An encounter with the age-old hidden life of monks and nuns can awaken a variety of responses in those formed by contemporary American culture. Cistercian monks and nuns recognize this and are happy to answer questions put to us by visitors to our monasteries. We welcome any questions you might have and our responses are offered as an expression of monastic hospitality.

Love is a great thing if it returns to its source...

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

  • What time do you get up to pray? How do you keep your focus on doing God's work in these turbulent times? How many times a week do you fast and for how many hours? During the fast do you obstain from all foods or some foods? As time goes on do you find it easier or harder to be true to your vows?

    Thanks for your very thoughtful questions. The time for rising varies somewhat in our different communities, but 3:15 a.m. would be the average time for Vigils, the first prayer service of the day. Yes - “to keep one's focus”, to offer the Lord one's heart and mind and let them rest with him day after day, this is no easy thing. Trappists, however, are uniquely blessed with many supports for cultivating mindfulness of God. Keeping to the enclosure of the monastery, observing faithfully the practices of vigils, fasting, (we are expected to abstain from all foods every day between community meals), spiritual reading, silence and devotional reading, the blessing of a stable community whose members know you as a sinner and love you as a brother or sister, all this supports and encourages a Trappist who desires to be converted to God and intimate with God. We are not unaware of the “turbulence” in the world outside the monastery. Actually, a cloistered existence makes the heart more sensitive and pained by the world's suffering. But while the world's pain touches us at our very center, it finds us at Christ's feet like Mary of Bethany, and in this hallowed place so near to Christ, even calamities are revealed as moments in God's redemptive plan. A monk / nun experiences “seasons” of joy and suffering. Celibacy, for instance, is one experience for a novice, different for a busy Trappist with responsibilities in the community, and different again for a monk / nun in their seventies with more time on their hands. Obedience can become more challenging as one's “superiors” are found to be one's own age, and eventually, younger than you are. Stability in the community, like marriage, presents diverse challenges as time goes on, but also such profound security and peace. I have heard an elderly and holy monk I respected very much say one day: “In the early days of monastic life there is a sweetness – over time this experience of sweetness subsides, and is replaced by a greater and greater peace!"

  • I have a question regarding the day to day life of Trappists with regard to life essentials. What I mean is what about things like new shoes and clothes or toiletries. New glasses for reading and such. I am considering joining the Trappists but these questions pester me. I know of a group of Benedictines who are given a certain allowance each year to cover these costs and each monk goes to town on his own and purchases what he needs. How do the Trappists deal with this? If I need a new pair of shoes and new socks and underwear, say 2 years after becoming a member, what happens? How about things like toothpaste and brushes? This may sound venial but for someone coming from the world today it could keep you up at night wondering. I know some Trappists don't leave the monastery ever, how do they get a new pair of shoes? I hope you don't think I'm being trivial.

    I was delighted to receive these very practical and specific questions about the daily practices of Trappist monks which, I think, are of interest to many men and women who are considering this might be their vocation. Trappists take a vow of poverty because we ardently long for a heart that is free and not divided by attachments to what is less than God. With this as our aspiration, we strive to be happy with a sufficiency, so there is a common wardrobe where clothing can be found which satisfies many of our basic needs. Shoes have to be fit to each person and so are often bought at a store with permission from the superior. Glasses, of course, must be provided with the guidance of an optometrist who monks and nuns would be permitted to visit as needed. I am not aware of Trappist monks or nuns receiving money in the form of a personal allowance to be spent as they wish. Items such as tooth brushes and tooth paste are provided in a “common box” for use by all community members. Regarding departures from the monastery, it is understood that these are limited to strictly necessary errands for health care or in the case of monks or nuns responsible for temporal administration of the monastery. The practice of poverty, enclosure, obedience – all these, are means to an end: the radical personal transformation of the monk / nun in whom Christ is born, “grows in stature and wisdom”, suffers, dies, rises from the dead, and is glorified in the presence of the Father in heaven. If one night, you're having trouble falling asleep because of worrisome thoughts about any of this, remember the words of a very elderly monk who once said to me: “All those things I worried about as a young monk, and that frightened me about the future . . . they never happened!” Christ said, “My burden is light”. Again and again, I have heard old and saintly monks look back at forty, fifty years lived in a monastery and say: “I cannot imagine having been happier anywhere. My life has been such a blessing!”

