Economic life

Work is one of the main elements of the monastic Rule. It is both necessary for personal balance as well as for the budget of the community and takes all sorts of forms, whether intellectual or manual, depending on the individual and the needs at hand. Monastic tradition favours team work and experience shows that it is very hard, if not impossible, to accomplish important work on one's own. Work-related activities contribute to strengthen the unity of the community. Silence, humility, obedience, and charity are the customary conditions of our work which, if it is accomplished according to the Rule, does not distract the monk from the presence of God. Some have spoken of the mystical aspect of monastic work; it favours the beauty and the perfection of the task just as it helps balance the inner life of the worker.

Every community, no matter what its nature, is inserted in the civilisation and the economy of the world which surrounds it, with its conveniences and its disadvantages. In the year 1000, monasteries resembled in many ways the great properties of their areas, with important buildings, vast expanses of land, herds and even piscicultural industries. At the beginning of the third millennium, the physical anatomy and appearance of monasteries have changed considerably: the buildings and their acreage are usually much smaller, and the economical activity and exchanges with the outside are far more varied and complex. Though the Rule of Saint Benedict was written in the sixth century, it nevertheless lays down economic guidelines, based on fundamental Christian doctrine, which motivate us to this day. Having made vows of poverty and obedience, the monks have a refreshingly detached relationship with money and economic affairs. The cellarer, appointed by the abbot, supervises all temporal matters and is constantly abreast of all intellectual and material activity in as much as it contributes to the livelihood of the monastery. The Rule of Saint Benedict is demanding of the cellarer: he ought to be something of a father for the community while remaining wholly submitted to the abbot, undertaking nothing on his own. He must listen attentively to the desires of the brothers, understand their needs, but also be ready to refuse their requests if necessary.

Like most monasteries, Solesmes as a large vegetable garden and several orchards allowing us to reduce what we spend on food. Though much of the preparation and all of the service of our meals is done by the monks, we nevertheless hire two laymen to do the cooking. On most days, more than one hundred people are served at each meal.

There is an important number of community services within the monastery: laundry, tailor's shop, linen-room, shoe repair, bookbinding, paint shop, building maintenance and plumbing, heating, electricity, garden, etc. All of these activities undertaken by the monks themselves diminish our dependence on the outside. Some brothers have particular skills and talents that can be put to use for the community in important ways. In the past, Solesmes has had two remarkable architects; designers and decorators, who have worked hand in hand with goldsmiths and weavers; a sculptor in wood who created several pieces which today are placed in the abbey church and other parts of the monastery. Still, Solesmes is known above all for its work in Gregorian chant: restoration of melodies, scholarly research, publication of liturgical books for the Church, recordings of much of the repertoire of the liturgy. And there is the Editions de Solesmes, our own publishing house which puts out, beside liturgical books, works by the members of the community on spirituality, monastic doctrine, religious history etc. Many of these works are sold at our bookstore, attached to the porter's lodge. These can also be found listed and sold on this site.

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