What is a Monk?

What do monks do?

The Monks at Prince of Peace Abbey

Am I called to become a monk?

The next step

Formation for Monastic Life










"If you would be perfect, go and sell what you have, give to the poor,

and come, follow me."

Jesus Christ, the Lord

What is a monk?

A monk seeks God, striving for complete oneness of union with God, for uninterrupted communion with the three Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity. The Benedictine monk does this as a member of community of brothers, seeking God together under a Rule and an abbot, the spiritual father.

"Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. The labor of obedience will bring you back to him from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience." —Prologue, the Rule of Saint Benedict (ca. A.D. 535.)

What do monks do?

Generally, monks do ordinary things but try to do them in a consciously prayerful way, in a way that unites to God. The everyday chores within the cloister of a monastery become God-given tools for the sanctification of the monk. Through the many centuries monks have been called upon for all kinds of services. They have worked as teachers, artists, musicians, farmers, shepherds, craftsmen, missionaries, scholars, scientists, but it is not so much a question of what monks do as who monks are. The monk’s identity is rooted in his consecration as a praying man of God, rather than from any specific apostolate.


The structure of the monastic day revolves around three basic activities. These are: liturgical prayer, work, and lectio divina (or prayerful reading). In the course of the day, the monk moves through cycles of these which flow into and reinforce one another, generating a peaceful, balanced rhythm in which spirit, mind and body are stretched and relaxed and the whole of a man’s life becomes an ordered harmony giving glory to God.


     "A monk is a man who is separated from all and who is in harmony with all." —Evagrius Ponticus (d.399)


At the heart of the monastic day is the celebration of the Eucharist, when God becomes present in Word and Sacrament. Attentive listening to, meditation on, and assimilation of the Word of God as it is made present throughout the day is fundamental to the monastic discipline.

"Abba Poemen said, 'The nature of water is soft, that of stone is hard; but if a bottle is hung above the stone, allowing the water to fall drop by drop, it wears away the stone. So it is with the word of God; it is soft and our heart is hard, but the man who hears the word of God often, opens his heart to the fear of God.' " --Sayings of the Desert Fathers

The Monks of Prince of Peace Abbey

The monks of Prince of Peace Abbey, founded in 1958, is a community of Benedictine monks in Oceanside, CA. We are part of a time-tested tradition, over fourteen centuries old, of living by the Holy Rule of St. Benedict, under the guidance of a spiritual father, the abbot. Each Benedictine monastic house is autonomous, but bound by constitutions to a federation. We are members of the Swiss-American Benedictine Congregation, with traditions from the venerable Abbey of Our Lady of Einsiedeln (founded A.D.835) in Switzerland. The first monks of Prince of Peace Abbey were sent to San Diego from St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana which was itself founded from Einsiedeln.


We offer a retreat house where the faithful may grow in the life of prayer through silence and participation in the liturgy. Many of the monks are engaged in work related to the staffing and maintenance of the retreat house and monastic facilities. Other types of work and crafts are also present. There are 26 professed monks at Prince of Peace, of which nine are ordained to the priesthood. The monastery sits atop a hill, or mesa, from which the Pacific Ocean is visible to the west and the San Luis Rey Valley and Mount Palomar to the east.

Am I called to be a monk?

"Seeking his workman in a multitude of people, the Lord calls out to him and lifts his voice again: 'Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?' If you hear this and your answer is 'I do,' God then directs these words to you: If you desire true and eternal life turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim ." —Rule of St. Benedict

Everyone has a vocation to serve God and neighbor. A monastic vocation is a special gift from the Holy Spirit and it takes a certain amount of openness and insight to discern whether God’s call is to this type of life and to this monastery in particular. One basic disposition is the desire for holiness of life and the recognition that help from more advanced souls is needed. Discernment is best realized through prayer and the assistance of the vocation director. A good indication of a possible monastic vocation is an attraction to the prayer life of a monastery. Is participating in the Divine Office a joyful experience, inviting one deeper into the mystery of God’s life?

The next step

Becoming a monk means accepting the challenge of a radical re-orientation of the entire person to the life of the Gospel and the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, as they are more concretely expressed in the monastic tradition at Prince of Peace Abbey. This means a dying of the old self and a rising to new life conformed to the image of Christ. As with all personal growth, the process is never effortless. Candidates for formation as monks are Roman Catholics in good standing, unmarried men between the ages of 21 and 40, of at least average health and intelligence. Initial contact with the vocation director is the most important step. Then, after discussions, suggested reading, visits to the abbey, etc., an invitation is extended for one to make an application. This application will require background information, parish records, a medical exam, transcripts, references from clergy and/or religious, and some sort of psychological assessment. Incoming postulants are normally admitted and clothed with the habit in August.

Formation for Monastic Life

"The concern must be whether the novice truly seeks God and whether he shows eagerness for the Work Of God, for obedience and for trials. The novice should be clearly told all the hardships and difficulties that will lead him to God." —Holy Rule Chap. 58

The initial formation of monks at Prince of Peace lasts at least four and a half years and involves three distinct stages, (1) the postulancy; (2) the novitiate; (3) first vows, or the juniorate. During these stages the aspiring monk is placed under the guidance of a formation director appointed by the abbot.


