The monk lives in what the first Cistercians termed a "school of Love". In the Gospels, Jesus calls us to "Come, follow me", "Pray always" and "Watch and pray". The first monks of Egypt and Syria heard this call and were inspired to leave home, family and possessions and go into the desert to give their undivided attention to God. There they sought total openness to the Spirit of the Risen Christ by a life centered upon meditation on his word, on prayer and on the struggle for purity of heart.
At a later stage in Italy, Saint Benedict wrote a rule for monks. The Rule of Benedict is that of a stable and enclosed community, whose daily activities are divided between work, worship, reading and rest. It's goal is the perfect love of God expressed in the practice of obedience, silence, humility, service of others and in all things "preferring nothing whatever to Christ" Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 72. In 1098 a small group of Benedictine monks founded a new monastery in central France called Citeaux (Cistercium in latin).