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Our History

North of the town of Spencer, Massachusetts, at the crest of a steeply sloping hill blanketed in oak, maple and pine, but bared in part by farmed meadows and broad pasturelands, rests Saint Joseph’s Abbey, a cloistered Roman Catholic monastery of monks of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, popularly known as Trappists. Set apart from the actions and trends of most of their neighbors, they live a contemplative life, dedicating themselves to the praise and worship of God in a hidden life within their monastery. Following Saint Benedict’s sixth century Rule for Monasteries, the monks live in silence and solitude, in prayer and penitence, thus rendering God “a service that is at once humble and noble.” Since the brothers are of one heart and one mind, they have everything in common for the monastery is a school of love.

The Lord Jesus, revealed in scripture and holy tradition, is their strength. The monks are guided in the practice of the spiritual life through the direction and counsels of their abbot.

The Order began in France in 1098 as a reform stressing simplicity of life and careful fidelity to the Rule. God’s wonderful grace has sustained this endeavor through the centuries including our own history as a religious community beginning in 1825.

The history of a monastic community, like the story of any family, is a narrative of perseverance and adaptation. The monastic reformers who founded the Cistercian Order in 1098 identified themselves as “lovers of the Rule and of the place.” The monks of Saint Joseph’s Abbey rejoice in their legacy and try to embody that same love.

Cistercian Beginnings

The Foundation of Petit Clairvaux 1825-1857

The Second Founding 1857-1900

Our Lady of the Valley 1900-1950

Saint Joseph’s Abbey 1950-2000