Our Lady of the Holy Cross Abbey is a Roman Catholic monastery of the Cistercian Order, following the Rule of St Benedict.
An overview of our life follows this selection from the Abbot’s Lectio Notebook.
From the Abbot’s Lectio Notebook
Seeking and doing God’s will is a fundamental dimension of any serious spiritual life. However, sometimes in the interest of asserting and defending God’s sovereignty and omnipotence, all that happens is simplistically identified with God’s will—the argument being that if anything happened against God’s will, his omnipotence and sovereignty would be undermined. This notion, if uncritically applied to the horrors and tragedies that make almost daily headlines, poses serious problems for our belief in a loving and benevolent God. Accordingly, Saint Gregory the Great offers a nuanced perspective on the intersection between God’s loving will and our tainted and frequently shortsighted human will. For as he explains: The just and merciful God adjusts the acts of mortals: some he gracefully overlooks, but others he grudgingly allows. Those he allows he puts up with in such a way that he may adapt them to his own use and counsel. Accordingly, in a wonderful way even that which happens without God’s will is not contrary to God’s will, because evil deeds are turned to a good purpose, and even when they are oriented against his plan, they are nevertheless made to act in accordance with it. That is why the psalmist says: “Great are the works of the Lord, carefully wrought in all he wills to do.” Yes, his works are great, so great that through all the works of humankind his will is sought out, and it is often done precisely there where it was thought to be spurned so the psalmist declares elsewhere: “Whatever God wills he does in heaven and on earth.” Solomon says for his part, “there is no wisdom, no prudence, and no counsel against the Lord.” Saint Gregory the Great: Moral Reflections on the Book of Job: Book 6/33
The Hours of Our Days
“Let nothing therefore be put before the Work of God.”
– Saint Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries Chapter 43
The Work of God is the liturgical and communal prayer around which the life of a monastery revolves. At Holy Cross Abbey, then, as in every Cistercian monastery, the monks rise long before dawn for the night Office of Vigils, followed by some hours of silent prayer and Lectio divina–Scripture and other spiritual reading, personal prayer, and meditation. The Office of Lauds and the offering of Mass bring an end to the “great silence and begin the day in praise of God. After the morning’s work and simple noon meal the Meridian provides an hour for rest or reading, followed by Mid-Day Prayer and the afternoon’s work or study. The monks’ day comes to a close with the evening Office of Vespers, a light supper, and a time of quiet before the community’s final prayer together, the Office of Compline. Then, as the monks retire, the silence of the night begins, deepening that stillness they observe throughout the day.
The stillness and unchanging rhythms of the monastery provide for each monk an environment in which to respond to the living God in prayer, in the Scriptures, and in the ordinary experiences of community life.
“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore the brethren should be occupied at certain times in manual labor, and again at fixed hours in sacred reading.”
– Saint Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries Chapter 48
Manual labor is characteristic of Cistercian life. We work to realize our own financial support like the vast majority of persons who shoulder difficult conditions to earn a living. For the monks of Holy Cross Abbey this work includes the care of the land and buildings and the service of the community and our guests, in addition to the operation of the Monastery Bakery, Gift Shop, and Natural Cemetery, our chief means of support.
Hospitality and Prayer
Hospitality is as important a facet of monastic life as work. We welcome guests both in our Retreat House and Gift Shop / Porter’s Lodge. Most important of all, however, is sharing our prayer life with you. Inviting you to pray with us and with the whole Church in the liturgies of the Mass and the Divine Office, and then inviting you to join us in person, is the best way for us to share with you what is most precious to us.
A great place to start is to VISIT! This website is also an expression of our monastic hospitality in the spirit of St. Benedict. We are slowly learning about new conditions in our culture and new ways allow our monastic culture to have its impact on our world. Let us pray together that God’s kingdom may truly come.
Our Monastic Family
Those inquiring about our life may find insight by reading our history: the story of this community; the 900 years of Cistercian history, to which we belong; Cool Spring Farm; and a thumb-nail sketch of the Cool Spring property, its place in the Civil War, and the Cool Spring House.
Under Join Us, you can discover various ways of connecting with our life. First there is a description of our Monastic Life. Then there is material on our Vocation and how to begin the process of discerning a monastic vocation. But you don’t have to be thinking of a monastic vocation to spend some time with us. All are welcome in the Retreat House, and men who have the capacity for it can consider making a retreat within the community, under the Monastic Experience.
There are others who do not directly belong to the monastic community of Holy Cross Abbey, but who nonetheless are part of our monastic family. Be sure to look at the Lay Cistercian Page to learn more about these people and their way of life.