St. Benedict of Nursia - Patron of Western Civilization

St. Benedict of Nursia - Patron of Western Civilization
+ Contact the Vocation Office to learn more about life as a monk at St. Vincent Archabbey 724.532.6655 +

Pax et Gaudium

O.S.B. Vocation Awareness

O.S.B. Vocation Awareness

April 20, 2014

St. Benedict's First Easter as a Hermit

Book Two of the Dialogues: Life of St. Benedict

The man of God, Benedict, coming to this foresaid place, lived there in a narrow cave, where he continued three years unknown to all men, except to Romanus...

At length when almighty God was determined to ease Romanus of his pains, and to have Benedict's life for an example known to the world, that such a candle, set on a candlestick, might shine and give light to the Church of God, our Lord vouchsafed to appear to a certain Priest dwelling a good way off, who had made ready his dinner for Easter day.

He spoke thus to him: "Thou have provided good cheer for thyself, and my servant in such a place is afflicted with hunger." Hearing this, the priest rose up, and on Easter day itself, with such meat as he had prepared, went to the place, where he sought for the man of God among the steep hills, the low valleys and hollow pits, and at length found him in his cave. After they had prayed together, and sitting down had given God thanks, and had much spiritual talk, then the Priest said to him: "Rise up, brother, and let us dine, because today is the feast of Easter."

The man of God answered, and said: "I know that it is Easter with me and a great feast, having found so much favor at God's hands as this day to enjoy your company" (for by reason of his long absence from men, he knew not that it was the great solemnity of Easter). But the reverent Priest again assured him, saying: "Verily, today is the feast of our Lord's Resurrection, and therefore it is not right that you should keep abstinence. Besides I am sent to that end, that we might eat together of such provision as God's goodness hath sent us." Whereupon they said grace, and fell to their meat, and after they had dined, and bestowed some time in talking, the Priest returned to his church.

About the same time likewise, certain shepherds found him in that same cave: and at the first, when they spied him through the bushes, and saw his apparel made of skins, they thought that it had been some beast. After they were acquainted with the servant of God, however, many of them were by his means converted from their beastly life to grace, piety, and devotion. Thus his name in the country there about became famous, and many after this went to visit him, and in exchange for corporal meat which they brought him, they carried away spiritual food for their souls.

To Read the Life of St. Benedict:

April 19, 2014


The Exultet hymn, sung at the Easter Vigil Liturgy, is the Easter Proclamation of the Catholic Church. It is a song that is full of symbolism and beauty, a song that calls the faithful to REJOICE in the Salvation that has been won for us by Christ our Redeemer. For on this Night of Nights we remember that darkness and evil has been conquered forever by the Morning Star, Jesus Christ who has risen victorious over the darkness of His Passion and Death on a Cross. Coming back from the domain of death, the Morning Star will burn forever, shedding its rays of peaceful light on humanity.

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King's triumph!

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.

Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lightning of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.

(Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you,
the mercy of God almighty,
that he, who has been pleased to number me,
though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me his light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle's perfect praises).

(Deacon: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.)
Deacon: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right and just.

It is truly right and just,
with ardent love of mind and heart
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.

Who for our sake paid Adam's debt to the eternal Father,
and, pouring out his own dear Blood,
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.

These, then, are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.

This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel's children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night
that even now throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.

Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!

O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!

O happy fault
that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!

This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.

The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants' hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
a flame divided but undimmed,
which glowing fire ignites for God's honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.

O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.

Therefore, O Lord,
we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honour of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.
May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death's domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever.

April 16, 2014

Over Discernment?

This is a very challenging Article, but it makes some very good points.  

Stop Waiting for Your Calling

There seems to be an unsettling trend amongst many able-bodied young Catholics to spend a near minimum of five years – if not longer – “discerning” their vocations. Yes, there are exceptions for those who have been through traumatic events in their life, who have suffered abuse, who still need to mature, and so forth. But generally few have any reason to take so much time in order to make a decision.

To take one example, there are many Catholic couples who have been in exclusive relationships for 3, 4, or even 5 or more years without ever becoming engaged (Crazy!). If one still has doubts after dating someone for up to a year (concupiscence doesn’t help in extending a relationship much longer than unless there is a commitment to marriage), break it off! The heart needs to be protected from growing too attached to someone who does not intend to commit. It’s one thing to be engaged for some time (if the man is deployed, etc.), but as a matter of general practice, the Church recommends engagements no longer than a year to 2 at most in order to be a safeguard for one’s virtue.

It is a similar situation for those in religious life or the priesthood. God isn’t going to finally let someone know after 10, 15, or even 20 years that that isn’t their vocation; one will know the answer to that question long before. It seems that those who leave after a substantial time usually come to realize that they should have left long ago.

