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“But as we advance in the religious life and faith, we shall run the way of God's commandments with expanded hearts and unspeakable sweetness of love.” RB Prologue 49
About 1.500 Benedictines nuns and monks are living in the German-speaking world today. Their way of life is determined by the monastic rule of Saint Benedict, which was written in the 6th century and contributed greatly to occidental European culture. Benedictine monasticism endeavors to this day to give a concrete answer to the question of God and human existence and to hereby testify that we don’t have to end in God-forsakenness and in nihilism today. Monastic life wants to offer a real alternative to today’s usual ways of life and builds upon 15 centuries of experience. This experience means that, as an individual and in a community, a person has a real chance to encounter God. Thus SEARCHING for GOD is what the monastic father Benedict asks of his pupils first and foremost.
In addition to new challenges, the Benedictine monks in Melk still have two fundamental traditional tasks: their work as teachers and educators as well as pastoral care in their parishes. Melk abbey operates a secondary school with five different high school branches: in the upper classes pupils can put their focus on old languages (Latin, ancient Greek), modern languages, music, art or natural sciences. The school attaches great importance to nurturing special interests of the students by offering a large range of optional subjects.
The monastery strives after the human and religious formation of its pupils, considering it also a pastoral task. When the Babenberg family ruled Austria, Melk abbey originally had 5 parishes. Over the centuries the number rose to 29 parishes, 23 of which are still in the pastoral care of the monastery. These historical developments have created the rather adverse situation that most of the parishes are very far away from the monastery, because they were on the periphery of the former Eastern march. The acute shortage of priests as well as historical and juridical difficulties don’t give reason to expect a change of this situation any time soon.
In addition to these historical tasks, the monks in Melk have tried in the last years to work more and more in target-group-specific pastoral care. Here the abbey’s cultural values represent a big asset which should not be underestimated. Due to many activities with the students and local youth, the monastery becomes a place for them to feel secure, encouraged and at home. The abbey also offers spiritual exercise courses and retreats. The atmosphere of the house and the contact with the Fathers and Brothers prove to be enriching for the guests.
The proceeds from tourism and the abbey’s enterprises are entirely used to finance these different tasks and the maintenance of the building.
For more than 900 years now Benedictine monks have been praying and working in Melk Abbey, without interruption