Someone recently asked me what my schedule was like when I lived as a vowed religious. It feels like common knowledge to me, but I'm sure this will be news to most of you. So here's a brief look into what things were like on a day to day basis inside the monastic life. This reflection may stand out in style from my other grapes, but as always, every little bit of who we are is part of our relationship to divine/the vine.
Every monastery/order is different, so what I did while I was there will
invariably be different from many other places. My
community was a teaching community, so we lived in a building attached
to the high school that the Brothers owned and ran. As I was just 18
when I joined in June of 1993, I still had college ahead of me. The
Brothers paid for our college completely, and I even went to the school I
wanted to go to anyway (Manhattan College). Manhattan College is in
Riverdale, NY (The Bronx) and their community is on Long Island, so
we commuted each day to school.
So on a normal weekday:
We'd wake up at 5:30 AM, have morning prayer
and mass from 6:00 to 7:00, breakfast after until 7:30, and dishes
briefly after that as a community (all of this was all 34 of us).
older teaching brothers would head off to classes and offices in the
school, while the young brothers (4-5 of us) would get on the road around 8
AM. First class was 9:05 AM.
We'd drive back home after school, usually get in
around 5 PM, do some school work (or occasionally nap!), have meditation in the
chapel from 6:20 to 6:40, and evening prayer from 6:40 to 7:00.
would follow until about 7:45 (cooked by 3 of the Brothers and we'd all
rotate in these jobs). Dishes and cleanup afterward as a community.
Four nights a week from 8:30 to 9:20 PM or so, the
young brothers would have a "house class" (with one of our superiors)
about different courses relevant to life as a religious.
At 9:30 PM
we'd join the rest of the community until 9:50 for night prayer
(Compline). 10 PM was the beginning of "The Great Silence" when you
couldn't speak too loudly in the halls and a lot of people went to bed.
As a college student, I somehow had to squeeze in my studies too,
and as I got my Bachelor of Arts in both English Literature and Theology
through lots of classes to satisfy the double major, I must have gone
to bed closer to midnight most nights. Not nearly enough schoolwork
time, but I found a way to make it work and fill in some studying
throughout the school day too.
As you can imagine, it was a full day every day! Getting to bed by
midnight and then up at 5:30 AM to shave and shower? For an 18-22yo?
were a little different:
Full bar on Friday and Saturday nights with
dinner in a relaxed living room setting.
Mass Saturday was at 8 AM, and
Sunday it was 9:30 AM (enough time for an hour and a half of tennis with
another brother on warm days).
Saturdays were laundry day for the 4-5
young brothers, as the laundry of 34 men takes all day once a week!
Sometimes the older brothers would do this and we'd be assigned to other
tasks around the house or the school. In my 4 years there, I learned
to paint, cook, and was an electrician's apprentice. The brothers all
had various talents, and we took care of 99% of everything needed to keep
the community as self-sufficient as possible.
Once every 6 weeks or so, I was allowed to visit my family for about
6-7 hours on a Sunday. I wouldn't go home for Christmas or my birthday
or any holidays, as the brothers "were my family now".
And that's the short version!
Life itself, its ups and downs, the interpersonal relationships for good and bad, the retreats and time off from school all changed the schedule slightly here and there, but for the most part, the above is a "brief" insight into what I faced for my four years as Brother Sean.