How to choose between the various forms of consecrated life?


I am absolutely certain that consecrated life is God’s will for me, but I am SO lost as to which form is the will of God. My first interest to consecrated life came through a smashing love for hermits and the desert fathers. But now that I’m actually discerning religious life (with the help of a spiritual director) and have visited a few communities, I am terribly confused. I’ve visited both active and cloistered contemplative communities and am entirely lost. How do I choose between active and contemplative life? If the answer to my quest is contempative life, then how do I choose between being a diocesan hermit or a discalced carmelite (who are basically hermits in community)?

I wish it were possible for me to join a Maronite monastery. They are wonderful! There you pray and work and if God calls you to it, you can live the life of a hermit. I’m so confused. I wish I could just go off into the desert and do my own hermity thing, but I live where it is extremely cold and so it is impossible to live out in the middle of no where. The sick and elderly of the native americans who lived around here would leave their communities to go die alone so they wouldn’t be a burden on the healther ones of their native band. It is literally impossible to live out on your own here. The eskimos lived primitively for thousands of years… some pampered whitey like me could NEVER do it. But clearly my ranting shows where my heart is. I so strongly yearn to be silent and quiet before the Lord, however when I see no other signs that God is leading me to join any cloistered monasteries. So…I’m so confused.

Yes I’m talking with my SD about this, obviously. But I’m hoping for a fresh perspective. If I were to follow what I see the Lord doing, I’d join the active order. BUT their primary charism doesn’t work with my skills or temperment and they do not have much silent prayer, which is what I live for. Please help…


You might look for a cloistered or “mixed” community of religious who have some who are active and some who are cloistered. A good example are the Nuns founded by Mother Angelica. Some of the Sisters live in an area outside the Cloister, but adjoining it, and deal with the visitors and pilgrims. The rest of the Nuns are cloistered within the “wall”. A good place to start might be with the Benedictines – their motto is “prayer and work”. (Ora et labora). Some are active (apostolic) working with the local area, and some are cloistered. The cloistered Nuns stay within the cloister except to go to the Doctor each year, necessary visits to Dentists, and to vote. Some cloistered Nuns are permitted to visit either the local Diocesan Cathedral on special occasions, and stay in a local Convent while there. They are not Hermits, who live in individual 1 or 2 room buildings within the enclosure. There is a small Convent in Colorado, originally from Europe, who are all Hermits, very strict, and all live in small homes of a couple of rooms, gather only for Mass and prayers and perhaps for Christmas and Easter. Otherwise each lives completely isolated on their grounds. Their entrance requirements are quite strict. If you want a really strict and quiet cloister, but within a convent community, you’d probably be interested in the Discalced Carmelites, or you could even visit the Nuns at Mother Angelicas Convent. Just go to EWTN on the web and find out information on their entrance requirements and email to their Vocations Director for more information to be sent to you. They are cloistered, gather for prayer, Mass and the main prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours. The Carmelites spend part of their time working (in silence) and a good part of their time in their cell (room) in spiritual reading and prayer. That might suit you better. Speak to your Spiritual Director about each of these types of lifestyle, he knows you best.


Monasticism is as much about finding a community as finding an order given that monastics typically take a vow of stability - meaning that they don’t move and stay in the same monastery pretty much for life. Of course, whether or not they’re cloistered is another matter.

I think what you should do is refocus your discernment on communities / orders rather than on a particular way of life. Bear in mind that the division between active and contemplative is not black and white - there’s a lot of grey in between and so while some orders can easily be classified as active or contemplative others can in fact be both!


I live in Canada, not the USA, and I have to stay here. As much as moving to Europe to be a Carthusian would be such a beautiful life, I must stay here. For medical reasons I can’t emigrate but I’ve asked the superiors of a few communities and they all said they’d take me if it is my vocation regardless of less than perfect health.
The discalced carmelites, now that’s a real possibility. I wonder how much time they spend alone, though. But then true solitude is more a disposition of the heart, not being far away from everybody everywhere.

Okay so lets say I visit a carmelite monastery and totally dig them over an active community, how am i to discern between that and being a diocesan hermit? Carmelites are hermits as well.


My vet had a hermit crab once, and he/she? was a true hermit. That crab had alot of shells which it used at will, and they called the crab M’Shell. (Like the name Michelle).

