Monastic Vocation


#1

I am a 19 year old male, and for the past few months I have been feeling a strong desire and pull to enter a monastic/contemplative order. I feel our society is too distracted, and that the only way to really to have a deep understanding of God is through silence, and contemplation. I have a spiritual director who is a Discalced Carmelite, and he says that I should finish university first (I will be 23 then) and spend a few years in the workforce before I consider entering an order. He says that it will give me valuable life experience and the ability to connect with people and empathise with their troubles of everyday life (because I would have experienced it also). I agree with him - except I have wait at least 5/6 years!
So, in the meantime I was wondering if anyone could suggest any books that I could read to help me on my vocational journey?
Also I understand that over the past few decades monastic vocations have really dropped off, so I was wondering if there are any thriving monasteries/contemplative orders in the English-speaking world (either Benedictine, Discalced Carmelite, Cistercian, etc)? I ask this because I am afraid that certain monasteries I would consider joining might not be functioning in 10-20 years time (with the average age typically over 70 years).
Please keep me in your prayers.
Any help would be appreciated.


#2

Have a look at New Camaldoli in Big Sir.

They have almost 20 monks, not all “old” by any means.

Contemplative. Hermits in community, you might say. They each have their own cell, but meet for lunch (the other 2 meals are optional), Mass, and the Liturgy of the Hours daily.

contemplation.com/community/who-we-are.html

Prayers offered for you.:thumbsup:

Welcome to CAF, you’ll love it here.

Have a look at the Benedictine group HERE

Might be a good idea to become an Oblate at the nearest monastery to you, too. :slight_smile:


#3

Thank you very much, it looks like a very serene place. Have you ever been there?


#4

I have not (yet). I am an Oblate, and the monastery I was an oblate at is closing. We have begun the process of moving our oblation to New Camaldoli. :slight_smile:

I am going to try to visit over the Memorial Day weekend. :slight_smile:

I edited my first post and added some stuff, so you may want to take another look :slight_smile:


#5

I listened to the interview, and I was pleasantly surprised to find an Australian priest as the prior in Italy (I am an Australian). So what does being an Oblate involve?


#6

Are there any other suggestions for thriving monasteries/contemplative religious orders?


#7

Here in central Mass. we have a wonderful small monastery of Benedictines, St. Mary’s Monastery in Petersham MA. Their website is saintmarysmonastery.org
One of the monks, Bro. Jerome Leo, has a blog in which he reviews a section of the Rule of St. Benedict each day and passes along much insight on being an Oblate. Great blog, great life lessons.
BTW, do you live near a monastery? Many of them have retreats for individuals, couples, inquirers, and parish groups. It is worth a look. God bless your journey.


#8

Yeah, I have a monastery about 45 minutes drive away, I’ll send them an email to see if they have any retreats. Thank you very much for your help


#9

You can make a retreat at the Bolwarra Redemptoristines:

cloisters.tripod.com/au_ossr_bolwarra/

They would be able to help you with discernment as well.

Blessings,
Cloisters


#10

Ave Maria!

I don’t know of any saint in the history of the Church who has encouraged this. In fact, their lives and writings suggest the complete opposite. One example is St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church,

  1. WE MUST OBEY THE VOICE OF GOD WITHOUT DELAY.

Whenever God calls to a more perfect state, he who does not wish to expose his eternal salvation to great danger must then obey, and obey promptly. Otherwise he will hear from Jesus Christ the reproach he made to that young man who, when invited to follow him, said, I will follow Thee, Lord, but let me first take my leave of them that are at my house And Jesus replied to him that he was not fit for paradise: No man putting his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God

The lights which God gives are transient, not permament, gifts. Whence St. Thomas says that the vocation of God to a more perfect life ought to be followed as promptly as possible. He proposes in his summary the question whether it be praiseworthy to enter religion without having asked the counsel of many, and without long deliberation ? He answers in the affirmative, saying that counsel and deliberation are necessary in doubtful things, but not in this matter, which is certainly good; because Jesus Christ has counselled it in the Gospel, since the religious state comprehends most of the counsels of Jesus Christ. How singular a thing it is, when there is question of entering religion to lead a life more perfect and more free from the dangers of the world, the men of the world say that it is necessary to deliberate a long time before putting such resolutions in execution, in order to ascertain whether the vocation comes from God or from the devil! But they do not talk thus when one is to accept of a place in the magistracy, of a bishopric, etc., where there are so many dangers of losing the soul. Then they do not say that many proofs are required whether there be a true vocation from God.

