Next Sermon - 7:00 AM on Sunday 28

Welcome to Belmont Abbey

Belmont, NC
(704) 461-6675

ABOUT US

THE BENEDICTINE MONKS OF BELMONT ABBEY

The monks of Belmont Abbey have diverse backgrounds. Our current confreres come from several states on the East Coast and beyond. They have pursued graduate studies in fields such as Chemistry, Theology, Philosophy, History, English, and Meteorology. Before entering monastic life, some of the monks pursued professional careers in business, education, and retail sales, and several served on active duty in various branches of the Armed Forces.

What follows are the personal stories of men who have given their lives to the Lord as Benedictine monks of Belmont Abbey.

  • ABBOT PLACID

    “The monks impressed me as very talented men who were doing a good work, and were happy with their life. That was very attractive to me, and I wanted to be a part of that good work.”

  • BROTHER BEDE

      Born in New York, I moved to Georgia with my family after graduating high…

  • BROTHER GREGORY

    “This was my first encounter with a place that seemed to genuinely nurture the kind of life that I wanted to live.”

  • Brother

    BROTHER JAMES

    Society is really bad at helping people become happy.  I tried doing what the culture…

  • BROTHER LEO

    I was born and raised in Winston Salem, North Carolina, the third of six children…

  • FATHER CHRISTOPHER

    “During my college years I was profoundly influenced by the monks — I admired the discipline of their lives and their selfless concern for their students.”

  • FATHER ELIAS

    “There is an insight gained from an actual visit… It was through this whole process that I felt emotionally drawn to Belmont Abbey, excited and enthusiastic about the possibility.”

ABBOT PLACID

One might think that I was almost destined to end up at Belmont Abbey. My oldest brother was a monk in our community, so I was visiting the abbey already as a child. My home parish, Saint Benedict’s, was, at the time, a dependent house of Belmont and was staffed by the monks, as was my high school. In elementary school, I was taught by the Benedictine Sisters from St. Benedict’s Monastery in Bristow, VA, which was originally founded by Belmont Abbey and subsequently given over to the sisters. I was surrounded by Benedictines from the beginning!

However, three things in particular stand out as significant sign posts along my path of discernment. The first is that, when visiting the abbey to see my older brother, my family would attend Vespers, the church’s evening prayer, with the monks. I remember, even as a young boy, being overwhelmed with a sense of profound peace during that time of prayer. I did not know why I felt that way, but the feeling of peace was powerful. Second, the monks impressed me as very talented men who were doing a good work, and were happy with their life. That was very attractive to me, and I wanted to be a part of that good work. Finally, I have always wanted to be a teacher. By the time I reached college, that desire had solidified into a wish to teach on the college level, and Belmont Abbey founded and sponsors Belmont Abbey College. Ironically enough – and it is probably evidence of God’s sense of humor – I have taught in the college full-time only a few of the years I have been in the monastery. I always seemed to get other assignments which took me away from the teaching which I do love. It has been a good lesson that, although prudent planning is important in making decisions in life, one has to be open to the unexpected and unanticipated developments that, in the end, will determine the reality of one’s life.

Finally, as I came to a resolution of a discernment to religious life, the unique characteristics of Benedictine life attracted me. The foundations of the spiritual life in the monastery are the very foundations of Christian life – the Bible and the church’s liturgy. The characteristic Benedictine vow of stability, whereby the monk commits himself to his community and its life, prayer and work for a lifetime, was appealing to me. I am the youngest of six children in a close family, and I knew that, if I was going to lead a happy and healthy life of celibate chastity, I needed the support of a community. Finally, I can see that I am continuing to benefit from the disciplines of monastic life, which open space in one’s life for the possibility of seeking God, which, according to St. Benedict, is the primary sign that one is called to the monastic life.

BROTHER BEDE

 

Born in New York, I moved to Georgia with my family after graduating high school and spending a semester in college. In Georgia I worked various jobs and eventually earned an English Education degree. For five years prior to entering the monastery I worked as a high school English teacher in North Georgia. I believed I was called to that secular vocation. But God, in fact, was calling me to another path, a path oriented in serving Him more directly in religious life.
From the moment I crossed the threshold of Belmont, I knew God was calling me here. For it was here where I felt welcomed; it was here where I felt like a true member of the community, an integral part of the sacred tradition, and it was here, perhaps for the first time in my life, I felt that ineffable peace that God promises and that the world cannot give. In my previous walks of life prior to entering the abbey, I constantly felt the distractions of the world weighing down on me, incessantly drawing me away from God, even in my most devout moments. Here at the abbey, though, divine peace drives the world’s distractions away. This divine peace is the proximity of God. It is a beauty rooted first in the constant presence of the Eucharist and daily Mass, but flowers forth from each day praying the Divine Office and Lectio Divina. The journey to God truly begins in the silence and stillness of these prayers, where we in joy sing with the psalmist, “Happy are they who find refuge in you whose hearts are set on pilgrim roads,” (Ps 84:6).

