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  Benedictine NunSpeak Dictionary

This Benedictine NunSpeak Dictionary has been compiled by the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh to help our relatives, friends and benefactors better understand us. It contains definitions to words and phrases that we and other American Benedictine women frequently use that pertain to our monastic life that may be unfamiliar to you.   

This is a “living document” because we anticipate the number of entries may grow over time.  We would like to make our dictionary as user friendly and helpful as possible, so if you come across words or phrases that you do not understand on our Web site, please let us know.  Simply click here to email your questions and suggestions. 

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Term Alt. Terms Definition
— A —                   top of page
Abbess/Abbot Prioress, Superior The woman (Abbess) or man (Abbot) who serves as the leader or superior of a monastery. In most monastic communities of women in the U.S., the Abbess is referred to as Prioress.
Abbot/Abbess   The man (Abbot) or woman (Abbess) who serves as the leader or superior of a monastery. In most monastic communities of women in the U. S., the Abbess is referred to as Prioress.
Apostolic
Community
  A religious community founded to develop and focus on a singular ministry for the purpose of meeting a specific need. Over time, the ministry of an apostolic community adapts or changes to keep current. 
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Benedictine Community   A group of monastic women or men who live together according to the Rule of St. Benedict. The focus is on prayer, Community life, and ministries.
Benedictine
Habit
Coif, Corona, Scapular Includes a robe; a coif  which is pleated white linen worn around the neck; a corona which is firm white material that covers the forehead beneath the black veil; a scapular which is loose, sleeveless material that is worn over the habit and drapes from the shoulders. It is no longer required.
Benedictine
Ring
Profession Ring of Benedictine Sisters The official symbol given at perpetual monastic profession. It denotes commitment to life-long membership in a Benedictine Community of women. The ring bears a cross, three nails and the emblem IHS which is Latin for Iesus  Hominum Salvator. This translates to Jesus Savior of Humankind. It is also a faulty Latin transliteration of the first three letters of JESUS in Greek (IHS for IHC). IHS is frequently used in religious art.
Benedictine Spirituality   Focuses on the values and teachings of the Gospel and the Rule of St. Benedict which shape all  aspects of a Benedictine's life; primarily expressed through prayer, Community life, and ministry.
Benedictine
Tradition
  The historical and adapted adherence to the values and life outlined in the Rule of St. Benedict.
Benedictine
Vows
Monastic Vows; Obedience, Stability, Conversion of Morals Vows of Stability, Obedience and Conversion of Morals are the vows described in the Rule of St. Benedict and included in both temporary and pepetual monastic profession. Chastity and Poverty are implied in the vow of Conversion of Morals. Today, Conversion of Morals is often expressed as Fidelity to the Monastic Way of Life or Conversio (a Latin term).
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Call to Life Constitutions of of the Federation of St. Scholastica A set of directives that govern the Federation of St. Scholastica and its member monasteries.  
Canon Law   The body of rules made by ecclesiastical authority that govern a Christian church.
Cenobite cenobitic life A  nun or monk living as a member in a Community under the authority of a Prioress/Abbess or Abbot.
Cenobitic Life   A way of life based on a monastic rule such as the Rule of St. Benedict or St. Basil. It prescribes living in a Community under the direction of a Prioress/Abbess or Abbot.
Chapel Oratory A space dedicated for liturgy and prayer.
Chapter of Faults   Group reconciliation where Sisters acknowledge errors and gain prayerful support of other members. With the renewal of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, this has not been practiced since Vatican II.
Chapter Meeting Monastic Chapter A business meeting of all members belonging to a monastic community.
Charism   The spirit that forms the life of a community of women religious and underlies each community's defining statement and mission.
Chastity Benedictine Vows Is implied in Conversion of Morals, a Benedictine vow.  It is a promise to abstain from sexual activity for the love of God and the service of others.
Choirs Communal Prayer Community members pray together in two groups called choirs. Communal Prayer is comprised  of psalms, hymns, scripture and other readings. These readings alternate choir to choir.  Each choir's recitation is referred to as a verse.
Choirs Communal Prayer Is comprised of psalms, hymns, scripture and other readings. Community members pray in two parts called choirs and the verses alternate choir to choir.
Cloister Enclosure An area in a monastery or convent not open to the public.
Cloistered Community   A community of monastic women or men who follow a rule that restricts activitity and work to within the monastery.  Members do not engage is secular work.
Coif Benedictine Habit Pleated white linen Benedictine nuns wore around their necks.
