Becoming a Monk
Discernment of a Monastic Vocation
Discernment is best done from a pure heart and well-formed reason. It is undertaken with the help of the Holy Spirit, wise counsel from faithful people, and utilizes one’s own God-given capacity to discern. It has been said that the three signs of a true vocation are desire, ability, and call.
“As we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments,
our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.”
— The Holy Rule of St. Benedict
The Basics about Benedictine Monastic Life
If you have never heard of a monastery, here is the simplest answer: “A monastery is the place where monks live, work and pray.” Sometimes you hear it called an Abbey. Benedictines call themselves “monks” and live in a monastery.
Certain men in religious orders refer to themselves as “monks.” At Mount Angel Abbey, or monastery, all the members are monks but only some of them are ordained priests. A religious brother-monk is addressed as “Brother” and a priest-monk is addressed as “Father.” All of us are monks.
St. Benedict was a monk who lived from 480 to 543. He was from a town in Italy called Norcia. When he was young he went to school in Rome but decided to become a monk. First he lived alone in a cave called Subiaco. Later he became the head of a monastery at Montecassino in Italy. He was then known as an abbot. While he was there he wrote a little book called The Rule. It became the rule of life for monks in other monasteries, too. Since they followed The Rule of St. Benedict, they became known as Benedictine Monks, and lived in Benedictine monasteries or abbeys.
Discernment – A candidate is encouraged to attend at least one 3-day discernment retreat. He stays in our guesthouse, but eats and prays with the monks. He may extend his stay upon approval of the monastic vocation council, to live inside the cloister for a week and join the monks in prayer, work and recreation. This is also the period where one seeks approval to apply to enter the monastery.
Postulancy – A candidate is received to live inside the cloister. He receives a tunic and follows the daily monastic horarium (schedule), and is assigned housework while he seriously discerns his monastic vocation in our community.
Novitiate – As the novice continues his quest to know God’s calling, he is provided with an in depth focus on our customs, history, and traditions of monasticism, the Scripture, the Psalms, and the Rule of St. Benedict. He receives a scapular and will be presented to the monastic Chapter for petition for simple vows after one year.
Juniorate – A junior monk makes simple vows for three years. It is a commitment to live out his monastic vows with fidelity and fervor. He receives a full habit and a new name to mark his transformation to a life according to the way of the Gospel.
Solemn Vows – This final vow is for life. It is a lifelong commitment to live the commands of the Gospel through fidelity to the monastic vows of obedience, stability, and ongoing conversion of life. The monk may aspire to respond to the call of Holy Orders as a fruit of his monastic gift.
Somehow a monastery evokes something and people are curious:
“What is a monk and what do they do?”
Our obedience is to Christ and his Church. We live this obedience under a Rule and an abbot, who rules the monastery more by example than by legislation: The purpose of the Holy Rule is to be an assistance and guide in following the Holy Gospel.
Stability has been described as the vow that stops us from running from the Cross. While community life lived in charity is a great deal of hard work, God always supplies us sufficient grace and love to resolve human difficulties, and in the process, our transformation is ensured.
The vow of “conversatio” is a promise to daily follow the monastic way of life, which is very much about conversion. If the Holy Rule presumes anything, it is that by God’s grace – and our cooperation with it – change is possible. Over the years, even entrenched vices can be transformed into virtues.
An Introduction to the Divine Office
Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., explains the Liturgy of the Hours. Composed of Psalms, canticles, antiphons and prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours finds its historical roots in the ancient and venerable prayer of the synagogue.
View more on our YouTube Channel.