Every person has a vocation, for most this will include marriage and family life, for others the single state and for some it will be lived out within a religious community. Every person needs to spend time discerning their God-given vocation. Discernment is a process and can take many years. It is an essential process which requires effort, may bring a sense of some trepidation and/or excitement and finally a sense of coming to know oneself and one's place.
A person drawn to St Mark's Abbey will discern the beginning of some of the elements below:
- A desire to love and serve God with their whole being through a contemplative life-style based on the Divine Office and prayer.
- A desire to have direction in their life through the observance of a Rule of life.
- A desire and maturity to give up their own will in submission to God and those with authority in the community.
- A desire to serve others and the world through prayer.
- A desire for fraternal sharing in a consecrated life.
- The man or woman will be Anglican, single, without dependants or debt, aged between 23-45 years and of sound physical and mental health.
How does one go about discernment of a monastic vocation?
The following steps may be of help:
- A deep 'Listening with the ear of the heart' through prayer and spiritual reading, reception of the Sacraments and in the events of daily life.
- Seeking the help of an understanding priest or a monastic to whom one may have access and with whom one can be fully open and receptive.
- Read about the Order of St Benedict and commentaries on the Rule.
- Visit the community and take part in the Office and prayer, experience the silence and practice listening for God.
- Speak with the Abbot and/or the monk or nun responsible for novices
- Remember, discernment takes time and may lead one in a direction unthought of. It may be that one's path in life is in another direction, but each step one takes can be part of the discernment process
- Discernment before entering a community is only the beginning of a life-long process. There is a long period of mutual discernment between entry and any vows.
Stages of Initial Formation
A man or woman seeking entrance to monastic life, embarks on a number of stages through which the individual and the community can discern the vocation. These stages are to assist the newcomer in responding to their life-long call, be it in the community or along another path.
Initially, the man or woman aspiring to this life will come to the guest house for times of reflection. They may share in the prayer and after a number of visits, perhaps the work, of the abbey. This may be followed by a stay within the monastery enclosure as an Aspirant. The Guest sister/brother, Abbot or vocation director could be approached to answer questions and help discernment in this early stage.
The next stage is that of Postulancy. This time (3-6 months) is spent within the monastic enclosure, living the life among the community. The postulant is under the care of the monk or nun responsible for newcomers and may attend classes and have a share in the community work.
If the community and postulant discern a genuine zeal for God and the monastic life then the postulant may request admission to the novitiate. This is marked by the bestowal of the monastic habit and beginning of formal novitiate training (minimum two years). Monastic life is a school of the Lord's service. At first the way may seem restrictive, but as love grows so life blossoms into fullness in the joy of response to God.
After the discernment of the novitiate, the novice monk or nun, may make a commitment by promise (three years minimum) and so commit themselves to seeking God in the way of St Benedict, within this community
When, after the period of simple commitment, the genuineness of the vocation is clear to the individual and the community, then Solemn Profession may be made. This is the binding of oneself to God in the monastic life, within this community, for life. The vows of Obedience, Conversion of Life, and Stability are made.
The Vows of a Benedictine Monastic
In seeking to follow the way of Jesus, Obedience sets us free from our own will to do the will of God.
Conversion of Life
This vow encompasses the very roots of monastic life-style and includes, celibacy, simplicity, and generosity in our love and service of God and others
This binds us to God who is ever faithful, and to our brothers and sisters in the community as we live and grow together.