A Benedictine sister said one day: "It is strange that life becomes complicated as soon as one lives with others to follow Christ, the Poor Man ...". When brothers and sisters come to the monastery, they have only one purpose in mind, "to seek God"; the way set out in the Rule of St Benedict to attain this end entails some economic responsibilities which are part of the very life of the community.
Every monastery, whether poor or well-off, in every continent must house the brethren (and so maintain the buildings), obtain daily food and clothes, care for the sick and elderly, buy books for lectio, pay the expenses of liturgical celebrations, help the very poor, exercise hospitality etc.
Normally the disciples of St Benedict do this by their work, which can be of great variety; maintenance and providing for everyday needs, goods to be sold so that others can be bought, intellectual work, social or pastoral work bringing in a salary or donations, other salaried work etc.
However we cannot limit our vision to a single model, the ecclesial or social context or the age of the monastery all entail different practices. For example, three monasteries in Latin America: the first runs a school, but few monks work in it, others are parish priests, the youngest study and do the chores. In future they hope to set up some workshops. In the second, a young foundation, some younger members study, others do the chores, the community lives mostly on donations. In the third, just being founded, the few monks already there do no remunerative work. Each community adapts to circumstances, recognising the monastic value of work which enables the community to live. The expression "to work for a living" covers all these different kinds of work.
According to the Rule of St Benedict work plays a fundamental role in monastic conversion and the various practical expressions mould both persons and communities.
We have begun to gather together some examples of the way in which monasteries earn their living, so that we can share our experiences and reflect on the practical and spiritual meaning.
What we give here is only a beginning. Some monasteries, already aware of this project, have sent various descriptions of their work, others have chosen to respond point by point to a questionnaire; some of these will appear in a future number. Photos, even without a commentary, also give an insight into our monastic practices.
Here are some questions on:
The way your community earns its living.
Does your work enable you to pay the ordinary expenses of your monastery, (this does not include building work and investments)? What work do you do?
Does this work contribute to the personal progress and monastic maturity of individuals and the community? In what way?
Approximately what hours do you work, does this vary during the year? Is there a good balance between Office, lectio, personal prayer, community gatherings, hospitality?
Does your work contribute to the human and economic progress of your neighbours, your country?
If you cannot earn all the money you need to live, how do you make up what is lacking?
Any further comments would be welcome.
*** If any monastery which would like to tell us how they earn their living and give their reflections - with photos or drawings if possible, either by means of the questions above or in another format, these will interest readers of the Bulletin. Other houses and those who look for guidance from the monastic way will be encouraged, and Charities willing to enable monasteries to become more autonomous will also be informed. This kind of dialogue is of inestimable value. ***
The way we work has a direct impact on an important contemporary question of world interest, that of the environment. Monasteries often undertake interesting initiatives, ambitious or modest though they be. A future Bulletin will take up this line of thought.
Shanti Nilayam Abbey, Bangalore, India
Teresita D'Silva osb, Abbess
Our Abbey of Shanti Nilayam was founded from St Cecilia's Abbey, Ryde, Isle of Wight, England. The first group of sisters went to St Cecilia's from India in 1963. In 1965 two pioneers who were members of the Ryde community were sent to India. A plot of 11 acres of land was purchased in Byrathi village in Bangalore in 1965. The Indian sisters returned to their homeland in 1969. By now the monastery and chapel were erected and the Blessing took place on 26 July 1970. After that the pioneers returned to England. From the start we tried to be self-supporting by taking on work compatible with our monastic contemplative life with its motto of Ora et Labora. We also retained the full round of praise by the celebration of the daily Eucharist and Divine Office. Interspersed between the liturgical services are times for private prayer, study and work. Prayer alternates with work and work becomes a prayer. Since our whole life has been dedicated to God, all we do has a supernatural value. As a contemplative community in a poor country we have always had to depend on work for our livelihood. St Benedict in the 6th century recognised the dignity of work as he says in the Rule, "then are they truly monks when they live by the labour of their hands as did our Fathers and the Apostles." (Ch. 48).
