Our Story

As Thomas Merton observes in his survey of various monastic houses:

"Nourished by the purest sources of monastic tradition, a student of Scripture and the Fathers, Dom Damasus (Winzen - our founder) has attempted to return to the primitive simplicity of Saint Benedict."

Merton goes on to write that, until the founding of Mount Saviour Monastery: "North America had only known the Benedictines of the great missionary congregations." The need now exists, he argued, for "the particular kind of monastic life", represented by Mount Saviour.

Four monks came together in upstate New York in 1951 to dedicate their lives to God and to one another. Although many Benedictine monasteries in the US have schools at which some of us were educated, the founder wished to offer a monastery that sustained itself on the land in the garden, orchard, kitchen, arts and crafts, farm.

The place chosen sits in the hills overlooking the valley below and is remote from town and city life about six miles or more away. It contained three farms: one farmstead at the top of the hill, where the monastery buildings are now, and two more homes and barns down the dirt road. It wasn’t long before vocations abounded: moving quickly from less than half dozen monks in 1951 to more than twice that in three years, so that there was need to create more buildings - both for worship and to house the monks. By 1955 a chapel was built and a domicile for the community, the latter built adjacent to the old farm house at the top of the hill. Five years later the community had again doubled in size to the point we needed still larger buildings.

Our day is centered around seven times of prayer. After rising at 4:30, we begin with the night office, known as Vigils or Matins in the crypt of the chapel. Then Morning Prayer, known as Lauds, sung in the upper chapel, at dawn. Around 9 AM on most days the Eucharist Liturgy is celebrated. At noon we have a moment of prayer called Sext and again in mid-afternoon another moment of prayer called None. In the evening we have the other pivotal hour to Lauds known as Vespers. Concluding the day, we come together once more to sing Compline, consisting of three psalms accompanied by a brother with the harp.

Interspersed with the times of communal prayer are times for personal meditation, reflection, lectio divina, in the first hours of the day. Later in the day the brothers work at the various tasks of the day: pottery, artistry, farming, tending an orchard, a vegetable garden, apiary, tailoring, cooking, library, sculpturing, guest reservations for retreat and administration.


At noon we gather for prayer and then the noon day meal and then in mid-afternoon for prayer. In the evening several times a week we come together to prepare the chant for the coming week, recreate, watch a movie, and on occasion, such as brothers’ names’ days have a party.

From the beginning the monastery has offered hospitality to persons that wish to come away to make a retreat. To that end we provide dwellings for individuals, couples, groups.

In talking about our life, we are acutely aware that were it not for the generosity of others (guests, oblates, benefactors, friends) none of this would be possible. The prayer, financial and material support, physical assistance we have received from the beginning and it continues to this day is a testimony to the value and significance of our life.

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Original Monastery land

Chapel construction

Monastery 1970

Vigils

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Richards

Casa West Casa East

West Building

Br John

 

Fr Martin in the barn

 

St James

 

Br Victor

 

Br James

 

Br Pierre

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