BR. WILLIAM: Good morning, this is Br. William. That sound you just heard, the birds chirping, that's my alarm. I like to listen to something relaxing right when I wake up. It's about 5 a.m. Typically, I would sit here and read for a little bit, but this week I'm the breakfast attendant, which means I have to put out all of the food for all of the monks after they come out of Morning Prayer. So I have to go do that right now.
DOOR OPENS AND CLOSES
BR. KOLBE: This is Echoes from the Bell Tower.
BR. JOEL: Stories of wit and wisdom from Benedictine monks who live, work and pray in southern Indiana. We're your hosts, Br. Joel Blaize …
BR. KOLBE: and Br. Kolbe Wolniakowski. People often ask us what it's like to be a monk, or a seminarian…
BR. JOEL: …or a monk seminarian, like me and Br. Kolbe.
BR. KOLBE: The only way to really know is to experience it yourself, but in this week's episode we try to give you a glimpse into what a typical day looks like in the monastery and seminary.
BR. JOEL: A typical day? We'd be first to say that there is no such thing as a typical day, but we do have ahorarium, or daily schedule, that we follow in the monastery. The seminary has a separate schedule they follow, too.
FR. DENIS ROBINSON: I think one of the things seminarians discover almost immediately upon arriving at Saint Meinrad is their days are filled. There's a lot for them to do.
BR. KOLBE: This is Fr. Denis Robinson, the president-rector of the Seminary and School of Theology.
FR. DENIS: Overall, the schedule is pretty well established. And so I think one of the important reasons for that is helping seminarians to develop really good kind of an ability to follow a schedule and kind of maintain themselves in a very regular way, which is going to be an essential component of parish life for them.
FR. DENIS: The day in the life of a seminarian is both quite organized and sometimes a little chaotic.
BR. KOLBE: In general, the seminarian's day begins around 7:30 with breakfast followed by Morning Prayer, which is celebrated every day as a community.
DCN. WILLIAM BURMESTER: The benefits to having a daily schedule, especially with the Liturgy of the Hours, is to root yourself back into prayer.
BR. JOEL: This is Deacon William Burmester. He is a IV Theology seminarian studying for the Diocese of Little Rock.
DCN. WILLIAM: So when I'm going to Morning Prayer, no matter when I woke up, I'm putting myself in the presence of God in the morning. And then no matter what happens between Morning Prayer with the community, and classes, and my own personal stuff, I'm rooting myself back into the community in the evening at 5 p.m. and putting myself in the presence of God.
BR. JOEL: After Morning Prayer, students go to class from 8:30-11:15.
DCN. WILLIAM: Those are two classes within that period. Then Mass, and then we have the afternoon off, if we aren't taking electives. And then Evening Prayer at 5 p.m.
BR. KOLBE: Deacon William decided to take a couple electives in the afternoons, including Fr. Columba's chant class.
DCN. WILLIAM: So my typical day is to go to class, but then on the breaks, to study, to read a little bit. I'm more of a procrastinator when it comes to being a seminarian, so I'll study for a little bit, and then walk around, go to Jack's, the coffee shop here, and get a drink, see people.
DCN. WILLIAM: and then get to Evening Prayer eventually at 5.
FR. DENIS: And then, sometimes we have activities in the evening, but often that's a time devoted to studying and preparing for the next day's work.
Especially in the school world, where there's just, there's a great deal of activity going on, there's a great deal of work to do, it's important also to find that time not only for prayer, but also for a little bit of recreation, in order to keep yourself not only kind of healthy, but sane.
DCN. WILLIAM: But it's really about the rhythm of life here, because there's other weeks that I have projects due, and papers, that I'm really in my room a lot studying, trying to get things done.
And even if I have everything prepared for a paper, it's going to take the night before for me to write it, to have that deadline to actually motivate me to get it done. So, it's peaceful times and then the stressful times sort of mixed in. I really appreciate the peaceful times, but there's a beauty in having the busyness of life.
