Monastic Discernment


#1

Hello!

I'm a 32 year old practicing Catholic, single, male. Though I've not particularly had an interest in vocation, recently I've been reading a lot about The Rule of St. Benedict and Monastic Life. Through serendipity (or perhaps Divine Grace) I've found a Monastery that will host a Vocation Discernment Event at a time when I'll be conveniently passing through their area on the way to a family related event.

I have a few questions and hope that when of you out there might be able to offer some guidance:

01) Can you recommend any resources (print or online) on monastic life? I'm a hopeless academic and while I've read and reflected on The Rule of St. Benedict and a few other things by St. Augustine the more I study the better. Links to online resource, or audio/visual lectures will be greatly appreciate and devoured voraciously.

02) I'm concerned about etiquette when I visit. I've asked the brothers directly, and they seem fairly accommodating. Dress code is a concern-- modest to me means fairly nice clothing but I'm no fashionista. Perhaps I've always been confused about why God prefers khakis to jeans, so any guidance would be appreciated.

03)General preparation tips are also appreciated. I know that Monks live a sparse life and I've been spending extra time adoring the Eucharist and praying. I've also been cutting back on meals to prepare for a 'less robust' diet. Is there anything else I should consider?

Any help, tips, or prayers that anyone can offer will be greatly appreciated!

Yours in Christ


#2

You don’t need to be concerned about any of that. Different orders and houses have varying degrees of austerity but hospitality should be the highest priority. They all have great libraries. Are you going Trappist? Benedictine?


#3

The Silent Life by Thomas Merton is an excellent book. It was recommended to me by a sister at the community I am discerning with. I’m sure if you ask the community can suggest other readings they think would be helpful to you, monasteries have excellent libraries.

As long as you’re not wearing shorts or a tank top or something like that and your clothing is neat then you’re fine.

Every community is different. The monks will not expect you to know their practices and they will tell you what you need to know.

You seem to be over-thinking this. Stop worrying and just relax and enjoy your time there!

You are in my prayers.


#4

HA. I appreciate answers from both of you. And you nailed me. I over-think EVERYTHING. LOL


#5

And Michael. It’s a Trappist Monastery : )


#6

[quote="mathuex08, post:5, topic:288983"]
And Michael. It's a Trappist Monastery : )

[/quote]

Well I have to tell you, When I was a young guy I discerned the Trappists. I have been to Gethsemani, the one in Iowa, the one in Missouri and the one in California. Iowa and Gethsemani are especially great places. I think if I would have gone Trappist I would have lost my mind. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year the same routine. But no better place to make a retreat or spend the summer though.


#7

Mathuex08,

I’ve been on several retreats at the Trappist Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA including a Vocation Discernment retreat and will try to respond to your questions and concerns to the best of my knowledge.

Depending on the particular monastery that you are visiting, I’m sure that they might have plenty of resources on their website explaining what the Trappist Order is all about and what to expect. If not, you should find the Monastery of the Holy Spirit’s website helpful (www.trappist.net). As far as books go, you may find some of Thomas Merton’s writing interesting, particularly *Seven Story Mountain *or New Seeds of Contemplation. Also, you can’t go wrong with the writings of the numerous Cistercian (Trappist) saints such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux or St. Aelred of Rievaulx. A good introductory book on the order and it’s charism, if you can get a copy, is *The Cistercian Way *by Andre Louf.

  1. I’m concerned about etiquette when I visit. I’ve asked the brothers directly, and they seem fairly accommodating. Dress code is a concern-- modest to me means fairly nice clothing but I’m no fashionista. Perhaps I’ve always been confused about why God prefers khakis to jeans, so any guidance would be appreciated.

The only advice that I would give with regards to dress code is that for men I’m sure that they ask for you not to wear shorts and I would suggest not to wear anything outrageous (“loud” fluorescent colors, distracting designs, etc). Jeans or khakis should pose no problem either way.

03)General preparation tips are also appreciated. I know that Monks live a sparse life and I’ve been spending extra time adoring the Eucharist and praying. I’ve also been cutting back on meals to prepare for a ‘less robust’ diet. Is there anything else I should consider?

Adoration and praying is good preparation for the retreat. If you aren’t already, familiarizing yourself with the Divine Office would be helpful though not absolutely necessary. It has been my experience that the monks try and arrange the Breviary, Psalter, and Hymnal before each Office for the retreatants and may even have a printed sheet listing where to find the particular prayers, psalms, and hymns for the day. If you don’t immediately get it, don’t stress. It definitely took me a few retreat to get a good feel for where to be and when and how the community prayed and chanted. You may be thinking that the day may drag on with you not being use to the slower pace of a contemplative community, but you’d be surprised at how quickly the retreat will end. Just be open to the stirrings of God’s grace and draw near to Him in prayer and you won’t be disappointed.

Please let me know if there is anything else that I can help you with. Otherwise I hope and pray that you have a fruitful and blessed retreat. Take care and God Bless.

-Joshua.


#8

Perhaps this is a stupid question. What is wrong with wearing knee-length khaki shorts to a monastic retreat? In a similar vein, are people affiliated with third orders not permitted to wear knee-length khaki shorts to meetings or other scheduled activities? What if you are in Florida or the Philippines where heat and humidity are overpowering? What do the monks do in such environments?

I am a novice to monasticism. Please humor me.....


#9

[quote="Tampa_Dave, post:8, topic:288983"]
Perhaps this is a stupid question. What is wrong with wearing knee-length khaki shorts to a monastic retreat? In a similar vein, are people affiliated with third orders not permitted to wear knee-length khaki shorts to meetings or other scheduled activities? What if you are in Florida or the Philippines where heat and humidity are overpowering? What do the monks do in such environments?

I am a novice to monasticism. Please humor me.....

[/quote]

Nothing at all wrong with wearing knee-length khaki shorts to a monastic retreat.
Monks though, are usually trying to live a more austere life and so you wont see them in shorts unless they are working out or something.


#10

Thank you, Mr. Mayo!

I’m looking into third orders and I will be re-locating to Florida. I would have a problem if I were told knee-length khaki shorts were verboten for meetings or retreats. In Virginia, its common to wear such shorts and a nice shirt to Mass and other parish functions.


#11

To answer number 2. When I visit the local Benedictine Monastery I usually where a collared shirt, be it short or long sleeved, and dress pants. I have never had problems.

To answer number 3. Be open. That is the best preparation to have because if you go in with preconceived notions then you could sway your opinion one way or another. When you get there expect a lot of silence and enjoy this time of silence.

God bless


#12

Silence is great! But I would like to wear my khaki shorts in Florida…


#13

Thank you all so much for your feedback. And I’m with ya guy! I’ll be traveling from Florida to the Trappist Monastery in Conyers GA. I’m excited! Just two more days : )


#14

Best of luck at the monastery!


#15

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