The saints, however, do not talk thus. St. Thomas says that if the vocation to religion should even come from the devil, we should nevertheless follow it, as a good counsel, though coming from an enemy. St. John Chrysostom, as quoted by the same St. Thomas, says that God, when he gives such vocations, wills that we should not defer even a moment to follow them. Christ requires from us such an obedience that we should not delay an instant. And why this? Because as much as God is pleased to see in a soul promptitude in obeying him, so much he opens his hand and fills it with his blessings. On the contrary, tardiness in obeying him displeases him, and then he shuts his hand and withdraws his lights, so that in consequence a soul will follow its vocation with difficulty and abandon it again easily. Therefore, St. John Chrysostom says that when the devil cannot bring one to give up his resolution of consecrating himself to God, he at least seeks to make him defer the execution of it, and esteems it a great gain if he can obtain the delay of one day only, or even of an hour. Because, after that day or that hour, other occasions presenting themselves, it will be less difficult for him to obtain greater delay, until the individual who has been thus called, finding himself more feeble and less assisted by grace, gives way altogether and loses his vocation. Therefore St. Jerome gives to those who are called to quit the world this advice: “Make haste, I beseech you, and rather cut than loosen the cable by which your bark is bound fast to the land.” The saint wishes to say that as a man who should find himself in a boat on the point of sinking, would seek to cut the rope, rather than to loosen it, so he who finds himself in the midst of the world ought to seek to get out of it as promptly as possible, in order to free himself from the danger, which is so great in the world, of losing his own soul.

and the saint goes on, and on, and on… and saint after saint repeats the same danger of the world, especially those in the critical stages of discernment - over, and over, and over again…

Come and Follow Me, by Fr. Stephano M. Manelli, F.I.

Have a look at this page, 8 Tips for Choosing a Community. Also one thing I looked for in a community was to have pontifical status.

Consecrate yourself to our Blessed Mother, who obtains anything She asks for from Her Son, who She formed and raised to become our great High Priest, and She will guide your vocation in the most perfect manner possible so that you can become “Alter Christus” (“Another Christ”). Ave Maria!

In the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

Friar John Paul


#11
  1. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily (Lauds and Vespers)

  2. Attempt (I am not too good at it :frowning: ) contemplative (not centering) prayer

  3. Attend Mass as often as you can (at least weekly, obviously)

  4. Live the “10 hallmarks”

The Ten Hallmarks of the
Benedictine Tradition

COMMUNITY

Act in the best interest of others and be considerate.

PRAYER

Take time for reflection and to seek guidance.

HOSPITALITY

Welcome visitors and treat your neighbor as your guest.

STABILITY

Embrace the traditions and heritage of community.

DISCIPLINE

Practice restraint and act with maturity.

STEWARDSHIP

Take care of what is given to you.

HUMILITY

Listen to others, grant forgiveness and admit your mistakes.

CONVERSATION

Seek opportunities to learn and grow.

LOVE OF CHRIST AND NEIGHBOR

Embrace others with an open heart.

OBEDIENCE

Adhere to rules and polices and be respectful.


#12

A call to the contemplative life is not a call to cut yourself off from the world but to a part of it in a spiritual way. Also monastics take a vow of stability - meaning that they stay with the same abbey basically for life. Both of these would, in my mind at least, justify waiting. Also if the monastery you want to join wants you to wait then you should be obedient to them. On a more personal level, I know from my own experience that being told to wait is difficult to accept and that 5-6 years seems like an eternity. Believe me when I say that the 5-6 years will pass much more quickly than you expect and you will be better as a person for having waited and for the experiences gained during that time.

As far as specific orders / abbeys go, you really need to visit an abbey and spend some time there before making any decisions. that said, Worth, Ealing and Ampleforth Abbeys (all benedictine) in England seem to be doing okay but don’t worry about the future just find somewhere which seems to fit for you and let God take care of the rest.

Finally, when it comes to books, try to find something by a monastic author - personally, I’m a fan of Thomas Merton but I would also recommend Finding Sanctuary and Finding Happiness - both by Fr Christopher Jamison OSB (who, incidentally, was born in Australia)


#13

Ave Maria!

Some more books you can read that will greatly inspire you are the rules of the founders of the orders, like the Rule of St. Benedict (highly recommended, also commentaries like by Dom Prosper Gueranger), and the lives of the founders, who are usually saints. Also, the stories of the desert fathers (and mothers) are incredible. Ave Maria!

JMJ,

fra John Paul


#14

Does anyone know much about St Benedict’s Monastery, Snowmass? It looks like a very peaceful and beautiful area.

Also, I told my mum that I’m interested in the monastic life, and she thinks that I would be more useful in actions of service and social justice (she is heavily influenced by Jesuit spirituality). Part of me thinks that is correct - I look at the Bible; and Jesus often goes to the pray with God (in the desert, in the Garden) and then returns to active ministry in his life. How do I reconcile this inner yearning to be a monastic with Jesus’ call for evangelising and social justice? A small part of me thinks that by becoming a monk, I am being selfish. But how could giving my life to God be selfish?

Any help would be appreciated.


#15

It can’t is the short answer because it involves giving your life over entirely to God and God is love. It would also be a mistakes to think that the work of monastic orders (or contemplative orders in general) isn’t of value (Aquinas certainly didn’t think so) - for these orders, prayer is their apostolic work. They also engage in other work - frequently manual work such as farming or brewing but some monasteries are also involved in eduction.

As far as social justice justice and evangelising go, these aren’t necessarily irreconcilable with monastic life but ultimately in a monastery your work is determined by your abbot and by the community in general.