FR. DENIS: I think one of the things we want to tell students is everything's important that you have to do, but everything's not equally important.
You know the requirements for a seminarian today are so overwhelming, seminarians have to learn the essential skill then of saying, "Okay, I need to prepare for this exam and I need to do this and I need to do this. Now how am I going to put all those pieces together so that, A, I achieve them well enough, but I'm also kind of taking care of myself in the process?"
BR. JOEL: In the seminary, students are not only responsible for classwork, but they serve as acolytes, lectors and deacons at Mass, depending on what year they are in seminary.
BR. KOLBE: Students take on jobs in the community, organizing social or sporting events and meetings. Some students take on work-study positions around the Saint Meinrad campus.
DCN. WILLIAM: I remember being here my very first year and watching the deacons at Mass. I remember watching the lectors do their thing. The acolytes, they had to do the petitions, open up prayer, and know what they were doing in the sanctuary area. And I remember saying, "How am I going to do class, which I'm doing right now, and do all that other stuff?"
BR. KOLBE: The school really teaches students how to balance a schedule and juggle several responsibilities at once…
BR. JOEL: …a skill that will be extremely valuable as a priest.
BR. KOLBE: …or monk.
DCN. WILLIAM: Each year, I've been given a little bit more responsibility here, and each year, I've found a way to survive it. I've learned that they were learning to survive, too, to thrive and to really grow in their responsibilities. And what I thought were people who were very confident, they were probably just struggling like I am. And yet they became good leaders. And I think that's what formation here is about.
FR. DENIS: Formation is certainly what they experience in the classroom, in their workshops, in their ministry, etc. But formation is also learning how to do all of those things in a way that not only they can achieve kind of success, but also that they can do it in a way that is really connected to what is essential in their vocation, which is their relationship with God.
You can be the very best priest administratively in the world, but if your relationship with God suffers as a consequence of that, then you've really accomplished nothing. And so I think teaching all of that becomes kind of the key factor, and it is a daily process and an intensive process, but a very worthwhile process.
BR. KOLBE: In the seminary, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday follow the same schedule.
BR. JOEL: Morning Prayer, class, Mass, free afternoons or class again, and Evening Prayer.
BR. KOLBE: Wednesdays and weekends are time for ministry. Every seminarian is given a ministry assignment at the beginning of the school year. Whether it be helping children do their homework at The Boys and Girls Club in Evansville or teaching catechesis in a parish, these assignments give the students hands on experience serving people and serving the Church.
BR. JOEL: Catechesis is religious education to prepare people for a First Communion or for becoming a member of the Catholic Church. Dcn. William's ministry assignments have included catechesis and helping out at Catholic Charities in Evansville. He's also taught a class in Spanish for First Communion parents and a class called "Bible for Dummies."
BR. KOLBE: This year, he is assigned to St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Jasper, Indiana. He works with First Communion children on Wednesdays.
DCN. WILLIAM: They have two teachers, but I help with prayers and getting them familiar with a priestly person. So, I wear my clerics as a deacon to ministry. So, they're getting used to seeing the collar, getting used to seeing the Church present to them.
BR. KOLBE: He is also serving as deacon at the church on the weekends and sometimes preaches five to six Masses.
DCN. WILLIAM: So, I'm learning how busy a schedule could be on the weekend and how tired you are at the end of preaching six Masses. So, that's been a really good learning lesson, a big learning curve for me.
BR. JOEL: Ministry not only gives students hands-on experience serving others, it also gives them a break from studying, writing papers and all of the stresses of seminary life.
DCN. WILLIAM: Once you leave here for about four hours of ministry, you could actually come back and feel revived rather than drained, because you've been doing something that hopefully you'll be doing in the future.
BR. KOLBE: Students who are monks have a slightly different schedule. They follow the monastic prayer schedule and are only in the school for their classes, workshops and ministry assignments on Wednesdays.
