Greetings Brothers and Sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ!
I am an 18 year old who is discerning a vocation, however I have run into an issue. I feel called to the contemplative life. I love the life of the Trappists, and I’m in contact with an Abbey in my area. I will be making a week long retreat there next Easter! The thought of wearing those robes and spending my days in silent work in constant communion with Our Lord is more exciting than I can explain and fills my heart with a joy beyond my own comprehension.
While this vocation sounds amazing, I have three issues with it. First, I have an affinity for speaking/teaching. I have brought multiple friends to the faith and love to teach. Not just religious topics, but I love teaching people history (I’m a HUGE history buff! :D) and people say I’m great at it. In fact, I had multiple classes throughout High School where my teacher asked me to tutor other students or told other students to come to me with their questions. I feel that this talent I have would be wasted in a monastery (unless I was a spiritual/retreat director of some sort). Second, I want to be a priest. I feel called to provide the sacraments (especially Reconciliation), however in the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, the Abbot decides who gets ordained and will only ordain people when needed. Third, and most importantly, I can’t imagine not being able to see my family and to spend time with them. It would break both my parents’ hearts if I could never leave the Abbey to see them. No more ball games with my dad. No more going to lunch with my mom. This is by far my biggest issue with the OCSO.
I have looked into almost every order under the sun over the past 5 years, but none call to me as much as the Trappists. I love the lifestyle of the Franciscans (particularly the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate), yet the Trappists feel the most true to my vocation.
I hope someone could give me some advice! God Bless you all, and have a wonderful day
Greetings Brothers and Sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ!
Thinking through the OCSO’s… I’m not sure you’re going to meet those issues (obviously, the S.O. part).
The OSB’s run St. Meinrad’s seminary, as well as a few colleges/universities. Perhaps they’d be a better avenue?
Remember, with monastic communities, you’re discerning the enclosure, not necessarily the order (at least, as much as you would with, say, the Franciscans).
This is one of the most inspiring posts that I have read in a long, long time. No doubt your parents have prayed for you over your 18 years and will continue to as you discern your vocation. Hopefully you have shared all of your concerns with them and now you need to ask them to pray for you to be open to God’s call for you in your next step, this will make them part of the decision you make. I will also, God bless your journey. Please keep us updated along the way so that we can continue to support you with our prayers.
Saint Michael, the archangel, defend us in battle, be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil, may God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do you, O’ Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God thrust into Hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls.
Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
For Help in Trials
Most holy apostle St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the name of the traitor who delivered your beloved Master into the hands of His enemies has caused you to be forgotten by many. But the Church honors and invokes you universally as the patron of hopeless cases–of things despaired of. Pray for me who feels so hopeless. Make use, I implore you, of that particular privilege accorded to you of bringing visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need, that I may receive the consolations and succor of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations and sufferings, in particular (bkeesee), and that I may bless God with you and all the elect throughout eternity. I promise you, O Blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, and I will never cease to honor you as my special and powerful patron, and to do all in my power to encourage devotion to you. Amen.
Cloister of the heart, first, son! Cloister of the heart!
There are robed preachers out there, not the least of which are the Dominicans. They have a monastic lifestyle, but are sent out to preach.
The Passionists began in Italy, and St. Paul of the Cross wanted their retreats, as the convents are called, built in pastoral settings. They run retreat centers.
The Oratorians don’t make vows; live a life of love; and a true son of St. Philip Neri is known when they’re buried.
The only thing you can do is learn as much as you can about the religious life. I’m glad you’ve got the Trappist retreat lined up. Attend no matter what (unless there’s a death in the family).
The first link below my signature may be helpful. The lion’s share of men’s monastic communities are going to be either Benedictine or Trappist.
I am currently studying to become, by the grace of God, a diocesan priest. From my personal experience and from my brother seminarians I can relate to a lot of what you say. I also spent time discerning between the Benedictines, Trappists, Cistercians, and Diocesan priesthood. As an over arching guide, follow where the Lord gives you peace. You will never have absolute mathematical certitude, however, the Lord will give you spiritual peace when are on the path He made for you. This peace is a peace that ensures you, that although you are not certain, you don’t see where the path will lead, you know the Lord is with you and that you are presently doing what the Lord desires of His beloved.
So it is wonderful that you have a planned extended visit. Start spiritually preparing now, that you might be as open as possible to hearing the voice of the Lord and the prompting of the Holy Spirit then. Guard yourself against the attacks of the Devil and his servants. I can ensure you that he will strive to assault you as you seek to grow closer to the Lord, especially if He is calling you to such a noble vocation. Get in the habit (if you aren’t already) of going to confession regularly, daily mass if possible, Eucharistic adoration, and praying the rosary. All these things will be so helpful in discerning your vocation. There is no need to run to quickly (and burn out your zeal), but it should be helpful to intentionally work towards those things.