Commissioning   The ceremony at the beginning of each new year of service in which the Prioress blesses the ministry of each Sister. 
Communal Prayer Choirs Is comprised of psalms, hymns, scripture and other readings. Community members pray in two parts called choirs and the verses alternate choir to choir.
Community   The use of this word may be confusing. It often refers to the members of a specific monastery and connotes one's  living companions. When used with this meaning, the word is usually capitalized. It may refer to broader, general, localized or geographic groupings such as a neighborhood community.
Community Customs Monastic Norms Directives developed by a monastic community to facilitate living daily life in common; also referred to as Monastic Norms.
Community Room   A place in the monastery where Community members may spend their leisure time or gather for special activities.
Conference of American Benedictine Prioresses   A  professional association of all American Benedictine Prioresses regardless of the Federation of which their Community is a member.  The Conference meets twice a year to reflect on current needs in American Bendictine life and common issues that the prioresses face.  It has published two volumes of reflections, Upon this Tradition and Wisdom from the Tradition.
Consecrated Life   Refers to vowed membership within an apostolic or monastic community.
Constitutions of the Federation of Saint Scholastica Call of Life A set of directives that govern the federation and its member monasteries; also referred to as Call to Life.
Contemplative Prayer  

Contemplative prayer is a thoughtful, reflective raising of the mind and heart to God. It has been described as a gaze of faith, silent love and the repose of the heart in God’s love.

Convent Mission, Motherhouse A dwelling place for Consecrated Religious, usually for women. 
Conversatio Conversio, Conversion of Morals, Fidelity to the Monastic Way of Life From the Latin word, conversio, meaning a turning from a state of sin to repentance, from a lax to a fervent way of life, from unbelief to faith.  It is one of three vows promised by all Benedictines.
Conversio Conversatio, Conversion of Morals, Fidelity to the Monastic Way of Life A Latin term which means a turning from a state of sin to repentance, from a lax to a fervent way of life, from unbelief to faith.  It is one of three vows promised by all Benedictines.
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Desert Fathers   Desert Fathers (also Desert Mothers) were hermits, ascetics, and monks who lived mainly in the Scetes desert of Egypt beginning around the third century AD. They were the precursors of the monastic movement and St. Benedict recommended their writings to his followers.
Discernment   A process for selecting leadership or making Community decisions which is rooted in prayer.  It is also a process used by persons considering entrance into a religious community.
Divine Office Liturgy of the Hours, "Opus Dei," Work of God, Liturgia Horarium Official set of daily prayers prescribed by the Catholic Church; psalms, hymns, prayers, biblical and spiritual readings arranged for chant or recitation on a prescribed schedule every day.  It forms the basis of prayer for Christian monasticism and is prayed for the benefit of the entire world.
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Enclosure Cloister An area in a monastery or convent not open to the public. 
Eremitic Life Hermits A state of life entirely given to the praise and love of God through penance and prayers for the good of all humanity. Those who follow this way of life are called hermits.  Hermits devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world through strict separation from the world, to the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance.
Evening Prayer Vespers An evening service of worship referred to as Vespers before Vatican II.
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Feast Day Holy Day A day of ritual and liturgical celebration commemorating a Church doctrine, Saint or a special occasion in a monastic community.
Federation   A canonical structure that incorporates independent Benedictine women's monasteries into a union for the  purpose of networking, support and the advancement of the Benedictine charism.  There are currently three federations of Benedictine monasteries in the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Formation   A time of introduction, study and development in the life of Benedictine spirituality and tradition prior to making perpetual (final) vows. 
Formation Directress Postulant, Novice or Scholastic Directress Directs and models the process of education and faith development for individuals preparing to become vowed members of the Community.
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Gospel Justice Social Justice The virtue that inclines one to co-operate with others in order to help make the institutions of society better serve the common good.
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Hermit Eremitic Life Devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world, to the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance.
Holy Day Feast Day A day of ritual and liturgical celebration  commemorating a Church doctrine, Saint or a special occasion in a monastic community.
Horarium   Latin term for the daily schedule of those living in a religious community or seminary.
Hospitality   The virtue of kindness and generosity toward guests characterized by the spirit of welcome to visitors and strangers; a condition for salvation as foretold by Christ: "I was a stranger and you made me welcome." (Matthew 25:36).  Hospitality is a core Benedictine value.
Humility   The quality of being humble; ranking low in a hierarchy (knowing God is God and I am not).  The Rule of St Benedict setsforth 12 steps of humility which outline the practices of this core Benedictine virtue.