  • I have always been at home alone out in the woods. 16 years ago I broke my neck, and have relied on people to care for me in a nursing home. The noise is unbearable, but fortunately I have a private room and I have found the Lord Christ. Is there a Third Order of the Trapists Monks? Presently, I am a Third Order member of the Confraternity of Penitents, of the original 1221 Rule. It is not that I am unhappy with this order, it is just that I am interested in understanding or order in a broader way, and if there is a Third Order, please let me know that I may read and understand its constitutions and rules, etc.. If I could walk I know that I would be with you folks now because I know who I am, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless all of you and bring you to the gates of heaven

    Thank you for your question. The Trappist (Cistercian) order does not have an international 'Third Order'. However, each monastery is free to host 'Oblates' which are sometimes referred to as 'Lay Associates'. Most, but not all, associates are geographically situated near the monastery they are affiliated with so that they can participate in retreats and discussions. To get in contact with an Associate program through the Trappist Regional Webpage, you could locate the monastery nearest to you and send an e-mail to their vocation director. If you are living in or close to Virginia, Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, VA has a very fine program. As you may already know we follow the Rule of St.Benedict. Because it is a 6th century document, I would suggest reading it with a good commentary in hand, of which there are many. There are two primary perspectives for these commentary's; those written for monks and nun who live in monasteries, and those written for lay people who live in the world. Of the latter variety, Esther deWaal has several helpful books that translate the Rule into 21st century language and thought. It brings me great joy to hear that you have found the Lord! I will pray for your continued transformation and conversion in the Lord--these are profoundly Trappist hallmarks!

  • Hello!! I am from Argentina. I am 29 and I am going to the USA this Saturday as a Fulbright Scholar. I am thinking about becoming a Trappist in the future. Even though I felt the call to religious life when I was at universtiy, about 8 years ago (I now reliaze it has been a long time since I first felt the call), I decided to postpone that decision because I thought I would not be able to have a holy life as a monk. So I thought it was better to live in the 'world' rather than doing things wrong as a monk, as I think that if I do something, I have to do it in the best way I can. At that time, I postponed my desire. However, I now feel a great desire to become a monk again. That is, I feel God is still calling me and I feel like becoming a monk again. My desire re- emerged, it has not disappeared. But from the beginning I was sure I wanted to die in the cemetery of a monastery. What do you think I should do?  I have now decided to pray and ask God to help me become a Trappist monk. I think that if it is Gods will, he will help me overcome all the difficulties
    and enter the monastery. I will be in Pennsylvania for 10 months. Is there any Trappist monastery nearby I could visit? Maybe that will help me start discerning my vocation. I hope I have made myself understood. My English is not perfect.

    !Gracias para su pregunta – y su ingles esta muy bueno! I will not try more than that with my poor Spanish – I just wanted to make you feel welcome! I rejoice with you that the call you first heard 8 years ago is once again resounding in your heart. I think your decision to pray and discern is the right one. If God is indeed calling you to the monastic life, he will make the path clear. Depending upon exactly where you will be staying in Pennsylvania, the nearest monastery of our Trappist monks is probably Our Lady of the Genesee in New York. Their vocation director is Brother Anthony, a very experienced, wise and holy monk – I know he would be happy to assist your discernment in any way possible. Perhaps you can visit there while you are in the US. On our Trappist website (from which you sent your question) there is a section with a map of the country and the location of all our monasteries (12 of men and 5 of women) – and some information on all of them. That should help you get started. Did you know that there is also a Trappist monastery in Argentina – Our Lady of the Angels in Azul. Congratulations on your Fulbright Scholarship – that is a wonderful opportunity. And perhaps it is the springboard to finding just what it is that God desires for your life, what will fulfill your own deepest desires. I will be praying very much for you! May Jesus continue to shed his light upon your path!

