Part Time Monastery Life

Sorry my English is not perfect, please bear with me.

I am a married man with a happy family living in Canada: I have a lovely wife and two kids. My two kids will enter university soon and I have the option of taking early retirement in the next few years. This will be the last stage of my life and being Roman Catholic I want to live a more pure life than I am currently leading. My wife and I are attracted to the monastery way of life but realize that it is for single individuals and one have to take a permanent vow so that does not seems like God’s plan for us.

Does anybody know of any monastery or Catholic religious order, who would take married individuals (separately), which allow some sort of part time involvement in monastery life ? Say someone who would allow us to live a monastery life five days a week? I do need two or three days a week to help my two kids establish in life and help take care of my own elderly parents. Is there some place who take lay volunteers to help cut their lawn, wash their dishes, scrub their floor in exchange for allowing them to participate in their lives of prayers and silence ?

Thank you in advance for sharing your knowledge.

I think you sound like an ideal candidate to be an Oblate, which is a status of lay people associating themselves with a particular monastery (usually Benedictine). If there is a monastery near you, or one with which you feel particular affinity, look into their Oblate program. It is sort of like a “Third Order Secular” status with Franciscans, Carmelites, etc., but with a particular monastery, where you almost certainly would have the opportunity to make retreats and so on. Usually, Oblate groups meet on a regular basis, and also members of the monastery offer spiritual direction, etc.

One more thing: monasteries of men and women welcome oblates of both sexes. So don’t reject the possibility if the only monastery near you is of nuns or sisters.

Blessings to you as you discern. And, if you feel closer to one of the other charisms, look at the Third Order Seculars associated with them.

I agree with Nunsuch about the idea of being an Oblate. It would allow you to bring monastic spirituality into your home and your life.

You could also arrange to make retreats at a monastery. In addition to retreat programs, you can usually make private retreats as well where you have more opportunity to simply be at the monastery, join in prayer times, and meet with a spiritual director.

While I’ve never explored the idea, I could imagine offering to volunteer my services at my monastery in exchange for room and board for a period of time. It would be worth a conversation with the abbot.

Thank you for the response, I really appreciate it. I never know much about ‘oblates’ and thank you for pointing that out. I will certainly write to some monasteries in Canada or the States (I live close to the border) and inquire. Is it right to assume that most of these oblates live at home? I am more interested in a life away from home. I want to detach myself a little from the world I am familiar with. No sports on TV, no non-stop consumerism, no waste of life in the mall, no Internet, no cellphone, no lavish meals in fancy restaurants. Just quiet time with myself and my religion.

There are claustral oblates but I think the idea is still that someone lives at the monastery full time.

I think you might be surprised at how fulfilling it can be to be an oblate and how much it can influence your life. Living a spiritual life in your domestic monastery changes you. In my case I spend the bulk of my day at work, but I can bring my spirituality there as well as home. (Which is very Benedictine.)

Read the Rule (see www.osb.org) and then read it again and again. Benedict’s little rule for beginners changes everything! This page is aimed at a university and their values, but think about how you might incorporate these values into your life and how it changes relationships and activities: stmartin.edu/Benedictine/values.aspx

Read Chapter 4 of the Rule and think about each line and how to incorporate it into your life. That by itself is a spiritual practice for me (I take one line each week and find a way to practice it in my life). It has changed me.

Avoiding the mall or sports on TV is easy…stay away from them. Or make shopping an intentional activity – don’t just hang out at the mall because you have nothing better to do. But do your shopping and also appreciate the people you meet there, look for small ways you can be of service to people, live the experience and enjoy the activity.

I’m afraid I’m blathering on…this is something I love!

Pax Christi!

Following this.

God bless.

No you are not blathering, and thank you for sharing your thoughts. Well let me just say that avoiding the sports or consumerism is easy for most people but not for me. :slight_smile: I will certainly read the documents you suggested.

In part, being an oblate means being part of a group, so you have a support system behind you. That helps! In your case you also have your wife. Maybe she can encourage you as well. When you plop down in front of the TV maybe she can suggest that the two of you take a walk and enjoy the natural world, or spend some time in the garden, or something else.

All the Oblates I know live at home, and many are married. They do make retreats and attend meetings at the monasteries to which they are affiliated. If you are near more than one place, do try to visit a few, to see where you feel most “at home.” Different monasteries have different cultures, or personalities…

Also, check out the hermit lifestyle. I did a search and found a great article in Crisis Magazine called “A Modern Day Hermit” by Margaret Cabaniss. Maybe you and your wife would be interested in a hermitical lifestyle. There are lot of resources for that vocation.
You are in my prayers. God bless you:)

Great thread.

