A living tradition

Today there are about 25,000 Benedictine monks and nuns, as well as over 5,000 Cistercians and others who live according to the Rule of St. Benedict. In the last 40 years, these numbers have been declining, but the number of "oblates," lay people associated with monasteries, is growing rapidly and now exceeds the number of monks and nuns. Many of them are Protestants.
—contributed by Hugh Feiss, OSB

Walking in Benedict's steps today

Visit Clear Creek Monastery in Oklahoma and you will see something as close to 12th-century Benedictine monastic life as can be found in the 21st century. It all began in 1972 when a group of University of Kansas students discovered Fontgombault, a traditional Benedictine monastery in France known for its Gregorian chant, traditional Latin liturgy, and strict adherence to the Rule of St. Benedict. Around 30 students stayed at the abbey as guests, and a handful never left. The abbot of Fontgombault called it the "American Invasion."

Now Fontgombault has come to America. The students-turned-monks returned to the U.S. in the 1990s and founded Clear Creek Monastery. There, they continue to pursue a traditional Benedictine lifestyle.

Talk to the hand

Benedict encouraged his monks to be silent as often as possible. But of course, some form of communication is necessary in order for people to live together. In The Year 1000, Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger describe a Benedictine sign language manual from Canterbury listing no less than 127 hand signals, including signs for various people in the monastery, ordinary objects such as a pillow ("Stroke the sign of a feather inside your left hand"), and requests such as "Pass the salt" ("Stroke your hands with your three fingers together, as if ...

Subscriber Access OnlyYou have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Already a CT subscriber? for full digital access.