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I H S Profession Ring of Benedictine Sisters Iesus Hominum Salvator which translates to Jesus Savior of Humankind.  It is also a faulty Latin transliteration of the first three letters of JESUS in Greek (IHS for IHC). These three letters are found on the Benedictine profession ring and other religious symbols and art.
— J —                   top of page
Jubilarian Jubilee A monastic man or woman celebrating an anniversary (jubilee) marking the number years of their monastic profession. This is usually celebrated at 25, 50, or 75 years from the time of their temporary vows.
Jubilee Jubilarian The anniversary of a Jubilarian's profession into religious life.  It is generally celebrated  from the time of temporary vows.
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Lectio or Lectio Divina Spiritual Reading Latin for divine (holy/spiritual) reading.  Each monastic member has a personal obligation to spend a portion of each day reading / meditating on Scripture or similar reading matter.
Listen with the ear of your heart.   A phrase from the Rule of St. Benedict instructing each Benedictine member to allow themselves to open not only their ears, but their entire being to the Word of God and others. It is an important part of Benedictine Spirituality.
Liturgia Horarium Liturgy of the Hours; Divine Office, Opus Dei, Work of God Latin term for Liturgy of the Hours which is the official set of daily prayers prescribed by the Catholic Church and recited daily on a prescribed schedule; forms the basis of prayer for Christian monasticism.
Liturgy of the Hours Divine Office, Liturgia Horarium, Opus Dei, Work of God Official set of daily prayers prescribed by the Catholic Church; psalms, hymns, prayers, biblical and spiritual readings arranged for chant or recitation on a prescribed schedule every day. It forms the basis of prayer for Christian monasticism and is prayed for the benefit of the entire world.
— M —                   top of page
Medal of St. Benedict   A popular religious item since the Middle Ages. On one side is an image of St. Benedict holding the Cross in one hand and the Holy Rule in the other. The reverse side has an image of the Cross and around the margin are initials of Latin words which form verses that are said to have originated with St.Benedict. Translation: "Be gone Satan! Suggest not to me thy vain things. The cup thou profferest me is evil; drink thou thy poison." In the angles formed by the arms of the Cross are the letters C.S.P.B., signifying "Cross of the holy Father Benedict." The letters on the Cross itself stand for: "May the holy Cross be my light; let not the dragon be my guide."  The medal is reputed to be a strong protection to those who use it in good faith.
Ministry Obedience A work undertaken with love for God and a desire to promote the well-being of others.  In a monastic community, it is the work assigned by the Prioress to each Sister. Fulfilling one's ministy is one of the ways Sisters live the Vow of Obedience and it is often refered as "an obedience."
Mission Convent/ Ministry Literally denotes "sending" but generally means working with others to effect beneficial change.  The term also refers to the place where individual Sister/s reside while serving in a geographic area.
Monastery Priory, Motherhouse The Monastery is the place where monastic women or men live and pray in Community under the direction of an Abbot or a Prioress/Abbess, and work  that in all things God may be glorified.
Monastic   Refers to a person and a way of life devoted to prayer, ministry and living in Community under the direction of an Abbot or Prioress. The Rule of St. Benedict has become the most widely used monastic rule in the western world.
Monasticism   A way of life devoted to prayer, ministry, and living in Community under the direction of an Abbot or Prioress. The Rule of St. Benedict has become the most widely used monastic rule in the western world.
Monastics Nuns, Sisters A term most often applied to women who make monastic vows because the term monk has tradtionally referred only to men.
Monastic Cell   Bedrooms within a monastery.
Monastic Norms Community Customs Directives developed by a monastic community to facilitate living daily life in common; also referred to as Community Customs. They flow from the Constitutions of the Federation of St. Scholastica.
Monastic Profession   The act of promising to live by the vows of Obedience, Stability and Conversion of Morals according to the Rule of St. Benedict. Temporary profession is usually made for 3 to 5 years, Perpetual (Final) Profession is made for life.  These promises are made in writing in the presence of the Prioress and the Community.  The vow document is placed on the altar and signed by the person making vows, the Prioress, and a witness.
Monastic Vows Benedictine Vows Stability, Obedience and Conversion of Morals are the three vows mentioned in the Rule of St. Benedict and used at monastic profession. Chastity and Poverty are implied in the vow of Conversion of Morals.
