Vocations

First of all, God must call a man to the monastic life. This is perhaps obvious, but often overlooked. How does one know if God is calling him to religious life?

There are many signs that give the first indication. Perhaps one is drawn to quiet prayer alone with God. Perhaps one receives inspiration reading or hearing the lives of the saints. Sometimes a person make a radical conversion from a sinful life and in doing so conceives a desire to make up lost time in a radical gift of self to God. Or, perhaps a priest, nun or lay person suggests that one would make a good monk.

However the first indications come about, one important first step is to begin praying with a live religious community. It is a temptation today to think long and hard about many different communities, but this almost inevitably frustrates the seeker from having too many choices and not enough direction.pascal3.jpg

It is very helpful to seek out a good spiritual director at this time, but it is not necessary. Most important is to visit a community or two and learn about their specific way of life up close. A community that one already knows and finds attractive in some way is more likely to be the place where we are called than the yet-unknown community that we haven’t met.

When a young man asks to visit us as a possible vocation candidate, we offer him hospitality in our guest house. He can meet with a monk or two to discuss what the life is like. Most importantly, he is invited to pray the Divine Office with us and to share meals with us. If, in the opinion of the community, it seems possible that God is calling him to our life, we invite him for a longer stay.

After some time getting to know each other, the candidate (often invited by the community to do so) makes a formal application to enter the life. If this is accepted, a time for entrance into thepostulancy is set. The postulancy lasts between two and six months and is a time of separation from the world, a time of particular silence and intense prayer.

At the end of the postulancy, the candidate is clothed with the novice’s habit and enters the novitiate. Our novitiate, a time of study of theology and the learning of monastic practices, lasts for two years. During this time, the novice’s candidacy is formally evaluated three times. If the three evaluations a favorable, the candidate is invited to petition the community to make temporary profession.

Temporary profession, or ‘simple vows’ is made for a period of three years. On the day of this profession, the man becomes a monk in the eyes of the Church. The monk in simple vows is called a ‘junior’ and continues his studies while partaking more intimately in the decision-making and work of the community.

After three years, the junior monk may ask the community to receive his Solemn Vows. Solemn Vows consecrate a man for life in service to the Church as a monk. The day of vows is one of tremendous joy, a real time of arrival at full brotherhood with the community. A senior monk possesses full rights in community decision-making. He receives the full habit, including the cowl (or cuculla) to be worn at the liturgy.

For more information about vocations to our monastery, please contact Br. Timothy Ferrell, OSB at this address.

13 Comments

  • What is the upper age limit if any, for Vocations entrance?

  • Fr. Peter says:

    We don’t generally adhere to a strict age limit, but applicants above the age of 39 can expect a longer period of initial discernment (pre-postulancy) and a higher level of scrutiny. We normally do not consider men over the age of 55 except those who have been friends of the monastery for an extended period of time (5-10 years), and so are well known to us. With God all things are possible, but grace builds on nature!

  • St. Thomas Aquinas

    Thank you for the reply.

  • Mr Feras Hana says:

    What language (Eng or Latin) do you use for your daily prayer, and does any candidate for monastic life must be able to read/speak/write Latin?

  • James Girouard says:

    Hello Father Peter. My name is James Girouard. I am seeking vocation. I have been all my life committed to serving the Lord Jesus Christ. Recently I have been in prayer a lot and I feel that God is calling me into the Monastery. So I would love to find out as much information that I can regarding your Monastery. I’m 25 years old and I believe in my heart I am ready to commit to a life of prayer, service and devotion.

  • Fr. Peter says:

    We use both. The Divine Office is primarily in English and occasionally entirely in Latin. The Mass Propers and Ordinaries are all in Latin, with the readings, etc, in English.

  • Fr. Peter, I recall your monastery being a great source of peace to me while I lived in Chicago. I attended every Easter vigil while in the city and loved the services. Cheers to you that your monastery prospers greatly.

  • Anonymous says:

    Do you require a psychological evaluation?

  • Fr. Peter says:

    We do not require a psychological evaluation for all candidates. However, if any difficulties arise in the postulancy for which such an evaluation would help us in discernment and care for the candidate, we may ask for one. Also, if a candidate has had an evaluation done for a previous community or seminary, we will generally ask to be able to see a copy.

  • Alex Godbey says:

    Fr. Peter, would you mind telling me more about the daily life of the monastery and what, if any, services you do?

  • jennyroca says:

    Starting with the fact that women and men experience God /evil differently, I have a question regarding confession: how does a seminarian learn the specific of woman’s sins, as part of his preparation to hear a woman’s confession?

    I also have a suggestion here: it is called PRE-confession: the seminarian presents his list of “problems” to a woman, PRIOR to going to confession to a priest.
    How does it feel: uneasy, embarrassed ? Is the woman knowledgeable about male-specific sins?
    Would the seminarian prefer to confess his sins to a woman or a man? Just a thought…..

  • jennyroca says:

    As part of the formation for priesthood: would it help to have seminarians going to confession to a woman, prior to going to confession to a man-priest? Just to experience the feelings of confession to the opposite gender….

  • Fr. Peter says:

    Dear Jenny,
    Sorry that I had not seen this earlier comment. These are intriguing questions. Certainly as a confessor myself I can say that hearing any confessions at all requires a certain type of discipline and a desire to subordinate my personal presence to the Lord’s. It is important that the priest work to reassure the penitent that he is there to facilitate an honest disclosure to God through the Church. On the side of the penitent, there is also obviously an important act of faith that the confessor acts in the name of Christ and not just as an individual man. Male confessors can be impatient with ‘male’ sins, too. But ultimately what matters is the encounter with the saving forgiveness of the merciful God through the death and resurrection of Christ.

    In terms of the training of seminarians, I can acknowledge that the differences in temperament and tendency between the sexes has not always received a full treatment in Christian moral tradition, since most of the theoreticians and practitioners have been male. In terms of redressing the problem, I would take as a model some of the sharing that went on between men’s and women’s communities in the Middle Ages. Personally, I have learned a great deal from friendships with sisters in other communities. We have frequently had women retreat directors at the monastery. In conversation, we wouldn’t necessarily address directly the issue of confession. However, any sharing about community life naturally tends to raise awareness of differences in relational styles, communication styles, typical failures and so on. In the end, I would guess that most confessors would say that we learn by experience, and by our own ascetical work. Hopefully I am more sensitive now than I was when I began as a priest in 2004, and yet–this is important to end with again–the presence of grace was the same in the confessions I heard in 2004 as it is now. Sins were forgiven then and are now.

    Fr. Peter

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