Monasticism and the call to missionary work

Hi everyone,

This is essentially my first post on the forums but have been benefiting from the various threads on here for a few months now. What a great resource, thanks.

However, after much searching I can’t find the answer to my latest question which is: How do cloistered monastics fulfill the Church’s directive to be missionary?

I’m thinking here of those monastics such as the Carthusians, the Trappists, the Benedictines (but maybe not), etc. whose work consists of making bread, goods, and perhaps teaching within their seminary. When I speak of the Church’s directive I’m referring to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, where he states,

20. The word of God constantly shows us how God challenges those who believe in him “to go forth”. Abraham received the call to set out for a new land (cf. Gen 12:1-3). Moses heard God’s call: “Go, I send you” (Ex 3:10) and led the people towards the promised land (cf. Ex 3:17). To Jeremiah God says: “To all whom I send you, you shall go” (Jer 1:7). In our day Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples” echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges to the Church’s mission of evangelization, and all of us are called to take part in this new missionary “going forth”. Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel.
[INDENT][INDENT][INDENT]Francis, Apostolic Letter Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2014), 20[/INDENT][/INDENT][/INDENT]

I ask, one because it’s interesting by itself, and two because as I discern, I’m finding myself attracted to the monastic life of prayer and silence but don’t want to live a life that is somehow not complete according to an objective call by the Church, which ultimately comes from God (right?), to not only have a life full of prayer but to also be missionary as Christ was missionary.

Can you see my dilemma?

Also, I’ve heard of the immeasurable impact the prayer of such monastics has on the world (potentially more impactful than missionary work according to one source), but don’t consider this prayer to satisfy the call to missionary work as described by the Pope.

I greatly appreciate any and all answers or even questions you may have for me as well as good sources of text on this topic.



Hi there.

I am sending you this link of all Orders, Religious and Monastic, if you click on one of the Monastic ones they might explain all what you have been asking, or if you cannot find this simply E-mail one of them and ask.

Walk with the Lord

First, don’t forget that St. Therese of Lisieux (The Little Flower)–an enclosed Carmelite Nun–is one of the patron saints of missionary life, though she never left her cloister. To question the significance of the contemplative way is both to dismiss the power of prayer and to question the legitimacy of that way of life FOR THOSE CALLED TO IT?

So, the question is not what is “objectively” best, but what is best for YOU? What are YOU called to? This is something best answered through prayerful discernment and, I would recommend, consultation with an experienced spiritual direction.

Blessings to you as you continue to discern…

I think you may find these helpful.

First, Pope Francis’ letter to the Carmelites last year.

“Constantly throughout the length of your history, the greats of Carmel have sought to call you back to your prayerful contemplative roots, roots always fruitful in prayer. Here is the heart of your witness: the “contemplative” dimension of the Order, to be lived, cultivated and transmitted. I would like each one of you to ask yourself: how is my contemplative life? How much time during my day do I dedicate to prayer and contemplation? A Carmelite without this contemplative life is a dead body! Today, perhaps more than in the past, it is so easy to allow ourselves to be distracted by the cares and worries of this world and to succumb to false idols. Our world is fractured in so many ways: rather the contemplative unites and powerfully builds the call to unity.”

And next, St. Thomas Aquinas examines the active and the contemplative life here. I hope you find it interesting.

If you haven’t looked at the Catholic Encyclopedia, you should do so now! :slight_smile:

The Contemplative Life:

I find this quote particularly meaningful to your question:

“The act of contemplation, imperfect as it needs be, is of all human acts one of the most sublime, one of those which render the greatest honor to God, bring the greatest good to the soul, and enable it most efficaciously to become a means of salvation and manifold blessing to others.”

If that isn’t a work of mission I don’t know what is. Read it and tell me if you have more questions!

Thanks for the responses and the links - great stuff!

As Nunsuch suggested, I really need to reorient myself around what I’m called to. Instead of making discernment a set of calculated moves I should allow it to be a personal walk with God.

Thanks for the help

Thanks for the responses and the links - great stuff!

As Nunsuch suggested, I really need to reorient myself around what I’m called to. Instead of making discernment a set of calculated moves I should allow it to be a personal walk with God.