Like primitive Benedictines, we cultivate the soil, grow grain, vegetables and fruits. We have a poultry farm and a dairy farm, a coconut grove and a vineyard. We make altar breads, church vestments and greeting cards. In the monastic life we are not asked to forgo our natural gifts but to use them in God's service.
We started our poultry farm in 1970, the same year as the blessing of our monastery. On 8th September, the Birthday of Our Lady we saw an advertisement in the papers for the sale of 45 laying birds. Invoking the intercession of Our Lady we decided to buy these birds and contacted Mr Sebastian of India Poultry Farm who was dealing with Rani Shavar's breed of birds. Mr Sebastian took a personal interest in our farm and gave us useful advice. Next, with the help of a donation, we built our first proper shed for 500 laying birds and ordered the day-old chicks from India Poultry Farm incubators. From the profits of this first attempt we built a house for 1,000 birds using the deep litter system by which the birds are on 6 inches of rice husk The droppings transform this husk into rich manure within 6 months which is used in the fields. Later we built three more sheds and adopted the cage system which saves on labour. We now have 8,000 birds in different stages, day-olds, growers and layers. As the price of poultry feed has gone up we buy raw materials like maize, ragi, jowar when in season, and manufacture our own feed with a regular formula. We have found poultry farming a fairly good source of income which helps us to be self-supporting. In Bangalore the climate is favourable for breeding hens. The eggs are sold to a dealer with whom we have a contract who comes twice or three times a week in his van for collection.
Our dairy farm started in 1971 with one cow we named Sundari which means beautiful. She was a cross-breed Jersey-Holstein and with her came her calf Surya (Sunshine). We now have a dozen cows and half a dozen calves. We use the milk for the community and sell some of it to pay for the feed. Cow dung is used as manure in the fields and also to feed the Gober gas plant which supplies fuel for cooking. (Gober means cow dung).
In 1970 we also bought 200 coconut saplings of the Tiptur variety available in nurseries in Bangalore. The trees have now grown up and provide us with a small income. Under the umbrella shade of the coconut trees we have planted 1,400 coffee plants and installed the drip irrigation. Coffee plants need a lot of shade. As the coconut trees and coffee plants need to be irrigated in the dry season, with the help of AIM we have sunk a bore-well.
From the start we have grown vegetables, paddy, ragi and potatoes. We have also experimented with mushrooms and mulberry plants. We receive rains in the monsoons from July to September, even then the rains are not enough and we have to depend on the bore-well, besides the open wells. On 5 August 1985 we purchased a Mitsubishi power tiller which was a gift from the Dutch monasteries through AIM. It also has a trailer for conveying loads on the farm.
On 10 November 1974 we were given an altar bread machine which Fr Mayeul de Dreuille osb bought from a Carmelite Monastery in France as they had bought another one. Later we received a second one which was a gift from AIM. Our third machine for making thick hosts came from the Mother Prioress of the Benedictines of St Lioba. We now supply altar bread to parishes and religious communities in Bangalore. The thick hosts are supplied to NBCLC - National Biblical Catechetical Liturgical Centre - in Bangalore. We are grateful to our benefactors for helping us in this very monastic work. We still cut our hosts one at a time which involves a lot of labour. We would be grateful for an electrically operated cutter.
In 1975 the land at the end of the property was levelled and 800 pits were dug. 454 stone columns were bought from the neighbouring quarry. On March 8th of the same year 800 grape seedlings of the Thomson seedless variety were purchased. We received help from Mr Gopal the Viticulturist from the Government gardens, the famous Lalbaug gardens. Later we planted the Bangalore-blue variety. The young shoots were watered by buckets of water drawn from the well. Later an electric pump and irrigation canals were substituted as the plants grew up, and a bore-well was sunk with the help of funds from AIM. We get two crops a year, one in March and another in September. The grapes are sold and with some we make sacramental wine and table wine which is sold at the Abbey. We also make jam for our own use.