Monasticism   Monasticism is a way of life devoted to prayer, ministry and living in Community; it is based on a rule such as that of St. Basil the Great, or St. Benedict.
Monk   A man pursuing a monastic life. Men are generally called monks while women monastics are called nuns or monastics.
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Novena   Is comprised of nine days of public or private prayer for some special occasion or intention. Its origin goes back to the nine days that the Disciples and Mary spent together in prayer between Ascension and Pentecost Sunday.
Novice   A person formally admitted to a religious community to discern a religious vocation and to prepare for monastic profession.
Novitiate   A period of time during which a person discerns a religious vocation and prepares for monastic profession.  The purpose of the novitiate is  to assist formation directors in evaluating the suitability of the novice for  consecrated life in Community.  Currently, at least one year of novitiate is required by Canon Law, but many Communities require more.
Nun Sister A cloistered monastic woman.  However, in the U.S. the terms Sister and Nun are used interchangeably for women religious whether they are cloistered or not.
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Obedience Benedictine Vows; Ministry One of three monastic vows.  It is a promise to listen to the Prioress and the will of the Community with "the ear of the heart" and to respond in faith.  It may also refer to a Sister's ministry.
Oblates Benedictine Oblate Persons who formally associate with a Benedictine Community to grow spiritually by following the spirit of the Rule of St. Benedict.  Most often, they live and work outside the monastery.
Oblation   The public act of making a formal promise to live the spirit of the Rule of St. Benedict in one's daily life and thus become an Oblate of St. Benedict.
Of Time Made Holy   A reflection on the impact of Liturgy of the Hours on the life of American Benedictine nuns. It was published by the Conference of American Benedictine Prioress.
Opus Dei Liturgy of the Hours, Work of God, Divine Office, Liturgia Horarium Official set of daily prayers prescribed by the Catholic Church; psalms, hymns, prayers, biblical and spiritual readings arranged for chant or recitation on a prescribed schedule every day. It forms the basis of prayer for Christian monasticism and is prayed for the benefit of the entire world.
OSB Order of St. Benedict Initials signifying the Order of St. Benedict. Benedictine monastics place these initials following their name to signify their membership in the order.
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Perpetual Profession   The act of promising to live by the vows of Obedience, Stability and Conversion of Morals according to the Rule of St. Benedict for life. These promises are made in writing in the presence of the Prioress and the Community. The vow document is placed on the altar and signed by the person making vows, the Prioress, and a witness.
Port   The front door and reception area of a monastery. 
Portress   The peson who anwsers the door and telephone to welcome the visitor or stranger to the monastery.
Postulant Postulancy A person taking the first step in religious life before entering the novitiate. The purpose of the postulancy is to acquire knowledge of religious life and the Community through personal experience. During this period, the postulant and Community members become better acquainted, and the postulant has an opportunity to develop such virtue as will qualify her for acceptance into the novitiate. The length of the postulancy varies, but normally it is not less than six months.
Postulancy Postulant A period of time during which the postulant learns more about religious life through personal experience.  The postulant and Community members become better acquainted, and the postulant has an opportunity to develop such virtue as will qualify her for acceptance into the novitiate.  The length of the postulancy varies, but normally it is not less than six months.
Prayer Requests   Petitions from individuals or groups asking the Sisters to pray for their needs and special intentions.
Prefer nothing to the love of Christ   In Benedictine Spirituality, love of Christ is central. Saint Benedict wanted his followers to love Christ as "Christ has loved us", and stated the reflexive nature of this love: "prefer nothing to the love of Christ, for he preferred nothing to us". The Rule of St. Benedict also reminds monastics of the presence of Christ in the most humble and the least powerful who often experience and manifest a deep love of Christ.
Prioress Abbess, Superior Leader of a monastic community of women.
Profession Ring of Benedictine Sisters Benedictine Ring The official symbol given at perpetual monastic profession.  It denotes commitment to life-long membership in a Benedictine Community of women.  The ring bears a cross, three nails and the emblem IHS which is Latin for Jesus  Hominum Salvator.   This translates to Jesus Savior of Humankind.   It is also a faulty Latin transliteration of the first three letters of JESUS in Greek (IHS for IHC).
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Recreation   Leisure activities enjoyed by Sisters in a Community.
Refectory Dining Room Monastic term for the dining room of a monastery.
Religious Decorum   Refers to the appropriate behavior of one professed to a religious community.  Guidelines for this behavior are found in the Monastic Norms.
