Introduction

Glenstal Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in County Limerick on the south-west coast of Ireland. A 500 acre estate with streams, lakes and woodland paths, surrounds a castle built in the romantic Norman style.

The Abbey, which is dedicated to Saints Joseph and Columba, is home to a community of monks. Our prayer and liturgical celebration combine with managing a boarding school for boys, a farm, and a guesthouse. The monks assemble in Church four times a day for the Divine Office and the Mass. Benedictine worship emphasises beauty and harmony, celebrating God’s presence, while it evokes a response of loving reverence in the monk.

Benedict was born in the year 480, in the province of Nursia, Italy. The young Benedict grew up in a country where the decay of the old Roman civilisation was in evidence everywhere. His parents were Christian and sent him to study law in Rome when he was about sixteen years of age. However, the atmosphere of the great city shocked and depressed him. According to the testimony of his first biographer, Pope St Gregory the Great, Benedict found a narrow cave at a place called Subiaco, where he spent three years in solitude and prayer. After this period of preparation, Benedict gathered a number of disciples around him and organised them into a community. However, this first experiment met with such opposition that some of the monks tried to poison him. Undaunted, Benedict returned to his cave at Subiaco, and after some years succeeded in attracting to the place a number of young men who were prepared to follow his lead. He built twelve cells or small monasteries in the valley of the Anio, and drew up a Rule or way of life for the monks. Subiaco is thus the cradle of Benedictine monasticism. Again trouble broke out, this time from a neighbouring priest, so that Benedict, along with some of his monks, was forced to move to a new and very beautiful site overlooking the plains of Campagna. This place was called Monte Cassino. Here Benedict built a monastery in 529, and also wrote his famous Rule for monks. He remained in Monte Cassino until his death in 547. 

Listen carefully, my child, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart. Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving father’s advice, that by the labour of obedience you may return to him from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.
Rule of Benedict, Prologue