Sunday, December 21, 2008

Monastic Christmases. A Benedictine oblate blog

I have been thinking about monks/nuns/sisters (Religious) and how they spend their Christmases. I have no first-hand knowledge. My imagination tells me that if I wanted to enjoy a historic Christmas, I should visit a monastery during Christmas time.

I searched some of the blogs by Religious that are linked on the right sidebar of this blog. I searched for blogs that gave a glimpse of what happens in the life of a Religious during Advent/Christmas time that may be different from other times of the year. I found four such blogs, two by monks, one by a novice sister, and one by a nun.

In summary, their Christmases seem exactly like the Christmases many Christians talk about: relevant, noncommercial, focused on Christ and his coming — who could have guessed?

The monastic life is an ancient form of Christian living that withstood countless barbarian invasions in centuries past. Monasteries helped rebuild Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Today monasteries quietly offer a much different form of Christmas than is popular in today’s commercial culture.

The Pope said, above all else monasteries are places of spiritual power — and with good reason. If you want to see the spiritual power that can withstand the dark ages, attend a Christmas-Eve Midnight Mass at a monastery. Thank them for tending the flame.

Here is an excerpt from a blog by a monk at Subiaco Abbey in the state of Arkansas, USA:

During Advent “music is markedly both more somber and melodious than during other periods. In contrast to the jubilation of Easter or the penitence of Lent, the music of Advent inspires a feeling of being called to meditate on the Miracle of Christ’s birth.”

Here is an excerpt from a 2007 blog by a monk at Conception Abbey in the state of Missouri, USA:

“Yesterday we had first vespers of Christmas at 4:45 PM. Then at 6:00 PM we had our Christmas dinner, a banquet. At 7:45 PM we had Vigils and then at midnight we had Mass. I myself did not attend the midnight Mass here as I went to Clyde Monastery and had Mass for the Benedictine Sisters at 9:00 PM. That is when they have their Christmas Mass. When I got back it was about 11:00 PM so I went to bed. This morning we had Lauds at 9:00 AM and then most of the monks went to the infirmary as the monks who live there opened their gifts. At 11:00 AM we had a second Christmas Mass. This afternoon at 5:00 PM we have vespers and then at 7:00 PM Compline or night prayer.”

Here is an excerpt from a 2007 blog of a novice sister at Colwich Abbey in England:

“On Christmas day we came to breakfast and found a large scented candle at each of our places - a gift from a friend of the community, Chris - and a bag of goodies given by our Oblate Edna and friend Audrey. We have lit the candles at our evening meal each day and the bags which were full of individually wrapped things such as gardening gloves, hand cream and socks gave us lots of enjoyment. Later in the day we came together for festive recreation with tea, cakes and crackers.”

Here is an excerpt from a blog of a cloistered Passionist Nun in the state of Kentucky, USA:

“Happy Advent to all of you! Advent is always an adventure for our new members who are used to Christmas decorations going up shortly after Thanksgiving Day (or even before!). Here in the monastery we are grateful that we are protected from the immense commercialism of this time of the year. Instead, we try to spend more time in prayer and Scripture reading, thinking of our Lady and how she prepared for the Light of the World about to be born.

“Currently, they are joyfully anticipating Christmas Eve Midnight Mass where they will help to welcome the Divine Infant by offering him their musical talent through their arrangements of organ and violin. If you live nearby [Passionist Nuns, 8564 Crisp Road, Whitesville, KY 42378] we invite you to join us on that Holy Night as we worship and give thanks to the Eternal Father for the gift of Christ his Son. The Carols begin at 11:30 p.m.”


  1. I am lookimng into becoming an Oblate and need help beginng

  2. Super. You might read How to become an oblate

    Also you might join the Monastic Life Yahoo Group

    Those two steps will get you going in the right direction.

  3. Greetings, fellow oblate! My wife and I are attached to the St. Vincent's Archabbey in Latrobe, PA! Great blog and good work! May you have a Blessed Christmas Day!

  4. Dear Friends,
    Thank you for sending me to the blog site. Have applied but as yet have not heard back. As a background : Turning 60 this year ad have been practicing and leading Centering Prayer and Contemplative prayer retreats for 14 years. After meeting father Thomas Keating in 1983 the practice of Centering Prayer has been the path to contemplation [ for me]. The journey really began when I was eight walking to a near by church alone [ as my parents never attended] The Gospels and the prayer life fascinated me as a young boy.And God had that special touch of invitation . That led to a spiritual pilgrimage almost around the world. At age 27 was one of the first long term retreat directors of Naropa institute's Southern retreat center in Colorado. That was where I first heard of St. Benedict's Monastery in Snowmass Colorado. At 22 after reading "Seven Story Mountain" in 1970 was close [ but not close enough] to joining the Trappist order. Soon children and family took primary focus and it was not until at age 40 The Call became clear once more.
    That's enough for now
    your servant

  5. my background is also a long history of centering prayer and monastic inspiration, a love for the contemplative, which brought me to your blog here and which i have greatly enjoyed. i recently started a blog, orbiting the straight line mind (, which is not traditional in any way but oriented toward freeing oneself from the mind. i deeply apologize if not appropriate here but i love the exchange of traditional and non-traditional and the common spirit and path we share. Many blessings for the journey.

  6. Teófilo de Jesús,

    Thanks for stopping by my blog because it is always great to meet another oblate online. I would like to visit St. Vincent’s Archabbey in Latrobe, PA someday to soak in the Benedictine history.

  7. Hi Scotty,

    It is good to meet you. You certainly do sound like you have been on a monastic path all your life. Please let know what is happening and your next steps.

  8. Hi Underbridge,

    Thank you for dropping in to leave a comment — always welcome. I think 2009 will be a year of more times of silence with the Spirit and your blessing for my path is a wonderful gift.