Tag Archives: St Mary’s Abbey

The garden of Eden it is not, but this will do

The abbey has an apple orchard though there are plum and peach trees, too. St. Mary’s Abbey moved from Newark to Morristown in 1927 and the apple orchard was planted in the early 1940’s. And from the looks of it, some trees may be about 60 years old and still

Orchard2.jpgproducing fruit.

The orchard has been under the care of Abbot Brian, the retired 7th abbot of St. Mary’s Abbey, for about 30+ years. As St. Paul said, if you don’t work you don’t eat; so I work because I like to eat. For the monk working has two aspects: the work of the soul (the Divine Office and Mass) and the work of the hand. Since Abbot Brian is away–and I like working outside in a garden –I’ve been spending time in the orchard cutting back weeds around the trees and the fence line. Good work to do because it keeps me connected to the land. I also think it’s in my blood since my paternal grandfather, Julius, was a farmer (and he worked for US steel) but my dear father claims not to have gotten THAT gene. That’s evident at home when he mows the lawn and “cares” for my flowers. In any event, time in the orchard brings memories of my grandfather to mind in many ways. For instance, the fact that I am working in an orchard reminds me of his NY farm, there is a 1947 Ford tractor used here and grandpa had the exact same one, and there’s the presence of honey bees, fox and deer. More on the bees later….

Tonight after Vigils (Office of Readings) I went to the orchard to pray my rosary –as I am wont to do because of the scenery. With St. Fiacre at my side and praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary, I had some unexpected company: a red fox and 4 deer. Oh, thank God for nature!



Saint Mary’s Abbey, Morristown, New Jersey

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.”

Abbot Giles.jpgToday, the Abbey of 47 monks is led by Abbot Giles P. Hayes, OSB; he’s the tenth abbot, elected the monks in solemn vows on March 8, 2006.

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

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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