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Vatican Documents
on Monasticism

First Book to Read (Page 1)

What's an oblate? (Page 2)

Becoming an Oblate (Page 3)

Links to Oblate Resources (Page 4)

Index (Page 5) to: 
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What's New (Page 6)

This this page may be of interest primarily to oblates embarked on more in-depth studies or those who simply love to read the Vatican's official documents.

This page contains links to key Vatican documents mentioning monasticism.  Latest additions here.

In general, the Popes and Vatican officials discuss monasticism in the context of two main themes:

1. Monasticism as a foundation of western theology and European culture.

2. Monasticism as the repository of practices that lead to deep spirituality.

Of course, the documents listed here discuss other elements of monasticism as well as many other Church  topics. 

It is a tribute to the wise teaching of the Vatican that monasticism is always placed within the larger context of the entire scope of the Church.  While I might think it would be super if everyone became a monk, nun, sister, or oblate, these Vatican documents always reveal that there are many Great Traditions in our Catholic Church.

However, for the person who wants to know what Popes and Vatican officials have been saying in the past 20 years about monasticism, the documents on this page are a representative sample:


+ “The Origins of Western Theology and the Roots of European Culture.”

Benedict XVI. Meeting with Representatives from the World of Culture, in France, 12 September 2008   "Quaerere Deum – to seek God and to let oneself be found by him, that is today no less necessary than in former times."

A guiding light
is almost always from above and
 draws us to the foot of the cross.


+ Saint Benedict of Norcia

Benedict, the Founder of Western Monasticism, St. Peter's Square, 9 April 2008, Benedict XVI.

+ St. Basil (330 AD - 379 AD) Eastern Father

"In speaking of monasticism, the Servant of God John Paul II wrote: "For this reason many people think that the essential structure of the life of the Church, monasticism, was established, for all time, mainly by St Basil; or that, at least, it was not defined in its more specific nature without his decisive contribution" 

+ The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life

About the Congregation which "is responsible for everything which concerns institutes of consecrated life (orders and religious congregations, both of men and of women, secular institutes) and societies of apostolic life regarding their government, discipline, studies, goods, rights, and privileges."

On monks, the article states in part: "It is Monks, from a historical point of view, were the first religious to live in community. In the first half of the fourth century, the desert areas of northern Egypt were populated by colonies of hermits, whose sayings (dicta) were gathered together in the Apophthegmata Patrum. Some of these hermits gathered around themselves groups of disciples, and gave rise to the Pachomian cenobitical communities, characterized by a strong, and sometimes harsh, discipline. During the fourth century in Asia Minor, cenobitic life developed under the guiding influence of St. Basil, based on the notion of community as the Church and Body of Christ."

The article gives an overview of all types of religious life -- there are many and this article gives a good overview.


Vita Consecrata (Consecrated Life) Pope John Paul II, 1996.

[Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata of the Holy Father John Paul II to the Bishops and Clergy Religious Orders and Congregations Societies of Apostolic Life Secular Institutes and All the Faithful on the Consecrated Life and its Mission in the Church and in the World. Rome, March 25, 1996]

"Monastic life in the East and the West

"6. The Synod Fathers from the Eastern Catholic Churches and the representatives of the other Churches of the East emphasized the evangelical values of monastic life, which appeared at the dawn of Christianity and which still flourishes in their territories, especially in the Orthodox Churches.

"From the first centuries of the Church, men and women have felt called to imitate the Incarnate Word who took on the condition of a servant. They have sought to follow him by living in a particularly radical way, through monastic profession, the demands flowing from baptismal participation in the Paschal Mystery of his Death and Resurrection.

"In this way, by becoming bearers of the Cross (staurophoroi), they have striven to become bearers of the Spirit (pneumatophoroi), authentically spiritual men and women, capable of endowing history with hidden fruitfulness by unceasing praise and intercession, by spiritual counsels and works of charity. In its desire to transfigure the world and life itself in expectation of the definitive vision of God's countenance, Eastern monasticism gives pride of place to conversion, self-renunciation and compunction of heart, the quest for hesychia or interior peace, ceaseless prayer, fasting and vigils, spiritual combat and silence, Paschal joy in the presence of the Lord and the expectation of his definitive coming, and the oblation of self and personal possessions, lived in the holy communion of the monastery or in the solitude of the hermitage.

"The West too from the first centuries of the Church has practiced the monastic life and has experienced a great variety of expressions of it, both cenobitic and eremetical. In its present form, inspired above all by Saint Benedict, Western monasticism is the heir of the great number of men and women who, leaving behind life in the world, sought God and dedicated themselves to him, "preferring nothing to the love of Christ".

"The monks of today likewise strive to create a harmonious balance between the interior life and work in the evangelical commitment to conversion of life, obedience and stability, and in persevering dedication to meditation on God's word (lectio divina), the celebration of the Liturgy and prayer.

"In the heart of the Church and the world, monasteries have been and continue to be eloquent signs of communion, welcoming abodes for those seeking God and the things of the spirit, schools of faith and true places of study, dialogue and culture for the building up of the life of the Church and of the earthly city itself, in expectation of the heavenly city."

---- Pope John Paul II, 1996
Vita Consecrata (Consecrated Life)

+  St Gregory the Great.

Pope and Doctor of the Church (c. 540-604). By BENEDICT XVI, ANGELUS, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 3 September 2006.

Pope Gregory was born three years before St. Benedict's death in 543.  Pope Gregory was instrumental in making the Rule of St. Benedict the primary rule for monastic living in Europe. 

Pope Gregory wrote virtually all we know of the details of the lives of St. Benedict and his sister St. Scholastica. Read here.