Our retreat house, Prarthana Nilaya, House of Prayer, was blessed by Mgr Hunold on 11th May 1986. 12 Bethany sisters began their retreat that day to prepare for the silver jubilee of their profession. Hospitality is offered to individuals and groups of sisters, professed, juniors, novices, postulants as well as priests, brothers and laypeople who come for days of retreat or recollection and for young women who wish to study their vocation to the monastic life.
We had the blessing of our bakery - Bethlehem - on 8 September 1987. It has an electric oven and dough mixer. From our bakery comes bread, buns, cakes and biscuits for the community, retreatants and guests.
From 1988 we began making handmade greeting cards using the pith of the tapioca plant for the flower petals and hand printing the texts inside. Later two sisters learnt the art of screen printing. The art shop was blessed in 1991. We sell greeting cards, prepare letter heads and visiting cards. Some sisters make liturgical vestments, albs, stoles and girdles.
Before Renovation of charges which is held on 1 May the feast of St Joseph the Worker, the sisters evaluate the year's work, answering a questionnaire in a spirit of openness and sincerity on the work and their response to the Lord's invitation to generosity in their work situation. This evaluation is helpful to plan the next year's work and to make the appointments. Once a month the officials in charge of the various departments have a meeting with the Abbess and cellarers to co-ordinate the work. We have always had to be careful to see that work does not become excessive and a drain on time, energy and emotional resources. St Benedict warns us not to neglect the care of souls in a greater concern for fleeting, perishable things. We thank God that through all the years we have experienced God's loving providence. He has never failed us and has always come to our help at the right moment through the friends He inspires to help us. At weekly conferences and interviews the sisters are motivated to see work as a sharing in the creative activity of God. Although hard and difficult at the start, each sister at a given moment has come to a deep understanding of our monastic motto of Ora et Labora and through these difficulties in the context of the manual work have experienced God's intervention and have thus grown in confidence and trust in Him.
At such moments the dichotomy between work and prayer ceases. It is always a joy and consolation to hear the faith experiences of the sisters of how wonderfully God works in our lives. We try to pass on the authentic values of our Benedictine heritage to the next generation of sisters in the new millennium we have just begun: "That in all things God may be glorified".
AFRICA - MADAGASCAR
Monastery of Mahitsy, Madagascar
The monastery was founded in 1954 by La Pierre-qui-Vire, France.
Our community of Mahitsy (30km north-west of Tananarive) has for many years lived by breeding hens and cocks for selling chicks and eggs. Lately we have started methodically exploiting the large pine forest round the monastery. A small farm and the beehives, as well as a tiny religious shop completes our earning capacity.
- Br Silouane, Br Marie-Epiphane and Br François de Sales, you are respectively guest master, farmer and beekeeper. What understanding do you have of your work in the monastery?
- Silouane: the guest house does not pay well, its main purpose is to help the community welcome the guests and encourage them to know and follow Christ better. It seems to me that St Benedict tells us to seek first the glory of God in everything. This is really my endeavour even in the most material tasks.
- M-Epiphane: Yes, I agree our work should be from the heart. But monastic work must also earn our living. I have a responsibility there.
- F. de Sales: I believe that work is integrated in monastic life: ora et labora, the Rule deems it necessary to avoid laziness and feed the community. I work with bees, sentient beings, so the responsibility is mine. If the hive does not produce, I am concerned, I am not helping the monastery to live. I must protect and watch over the bees, not upset them in any way or they will react.
- The monastery employs several workers, how do you see your relationship with them?
- Silouane: The man who helps me in the guest house is paid, his day comes to an end and he goes home and receives payment for his work at the end of the month. But I am responsible for all that goes on at the guest house; I cannot put that burden on another: "The size of the clod proves the ardour of the work" says a proverb.
- M. Epiphane: One not only has to arrange the work, to accomplish tasks; one also has to make it a success, to be imaginative, inventive. A Malgache proverb says: Asa vita no hifampitsarana: "One is judged by the result...". Recently, for example, I saw that the scraps from the kitchen were given away; so I suggested that we buy a pig for fattening. The piggery is already being built and I will look after it. Another brother began last year to breed royal carp and we made two little ponds for them.