What is this crisis? While there is by no means an exhaustive list of reasons as to why this “perpetual discernment” is so commonplace, it seems that a great part of this problem bay be tied to many discerners’ desire to “look for signs” and other mystical confirmations. This phenomenon is characterized by long periods of waiting, “just to know for sure.’ Speaking from personal experience – both my own and from being intimately involved in helping and guiding others in their vocation process over the years – I can tell you that God speaks to us not in extraordinary capacities, but through the means of our everyday existence. He will not knock you off your seat and tell you what he wants; those sort of revelations are rare circumstances. He also doesn’t promise absolute clarity about everything – faith is “faith” for a reason. However, God does promise to be with us “until the end of time,” and therein is our consolation. He gives us his alter Christus – the priest – as a director and confessor in order to guide our reasoning and our decisions. If there is difficulty discerning, why not follow the advice of one’s spiritual director?

God isn’t going to make someone spend the greater part of his youth trying to just “figure things out,” or penalize someone for “accidentally” choosing the wrong path. God has given each of us particular talents, abilities, desires, and inclinations. If we really listen – if we pray – he will speak to our hearts and draw us towards his divine will. But he does so quietly, softly, like the “still small voice” (1 Kings 9:11). You will not find him in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, so stop looking there. Instead, make a decision and go forward in confidence and peace. If you are truly seeking God’s will and are doing what you’ve decided is best, God will bring it to fruition; if it is not his will, he will quickly alter your course. And he won’t take a decade or longer to do it, causing you to live in the dark for so long a time. In fact, the moment you make a resolution and act upon it, wonderful things happen. And this affirmation is enough to give us the peace and strength to keep pushing onward and upward.

For more on this article:

April 10, 2014

A Reflection on Chapter 15 of the Rule of St. Benedict

Chapter 15 of the Rule of St. Benedict:
The Times to say "Alleluia" 

From holy Easter until Pentecost without interruption 
let "Alleluia" be said 
both in the Psalms and in the responsories. 
From Pentecost to the beginning of Lent 
let it be said every night 
with the last six Psalms of the Night Office only. 
On every Sunday, however, outside of Lent, 
the canticles, the Morning Office, Prime, Terce, Sext and None 
shall be said with "Alleluia," 
but Vespers with antiphons.

The responsories are never to be said with "Alleluia" 
except from Easter to Pentecost.


          In Chapter 15, St. Benedict regulates the times for saying Alleluia, which means “Praise the Lord!” So why is Benedict so concerned about limiting the use of such a magnificent word? It is because Benedict knew the tremendous meaning Alleluia signifies when it is used in a proper time and place. For instance, Benedict was probably very aware that the only time Alleluia is used in the New Testament is chapter nineteen of the Book of Revelation (verses: 1, 3, 4, 6), the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, the triumphal banquet where all the souls redeemed by Christ unceasingly Praise God for His Salvation. For Benedict, life at the monastery was supposed to be a foretaste of this life in Heaven, this Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Therefore, in anticipation of this Heavenly Life, Benedict might have said, “If we will be unceasingly acclaiming Alleluia when we are in Heaven, how could we not also acclaim it while we are still exiles here on earth?” Clearly Benedict knew and loved the beauty of this word! However, he also recognized that we lowly and sinful exiles have yet to fully attain this Blessed Life. Therefore, the most appropriate times for saying Alleluia are related to the times we most vividly remember the Resurrection: the entire season of Easter, Vigils, that is, early in the morning, the time of day that Christ rose from the dead, and Sunday, the day of Resurrection!                              

March 27, 2014

Stations of the Cross

Fr. Max leads St. Vincent College Students on an outdoor pilgrimage of the Stations of the Cross

March 18, 2014

Commentary on Chapter 49 of the Rule of St. Benedict: Observance of Lent

What wisdom we find in Saint Benedict when he says that few have the strength to live a continuous Lent, even if it is an ideal. This type of thinking and writing is important because it reflects clearly how Saint Benedict is able to accept lots of different types of monks and not get totally discouraged when they are not all perfect. Just as few have the strength to live a continuous Lent, neither should we expect in any way that we will find perfect monks in any community.

This mode of thinking never takes away the responsibility of the monk to keep striving to lead a better monastic life. What it does is encourage each monk to strive to accept his brothers as they are and to work personally for a better monastic life and to work to strengthen the monastic community and its observances.

So, for Saint Benedict, even though he recognizes that the monk cannot live a continuous Lent, he still recommends various ascetic practices during Lent. It is clear that the monk should add "something" to his normal style of living monastic life during Lent. Saint Benedict is not shy about suggesting that the monk can deny himself some food, some drink, some sleep, some needless talking and idle jesting... We can understand about giving up a little food and drink, but it sounds like Saint Benedict accepts a certain measure of needless talking and idle jesting in those times which are not Lent! Probably it is simply the realism of Saint Benedict shining through in his Rule once again.

