So What do Monks Do?
I will be in residence at Holy Cross Monastery; An Anglican Benedictine Community of Men, in West Park New York for four weeks starting the 9th of May. This the middle part of my three-month sabbatical. The question I am often asked is besides praying five times a day exactly what will you be doing with all your time?
The rule of St. Benedict was established in 1223. St. Benedict describes it as “the book of life, hope of salvation, marrow of the Gospel, the way of perfection, the key of paradise, the covenant of an eternal alliance”. The rule talks about the “duty of work, but doing it in a way that does not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion. I will have at least three options for work. One is helping maintain the garden. The monastery has a large organic garden which produces much of the vegetables used for their meals. The second option is assisting with tasks in the library, and finally, with the permission of the chef, working in the kitchen. I also have a number of books to read while I am at the monastery, several of them given to me by members of the parish.
Holy Cross has a large guest house and runs many workshops and seminars. I will be staying in a special section which is for long term residents. It is located in the under-croft of the church and consists of four bedrooms, a sitting room, a kitchen and a single bathroom. I will be cooking my own meals when the guest house is closed each week from Sunday through Tuesday. When the guest house is open, I will be eating my meals with the monks and other guests.
Holy Cross Monastery was founded by the Rev. James Otis Sargent Huntington (1854-1935) in 1884 in New York City. Its focus was on helping the poor and desolate of the lower east side of the city. It briefly moved in the 1890’s to Westminster, Maryland, and to its present location in 1902. In addition to its worship life the monks continue to be involved with social ministries in the West Park community.