When is it appropriate for a person to refer to themselves as monastic?


A friend of mine and I were having a discussion recently, and the topic of monasticism came up. To avoid all the intricacies of the conversation, our question can pretty much be boiled down to this: Is it appropriate for a person who is not a vowed religious to refer to themselves as a ‘monk’ or a ‘monastic’? What if that person is living in a state which is consistent with a monastic or contemplative way of life in order for them to properly discern their vocation?

Thanks in advance!


You’re not a professed monk or religious, so it wouldn’t be appropriate to call yourself a monk or monastic. You could use it descriptively though. Example: “I have a very monastic spirituality” or “I live a very monastic lifestyle.”


Seems to me that one has to profess vows within a religious community, as far as being a monk in the Catholic world goes. Most monks live within a community, and I think that the ones who live an eremetical or hermit life still underwent a novitiate or lived a number of years within community before they became hermits.


When I hear “monastics” I automatically think of the cloisters and those vowed within them.

“Lay monastic” is similar to saying “Lay Dominican”. Lay monastics may not be affiliated with a particular religious order, but have taken the writings of the saints to heart, and are genuinely searching for God.

Laity who practice reclusion can be called Recluses (my blog is “Holy Name Reclusory” on Yahoo groups). However, Poustiniki are more along the lines of what they do – withdrawal from family and society when nobody’s there, then render hospitality when necessary. I personally identify more closely with the Recluses than I do the Actives or the Poustiniki. Hubby’s not too keen on outside charitable works, so I focus on my high-functioning son and the internet.

Our new congregation has adapted the “poustinia” concept to our charism.


We have Actives, Poustiniki, and Recluses. The Poustiniki have limited outside apostolate. The Recluses usually stick to their property, and minister more to their families.

Properly speaking, anyone can live a monastic life, as the word comes from the Greek “monos” meaning “one.” The monastery/cloister/hermitage/reclusory is in the HEART. There are websites dedicated to this concept. This also means that the property is usually dedicated in some way to the Sacred Hearts, and the intention of the inhabitants is to live a Godly life.

Mrs Cloisters OP
Lay Dominican


I know someone who is a lay person who is a Order of Knights of Malta? or I forget Order Knights of the Holy Seplechre? and follows the lay Benedictine Rule if there is such a thing, not sure they may just follow the Benedictine Rule in the lay state. I would in a way consider him a lay monk…or maybe there is another name for this…


Totally different from the Knights of Malta–but the Benedictine you are referring to is probably an Oblate.


I may have it mixed up, I will ask him when I see him next time.


“Poustinki”- There s a word I have never heard before. Now I must google it. :slight_smile:


A person living in a contemplative way of life without taking religious vows is called a hermit. I am attracted to this kind of lifestyle. I, myself, have attempted, discerned and visited a monastery to become a monk but have put that vocation on hold to focus on family matters. I may in the future revisit this vocation once again…


“Hermit sans permit” is the way one person referred to lay eremitism. I would refer to them as “catechetical hermits”, since nothing is designated in the catechism. That would leave “canonical hermit” for those who are actually vowed.

These terms have been the bane of my existence for the last 10 years. Actual vowed diocesan hermits will “take one to school” over the use of the term. Please judge wisely.


I stand corrected… Thank you brother or sister in Christ.


Collins dictionary has an American definition of the adjective monastic:

1. of or characteristic of a monastery.
2. of or characteristic of monks or nuns or their way of life; ascetic, austere, etc.

And noun:

3. one living a monastic life.

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