Students join monks to mark meaning of Easter Triduum


Aiden Denehy, Editor-In-Chief

Instead of spending time back at their houses, a group of students instead opted to make Saint Anselm Abbey their home for 5 days over Easter Break, in order to see what life behind the monastery walls is like during this holy time of year.

This wasn’t a typical Easter break for many involved, as to get the full experience, visitors were expected to comply with many of the rules that the monastery observes- including being up to pray vigils at 6:30 in the morning (according to the Prior, an opportunity to sleep in for many of the monks!)

Visitors were also requested to observe traditional rules of conduct, such as silence during transit to meals from prayer, silence during meals, and a period of physical work known as Labora.

Many students came away from the experience with a more full understanding of how the monastery’s unique way of life brings them closer to Christ.

Although students do learn about the monastery and some of its rules and practices during Conversatio, many do not take the time to reflect on what Benedictine life is like.

One may think ‘Sure, I could go a meal without talking’ but how is this experience different when almost every meal (save for special occasions) is spent in quiet reflection and contemplation, the silence broken only by the words of a lector reading from above?

According to Andrew Cilento, Class of 2018, the experience allows one to reconsider Christ in a new light. Cilento said, “Holy Week at Saint Anselm Abbey is the greatest blessing during the final days of Lent. Being present at the praying of the Divine Office and the solemn liturgies casts my spirit into what the Sacred Triduum is all about. It is a more perfect union with Christ, and sharing the joy of the Eucharist, the sorrow of His passion and the glory of His resurrection.”

Cilento concluded by saying, “Being able to live with the monks and live as the monks do adds even more beauty to this week. In the silence of the abbey, Christ makes himself known to us in an intimate way.”

Cilento has been a lifelong Catholic who reflects on his faith and its deeper meaning frequently- this is his fourth Easter with the monastery.

Some, however, such as Gregory Williams, also Class of 2018, enjoyed the spiritual experience and likewise found more opportunity to examine their faith in the peace, calm, and quiet of the monastic setting. Williams said of his experience, “I thought it was a great time to self-reflect and step away from the bustle of everyday life.”

Alex Mullin, Class of 2018, echoed a similar staement; he said of his experience, “It was fun, educational, and really, really rewarding. It was one of my favorite experiences here at Saint Anselm and I feel extremely fortuante that I had the opportunity to do it.”

This retreat was the first for both Mullin and Williams.

Students had the opportunity to dive deep into Monastic life- eating meals with the community, attending their prayer sessions, and emulating the Rule of Saint Benedict through short periods of labor called Labora.

Students also had the ability to have a question and answer session with Father Cecil, OSB, and Bishop Joseph Geary, OSB, who both celebrate their 70th anniversary of their solemn vows this year.

The two Bendectines spoke of their time in the monastery, their most memorable experiences, their favorite saints, and gave advice to the students, including “Not to take what they have for granted.”

The celebration of Easter ends the season of Lent and celebrates Christ’s Passion and resurrection on the cross.

Christians believe that Christ died on the cross as atonement for original sin and has thus redeemed us. Students had the opportunity to walk the Stations of the Cross (which attempts to recreates the path of Jesus, from his betrayal to his resurrection, and includes insightful prayer and reflection,) as well as time for personal prayer, recreation with other members of the monastic community, and participation in the Catholic mass.

Students also had the opportunity to see and experience things many are unaware of- for example, the relic of the True Cross the abbey possess, which is adored by parishioners on Good Friday into the morning of Holy Saturday.

Of course, students also had the opportunity to engage with members of the community one on one, through card games, reading times during recreation, and casual conversation.

The Early mornings may be over, but students have taken away a sense of faith and inner meaning from their time in the morning.

Cilento said of his time in the monastery, “Saint Anselm Abbey has transformed my life by helping me recognize what is important. Two Benedictine mottos come to mind- ‘Pray and Work” and ‘So that in all things God may be glorified.’ Staying with these monks helped me see these two things as essential parts of living a fulfilled life.”