The Order of St Benedict

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The monks of St Augustine's Abbey live a life of prayer, work and study in Community life. Any support you are able to give is most gratefully appreciated. If you would like to support us, you can do so below.

The Life of Prayer

We monks of St Augustine's Abbey have few external works, and our life is, therefore, fundamentally contemplative which means that our work is prayer. Because we do not engage in much remunerative work, a large part of our income is derived from the goodness of others. For this we are grateful to God and to all our supporters. Prayer is a continuous and constant work that goes on in the monastery throughout the day. We think of this ongoing work as 'The Life of Prayer'. If you would like your own personal needs, the needs of loved ones or special intentions to be included in our life of prayer, please ask us. The world provides abundantly for the needs of the body, we seek to provide for the needs of the soul.

The Order of St. Benedict

In the sixth century, St Benedict was one of many abbots who wrote a Rule for monks. He had established monasteries at Subiaco and Monte Cassino in Italy. These were destroyed by the barbarian invasions but a few manuscripts of his Rule survived and were carried by refugees to other monasteries in Rome, North Italy, and Gaul (modern day France). In the course of two centuries the use of the Rule spread, and it was largely due to the influence of Charlemagne that it acquired a monopoly in the West. In this way, St Benedict came to be considered the founder of the 'Black Monks' of the Middle Ages, called from that time the ‘Order of St Benedict’.

Each independent house of the Order is a separate family ruled by an abbot and has its own novitiate. The work of each house is centred on the Divine Office or public prayer, recited or sung in choir at regular intervals throughout the day. This work is common to and characteristic of all Benedictine houses, whether of monks or nuns.

A choir monk after his profession may be ordained priest, once he has completed his novitiate, two years of philosophy and four years of theology, but this need not always be the case. Indeed, there is no evidence to suggest that St Benedict was ordained.

Through the centuries since, the Order has spread to all continents. Although all the monasteries base their life on St Benedict’s Holy Rule, local conditions and the varying types of each climate made it inevitable that certain modifications and applications would be found necessary. St Benedict in fact makes provision for this in the Rule, authorising the abbot to adapt the Divine Office (RB 18), the measure of food and drink (RB 40) and so on, according to local conditions. These modifications and applications of the Rule, often being influenced by local or spiritual considerations were eventually drawn up as 'constitutions' on the Rule, which were then ratified by the Holy See.

In the fourteenth century, in an attempt to improve the observance in Benedictine monasteries, the Fourth Lateran Council advocated the setting up of Provincial Chapters, from which emerged some national congregations. In the fifteenth century the Congregation of St Justina of Padua, afterwards called the Cassinese Congregation was established. From it sprang our own congregation which was approved by Pope Blessed Pius IX in 1867, under the title Cassinese Congregation of the Primative Observance, afterwards the Subiaco Congregation. The Abbot President of the Subiaco Congregation resides at the Congregation’s Curial house, Sant Ambrogio in Rome.

Sant Anselmo
Sant' Anselmo

With the Apostolic Letter of His Holiness Pope Leo XIII 'Summum Semper' given on the 12th July 1893, the Congregations of the Order were united into a confederation in an attempt to centralise the Order. The Benedictine Confederation, which numbers twenty congregations, is presided over by the Abbot Primate. The Abbot Primate is elected to a primacy of honour by his fellow abbots and conventual priors from throughout the world, and resides at the monastery of Sant' Anselmo in Rome.

   
Ramsgate Benedictines

 

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