Frequently Asked Questions
Work & Finances
What kind of work can I do in the monastery?
Due to the size of Saint John’s Abbey, many professions are possible on campus, and still more are accepted off campus if a monk is well suited for a position, mission, or ministry.
Do I get to choose my work?
Throughout novitiate, monks are introduced to the monastic way of life and their work is assigned to them. After formation, a greater degree of freedom is allocated to each monk.
Work is a fundamental part of the monastic life. As such, a great deal of attention is paid to how a monk is employed. Beyond simply paying the bills, work for a Benedictine monk is prayer. Work informs the spiritual life, and becomes one of the theaters in which the spiritual life occupies, overflows, takes root to grow. Thus, the work a monk is assigned at any point in his monastic vocation must reflect both his interest as well as the direction of Abbot and spiritual director.
Can I continue and advance my current career if I become a monk?
It is likely. Noted above, the work of a monk is a combination of prayer and labor, and the Abbot and spiritual director accordingly approve of it, or suggest a change of career if necessary. If the lay career of a monk is appropriate for the monastic life, and the Abbot approves of it, then the monk may continue to pursue the career.
Would I earn money from my work?
Monks are paid, and the income is added to the community income. There is no private income for any monk. Despite a monk’s employment, each monk is allocated a budget for the year, depending on his needs.
Do monks get vacations?
Do monks retire?
Yes. However, they remain monks. Retirement is from employment, as it is in the lay life. However, many monks choose to maintain employment past retirement age, or participate in former employment intermittently after retirement, as desired or as needed.
Can I devote my time to prayer rather than work?
Yes and no. For Benedictines, work and prayer become one, so yes, you can devote your time to prayer. But can you sit in your cell all day? No.
It may be imagined that monks sit in the choir stalls all day, reciting the Psalms, or that we do nothing other than quietly ponder scripture and meditate. Though all of this is part of the monastic day, Benedictines deeply appreciate the spiritual value of work and community. Monasticism has a natural balance. Few, even if they wanted, can recite psalms from morning to evening, or sit motionless and ruminate on the Word of God. However, even if a Benedictine possessed the spiritual, mental and physical stamina for such feats, two questions in particular remain. First, where is the community in this behavior? Second, and very pragmatically, who is paying for this lifestyle?
Despite the Modernist trend, religion and devotion are rarely isolated and autonomous. Church history, including the Desert Fathers and other anchorites (hermits), the spiritual life is always informed and corrected by the Church community. Even if a monk's daily practice is in solitude, a spiritual director and a community for Mass is sought out and relied upon. Moreover, extending back to the Desert Fathers, monks have always been expected to support themselves in some fashion or another. Monasticism is a commitment to Christ, Church and community, not a vacation from responsibility and life. Members of a monastic community are expected to work to support the community and community ministries.
Can I quit my assigned job for something different?
Yes. You will have to give reason for quitting, and perhaps suggest another profession, and your superior may deny your request, but it is possible.
Important to remember as well, few monks need remain in the same form of employment for the entirety of their career. Perhaps you will work at one profession for five years, another for two, and another for twenty. Saint John’s offers a variety of employments and opportunities to pursue your interests and spiritual life as exercised in work.
Do monks pay taxes?
Typically, a monk at Saint John’s does not pay taxes as he is usually working for a not-for-profit organization (Saint John’s Prep, Saint John’s University, etc.) Occasionally, there can be exceptions, for example, should he work at a local hospital he would have to pay taxes as he would be working for a for profit organization.
What happens to my debt?
Personal debt, credit card debt, and the like must be paid off before being accepted as a candidate, but not before beginning discernment. School debt is a different issue and looked at on a case-by-case situation. Please speak to the Saint John's Abbey Vocation Director for more details.
Can I have a phone/car/other personal property?
Each room in the monastery has a phone. Cell phones are considered by a case-by-case decision. All monks have use of the Abbey fleet of cars, a truck and a van, as well as the community gas pumps. Monks hold all things in common so the land and buildings of Saint John’s are “owned” by all. Outside of this, no monk is allowed to own personal property.