A MONASTERY’S WAY OF LIFE
ALTHOUGH THE BENEDICTINE MONKS OF PRINCE OF PEACE ABBEY have been in the diocese of San Diego since only 1958, they are members of an uninterrupted tradition of more than one thousand four hundred years in the Church— a tradition of monks who seek God through worship and prayer, work and community life.
In his book or “Rule for Monks,” Saint Benedict says that at all times the life of a monk is to be an offering he makes to God with the joy of the Holy Spirit as he looks forward to the Resurrection with the joy of spiritual desire.
Saint Benedict wrote his “Rule for Monks” (before A.D. 547) as a short book of spiritual teaching and practical regulations governing the lives of monks. In it St. Benedict states concisely that a monk is a man who obeys and serves God and his fellow monks in the context of:
(1) permanence in one community of fellow monks for life...
(2) under the discipline of a “rule” (a specific code of regulations governing monastic life)...
(3) and under the leadership of an abbot (the superior of an abbey or monastery).
The three vows that St. Benedict spelled out for monks may be said to correspond to the above three points:
(1) the vow of Stability unites a monk to one community for life;
(2) the vow of ongoing, perpetual Conversion binds a man to observe the specific disciplines of monastic life (essentially including the obligations of poverty, or “community of goods”, and celibacy);
(3) the vow of Obedience places him under the leadership of both his abbot and his community.
The Essential Practices of Most Monasteries
Apart from the hours necessary for sleeping and eating, the “Rule” of St. Benedict divides the daily schedule of monastic life among three activities. These are (1) liturgical worship in common, (2) private prayerful spiritual reading, and (3) work.
The daily hours of liturgical worship in common are composed of the various “Divine Offices” throughout the day (i.e., Vigils, Lauds, Sext, Vespers, Compline) and the daily celebration of the Mass.
The several hours of private prayer and reading are devoted especially to Sacred Scripture, but also may include other writings of spiritual, religious and theological importance.
Most Benedictine monasteries take up some sort of work relatively “outside” the immediate orbit of monastic life. These “outside” works often include parish ministry, schools or retreat centers. However, Benedictine life as specifically monastic requires the monks to be responsible for a rather domestic form of living: the monks themselves are to do the cooking, cleaning, laundry, grounds keeping and whatever else is necessary to maintain their household and community life.
The Practice of Prince of Peace Abbey
This is most easily described by an examination of our monastery’s daily schedule.
The Community Liturgical Office of Vigils (a hymn, recited Psalms, readings, responsories, a closing prayer), in church, lasting roughly forty-five minutes.
This is followed by a silent period of private personal prayer and reading until the Office of Lauds.
The Community Liturgical Office of Lauds (a hymn, singing of the Psalms, a reading, a sung responsory and canticle, closing prayers), in church, lasting about a half hour.
Breakfast in silence.
The morning work period begins. On Sundays and the most important feastdays, this whole period is used instead for private personal prayer and reading.
10:15 A.M. on weekdays
Work ceases for the sake of silent individual prayer in preparation for Mass.
10:30 A.M. on Sundays (and 11:00 on weekdays)
The Community Celebration of Mass.
After Mass: private, personal silent prayerful thanksgiving until lunch.
Lunch. On weekdays this is without speaking, but is accompanied by a book read aloud by a lector; on Sundays and solemnities, there is conversation during the meal.
Lunch is followed immediately by the community liturgical office of Sext (a hymn, recited Psalms, a brief reading and a closing prayer).
On Sundays, Wednesdays and some solemnities, the afternoons are unstructured free time until Vespers at 5:00 in the evening.
On regular weekdays, the afternoon work period begins.
On regular weekdays, another period of private personal prayer and reading begins, lasting until Vespers at 5:00.
The Community Liturgical Office of Vespers (a hymn, singing of the Psalms, a reading, a sung responsory and a canticle, closing prayers), in church, lasting a half hour. At the conclusion of Vespers on Saturday: Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with procession to her shrine in the monastery church. At the conclusion of Vespers on Sunday: Eucharistic Exposition, Adoration, and Benediction.
This is followed by private personal prayer or reading until supper.
Supper: on weekdays this is without speaking, but is accompanied by a book read aloud by a lector; on Sundays and feastdays, there is conversation during the meal.
The meals in silence (weekdays) usually last a half hour. The meals with conversation (Sundays and feastdays) last roughly forty minutes.
Supper is followed by the evening recreation period lasting until Compline at 8:00. It is largely unstructured, even though groups of the monks gather several times a week to spend this time of recreation together.