BROTHER GREGORY

As a convert to the Catholic faith, my interest in monastic life ran parallel to my exploration of Catholicism. In fact, after reading Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain, I wanted to become both Catholic and a monk. My journey to the Catholic faith had led me to believe that there could be nothing more important for me to do than to seek God with all my being. During the RCIA process I was introduced to The Liturgy of Hours and soon began making time each day to pray the office. I had read about the Desert Fathers praying the Psalms and I found that praying the Psalms kept me centered in Christ throughout the day. I also began attending daily Mass at a local parish, and although I could not yet receive Holy Communion, I found great solace just being near Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Praying the Divine Office and attending daily Mass provided a structure and solid foundation for my life that I had been unable to find elsewhere. However, it was very challenging to keep up this prayer life while working 40 hours a week and attending to my other responsibilities. Not to mention the difficulty of trying to live a live devoted to God with practically no support from family or friends, oftentimes in environments that were hostile to Catholic teaching.

One of the catechists in our RCIA program was an oblate of Belmont Abbey and, seeing that I had a strong leaning toward religious life, invited me to come along for a weekend retreat. I was immediately impressed by the community’s celebration of the Divine Office and Mass, as well the prayerful environment and peace. This was my first encounter with a place that seemed to genuinely nurture the kind of life that I wanted to live. It was very encouraging to spend a few days in the company of other men that were earnestly seeking God. From that first visit I felt a strong attraction to this community that only grew stronger with subsequent visits.

I made several visits to Belmont Abbey during my time in RCIA and continued to do so after coming into full communion with the Church. During these visits I got to know many of the monks in the community and became good friends with the Abbot. The more time I spent at the monastery the more comfortable I became with the community and its prayer life.

In my first few years of being Catholic, after several struggles and trials, the desire to give my life more fully to the service of God and his Church became more intense. It became clear that I would never really be satisfied by anything but God alone, and living a life of prayer and contemplation in community seemed the surest means of seeking God. Monastic life at Belmont Abbey was the obvious choice for my discernment.

Brother

BROTHER JAMES

Society is really bad at helping people become happy.  I tried doing what the culture said would make me happy but nothing worked.  I’d been raised as a Catholic in a Christian household and therefore knew happiness was possible.  But I learned it just isn’t possible living a Post-Christian life.  I decided I would put my trust in God to make me happy instead of the world and eventually found myself at Belmont Abbey.  I, still to this day, do not know why God has asked me to be a monk, only that He has.  Yet, even with this lack of knowledge, I am certain that I have found happiness and continue to live a happy life where I can have an impact on the happiness of others.  Life is good here in a way that the society could never have prepared me for or hoped to instill in any adherent. 

BROTHER LEO

I was born and raised in Winston Salem, North Carolina, the third of six children to my devoutly Catholic parents. Despite growing up in close proximity to Belmont Abbey, I knew very little about monks as a child. My first significant encounter with monastic life came when I was about 19 years old via a documentary film on the reclusive Carthusian order. I was immediately drawn in to the rhythm of prayer, work, and silence presented in the documentary. But I did not immediately consider a calling, instead enrolling at a small private college in Florida and focusing my energy on my studies. When I transferred to Belmont Abbey College my junior year, I quickly got to know Abbot Placid, who became a sort of mentor to me. I actually met him a few times when I was a child and he knew my parents, but I had not really known him until I enrolled at the college. He was a good listener and very affirming and encouraging, and I was grateful to have his support. Despite all this, I never considered a vocation to the monastery until after I graduated!

One day about 18 months after I graduated, I stopped by the monastery to visit the Abbot. At one point during my visit, I was struck by a sudden sense that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I couldn’t say exactly what that meant, but I couldn’t shake the feeling off. Soon afterward a diocesan priest friend of mine joined the community as a postulant, and called me on the phone to encourage me to make an extended visit to the monastery, which I had never done. I visited, and then visited again, and then several more times over the course of the next year. The monastery quickly felt like home, and more than home; when I visited the monastery, it seemed that I was more myself than I had ever been anywhere else. The quietness of the hallways, the rhythm of work and prayer, and the community life seemed to envelop me so naturally and it felt so right, as if I was a long lost puzzle piece finally put in its proper place. I worked in Winston Salem and then in northern Virginia for a couple of years to pay down student loan debt before entering the community in March of 2018 as a postulant.