  • I have been discerning monastic life for almost my entire life, I first went to a monastery when I was three but didn't get the true call to the life until I was twenty seven. I then went to a Benedictine monastery and thought it was good but not "strict enough", so I decided to see the Trappists. So now my question is; how come your order follows the Rule of St. Benedict and not Rance or mabye even the Cistercian Fathers or any Cistercian in history? It seems to me that the Church already has an order that follows the Rule and they're the Benedictines. I actually heard from one Vocation director that they don't even follow the Rule or even the Pope!  So, to say the least I have been confused and very disturbed by all this, what are you thoughts?

    Thank you for your question - and for sharing some of your own story - I appreciate your trust - and promise to keep your search, your discernment, in my prayer.  The 10th and 11th centuries were a time of renewal within the Church. The Benedictine Order was still very vital, but there were some (like the founders of our Cistercian Order) who felt that something had been lost of the original simplicity and balance of St Benedict's Rule. Hence the choice to try to return to that by founding a new monastery. In later centuries, due to many things including the sad state of Europe during the time of the Bubonic plague and all the wars going on, there was a falling away from this ideal of our Cistercian founders - and hence various attempts at another renewal. As you mention, one of these was that promoted by Abbot de Rance. He had a special focus on penitential practices (because of all the abuses of his time in history) which was somewhat foreign to the spirit of the founders of Citeaux as I have described above. Their genius was their intuition that the Rule of St Benedict was a real school ofcharity (and all the other virtues!) and that its discretion and balance were what made it so. Our Trappist/Cistercian life today is based on that inspiration of our Cistercian Fathers (and Mothers!) - with some of the additions of the centuries and "extras" left aside in favor of the contemplative orientation and balance of the original Rule of St Benedict. This Rule is lived in different ways - by some lay people who try to incorporate some of its practices into their daily Christian lives. And by some Benedictine monks and nuns who combine prayer with various apostolic activities. And by the Trappists who try to live it fully within their monasteries especially by prayer. We believe that we are carrying out the intention of our founders, adapted to our time - as the Church has urged us to do. I hope this helps, Brian - and again, I will hold you and your vocational searching in my prayer.

  • "Before taking vows, a monk or nun must assign the administration of his or her goods to someone else"  Are goods usually assigned to the monastery/community one is joining? What typically happens?

    Yes, it is Church law that at the time of first vows, the person must assign the administration of his/her goods to someone else for the duration of the vowed period. This is simply to assure the person freedom to concentrate on his/her religious formation rather than on business affairs.

    This procedure is officially called a "cession" - the ceding of the administration to someone else. It can be a family member, a friend, a business acquaintance - or it can also be the religious community that one is joining. But most communities would rather not take on this responsibility since it can put them in a different relationship with the new member. Thank you for your question, and God bless you!

  • Is it a Grace from God to answer the call of God to your order? And If so How do you discern your call? How do you Learn the Good and Evil Spirits in one's life.


    Greetings in the Lord – and thank you for your good question!

    God does have a special call, a vocation (from the Latin word “vocare” – to call) in his mind and heart for each one of us, his dearly-beloved children.

    This is a grace indeed – and our responding to it is also a grace – our response to God’s call. There are many Christian vocations, as you know – to the married life, to the single life in the world, to the priesthood and to the religious life. And within the latter group, there are many religious congregations. Our Order is among these, among the group that is called “monastic” – which signifies those whom God calls to serve him through the ministry of prayer. Other religious congregations serve God and his people in works of teaching, social assistance, education, missionary works, etc – and there is a need for each of these. But down through all the centuries of the Church’s existence, God has called some to serve him through lives of prayer and sacrifice, in a hidden yet very fruitful apostolate that reaches out to all the human family.

    You ask about discernment. St Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, gives very precise rules and questions to aid in distinguishing between the various spirits that can influence us. And in the matter of a life’s vocation, it is very important not to try to do this on our own, but to seek guidance from someone whom you know and trust – to help you with this distinguishing. In general, inspirations that spring from wanting to know God’s will for our life, and that move us to service, sacrifice in communion with the Church are to be trusted – also inspirations and considerations that bring us peace versus those that cause us disquiet and a sense of unease.