- F. de Sales: The paid men work well, but they do not feel responsible for the work. In fact daily experience show us how true is St Benedict's saying: "Then are they truly monks when they labour by the work of their hands", and one of our proverbs says, like St Paul: "Izay miasa mendrika mihinana", "He who works deserves to eat".
In Madagascar one senses the influence of the West in the way we work. In the town, nothing can be done without money, so the people tend to work a lot and save as much as possible. They have to work regular hours, which is not the case in the country. Our workmen, for instance, work one day in two, as most of them have some rice paddies and a few animals to look after. The wages are an indispensable addition, though the family could not live on them alone. In fact they live as worker-peasants. Their mentality is quite different from town dwellers from this point of view. In the country we have a subsistence economy; sakafo, food, is the priority; in the town it is wages. This is what shapes one's outlook.
In the monastery, the young brothers try to take things on even if the time given to study has priority. Slowly projects take shape which will one day enable us to reduce the number of workmen, which this kind of economy requires, and to earn our living ourselves. There is nothing like it to create a family spirit and gather the brothers round a project which is more than just an economic endeavour. Asa vadi-drano tsy vita raha tsy hifanakonana: "Unity gives strength!"
Monastery of Mambré, Kinshasa, DRC
An interview with Fr Gilbert-François Kabamba, Prior of Mambré since 1998. The monastery was founded in 1978 by Clerlande, Belgium; there are now nineteen members of whom twelve are perpetually professed, three in temporary profession and four novices.
- Fr Prior, how do you earn your living?
We have set up several workshops:
Most of the basic ingredients are imported from Europe: the wicks, stearine and colouring. We can buy the paraffin here. It is a good work, even if it is only done periodically; and it is profitable. We supply candles to parishes and religious communities in Kinshasa. Every year we sell more than 100 paschal candles.
2. Palm plantation
We have more than 1000 palm trees scattered about, which makes harvesting very difficult; we have begun making a systematic plantation with 60 plants. To extract the oil, we collaborate with a local layman. He harvests and extracts the oil on our plot and takes 30% of the finished product, either in oil or money in arrangement with the brother in charge. It is a profitable unit, but production is poor, about 200 litres a month in two extractions. We are trying to develop this plantation in a more rational way.
We supply bread to Lutendele and Mbudi. In spite of the difficulty in obtaining flour, the small number of clients, and its unquestionable value, the enterprise is profitable as it is a new economic venture for the monastery. Some local women come to buy bread from us to resell it. However, new problems have just arisen.
This is a domestic enterprise, there is not much to say about it. We are starting again after eight months gap. Right now the Premonstratention fathers, who do much in this area, have warned us that it is not profitable as the cost of feed keeps rising. We experience the same difficulties as many African monasteries: the price of maintenance (feed, vaccines, various treatments) gives very little sustainable profit.
5. Kitchen garden
This provides vegetables for the kitchen and sometimes for sale. There is never enough. One brother and an employee work there full time.
6. Carpentry - metalwork
This is an interesting workshop. Here we can make all the windows, the metal doors of the Health Centre, not to mention previous constructions, thanks to the competence of Br Gabriel (a former pupil of the Salesians in Lubumbashi) and an employee. As the brother is studying, we cannot accept outside orders at present; but when it is running, it is full of hope.
7. The garage
We can do 3/4 of the repairs in the community under the responsibility of Brs Willy and Egide and Papa Kikuma, our chauffeur-mechanic. Spare parts are expensive. Given the age of our vehicles, bad driving, taxes and the bad state of the roads, this workshop is very expensive to run: it takes 25-45% of the general budget of the monastery. We don't know what to do, we certainly need to replace these two vehicles with something new.
8. Guest house
We mainly receive people for individual or community retreats: evaluation days; formation meetings, seminars, personal direction and occasionally holidays for convalescents. Our guesthouse is under-used on account of the bad state of our road, the poverty of the people and also because there are many retreat houses in the town. Like most guest houses in Central Africa, it is not a source of income but a service to the Church.
