St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama

St Bernard Abbey, Cullman, Alabama, Združene države Amerike

Website of the Sanctuary

00 1 256 734 8291

The history of St. Bernard Abbey is a rich one. In the 1840s monks from Metten Abbey in Germany, a monastery founded c. 700 A.D., came to America to plant the Benedictine monastic life in the United States.

In 1934 the Ave Maria Grotto, a religious devotional creation of Brother Joseph Zoetle, O.S.B., was dedicated in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Abbey grounds.

A Typical day of a Monk

The life of a Monk of St. Bernard Abbey, begins each day while it is still dark. The community gathers in the Abbey Church to pray the first Office of the day, Matins. Throughout the night, the community has observed “Grand Silence.”

This silence in broken by the first words of the office, “O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.” Immediately following Matins, the monks pray Lauds. By the time both of these Offices are completed, the sky is light and the day has begun in prayer.

There is a twenty-minute period of private prayer between the conclusion of Lauds and breakfast. Most monks use this time to do Lectio Divina, or Sacred Reading. Breakfast is eaten in silence in the Monastic Refectory.

After breakfast, each member of the community begins his assigned tasks. For some, this means teaching in our school, for others it may mean working on the grounds; there are many different jobs that keep a monastery and school running.

Around noon, the monks stop their work and return to the church to pray mid-day prayer, or Sext. Next comes lunch, the only meal at which talking is allowed.

The various work of the monks continues in the afternoon. Around four o’clock, it is time to prepare for Mass. Before Mass, many monks spend time in private prayer in their cells (rooms) or in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

Mass begins at five o’clock, followed by Vespers (evening prayer). Supper is then taken in the Refectory in silence, with table reading.

St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama

On feast days, there is a more festive meal and talking is allowed. After supper, there is about half an hour of recreation time. Some monks use this time to chat with their confreres, go for a walk, or just relax.

The last Office of the day, Compline, is prayed at seven o’clock. After Compline, the abbot blesses each monk with holy water as he leaves the church. With this, the day ends. Many monks spend the time after Compline to read, study, or perhaps prepare for the next day.

Oblates of St. Bernard Abbey

Benedictine Oblates are Christian men and women who yearn for a spiritual life deeply rooted in God. They know in their hearts there can be much more fulfillment in their everyday, ordinary Christian lives.

For more than 1500 years, the Rule of St. Benedict has offered a way to pursue that search. St. Benedict’s Rule applies the teachings of Jesus, as found in the Gospels, to everyday life.

See more Catholic Shrines and pilgrimages in North America.

See top 15 Catholic shrines around the world

St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama

Oblates are affiliated with a particular Benedictine monastery and share a spiritual union and human friendship with the monastic community there.

They are bonded in prayer, love and commitment, becoming intimate partners in the prayer and works of the monastery. For more information about becoming a Benedictine oblate of St. Bernard Abbey, contact our oblate director, Fr. Edward Markley, O.S.B. at 256-734-8291.

The Divine Office

The Divine Office is at the center of the Benedictine life. Through it the monk lifts heart and mind to Almighty God, and uniting himself to his confreres, the Church and the entire world in offering God praise and thanks, in confessing his sins, and in calling on God for the needs of all people. The office punctuates the day of the monk; like a leaven awakening his soul to make the entire day, indeed the whole of life, a gift of the self to God. Praying the hours puts the monk into the real world, sanctifying his whole life and assisting him toward his goal of unceasing prayer – Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus.

The Benedictine Office is a rich collection of prayer that is based on the Rule of St. Benedict. Historically it is distinct from the Roman Office – also recently called the Liturgy of the Hours – which, after the Second Vatican Council, was reshaped to simplify and make more practical the prayer of the hours for the secular clergy, as well as the religious who use it, and the laity who make it a part of their life of prayer.

