Cloistered nuns and monks, and hermits. What are they actually doing?

Question:

What’s up with them? Isn’t it unproductive and wasteful effort, to be so focused on prayer that you are shut off from the world, instead of working in the world to change it?

Christ surely dedicated time and isolated himself in prayer in the desert, the Garden, and on Moutn Tabor, but these were only temporary streches. Most of the time, he was in the world, not seperated from it. Following His example, shouldn’t cloistered communities be ushered out of their isolation?

Your answers are greatly appreciated.

I actually think it’s a beautiful thing to have people that continually give praise to God. Their devotion to prayer let’s the rest of us know it can be done

If prayer is effective, if God listens to us, then devoting one’s life to prayer ** is** an attempt to change the world.

Cloistered nuns and monks, and hermits. What are they actually doing?


Question:

What’s up with them? Isn’t it unproductive and wasteful effort, to be so focused on prayer that you are shut off from the world, instead of working in the world to change it?

Christ surely dedicated time and isolated himself in prayer in the desert, the Garden, and on Moutn Tabor, but these were only temporary streches. Most of the time, he was in the world, not seperated from it. Following His example, shouldn’t cloistered communities be ushered out of their isolation?

Your answers are greatly appreciated.

Bezant:

Well, for one thing I believe in the power of prayer so not only are they prayer warriors for the World but they can further their religious education while being in a setting that allows them to contemplate The Lord’s ways and His word.
Some may also be Charismatics for the church, and again in a cloistered community they may be receiving direction and inspiration that would benefit many.
And then again, some don’t always stay in the cloistered community but leave and take the skills they learn while there in order to help other’s set up and get to work in certain areas they may have been having problems in, like maybe for instance a youth group may be inspired and motivated by such a person to go out and do great things in their communities
My friend is a former Monk and so is my Preist, he is also a Scientist, a geologist=and if he were sent to another country I’m sure his skills may come in to play to help other’s somehow.
My friend, who has MS is now living/working in a community in the south were less fortunate people live and many of their children are “not welcome” at the local churches so he has Bible school on his front porch on Sunday mornings for them.
But then again, there are always oppotunities for people, no matter where you are or live, to do great good.
One Monestary grows all their own food and trees and cuts the trees to make beautiful caskets, crosses and other burial containers and they not only make their living providing people all over the world with their services but I am sure they do good things for their community as well. Many Monestarys are “working” communities, even wineries, and we all know what we have use or need for the wine is…smile.

Peace & Love & good Question! M:gopray:

They do not waist time at all, in fact, they are making the best use of time they possibly can. They devote themselves entierly to the Lord, and shut out the world of sin. God love and cherishes them. Many of the greatist Saints, including my patrion Padre Pio, were members of religious orders.

Luke 10

38: Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house.
39: And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
40: But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
41: But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;
42: one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”

“Unproductive and wasteful?” Hardly. Their main purpose is to become holy (as ours is) and to pray for the world. You would be surprised at how much they are aware of what is going on in the world. Someone among the cloister reads the newspapers and passes along the important things that need prayer. People are constantly contacting them for prayer for specific intentions. They pray for bishops and priests. They make reparation for the sins of others and for the callousness and neglect of many who call themselves Christians. They are the powerhouses of the Church.

They generally support themselves by many different means—making communion hosts, making beer and wine to sell, making coffins, baking bread, making honey and jams, selling coffee, some paint, some translate religious books from foreign languages. Some houses offer retreats.

They are not always on their knees praying. They also cook and clean and take care of many of the other normal household chores of any family, those that don’t require leaving the monastery grounds.

I Benzant, if you are not satisfied with the answers here, I have a personal friend who is a Cloistered Monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky. I could relay a message. They do post a lot of basic information on their site, which he helps maintain:

monks.org/

God Bless

Some Orthodox Jews devote many hours of the day to Torah study and prayer, which is considered the highest honor. However, Judaism does not believe in separating oneself from the turmoil of the world, preferring to make an effort to change it for the better. Still, I see nothing wrong with what cloistered nuns and monks do by devoting much of their lives to prayer. On the contrary, I think it is a noble calling, which requires great self-discipline and relinquishing of self-interest for the love for G-d. And I also agree with what others have said, that prayer has the power to change the world.

