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What is monastic life like for a Catholic monk?

monastic life

St. Michael's Abbey | Fair Use via YouTube

J-P Mauro - published on 05/12/24

The Norbertines of St. Michael's Abbey give a glimpse into the lifestyle of a Catholic religious vocation in this glorious high-definition video.

It’s hard to make the religious life look more appealing and fulfilling than the monks at St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange County, California. With a beautiful new building – dedicated in 2021 – placed upon a to-die-for landscape, the Norbertine priests and friars of this centuries-old religious community have been growing awareness of the religious life with high quality video series through YouTube and their dedicated website

In February, St. Michael’s Abbey released a video that shows viewers what life is like as a Catholic monk.

The video is a clip of a larger work, a series from The Abbot’s Circle, which is an effort by the Abbey to create the first-of-its-kind virtual monastery. It is an ever evolving, curated library that spreads awareness of the Catholic religious life of the Abbey’s monks and offers an inside look at their works. 

In his explanation of life as a monk in St. Michael’s Abbey, Fr. Norbert Wood walks viewers through the sights and sounds that are distinct to monastic life. He begins with the habit, the “uniform” that identifies members of religious orders. While the camera offered cinematic shots of one of the priests walking the abbey grounds, Fr. Wood explained that the habit can be a powerful identifier, even to those who don’t know what it is. 

He recalled the first time he saw a nun as a young boy, immediately recognizing that “that lady is not living for this world. Isn’t that amazing, that – to a little 7-year-old who was not devout at all – already monasticism was witnessing to the other world.”

Looking toward Heaven

He then delved into the architecture of the monastery, which is designed to make visitors look up towards heaven, be it due to awe over high, vaulted ceilings with frescoes or mosaics or the bell tower with its cross raised high over the abbey. This section of the video offers some downright stunning shots of the majestic building of St. Michael’s Abbey

“When you arrive at a monastery you will have a sense of entering another world and this is facilitated by the architecture… There is a desire to draw the heart and the attention of our visitors and guests to heaven; to elevate and lift up the heart.” 

Finally, he touches on the sounds that one will hear at a monastery, from bells and flowing water to hymns and prayers. Most importantly, however, is the silence, which Fr. Wood explained can at first be uncomfortable to some, but will eventually become “like music.”

“God willing, the silence that you experience will be the overriding sound; the sound of silence. It is especially in silence that we enter into the monastic spirit… In the end, in silence, we come face-to-face with inner realities that we really don’t want to look at. They can sometimes be very uncomfortable, the unconverted parts of our heart that we need to change.” 

Talent for words

While the sights and sounds of life at St. Michael’s Abbey are simply a delight to see and hear, Fr. Wood’s concise and personable talk steals the show in this brief video. This aged and wise priest has a talent for words and his genuine love of his faith is ever present in his gentle demeanor and natural prowess as an orator.

There’s a whole lot more waiting at The Abbot’s Circle’s official webpage. Along with glimpses of life at the abbey, The Abbot’s Circle offers visitors views of their holdings of sacred art – including icons written by the monks themselves – recordings of sacred music performed by the community, testimonials from the brothers and seminarians on abbey life, spiritual guidance and lessons, and deep conversations on faith formation. 

Click here to learn more.

MonksReligious LifeVocations
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