Outside Pressures

Technology

The monks do not have a disdain for technology; however, instead of allowing it to overtake their daily routines, the abbey has decided to use technology only if it advances their mission in the brotherhood. Some monks describe the Internet as a form of distraction, quickly separating them from their tasks. They use communication technologies to promote their dedicated work. For instance, Father Isaac runs the Monks’ Bread site where customers are able to place orders and have their bread shipped anywhere in the United States. The monks are granted Internet privileges for one hour per day if they so choose, although many still enjoy the library’s collection of books. All media use is regulated and censored to prevent monks from straying from the life they have chosen to live. Their restrictions on outside media that might be harmful to the abbey has kept daily life there fairly unchanged in comparison to the outside world that undergone the information age revolution.

The monks are both sensitive to these changes but also incredibly resistant to the negative effects of the technological revolution in the past 40 years.

The Catholic Church

The membership to the Catholic Church has been decreasing in the United States over the years, posing a problem to the survival of the monastery. With low membership in the monastery, the monks are forced to find help in the local community to work in the bakery. Whereas the Abbey of the Genesee began with 70 monks, they find themselves today having only 24 members.

1965 was a significant year for Catholicism and consequently for the monastery, when the Second Vatican Council (also frequently referred to as Vatican II) urged the Catholic Church to acknowledge and work together with other Christian denominations and spiritual beliefs. Before Vatican II, as members of the larger Catholic Church, the abbey’s members were encouraged to practice a highly internalized faith, although there seemed to be a division among community members; some monks devoted their time to prayer and set aside the work aspect, leaving others with the burden of working on behalf of those who valued prayer more. Except in the instances of illness or old age, now, after Vatican II, the monks work and pray equally so that the community can function more cohesively.

The video below is a compilation of interviews with the monks. In the video, we ask them about changes they have witnessed in the abbey since they first arrived. For site visitors with hearing impairments, please feel free to utilize the closed captioning option on the YouTube bar.

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