On to you objections. I do not pretend to be wise in such matters, and it is truly hard to speak well when not in person concerning such things. But, nonetheless, may the Lord aid me to guide well.
There is one general point for this: the Lord gave us our talents and He knows best how He wants us to serve Him with them. Sometimes He might give us a great gift, and then ask us to give it back to Him. This could be to aid us in growing in humility and poverty. That we might become like children who lovingly give to their parent whatever is asked, because our hearts are so inflamed with love of our parents. Other times, He so often has such greater designs for our talents that we can’t possible imagine. But I can ensure you that if you follow the Lord, how your talents are meant to be used will be made known (at least in hindsight ha).
In my life for example, I studying computer science before entering the seminary after college. I am/was quite skilled in the field. That talent, I have in large part given away, in part as a sacrificial offering to the Lord. But, it does keep coming up. I have helped many of my brothers with their electronics at the seminary. I could list more ways that it has come up but it is sufficient to say that God will use you talents in ways not expected.
So you speak of your ability to teach and speak. In a monastery that is incredible useful. When you enter a monastery you enter a new family, a new community, really a new society. We can have a glorified idea of these places and think that they have no spiritual ailments. That though is not true. All families and communities need people in them to up lift each other and speak the word of God to them. Your talent of speech could be meant to up lift and encourage the faith of your brothers there. They who are your true neighbors, whom you are to love. Further, someone has to teach the new people that come into the community. So you talents, to my eye, could be so fruitful in the up building of a monastic community, even the most cloistered community. For they need someone among them to minister to them.
Is it I want or feel called. Now, I’m not making a judgement. There should be both, if you are called to be a priest. But it can always be fruitful to ask that question to help purify your motives. I too continue ask myself that question, and have been in formation for two years now. The other is that you could be both called to be a priest and to be a cistercian monk. If the Lord intends you to become a priest, that doesn’t mean He intends you to become a priest now or in the near future. It could be that He intends it to happen 30 years from now, and wants you to wait to further purify you, that you might be as silver seven times refined. In any event, if Christ intends you to be His priest and a cistercian monk His will will be done.
There are a couple things here, some of which can be hard to speak on without accidentally causing offense because I don’t know you. So please forgive me for any offense I might make. At the seminary, while talking about a similar topic with my brothers, I realized, those of us called to a vocation other than marriage can overstate our separation from our family. If I was to get married, I wouldn’t see my family that often, because I would be busy with my own family. Now yes I would still get to see my family, however, the focus would become more on my new family of my wife and kids. This doesn’t fully answer your fear of never seeing your family, but I think it is something fruitful to meditate on. Also, you are still young. If you have never spent a long period of time (many months) from your family it can be even more difficult to separate from the family. That time though is coming, unless you live with your family forever. I’m not saying it is easy, or denying your feeling. Myself, I’m preparing to move overseas to continue my seminary studies and won’t see my family for 2 years. I just want give you something to think about. That you are coming to the age where you will be soon separating from you family in some way no matter what. This is part of life, and a naturally intimidating part.
Another point, is that I don’t believe you are completely shut in for the first couple of years. I do think there is a gradual withdrawal so to say. This can be answered by talking to the vocations director at the monastery. So you and your family would have to grow used to your being in the monastery. Yes, it will be hard at first, especially the holidays. But as I said, even if you were married you would no longer be at all the holidays any more. This separation isn’t totally unique to monastic life, but is common in some way to all lives.
My final point, and this is important though it is easy to down play, the other monks truly become your new family. There is a reason to when discerning a Benedictine(-like) vocation isn’t just discerning to be a monk but also a particular community. You, by way of the vow of stability, marry into the monastery in a sense. You become part of the family. It can be hard to understand this with out being actually in the community. If the Lord is calling you to be a monk at a particular Cistercian monastery, then He will give you peace in that community and they will become your family. That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t ever miss your family (especially at first), however, you will still have that peace I spoke of at the beginning.
So my brother, hopefully something of what I have written has stirred your heart and helped you. If you truly think that is your vocation, duc in altum, put out into the deep. The Lord will never take us where His grace can not sustain us. I am only in seminary formation, not even a priest, but truly I have never been so happy or filled with the Love of God as I have been these past two years. Yes it take courage to follow Him. But you can’t imagine the gifts that your loving Lord and Heavenly Father long to give those who follow His will. For we can only be perfectly fulfilled and made perfect by accepting the vocation which Christ has given us. There is our happiness, and there will our hearts rest in God.
Have you considered this?
There are some good resources at the link below:
Brother, you truly are going to make an amazing priest. This helped me so much, and is so meaningful that you would take the time to write this. God Bless You!
One detail I failed to mention was that my parents are not Catholic. I converted to Catholicism when I was 14. The rest of my family is protestant.
