sense of purpose, it is a life that is richly rewarding. Dom Dunstan O'Keeffe Downside Abbey, Somerset