#16

One to consider:

carmelitemonks.org/

My prayers are with you, pjv.


#17

There are CERTAINLY thriving monasteries around! What you need is the “Guide to Religious Ministries For Catholic Men and Women.” Ask a priest where you can find one or go to your archdiocese’s website. This is a book that lists just about every Order and community in the Catholic world! It’s fantastic!!!

And, actually, monastic vocations have been THRIVING recently. For some reason, our generation (I’m 26), is more drawn to the contemplative and traditional Orders than the ones that are purely active. That is not to say that active Orders are not thriving, but there has been a rise of contemplative vocations.

As far as reading materials: I would read about the desert fathers as they are the founders of monasticism. I would read the Rule of St. Benedict as he is considered the father of monasticism (and read about St. Anthony of the Desert as well). I would read “Story of a Soul,” Therese of Lisieux’s autobiography as it gives a lot of insight into the contemplative world. And I would read “Abandonment to Divine Providence” by Jean Pierre de Caussade.

Sorry for the long-winded reply. The fact of the matter is that I spent 3 years discerning a call to the Abbey of St. Walburga as a contemplative nun. I entered the Order and then left, but my search has not ended.

OH!! I would also read the writings of Thomas Merton! He is probably the best-known contemplative writer of our time. And he was a Cistercian!!

As far as communities, just do a google search for Catholic monastic communities in America and see what comes up!

Good luck! I will keep you in my prayers!


#18

Ave Maria!

Most people nowadays think that way because they aren’t familiar with the value of the contemplative life. Neither the active or contemplative life is more useful for everyone, but rather doing what God has called you to do. Many, including saints, explain how the contemplative life is actually considered the higher state. You can read about some of the differences at religious-vocation.com/differences_religious_orders.html

From Catholic Answers

Why do theologians, including St. Thomas Aquinas, say that the contemplative life is superior to the active life?
Answer

Without going into Thomistic philosophy, I will just say that Thomas taught that each act may be evaluated based on its “end,” its ultimate purpose or goal. The worthier the end, the worthier the act that leads to it. The goal of all religious life is to follow Christ more closely. Active orders have typically emphasized his external works—preaching, teaching, healing—while contemplative orders focus on emulating his prayer and self-sacrifice, his direct communion with the Father.

Since God is the direct “end” of the contemplative life (the apprehension of and intimacy with God), we say it is superior to external works of mercy, which have other ends (education and physical well-being).

Perfectae Caritatis says that monasteries “are entirely ordered toward contemplation, in such wise that their members give themselves over to God alone in solitude and silence, in constant prayer and willing penance” (7).
Answered by: Terrye Newkirk

From the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas:
Question 182. The active life in comparison with the contemplative life

Catholic Encyclopedia - Contemplative Life

On a side note, please take caution with Thomas Merton. There is a Catholic Answers Magazine article entitled, “Can You Trust Thomas Merton?” here, and if you do a search you’ll find plenty of controversial threads.

Ave Maria!

fra John Paul


#19

One can be a contemplative without joining a monastery. That yearning to simply be with God all the time is normal. If I didn’t have to raise two kids and work full time I’d be quite tempted to go somewhere and just be with God. For me though, the will of God is for me to be the way I am in the world I have been asked to live in. Dealing with the distractions of the real world can be difficult at times. A person can give their life to God without having to join a monastery. I think maybe what you need to do is discern your reasons in greater depth as to why you really want to join a monastery? Is it so you don’t have to deal with the distractions of the real world? is it because you feel you can do good works for the Church and God by becoming a monk? Are you wanting to join a monastery for you or for God? I have no issues with the monastic life, but I think it is important to discern whether one is joining that life or wanting to join that life for themselves or for God. Some people who have difficulties socially would be suited to a monastic life. But a monastic life should not be about hiding from the real world under the guise of giving oneself totally to God. I like the suggestions of others about going on retreats. Give yourself the opportunity to spend time with just you or God. The Discalced Carmelites in NSW offer retreats. MOUNT CARMEL RETREAT CENTRE - VARROVILLE you can stay at and they also have hermitages if you want to be by yourself. Here is a list of retreat centre providers you can check out

Do you like reading works of St John of The Cross?

And I am a mum, so I can understand your mum’s hesitation and her suggestions. But at the end of the day this is about you following God’s will for you. And you have time to discern that better. I very much like that priests suggestion you spend a few years in the real world. Sometimes to really face God we have to face the world also. And sometimes to really live in God’s world, we have to spend time in this world. And sometimes what we desire or we think God is leading us, we can find out He has another plan. But in the meantime He is moulding us to be better prepared for the life and service He wants from us. Do you attend vocation events? where you can learn a bit more about various orders and religious vocations?

I think it is fabulous you have been given the years to really learn and discern because I am sure God has great plans for you.


#20

We have a good friend whose a Benedictine in Nursia, Italy (Benedict’s birthplace).

It’s in Italy, but it was mostly Americans.

Young monks with a growing monastery.
osbnorcia.org/

(and you can’t go wrong with monks who brew beer for a living :slight_smile: )


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