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A Benedictine Glossary

BENEDICT OF NURSIA: (ca. 480-545) author of the most widely used Western monastic rule; founder of the Abbey of Monte Cassino in Italy.  His life was written by Gregory the Great, who recounts the story of the young St. Benedict fleeing the corruption of Rome to become a hermit.  In time others who heard of his holiness came to join St. Benedict, and he became the founder of monasteries.  

 

BENEDICTINE: n. a person who has made monastic profession according to The Rule of St. Benedict; adj. a person, institution, or spirituality inspired by The Rule of St. Benedict.

 

COMMUNITY: a monastic community.  The gathering of those who belong to a particular monastery and who live according to the customs and interpretation of The Rule of St. Benedict proper to that monastery.  Community is foundational in Benedictine life and is one of the Core Values of Monte Cassino School.

 

COUNCIL, MONASTIC: a small consultative and deliberative body that assists the abbot/prioress with matters that do not require the attention of the whole chapter.  Monte Cassino School bylaws identifies this body as themembers of the school corporation.  The monastic council of St. Joseph Monastery is composed of six members: three are elected by the community (including the prioress) and three are appointed by the prioress.

 

LECTIO DIVINA: prayerful reading of scripture from the Latin, meaning “sacred reading.”  It is a distinctive aspect of Benedictine spirituality in which both the process of reading and the text read are sacred.

 

LITURGY OF THE HOURS: the time when Benedictines gather for recitation of the Psalms, singing of canticles and hymns, listening to readings form the scripture, and prayers as a means of practicing the ancient Christian direction “to pray always” (1Thess. 5.17).  St. Benedict set up eight times of prayer, known as “hours.”  The intent is to consecrate the hours of the day to God.  The Benedictine Sisters pray together four times a day, morning prayer (Lauds), midday prayer (None), evening prayer (Vespers) and night prayer (Compline).  The Liturgy of the Hours is also known as the Divine Office and opus Dei, or the “work of God.”

 

MONASTERY: main house of a community of monastic men or women.  Sometimes “monastery” is used to designate the community who live together in such a building. 

 

MONASTICnoun, of or relating to monasteries or to monks or nuns, resembling life in a monastery.

 

MONTE CASSINO: the mountain in central Italy where Benedict founded a monastery in the sixth century; it is the name of the monastery located there.  Monte Cassino is known as the “Cradle of Western Monasticism” because from this site, monasticism spread through the western world.  The monastery of Monte Cassino has been destroyed and rebuilt four times in the course of history. 

 

PRIORESS: the leader of a non-cloistered monastic community of Benedictine women elected for a term.  At St. Joseph Monastery, the prioress is elected for a six year term with the possibility of reelection for another six year term.