For many Catholics, the distinction between an abbey and a monastery is somewhat unclear. What is an Abbey, exactly?  The dictionary defines the word “abbey “as the building or buildings occupied by a community of monks or nuns. In Christian spiritual contexts, this word primarily refers to a large monastery or convent. Abbeys are homes for men and women with a particular Catholic vocation; they are called to be monks and or nuns who live together, pray, work, and study according to their religious order’s rules.

The History of the Abbey

Abbeys have a rich historical background and history. Monks began in Egypt and Syria in the 4th century and later went to Europe from the 5th century. An abba was the leader of these groups, and the term ‘abbot’ originates from this. People referred to the heads of female monastic communities as an abbess.

Abbeys were a striking feature of medieval urban and rural landscapes and were examples of living faith.

Their design and architecture mirrored their function as secluded monastic sanctuaries that also supported and motivated their surrounding communities. Abbeys have common parts such as the main church, cloister, chapter house, dining hall, library, and sleeping areas.

The Abbey Structure

The actual building of an abbey is designed to foster and cultivate a Catholic vocation to monastic life.

Most abbeys contain these parts. The main church is where monks and nuns gather to worship and strengthen their belief in Jesus Christ.

The cloister is a courtyard surrounded by covered walkways.

The chapter house is a meeting place for the community members. The dining hall, called a refectory, is where community members eat their meals. The library is a place for studying and reading. A room for members to gather and sleeping areas for community members to rest are available.

Abbeys play a significant role as centers of spiritual practices and intellectual life where religious activities such as prayer, worship, and meditation take place.  An abbey is a place where Catholic priests and nuns and worship. It includes buildings like churches, dormitories, dining halls, libraries, gardens, and other facilities needed for communal living.

Abbeys have played significant roles in education, scholarship, and the preservation of our Catholic cultural heritage. One example is Norbertine priest Father Alfred McBride, O. Praem. He has invited people to grow in their faith and in their relationship with God. He has lectured and written widely, with more than 50 books and 200 published articles to his name.

“My whole life has been catechetics,” said the priest.

He received an honor on May 25, 2012, for being a well-known teacher and writer in the country and abroad. The National Conference for Catechetical Leadership gave him its “Catechetical Award” at the group’s annual conference in Atlanta.

Daylesford Abbey

At Daylesford Abbey, the Spirituality Center offers engaging presentations from different members of the Norbertine Community as well as renowned speakers.

Daylesford is using Springhous

e Media to expand the Spirituality Center by offering online access to presentations, talks, and programs. The Springhouse helps Daylesford Abbey reach more people by connecting in-person and using modern video and online technology.

Fr. John Zagarella combines spirituality, beliefs, and modern rock music in a series called Rock the Word. This program reflects on how God communicates messages of love, forgiveness, and healing through spiritual experiences.

Abbeys Today

Today, an abbey is a place where men and women live out their Catholic vocation.  Priests, brothers and nuns live together in their respective communities, sharing their belief in God with others. They obey their superiors, learning and growing with one another. They also practice their faith with devotion and belief, while living lives of service.

Today there are many abbeys throughout the United States and the world. Abbeys are homes for members of religious communities, and many have Lay Associates too.

Daylesford Abbey in Paoli, PA is where Norbertine priests live work and pray in response to their Catholic vocation as priests and brothers.  Click here to learn more.  Click the link to learn more.