Living in the monastery has afforded me an invaluable opportunity to grow in my relationship with Jesus Christ, to learn more about His Church and the Sacred Scriptures, and to more deeply understand and empathize with myself and others. We are steeped in the Scriptures, praying the Liturgy of the Hours five times daily in community, as well as a daily hour lectio divina (the sacred reading of Scripture) privately. Trading the many amusements and distractions that used to occupy my time for precious silence with the Word of God is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made (OK, probably the best)! We are also blessed to have constant access to the Blessed Sacrament in the house chapel and the Basilica.

I would encourage anyone attracted to monastic life to take that attraction to Our Lord in prayer, and if the attraction persists to seek the assistance of an experienced spiritual director. And ultimately, it’s hard to discern a vocation to a community unless you make a physical visit! Just as a man and woman must take time getting to know each other before they can approach marriage, so a man or woman considering monastic life must get to know the monastery before they can know if it’s right for them. Though, discerning a vocation or not, I would encourage anyone and everyone to make at least one visit to a monastery before they die — there is nothing like the peace, quiet, and stillness of a monastery. Time seems to stop, thinking becomes clearer, prayer becomes more natural, and, quite simply, reality seems more real. God is not, I would say, more present in a monastery than outside of one; but here is a place and a life dedicated solely to living in his presence, an anticipation of our eternal destiny!

FATHER CHRISTOPHER

I was born and raised in New Albany, Indiana. I have five siblings, and we were all educated in our parish school. The church was an important part of my childhood, and it is fair to say that our lives revolved around our parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

I am not sure when I began considering a vocation to the priesthood, although I am sure that the thought was there much longer than I would admit at the time. Upon graduation from high school I enrolled in St. Meinrad College, a college seminary operated by the monks of St. Meinrad Archabbey. I was officially a student for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and during the summers of my college years I would live and work in parishes throughout the archdiocese. I truly loved my summer experiences, and with the help of my spiritual counselor continued my studies for the diocesan priesthood.

During my college years I was profoundly influenced by the monks of St. Meinrad, and especially one of them. I admired the discipline of their lives and their selfless concern for their students. I was also very close to several priests of the Archdiocese who encouraged me in my discernment. At that same time, there were a couple of young monks from Belmont Abbey studying for the priesthood at St. Meinrad. My family had just moved to North Carolina, and they were so enthusiastic about their monastic community that I accepted their invitation to visit Belmont. I found the community warm and inviting, and their work impressive, but I had such good experiences in my summer assignments that I decided that after college I would continue to study for the priesthood as a student for the Archdiocese.

It is funny how things don’t work out the way you think they will. I began to think and pray about my interest in the monastic life. Something told me that I could not dismiss my interest so quickly. And so I visited Belmont again; there were no lightning bolts, no sudden clarity of thought, just a feeling that this was where I needed to be.

But perhaps more important than what brought me to Belmont Abbey is what has kept me here for almost 40 years. And that is a far easier question to answer. The community I entered in 1975 had amazing and heroic men, who built the community and the college with hard work and harder prayer, with much sacrifice and dedication. And they were eager to share their life and the treasure of their community with men who wanted to carry on the vision of St. Benedict as lived at Belmont. I fell in love with the enthusiasm and passion for the monastic life I found here. The enthusiasm and passion are still here so many years later, and we still eagerly share our life and treasure with men who wish to carry on the vision of St. Benedict. That’s why I came, and that is why I stay.

FATHER ELIAS

At some point in everyone’s life there should come a point of self-appraisal, where we ask the questions of meaning and purpose. What do I want out of life? What am I really looking for? For me this moment came one summer, around nine years ago. Although at the time I liked my job well enough, and in fact I had a very good job and good coworkers, I realized that I did not find it very fulfilling. I recognized then that I was looking for something more meaningful out of life. There awakened in me an attraction for living a life consecrated to God, and I recognized that I had had this desire at various times during my life, but had allowed other activities and self-doubt to distract me from it. However, in this time of self-appraisal, I came to believe firmly that ultimate fulfillment and happiness can only be found in union with God, and therefore I needed to order my life to seek God. In contrast, I also believed that what the world had to offer apart from God was just empty pleasure, which tended more toward enslavement than anything else. Moreover, I believed that the primary way for me to help other people was by deepening my holiness, a result of the transformation effected in my life by God when I am fully open to God, seek God with my whole heart, and generously give to God all that I have. When this is true, I will be an extension of God, instead of just working by human means; all of my actions will have more effectiveness than years of toil without personal holiness. It is from this foundation, that knowledge I share with other people, words I speak to them, or actions I do on their behalf will be most efficacious.

