Editor’s note: Ever wonder what a day in the life of a monk looks like? I spoke with Fr. Marion, OSB, a Benedictine monk located in Atchison, Kansas at St. Benedict’s Abbey.
What does a typical day look like for you?
All the monks rise at 5:40 am. I get up earlier, usually at 5:00, to do my own spiritual reading, some homiletics (writing homilies), and to drink a lot of coffee. I like this time in the mornings, especially because we are in silence until after breakfast. We have morning prayer, time for our own spiritual reading, and breakfast. After breakfast we start our work.
Work for me means different things everyday. I’m a freshman history professor at Benedictine College. So, for example, this morning, I gave my students a test. After that, I had a spiritual direction appointment, and now I’m talking to you! Once a month I go to the local county jail to hear confessions for the Catholics there, and to give advice to the Catholics and non-Catholics alike. I’ve been going down there for a year since I took over for another monk, and I really enjoy it. I think I have the temperament for it. For some, it is their first exposure to faith.
I am also working on my dissertation in American history, so a few times a week I go to the state archives in Topeka and do research.
Topeka’s a bit of a drive, what do you do in the car rides?
Mostly I listen to Protestant radio ministers. They are entertaining, interesting, and because we share Scripture in common, I agree with most of the things they talk about. I also listen to some music, mostly adult contemporary and country, but I’m not a huge music fan.
So in between work, we have midday prayer and then lunch together and have open conversations. After work in the afternoon we have Mass together followed by dinner, which is in silence, but we have table readings. St. Benedict wanted his monks to desire to hear holy reading, so we hear from mostly spiritual authors. Currently, we are listening to the diary of Thomas Merton.
We also hear a story about a deceased monk during lunch in order to remember them. We don’t always have that much information or stories about the monks from the 1800s, but more recent monks have more stories. After dinner we have vespers and then silence for the night.
Something interesting to note is that our day has a quasi-Eucharistic feel to it in the way we pray because throughout the day you have prayers, which are mostly from the psalms, you hear readings, and then you go eat a meal in fellowship and community.Our day is like having many mini Masses: we hear readings, pray from the psalms, and then eat a meal in fellowship.Click To Tweet
What other kinds of work do the monks do?
Well, our main focus is on Maur-Hill Mount Academy, the Benedictine high school in town, Benedictine College, and the local parishes. Benedict said that monks have to work. Work includes fasting, praying, acts of denial, and working for the kingdom of God. I am working on my dissertation with hopes to eventually teach full time at the college.
What makes it difficult to be a monk?
Well I like to joke that the best thing about being a monk is that you live with thirty-five other guys, but, the worst part about being a monk is that…you live with thirty-five other guys. The word monk comes from the word mono, and originally it meant someone who gives up everything and lives in the desert like a hermit. Then St. Benedict comes onto the scene and herds these guys into monasteries.The best part of being a monk: living with 35 other guys. The worst part of being a monk: living with 35 other guys.Click To Tweet
St. Benedict’s Rule is all about seeking God. You do it together to help one another, but the heart and soul of monasticism is the search for God. Classic monastic texts are the pearl of great price story, selling everything you have to get the pearl, to purchase the treasure in the field.
That being said, a monastery is not a utopia. We all get on each other’s nerves, just like in any family. But that is what these men are, they are my family.
We spend our holidays together. We cook holiday meals together (well this Thanksgiving was different because for the Year of Mercy we cooked and shared a meal at a homeless shelter). I love holidays here, and the way we celebrate. I have never had a bad holiday.
I still get to see my parents and siblings, as some live in Kansas and others live in Michigan. And I see the ones who are close every couple months. But, that is not where I spend Christmas. It is here, with my brothers.
One last question ’cause I’m curious. Did you get to pick your name?
As a religious, we take new name to symbolize our new life. We submit our top three choices to our abbot, and he chooses. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t gotten their top choice of a name, but I’m sure it happens. My top choice was Marion, a male form of Mary. My feast day is the Immaculate Conception, but I also like to include Mary Magdalene as one of my patrons. Fun fact, guess what John Wayne’s real name is? It’s Marion!
Editor’s note: Thank you Fr. Marion! The beauty of our individual vocations never ceases to surprise me and interest me. Thank you God for the gift of monasticism and the monks in our world.