Monks at Work: Then and Now

Many monks in monasteries use modern machinery to help them with their work. There are still some jobs, however, which are carried out in the same way as they were hundreds of years ago:

Vegetables were grown in the garden. Vegetables are still grown in gardens.
Red meat was not eaten, but the monks were allowed to eat birds. Red and white meat eaten.
All food is natural. Simple food which is not grown by the monks is bought in shops.
Chickens were kept for their eggs and meat. They were fed by hand. Chickens are still kept for their eggs and meat. They are still fed by hand.
Bread was made and then cooked in a clay or stone oven. Bread is cooked in modern ovens.
Animals were used to help with heavy farm work e.g. ploughing and pulling carts. Farm machinery, such as tractors and trailers, are used on the monastery farms.
Cows were milked by hand. The milk was used as a drink and for cooking, although David and his monks drank only water. Cows are milked by machine, but if only a few cows are kept they will be milked by hand. Milk is now used to make cheese, cakes, yoghurt and even ice-cream.

Can the pupils think of other ways in which the monks jobs have been made easier?

e.g. washing clothes.

The monks try to do as much of the work in a monastery as they can. They only employ workers to carry out jobs which they cannot do themselves e.g. if there are not many monks in a community, workers will need to be employed to help with the general maintenance. Most monasteries can produce much of what they need from their farms, but some communities, such as the Cistercian monks on Caldey Island, cannot rely on farming and so have to think of other ways of supporting their community.

If possible, find out more about your nearest monastic community.