But whatever the monk does, he must receive blessing from the abbot. Monastic life is not a private life! We need to open our hearts and our souls to the abbot, always with prudence, of course, but nevertheless a true openness. This is one of the most difficult aspects of monastic life today, when we are all used to lots of privacy and also used to making our own decisions.

For Saint Benedict, being a monk means never taking a decision by oneself--ever! Always a true monk must include his monastic superior in any decisions that he takes about his life or way of living the monastic life.

May we all grow in the aspects of monastic life mentioned in this Chapter. May we strive to be strong and to offer something to the Lord. May we learn to ask our abbot's blessing on our lives and on our decisions.

 Philip Lawrence, OSB, Abbot of Christ in the Desert

For more commentaries by Abbot Lawrence, visit: 

March 14, 2014

Saint Vincent Archabbey will host an Easter Triduum "Come and See" discernment weekend for single Catholic men ages 21-40 on April 17 - 20, 2012.  A "Come and See" weekend is a no-strings-attached chance to spend time learning about the life of Benedictine Monks of St. Vincent Archabbey. Come pray with us, talk with our junior monks, meet our older brethren, and most of all listen for the voice of Christ who continually calls men to a life of work and prayer in service to the Catholic Church. For more information about the weekend, life as a Benedictine monk, or to schedule another time to visit the Abbey please contact Fr. Max, OSB at 724-532-6655 or by email at:

March 10, 2014


From Chapter 49 of the Rule of St. Benedict:
The Observance of Lent

The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial. During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food or drink, so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of his own will with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 1:6). In other words, let each one deny himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing. Everyone should, however, make known to the abbot what he intends to do, since it ought to be done with his prayer and approval. Whatever is undertaken without the permission of the spiritual father will be reckoned as presumption and vainglory, not deserving a reward. Therefore, everything must be done with the abbot's approval.

March 5, 2014

Monks & Semenarians Lead Bible Study

Monks & Seminarians Lead a Weekly Bible Study for the Men at Union Mission 

The Union Mission of Latrobe, Inc., is a Judeo-Christian based, non-profit mission, providing temporary shelter and needed services to homeless men in Westmoreland County and surrounding counties, while assisting them in their move toward self-sufficiency.

The Union Mission provides for the overall treatment needs of each resident through a structured, daily program which focuses on four distinct areas: employment, education, behavior modification, and counseling.

The Union Mission provides each resident with a variety of experiences and guidance to assist them with their spiritual growth. Information about local church worship services and activities is made available to the residents. Each Thursday evening, a Bible study and discussion led by students and priests from the local Catholic seminary or other community clergy persons is held on the premises.


How to Contribute Financially to The Union Mission

Tax-deductible donations can be made via the following methods:

Send a check payable to Union Mission of Latrobe, Inc. to:
Union Mission
P.O. Box 271
Latrobe, PA 15650

Donate online via Westmoreland Gives. Information can be found at

Donate online via the United Way. We are affiliated with The United Way of Westmoreland County. Our agency code is 2913.

February 26, 2014

Br. Mark explains Basilica stained glass project.

Br. Mark Floreanini - monastery artist

The ambulatory is the monastery hallway leading into the Basilica.  It is a place of silence and meditation.

Br. Mark with the new and recently completed stained glass windows in the ambulatory.  

February 23, 2014

Pope Francis Announces a Year for Consecrated Life

At the end of the year, 2013, Pope Francis announced that he would be dedicating 2015 as a year for consecrated life!

Consecrated Life (also known as "Religious Life") refers to the Monks, Nuns, Brothers, and Sisters who have "consecrated" themselves to God by their Vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience (Benedictine Monks make the special Vows of Conversion of Life, Stability, and Obedience).

Those in Religious Life aim to grow in holiness through their gift of self to God and to His people.

At the end of December, Pope Francis spoke collectively to all of the Consecrated men and women in the Church, saying:

“Thank you for what you do and for your spirit of faith and your service. Thank you for your witness and also for the humiliations through which you have had to pass”.

The consecrated are those who “can awaken the world,” he said. “Consecrated life is prophecy. God asks us to fly the nest and to be sent to the frontiers of the world, avoiding the temptation to 'domesticate' them. This is the most concrete way of imitating the Lord.”

The Monks of St. Vincent Archabbey will be preparing for this yearlong celebration in a special way!

To Learn More about the Role of Religious Men and Women, watch this video!

February 16, 2014

Novices embrace Winter Olympic Spirit

It might be cold outside, but the Novices are in good spirits, finding some free time to go ice skating!

Br. Mark, Br. Matthew & Br. Ignatius

Novices Skating for a Gold Medal!

