St. Benedict climbed to the top of Monte Cassino, Italy, in 529 A.D. where he established a community for men who singularly committed their lives to Jesus Christ. Monks. As dedicated disciples, these men spent each day praying the Word of God, studying the teaching of the Apostles, sharing in fellowship and breaking bread in the Eucharistic celebration of the Mass (Acts 2:42). St. Benedict wrote a Rule of Life for monks to follow. Like our founder, we wear a black habit and, therefore, are often referred to as the “black monks.” This is how the Order of St. Benedict began.
The Order of St. Benedict (OSB) crossed the planet through the centuries. Today the “black monks” and other branches of the original order are on every continent. How did the first Benedictine monks get to America? In 595 A.D., Pope Gregory sent the monk, St. Augustine of Canterbury, to bring the Gospel to the people of England. In 716 A.D., the monk, St. Boniface, left England to bring Christianity to Germany. In 1846, Archabbot Boniface Wimmer left the most Catholic part of Germany, Bavaria, to establish the Order and spread the Catholic faith in the United States. Here he established the American-Cassinese Congregation and built Benedictine abbeys from coast to coast.
Benedictine monks traveled to the western territory of the United States and the early community of St. Benedict’s Abbey was established in 1857. Like St. Benedict, the monks built five things when they arrived in Atchison, Kansas – a church to pray in, an abbey for apostolic community, a library for study, schools for evangelization, and a farm to sustain themselves. Father Innocent Wolf was elected our first abbot in 1876.
Benedictine monks carry on the prayer and work of St. Benedict at St. Benedict’s Abbey today. Everyone who joins the abbey becomes a monk. Depending on their calling and formation, some monks are brothers and others are ordained to the Catholic priesthood.