I just love hermits. My husband used to say I was one, and I didn’t even belong to a religious order. It’s a way of life, and some people enjoy it because it is less stressful at times.

If I could do it, I’d go live on the moon. That would suit my personality. Since I can’t do that, I live in my own little house and generally don’t mix with alot of people. You stay out of trouble that way.


Ask God and your Spiritual Director. By the way, there are a lot of Discalced Carmelites in Canada too. Even some in Alaska! Ask your Spiritual Director, he will have a Directory of Convents. The Carmelites vary according to the work they do (mainly gardening, farm work, making Altar cloths or hosts for Parishes.) All things they can do within the enclosure. It’s best to have some community time in each day, which the Carmelites generally do twice each day. It is a way to help each other grow. They probably spend about 1/2 (at least) of their time alone in their cell. They spend a few hours each day doing the work assigned, which supports their life and community. They spend several hours in prayer, Liturgy of the Hours, Mass and Benediction each day. You’d have a lot of time of silence, whether working or in your cell, as they practice silence a lot, since they pray while working (silently). Both work and prayer are needed for a balanced life of prayer and dedication. All Convents have some work (whether in or out of enclosures) and all spend time in silent prayer as well. Talk to your Spiritual Director. You may or may not be suited to the Carmelite life. The Convents you have already spoken to and who are willing to receive you already – one of them may actually be the one God is leading you to. Only you can decide, with discernment and Spiritual Direction to help you.


Alaska isn’t in Canada.


I know Alaska isn’t in Canada. Neither is France. Believe it or not, Carmelites are in both Alaska and Canada, and France, and USA and Spain, … etc…

I was commenting on the fact that the Carmelites are in Canada, and possibly not too far from the OP, and they even have one Convent that I know of in Alaska (actually up by the Arctic Circle, but they are Active, not Cloistered, they work with teaching among the far Northern villages). It was just a comment. Thank you, but living in the U.S. myself, I am aware that Alaska is not a part of Canada or vice versa.


Judynurse: The Nuns at the Shrine in Hanceville, AL no longer have extern Sisters on the outside. Now they are only the cloistered nuns who live “behind the wall” as you said. The OSB superior closed down the the extern side…

Who are the Carmelite Hermits who live in Colorado? I have never heard about them, in Colorado, only that there are some Carmelite men hermits in a few other States. It would be great to know about this foundation.

Alaska also has the Perpetual Adoration Nuns Monastery. Canada, has a variety of cloistered nuns communities in both the English & the French-speaking areas.

There is a good vocation site called “Deo Est Gloria” that has names & addreses of monasteries (both mens & womens) in th US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, India, etc.


The Cloistered Hermits in Colorado I was referring to are not Carmelites, as far as I know. They are a group which originally came from Europe – possibly Germany or France, not sure. They are very strict, and will accept only virgins who are examined by an MD to prove they are indeed virgins. This is the only group of Cloistered or Hermits which I had ever heard of which have such a strict requirement. I found them on the Internet years ago, but don’t remember their Order’s name. Search for Cloistered/Hermits for Women on the Internet and you should probably find them. They each live in a 2 room house/hut on the grounds, behind a wall, do have a Chapel, I don’t think they even have a communal refectory, but have an office and a Novice area. I think each Hermit fixes food in their own house, so they must pick up food from the central location, have wood burning stoves to cook on. No modern plumbing when I checked on them some years ago. The are hermits of a Primitive Rite, and, as I said, are very strict. Don’t know If they are still in existence now, but may be. They had about 25 - 35 Nuns at the time I found them on the Internet in the 1990’s. There are, however a number of Carmelites - Cloistered Discalced Carmelites in almost every state in the US, as well as Canada, the UK, and in Europe as well as in Israel. That group of Hermits in Colorado live in silence except on certain occasions, such as probably Christmas and Easter when they all go to the Chapel. They attend Mass, I think, in their Chapel, but don’t think it was daily, only when a Priest can come. I was looking for a cloister at the time, but this was a bit too much for me.


That is a good vocation site! I’m pleasently surprised at how comprehensive it is. Going through the list of all my options here in Canada, and narrowing it down to the ones I’d actually consider my options are so limited. I like some of the ones in Quebec but my French is atrocious. Perhaps I’ll enter a strict cloister that practices silence most of the time and then the language barrier won’t matter anyways haha jk.

