The Abbey of Saint Mary was founded in Newark, New Jersey in 1857 as a conventual priory; the Holy See raised Saint Mary’s to an Abbey in 1884, electing Father James Zilliox as the first abbot. On July 23, 1956, the abbey was transferred to Morristown, New Jersey, in the Diocese of Paterson. The “Saint Mary” in the title of the monastery is to honor the “Blessed Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception.”
Monks do a wide range of things. Their first obligation is the monastic life as it is laid down by the Rule of Saint Benedict, the Constitutions of the American-Cassinese Congregation and the various customs of the house. So, the life is situated around prayer, personal and communal. The personal side of a monk’s prayer life is determined individually (hence the use of “personal”) and typically includes lectio divina, the rosary, Eucharistic adoration and spiritual reading. While it is not true that all of the monks do all of these pious acts all of the time, many are faithful to many of the practices on a daily basis. Lectio divina is clearly the most important prayer that a monk has to be faithful to or else his monastic life suffers.
Communally, the monks of the abbey gather in the abbey church 4 times a day for the Divine Office and then for the Sacrifice of the Mass. The work of the monk is not the school or any other activity. The work of the monk is the opus Dei, the Office and Mass –the source and summit of one’s relationship with God lived out in the Church. The hours are for the better part of the year as a follows (the order changes in the summer and holidays):
Lauds at 6:30 am
Sext at 11:45 am
Vespers and Mass at 5:15 pm
Vigils at 7:15 pm
Compline is prayed in private