Lately, I’ve been feeling a call to some kind of lay brotherhood, a calling involving poverty, chastity, obedience, manual labour, and not involving the priesthood.
Are there any monasteries which still have a distinctive group of lay brothers who live under a specific rule? I think historically the Cluniac and Carthusian monks had this distinction, having lay brothers who cooked, cleaned and dealt with the running of the place so that the choir monks could dedicate themselves totally to prayer and contemplation. I know the Carthusian brothers in England do manual labour though, which I guess is because they don’t have any lay brothers any more to do this for them. It does seem like a radically counter-cultural thing to do in our democratic, egalitarian society.
I’ve felt that a real temptation in my life is intellectual pride. I’m studying for my PhD, and the secular course of my life would be to go into lecturing or policy consultancy. At the same time, I know everything I’ve ever written has been intellectually dishonest. I have a real passion for physical work in the service of God. I’ve never been happier than when cooking at the nightshelter or cleaning the Church. The idea of really quashing this under a discipline which was traditionally reserved for men referred to as illiterati or even idioti, in order to support the most holy work of priests religious would be wonderful.
Anybody know of any monasteries that still have lay brothers? I don’t mean lay brothers who are waiting to begin their training as priests, but a permanent division of lay monks and choir monks.