A spiritual focus on generous service and community is the key to success for the Trappist monks, not only in their business ventures but in all of their pursuits, said a businessman closely acquainted with the order.
WASHINGTON D.C., February 26 (CNA/EWTN News) - Trappist monks build a culture of "service and selflessness" in their monasteries, which explains "why the monks are so successful not just in their business practices but in everything that they do," said August Turak at a recent address to young professionals at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C.
"There's no such thing for the monks as balancing your personal life and your spiritual life: it's all one," he explained.
Turak is a businessman who has worked for MTV, software companies, and various other corporations. He is also successful writer, contributing to the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Forbes.com, among other publications, as well as winning the Templeton Foundation's Power of Purpose essay contest.
He has also been a frequent visitor at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina for more than 17 years, and credits his time living and working at the abbey for much of his professional success.
The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, commonly known as Trappists, is a branch of Cistercian monks who follow the Rule of St. Benedict strictly. Located throughout the world, monasteries typically support themselves by producing and selling products including bread, chocolate and cheese, as well as coffins and other items. Trappist beer is particularly famous and admired by connoisseurs across the globe.
Turak explained that the core of the monastery life focuses both on an intense prayer life and a focused work life. "For a Trappist monk, prayer and work are indistinguishable," he said, pointing to the monastic motto of "ora et labora"- a command to pray and work.
"They're always praying; they're always working," he continued, and the two practices are very much related. "Prayer is work - it's hard work to pray" and "work is prayer."
This focus teaches the monks not "to make success happen but how to let success happen" by cultivating an atmosphere centered on service and selflessness that transforms the person.
Within the "self-supporting" monasteries, the monks focus not only on how to "make their daily bread" and support themselves through production and trade, but also on creating a community.
"The monastery is built on community," Turak said, explaining that communal encouragement and teamwork within monastery walls "buoys everyone up" and creates a culture of virtue and work.
"Everything is about putting someone else first," he added, and this culture is very much attuned to quality that springs from service.
"The monks are unbelievably famous for the quality of their stuff," he noted, pointing to world-renowned Trappist beers, breads, and other products. This quality arises, he said, because the monks are "fanatically focused on serving."
This focus carries over to quality in the secular world as well, he continued, suggesting that the best businesses are focused on serving the customers' needs rather than on profit, promotion or advancement for their own sake.
Paradoxically, he observed, "it is in your own self-interest to forget your self-interest."
This dedication to radical service, rooted in a prayer life, is transformative. Both the human person and his work will thrive through the cultivation of passion, Turak explained, because people have a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves.
"What you really need is a mission," he stressed, commenting that the Trappists' mission of selfless service to God and others is what makes them so inspirational.
However, this transformation and resultant passion and excellence is hard work. "It's easy to say, it's really hard to do. The monks spend their whole lives working toward it."
The continued practice of striving toward one's mission, Turak said, emphasizes teachings from ancient Greek philosophers that "we are what we repeatedly do" and that "excellence is not a choice, it's a habit."
For the Trappists, he said, the habit of excellence ties both work and spiritual success together.
"The monks are not successful despite the fact that they have the highest ethical standards but because they do."
Pope Francis calls for your 'prayer and action'...
By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
Despite attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and joining the U.S. Marine Corps, Thomas Woodhouse was welcomed as a new priest at the Saint Patrick Church in Cumberland, MD despite his late answer to the call. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "The journey ... continue reading
By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
Bishop John Noonan spoke on the first of a two-day Hispanic vocations workshop sponsored by the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors at a Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, New York on October 29. Noonan spoke of the high number of Hispanics ... continue reading
By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
During Pope Francis' U.S. tour, he led mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Though each U.S. mass the pontiff held was touching, it was this homily that stood out among the others with a focus on the words "What about you?" LOS ... continue reading
By Caitlin Bootsma
Many of us benefit from the example and outreach of men and women who are leaders in our Catholic faith. These faithful servants help propel our knowledge and love of the Lord, be it through their witness, their virtue, the ministries they run or-in the case of ... continue reading
By Ann Schneible, CNA/EWTN News
As the Church brings the needs of the family to the forefront with the upcoming Synod this fall, one Dominican sister says it is no surprise that Pope Francis should also dedicate this year to the consecrated life. Rome, Italy, May 18, 2015 / 02:51 pm (CNA/EWTN ... continue reading
By Ambassadors of Christ
Much has been written about and many homilies have lamented the vocation crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States. Religious Orders which used to have large classes of novices each year now go for years without a new entrant. Dioceses which used ... continue reading
By Elise Harris (CNA/ETWN News)
In a wide-ranging, off-the-cuff speech to priests and religious in Naples, Pope Francis addressed various challenges of consecrated life, emphasizing above all the importance of poverty and resisting gossip. ROME, ITALY, March 21 (CNA/EWTN News) - "For me there is a ... continue reading
By Fr Samuel Medley, SOLT
Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke HYTHE, KENT, UK (Catholic Online) - Don't judge me. How many times have you heard this? It is a fascinating phenomenon that the more a person or a culture strays ... continue reading
By Fr Samuel Medley SOLT
I remember the day I started smiling and have not been able to stop since. I was a novice. It was the moment, in a 15 day silent retreat where I discovered in a way that was, at that time and every moment since, beyond my comprehension, how I am tenderly, ... continue reading
By Fr Samuel Medley SOLT
The Word will never be given you without giving you also a mission. It will make you aware of the suffering of the people right next to you that you didn't notice before. It will open your eyes and see the world differently, and make you act differently in ... continue reading