Cloistered monks, nuns and hermits have been around since the early ages of the Church. They leave the world to devote themselves to pray and sacrifice for us out here in the world.

I once heard a priest give the reason why there are cloistered religious. He said that their prayers keep the wrath of God from striking the world for its sins.

And as someone here has said, they also do the ordinary everyday work of caring for a house, plus support themselves by growing or making things to sell.

We need more cloistered religious, especially in these evil days!

And besides, any good Bishop worth his salt ALWAYS invites a group of cloistered religious to come to his diocese and give prayer support for his endeavors!

Their lives are NEVER A WASTE! NEVER!

Give me one example how prayer is an unproductive and wasteful effort for anyone, cloistered or not.

Through a profound prayer life cloistered communities are working to change the world.

Christ also devoted a huge part of his life to study and prayer; He had to in order to be the scholar and teacher that He was. In this respect, cloistered communities are following His example.

They pray for those who can’t, won’t, or don’t pray for themselves!

Who knows how many miracles their uncessing prayer has wrought?

Well to understand the wonder of what they are doing, **we need first to believe in the power of prayer. **

If one doesn’t attach much faith or trust in prayer, if one thinks prayers go unheard or are never acted upon by God (and I don’t mean they are necessarily answered as we would wish), but if we were to think that in praying we were just talking to nothing, and engaging in a pointless exercise - well then, yes, such a question as yours would make sense.

However, if we do believe in the power of prayer and understood how God loves us to communicate with Him, to find out His will, to learn how to live as Christ did - well then, hey, if we really udnerstood it, there would probably be a race on to the cloisters! Spending our days talking to God our Creator who is really the only One who *truly *loves us, knows our uniqueness and wishes nothing but the best for us for all eternity - did you ever think that maybe it was us on the outside of the cloisters who were missing out on this privileged and constant one-to-one relationship with Love itself?

Christ our Lord said that we are not righteous unless we truly feed, clothe, give drink, shelter, and keep company in faith. Those who are unjust avoid the works of mercy and charity. The Saviour also said that we must “pray always”, and we know from the Old Testament that the prayer of a righteous man is always heard by God. Doesn’t this mean we must do the righteous works of charity and mercy, while praying always?

It seems, to me, to be a fallacy to say that monks and cloistered nuns pray where we cannot pray. Our Lord expects everyone to pray all the time, not to foist it off on those who live in community and cloister. This seems to be an excuse or a mishap. :frowning:

A great joy open to every human being regardless of state of life.

did you ever think that maybe it was us on the outside of the cloisters who were missing out on this privileged and constant one-to-one relationship with Love itself?

I certainly didn’t, because the Master said we ALL have to pray ALWAYS. There is no more perfect and privileged relationship than the Eucharist. We all have it!

They’re like the gas that keeps the Church running- that’s how I think of them.

We need both active and contemplative religious. They each fulfill an aspect of Jesus’ ministry on Earth.

THe entire world is being held up by their constant prayer.

Some might take such an impied dichotomy badly and reply in a way less than charitable (or not, written words have a way of coming off more harsh than they were intended to be) while others might rightly defend the validity of a life of prayer - or both, as the case may be. I think it might be most fruitful to challenge the dichotomy itself. If one grants that prayer is good and that faithful action is good, how is it legitimate to decry one, the other, or both approaches? Judas was chastized for alleging that treating God in the flesh with expensive perfume was less good than selling it and distributing the funds to the poor (with motivations in place which I would not apply to you in my wildest dreams were very strict criteria not met, if you indulge me to disclaim). Likewise, are all teachers or prophets? I posit that it is far more dangerous to the Faith to factionalize over which is the greatest good (so long that the “good” in question is truly good insofar as it is called such by the totality of Tradition, I disclaim yet again so as to not devolve into discussion of various brands of “social justice” - if you recognize the buzz-word) than it is to accept that others may advance the good by means more appropriate to the context of their particular gifts and situations.

