Becoming a Monk

Discerning a vocation to the monastic life is best done by personal experience and an encounter with the monks behind the cloister. We, at Mount Angel Abbey, open our door to men at least 18 years old who are discerning a vocation to come and join us for a three-day monastic discernment experience.

While on retreat, you can expect to:

  • Pray with the monks
  • Join them for meals
  • Tour the monastery
  • Listen to conferences and vocation discernment stories
  • Spend time in quiet prayer
  • Discern your vocation with monks and other retreatants
Discernment Retreats for 2019 and 2020

October 18 – 20, 2019
March 6 – 8, 2020
June 12 – 14, 2020
October 2 – 4, 2020

Interested? Email our vocation director, Fr. Odo Recker, O.S.B., or call 503.881.8919.

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.

Desire

In discerning a call to the monastic way of life one should feel a longing deep within one’s soul to follow Christ in all his purity, poverty, charity and radical commitment to fulfilling the will of our heavenly Father.

Ability

Reasonably good physical and mental health are required so as to endure the daily challenges of monastic prayer and work. Even though the fasts and vigils are quite moderate at Mount Angel Abbey, the trial may be found, not in their severity, but in engaging these and all the monastic disciplines with zeal day after day for the rest of one’s life. Perhaps the greatest ascetical practice of Benedictine monasticism is to live in community with true charity.

Obedience, along with charity and humility, are values at the heart of the monastic way. These virtues allow us to pray and work in a recollected peace which is the fruit of a personal encounter with Christ. The monk strives to hear the Word of God and respond whole-heartedly. When one hears the call of Christ to “Follow me,” one responds as did the Blessed Virgin Mary, “Fiat.” “Yes, let it be done unto me according to Thy Word” (Luke 1:38).

A man can finally be certain of his vocation when Christ says “yes” to him through the voice of the Church.

Call

The life of a monk is not for everyone. It is a rigorous life of prayer and work, lived out in community, and it is not without its daily challenge. But for those called to it, the monastic way is a joyful and fulfilling life. If you think that you are ready to give up your “own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord,” then please contact the Abbey’s Director of Vocations and arrange a visit to Mount Angel Abbey.

“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

What Is a Monastery?

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.

Who Is a Monk?

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.

Who Is Saint Benedict?

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.

How to Become a Monk

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), attends formation classes, and is assigned with house works 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?”

Monastic Vows

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.