    I suggest you talk over the matter of your vocation with someone in your parish – perhaps the pastor or someone he might recommend.  And I will keep you and your discernment very much in my prayer. God bless you – and may Jesus continue to shed his holy light on your path!

  • I have seen members of other orders wear their rosary or a cross/crucifix. Can a Trappist monk or nun wear their rosary or a cross/crucifix if they choose to do so?

    Thanks for your question! Many Trappists have a real devotion to both the rosary and the cross, but we do not normally wear them as a part of our regular habit. Most of us keep our rosary in our pocket—so that it is handy for use! And some do wear a crucifix on a chain around the neck under the habit.

    Actually the choir robe part of our habit (we call it the cowl) has the shape of a cross, and this is an important symbol for us.

    Thank you again for contacting us—and God bless you!

  • If Jesus Christ initiated and or became a member of your Order of Cistercians, how could or would his followers and we be saved? I find this order to be "out of order" if we as Catholic Christians were called to "Proclaim The Good News" excuse my trite analogy; when one lights a candle is it right to cover the light; you may cause a fire? if not darken the room people could trip and fall Your order seems to encouraged a life of hermitage.

    Thank you for the very forthright and searching question. You are to be commended for voicing what many others probably also wonder about but don't have the courage to ask!

    Very true, Jesus did not found or join a monastery - and he could have! The Essenes were close at hand, living a life comparable to the monastic way; some scholars have even suggested John the Baptist may have had some connection with that group. A cousin like Jesus would have been quite a catch!

    Jesus had a different mission, and you and I are who/where/what we are today because of his fidelity to the mission to the end.

    Ever since then his followers have participated in his mission according to his call to each. No Christian can fully live, fully express all that Jesus was and did. As St Paul says " Are all apostles? Are all teachers? Are all prophets?...." (1 Cor 12:27-30)

    All these roles are necessary - and many more besides. There are the indispensable visible roles - and thank God so many Christians fill them so well! There are also the equally indispensable invisible roles - which is where the contemplative Orders in the Church come in. They too continue the work of Jesus - entering into his solitary prayer to the Father, interceding for all the apostolic ministers of the gospel and for all the People of God.

    We pray for those who speak the Word of God and for those who hear it. We pray for those who want to pray but cannot. We pray in the night for those who labor in the night, those who suffer in the night, those who are tempted in the night.

    It is ultimately a matter of vocation, of God's call to each Christian. Obviously God calls many more to active apostolic work; the call to a hidden contemplative Christian life will be to relatively few. But to those invited to this, it is an imperious call. The Church has blessed this life, encouraged it, considers it a necessary part of evangelization, a living witness to God's transcendence, to the fact that God is worthy of the total gift of the human heart, and calls some persons to make this total gift, and to satisfied with nothing else.

    You are quite right that each Christian must proclaim the Good News, must bear witness to the light. But there are as many different ways of doing this as there are Christians. Some may and must burn brightly before the world; some must be simply a living flame of love in God's presence, trusting that this light of love will reach to the ends of the earth.

    Thank you again for your question. God bless you!

  • Trappists (and all other monastic orders who are guided by the Rule of St. Benedict) pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which is more biblical than devotional. If so, how do you manifest your devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary? Do you include the rosary in the communal prayers?

    Thank you for the very good question.

    It is true that the Liturgy of the Hours is based on Scripture, but that does not at all prevent it from being devotional! Indeed, each monk or nun celebrating the Liturgy must bring to it their own heartfelt inner prayer and dedication, for it to be fruitful. St Benedict, whose Rule we follow, instructs us to assist at the Divine Office with our minds in harmony with our voice—in harmony with the meaning of the word of God which we are singing.

    As for our personal devotion to Mary, each monk and nun bears the name of Mary (e.g., Sister Mary Catharine, Brother Mary Paul, etc)—and each of our monasteries is called by a title of Mary—Our Lady of the Angels, Our Lady of the Assumption, etc. We have a sung commemoration of Mary at each hour of the Divine Office, and we conclude our day with the beautiful "Salve Regina" sung in her honor.

