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Ora et Labora

The Benedictine Abbey, located in Atchison, KS., was founded in 1857 by Father Henry Lemke, St. Benedict’s Abbey is a huge part of the spiritual and faith life around the Benedictine college campus.  

Fr. Augustine Wirth was the prior of the monastery in Kansas in 1858. Fr. Lemke originally wanted the monastery and school in Doniphan Kansas. However, it made more sense to move to Atchison, because the town was growing. The location was transferred in 1858.   

On May 29, 1859, the cornerstone was laid for both the college and priory in Atchison thus marking the beginning of the life of the monks and students in Atchison KS. 

Ora et Labora, meaning pray and work, is definitely something that the Benedictine monks incorporate into their daily lives. The Benedictine monks follow the Rule of St. Benedict and have a life of prayer and worship for God.  

Prior Leven, a monk at St. Benedict’s Abbey gave a look into his daily life and what it means to be a monk to him. 

Prior Leven took his solemn vows in 2011, but didn’t know that he was going to be a monk before he came to Benedictine. Leven explained that his realization that he was called to be a monk came from coming to Benedictine and getting to know Christ here. 

I had no idea or interest in monastic life, still less in a personal implication for my future.  The fact that I am a monk manifests the revolutionary shift in my life that came about in college when I encountered Christ. Our word for this experience in the Church is a ‘vocation,’ coming from the Latin vocare, which means ‘to call.’ I have been called to this life” Leven said. 

Prior Leven shared that a day in the life as a monk consists of prayer, work, Mass, vespers, various recreational activities with the other monks, and compline. Prior Leven explained that the way that his daily life is organized is ordered towards keeping the focus on God.  

“It is monotonous and reassuring, predictable and supportive. It has been called an ‘unexciting life. The speaker of this phrase meant to indicate that it reduces distraction so that we can turn back to God more easily,” he said. 

When asked about how being a monk at the Abbey shaped his relationship with God, Prior Leven said that knew that a life with God would make him feel alive in a way that he had never known. 

“From the first moments of experiencing the Lord’s nearness in prayer, I saw that life with Him would be more alive than what I had experienced before.  I immediately knew that I was loved and invited to free myself to receive that love more deeply,” Leven said 

Information taken from book Kansas Monks by Peter Beckman, O.S.B. 

Sophie Kolars
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