But there are many ways of life that would match what I have written. How did I find my way to life as a Benedictine monk at Belmont Abbey? For me, it was the result of pursuing a process of discernment involving regular prayer, spiritual direction, and frequent reception of the sacraments. Also very important was making several visits. It is not for nothing that Christ tells his disciples, “Come and see.” There is an insight gained from an actual visit that does not seem to be obtainable in other ways. It was through this whole process that I felt emotionally drawn to Belmont Abbey, excited and enthusiastic about the possibility. As I see it, what distinguishes the monastic life from other choices is the decision to give highest priority to regular prayer and scripture reading, both communal and private, while living with and working with a particular community of men in one place, who share the same commitment. The particular members of a monastic community and its location are thus quite important objects of discernment as well. A vocation to the monastic life is to a specific community and a specific location, another reason why visits are important. Over time, I have been blessed with a growing respect for the spirit and strength of my confreres at Belmont Abbey. As the psalmist says, how good and how pleasant it is, when brethren dwell in unity. For there the Lord gives his blessing, life forever.

The monks of Belmont each have diverse backgrounds. They have chosen to give their lives to the Lord as Benedictine monks of Belmont Abbey. This choice is the result of a process of discernment that each monk commits to after deep personal reflection.

Learn more about the process of becoming a monk

LEARN ABOUT THE MONASTERY

Belmont Abbey is a monastery of the Benedictine Order. For more than 1500 years, men have become monks according to Saint Benedict’s insight. But each Benedictine abbey stands independently, with its own unique character. So although the monks of Belmont observe a centuries-old Rule, still followed in monasteries throughout the world, this abbey has its own distinct life.

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The Abbey is situated on a 700-acre campus in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. While it is positioned near the conveniences of urban life, it has preserved the benefits of its somewhat removed location, which helps buffer it from the distractions of ordinary life.

Daily life at Belmont Abbey is designed to allow time for prayer (both in the community and individually), work, spiritual reading, personal interests, and the various dimensions of living together (meals, fraternal relations, housework, etc.). Within the monastery, there is a library, a reading room (with newspapers and journals), a refectory (dining room), infirmary (for the care of monks who are aged or ill), supplies-room, tailor’s workshop, parlors for meeting with guests, and other facilities.

A Benedictine monastery exists as a witness to the world, testifying that the Gospel is more than an ideal: It is a standard of living, an application of the belief that Jesus Christ is still the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6).

The model of Benedictine life is the family. The Abbot, who is elected by the Belmont monks, acts as father of the community. Each of the monks assists him in covering the daily tasks of the house. For example, the Abbot appoints a procurator to take care of financial affairs and relieve the individual monks from having to give time to external business. Although meals are prepared by a hired cook, the monks assist in the care of the refectory (dining room). The sacristans care for the church and prepare for the liturgies. Most of the housekeeping and other day-to-day tasks are handled by the monks, too.

THE BASILICA

The Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, under the patronage of Mary Help of Christians, is the central figure in the composition of Belmont Abbey and of the Belmont Abbey Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. It held cathedral rank until 1977.

The Abbey Basilica was built in neo-Gothic style in 1892, and was completely renovated in 1965 in a most striking manner. The church, which contains prize-winning painted glass windows and a unique baptismal font, is listed on The National Register of Historic Places. In 1998 the church was named a minor Basilica by St. John Paul II.

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Belmont Abbey is a monastery of Roman Catholic Benedictine monks founded in 1876. The Abbey follows the tradition of Saint Benedict of Nursia, who initiated Benedictine monasticism in the sixth century. Primarily, the Abbey Basilica is an oratory, a house of prayer.

Benedictines punctuate their day with the Divine Office, liturgies of Psalmody and Scripture. The Monks call this “opus Dei,” the “Work of God.” Opus Dei invests the Church with a pivotal role in daily life.