    Since we are in choir for at least 4 hours each day for the Liturgy of the Hours, we do not normally pray the rosary communally. We do this individually whenever we wish.

    The Mother of God means a great deal to Trappist Cistercians—our Constitutions end with this beautiful invocation of her intercession:

    "May God grant that by the breath of the Paraclete, the monks and nuns may observe these Constitutions in a spirit of fraternal charity and fidelity to the Church, and so joyfully make their way to the fullness of love, with the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of Citeaux."

    Thank you again for your question. God bless you!

  • My questions regard the Liturgy of the Hours. I know that each order does the Liturgy a little differently, but I am curious how yours is done? Do you meet for each of the hours? How long do the usually last? Do you take communion every day?

    I have a copy of Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours (the single volume edition). Because I wasn't raised Catholic I am totally confused as to how to use it, though I would like to start observing the Hours like a sister so that I can experience the routine and emotions.

    Do you have any ideas as to how I might figure out which prayers etc for a particular time period? Which days go with which set of psalter, etc? Thank you for your time!

    Thank you for the good questions! And I am very happy you are so interested in learning more about sharing in the Liturgy, the Prayer of Christ in the Church.

    To begin with our celebration of the Liturgy (yes, it is a celebration!), we do participate in the Mass (Eucharist) daily, and do receive Communion daily – a great privilege and blessing. And we do gather together in our church for all the Hours: Vigils (sometimes called the Office of Readings), Lauds (Morning Prayer), Terce, Sext (Midday Prayer), None, Vespers (Evening Prayer) and Compline. Sometimes one or two of the ‘Little Hours” (Terce, Sext, None) are said at the place of work.

    The Hours are of varying length: Vigils about 45 minutes, Lauds and Vespers about ½ hour, the Little Hrs and Compline about 15 minutes. We generally sing most of them, though Vigils (which we have at 3:15 a.m.) is often recited.

    We have our own Cistercian Rite, slightly different from but very similar to the Roman Liturgy volume which you have.

    In every Office, there are 4 essential parts: Hymn, Psalm(s), Readings, Prayer. There are usually other elements also: Antiphons before/after the Psalms, Responsories, Intercessions.

    Though each Hour varies a bit, the normal sequence is:

    • Opening Verses
    • Hymn
    • Antiphon/Psalm, Antiphon/Psalm
    • Reading (and silent pause for reflection)
    • Responsory
    • Gospel Canticle at Lauds/Vespers/Compline
    • Intercessions
    • Concluding Prayer(s)

    The 150 Psalms are usually spread out over 2 weeks (for monastic choirs) or 4 weeks (Roman). Also, usually in the book there are different Hymns, Antiphons, Responsories, Prayers for each liturgical season – Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and “Ordinary Time.”

    I realize that this explanation may just have confused you further – and if so, I apologize! The book can be a bit confusing, but it is well worth the effort needed to become familiar with its various parts.

    I am in central Virginia, and if you were close enough to come for a visit (?), I’d love to sit down with you and go through the book! But if this is not possible, I encourage you to ask someone nearby, perhaps a priest in your parish, to help you with it. Let me know how you make out with this, and if you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

    You sound as though you may be considering a religious vocation – and I want to encourage you with this also – and I will keep your discernment in my prayer.

    God bless you!

  • "Hello! I have always been very interested in the monastic all amaze me! I am not a potential candidate as I have been married for 24 years and am not Catholic at this time. I read a lot about the cloistered life, but I wonder a few things. Is there ever a day that you just kind of take a day off and just stay in your room and sleep and read? I know its a silly question, and I feel you all do very important work...but are there days like that? I also wonder about your story...what was your path like that has led you to this destination? Was there a defining moment? Thank you so much and Merry Christmas :)"

    Thank you for the good questions - not silly at all!

    To begin with your final query....each monk and nun would have a different answer. There are really as many paths to God as there are people. For some, the awareness of their vocation unfolded gradually and quietly. For others it was more like St Paul's being knocked off his horse! In either case, there usually is "a defining moment" where the person realizes an answer, a commitment, is being asked for - a 'yes' essentially to God's mysterious call of love.