The Community Liturgical Office of Compline (a hymn, singing of Psalms, a reading, sung responsory and canticle, closing prayer), in church, lasting about twenty minutes.
Beginning of the “Grand Silence” (complete cessation of all conversation), lasting until the following morning’s work period begins.
After Compline, retire for the night.
The monks of Prince of Peace Abbey maintain a retreat house for any individual guests or groups who wish to spend a few days of quiet reflection and prayer at the monastery, participating in their monastic liturgical services. As a community, the monks of Prince of Peace monks have not committed themselves to other apostolates or ministries such as running a school or staffing a parish. Accordingly, their work at Prince of Peace Abbey is free to remain largely “within the orbit” of the monastery’s own domestic responsibilities.
Though Prince of Peace Abbey ranks among the more contemplative Benedictine monasteries in the United States, the life of its monastic enclosure has an immediate impact on many persons. The daily Mass and liturgical offices that the monks celebrate in their monastery church are open to the public. Their Sunday Mass always draws a “standing room only” crowd of guests.
The Formation Program for Life as a
Monk of Prince of Peace Abbey
Once a man has been granted entry to the monastery, he undergoes three stages of formation lasting a total of at least four and a half years before receiving the community’s permission to make perpetual vows in the monastery. These three stages are the Postulancy (also called Candidacy), the Novitiate and the Juniorate (temporary vows). During these three stages he is placed under the guidance of a formation director appointed by the abbot.
The Postulancy. This stage lasts at least six months. During this time the postulant (or candidate) is introduced and integrated into our community life and habits of work, worship, prayer and reading. He also receives classroom instruction in Christian doctrine, Sacred Scripture, and religious life. At the conclusion of the six months, he is evaluated by the monastery chapter (the monks in perpetual vows), which decides whether it would be best for him to continue in the monastery or not.
The Novitiate. This stage lasts at least twelve months. The novice continues the same program of formation begun during the Postulancy. After the first six months as a novice, he is again evaluated by the chapter, which again determines whether he should continue or discontinue in the monastery. At the end of twelve months as a novice, there is another evaluation by the chapter to decide whether to admit the novice to temporary vows or not.
Temporary Vows— the Juniorate. This period begins with the professing of temporary vows valid for three years. During the Juniorate, the monk receives additional responsibilities in the community’s work. Some classroom instruction continues. The Juniorate normally lasts for the duration of the three-year validity of the temporary vows, but these temporary vows may be renewed or extended for anywhere from one to six additional years, for no more than a complete total of nine years in temporary vows. At the completion of the first three years in temporary vows (or at any time after they have been renewed or extended), the junior monk may request admission to the profession of final perpetual vows. He again undergoes evaluation by the monastery chapter to decide permission for admitting him to perpetual vows.
Once a Benedictine monk professes perpetual vows of stability, conversion and obedience, he becomes a life member of his monastic community, serving God and his monastic confreres under the guidance of the abbot and the “Rule for Monks” written by St. Benedict.
The Monastic Family and Its Home
Monks from St. Meinrad Archabbey, Indiana, founded Prince of Peace Abbey in 1958. The abbey has more than twenty members. The monks range in age from the thirties into the nineties. Prince of Peace Abbey is a culturally diverse community of monks. One of the monks was born in India, and three others were born in the Philippines. Two were born in Vietnam, one was born in Holland. One is from the Ojibway tribe of North America, and another is of Mexican-American ancestry.
The monastery comprises 130 acres on a hill in the city of Oceanside with views of the ocean and of the mountains of San Diego County.
Discerning a Vocation among Us
and Applying to Enter
We prefer applicants to be at least 20 years old and no older than 45 years. We expect them to believe and live the teaching and traditions of Catholic faith. Whether adult converts or lifelong Catholics, they should have been active in parish life (i.e., at least weekly attendance at Mass) for two years or more before considering the possibility of a monastic vocation.
We receive new candidates into the monastery in August. However, before entering, candidates must be in contact with our monastery and our vocation director for at least a year. During that year we interview them and provide direction.
Once a man receives permission to apply for admission to our monastery, the formation director and the abbot also interview him. As part of our practical discernment of vocations, we also require a complete medical examination, blood tests, a physician's medical report, a professional psychological evaluation and letters of recommendation from parish priests.
We offer retreats for men exploring the possibility of a vocation to our way of life. Please inquire about these from our vocation director.
E-mail for our vocation director: firstname.lastname@example.org