Anyway, your message has opened my heart. I need to just put it in God’s hands and he will bring me where I need to be. God has a plan for me, and I spend so much time trying to anticipate his next move, I am forgetting what this is all about. It’s about Him! It’s about HIS plan, not mine. For now, I will pray. Pray. and Pray some more. God, your servant is ready. Do unto me that what you wish.
Thank you so much for your Prayers! You too will be in my prayers. God Bless You!
I have considered the Capuchins! I had a very close friend at my parish who was one of the youth ministers who had been a Capuchin Friar for 14 years before he left the Order. He now has a wife and a son, and is teaching theology at a local Catholic High School.
PS. I love your username!
I thank you for your kind words, and thank the Lord that He might have worked through me. My mother is not catholic and my extended family is not catholic, but are protestant. My father and sisters are catholic though, so I can relate some what (though not completely). My mom was, well, quite surprised and a bit confused when I told her my plans to enter the seminary. By the grace of God she has been lovingly supportive of my journey though. So seek the Lord. If your family is resistant to the vocation itself, pray for them that the Lord might open their hearts to accept His will. I have a friend that was raised Baptist, came into full communion with the Church during college and will be entering the seminary this fall. I’m not sure how his family is with him entering the seminary though. So have courage and pray, and may the Lord’s light guide you.
Brother, know that my prayers are with you and that I hope that you will find strength, grace and peace to follow the inclinations of the Holy Spirit.
My discernment in my life has taken me on a roller coaster and while people would say I flip flop to much, i’ve learned its all a journey to get me home. I grew up in a Pentecostal Holiness and low Anglican/Methodist patrimony. I went to the baptist congregation at 14 and was there until I was about 20 when I went back to the Methodist Church before my conversion in 2011. I am a black sheep, needless to say, and sometimes my family likes to remind me of this in the harshest of ways. Yet, God is with me. In my short time as a Catholic, I have seen every angle of this Church. I’ve the Gaelic Masses in Boston, the Arabic Divine Liturgy of the Melkites, the Slavic Divine Liturgy of the Ruthenians, I have been in religious formation with the Franciscans and the Dominicans, it was all a journey to bring me to where I am now.
For two years, I have been living the Rule of Saint Columba, and I would have never made it here if I hadn’t gone through all of that activity. The Celtic rites are much closer to the Anglican and Eastern Patrimony then the Roman and I needed to live those worship services for a time so that I could understand the peoples and practices that God was calling me to take on. Currently, I am waiting on my membership in the Anglican Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, the Anglican Catholic group started by Pope Benedict XVI. Yet, the formation processes I learned through the Franciscans and Dominicans have aided me in forming myself over these past two years because I’ve seen how its done. My Master’s Degree in Catechesis and Evangelization has provided for me a means of understanding my faith, internalizing it in my heart and proclaiming it in the work I do now.
My point in saying all of this, is be a Penegrati de Christi, a Pilgrim for Christ. This means exit out of the mind and listen to the deep places of the heart. Your heart is in a good place, its clear the Holy Spirit is upon you. How do you be a pilgrim for Christ? By letting go and letting God take the reins. Yes, you have to make a decision, but have you seen any signs that would point you more towards one than another? A wicked generation seeks a sign, so don’t seek one, just sit and ask God to reveal. He will. The Book of Ecclesiasticus talks about taking one day at a time and let God do things in his time, not ours.
When I was discerning whether I should start founding my community, I asked God if he would reveal this to me. The first sign was a green chord that I saw in a picture. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit becomes entrenched in a word, or an image and it draws our attention and we don’t know why. I was in Mass and looked up a the image of Christ crowning Mary and I noticed, the green chord. Green, or Glas in the Old Irish, was representative of self-denial and death to desire. For me and with my spiritual directors guidance, I understood it is the first step that we take to white martyrdom and it is the first step that one must take in order to follow God. When I do wear the white habit of Saint Columba, I wear a green chord with an interlaced Gold chord to symbolize that I must die to my desires that they may become only Christ’s with the help of the Holy Spirit, thusly the Gold. Do away with your desires, let your desires become Christ’s alone.
This takes trust, patience and listening. I am a married man, living religious vows and being married is difficult (working for the Church helps), but my relationship with my wife has helped me to listen to God. By understanding that I need to be patient with her, she doesn’t move very fast on decisions, and wait for her to move so that I can follow her lead, I can understand how God is asking me to be patient and to wait for him to move in my own life. Yet, like with my wife, I have to put my desires away and do what is best for her, just like I have to put my desires away and do what is best for my King.
If you want to teach, find a teaching community, but make sure that’s what God wants and not yourself. I wanted to be a Priest and I wanted to be a Franciscan Friar, but God didn’t want me to be a Franciscan Friar (I’m not quite sure he’s passed me over for the Priesthood yet :p) and that took a lot of me to walk away and put my trust in him.
Know that I am praying for you and that if you ever want to talk, just toss me a private message!