    Regarding "taking a day off" :) - most of our monasteries do provide days of solitude regularly (and reading and sleeping are part of the restorative purpose of this!) - plus an annual week of retreat for everyone. And each day of our regular monastic schedule does have built into it some quiet free time in solitude.

    Our life is intense, but it is not meant to be a strain - though, of course, as in every vocation, some strain and stretching are inevitable - and good!

    Thank you again for your questions - and happy, holy Christmas to you and yours!

  • "A person told me that Trappists don't do pastoral work like parish priests — they don't teach or work with the poor — they seem to be shut up in monasteries and just pray. Therefore, this person was asking me what is the use of Trappists in the church? Would it not be better if they worked in hospitals or parishes and the like, since there is a shortage of priests. Why do Trappists exist, and what would motivate someone to become one? Please, can you help me answer these questions?"

    Greetings in the Lord – and thank you for your good question. You are so right about the needs in the world — there are so many! There are those who are materially poor, the physically sick, the oppressed and those imprisoned behind metal bars — and then there are the spiritually poor, those whose hearts are sick and those whose spirits are enslaved and oppressed by addiction or depression or despair.

    God uses the hands and hearts of men and women to attend to these — and you are right in pointing out the need for such generous ministers of Christ’s compassionate care. But we all know that there are some needs, some situations, which can only be helped by prayer — and this conviction is one of the reasons someone becomes a Trappist. Our prayer goes out especially to all those who can be reached in no other way.

    There is another reason — and it is that for some of us, the call of God's love is so strong that we can only respond to it by the total gift of ourselves. Just as a man and woman leave all other loves behind when they marry and pledge their love to one another — so, for those whom God calls to the contemplative life, all else must be set aside — this is the ultimate reason for giving up everything else in order to live totally for God.

    The Rule of St Benedict which is the basis of our way of life puts it this way: To prefer nothing whatever to the love of Christ. This is a beautiful ideal — and those of us who try to live it are only too aware of our weakness and limitations — and we too need the prayer of others that we may be faithful to our vocation.

    I hope this is helpful to you. It really all makes sense only in the light of faith — and the tender love of God for all his children.

  • "I have heard that Trappist monks/nuns may never leave the monastery grounds (except for things like doctor's appointments). Does this mean that monks/nuns may never visit their family? What if someone joins the monastery and a family member becomes infirm as they grow older, can that monk not help or visit them? Do monk's and their families find this separation hard? I know of a Benedictine monastery and they allow 2 weeks a year for monks to visit family. What is the Trappist rational for such a strict break from familial ties? Thank you."

    Many people bestow gifts upon monasteries, and for these we are very grateful. But our families are our biggest benefactors – they give us the monks and nuns! Recognition of this fact and gratitude for it are very important for Trappists. Being a monk/nun is a full-time occupation, so our tradition does not provide for “vacations” in the usual sense, nor for regular visits home to our families. They are welcome to visit us at the monastery, as long as they are able to do this. (There are some wonderful family re-unions of many of the kith and kin held regularly at monastery guesthouses!) When the distance is too great (as with those from another country) or when parents become elderly or ill, almost all communities provide for the monk or nun to go visit them – and, of course, also at the time of serious illness and at death and for funerals. Trappist communities tend to "adopt" the families of the monks and nuns – so that eventually the parents don’t feel that they have so much 'lost' their one son or daughter but rather have gained many more. Our families also have the largest claim on our prayer, of course – and this usually means a great deal to them, especially as they get older.

  • "Do all monasteries use a different form of the Liturgy of the Hours? If so do you have a recommendation for civilians? Perhaps the St. Joseph 4 volume set? Also, are there plans to revise the set? I would hope not if I were to invest in them, as they are somewhat expensive."

    Not all the monasteries follow the same order of Psalms and readings for the Liturgy of the Hours. Some pray the entire Psalter every week, others every two weeks, and some use the four volume set of the Roman Rite in which the Psalter is prayed every four weeks. The choice of readings also differs from abbey to abbey. The four volume set of the Roman Rite is one of the few printed editions for any of the different rites used by monks in the United States. There is a one volume, condensed edition of the Liturgy of the Hours available from Liturgical Press, Collegeville. It is far less expensive and includes most of what anyone needs to pray the Liturgy of the Hours well.

