Cloistered Monasticism: an effective 'escape'?


#1

Is it a legitimate reason to enter a strictly monastic, cloistered life in order to avoid temptations that one would face by remaining in the world? There are times when I feel that I should 'escape,' and 'flee to the desert' in order to 'work out' some of the bad habits I have gotten into since adolescence. One of the areas I suffer from the most is chastity. Being in the world, it's right there in front of you, and you almost cannot escape. The only 'escape' I can think of would be a strictly cloistered life. There would be far less temptations throwing themselves at you in the form of media, etc. It's my way of interpreting what the saints have said: that you can't stand a chance just fighting sexual temptation face-to-face, but that it's better to just run from it. What I mean is this: in terms of life choice, if you really can't avoid temptation, what are you supposed to do? Some argue: "you have to get married", in view of what St. Paul says ("Better to marry than to burn"). Others will argue: "Those problems aren't going to magically disappear once you're married." Some will argue that becoming a monk won't solve your problems either. But I find ample examples in the history of Church of people who fled in order to become holy, and to avoid temptations. Considering these two very important points, which is the more realistic one? Could this be a sign from God that I am called to monasticism? Or could this be a sign that I should be married, in order 'not to burn'?

God bless!


#2

I am not a spiritual director, and it appears you need one. Anyone who is discerning a vocation needs one. I don't believe that your problems could be solved by anyone on this forum because we do not know you. However, based on your question, I believe that yours is a complex question. No one can say for sure whether or not the temptations you face presently would disappear in religious life, or whether they will be magnified. St. Teresa of Avila faced many temptations pre-religious life and she chose to run to the convent to avoid marriage. Even she agreed that this was not the best solution, but it turned out that God turned the seemingly negative event into a positive by showing her that He was indeed calling her to religious life. She is now a Doctor of the Church!

I think something can be said for those who leave everything behind and follow Christ, but it must be chosen willingly--not on a whim and not to avoid something. It is a free choice of the will--one that will be questioned upon Profession of Vows.

There may be temptations that you cannot leave behind when you enter religious life. I am thinking of St. Padre Pio who was tempted by the devil to violate a woman during his priestly service. No matter how holy he was, he was tempted greatly. This is proof that temptations cannot be checked at the door when you enter the monastery. We are human beings--fallible creatures. Our temptations will not cease until we go on to our eternal reward.

Find yourself a spiritual director. I don't want to dissuade you from discerning a vocation, but you need to ask yourself if you are doing it for the right reasons. God bless.


#3

I would think that if one entered monastic life to escape the world and all the temptations and problems encountered living in the world, one may find after a short time in the silence of a monastic cloister and the associated problems along with the very close living of individuals in monastic life, that one wanted to escape all that to return to the world preferring its particular struggles than those of monastic life.

Any vocation, including monastic of course, is a call from God with all the Graces
necessary to live the life and lifestyle whatever it may be, to negotiate its particular trials and difficulties. Desiring to escape is not a vocation or call from God I dont think, it is merely a human desire to escape problems. Escape is a running away from and not a running to, and to unite onself with, God's Will for one's life with trust and Faith.

No Christ without His Cross - hence every way of life and vocation is going to have trials, temptations, difficulties and God's Grace to meet them all.

Because I find something distasteful and not my cup of tea, because I find other matters, traditions etc. appealling to me really simply states that we are all different and unique and that we are all called and created quite different and unique human beings. Many of the ancient customs of monastic life that still exist to some degree or other, I find some really beautiful (some find them distasteful in some way) and can find them meaningful and a witness of some kind - but I could not live them as my vocation and call. I simply do not have that vocation and call from God and as simple as that.

TS


#4

But I find ample examples in the history of Church of people who fled in order to become holy, and to avoid temptations. Considering these two very important points, which is the more realistic one? Could this be a sign from God that I am called to monasticism? Or could this be a sign that I should be married, in order ‘not to burn’?

I think probably that The Church has developed the theology of vocation beyond what it once was and that was strictly limited to the priesthood and religious life - that was what back then we understood the word “vocation” to mean i.e. priesthood or religious life. Back then the world too was thought of as something to be despised on some level, to turn one’s back on it completely in order to live a deeply spiritual and holy life. Nowadays we insight the world as The Lord’s vineyard and that lay people specifically (but not necessarily only) are called to work within it as leaven to and in the world and to grow in the midst of the world in holiness and God’s Grace is not lacking. The theology of The Sacrament of Marriage too is nowadays developed beyond marrying because one cannot or fears one will not be able to control sexual instincts (“better to marry than to burn”) and without saying more about such a reason in any way or the Sacrament of Marriage itself.

I also tend to think, and my opinion only and despite what I have said in the previous post, that a desire to flee the temptations and problems that do exist in the world and to grow in holiness is an attraction not so much to escape per se perhaps/possibly as perhaps an attraction to grow in holiness in a specific way of life and hence possibly a form of attraction to the priesthood, religious life etc. including a monastic life as a way of embarking on the road to holiness. And attraction to a particular way of life or role in The Church is one of the signs of a vocation to that way of life or role.
Hence you could have a vocation to monastic life - or you could have a vocation to marriage and were it me I would be looking for a spiritual director to guide and direct discernment re escape per se or Graced attraction and to what.
Coupled with attraction to a particular way of life, when vocation is present, God also gifts to that person the necessary qualities to live that particular way of life. Finally, an actual vocation to a certain lifestyle or way of life also means that one is accepted into that way of life however such acceptance is expressed.

TS


#5

There is no cloister wall so high, no monastery so remote that the spirit of the world cannot enter.


#6

Very true :thumbsup:


#7

Very true indeed.
My experience is that enclosed contemplatives are often very informed on what is happening in the world, have opinions about it and what is taking place, along with prayer for it and those of us called to stay in it and as leaven, for one - without embracing those values and concepts, or spirit, that are not founded in The Gospel and do abound in the world - and nor should we. Christ did not separate Himself physically from His own times and world - quite to the contrary. Rather He lived in the world exampling and proclaiming His Gospel. Contemplatives witness to Christ going apart to a mountain top to be alone and pray for one. And we too need to spend some alone time in prayer.
I rather like what Thomas Merton had to say in Contemplation in a World of Action which was that contemplatives should share the fruits of their contemplation' in the parlour' - that is they can also be of great support even advice to us through our conversations with them in the parlour, reading the books they write etc.

TS


closed #8

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