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Vocation Overview

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Vocations Overview

fountain

Fountain at the Lady Shrine.

abbey front

The Abbey in early spring.

 

The Cistercian life is a life of seeking God.  Before a man is admitted to the novitiate, he is asked what he seeks, to which he replies, “The mercy of God and of the Order.”

On these pages you will find some basic information about how the monks of Spring Bank understand the life of seeking God.  Ours is a particular vocation.  We live together as brothers, but the majority of our day is devoted to the solitary pursuit of friendship with God.  While we do our best to give back to the local community and our businesses allow us to be a partner to people in need around the world, we do not engage in parish work or operate a school.  Our primary work is the hidden life of prayer.  A calling to Spring Bank might be said to be a calling inward toward deeper communion with God rather than an outward calling to be a witness of His love to the wider world. 

If a man feels that following Christ is worth more to him than marriage, career, and the large and small pleasures of the world, he has the first signs of vocation. If he longs for silence, solitude, and wishes to devote himself fully to the praise and glory of God, the Abbey of Our Lady of Spring Bank may be the place for him.

There is no one personality type that makes a monk; a vocation takes root in the hearts and minds of men from every kind of family background, education and life experience. What is important is to realize that nothing must take precedence over seeking God, praising Him, growing in humility, and leaving the comforts and liberties of the world to live in a community of like-minded men.

Make no mistake, the monastic life is not easy.  Community life is challenging and spiritual growth demands purgation and darkness. But the rewards are manifold. A monk can become the man he was always meant to be; he can achieve deep, genuine happiness. The most important reward is eternal beatitude with his risen Lord in Heaven; this is what a monk ultimately strives for.

 
 

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pillars of the monastic vocation

Prayer

Prayer.

backhoe

Work.

formation class

Study.

 

Prayer, Work, and Study are the watchwords of the monastic life.  It may be useful for the prospective candidate to hear a bit about how we understand these terms and attempt to live them out at Spring Bank.

Prayer

A monk is a man of prayer. He prays in two ways:  the Divine Office in public, choral prayer and personal, private prayer. Neither kind of prayer stands alone; each supports and strengthens the other. The noble language of the Psalms and the haunting melodies of the chant inspire private prayer, and private prayer bolsters and enhances liturgical prayer.

The monks of Spring Bank meet for choral prayer seven times each day. In the monastic horarium there is time set aside early each morning for private prayer. The members of the community spend about 5 hours each day in liturgical and private prayer. Monks do not emphasize techniques for private prayer or a particular school of spirituality. Private prayer is a highly individual thing; what works for one may not be right for another. The important thing is for a monk to use this scheduled time for lifting his mind exclusively to God and not for other pursuits. He will be greatly rewarded in doing so, not only in his performance and attentiveness during the Divine Office in choir, but also by the peace in his soul that comes from a mind increasingly attuned to the Divine. A monk is not limited to designated times for prayer; prayer should suffuse his whole day. Whether at work or study, kitchen or classroom, a monk always tries to be aware of the presence of God and his own need for divine mercy.

The celebration of the Mass is the high point of the monk’s daily life. The community at Spring Bank has great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, both in the daily celebration of the Mass and in times of adoration.  We have benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Sundays, Solemnities, and First Fridays.  An optional half-hour of adoration is kept before Vespers on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

In keeping with this devotion, many monks of Spring Bank are called to Holy Orders. The vocation to the priesthood is in no way contrary to the life of a contemplative monk. Priests of the community concelebrate Mass daily, offer the sacrament of reconciliation to other members of the community and guests, and give counsel and spiritual direction to outsiders who request it. The Mass, Divine Office, and private prayer, all twork together in the soul of the individual monk, making him a man of prayer and a man of God.

Work

"Ora et labora," - "pray AND work" is the monastic motto. Work then, has a spiritual importance. The monk learns to offer his abilities and talents to God and to the community. He also learns patience and self-sacrifice in living by the labor of his own hands. Cistercian monasteries are self-supporting; they do not live from donations. Remunerative work, as well as careful management and investment of our property, money, and talents, are central to an integrated monastic life. Monastic work at Spring Bank is of different kinds. There is the routine cleaning and maintenance of the building and grounds. Some monks have regular positions such as cellarer or novice master; others do secretarial work or bookkeeping. Although great care is used in seeing that a professed monk is given work that suits him, new monks should realize that they may be asked to do chores that are arduous or menial. This work helps the monk grow in humility and obedience, and above all joy - a joy that comes from offering everything, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, to the praise and glory of God.

The community has worked for the past several years to discern how, as a small community, we can best use our available resources to support ourselves and use the surplus to help others. Two of our businesses, LaserMonks and Benevolent Brands, have given the community a new degree of financial stability and have become well-known as models of both monastic enterprise and socially-responsible entrepreneurship.

We remain committed to using the talents of all the brothers, along with our available financial resources and property, for work that will provide necessary support for our life, and the means to continue our 900-year old tradition of hospitality, guardianship of culture, and being a spiritual presence to our secular society.

Read more about our businesses and their philosophy>>>

Study

Lectio Divina

Lectio divina, spiritual reading chiefly of the Holy Scriptures and the Church Fathers, is a practice that influences every aspect of a monk’s life. The great drama of the Old and New Testaments becomes a living reality as the monk begins to see the entire history of salvation unfold in his day-to-day life. Time is given for lectio during the early morning hours and the late afternoon. A monk should spend at least forty-five minutes a day with lectio. It is important to realize that lectio is quite different than other types of reading. The amount read or simply the acquiring of facts is not the goal - an encounter with the risen Lord through the printed page is.