(1) The Postulancy. This stage lasts at least six months. During this time the postulant (or candidate) is introduced and integrated into our community life and habits of work, worship, prayer and reading. He begins the re-orientation of his life from the values of the world toward those of a man of God. His time is highly structured and access to the outside is very limited. He receives classroom instruction in Christian doctrine, Sacred Scripture and monastic tradition. At the end of six months, he may ask to enter the novitiate. His request is evaluated by the abbot and his council, then by the monastery chapter (the monks in perpetual vows), which decides whether or not it is best for the postulant to continue.


(2) The Novitiate. This is a crucial year of testing that lasts at least twelve months and may be extended. The novice continues in the program of formation begun in the postulancy and should begin to “interiorize” and appropriate to himself the elements of the monastic charism. To assist in this process, the formation director helps the novice attain a better knowledge of himself, to uncover areas where more growth is needed. After six months in the novitiate, the novice again undergoes evaluation by the abbot, council and chapter. At the end of the year, when both the novice and the formation director agree that the monastic life has been sufficiently implanted and taken root, the novice petitions for first vows and is again reviewed by the chapter.


(3) First vows - the Juniorate. This period begins with public profession of vows which are temporary, valid for three years only. Men in this stage are called "junior monks." They begin receiving work assignments in positions of responsibility and continue also some classroom training in formation subjects. These temporary vows may be renewed or extended for anywhere from one to six years additional years. If it is determined that the level of formation of the junior monk is adequate at the end of three years, the junior monk may request admission to the profession of final perpetual vows. He again undergoes evaluation by the monastery chapter for approval to proceed with final profession.

"But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God's commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. Never swerving from his instructions, then, but faithfully observing his teaching in the monastery until death, we shall through patience share in the kingdom." - Holy Rule, Chap.

Once a monk professes perpetual vows of stability, conversion and obedience, he becomes a life member of the Prince of Peace Abbey community, serving God and his brothers under the guidance of the Rule and the abbot.

"It is love that impels them to pursue everlasting life; therefore they are eager to take the narrow road of which the Lord says: Narrow is the road that leads to life (Matt 7:14). They no longer live by their own judgment, giving in to their whims and appetites; rather they walk according to another's decisions and directions, choosing to live in monasteries and have an abbot saying of the Lord: I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me (John 6:38) ." - Holy Rule, Chap. 5

To a world whose operative understanding shrinks to ever thinner notions of utility, profitability, and instant gratification, the monk stands as a silent witness to reality on a nobler and grander scale, to the mystery of God among us and the possibility of a life lived according to the laws of love.

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said, “Abba, as much as I am able I practice a small rule, a little fasting, some prayer and meditation, and remain quiet, and as much as possible I keep my thoughts clean.What else should I do?” Then the old man stood up and stretched out his hands toward heaven, and his fingers became like ten torches of flame. And he said, “If you wish, you can become all flame.” —Sayings of the Desert Fathers


The daily schedule at Prince of Peace

5:30 A.M.




7:00 A.M.



7:30 A.M.


8:00 A.M.



10:15 A.M.


11:00 A.M.


12:00 Noon




1:00 P.M.




3:30 P.M.


3:45 P.M.


5:00 P.M.




6:00 P.M.




8:00 P.M.

Office of Vigils: six psalms recited, readings from Scripture and patristic sources, sung responsories. This is followed by a silent period of reading and prayer in private.


 Office of Lauds (sung liturgical prayer): a hymn, psalms and canticles, a reading and responsory, the Our Father and closing prayer.


Breakfast in silence


The morning work period begins. On Sundays and some solemnities, this period is used for lectio divina.


Work period ends. Monks prepare for Mass.


Community celebration of Mass. (10:30 on Sundays)


Lunch: the meals are normally accompanied by table reading, i.e., a book is read aloud. Office of Sext: a shorter liturgical prayer that follows immediately after lunch.



On regular weekdays, the afternoon work period begins and goes until 3:30. On Sundays, Wednesdays, and certain major feasts, there is a “free afternoon” for recreation or reading.


The community takes a 15-minute coffee break together.


Lectio Divina, an hour for prayerful reading until the time for Vespers.


Office of Vespers: liturgical prayer in church, includes a hymn, psalms and canticles, a reading, sung responsory, the Our Father and closing prayer. This is followed by reading until supper.


Supper, usually accompanied by table reading. There follows the evening recreation period until Compline. The monks meet for common recreation four nights a week. The formation group also meets for recreation.


Compline, a hymn, three psalms, a reading, canticle, closing prayer, abbot’s blessing for the night, sung Marian antiphon, e.g., “Salve Regina.”

After Compline, the monks retire to their cells and the “Magnum Silentium” or Great Silence begins, lasting until 8:00 A.M. the following morning.

Are you interested in becoming a monk?

We are looking for single Roman Catholic men between the ages of 21 and 45 who are selflessly willing to serve the Lord in a Monastery, under a Rule and an Abbot.  We pray the Liturgy of the Hours and celebrate the holy sacrifice of the Mass daily.


Monks live, work, pray and die in one monastery all their lives.


Perhaps you may be interested in arranging a visit to our monastery where we may be able to mutually discern this process.  Before visiting, it will be helpful if you give a general letter of introduction, or telephone call telling us a briefly about yourself and your current situation.


We will be very happy to answer any questions that you may have regarding vocation considerations.  We hope and pray that God will guide you and give you many graces throughout the entire vocation process.