Rule of St. Benedict RB A religious document written by St. Benedict of Nursia for monks and nuns living communally under the authority of an Abbot or Prioress.   During the 1500+ years of its existence, it has become the leading guide in Western Christianity for monastics living in Community and for lay Christians.
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Saint Benedict   Saint Benedict of Nursia (c.480–543) is a Christian saint honored by the Roman Catholic Church as the patron saint of Europe and students.  Benedict founded twelve Communities for monks at Subiaco, Italy, before moving to Montecassino.  He is also known for his Rule which he wrote as a guide for his monks living monastic life.  He is often called the Father of Western Monasticism.
Saint Joseph Monastery, St. Marys, PA   The first residence for Benedictine Sisters in the United States.  The monastery was founded by Sister Benedicta Riepp when she arrived from St. Walburg Abbey, Eichstatt, Bavaria, in 1852. It is still in existence.
Saint  Scholastica   The twin sister of St. Benedict who is considered to be the foundress of womens' Benedictine Communities worldwide.
Saint Walburg Abbey   St. Walburg Abbey (Abtei St. Walburg) was established to honor St. Walburga (710-779), a Benedictine missionary who went to Germany from England in the 8th century.   It was the home Abbey of Sister Benedicta Riepp, foundress of the Benedictine Sisters in the United States.
Schola   A singing group within the Community especially involved in the celebration of liturgical events.
Scholastic Temporary Professed A temporarily professed member of a monastic community. This period of time can last from three to five years depending on the individual's readiness to profess perpetual monastic vows.
Scholasticate Temporary Profession The period of temporary profession.  This period of time can last from three to five years as a preparation for making perpetual monastic vows.
Sister Nun A woman religious belonging to an apostolic or monanstic community.
Sister Adelgunda Feldmann   Foundress of the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh who was sent to teach in Carrolltown, PA in 1870 from St. Joseph Monastery, St Mary's, PA.  Within the year of her arrival, the Benedictines were asked by the Bishop of Pittsburgh to establish an independent monastery in Cambria County.  Sister Adelgunda Feldmann was elected first Prioress.  They later moved the monastery  to the North Side (Allegheny City, near Pittsburgh) keeping Carrolltown as a mission until 1985.
Sister Benedicta Riepp   Foundress of the Benedictine Sisters in the United States.  She came to the United States in 1852 with two companions from the Abbey of St. Walburg in Eichstatt, Bavaria at the request of Boniface Wimmer to teach the children of German immigrants.  Boniface Wimmer was the first American Abbot.
Spiritual Bouquets   Prayers or devotional acts requested of the Sisters by a person or persons for the benefit of another.  Cards are sent to recipients of Spiritual Bouquets.  Spiritual Bouquets may express joy, sympathy or best wishes, and often commemorate a special or solemn occasion.
Statio   Latin for "to stand or pause" and used to indicate the silent gathering of Community members in the hallway before proceeding into Chapel in solemn procession.  This is an old monastic tradition.
Steps of Humility   St. Benedict wanted humility to be a core virtue in the life of a monk or nun.  The seventh chapter in Benedict's Rule outlines twelve steps to humility which serve as the blueprint for the life of monastic women and men.
Stewardship   The care of tangible gifts; stewardship is based upon the belief that a human being is not the owner but rather the custodian of God's gifts in this world.  It includes reverence for all creation.
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Table Reading   When an individual reads aloud from scripture or other spiritual material while the religious community eats their meal in silence, it is referred to as a table reading.
Temporary Profession   Profession of monastic vows for three to five years by a candidate for Community membership.  At the end of temporary profession, the candidate may leave the Community or make perpetual vows.
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UIOGD   Abbreviation for the Latin, Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Dei whichtranslates to "That in all things God may be glorified."  This is a quote from the Rule of St. Benedict.
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Vespers Evening Prayer An evening service of worship.  Since the Second Vatican Council, it has been renamed Evening Prayer.
Vigil   A devotional exercise or ritual observance on the eve of a holy day.  Liturgical vigils usually consist of psalms, prayers and hymns, possibly a sermon or readings from the Desert Fathers, and sometimes include periods of silent meditation.
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Work of God Liturgy of the Hours, Opus Dei, Divine Office, Liturgia Horarium Is the translation for Opus Dei, a phrase in the Rule of St. Benedict for psalms, hymns, prayers, biblical and spiritual readings arranged for chant or recitation on a prescribed schedule every day.  It forms the basis of prayer for Christian monasticism and is prayed for the benefit of the entire world.

 

 

 
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