Vocation Pathway

The Pathway to Benedictine Monastic Life (Regular Brothers or Sisters only)

Observer

An observer spends a month to six weeks “looking over” the community, attending the Hours, helping with the chores and the like. Initially, he stays in the men’s guest house, but in a few days he moves into the cloister when facilities are available for this. Usually, one asks for observer status after having visited the monastery a few times. But persons coming from a distance may indicate their desire to be an observer without that.

Postulant

A postulant is someone the monastic community recognizes as a possible candidate. Postulants live in the community (sit in choir) and take a fuller part in the community life. The length of postulancy varies, usually from four to six months.

Novice

Given the mutual agreement of the candidate and the community, the Church wisely per custom requires a canonical novitiate of one year. The novice wears the Benedictine black alb with belt without scapular, sits in the choir and participates fully in the community life.

Simple Profession

After completion of the novitiate, the candidate may then make a simple profession, consisting of three-year vows. He is then a full-fledged but “junior member” of the community. These temporary vows of the Regula Benedicti that are: (conversatio morum, obedience and stability); and these may be repeated once for a three-year period.

 The VOWED (simple professed) Brother has chosen to remain unmarried.

 The VOWED (simple professed) Benedictine has chosen (and begins at this time) to divest himself of private ownership toward the common ownership within the community.

Solemn Profession

To continue for Life as a Regular (living under the Regula Benedicti) member of the community, the monk must make a permanent commitment to Christ Jesus. “So that, never departing from his guidance, but persevering in his teaching in the monastery until death, we may by patience participate in the passion of Christ; that we may deserve also to be partakers of his kingdom.” (Conclusion to the Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict)

As the “elders” of the community, the solemnly professed monks are the voting members of the monastery and serve as advisors to the prior or the abbot.

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ADMITTING BROTHERS and chapter 58 Rule of Benedict

(MH – February 20th, 2016)

There is great common sense in the Rule of St. Benedict that deals with the admission of brothers into the Monastic House – it bears some discussion for us here at the Mother House and we share this with you.

CHAPTER LVIII
Of the Manner of Admitting Brethren

Regula:  {Let easy admission not be given to one who newly cometh to change his life; but, as the Apostle says, “Try the spirits, whether they be of God” (1 Jn 4:1). If, therefore, the newcomer keeps on knocking, and after four or five days it is seen that he patiently bears the harsh treatment offered him and the difficulty of admission, and that he perseveres in his request, let admission be granted him, and let him live for a few days in the apartment of the guests.}

Commentary: How much less of a problem would it have been, had we understood the wisdom of this earlier over the years we have served the Lord in this monastic way?  In seeking not to offend people, we end up by offending people who are found to be unsuited to monastic Life, when if we would simply be “up front” in this manner – making it difficult for entry the first time – those not really called would walk away before ever setting foot in the Monastic House.

We do that first step by an observer visitor staying for one to two weeks, then leaving us to ponder matters and then returning for the next step, after working in the secular world and supporting himself.

We will not receive any longer an observer for 60-90 days.  They must be able to leave and work outside of the cloister and come back, ready to work for their room and board costs and contribute something to the Monastic House (pursuant to The Acts of the Apostles, chapters 2-4).  Everyone must be able to work as well as pray with the semi- cloistered monks.  No “free rides.”  We all support the community in common.

This admitting of Brethren, then, is taken in steps.

Regula:  {But afterward let him live in the apartment of novices, and there let him meditate, eat, and sleep. Let a senior also be appointed for him, who is qualified to win souls, who will observe him with great care and see whether he really seeks God, whether he is eager for the Work of God, obedience and humiliations. Let him be shown all the hard and rugged things through which we pass on to God.}

Commentary:  St. Benedict actually calls for admission into the apartment of Novices?  Yes, but always under the close observation and mentoring of a senior monk, (older monk) who is able to mentor the Novice.

It is hard to interpret this fully – perhaps, it is as a Postulant with the Novices – what is noticed though is the closest observation then of the potential Brother for a couple of months.  The Rule of St. Benedict is the “operational manual” for this potential Brother who is mentored.  The potential Brother is not just allowed to “do his own thing” – all is mentored.

