The Lifestyle of a Catholic Monk at Downside
As a Roman Catholic monastery, Downside Abbey accommodates a number of Benedictine monks. These monks have played an integral part in not only the life of the monastery but also in the school’s history. In fact, it was the monks who started the school in 1606, and began educating Catholic boys who had no chance of receiving a Catholic education in England at that time.
Today the school educates pupils from a multitude of different circumstances, including those from overseas, those looking for military schools and of course, those in search of a traditional Catholic boarding school. However, we share the same Benedictine values, and as a leading Catholic school aim to be a bright light and inspiration for our pupils’ development and learning, with Christ at the heart of all that we do.
A Benedictine Monastic Community
The Monastic Community at Downside live a very simple existence, devoted to God. They divide their time between prayer and work around the Abbey.
Downside Abbey Church is a place of worship for the monks, who pray 6 times a day:
• Vigils at 6am
• Lauds at 7.10am
• Mass at 8.35am
• Midday Prayer at 12:30pm
• Vespers at 6pm
• Compline, the Night Prayer, 8pm
At Downside, the Monastic Community follow the Rule of St Benedict, which defines our ethos here both at the Monastery and the School.
The Monastic Community welcomes a variety of people of all ages, experiences, abilities and interests to participate in the monastic life lived here.
Life as a Catholic Monk
Monks at Downside Abbey see their lives as a journey of service to God, the Church and society.
They begin their journey with sense of vocation from God. Benedictine monks follow a busy and purposeful schedule, that adheres to the Rule of St. Benedict;
“They should make sure that there is no one overcome by idle boredom.”
Rule of St Benedict 48.18
During their time at Downside Abbey, the Benedictine monks will divide their time between prayer, contemplation and work. This may include work within the Parish, in the School as a teacher, or chaplain, depending on the individual. Within the Monastery, monks also take on key roles such as Guest Master or Novice Master, helping to guide visitors on retreat.
Becoming a Catholic Monk
The pathway towards becoming a monk begins with a monastic retreat, where individuals will be able to experience the life of a Benedictine monk and visualise how he must adapt to our routine and community. They must be a baptised and confirmed practising Catholic, over the age of 17 and in good health; it is also essential that he is not married.
If a man is accepted to apply to enter the Monastery, having spoken to the Vocations Director and Prior, he will become a postulant for around six months.
On completion of the postulancy, formal training will begin with the clothing ceremony, when he is formally clothed in the habit and becomes a Novice for one year. After the novitiate, he may apply to make temporary vows of obedience, stability and conversatio morum for a period of three years; his studies as a monk will continue and he may be given more specific tasks within the Community. At the end of this period, he may ask to make solemn vows for life.