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
In wishing you all the joyous blessings of this great Easter Day and Season I am not unaware that there are times when our faith seems to falter as we wonder if Christ’s resurrection (and the promise of our own resurrection) is just too good to be true. After all, who among us have seen the Risen Lord and touched him with our hands—as did the apostles? Isn’t it all just a little irrational to believe and little more than wishful thinking to accept that Christ actually rose from the dead? These doubts are not unique to us, or to our century, and the great Saint John Chrysostom wrestled with the same challenges. However, he argues that something very special must have happened to transform a group of terrified disciples into fearless preachers of the resurrection—fearless to the point of giving their own lives in witness to the resurrection. And so he asks:
For whence did it strike twelve unlettered men to attempt such great enterprises and array themselves against the whole world? They were cowardly and unmanly and despite the innumerable miracles they had seen Christ work, when he was taken prisoner some fled, while the one who remained, although he was head over the rest, denied him. Here were men who failed to stand up to the Jews when Christ was alive. Yet when he died and was buried they arrayed themselves against the whole world. How came this if as you say Christ had not risen again from the dead, conversed with them, and put heart into them? Would they not have said to themselves: What is this? He had not strength to save himself, will he protect us? He did not defend himself when he was alive; will he reach out his hand to us now that he is dead? When he was alive he did not conquer a single nation—shall we convince the whole world by speaking in his name? Would it not have been folly even to conceive of such things let alone to do them? Hence it is clear that, if they had not seen him risen and received this mighty proof of his power, they would never have risked such a gamble. Saint John Chrysostom: Homilies on the First Letter to the Corinthians
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.