The Abbey Basilica has also been a spiritual center for generations of Belmont Abbey College students and alumni, as well as for area Catholics. The Abbey Basilica is open throughout the day for prayer and meditation. Visitors are welcome.

Participation is also welcome at Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. A schedule of Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours and Confessions is provided in the narthex and under Schedule.

Download a brochure on the history and art of the Abbey Basilica. Click here.

OUR HISTORY

In 1876, Benedictine monks from Saint Vincent Archabbey in Pennsylvania came to North Carolina and took possession of the former Caldwell farm to form what would become Belmont Abbey and to open Saint Mary’s College.

The first Benedictine priest, Father Herman Wolfe, arrived at Belmont Abbey in April of 1876, accompanied by two students. Classes began immediately. By the beginning of the fall term, enrollment had doubled to four.

TIMELINE

1876

Benedictine monks from Saint Vincent Abbey take possession of the former Caldwell farm, and open there Saint Mary’s College.

1884

On 19 December, the Holy See raises the monastery to the rank of an abbey.

1891

The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is constructed and blessed as a Pilgrimage Shrine.

1892

Construction begins on the Abbey Church of Mary Help of Christians. The Sisters of Mercy are welcomed to Belmont.

1894

Completion of the Abbey Church and dedication on 11 April.

1900

Two-thirds of the College Building is destroyed by fire. Reconstruction begins immediately, and school opens on schedule in the autumn.

1904

Saint Katharine Drexel, S.B.S., visits Belmont Abbey

1910

Belmont is created a nullius ‘diocese’ by Pope Saint Pius X, giving the Abbey Church cathedral rank.

1913

The name of the college is changed from “Saint Mary’s” to “Belmont Abbey College.” The first alumni reunion is held at Belmont.

1952

Belmont Abbey College changes to the status of a senior college.

1962

Belmont’s Abbot Walter Coggin begins his service as a Father at the Second Vatican Council. The abbey’s farm ceases operations.

1965

Consecration of the newly renovated Abbey Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians takes place on 28 March with Abbot Walter officiating.

1973

The Abbey Cathedral is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1976

The abbey celebrates its centennial year with a complete renovation of the monastery.

1977

The nullius ‘diocese’ is suppressed 1 January.

1993

The Belmont Abbey Historic District is created and entered upon the National Register of Historic Places.

1998

The church is designated a minor Basilica by St. John Paul II.

Today, Belmont Abbey is a growing monastery of twenty men.

Its members have been praying and working together according to the teachings of the Gospel and the wisdom of Saint Benedict for over 130 years. The Abbey is situated on a 700-acre campus in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. While its proximity is near to the conveniences of modern urban life, it has preserved the benefits of its somewhat removed location, which helps buffer it from the distractions of ordinary life.

ABOUT ST. BENEDICT OF NURSIA

Around A.D. 480, four years after the deposition of the last Western Roman Emperor, there was born a man who was destined to rescue western monasticism from its degradation, adapt it to local conditions, and fit it to be the instrument for converting and educating the new Germanic kingdoms and thus for constructing a new Europe. This was Saint Benedict, whom Pope Pius XII in 1947 honored with the title of “Father of Europe”.

Benedict at first had no intention of reforming the monastic way of life; even less was he preoccupied with bringing a new Europe into existence. As a youth, he felt restless in the society of his own middle class and aspired to a life that was more satisfying and productive of good than was possible in his native town of Nursia or in Rome. And so, like many before him, he withdrew into solitude to live as a hermit. But before long his retreat was discovered and like-minded persons asked to be allowed to live with him under his direction.

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Abandoning the eremitical life he became a cenobite (a monk living in community). And after years of practical experience he wrote his celebrated Rule for monasteries, in which he laid down the principles he had discovered and legislated for a way of life, which he regarded as only the first step in the path of perfection. His chief aim was to make his form of the monastic life accessible to all men of good will.

It was not intended to be easy, but neither were its demands so severe as to scare away all but the most heroic souls. It was intended to satisfy the needs and abilities of the ordinary person and to encourage the generous and the strong to do even more for God. Because of the Rule’s eventual influence in spreading through all of Europe and guiding countless men and women in living the monastic life, Benedict came to be known eventually as the Father of Western Monasticism.

Benedict’s chief foundation was the Abbey of Montecassino, located around 80 miles southeast of Rome. It was there that he lived through the latter portion of his life, and where ultimately he died, praying to the very last day with his brothers in the monastery, and thereby giving a lasting example for all monks of perseverance. His feast day is celebrated by the Catholic Church on July 11.

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