Frequently Asked Questions
I thought canon communities were groups of priests living according to a Rule. But NOT all of your members ARE ordained!
That’s true. Benedictine Canons accept individuals from all walks of life—lay and ordained, men and women, old and young. Our order is a contemporary one that seeks to adapt models, that worked in the past, for today’s world. Most Canons are Augustinian and clerical—we’re not—we’re a mixed group that follow St. Benedict’s Rule.
Are you monks?
No—we’re ‘Canons’. There are big differences and many similarities. The big difference is that our communities do not live in common. Our members maintain their own residence but gather regularly around a particular parish. Some live in twos and threes. This is why, for example, we style the head of our Order of Canons as ‘Prior General’ instead of an ‘Abbot’. Benedictine Canons come together in regular chapter, to worship and come together spiritually everyday as they pray the Divine Office. Each community has its own way of working, but each seeks to apply our Holy Fr. Benedict’s Rule in their daily lives. Benedictine Canons profess the traditional vows of obedience, stability and conversatio.
What is an ‘Oblate’?
Different names are given to members of varying degrees of association to the community. Oblates were originally children given to a particular monastery by their parents—they could decide, when they reached an appropriate age, to become a monk or leave the ordered life. In our order, Oblates are those who affiliate themselves in prayer and fellowship with us but who do not make solemn or simple vows to the community. They don’t wear the habit, but do wear the medal. They do promise, however, to conform as closely as their circumstances permit, to the Benedictine life. They are comparable to the tertiaries associated with some orders of friars.
What is a ‘friend’ of your community?
Friends are those who enjoy our company and who like to spend time with us. They also support our activities in their prayers, with practical assistance and with donations, but they do not make vows or promises of any sort.
What is a ‘Novice’?
A Novice is an individual who has expressed interest in our community and who wants to discern their place in it. The novitiate lasts at least a year and is a time when the individual discerns (by conforming to the disciplines of our order) if they are suited to the life of a Benedictine Canon. Some individuals will decide that the ordered life is not for them. Others might decide that they can’t make the vows, but they would like to become Oblates. Others may decide that the vowed life is for them. Yet others may decide that the Religious life is indeed for them, but that they need an even more structured life — cloistered even. The novitiate is merely a period of discernment. Benedictines do that by ‘doing’. Novices read the Rule, contemplate the implications and discern their vocation with the help of the community.
Is the Benedictine life difficult?
St. Benedict didn’t intend to lay down anything harsh or difficult but there is a certain strictness. The life of a Canon isn’t as austere as the life of a Monk but it is certainly more ordered than that of an Oblate. Many people are surprised at just how simple the life is. There are the traditions, the Offices, work and study. Getting along with other people and navigating social dynamics is precisely where Benedictine spirituality is at. It’s not lofty. You don’t have to be a Saint to join. You do need to surrender your life to God and the community. You do need to commit—that’s what vows are. And you do need to submit yourselves to the various disciplines (Why? Because they’re time-tested and they work!) Benedictine spirituality is found in the doing of these things and the ‘getting along’ with your brothers and sisters. It’s not something one learns intellectually, it’s not something one grasps through study and reading. It’s a way of living.
What is the biggest challenge for your communities?
One of our challenges (and opportunities) is at twenty years, we’re a relatively young order. We’re seeking to find a balanced way of living the authentic Christian life in the 21st century. The Rule we’re following is 1500 years old—from a different time and culture. How do we live according to the spirit of the Rule? How do we discover the wisdom of St. Benedict in our time? These are things we hope to discover.
What is the biggest opportunity for your communities?
We’re excited about Benedictine Spirituality — we want to find ways to make it accessible to a wide diversity of people. Benedictine spirituality is grounded—it seeks balance... it’s fair and hospitable. It has things to offer our contemporary world. Living the Christian life isn’t difficult but it does demand commitment to other people, to a way of living and to an ancient tradition. We believe there is a thirst for the kind of authentic Christianity that St. Benedict offers. Your life, over an extended period of time, can be shaped by the Benedictine disciplines.