- Can you tell us about your social involvements; though they may not earn anything, they are a concrete and useful way of sharing in the development of your region and an important part of your activity.
- All our projects are covered by a non-profit making organisation called ADIM (Association of Integrated Development of Mambré and vicinity) which associated with an NGO in Belgium: FAR (André Ruyckmans Foundation) and CCMK (Cooperation Clerlande - Mambré Kinshasa) which may also become an NGO. We have some projects which are operational and others planned. The monastery grounds are divided by a stream. One side is reserved for projects: Health Centre; Agricultural Solidarity; Agro-Vetinary School: This hill gets its water supply from a reservoir with an electric pump thanks to the generosity of the Southern Cross and CCMK.
1.The Health Centre
One a week we have pre-school consultations. Once a month we distribute soja flour, maize and milk at cost price to undernourished children. Vaccinations against polio', measles ... thanks to our inclusion in the huge programme of our area of health for all, under the watchful care of BDOM (Bureau of medicine of the Archdiocese) where our doctor brother, Dr Damien Cassiers, works. In connection with the Health Centre, a literacy and health education programme for our neighbours has been functioning for four years. Besides learning to read and write in Lingala, there are lessons in general formation: hygiene, human physiology, social conventions and lessons in health, sexuality, sickness: cough, diarrhoea, fever ...
2. Agricultural solidarity
This project is quite original, the only one of its kind in Kinshasa. We are in the fifth year and we hope to be able to continue. It is basically a Centre of formation for adults; teaching is given three days a week and lasts eleven months. The objective is to improve the small agricultural income from stock rearing or fish ... in the family or on a small farm.
The students choose what interests them, for example, market gardening, food crops, rearing poultry, pigs, rabbits, ducks, turkey ... fish, bees ... The Centre has a small experimental farm; at the moment we are building a small pilot henhouse.
The Centre provides technical and theoretical support at home for elderly people. Only two things are required: the seed and implements. Up until the present we cannot satisfy such basic needs. Due to lack of funds we have had to put the project of an agro-vetinary school on hold.
3. Other projects
The monastery has some ponds which produce very little for the time spent on them. There is a mill and a battery charger available to our neighbours. We also have a field of manioc which provides the kitchen with vegetables called manioc leaves.
We are setting up a project called a garage-school. This is mainly for local young men who cannot attend the ordinary schools. They will be given a professional formation thus discouraging laziness and gangsterism.
- You also serve the Archdiocese?
- Our Brother Damien is one of those responsible for more than 48 health centres of -the Archdiocese already mentioned. Brother Blaise is parish priest of Saint-Irénée nearly a mile from the monastery.
Brother Odo is responsible for the diocesan coordination of the "children of light" (Bilenge ya Mwinda - BYM).
One brother gives courses in the school, two other teach in the theologate of the OMI which includes several congregations, Br François the liturgy course and Br Richard the course in ancient and modern logic, epistemology and philosophy of religion.
Finally the monks engage in the ministry of spiritual accompaniment for diocesan priests and religious, pastoral ministers and lay people in the monastery guest house.
- What conclusions can we draw from this?
- The economic and political context of the RDC does not allow the monastery financial independence from their own resources, that is, from the work of the monks. But we work towards it. That is why outside support is still necessary. We thank all those who support us materially and spiritually: may God bless them.
The Trappist monastery of Koutaba was founded in 1951 by Aiguebelle, France.
1. Our work enables us to satisfy our ordinary requirements: food, health, clothes, general maintenance.
2. Our main source of income is from a coffee plantation, most of the harvest is sold in France while a third is prepared and sold in the local market. The guest house together with jam-making, a small flock of hens and vegetables help to balance our economy.
All these activities have a real impact on personal and community maturity. The brethren develop their sense of responsibility towards the community and learn to give of themselves. Work develops a physical and psychological equilibrium; whether it is productive or not it gives a feeling of solidarity and mutual dependence in a spirit of obedience.
3. Our daily timetable is the same throughout the year: 8-11.15 and 15-16.45, but the noviciate spend only 3 hours in manual labour because of their spiritual formation.