BR. JOEL: Here is Br. Simon Herrmann. He made his first profession as a monk of Saint Meinrad in January of 2016 and he is currently studying for the priesthood.
BR. SIMON: My day starts at four in the morning, typically. Well, 3:59, if we're gonna be exact. My alarm goes off and I listen to about 10 minutes of the news as I'm waking up, and then I'll make a cup of coffee in my room. At that point, I'm either going to finish doing homework that I didn't get done for the day, or I'll read some kind of book that sounds good for that morning.
KOLBE: Every monk wakes up at their own time to be in the church for Vigils and Lauds or Morning Prayer by 5:30 a.m. Here is Archabbot Kurt Stasiak.
ARCHABBOT KURT: Personal habit, I try to get up at 4:30. That's not required. Some monks get up earlier. Some monks get up much later, but I like that extra time in the morning.
BR. WILLIAM: I'm breakfast attendant and you can hear me moving the cart here, putting out all the food in our little breakfast line. It's your normal stuff, I guess. It's just a pick-up breakfast, cheese, bread, banana bread, bran muffins, fruit, cereals, oatmeal, nothing special.
BR. JOEL: Morning Prayer begins at 5:30.
BR. WILLIAM: It's shortly after 6 a.m. now and I just finished up setting out breakfast and all is quiet. I'm waiting for the troops to roll in after Morning Prayer, and so I'm just enjoying a nice iced coffee here while I wait for the guys to roll in.
VIGILS AND LAUDS
BR. SIMON: Then after Morning Prayer, I typically stay in the church for about 10 or so minutes, and it's a time for me to ask Mary for her prayers. That's one of my favorite times to do that and plus, it helps the breakfast line die down a little bit before I get in line.
BR. KOLBE: Ever wonder what breakfast in the monastery sounds like? Yep, that's it.
BR. JOEL: After breakfast, there's a period forLectio Divinaor holy reading. There are some monks who do theirLectiobefore Morning Prayer and so they'll use this time to organize their day or do light office work. Others go to the gym.
Then, the monks gather for Mass at 7:30 a.m.
BR. KOLBE: Mass ends between 8:00 and 8:15.
BR. WILLIAM: I'm back to my cell shortly after 8. After Mass I typically like to head to our fitness center for about a half hour or so, just to give me a little boost in the morning. And today is no different and so I'm going to get ready and head down right now.
I'm here in the fitness room. It's got basically all your standard fitness room equipment in it, all your different weight machines and free weights, treadmills, spin bikes, elliptical machine, rowing machine, which are two of my favorites, which I will be using today.
Now I'm going to get set up on our rowing machine here. It has this canister of water with these fins in and when you pull the handle bars, you are actually pulling this string, which spins this little wheel inside that has these fins in the water. So it actually kind of simulates actual rowing and you get this nice water sound and it's kind of zen to use this rowing machine, because it gives you the feel like you're actually on the water rowing, with the sound and with the feel. So I'm going to do this for about 5-10 minutes here.
BR. KOLBE: The monks who are students head over to the school and spend the rest of the morning in class. Other monks head to their assigned job. Archabbot Kurt's morning is usually half planned and half unplanned.
ARCHABBOT KURT: There'll probably be one or two things I have in mind that I need to do, but I'm the abbot so I get all kinds of people and all kinds of things coming in. "Did you know about this? You should be aware of this. I need an answer for this." Some days that happens once. Some days it happens eight times. For some reason, it only happens eight times on the days that I'm already too busy.
BR. WILLIAM: This is Br. William. It's shortly after 9. I finished my workout in the fitness center and now I'm back in my cell. I got showered up and I'm just listening to a little bit of Baroque music here while I get started on some work for the day. I'm giving a retreat in Dayton this weekend and I have to finish up some of my retreat conferences. So I'll be writing those the rest of the day and rewriting them and polishing them up.
BR. JOEL: At 10 a.m., some monks gather in the monastery's community room for a coffee break, where conversations range from the weather to Donald Trump.
