A day in the life of a monk
St Benedict wrote that a monk should prefer nothing to the work of God - the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours. The monastic day is therefore built around set times of prayer, although there are also periods of work and recreation as well as mealtimes. Some of the monks at Ampleforth Abbey have different roles and jobs to fulfil inside or outside of the monastery, but the common thread through the tapestry of each monk’s day is coming together in the Abbey Church to pray.
The day begins with the sound of the rising bell, shortly after which the monks gather in the Abbey Church for the first prayers, Matins, at 06.00 each day and 06.30 on Sundays. Matins is followed by a period of quiet prayer before Lauds at 07.30. After a brief break for an informal self-service breakfast in the monk’s refectory, the monks come together again for Mass at 09.00 on weekdays and 09.30 on Sundays which, like all services in the Abbey Church, is open to the public.
It is after Mass that the monks then break off into their work-related roles, whether that be preparing a homily for a parish service or leading a retreat, for example. They work until 13.00 when the bells summon them again to the Abbey Church for Sext, a short service of prayer lasting approximately 10 minutes. Then it is time for lunch where the community sit together in the refectory. The seating order always reflects the date the monks joined the community, so they sit next to the same person at meals every day.
The monks eat lunch silently, with one person charged with the task of reading a book aloud to the rest of the brethren. The meal begins with a brief passage of Scripture, but the book being read does not have to be religious text and can cover a variety of nonfiction topics, from nutrition to World War II. Once everyone has finished their meal, there is time for a recreational catch-up with one another over a cup of tea.
In the afternoon, there is space in the timetable for the monks to enjoy some free time before Vespers at 18.00. They may spend this catching up on emails, reading, or gardening. When training to become a monk, you are required to conduct manual labour during this period, such as cleaning the Abbey Church. Once they leave the novitiate (2 years of training), they can choose to carry this on if they wish.
At 17.00 silence falls in the monastery as part of a quieting down phase before the evening begins. After Vespers there is a period of lectio divina, until supper at 19.00. There is a brief period of leisure until Compline at 20.15. After this night prayer, the Summum Silentium (the Great Silence) begins and is observed through the monastery until morning prayer.
On Sundays the same routine is followed, but the monks try to take some time away from their work, going for walks and spending time outdoors in particular.
Guests are welcome to join the Community for Mass and Divine Office – either in the Abbey Church or via live streaming.