Most importantly, Pope Gregory was himself a contemplative spirit and as one Benedictine abbot said, Pope Gregory the Great "exercised a decisive influence on the share given in monastic culture to the spiritual tendency." Quote source, page 25.


+ ORIENTALE LUMEN (The light of the East)

Pope John Paul from the Vatican, on May 2, 1995. An Apostolic Letter to the Bishops, Clergy, and Faithful:

Church Unity:

Catholics should become familiar with the traditions of the Eastern Christians  and encourage the process of Church unity.


"Monasticism as a model of baptismal life:

"9. I would now like to look at the vast panorama of Eastern Christianity from a specific vantage point which affords a view of many of its features: monasticism.

"In the East, monasticism has retained great unity. It did not experience the development of different kinds of apostolic life as in the West. The various expressions of monastic life, from the strictly cenobitic, as conceived by Pachomius or Basil, to the rigorously eremitic, as with Anthony or Macarius of Egypt, correspond more to different stages of the spiritual journey than to the choice between different states of life. In any event, whatever form they take, they are all based on monasticism.

"Moreover, in the East, monasticism was not seen merely as a separate condition, proper to a precise category of Christians, but rather as a reference point for all the baptized, according to the gifts offered to each by the Lord; it was presented as a symbolic synthesis of Christianity.

"When God's call is total, as it is in the monastic life, then the person can reach the highest point that sensitivity, culture and spirituality are able to express. This is even more true for the Eastern Churches, for which monasticism was an essential experience and still today is seen to flourish in them, once persecution is over and hearts can be freely raised to heaven. The monastery is the prophetic place where creation becomes praise of God and the precept of concretely lived charity becomes the ideal of human coexistence; it is where the human being seeks God without limitation or impediment, becoming a reference point for all people, bearing them in his heart and helping them to seek God."

---- Pope John Paul II, 1995


+ On commitment to Ecumenism

"Part of the [treasury of the Churches of the East] are also "the riches of those spiritual traditions to which monasticism gives special expression. From the glorious days of the Holy Fathers, there flourished in the East that monastic spirituality which later flowed over into the Western world".91 As I have had the occasion to emphasize in my recent Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen, the Churches of the East have lived with great generosity the commitment shown by monastic life, "starting with evangelization, the highest service that the Christian can offer his brother, followed by many other forms of spiritual and material service. Indeed it can be said that monasticism in antiquity—and at various times in subsequent ages too—has been the privileged means for the evangelization of peoples.""

---- Pope John Paul II, 1995

+  General Audience April 27, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI Reflection on the name chosen: Benedict XVI

"I wanted to be called Benedict XVI in order to create a spiritual bond with Benedict XV, who steered the Church through the period of turmoil caused by the First World War. He was a courageous and authentic prophet of peace and strove with brave courage first of all to avert the tragedy of the war and then to limit its harmful consequences. Treading in his footsteps, I would like to place my ministry at the service of reconciliation and harmony between persons and peoples, since I am profoundly convinced that the great good of peace is first and foremost a gift of God, a precious but unfortunately fragile gift to pray for, safeguard and build up, day after day, with the help of all.

"The name "Benedict" also calls to mind the extraordinary figure of the great "Patriarch of Western Monasticism", St Benedict of Norcia, Co-Patron of Europe together with Sts Cyril and Methodius, and the women Saints, Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena and Edith Stein. The gradual expansion of the Benedictine Order that he founded had an enormous influence on the spread of Christianity across the Continent. St Benedict is therefore deeply venerated, also in Germany and particularly in Bavaria, my birthplace; he is a fundamental reference point for European unity and a powerful reminder of the indispensable Christian roots of his culture and civilization.

"We are familiar with the recommendation that this Father of Western Monasticism left to his monks in his Rule: "Prefer nothing to the love of Christ" (Rule 72: 11; cf. 4: 21). At the beginning of my service as Successor of Peter, I ask St Benedict to help us keep Christ firmly at the heart of our lives. May Christ always have pride of place in our thoughts and in all our activities!"

Priestly Celibacy

Roman Cholij Secretary of the Apostolic Exarch for Ukrainian Catholics in Great Britain

"Although perhaps strange to our own modern ways of thinking, absolute marital continence was far from unknown or unesteemed in patristic times. Tertullian, himself a married man, informs us in his Catholic period, of lay people who practice continence within marriage pro cupiditate regni coelestis. So do Jerome and Augustine in the following century. The rapid growth of monasticism and an attraction to the ascetic life led many couples to renounce their intimacy and to enter a monastery or to live in continence within more domestic settings. Church authorities had to intervene decisively when the enthusiasm for continence was deemed excessive and tainted with heretical motives, but at the same time praising those who lived the life of continence for the right motives. Four centuries later the Second Nicene Council (787) would still endorse the possibility of monastic vocations for the married.15 Neither should one forget the continence that the separated and divorced were required to live. Augustine did not hesitate to invoke the example of some of the married clergy, who had had their difficulties in adjusting to a life of continence, in order to encourage men separated from their wives to live continently. He also applies the celibacy logion «eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven» (Mt 19:12) to divorcees."


+ Pope Benedict XVI at Monte Cassino, "Seeking God in a spiritual rebirth,"  May 24, 2009 


At his school monasteries down the centuries became fervent centres of dialogue, encounter and a beneficial blending of different peoples, unified by the evangelical culture of peace. Monks have been able to teach the art of peace by word and example, putting into practice the three "bonds" that Benedict mentions as necessary to preserve the unity of the Spirit among human beings: 

the Cross, that is the very law of Christ;
the book, or in other words culture;
and the plough that implies work, the domination of matter and of time.