What is a monk?
As baptized Christians, we all are called to a life of continuous conversion: striving every day for holiness, working to be the most Christ-like person possible.
A monk goes about pursuing this goal of conversion with a particular intensity and single-mindedness that limits his life in some respects, yet allows for an intentionality, a "purity of heart," that blossoms with time into a deep, intimate and life-long relationship with Christ.
The more the monk can cultivate his relationship with God who lives within him, the more the monk loses himself and achieves "contemplation" - a renunciation of his heart, mind and will to the will of God.
Of course, this kind of conversion this takes time and depends very much on the support, example and direction of others of like mind. Hence, monks live in community - in monasteries - where all work together to seek God and His will.
By living with monks of all ages, the young are reminded that conversion is a life-long pilgrimage and that holiness often looks different at different stages of life. Likewise, the older members of the monastery are blessed by the zeal of the young and the continuous reminder that idealism is always be cultivated when seeking God.
Of course, a monk's own conversion cannot be his only concern; so he busies himself also with the salvation of others by praying for the world, learning each day to love his confreres and by serving the larger Church. Just as Jesus, when pressed to name the most important commandment, links love of God with love of neighbor, Benedictine monks recognize that the fruits of their contemplation must be shared.
Traditionally, monks have served the larger Church through education and scholarship, offering hospitality, spiritual direction and pastoral assistance, and cultivating Catholic culture in the form of the arts, literature, music and beautiful liturgy.
Finally, monks are called to provide a prophetic witness to the world. As a community of men of different ages, races, interests and personalities living together in a spirit of unity and love, the monastery stands as witness to the Kingdom yet to come, when all will be gathered back together in one Christ, who is love.