4. The balance between the office, lectio, community meetings and hospitality differs according to age and responsibilities. This balance is more difficult to maintain for the older members; but the younger ones find that it is satisfying: "the office nourishes lectio which is stimulated by community meetings. Fraternal charity is increased which encourages joy in our hospitality and gaiety in service".
5. The primary aim of our work is to earn our living so that we can lead the monastic life, all share in the work. The dimension of economic and social preferment is secondary, but not absent from our economic activity. Our coffee plantation provides work for several families of our region. It helps them to gain the know-how to improve their way of life.
6. Community work covers about 60% of our needs. The shortfall comes from our mother house, monasteries of the order and AIM!
The Benedictine monastery of Babete was founded in 1967 by the Abbey of Sarnen, Switzerland.
Our work enables us to earn our living for ordinary expenses, which is right. We cannot undertake the cost of building and investments or the cost of travel. Our work includes: guest house, kitchen, host-baking, jam, husbandry, plantations and vegetable gardens, bees, soap, shop. Some are more profitable than others.
We work from 9:15-11:30, 15:30-16:45. This varies according to the work one does or the orders that come in, for hosts or soap for example, or according to the seasons. Also there may be a large group at the guest house. The office is always attended by the whole community. The sister who does the host-baking rarely misses the office. Lectio is at a time fixed for the whole community, but one can change this if necessary. People regularly knock at the door. sometimes we have to leave what we are doing to open the door. But we always try to do everything together at the proper time.
Our work contributes to the human and economic progress of our neighbours in the sense that when we work alongside them in the plantation or guest house our bearing and conversation is edifying. For example, they are not used to work in silence, but they discover a great deal in this. In the village we have provided potable water, which enhances economic progress. We also have a small shop which means people do not have to spend money on a taxi to buy food. For building and other work in the monastery, we employ more than a dozen workers, particularly the young and unemployed.
Our mother house and occasional donors make up our income. Our community could produce more, but we lack outlets and the minimum publicity. For example, the jam and soap are suitable occupations for our life, but sale is slow. What should we do?
Ensuring the Upkeep of the Community through the Work of the Nuns
Eugênia Teixeira osb, Abbess of Petrópolis, Brazil
"Then will they truly be monks when they live by the labour of their hands". RB 48:8
These six blessings have always marked all the important aspects of work organised, blessed and entrusted to the Father.
1st blessing: given by work: that of sons who take part in the work of creation and the creativity of the Father, in the smallest things... in the free gift of each day.
2nd blessing: by our humble work, whatever it is, we take part in the work of the redemption of the Son.
3rd blessing: by our humble work we share in the work of all our suffering brothers throughout the world, in the universality established by Christ "to the praise of his glory".
4th blessing: by our work today, slowly or quickly, we continue the tradition of our fathers in the faith and in monasticism; and we are also "watchful servants, links of a past and a future always present in the today of God".
5th blessing: by our work, the Spirit and the Bride say "COME", the number of the elect is fulfilled and the consummation of the universal covenant draws ever nearer.
6th blessing: by our harmonious work, in silence, generosity and peace, we anticipate the day when there will not be several offices, when the sacred leisure, OTIUM, of eternal praise and eternal love, will reign in pure joy, where all of us will be holy and without reproach before Him in love and living in praise of His glory.
host baking; bread-making; Swiss biscuits; stoles; crafts: dolls candles, rosaries, statues, cards etc. painting icons and other pictures; computer, scanning, editing; Xerox in white and colour, binding, cards; translation: English, French, Italian, Spanish.
The nun, like every Christian must needs work, continuing the work of the Creator in a personal contribution to the plan of Providence, a way of developing one's human faculties and sharing with those most in need. Work thus becomes a redemptive asceticism and a means of subsistence.
The different forms of work in our monastery are adapted to each sister. In spite of much effort what we produce only amounts to 10% of the monthly returns. It does not cover our expenses, so we must ask ourselves what can be done. The heaviest work is in the kitchen, carried out by twelve sisters in turn. We cannot afford to employ anyone, the sisters do everything.
