Do Trappist Monks and Nuns take the vow of silence?

For hundreds of years, Trappist monks and nuns have been known for living a very silent life. Consequently, people commonly know Trappists as “the monks who don’t talk.” They know we take vows and so naturally suppose we take a vow of silence.

The truth is, Trappists have never actually taken an explicit vow of silence.

We take three vows, which have their source in the Rule of St. Benedict, written in the sixth century:

  • A vow of Stability, promising to live the rest of our lives with one monastic community
  • A vow of Obedience to an abbot
  • A Vow of “Conversion of Manners”, the promise to live the monastic life in all its parts as described by the Rule of St. Benedict and the Constitutions of our Order.

This last vow of “conversion” takes in the practice of celibacy, fasting, manual labor, separation from the world and silence. It then remains for the monk or nun to apply themselves faithfully to the observance of silence characteristic of their own community.

Relative to the way most people live, this is definitely a commitment to pretty radical silence.

A Trappist monastery is a quiet place! In a Trappist monastery, monks typically have three motivations to speak to one another: to get a particular work project carried out efficiently, to engage in a community discussion, or to discuss one’s spiritual progress with a director or confessor.

Sometimes, too, Trappists will enjoy friendly conversations with each other in a conversation room or in nature. These different types of conversation are balanced with the discipline of fostering a general atmosphere of silence in the monastery.

Trappists find the silence helps them to practice continual prayer. But, strictly speaking – no, we do not explicitly vow to be silent on the day we make our profession of vows.