BR. WILLIAM: I'm eating cheese and crackers in the refectory here and I'm getting ready to go to our coffee break. It's right before 10 a.m. and it's usually the same cast of characters every day. I try to go every day and it's usually some of the older monks who like to come over from the infirmary and get a little social time in the morning. And so I'm taking a break from retreat writing and I'm going to come talk with these guys in our little community room here.
BR. KOLBE: Midday Prayer begins at noon, which is then followed by lunch.
BR. WILLIAM: It's about 5 minutes to Noon Prayer. I was lucky to finish up my retreat conferences this morning, for the most part. I'll spend a little bit of time this afternoon probably revising them, but I was able to get those done.
The bell's ringing for Midday Prayer now, so I'm about ready to head down there for Midday Prayer, and then right after that is lunch, which is our talking meal for the day. It's the only meal that we engage in conversation.
MIDDAY PRAYER AND LUNCH
BR. JOEL: Afternoons usually vary in the monastery. Archabbot Kurt's afternoons are similar to his mornings.
BR. KOLBE: Some monks have meetings or give spiritual direction to students.
Some, like Br. Simon, are doing homework or exercising. He is the monastery's beekeeper, so sometimes he checks in on the bees. One afternoon a week, Br. Simon works in the Physical Facilities.
BR. SIMON: And that came about this semester because we do a lot of sitting in class and I do a lot of sitting in my cell, so I thought, "I want to find something that's a little bit more active," so one afternoon a week, I'll be working on the grounds crew, whether it's cutting grass or tidying up this or that over in Physical Facilities.
BR. JOEL: Br. Simon's fulltime work is as a student, but the superiors in the monastery encourage the monastic students to have something to do in addition to their studies.
BR. SIMON: So that way, we're not solely focused on our schoolwork. We're not totally absorbed in that. They're encouraging of us to find other ways to contribute to the life of the community, something not super involved. With working with Physical Facilities one afternoon a week, it's a nice way for me to get away from schoolwork for a little bit, but then also to mingle with those who are helping support us in our mission.
BR. SIMON WORKING IN PHYSICAL FACILITIES
BR. SIMON: Following whatever I happen to find myself doing, about 4:15 or 4:30 is when I slow down mentally, if you will, in activity, and take some more time for prayer to get prepared for Vespers, which is at 5.
BR. JOEL: After Vespers, or Evening Prayer, there is about a 35-minute block of time for Lectio Divina, holy reading.
BR. WILLIAM: I just got back to my room. It's about 5:18 and I am sitting down to do a little spiritual reading. It's a nice time of the day to just kind of wind down, and right now I'm reading a book by a Zen Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh. The book is called "Fear, Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm."
BR. KOLBE: Dinner is at 6 p.m. This meal is typically silent, but we have table reading.
BR. JOEL: This means there will be a monk who reads a section from theRule of St. Benedictfollowed by a little remembrance about monks who have died and about the saint of the day and then he will read aloud from a book. Typically, either something spiritual or maybe a biography or history.
BR. KOLBE: Dinner is followed by a half hour of recreation.
ARCHABBOT KURT: I will try to be at that. Sometimes I'll also use that time to go visit our guys in the infirmary.
BR. KOLBE: The monks gather for prayer one final time at 7 p.m. We call that prayer time Compline.
BR. SIMON: So we end the day with night prayer. Some go to bed right afterwards. I'm thinking about bed pretty close to Compline winding down. I try to be in bed between 8 and 9, and one of my favorite routines at night, lately, has been to make tea, the sleep tea, if you will, that has certain ingredients in it that help you sleep. That's been something that I look forward to. That's a typical day.
BR. WILLIAM: It is 7:25 p.m. I got back to my cell a little bit ago after Compline and typically after compline I like to just relax. I will sometime go to the Placidium, which is our little recreation house, and watch TV with some friends or I might watch TV up here in the TV room in the monastery.
Tonight I'm not going to do that. It's been a long and productive day. I'm tired and I just kind of want to relax in my room by myself.