  • "Hello, I am probably going to a monastery not so far in future, and I am trying to understand more about monastic life and practice, in order to adjust better. I think I tend to create my own ways of doing things, with a good intention, but I am afraid that sometimes it might cause problems. I wonder if there's something I should practice, so that I would back off from my own ways. For example, I (as a guest in a monastery) got permission to be in a certain place at a certain time, and the sister said, "I will come to pick you up, and will take you there from this door." But then I thought, "that's extra work for her! I can actually get there by myself through the steps from another door," and I told her so. She did not object, but it might cause a problem because I didn't do it exactly the way she had permission for me from the superior. (In fact it probably did for some complicated reason I haven't written here.) Through troubles like this and something else that happened earlier, I understand a little better the difference between what I can do and what I may do in the monastery. But I still think almost automatically, "I can do it better/simpler this way." I wonder if this kind of mentality is annoying in a monastery. I am thinking of training myself so when someone tells me AB->C, I might think of DE->C but won't tell or act on it so easily. (I'm still in the world living by myself). On the other hand, I almost feel like I'm suppressing my creativity this way. I would appreciate your opinion about this."

    St. Benedict writes in his Rule for Monasteries that the boon of obedience should be shown not only to the abbot but even to our peers, to one another. Self-will is the root cause of our sinfulness. Therefore, in monastic life we seek to overcome our own willfulness even in good things by practicing obedience, even in small things.

    In this way we train ourselves to overcome our desires to do our own will, and we acquire strength to resist our own desires even when they may have good or better results than what someone else is telling us. (Obviously this does not mean we should obey someone who asks us to do something sinful.)

    There will be more than enough occasions when we can be creative, when we are given responsibility and are in charge of something, or when our suggestions are invited.

    But better yet, we are exercising the best kind of creativity when we form ourselves into the image of Christ who came not to do his own will but the will of his Father in heaven.

    Pray daily to know and follow whatever your vocation in life is.

  • "I'm 21 years old and about ready to finish an Associate of Arts degree, but I do not feel attending a 4 year college or just finding an ordinary job is right for me now. I've read several entries about becoming a monk, or an oblate in your community, but I just don't know. I have been thinking about becoming a monk every day for about the last year and visited the guesthouse a couple days in May. The way the life as set up in the monastery is balanced and even beautiful from my perspective. However I do not know if I want to become an official monk all of my life, so inside of me there is great conflict. I feel I could learn more then I ever could elsewhere by living and learning in the monastery, but I don't know if I want to live my entire life there. Then again, I would love to achieve the sheer balance and peace that is in your lives. I really don't know what to do."

    Thank you for writing about your desires and anxieties. If God is calling you to the monastic way of life, (it could be for a limited time), that would be a wonderful grace for you and for others. May it be so.

    Many aspirants come for a few months or a few years and then leave to seek God in other ways. That is okay. A final, permanent commitment is not made for at least six to ten years. One may leave before making a final commitment by solemn vows if God’s call draws one elsewhere.

    There are three signs that may help you discern God’s will, the three A’s: attraction, aptitude, acceptance.

    You already have the attraction. Do you have the aptitude, the ability to live the monastic way of life? There are certain minimum requirements: a baptized Catholic, single, free of debts, good health, free of other obligations, right motivation. These are easy to discern. For the other aptitudes, the best way to find out is by trying this way of life. The third sign is acceptance. If you apply and are accepted that is a very good indication that this is God’s will for you.

    The process of discernment begins with a visit to the monastery for a few days or a couple weeks to see what this life is like. If all is favorable, the next step is a six week observership, living inside the cloister with the monks, just as they do. Then after the six weeks is completed, the aspirant returns home to reflect on the experience for a month. If he still wants to join, he writes to ask permission to come as a postulant, and if he is accepted that is the beginning of his membership in the community.