The cloistered monastic life, as an aside, has always impressed me as I am often prone to forget that our actions are all in vain but for the grace given us by God which works through us for the conversion and sanctification of souls. One whose only influence on the world is prayer has a measure of faith I hope I can one day posess.

Praying…working…living in the presence of God…celebrating the Mass etc…

Here is my favorite order…The Carthusian Order

chartreux.org/en/frame.html

chartreux.org/en/frame.html

chartreux.org/en/frame.html

chartreux.org/en/frame.html

“MARY HAS CHOSEN THE BETTER PART” Luke 10:38-42
Hello Bezant … and all Brothers and Sisters in Christ –
You asked, “What’s up with them” … the contemplatives, I mean? That’s a good question … and deserves some good thinking and a good response.

We should approach this matter with a threefold attitude > **1-**realizing that there is a hierarchy of values and that we are very earthly minded .. and **2-**seeking to understand things in more (nearly) complete pictures instead of the rather narrow views of things we are accustomed to .. and **3-**asking Holy Spirit to help us see this matter as God sees it and not just the way we’re inclined to see it.

What will we be doing in Heaven? in the Beatific Vision?  Preaching?  No.  Teaching?  No.  Administrating a hospital?  No.  Running a food kitchen for the poor and hungry?  No.  Doing construction work for needed new housing?  No.

What WILL we be doing in the Beatific Vision?  We will be making Love with God and with all the saints and angels .. glorifying and praising and thanking God .. in a JOY beyond our present understanding.  We will be sharing and doing what God does in Eternity.

What we will be doing in Heaven, in the Beatific Vision, will be far more valuable and far more participating in joy and far more productive than the greatest accomplishments for the Kingdom of God than ever were possible for us to do on earth.

We have the Gospels to help us here.  The Mary and Martha story given us in **Luke** 10;39-42.  Aside from all the varying interpretations of scholars through the centuries, there does seem to be a pretty plain and clear and basic golden meaning given us by Jesus.  Mary, representing the contemplative side, is said by Jesus to have “chosen the better part” .. “and it will not be taken from her.”  Martha’s part, the way of outward work and observable activity, is good and necessary.  But Mary has chosen the *better* part.

Dear God, give us the Marthas we need.  We cannot function without them.  But even moreso give us the Marys we need .. or we won’t function at all.

Jesus did all of these things.  Most of all he *obeyed in silence and inactivity for thirty years* ..  before he stepped into the intense teaching and preaching and choosing and forming and administrating of his active life.

The Church imitates Jesus in her various activities, in the various institutional orders, in her very differing sons and daughters and their works and activities and charisms.  The contemplative orders in the Church are very necessary and are “the better part.”

I point out to you especially the Carthusians, who have only one monastery in all North America > [transfiguration.chartreux.org/](http://transfiguration.chartreux.org/)  Several in Europe, yes.  Most Catholics are not even aware of their existence.  They have recently been praised very highly by Pope John Paul II.  (I say “recently” because we’re thinking here in terms of many centuries.)

Pope Pius XI wrote a special Apostolic Constitution praising them named *Umbratilem* > [transfiguration.chartreux.org/Umbratilem.htm](http://transfiguration.chartreux.org/Umbratilem.htm) 

These contemplatives and others like them are most certainly *not* separated from the world.  On the contrary, they are most intimately spiritually engaged with the world.  All the sons and daughters of God and saints and angels in Heaven are *The Communion of Saints* .. and especially are the contemplatives the most alive and spiritual and spiritually productive of Family members.

Let us not think and understand as worldly and earthly people do but rather as spiritually alive in the Holy Spirit people think and understand.

“Mary has chosen the better part .. and it shall not be taken away from her.”
I enjoyed sharing with you.          John   (JohnJFarren)

oops…I see you can not link to the individual pages…just click on the left side…especially all the links under Carthusian way of life…

Brother JR gave a very good explanation of the monastic life here:

forums.catholic.com/showpost.php?p=4255391&postcount=16

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.