Internet for me is good as i can find out lots of things about the faith and about different religious books etc.

I would love to live more simply though.

This is an interesting idea … maybe a very modest home in a rural area next to a monastery would work too … I could certainly use all the prayers, thank you.

You are right. I am particularly attracted to places where talking is not allowed. I have had enough talking in my life. I also suspect some of the monasteries do not have an Internet presence … maybe I should check the printed Catholic directory at my parish’s office instead.

North American Benedictine monasteries are listed here: osb.org/intl/confed/nacong.html
North American Cistercians are here: ocso.org/index.php?option=com_mtree&task=listcats&cat_id=82&Itemid=88&lang=en

It is possible for married folk to live like that. Check out the married couple who run Raven’s Bread. Aside from the oblatures spoken of, there are secular institutes where lay hermits can find a spiritual home. That’s how the secular institutes got their start.

Blessings,
Cloisters

These links are great ! Thank you.

Raven’s Bread… very interesting …

I is very good that you want to live a holy life, a quiet life, a separated life.

I am sorry but, no, I do not believe you can be a monk part time. It is a life, not something you add on to your life. A monk is married to God. You do not get married part time. You do not join a family part time.

It is good of you to consider helping a monastery but usuallyan oblate does not live in the monastery. An oblate is associated with a monastery, lives by their rules in the world, prays their prayers, visits the monastery occasionally, but is not a monk. A monastery is not a special kind of hotel.
It sounds very nice, to go to a monastery a few days a week, enjoy the quiet and the prayers but you would not experience true monastic life, the same way you don’t experience married life when out on a date with a girlfriend. It is a commitment, of your whole self, forever, and the daily living out of that commitment in community, that makes a monk.

You could live a holy life in the world, join a secular order or become an oblate. There are cases of couples who have both joined religious orders full time after marriage or couples who have taken vows of chastity after marriage.

You could make your home like a monastery- remove all photographs and pictures from the wall, take down lace curtains and replace them with calico. Wear plain clothes all the time, do not save good clothes for when you want them but commit to the way you want to be. Practice poverty in everything and be aware of every pen or scrap of paper that you waste. Throw out your sofa and arm chairs and sit only in upright chairs. Fast, eat simply. Commit to praying the full Office every day, not just when you feel like it, but also when the plumber is coming or when there is something else you want to do. Be ready to leave a cake to burn in the oven because it is time for Office because that is what you would have to do in a monastery. Do not watch television, not just when there is nothing on, not just the news, not at all. Throw it away. Do not read novels, only stories about saints, and those only on feast days or Sundays. Other days you are only allowed to read theology. Do not listen to the radio. Do not sing while you do the dishes- this is part of the rule of silence. Do not chat or just mention something to your wife. Save it for the 45 minutes a day you are allowed to have recreation or conversation.

This is all from my experience of being a contemplative nun in a monastery. This is what life in a monastery (superficially) looks like. It isn’t a vacation.

Life in a monastery isn’t easy. It isn’t supposed to be easy. It is supposed to make you die to yourself. Dying is not something you do part time.

Life in a monastery is worthwhile and it is a beautiful life but it isn’t easy. It is a life, not a hobby.

Also consider the effect your desire would have on the other monks. They require a stable community, not one where people come and go. I was sick at one stage and had to leave the monastery to go to the doctor. Every time I went it was a disruption to my life, and that was a negative effect from just leaving the monastery for an hour. Most enclosed nuns would agree that just visiting family in the guesthouse, talking with people outside, spending a few hours with people from outside the monastery, had a detrimental effect on their experience of monastic life. There is a reason why only senior, stable monks are allowed to go to the guesthouse. Your visits for a few days each week would disrupt their lives.

It wouldn’t be real for you and it wouldn’t be fair to them.

Thank you very much for taking the time to share your thoughts and experience, I really appreciated it. You are absolutely right that a part time monastery life is not the real thing. Maybe an oblate is what I want to be. Your idea of simplifying my home decoration and throw away the TV and the novels etc really appeal to me !

The monasteries of the world will always have a special place in my heart.

The cloister is God and the soul. The building is irrelevant. What God wants is interior silence and attention to HIM.

Your affection for the monasteries of the world seems very Cloisterite. Here is our link: cloisters.tripod.com/cloisterites/

Read “The Hermitage Within by A Monk”. “Being there for God” is the life of the hermit. Accepting being bored with God is also the life of the hermit. The INTERIOR life, while all else takes place around you.

Blessings,
Cloisters

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