A picture containing grass, tree, garden, farm machine

Description automatically generated


How long have Christian monasteries been around ?


While Christian monasticism expanded during the sixth century with St. Benedict of Nursia and his Rule of Life (535 A.D.) it goes back far beyond that, to a time before there were monasteries, even before the ‘ desert fathers’ of the third century (225-250 A.D.).

Monasticism, as a recognizable and named phenomenon in the church, has no official beginning, no official foundings. It emerged, in several places at once, as a spontaneous development from the various forms of the ascetic life: the tradition of ascetism, a renunciation of material possessions and comfort to live for God alone which had taken shape in the church from the very beginning.

Another important strand in early Christian asceticism strand in early Christian asceticism probably goes back to the instructions which Jesus gave to the preachers he sent out to proclaim the kingdom of God, taking no provisions for their journey as they went”. - “Mt 10:9-10, Lk 10:3-4. 
(reference )  Also see, Lk 4:1-2, Matt 4: 1-2, Mk 1:4 (John the Baptist), Mk 1:12 (Jesus 40 days desert)

We also see the Essenes, a Jewish monastic community that retreated to the wilderness of Judea. They shared material possessions and occupied themselves with disciplined study, worship, and work. They practiced ritual immersion and ate their meals communally. One branch did not marry. 


“By the second and third centuries, the Desert Fathers of Egypt had emerged as the leaders of this ascetical way of life and prayer. Among the Fathers, St. Anthony the Great is generally regarded as the first Christian monk; St. Athanasius wrote a biography of him which eventually introduced him to and sparked enthusiasm for monasticism in Europe. St. Anthony and the other first Christian monks lived as hermits and exemplified the form of monasticism called eremitic. The first formal Christian monastic communities both of men and of women were organized by St. Pachomius, a peer of St. Anthony. Their form of monastic life is called cenobitic. Pachomius instituted a formal way of life that included fasting, periods of prayers and manual labor.” (reference)


Trappists follow the Rule of St. Benedict (535 A.D.), a continuation of the Desert Fathers of Egypt and part of the larger Cistercian family which traces its origin to St. Robert (and later St. Bernard) in 1098 A.D.  They live in simplicity, silence and separation from dominant culture, they balance the practices of prayer, Lectio - reading and work.

In 1792, during the French Revolution, La Trappe Abbey, like all other monasteries at the time, was confiscated by the French government and the Trappists expelled. Augustin de Lestrange, a monk of La Trappe at that time, led a number of monks to establish a new monastery in the ruined and unroofed former Carthusian charterhouse of Val-Sainte in the Canton of Fribourg, Switzerland.

Between 1803 and 1819 Trappists made efforts to settle in America, finally beginning a monastery in Tracadie, Nova Scotia before establishing monasteries in Rhode Island, 1900, then moving to Spencer, Massachusetts in 1949/50.

The first Trappist monastery in the U.S., Gethsemani Abbey, (Kentucky) was founded in 1848.


Monastic History – video – 4 minutes

Rancher Nuns – Colorado - video


St. Joseph’s Trappist Abbey –

Daily Monastic Schedule


3:10 a.m.  – Rise

3:30 a.m. - Vigils ( communal praying of the Psalms)

4:15 a.m. – Personal Prayer, Lectio, light Breakfast,

6 a.m. (6:40 a.m. Sundays) – Lauds, Eucharist, Personal prayer & reading

8 a.m. – The Great (communal) Silence ends

9 a.m. – Morning work until Noon ie; Trappist Preserves, infirmary, running retreats, teaching, property maintenance, Book Store, etc, ..

10 a.m. – Terce (mid-morning prayer in the workplace)

12:15 p.m. – Sext (midday prayer, lunch

1 p.m. – Dishes, rest or a walk

2 p.m. – None (mid-afternoon prayer) followed by afternoon work

4:30 p.m. – Time for prayer, reading, exercise

5:40 p.m. – Vespers (evening prayer) followed by a light supper, time for personal prayer, reading

7:40 p.m. – Compline (night prayer)

8 p.m. – Retire, the Great (communal) Silence Begins