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Benedictine monastery has a history of helping others

Above: A religious icon at Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside. Courtesy photo

“A monk is a man who is separated from all and who is in harmony with all.

Evagarius Ponticus 399 A. D.

OCEANSIDE — The Prince of Peace Abbey is a majestic Benedictine monastery that reigns atop Oceanside’s Benet Hill.

Father Charles Wright is among the 26 Friars, ranging in age between 30 and 90, with nine ordained as Priests that live within its “orbit” to serve the Lord, each other and the surrounding community.

The “racially and culturally diverse” commune, as described by Father Wright, touts a 50-year history steeped in 1500 years of Roman Catholic traditions.

Seeking God through prayer, liturgical worship, prayerful readings, work, and a communal life, the monastery exists under the guidance and jurisdiction of the Abbey’s abbot and the “Holy Rule” as dictated by Benedict, a Roman Catholic Saint.

Father Charles, a former Abbot, defined the life of a monk as “one who seeks God.”

Monastic days begin in prayer and end in prayer.

Daily Liturgical worship includes Divine Offices of Vigils, Lauds, Sext, Vespers, Compline and daily Mass. Hymns, Psalms, readings, responsories, prayers, and canticles are all included.

Prayerful readings are devoted to Sacred Scriptures, spiritual, religious and theological writings.

Work becomes a God-given tool for sanctification.

Prince of Peace Abbey. Photo by Lucia Viti

Benedictine Monks historically serve as teachers, artists, musicians, farmers, shepherds, craftsmen, missionaries, scholars, even scientists. They live and die in one monastery their entire lives.

Because Monks are not linked with schools or parishes, they’re free to remain within the confines of their monastic life. However, most Benedictine monasteries assist parish ministries, schools and retreat centers.

Brother Benno Garrity, (1910-1992), is a Prince of Peace Abbey legend who worked outside of the Abbey.

Affectionately known as Brother Benno, the Abbey’s cook baked 350 loaves of bread every Wednesday to feed the poor and to thank those who rendered aid. He also delivered donated produce, fruit, and milk sidetracked from “slopping the hogs,” to the poor and senior citizen centers.

As word of his selfless giving spread, the Abbey formed the Brother Benno Center to assist migrant workers, military families and the poor in San Diego and Tijuana. The Abbey continues to network with the Women’s Help Line, the Ecumenical Food Bank, and the Brother Benno Center.

Father Wright explained that all Benedictine monasteries trace their origins to their Mother Abbey – Our Lady of Einsiedeln founded in Switzerland in 835 A.D.  

The Prince of Peace Abbey tracks its historical roots to San Diego’s Bishop Charles Buddy who invited monks to the area to search for a monastic residency. Saint Meinrad Archabbey of Indiana, founded in 1854, “answered the call” in 1957. The Prince of Peace Abbey was founded in 1958.

Construction and reconstruction on the former ranch began immediately. Monks lived in town – and later in donated trailers – while a small one-bedroom house was transformed into living quarters and a chapel. In 1960, the East Wing – seven rooms and showers attached to the original ranch house – was completed. The ranch house became the kitchen, refectory and oratory.

Wooden crosses located on the grounds of Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside. Photo by Lucia Viti

As the community grew, so did the Abbey. By 1965, the grounds included a library, gift shop, porter’s office, cafeteria, kitchen, and ten additional retreat rooms. Five years later, a bakery sidled the kitchen.

In 1980, renowned architect and artist, Father Gabriel Chávez de la Mora, OSB, spearheaded the design and building of the church. The artistically breathtaking, donation-only funded project was completed in 1987. The Abbey’s cemetery borders the church.

Thirty monk “cells” – with panoramic ocean views – were also erected.  An eight-room novitiate followed suit. A switch-back dirt road was paved in 1986.

A Chapter House, recreation room, and classrooms were completed in 2002 followed by new conference rooms, a new porter’s office, gift shop and lobby.

Today, two dining rooms host those who choose to eat in silence and those who don’t.  

Father Wright noted that the Abbey’s “mostly donated” library includes “a vast collection” of over 40,000 books and periodicals covering philosophy, psychology, theology, foreign language, science, art, literature and history.

Photo by Lucia Viti

Audio cassettes, CDs, VHS films, phonograph records, foreign and domestic postage stamp albums, rocks, sea shells, photography, art, picture and news files can also be found.

Two-thousand scripture writings, Bibles and New Testaments are available in 54 languages.

According to Father Wright, The Prince of Peace Abbey offers individual and group retreats (up to 45) for those seeking quiet reflection from “distractions and duties” to focus on their relationship with God as “a spiritual renewal designed to listen to the Lord, set goals, or create change.”

The “contemplative” Benedictine monastery allows public access to daily Mass, silent prayer, and an outdoor prayer walk of the Stations of the Cross. Sunday Mass hosts a standing room only crowd.

Liturgical offices, the gift shop and the library are also open to the public.

Bordering Camp Pendleton, the 130-acre sanctuary is rich with scrub oak, cactus, sage, milkweed, bougainvillea, oleander, pine, eucalyptus, palm and olive trees, rabbits, squirrels, bobcats, opossums, raccoons, coyotes, red hawks, ravens, hummingbirds, rattlers and even a pair of owls.

For those in search of prayer, solace, tranquility and a sense of the Divine Trinity, The Prince of Peace Abbey may be just what you are looking for.