Day In The Life

This section is designed to give some impression of the way a monk at Buckfast spends the average day. Because we come together to pray and to eat, the times for these activities are fixed for the community as a whole. Other activities, like work, study and recreation are fixed in between these fixed points. As you see, the community’s day begins and ends with us coming together in the Abbey Church for prayer. On a physical level, monks are as likely to love or hate getting up in the morning as the next man, but in their heart there is often the pleasant sense of anticipation of a new encounter with God, and, once awake, there is something wonderfully fresh and exciting about moving slowly through clean air, with the birds singing their dawn chorus in an otherwise hushed world.

06.15 Rise

At six fifteen on weekdays, an hour later on Sunday, a bell rings throughout the monastery as a signal for the monks to leave their beds and prepare for the first activity of the day which, appropriately for men who put God at their centre, is to gather in the Abbey Church for prayer.

“You know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. The night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light…” (Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans 13: 11)

06:30 Office of Readings

We refer to our prayers together as ‘offices’ because this word derives from the Latin word meaning a duty. God has done such great things for us that we believe we owe it to Him to thank Him for them - it’s a duty, just like when anyone gives you something you ought to say ‘thank-you’. The office of readings begins with the psalm most suited to be our first prayer of the day:

Come in; let us bow and bend low; let us kneel before the God who made us for He is our God and we the people who belong to His pasture, the flock that is led by His hand. O that today you would listen to His voice! (Psalm 94)

07:45 Lauds

After the office of readings there is half an hour or so for the monks to spend alone with God; then, with the sun rising, they come together again to praise the Lord for a new day.

08:00 Breakfast

The monks take all their meals in silence, unless there is a special feast day or other celebration

09:00 Holy Mass

The community gather round the table of the Lord, which is the source of love which sustains us and binds us together as adopted sons of God. The Mass is said in English with the sung parts in Latin. Parishioners and visitors are welcome at all our services and most especially at Mass, when they celebrate with us our common faith and love of Christ.

10:00 Work/Study

Study time allows the monk to develop his understanding of theology and other subjects which will feed his spiritual life. In the early years of a monk’s life in the monastery he will pursue a regular course of studies, initially focusing on finding out more about the monastic life, its history and theology, the liturgy and developing his understanding of the Catholic faith. Later he will study more general theology and may spend time following a university course. If he is to be ordained a priest he will take the required courses for ordination. Throughout a monk’s life, he is encouraged to continue his studies, sometimes taking further courses and sometimes pursuing his own interests through reading.

13:00 Midday Prayer

We gather for a short time of prayer, bringing our minds back to our primary focus at this mid-point of the day.

13:10 Lunch - Recreation

Lunch is normally a self service meal. On Fridays the menu is restricted to bread and cheese; a little sacrifice to remind us of the great sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross on Good Friday.

14:00 None

Set at mid-afternoon, None maintains the monks relationship, and dedication to, a life of prayer.

14:10 Work/Study

The work the monks do is quite varied. The community has pastoral care of the local parish and does as much as time and manpower will allow to personally give our many thousand of visitors an experience of the traditional Benedictine virtue of the hospitality. Besides this there is the functioning of the monastery to attend to, including work to provide income to sustain it, and some of our community spend some time working away from the monastery for a while if there is a pastoral need. So, a monk may find himself saying Mass for the parish, or showing some visitors around the church, answering questions from one of the many school groups who visit, or working in one of the shops. At other times the Abbot may assign him to administrative work, or domestic chores, or duties in the sacristy; he might have a role in guiding and training men who come to join the community, or he might spend time in one of the ‘industries’ which monks have traditionally engaged in here, like producing works of art, keeping bees, making tonic wine, pottery or fudge making. The schedule given above is just one possible way in which we try to keep a balance in the time we give to each of the three ‘pillars’ of the monastic life - prayer, work and study.

17:00 Lectio Divina

This is the name given to what is sometimes described as prayerful reading, though the fact that the latin term is still used bears witness to the difficulty of translating it. The monk withdraws into a quiet place by himself with a spiritual book; ofter he will choose the Bible. He reads the text slowly and carefully, pausing when the mood takes him, perhaps going back over a passage that happens to strike him. From time to time what he reads will draw him into prayer, perhaps for a moment, perhaps for longer. In this way he ruminates on the sacred text, drawing out of it a sense of God, allowing it to act upon him to bring him into the Lord’s presence.

18:15 Chapter

This is a short meeting of the community at which a section of the Rule of Saint Benedict is read aloud, some details of the life of the saint whose feast is celebrated the next day are given, and any deceased member of the community whose anniversary occurs is remembered. It is also an opportunity for the Abbot to make announcements or give news to the community.

18:30 Vespers

There is a rich monastic heritage of latin plainsong and at Buckfast we use this to enhance the beauty of our praise at vespers and compline.

19:00 Supper

At the evening meal, the community sit down after grace and are served their food, the monks taking turns to be the server as a reminder that the essential character of the Christian life is to be of service to others. The meal is again in silence, but now the monks listen to one of their number reading to them from the Bible to another spiritual book. This practice helps to preserve the mood of recollection in the refectory and reminds the monks that ‘man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that precedes from the mouth of God.’ (St. Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 4)

20:00 Compline

The last office of the day is made up of the most suitable psalms, hymns and canticles for this moment: 

At last, all-powerful Master, you give leave to your servant to go in peace, according to your promise. For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared for all nations. (Canticle of Simeon)

The same ones are used each day which allows the monks to sing them together by heart, the only light in the church illuminating the high altar. After compline we keep silence until after Mass the following day.