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The longest lasting of the western monastic orders, the Benedictine Order traces its origins to the adoption of the monastic life by St. Benedict of Nursia in the early 6th century. Benedict, founder of the monastery of Monte Cassino between Naples and Rome, wrote a "Rule" or plan of life for his monastery that remains an influence on monasticism today, the Rule of St Benedict.

The motto of the Benedictine Order is: ora et labora, or "pray and work." Benedictine life stresses both. Benedict, as leader of the group of men that grew up around him, developed a plan of life that stressed balance and moderation: a vegetarian diet, regular hours for sleep, regular hours for prayer, and regular hours for manual labor. The model for the monastic life under Benedict was the family, with the abbot as father and all the monks as brothers. Priesthood was initially an unimportant part of monasticism - monks used the services of their local pastor. Because of this, female monasticism with an abbess as mother worked as well as male monasticism.

See also:

Cistercian Order
Trappist Order