Today marks the release of Benedicta, an album of Marian chants from the Benedictine Monks of Norcia, who live in the ancient monastery built over the fifth-century birthplace of Saints Benedict and Scholastica. Watch the short video above for a sense of what life is like at the monastery, and the background of the making of the album, the first from these monks. Buy it here.
I’m so pleased to post that video to bring attention to the life and work of this band of brothers living in the Umbrian mountains. As most readers know, I made a pilgrimage there last fall, and it was undoubtedly the spiritual highlight of an Italy trip that did not lack for spiritual highlights. If you watch that video, which is only five minutes long, you will have a sense of the rhythm and the texture of traditional Benedictine life there. These monks are old school … but they’re young! Most are in their thirties, and American. I can’t say it often enough: if you are an unmarried Roman Catholic man who feels even the slightest call to the monastic vocation, go to Norcia at once, and taste and see. Be part of the coming neo-medieval renaissance. They need you. All of us Christians need monks to pray for us. The whole wide world needs you there. Vocations link here.
And I encourage all Christians, Catholic or not, to make a pilgrimage of prayer to Norcia. St. Benedict is a common father of Christianity in the West. If you can’t go to Norcia, you can still financially support the prayer and work of the monks there. You can be connected in prayer and chant with the monks here, by downloading chants for the Divine Office. The general blog link is here.
These men are living the Benedict Option in the most literal way. Stand with them. I am not a Catholic, but I stand with them, with gratitude and Christian fraternity. And look at their reading list at the monastery: C.S. Lewis is there, as are ancient and modern Orthodox writers, like Frederica Mathewes-Green. These men are deeply orthodox as Catholics, but also ecumenical in the best sense. One of them told me last fall to keep praying the Jesus Prayer on my prayer rope, then showed me his own prayer rope!
Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants: if you are interested in the Benedict Option, go back to the source. Go to Norcia to pray. Pray for the monks; they are praying for us all.
UPDATE: A reader points to a fantastic organization called the Labouré Society, whose aim is to help young people who feel called to a vocation as a monk or a nun to pay off their student loans, so they can enter the monastery or convent unburdened by debt. Take a look at the current roster of men and women for whom the Society is raising money. Among them is Justin Leedy, a young man from Idaho, who needs help settling his student loan debt so he can enter the Benedictines of Norcia. Here’s his video:
If you can help midwife the vocation of Justin Leedy, or any of the other Labouré Society aspirants, go here to donate. You can donate in general to the Society, or direct your donation to the cause of a particular aspirant. Justin, for example, needs $45,000 to pay off his loans, and has just under $12,000 pledged, with 28 days left in the fundraising period.
We live in a time in which the religious life is never considered by many young adults. These ten men and women — all of them apparently in their twenties, or maybe early thirties — have not only thought about it, they have embraced it; the only thing standing between them and life as a religious is the debt. What a great opportunity all of us have to help these hopeful Catholics enter into their very own Benedict Option … or Carmelite Option, or Missionaries of Charity Option, or Dominican Option, and so on. Please consider it.