Monastic Versus Apostolic Prayer Styles: A Discernment Clue

Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God.  Rule of Benedict

For those in monastic religious life, prayer practices take on both communal and private significance. Daily, Benedictine Sisters pray together during Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist. Lectio Divina (Holy Reading) can be prayed with others and privately. Other private prayers include everything from Centering Prayer to the Stations of the Cross and the Rosary.

The prayer practices of a community give you a clue about which type of community - monastic or apostolic - you are called to. Below, Catholic Sisters from seven Upper Mississippi River Valley communities provide refelections on prayer practices that are important to their congregations. And be sure to take the Midwest Vocation Match to find another clue to where you might belong!

Benedictine Sisters, Rock Island, Ill. (monastic community)

"The Liturgy of the Hours holds the central and dominant place in our lives as Benedictines," Sr. Catherine Cleary, OSB, says. "Our reason for being here is to seek God together. We sing and chant the Psalms, we sit in silent reflection on the Word. We do this together every morning, before Eucharist, and before heading out to our ministries. We come back together at noon, when possible, and in the evening, before dinner."

The Liturgy of the Hours have been modified over the millennia since St. Benedict's time - some monastic communities may pray as many as eight times a day, rising well before dawn to begin - but most follow a less rigorous schedule today. The Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island, Ill., pray Lauds, Noonday Prayer and Vespers. "Jesus himself prayed the Psalms, which form the heart of the Liturgy of the Hours," Sr. Susan Hutchens, OSB, says. "Jesus prays them within us as we pray them to Him."

Franciscan Sisters, Clinton, Iowa (apostolic community)

The prayers of St. Francis of Assisi are particularly important to the Franciscan Sisters, Clinton, Iowa. St. Francis' prayers join with the praise of all creatures in love, joy, gratitude, and playfulness. Examples are found in the following excerpt from the "Canticle of the Creatures":
Praise be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praise be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather, through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Humility Sisters, Davenport, Iowa (apostolic community)

"The Sisters of Humility weave scripture with songs, readings and poetry to create meaningful prayers for our services," Sr. Roberta Brich, CHM, says. "By using the creative talents of our Sisters and associates, we are able to capture the spirit and theme of every occasion. This is especially true at our Eucharistic celebrations and other prayer services during community meetings, jubilees, funerals and feast days."

Dominican Sisters, Sinsinawa, Wisc. (apostolic community)

Centering Prayer may seem to have much in common with secular meditation, but the intent is different, say the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wisc. The intent is silent union with God. It works like this: Close your eyes and say a prayerful word - "Jesus," or "Creator" - and empty yourself of all thoughts. Whenever you become aware of a thought, say the word again to bring yourself back to interior silence. "God works in secret," Sr. Loretta Zemaitis, OP, says. "Centering Prayer allows God's presence to act within you."

Franciscan Sisters, Dubuque, Iowa (apostolic community)

While the rosary is treasured by the Sisters of St. Francis, Dubuque, Iowa, the Franciscan Crown, or the Rosary of the Seven Joys of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is particularly special for many of the Sisters. The Franciscan Crown is the traditional Franciscan version of the classic Marian devotion. Dating from 1422, it encourages those who pray it to reflect on the seven sacred events in the life of Mary and Jesus.

Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, LaCrosse, Wisc. (apostolic community)

Perpetual adoration - the constant exposure and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament - has been a part of the Franciscan experience in LaCrosse, Wisc., for nearly 130 years. The practice allows the Sisters and their Eucharistic Prayer Partners to be present before God before taking God's presence out into the world. "Perpetual adoration is a significant and powerful sign of the reality of God's presence and life that flows in all," Sr. Karen Kappell, FSPA, says. "It is not confined to the tiny and sacred space, but flows into my very veins and the whole of the universe."

BVM Sisters, Dubuque, Iowa (apostolic community)

In BVM tradition, each Sister prays in her own way. There is no a prescribed prayer life. Many choose private devotions, some with Scripture, some in silence, some using contemporary writings and reflections, some in familiar ways such as the Rosary or the Liturgy of the Hours, some in more active ways such as walking in nature.

Presentation Sisters, Dubuque, Iowa (apostolic community)

Presentation Sisters resonate with the expression of their foundress Nano Nagle's spirituality as they behold the Heart of Jesus in the hearts of those made poor and in their commitment to listen deeply to the cry of the Earth. Reflecting on Nano's charism manifested as a hospitable heart, they also find themselves rooted in the incarnational theology of her devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and in the heritage of Celtic prayer and spirituality.