From beer to Belmont, perseverance is a valuable lesson

Brother Tobiah

Brother TobiahBELMONT, NC—Brother Tobiah Abbott, a Benedictine monk at Belmont Abbey, brings many talents to the monastery.
The 47-year-old Greenville native learned about electrical work during a stint in the U.S. Coast Guard, has grown bonsai trees, dabbled in photography and even brews his own beer.
Monks have made homemade beer for centuries, and Brother Tobiah carries on the tradition with a brew he makes twice a year. He started learning  the craft from an uncle in 1987.
“It’s a neat hobby, but a little time-consuming,” he said. He brews and bottles pale and dark ales in the basement monastery. Each batch makes about five gallons, which he shares with friends and family.
His skills are as varied as the spiritual journey that brought him to the monastery.
After he graduated from Southside High School in Greenville, the brother’s years in the Coast Guard took him to Alaska, Hawaii, New York and Okinawa, Japan. Before taking vows, he held a variety of jobs, including work at a Christian bookstore and at the BMW plant in Greenville.
He was raised Baptist but started attending a Lutheran church in his 30s because he was drawn to the liturgical style of worship. Extensive study and reading about church history eventually drew him to study Catholicism. He attended RCIA at St. Luke Mission in Easley and converted in 2002.
Brother Tobiah started thinking about where life was leading him, and realized his plans didn’t fit with what he describes as the “American mindset of high school, then college or the military, start a family, work and then retirement.”
“I started thinking more and more about working in the church, and started studying different religious orders after attending a vocations retreat,” he said.
He entered Belmont Abbey as a postulant in 2005, but left briefly to work, travel and continue his discernment process. This included a visit to Kentucky’s Abbey of Gethsemani, a Trappist monastery. 
He was drawn back to Belmont’s Benedictine style of life, which mixes daily prayer and work, and returned in 2008 to take temporary vows.
“I really felt more comfortable with the balance of things here, work outside and work inside,” Brother Tobiah said.
He has studied monastic history and Scripture, attends prayer four times daily and daily Mass, and also does a variety of jobs on campus, from taking care of monastery vehicles and maintenance issues to serving as director of the abbey cemetery.
He said many people have misconceptions that monastic life is one of constant quiet and solitude. Instead, he said the Benedictine rule allows for a healthy mix of prayer, study, work and time to interact with friends and family.
“As a monk, you start looking at yourself internally, learn more about yourself, what you need to change and what you’re good at,” Brother Tobiah said. “Because you’re also in a community, you have to learn to better live with people and also learn more about perseverance.”
Perseverance is a helpful lesson in all facets of life, he said, even in the craft of making beer. Brother Tobiah said he wants to create many varieties, including lagers and his own home-crafted winter brew.