Lectio is practiced slowly, ruminatively. It is an invitation to witness the great acts of God throughout salvation history. Although the art of sacred reading may not hold the pride of place in today’s highly technical world that it held in previous centuries, lectio is a monastic practice that has stood the test of time. It is as viable for the monk of today as it was in the time of St. Bernard. Technology may change and become outdated; reading Holy Scripture and the Church Fathers won’t. While a monk usually begins the practice of lectio with the Bible, over the years, he will likely also turn to other texts appropriate for spiritual reading, such as the homilies of the Church Fathers, the writings of sound theologians, biographies of the saints, or works of biblical or Church history.

Education

A monk’s intellectual formation is never really completed. He may have earned his degree years ago, but his learning does not become truly effective until it is integrated into the day-to-day living out of his vocation. Brothers not going on priesthood are required to study at least a year of theology and philosophy. Academic acumen is not important; integration of the scared sciences into the mind and heart of the monk is. Novices are given in-house formation classes to prepare them for what will be expected in their theological studies. Monastic education can include non-academic vocational pursuits as well. A monk might go on to study forestry, mechanics, administration, or anything that can be of use to the community and help him become the man God wants him to be. Academic and vocational training also enhances the monk’s private interests. It is not unusual for a monk to study poetry, literature, art, and the sciences in his own free time. A monk is man of many interests, but they all flow out from and enhance his love of God and his willingness to imitate Christ.

 
 

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vocational process and requirements

solemn vows

Br. David signs his solemn vows.

 

The Vocational Process

The inquirer should thoughtfully and completely fill out a discerner information form and return it to the Vocation Director. (The form may be submitted online or printed out and mailed.) The Vocation Director will review the form and contact you todiscuss your vocation.

If the Vocation Director thinks it is clear that you should consider our community, an initial visit of about five days will be arranged. During this first visit there is time to discuss one’s faith life and sense of calling as well as to experience a bit of our life. Afterwards, if the Vocation Director believes it to be prudent, a second visit of approximately two weeks may be scheduled. On this visit, the inquirer follows the life of the community - attending the liturgy, joining us in our work and participating in formation classes.

During this visit, the Vocation Director will meet with the candidate and discuss deeper issues of faith and human development. Although these meetings might be difficult, as many aspects of the candidate’s personal life will come to surface, the candidate is urged to be completely honest and trusting. It is only in this way that a genuine call from God can be discerned. If after the second visit both the candidate and the community feel that this man may be called to the monastic life at Spring Bank, a further visit may be arranged or, in some cases, a date may be set for his official entry as a postulant.

Postulancy lasts for about six months, after which it is decided whether the postulant is to go on to the year-long novitiate. At this time he is clothed in the novice’s habit and begins his official formation consisting of classes in Biblical exegesis, Latin and chant, monastic spirituality, and the Rule of St. Benedict. At the end of the novitiate, the community votes on whether the candidate should proceed to simple vows lasting three years. The simple professed receives the black scapular and usually begins his theology studies. Even those monks not called to Holy Orders are normally required to follow at least a one-year course of philosophy and theology.

After three years in simple vows, the community and the simple professed himself decide if he is ready to make solemn vows and bind himself to the community for life. At this time, he receives the monastic cowl, and becomes a full member of the abbey chapter. The new monk usually finishes whatever studies he needs, and if called to Holy Orders is ordained to the diaconate, and later the priesthood.

After a monk has finished with studies and is in solemn vows he usually is given a permanent job in the community. This can be a variety of things - clerical work, building and land maintenance, librarian, cantor - whatever the community may need at that time. Of course, the new monk’s natural talents and dispositions are taken into account. But, most important of all, at this time the new monk really becomes a monk - dedicating his life totally to God within the monastic traditions of the community, prayer, work and study.

Requirements

Candidates for Spring Bank Abbey should have completed some higher education and/or have some work experience. Although we do not have a strict age limit per se, candidates should generally be between the ages of twenty and forty. As our prayer life is centered in the Liturgy of the Hours sung to Gregorian chant, a candidate should have some vocal ability with an aptitude for further voice study. He also should be in good physical and psychological health, with a complete physical required prior to postulancy. Although Spring Bank does not require outside psychological testing, the candidate can expect frank discussions with the Vocation Director on his life experiences and mental state. Of course, exceptions can be made for minor problems (both physical and psychological) that would in no way impede a person’s future life as a monk. A candidate should have a mature faith life. He should be honest and accepting of his sexuality and already living the virtues of a celibate life. He must be willing to adapt to the customs and regulations of the community and be tolerant and open to the various personalities and backgrounds of its members. Above all, he must realize that the monastic life is a School of the Lord’s Service and a School of Charity. Being a monk is a series of life-long lessons, and there is always a new virtue to be learned, another vice to be purged. With the help of God’s Grace, a monk may hope to succeed in imitating Christ fully, following Him to the Cross, and rising with Him to eternal life. At this time, the Cistercian Abbey is only accepting international vocational candidates from Canada and Mexico.

Suggested Reading

Michael Casey book cover

Experience tells us that a bit of background reading proves helpful in discerning a vocation to the Cistercian life. We recommend the following, which are widely available at your local bookstore or by mail:

By Michael Casey, OCSO

By other authors

 
 

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