In 1966 the Breviarium Monasticum was the universal order of Divine Office for Benedictines. In that year the monks were given a period of time for liturgical experimentation, allowing each congregation of monasteries to adapt the tradition for its particular use, under certain guidelines. To this day the Breviarium Monasticum remains “official” and the time of experimentation is still in effect. In that circumstance, communities are using various forms of the Divine Office, and a few communities have even elected to take the new Roman Office (Liturgy of the Hours) as a convenient guideline because of its universal use among the secular clergy.

The following is a brief, general description of the centuries old Benedictine tradition of prayer in word and action. Reference is made occasionally to the Roman Office as another point of reference. The structure of the Office described below and outlined is according to the use at St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama.

Traditional Monastic Hours
(which became the standard for the Roman Office) New Roman Office (Liturgy of the Hours)

Traditional Monastic Hours

(which became the standard for the Roman Office)

New Roman Office (Liturgy of the Hours)
Matins (Vigils) Matins (Office of Readings) – any time of day
Lauds Lauds (Morning Prayer)
Prime Prime omitted in New Roman Office
Terce Terce (Mid-Morning Prayer)
Sext Sext (Mid-Day Prayer)
None None (Mid-Afternoon Prayer)
Vespers Vespers (Evening Prayer)
Compline Compline (Night Prayer)

A Typical day of a Monk

The life of a Monk of St. Bernard Abbey, begins each day while it is still dark. The community gathers in the Abbey Church to pray the first Office of the day, Matins. Throughout the night, the community has observed “Grand Silence.” This silence in broken by the first words of the office, “O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.” Immediately following Matins, the monks pray Lauds. By the time both of these Offices are completed, the sky is light and the day has begun in prayer.

There is a twenty-minute period of private prayer between the conclusion of Lauds and breakfast. Most monks use this time to do Lectio Divina, or Sacred Reading. Breakfast is eaten in silence in the Monastic Refectory. After breakfast, each member of the community begins his assigned tasks. For some, this means teaching in our school, for others it may mean working on the grounds; there are many different jobs that keep a monastery and school running.

Around noon, the monks stop their work and return to the church to pray mid-day prayer, or Sext. Next comes lunch, the only meal at which talking is allowed.

The various work of the monks continues in the afternoon. Around four o’clock, it is time to prepare for Mass. Before Mass, many monks spend time in private prayer in their cells (rooms) or in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

Mass begins at five o’clock, followed by Vespers (evening prayer). Supper is then taken in the Refectory in silence, with table reading. On feast days, there is a more festive meal and talking is allowed. After supper, there is about half an hour of recreation time. Some monks use this time to chat with their confreres, go for a walk, or just relax. The last Office of the day, Compline, is prayed at seven o’clock. After Compline, the abbot blesses each monk with holy water as he leaves the church. With this, the day ends. Many monks spend the time after Compline to read, study, or perhaps prepare for the next day.

The history of Saint Bernard Abbey

The history of Saint Bernard Abbey is a rich one. In the 1840s monks from Metten Abbey in Germany, a monastery founded c. 700 A.D., came to America to plant the Benedictine monastic life in the United States and to minister to the growing German-speaking immigrant population. St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, became the first foundation, and in the 1870s monks from St. Vincent were sent to Alabama to serve the needs of German Catholics here. In 1891 those monks gathered to establish St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama. One year later, 1892, a school was opened at the new abbey.

At overlapping intervals from 1892 to 1979 the monks operated a high school, junior college, four-year college, and seminary. The present St. Bernard Preparatory School, opened in 1984, is the recipient of this Catholic educational heritage.

In 1934 the Ave Maria Grotto, a religious devotional creation of Brother Joseph Zoetle, O.S.B., was dedicated in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Abbey grounds. This garden walk-through of Brother Joseph’s miniature replicas of famous Old Testament and Christian buildings has welcomed visitors every day since. Most famous among the miniatures are the buildings of ancient Jerusalem, thus the creation’s popular name “Little Jerusalem”.

In 1981 the monks opened the St. Bernard Abbey Retreat and Conference Center. This center welcomes religious retreat and pilgrim groups as well as Abbey guests, school groups, and others.

Posted in North America and United States