Thanks for the help


Indeed, I am finding the same thing to be true myself. I have thought of religious life for about three months now, but only now am I making steps to move forward. However, those steps are:

Rosary and Holy Hour offered in discernment of my vocation until Easter.

It must begin and end in prayer. Sure, I can look at vocations materials all I like, but without reaching out to God and entrusting him with my time NOW, I can’t trust whatever my heart would tell me without Him.

That said, there’s a wealth of good spiritual reading materials that will help you discern. I am going to read the Rule of St. Benedict this Lent (I am looking at a Benedictine Monastery right now) - I invite you to join me!

Thanks for the recommendation, I may join you but I’m not sure, there’s a lot to read. Right now I’m reading The Fulfillment of all Desire and The Imitation of Christ. You’ve probably heard of 1 if not both of these - both are very good. I also have the book Christian Perfection and Contemplation waiting on the shelf for me. Having flipped through the table of contents of this last book, I think you, being interested in the monastic life, would find it useful.

Thanks! I will look it up. I am also interested in the works of Bl. Columba Marmion, though I have not read him yet. I am also doing the readings for the 33-day Total Consecration to end on the Feast of the Annunciation, so yes I think we’re both full up for the moment. :slight_smile:

the op’s post is one reason why our stella maris contemplatives exist. we give witness to the cloistered life while living it. we pray for the cloisters and their vocations, in addition to supporting emerging charisms through prayer, as well.

i would suggest these websites:


The Rule rocks. :slight_smile:

Cloisters, where is your Stella Maris contemplative monastery located? I am assuming you are a member? Sounds interesting, but I am not familiar with the order.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Perhaps the mission field would seem a sphere little suited for monastic energies, but no idea could be more false. Mankind is proverbially imitative and so, to establish a Christianity where paganism once ruled, it is necessary to present not simply a code of morals, not the mere laws and regulations, nor even the theology of the Church, but an actual pattern of Christian society. Such a “working model” is found preeminently in the monastery; and so it is the monastic order which has proved itself the apostle of the nations in western Europe. To mention a few instances of this — Saints Columba in Scotland, Augustine in England, Boniface in Germany, Ansgar in Scandinavia, Swithbert and Willibrord in the Netherlands, Rupert and Emmeran in what is now Austria, Adalbert in Bohemia, Gall and Columban in Switzerland, were monks who, by the example of a Christian society, which they and their companions displayed, led the nations among whom they lived from paganism to Christianity and civilization. Nor did the monastic apostles stop at this point but, by remaining as a community and training their converts in the arts of peace, they established a society based on Gospel principles and firm with the stability of the Christian faith, in a way that no individual missionary, even the most devoted and saintly, has ever succeeded in doing.

It must be clearly understood however, that monasticism has never become stereotyped in practice, and that it would be quite false to hold up any single example as a supreme and perfect model. Monasticism is a living thing and consequently it must be informed with a principle of self-motion and adaptability to its environment. Only one thing must always remain the same and that is the motive power which brought it into existence and has maintained it throughout the centuries, viz., the love of God and the desire to serve Him as perfectly as this life permits, leaving all things to follow after Christ.

Might I recommend that you consider those saints listed in boldface, as well as Bl. John Henry Newman, as intercessors regarding your dilemma? It seems that you have an interest in the spirit exemplified by these great men. Learn about them, imitate their virtues, and ask them to be your particular advocates before the Throne of God.

If I might add to Cloisters post. For those of you who have not visited the sites she mentioned. They are quite informative and have been helpful to many who are either seeking traditional relgious life or seeking to support relgious life.

As an aside I must mention that although our poster is of course looking at mens orders, Most cloistered contemplatives (myself included) would consider themselves missionaries.
From my own personal experience I can say we reach hundreds of people through our prayer ministry, and have more than a few thousand who read our joynotes each week. not to mention running a Catholic Radio station from our Monastery. ( obviously not all cloistered groups have all that) however my point is… we pray for the world at large and specifically for our church both local and worldwide. I believe most active missionary religious would tell you they need the support of the contemplative. Bottom line is what God calls you to. Keep praying !!!

Sr Debbie OSC

and thank you to Cloister for her ministry!!!

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