One Day in the Life of a Man’s Monastery

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

I grew up in a quiet almost Beaver Cleaver like community across the street from the Passionist’s monastery in Chicago. During the summer I would wake up in the middle of the night and hear men’s voices chanting. As I grew older I got to know these men. Some were priests who ministered at our local Catholic parish and some were brothers who tended the apple orchard, cooked the meals, plowed the snow in the winter and manned the front and back doors. There were also college students we called Confraters who I’d see walking in silence as I passed the monastery on my way to school in the morning and again at lunchtime when I’d be going home for lunch—we did that in those days. I eventually joined them at their high school seminary for some of the happiest days of my life.

These were not famous ballplayers although Fr. Fred could hit a ball further and run the bases faster than anyone I personally knew. They were not famous actors, yet they were able to hold a church full of people spellbound for 30 to 40 minutes at a time. They were no Carusos but Fr. Kent sang “Danny Boy” like no one I’ve ever heard before or since. They were not community organizers, yet everyone, Catholic or non-Catholic alike knew Fr. Bennet who on his way home in the morning from visiting the sick in the neighborhood would stop wherever he smelled a fresh cup of coffee brewing and complementing the lady of the house invite himself in for a cup and some chatting. This was before Starbucks.

They were a group of ordinary everyday men, living their lives in peace with one another and the world about them, sharing their lives through their jobs (ministries, they called them) with the world and giving thanks and praise to God through their common life of prayer and study.

So last week I wrote that I’d post about what I believe each and every one of us, regardless of our Faith can do to confront religious violence. We can do just what the men I described above did and still do. We can educate ourselves. We can pray. We can work for peace. We can each create a space in our day for study and prayer (reflection on that study). We don’t need a monastery in which to do these things either. Community however, is the sine qua non of making this work. The history of monasticism shows us this. The first monastics started out as hermits, but eventually joined together to walk with each other on their journey through life. So you see why many of the posts here deal with creating and sustaining community. We actually call ourselves the Community of Passionist Partners.

Chelsea Shields TED Talk and Sister Christine Schenk’s work (her column with the NCR, is just a hint of a lifetime of doing) are also great models. We can make the world more peaceful by being that peace in our little corner of it. Oh, we may not get the notoriety of Chelsea or Christine, none the less we will be doers, like Fr. Bennet, Fr. Fred, living our lives one day at a time giving it all we have.

Taking the time to watch the above You Tube video “Documentary about daily life of a Men’s Monastery in Abkhazia” is a great illustration of just what community looks like in real life.


Author: CPP

We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.

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