About every day when I get home to my room for the night, I like to drink a cup of chamomile tea and I do some journaling. I just kind of reflect on the day's events and see what went right, what went wrong, where God is acting in my life throughout the events of the day and just try to figure out how I can do better tomorrow. So that's it, that's my day.
BR. KOLBE: Seminary life is pretty busy, then you add in the monastic prayer schedule, that's when you realize how important it is to find a balance of prayer and work.
BR. SIMON: I've realized that finding a balance is sometimes difficult, and my pride gets in the way.
I think oftentimes, when people think of pride, they think of, "Oh, look at me. I can do this and I can do that," but the reverse is true, too, where my pride gets in the way where I think, "I have all this going on. Woe is me. I can't keep up with it. I want to be doing this and that, anything else other than what's assigned to me."
St. Francis de Sales, in his writings, writes a lot about bees.He said, "There are either bees or wasps," and I'm adding a little bit to his reflection, but, "Wasps take something sweet and make it bitter." I was like, "I am being a wasp right now, because I'm taking something sweet, which is working with my classmates and giving this retreat, and I'm making it something bitter, when I could be a bee and take something sweet and make it even sweeter, into honey."
So I'm like, "I'm gonna be a bee today." That's been a helpful reflection for me when I'm feeling kind of crummy or out of balance. It's like, "All right, Brother Simon. Stop being a wasp, and how can I be a bee right now?"
BR. JOEL: Whether I'm being a bee or a wasp, the monastery'shorariumbrings me back to prayer every couple hours. Prayer is one of those things that remind us, ultimately, of why we are here.
ARCHABBOT KURT: I know a lot of people say, "How do you guys get so much work done? I mean, you're always stopping for prayer." It's actually the reverse that we like to look at it. It's the work, in one sense, that interrupts our prayer.
BR. KOLBE: The value of those times the monastic community gathers for prayer…
BR. JOEL: …Vigils and Lauds, the Eucharist, Midday Prayer, Vespers and Compline, and the other private times forLectio Divinabefore and after meals…
BR. KOLBE: …reminds us that it's not only our work that we're doing.
ARCHABBOT KURT: We're doing this for others. We're doing this for the Lord, and it's the Lord that is allowing us to do it.
One of my favorite Psalms, it's 127, it starts out, "If the Lord does not build a house, in vain do its builders labor." And to me, that says a lot. I mean, we can work up sweats and everything like that, but if the Lord doesn't want it done, if He's not on our side, it's not going to get done. So our constant prayer is one way that, I guess, we remind ourselves that the Lord is on our side and we are on His side.
BR. JOEL: Thank you for following along with us through Deacon William Burmester, Br. Simon, Br. William and Archabbot Kurt's days. We hope you enjoyed this glimpse into what a typical day looks like for a seminarian and a monk.
BR. KOLBE: This podcast was edited and produced by Krista Hall, with the help of Br. Joel Blaize, Br. Kolbe Wolniakowski, Br. William Sprauer, Mary Jeanne Schumacher, Jim Paquette, Tammy Schuetter and Christian Mocek. The music for this podcast was written and produced by Br. Joel.
BR. JOEL: We would like to give a special thanks to Archabbot Kurt Stasiak, Fr. Denis Robinson, Br. Simon Herrmann, Deacon William Burmester…
BR. KOLBE: …and all of the people featured in our ambient audio clips.
BR. JOEL: We also want to give a thank you to those who have recently left us reviews in iTunes. If you haven't, please let us know what you think of the show. We really do read every one.
BR. KOLBE: We have a lot more in store for this season of the podcast. Subscribe to Echoes from the Bell Tower on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts, so you don't miss our future episodes.
BR. JOEL: To view some pictures of daily life in the seminary and monastery or listen to past podcast episodes, visit our blog at saintmeinrad.edu/echoes.
BR. WILLIAM: I just happened to find these frozen Snickers bars in our freezer and I ate one of those for breakfast. It was good.