Regula:  {If he promises to remain steadfast, let this Rule be read to him in order after the lapse of two months, and let it be said to him: Behold the law under which thou desire to combat. If thou canst keep it, enter; if, however, thou canst not, depart freely. If he still perseveres, then let him be taken back to the aforesaid apartment of the novices, and let him be tried again in all patience. And after the lapse of six months let the Rule be read over to him, that he may know for what purpose he enters. And if he still remains firm, let the same Rule be read to him again after four months.}

Commentary:  Please, let us note that there is no haste here in these matters.

There is no need to “lay hands suddenly” on any man; because every man must be “proven” as to what kind of fruits they might bear, as they are observed.

Everything is governed by the Regula; and the adaptation of the “individual” to that Regula.

It is not the other way around dear soul.

After four months – at the end notice of the two months – the Rule is again read to the potential Brother.  The potential Brother must “remain firm” in his acceptance and willingness to be under the Rule.

Here is the final step then,

Regula:  {And if, after having weighed the matter with himself he promises to keep everything, and to do everything that is commanded him, then let him be received into the community, knowing that he is now placed under the law of the Rule, and that from that day forward it is no longer permitted to him to wrest his neck from under the yoke of the Rule, which after so long a deliberation he was at liberty either to refuse or to accept.}

Commentary:  This is the official entry into the Novitiate, as we interpret it locally – the Brother is now under the Rule.

The Brother is officially received.

Regula:  {Let him who is received promise in the oratory, in the presence of all, before God and His saints, stability, the conversion of morals, and obedience, in order that, if he should ever do otherwise, he may know that he will be condemned by God “Whom he mocks.” Let him make a written statement of his promise in the name of the saints whose relics are there, and of the Abbot there present. Let him write this document with his own hand; or at least, if he doth not know how to write, let another write it at his request, and let the novice make his mark, and with his own hand place it on the altar. When he hath placed it there, let the novice next begin the verse: “Uphold me, O Lord, according to Thy word and I shall live; and let me not be confounded in my expectations” (Ps 118[119]:116). Then let all the brotherhood repeat this verse three times, adding the Gloria Patri.}

Commentary:  We do nothing in our own strength – or by our own willfulness – we look to God and the Help that comes from the LORD.  We note the Psalm that is quoted and believed and resounded three times…”Uphold me, O Lord, according to Thy word and I shall live; and let me not be confounded in my expectations”

The response of the new Brother?

Regula:  {The let that novice brother cast himself down at the feet of all, that they may pray for him; and from that day let him be counted in the brotherhood. If he hath any property, let him first either dispose of it to the poor or bestow it on the monastery by a formal donation, reserving nothing for himself as indeed he should know that from that day onward he will no longer have power even over his own body.}

This is the point of the beginning of complete and full conversatio morum; when obedience and stability are entered into fully by the monk.  Everything before this was preparatory for this moment.  This is the beginning of the Monastic Way.

Therefore,

Regula:  {Let him, therefore, be divested at once in the oratory of the garments with which he is clothed, and be vested in the garb of the monastery. But let the clothes of which he was divested by laid by in the wardrobe to be preserved, that, if on the devil’s suasion he should ever consent to leave the monastery (which God forbid) he be then stripped of his monastic habit and cast out. But let him not receive the document of his profession which the Abbot took from the altar, but let it be preserved in the monastery.}

Commentary:  Never is it every assumed that the free will is put to death in a the Monastic Way of Life – one may return to his former life at any time; if he renounces his promises to God.  Whatever was written at the altar remains the property of the Monastic House, because this was an oath before God; and it remains the property of the LORD’s stewards.

Dear souls, these steps are filled with Wisdom from the LORD – and they are to be followed carefully even in the present century; for our House, the 21st century.

 

Abbot Martin Andrew, OSB/BCSA

Superior

Abba Anthony Curley, OSB/BCSA

Semi-eremitical monk

 

Dated:  February 20th, 2016