Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island, Illinois
May 2010
Benedictine Sisters monastery grounds at St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island, Ill Steps
Discerning your path in life
Monte Cassino

Called Out of Solitude and into Community:
How One Man Changed the World

More than 1,500 years ago, a wealthy young man named Benedict of Nursia left the nightclubs and vices of Rome for the rugged mountains of the countryside. He left to seek what was meaningful, true and enduring. He left to seek God.
Benedict settled alone in a tiny cave near Subiaco, about 30 miles outside of Rome. There, he entered into a life that was profoundly counter-cultural for its silence, simplicity and seclusion. Benedict relished it! Finally, he could think in peace. He could pray as long and as deeply as he wished without interruption. He could reflect on what he observed and felt.
But Benedict's peace was to be compromised. Known now as a wise man, people began arriving at his cave asking for guidance in their own spiritual quests. They asked him to mentor their journeys.
Somewhat regretfully, Benedict began to understand God was calling him to something new. God was calling him to be with others who shared his desire to seek the Divine. God was calling him out of solitude and into community.
St. BenedictSt. Scholastica

The Birth of Western Monasticism

Benedict established 12 small monasteries around Subiaco before relocating to Monte Cristo (shown above) in about 525. Once there, he established the monastery he would live in for the rest of his life (while his twin sister, Scholastica, established a monastery for women nearby). Benedict also wrote his Rule, a work that would help define, inspire and guide monastics for the next 1,500 years.
The Rule made it clear that the sole objective of monasticism was to seek God. Other orders may form for missionary and ministerial purposes, but monastics were to come together to form stable communities of seekers. All work they would perform would be in service to this objective.
The Rule also humanized the severe asceticism of the earlier Eastern monastics. Rather than commit themselves to a life of deprivation, mortification and discomfort, the Rule of Benedict urged compassion and service to one another, along with such comforts as a full night's sleep, warm clothing and sufficient food for each monk. Indeed, Benedict's vision was to create a peaceful, supportive, loving family of equals.
Benedict's model caught on, and Benedictine monasticism became the norm throughout the west. By the beginning of the 14th Century, the Order of St. Benedict had grown to include an estimated 37,000 monasteries!

St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island, Illinois
Still Thriving Today
A story from Sr. Joan Chittister's book, "The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages," offers a clue to why a 1,500-year-old religious order still is thrives today:
Once upon a time a disciple asked the elder, "Holy One, is there anything I can do to make myself Enlightened?"
And the Holy One answered, "As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning."
"Then of what use," the surprised disciple asked, "are the spiritual exercises you prescribe?"
"To make sure," the elder said, "that you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise."
Benedict's monasticism was founded on one simple precept: to aid monks in their search for God. He wrote:
Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. ... In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome. The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love. Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. ... Your way of acting should be different from the world's way; the love of Christ must come before all else.
The Rule stresses listening to one another, listening to God. It urges gentleness and humanity, a lack of hierarchy, an indistinction between rich and poor. It mandates that "all be received as Christ." And it specifies monastery regulations, although nothing harsh, nothing burdensome.
As Sr. Joan hints in her story, Benedictine spirituality is really about helping one another - through life in community, daily communal prayer, meals and leisure - to be awake when the sun begins to rise. To be able, as Benedict wrote, to open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from the heavens.

Learn More on our Blogs, Facebook and Email!

*How 2 Sisters Said "Yes!" from our Vocation Blog:

We lost 2 elderly Sisters in the past month. Although we miss them terribly, they left us with wonderful inspiration as we continue to seek God.

Excerpts from the Psalms we pray at Lauds every morning, videos from around the grounds, photos and more. It's another way to begin to get to know us!

Email Sr. Bobbi anytime!

Is Our Benedictine Community for You?

We live a balanced life of prayer, work and leisure, together.

We go out for ministry - to teach, serve in parishes, work in social service agencies - but we come home for prayer, meals and leisure.

If you are drawn both to outside ministry and contemplation, if you are drawn to life in community, please contact us.

We welcome your questions!

To learn more about our prayerful and joyful way of life in community, contact Sister Bobbi Bussan!
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Benedictine vocation director Sr. Bobbi Bussan, OSBTo give you a chance to learn about Benedictine Sisters and our way of life, we welcome you for a visit. Call (309) 283-2300 or e-mail Sr. Bobbi to set up a good  time. Or join us and other single Catholic women for a Benedictine Experience Weekend May 14-16. No matter when you come, there is no cost to you. We look forward to a morning, evening, weekend or week with you! And visit our Web site at