Friday, December 13, 2013

The Vows We Make, The Life We Live: A Photo Essay on the Rule of St. Benedict (RB)

by Brother Lorenzo Conocido, O.S.B.

We come to the monastery to seek for one thing –
to seek Christ,
“Friend, what have you come for?” (RB 60:3). This is etched on the transept switchboard door. This is the first official entry of the new postulants. Br. Joseph Long, the senior of the class, knocks on the door signifying the postulant’s desire to live in the monastery. (2013)

So that we may learn how to love like Christ.
“The younger monks, then, must respect their seniors, and seniors must love their juniors” (RB 63:10). New postulants – Br. Hoan, Br. Cory, Br. David and Br. John at the reception of new postulants. (2013)

We come to listen with the ear of our hearts 
to the Word of the Lord.
“After the Work of God, all should leave in complete silence and with reverence for God, so that a brother who may wish to pray alone will not be disturbed by the insensitivity of another” (RB 52:2). Here, Fr. Paschal Cheline devotes his lectio divina in the silence of the oratory during the break between Vigils and Lauds in the morning.

 We seek to work in the School of the Lord’s Service…
“Suscipe me, Domine!” The full text is: “Accept me, O Lord, as you have promised, that I may live, and disappoint me not in my hope.” This is the petition of a monk during his solemn profession. Fr. Jonah Wright and Br. Deacon Basil Lawrence during their solemn vows in 2011.

 And to learn how to support ourselves 
with the work of our hands.
“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the brothers should have specified periods of manual labor as well as for prayerful reading” (RB 48:1). Fr. Martin Grassel is the Abbey procurator and also an adjunct professor at the Seminary. This photo was taken in 2012 when he brought the first batch of beer he brewed that became the inspiration of the Abbey’s “Benedictine Brewery” coming up in Summer 2014.

We come to celebrate meals together…
Br. Ambrose (RIP 2012) the caretaker of the former Russian Museum, sits with Fr. Bede, a former Science teacher, during the monks’ BBQ at the monastery back garden. (2011)

 …to care for our sick brothers before all else,
“Care of the sick must rank above and before all else, so that they may truly be served as Christ” (RB 36:1). Br. John Paul Le serving meals with our infirm monks at the monastery coffee room.

and to delight in each other with the true affection as brothers.
Croquet is one of the favorite games of the Abbey monks during summer time. Br. John Vianney, Br. Mariano, Br. Marinus and Br. Jesus Maria enjoy their recreation time at monastery back garden.

 To welcome every guest as Christ…
“All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ” (RB 53:1). Br. Simon giving a tour to a group of students from Canada who visited the monastery and sang at the Abbey. (2012)

So that they may welcome us in their hearts.
“Great care and concern are to be shown in receiving poor people and pilgrims, because in them more particularly Christ is received” (RB 53:15). Br. Gregory, who assists in the Abbey Retreat House, talks to one of the visitor discerners during the summer Discernment Retreat in 2012.

We seek to an ongoing conversion of our lives
The vow of "conversatio" is a promise to daily follow the monastic way of life, which is very much about conversion. Abbot Gregory and Br. Jesus Maria during the “Kiss of Peace” on his simple vows in 2011.

so that we may learn to climb the ladder of humility.
The Rule has a rather long chapter on humility, which according to St. Benedict is the virtue that a monk should strive for, to “reach the summit of humility” (RB 7:5). Fr. Jerome (RIP 2012) was a professor and spiritual director at the Seminary who was very loved and respected by his students and his confreres.

To die to ourselves…
“Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire. Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die” (RB 4:44). Fr. Odo Recker, the Abbey’s Subprior, Vocation Director, and Novice Master, places a pall during the solemn profession of Fr. Jonah and Br. Deacon Basil signifying the death of the former self.

so we may live for others.
Br. Cyril Drnjevic leads the monks and seminarians in prayer during the Life Chain at Salem in 2011.

We extend the invitation of the Lord, “Come and see!!!”
Fr. Odo giving a tour of the Abbey buildings during the quarterly discernment retreats for men who are interested in becoming a monk.

So we can touch more lives.
Martin Moreno and Fr. Paschal – photo taken during the 2013 graduation. Fr. Paschal was a former Vice Rector and is now back in the monastery as the Junior Master while continuing to teach Liturgy in the Seminary.

No matter what the season is, we will run forward...
“Run while you have light of life, that the darkness of death may not overtake you” (RB Prologue). Fr. Liem Nguyen, one of the Seminary’s formation directors, walking towards the church to pray the Divine Office. Photo taken in January 2013 when a week of low temperatures froze the hilltop grounds.

…towards the Work of God,
St. Benedict tells us to "prefer nothing to the work of God" (RB 43:3). The daily rhythm of praying the psalms in the Divine Office. The monks starts their day with Vigils, the Office of  Readings, at 5:15 am.

and come together to 
celebrate the greatest meal ever prepared.
The conventual Mass, the Eucharistic Celebration, is the high point and center of the monastic day. Photo taken during the diaconate ordination of Br. Deacon Basil in December 2012 with Archbishop Emeritus John Vlazny of the Archdiocese of Portland.

We compete with one another in obedience…
The good zeal of monks in RB 72 says that an “unfeigned and humble love” must be given to their abbot. Abbot Gregory and Prior Vincent Trujillo, the two top heads of the Abbey on the latter’s Jubilee of Ordination in September 2013.

…to glorify God in all things,
“The workshop where we are to toil faithfully at all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community” (RB 4:78). The inscriptions on the monastery back garden read “Ut in Omnibus Glorificetur” U.I.O.G.D. Deus (That in all things God may be glorified). This reminds every monk that all is for the glory of God. In the photo is Br. Deacon Teresio Caldwell, the Abbey choir master, spending quiet time at the monastery back garden.

so that He may bring us all together to everlasting life.
“Are you hastening toward your heavenly home? Then with Christ’s help, keep this little rule that we have written for beginners” (RB 73:8). This is the last chapter of the Rule. Funeral service of  Br. Maurus Kreutzer in October 2013.


  1. This is probably my favorite out of all the photo essays so far. Great job Daniel! Pax.

    1. Your comment made me see that I had not credited this photo essay to Brother Lorenzo Conocido; he is is author of this final photo essay. Daniel Miller prepared the post for publication.

    2. Well, wonderful job Br. Lorenzo for authoring the essay, and great job Daniel for preparing it! :)