Extracts from an article by Br Bernardo osb which appeared in the Bulletin of the Abbey of Tournay, France.
Prayer and work in the Benedictine monastery of Escuta do Senhor
The Mosteiro da Escuta do Senhor was founded by Br Cristiano, a solemnly professed monk of Goias. Feeling called by the Lord to live as a hermit, Br Cristiano asked to retire soon after his solemn profession to a small property belonging to his family in northeast Brazil, 80km from Recife, capital of the State of Pernambuco.
There he lived alone for a number of months. But, like the monks of antiquity, very soon young men and young monks came to learn in the school of prayer. Brother Marcel Barros, prior of Goias came to visit Br Cristiano ... he suggested that he discuss with Dom Costa, bishop of Caruara, in whose jurisdiction his centre of prayer was situated, the only one in the diocese, to see if he would accept the foundation of a Benedictine monastery of diocesan right. Dom Costa was very happy to do so, and in 1996 he made it official and authorised Br Cristiano to receive young men wishing to lead the monastic life under the Rule of St Benedict.
The life of prayer
As in every Benedictine monastery, we have the usual offices following the cursus in the Rule arranged with Matins. Our Liturgy, in Portuguese, is very simple, classical, dignified; as we do not have a competent cantor we recite many psalms recto-tono. We try to give it as much dignity as possible, with due reverence to the Lord.
Rising at 4.15, we begin the day with Matins at 4.30-5.30. There is a short time for lectio before breakfast at 6.00, followed by a time for personal prayer. After Lauds recited at 6.45, we come together for chapter: reading and commentary on the Rule, distribution of work and organisation of the day. There is time for lectio again before Terce at 9.00; then work until 11.45. There is 15 minutes of community prayer in chapel, then Sext at midday followed by a meal and free time for 2 hours. From 14.00-15.00, work; None at 15.00 then more work.
It could be said that interrupting work by None is not very efficacious! It takes time to stop, and time to start again! It is true, but this gesture shows the primacy of prayer over work, the balance of monastic life between prayer and work; as work overlaps prayer, one can interrupt it to meet the Lord in a deeper way, even though the monk tries to pray while he works. The encounter with the Lord gives us the strength to pray. The most important thing for the monk is not his work but his prayer.
At 16.30 work is finished, and at 16.45 silent prayer before the Eucharist and Vespers at 17.00. as we have no priest, the priest in the neighbouring parish celebrates. We are somewhat dependent on his timetable as there are many Mass centres and faithful to keep him occupied. On Sundays and feast days he can only come in the morning at 8.00. Tuesday is his rest day and he does not come atall, and so we have no Eucharist. There is a meal 15 minutes after the Eucharist, a short period of free time before a small informal meeting, a sort of recreation, followed by Compline at about 20.30...
The community does all its own chores, cooking, sweeping, maintenance etc.... For income we make liturgical vestments. Br Cristiano is a recognised artist in Brazil... he makes his living from his art, he has even sold vestments in Switzerland and Germany. During his journeys in Europe to organise exhibitions he stayed at the monastery of Tournay; to thank the community he offered them a white chasuble and some stoles. He is in charge of our well-known studio and receives many orders: albs, chasubles, stoles etc... He also restores liturgical artifacts, not only copes and chasubles but statues and crosses. To cope with the demand, we have had to employ a neighbour. Alongside this work we also stick paper icons onto wooden plaques; these are sold at the entrance to the monastery.
Another workshop makes candles. At present the brothers are far from idle, they have an order for hundreds of paschal candles which they hope to complete. In April we begin to prepare pascal candles for the following year; Br Cristiano decorates each one differently.
Finally we have a bakery and pastry business on Thursdays and Saturdays. All the bread, biscuits, cakes we make are sold during the weekend, particularly after the Sunday Eucharist when our church is filled with people from Gravata, Caruara and even Recife.
Our property is not very large, but it includes some fruit trees for ourselves, our income comes from our workshops.