And when the Novices are not out and about having fun, they are keeping busy with their Monastic Formation Schedule:

8:30 am - Monastic History with Br. Bruno

9:30 am - Community Life with Archabbot Douglas

8:30 am - The Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Warren (Novice Master)

9:30 am - Psalms with Br. Benedict 

8:30 am - Monastic Customs with Fr. Warren

9:30 am - Gregorian Chant with Fr. Cyprian

February 9, 2014

Happy Feast of St. Scholastica (Feb. 10), the Twin Sister of our Holy Father, St. Benedict

Statue of St. Scholastica in the Archabbey Basilica

Notice the Relic of St. Scholastica at the foot of the Statue!

This Stain glass window in the Basilica depicts the last meeting between St. Benedict and his Twin Sister.  St. Gregory tells us that it was Scholastica who had the greater Love.  To learn more about this encounter, follow this link:

September 30, 2013

Development of Prayer in the Monastic Tradition

Monastic Controversy: 

Pure Prayer (Imageless Prayer)


Anthropomorphic Prayer (Praying with mental images) 

The structures of Monasticism developed drastically in Egypt during the 4th Century. In Lower Egypt lived the “Antonite” hermits who followed the example of their founder, St. Antony
St. Antony
(251-356 AD); and in Upper Egypt lived the “Pachomian” monks who followed the example of St. Pachomius (d. 346 AD) and his innovation of community life. Although the Antonite hermits and the Pachomian monks had great respect for each other’s founder, they severely disagreed on the topic of Prayer.

In Lower Egypt, the Antonite hermits took a highly systematic and philosophical approach to prayer.
For the Antonites, prayer should be “Pure”. “Pure Prayer” is a lifting up of the mind to God in such a complete manner that all thoughts and images are expelled from the mind so that the light of the Holy Trinity may fill the soul, causing a state of ecstasy, a state of contemplation in which one lacks self-awareness. For the Antonite hermits, God is so “simple” that one’s mind cannot approach Him as long as it remains complex (i.e. filled with wandering thoughts, spiritual images and intellectual concepts).

On the other hand, the Pachomian monks of Upper Egypt tended to practice “Anthropomorphic Prayer” without exception, that is, using mental images to enhance their prayer. Whether it was creating mental images based on scenes from the
Life of Christ or creating mental images based on various retreat conferences they listened to, the Pachomian monks loved to create these spiritual mental pictures in their minds.

The controversy between the hermits and the monks was not a major issue until around the year 400 A.D. when the Antonite monks convinced Archbishop Theophilus of Alexandria to condemn the use of prayer with images. This attack was aimed directly at the Pachomian monks. Thoroughly upset by this decree, thousands of Pachomian monks marched to Lower-Egypt with torches in hand to see the Archbishop.

Theophilus of Alexandria

Upon sight of this crowd, the Archbishop went out to meet them, saying: “in you, I see the face of God”. Since his statement of “seeing the face of God” in the monks was a form of “anthropomorphic prayer”, the Archbishop reversed his decision to ban prayer with mental images.

Overall, both “Pure Prayer” and “Anthropomorphic Prayer” remain part of the monastic tradition and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Neither of them can be condemned as invalid forms of prayer. “Anthropomorphic Prayer” cannot be condemned in light of the Incarnation; Jesus is “the image of the invisible God”. Because God became man, man has seen the “face of God” and therefore he can depict this “invisible God” in his mind. Likewise, “Pure Prayer” cannot be condemned based on the utter transcendence of God. Although we have come to intimately know our God in the person of Jesus Christ, God’s ways are higher than the ways of man’s. No matter how great our mental depictions of God are, all analogies will eventually fall short of God’s Greatness. Therefore, we must also approach our Wonderful God with the silence and stillness of “Pure Prayer”.

September 27, 2013

Seminary Formation: Part 4 of 4

What is Seminary Formation Like?

Ever wonder what seminary is like? This short passage is taken from a book, "To Save a Thousand Souls," written by Fr. Brett Brannen. Although he wrote this book as an aid for men discerning diocesan priesthood, his chapter on Seminary is very insightful for monks preparing for the priesthood as well.

To "Look Inside" this book

Fourth Pillar of Priestly Formation: Pastoral Formation

“The whole training of the students should have as its object to make them true shepherds of souls after the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, teacher, priest, and shepherd” (PPF #238).

Priesthood is about getting people to heaven! All priestly formation culminates in pastoral skill: being able to shepherd people and help them to grow in holiness. We often say in formation work that “grace builds on nature”. Though a priest will receive the grace to be a good shepherd at his ordination, that grace calls for the priest’s personal commitment to develop the knowledge and skills to teach and preach well, to celebrate the sacraments properly and prayerfully, and to take care of people’s spiritual needs.

Pastoral formation brings together all aspects of formation. It is analogous to the graduate of medical school who finally starts to see patients during his residency. He must develop his bedside manner, learn what to look for an how to treat “real people”.

To Learn About St. Vincent Seminary: