We make significant efforts to reflect in our vocation ministry the image of the Church as the Body of Christ, as taught by Saint Paul, and reaffirmed in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. Vocation discernment at Saint John's Abbey means not only to explore a vocation to the monastic life among our community but to ask the question of God's call to you and for the Church as a whole. Are you Called to become a monk? Perhaps. But are you called to become a monk of Saint John's? That is a different question. Discerning your call to the monastic life, the priesthood, single, or married life is of vital importance in the Catholic faith, but equally important are the specifics of "where" when" and "with whom." Answering this question is the process of Catholic vocation discernment.
Monasticism is one of the most ancient of Christian callings and has served as the foundation and testing ground for much of Catholic spirituality and devotion. This site, its resources, and the relationships it offers to the Saint John's monastic community will open that world and its richness to you, and your relationship with God and Church. We are pleased to answer questions throughout your discernment process, to discuss and elaborate on monastic spirituality, commitment, and life, and provide you with the opportunities and support to follow the call of Christ to every person.
For many, even in the Catholic Church, monasticism remains a mystery, and there is no idea that monastic communities serve all over the U.S. and the world. Popular images of monks tend to range from Friar Tuck (friars are not monks) to the Shaolin of China (who are not Christian), or romanticized images of monks often call up heroic hermits battling evil through esoteric knowledge. But what is a monk?
What is a monk? Possibly the moment when a young man stands before the Abbot and the monastic community and is asked, "What do you seek?" will give us a starting point. The novice replies, "The mercy of God and fellowship in this community." He is then clothed in the habit of the community, and if he perseveres, begins a lifelong journey of doing just that. Eventually making vows of stability, obedience, and conversion to the monastic way of life, he lives with the same group of men, praying, dining, learning and working with them in pursuit of Christ, in service to the Church. Of course, the life of the monk may take him away from the day-to-day life of the community to travel, obtain an advanced degree, or become a pastor of a parish, but he always returns to his home, the monastery.
Becoming a monk is a continuing process of listening and responding to God's Call to Holiness; throughout a minimum 5-year series of choice, experiences, reflection, and again, choice.
1. GOD IS CALLING YOU TO HOLINESS
This call may be challenging to "hear" and even harder to define. But God is Calling you to Holiness, your part at this point, is to work to understand and identify that call, and to understand and identify God's Call for you, you must prayerfully explore the four Catholic vocations: Single Life, Married Life, Priesthood, and Religious Life.
2. PRAY, STUDY, & TALK
A vocation is a relationship and role within the Church, in response to God's Call to you, and the needs of His people. Your vocation is not just about you and your will and hopes for your life but intimately ties to God, His Church, and His Will for creation. Begin with prayer, and continue for the rest of your life. Research the four vocations, and come to know what role each plays in the Church, and the nature of the relationship each builds with God. Since you are not alone in this pursuit, ask for advice from friends, family, and your parish. These others, also inspired by God in their search for fuller discipleship, may see things about you that you never knew existed, and give you the insight to make the next step.
3. CONNECT, EXPERIENCE, & REFLECT
Very few people chose a spouse without a first meeting, becoming friends, and building a deep relationship with that person. Likewise, very few men become priests without first meeting other priests, bishops, and living a life of service and deep involvement in the parish. Discerning your call means engaging the call. Get away from the computer and experience the vocations. "Experiencing the vocations" means meeting new people and dating; talking with your local priests and visiting the seminary; studying the missions of religious orders and visiting the communities. You don't have to try them all, but follow your heart and where you believe God is calling you. Should you discover that one vocation is not for you, or, one community is not for you, great! Now try another. If you go through all four vocations with no luck, try again with different people and communities, seek out a Vocation Guide, and continue seeking God – continue to LISTEN.
4. GET A VOCATION GUIDE
A Vocation Guide is your first connection to the monastic community, he listens and offers advice. Similar to a spiritual director, a Vocation Guide should fit your spiritual needs, and if he does not, it's OK to find another. Accepting the guidance of a Vocation Guide is not a commitment beyond that – he is only there to help your vocation discernment process; you will not be pressured to become a monk or a priest.
5. VISIT SAINT JOHN'S ABBEY
You will likely have to visit the Abbey at least three times. These visits will give you a fuller and fuller understanding of the monastic call, and through the spiritual education and disciple gained through your time in the monastery, you will better understand if this is God's call for you. You will meet many members of the monastic community, live the monastic life and spirituality, and the monks will come to know you and offer wisdom in your search.
6. APPLY FOR CANDIDACY
Here is the first big step: applying for candidacy means you are asking the monks of Saint John's Abbey to consider you to become a monk, while you live with them for three months in keen discernment. Candidacy is only a discernment step; candidates are not monks and make no vows.
7. MONASTIC CANDIDACY
For three months, you will live with the monks, following the monastic Rule of Saint Benedict, praying, working, and studying with the monastic community. You may leave at any time, should you discern you do not have a Call to the monastic life at Saint John's Abbey. Likewise, the monastic community may ask you to leave at any time, should we discern you do not have a Call to the monastic life at Saint John's Abbey.
The novitiate is the first phase of monastic life, and a probationary period of discernment and formation before making profession (vows.) Upon leaving candidacy, each man stands before the community, confessing their intention to become a monk of Saint John's Abbey, and are clothed with the monastic habit (black robes, consisting of a cassock, scapular, and hood.) Novices live the life of a monk: they pray and work with the community while studing the monastic life with the Abbot, religious scholars, and the formation director. The novitiate is a year-long period of strict discipline, prayer, discernment, and formation. The daily work of a novice explores the monastic vocation, teaching humility and obedience, and the wide variety of apostolates of Saint John's Abbey. Novices may leave at any time, and the monastic community may ask novices to leave at any time.
9. JUNIORATE OR SIMPLE PROFESSION
After the training period of the novitiate, monks enter into temporary vowed profession for three years, with the option of adding years if further discernment is needed. No longer living under the strict discipline of the novitiate, but still, under the guidance of the formation director, this stage of discernment offers more freedom than the novitiate and a clearer experience of the monastic life as lived by a solemnly professed monk. A junior monk's work is more focused than in the novitiate, and takes advantage of the monks individual talents, allowing the monk to invest himself into the ministry and identity of Saint John's. At this point, many monks will explore new areas of interest and hobbies, learn new practical skills, and advance their professional studies.
10. FINAL OR SOLEMN PROFESSION
On the Feast of Saint Benedict, as the monks before you, you will make the solemn profession of the Order of Saint Benedict, vowing yourself to this community in obedience, stability, and conversion to the monastic way of life. You are now a Catholic monk of Saint John's Abbey, of the Order of Saint Benedict, part of the 1,500-year-old spiritual tradition, seeking God and serving the Church and World. Over the habit which you received on the day you entered the novitiate (the cassock, scapular, and hood), you are clothed with the cuculla, the symbol of a fully professed Benedictine monk. From this day forward, you are a Brother in Christ and will continue to LISTEN to God's Call for yourself and your community, for the Church and the World. Your work as a Benedictine monk is prayer, and your prayer expresses itself in helping to build the Kingdom of God in countless ways, as your talents, your community, and God Calls you.
Similar to a Spiritual Director, a Vocation Discernment Guide offers advice, perspective, expertise, and a compassionate listening partner. A Vocation Guide does not tell you your vocation, nor guarantees you anything, but offers only to aid you in the work only you can perform as you listen to God's Call and respond to the best of your ability.
If you have a particular monk in mind to serve as your Vocation Guide (read about the monks here), please identify them at the bottom of this form. This does not guarantee the availability of said guide. The Saint John's Abbey Vocation Director, with the help of vocation discernment team, will prayerfully assign discerners with Vocation Guides while taking careful consideration to any preference you may indicate.