I don’t know. I’m a convert and so really can’t handle anything that sounds protestant-ish. I like things as Catholic as they can be, as shallow as that sounds. So, for me, habits are a plus, incense during Mass which I’ve only seen used a handful of times in my life (mind you I didn’t convert all that long ago). I currently go to this parish that is quite large and has hardly anyone with gray hair. I go there because it is close to my home and the priests are totally awesome. They will stand up for true church teaching but aren’t snobs about it. Love them. But they allow the choir to do this weird 1960’s guitar thing during all of the Sunday Masses. It is awful! I try not to be judgemental but I just can’t handle it. So any community that does not have habits or has anything borrowed from protestants during Mass (like guitars. This is Mass not a concert, and isn’t it about Jesus’ death? Would you play that music before him if you were with him two thousand years ago while he was being crucified? No. So don’t play it during Mass. Ugh. Sorry, I’m ranting now. I just can’t handle it. If I were a man, I’d be a redemptorist priest. I think they’re called redemptorists… totally loyal the the Holy Father, though traditionally minded. Preserve the Latin Mass and all that.) Anyways. Can’t I just be an anchorite at a parish run by Redemptorists??? That would be lovely!


Have you considered writing to the Redemptorists’ vocations director in your province? He may be able to advise you about communities of women that are very similar to their temperament, charism, and spirituality.


Hi, check out the Recluse Sisters of Montreal. They offer both solitude and community in a contemplative setting. Their website has an awesome article on the twelve degrees of silence. They appear to be cloistered, contemplative, missionaries. Missionaries in the sense that they reach out to the entire world through prayer.

As far as discernment goes, you are on the right track by having a spiritual director. By visiting different communities, you will find the one where you belong.

The Mater Eccleshae fund for Vocationx website has some great vocation stories.


You want to be a hermit?

Come to Cortes Island. Lots of people live in bush camps, or shacks. Only 1000 people and two stores. Campbell River is two ferries, two and a half hours and $60.00 away.

It’s pretty isolated. But there is the Internet if you can pay for it. People are back to the earth types. I’ve been here a year and a half, and I am acquainted with only a handful of people. I’d love to leave…it’s not been a good fit for me…OK, I hate it!

If you want to be alone, it’s perfect.

  1. Where in Canada?
  2. Male or Female?
  3. French or English?

You might want to look into Benedictines; men in Quebec, Saskatchewan and BC; women in Quebec and I think Manitoba.

Or Cistercians/Trappists: Women in New Brunswick, I think, three communities of men in Quebec (two strict observance, one common observance), not sure about elsewhere.

Benedictines and Cistercians are contemplatives living in community. The women’s communities in Quebec are contemplative, cloistered, and live behind the papal enclosure. The men are cloistered. None of them have external apostolates.

I know less about Carmelites, and other communities. I know the Benedictine women’s community near Montreal a bit, and I know the men’s Benedictine community in St-Benoît-du-Lac very well (I’m an oblate :stuck_out_tongue: ). Both could sure use some vocations at the moment, but of course you have to fit with the spirituality of the community as well.


I live in ontario but am open to go anywhere in Canada. I have a soft spot for Quebec, though my french is awful. I can read french okay but my spoken french is not even functional. If religious life is not for me I can totally see myself moving to Montreal wonderful city. Except I’m an anglophone and I dont particularly like being spat at simply becauae I speak English. I am female.


Montreal has become very cosmopolitan. I’m pretty sure you won’t be spat at for speaking English. There may be one or two hotheads around, but I’ve experienced the opposite on occasion when speaking French in Ontario; I just let go of it. In any case if you’re cloistered, it wouldn’t matter I guess! If you’re young, being immersed in a French environment will get you up to speed in a hurry.

The abbey of Ste-Marie-des-Deux-Montagnes is a women’s cloistered Benedictine community. Mass and the Divine Office are chanted in Latin though of course the working language is French. They also have a foundation in Westfield, Vermont.


I’m in my twenties. I only mentioned anti-anglophone attitudes because when i was in Montreal as a kid these two adult guys were so rude because me and my group were speaking english in Quebec. And i was on a schoop trip… So my thought is if people are mean to teenagers who are obviously on a school trip, how will a single gal be treated? Mmm… Not looking too hopeful. But anyways I will certainly be looking into the benedictine community you mentioned.


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