A monk is a Catholic man who has taken religious vows, living under specific spiritual regulations (a Rule) that structure his life and under the guidance of an abbot. Most monks live out the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience in communities.
A Benedictine Monk is a Catholic man living the spirituality of Saint Benedict of Nursia (Patriarch of Western Civilization and Western Monasticism). He professes the vows of stability, conversion of life, and obedience as a special and particular way to live out the Gospel fully in response to God’s call.
The vocations to the priesthood and the monastic life are distinct, but not mutually exclusive.
A priest is called to stand in Persona Christi as he administers the Sacraments of the Church for the salvation of souls. In order to stand in the place of Christ, when the priest is ordained by the Bishop his soul is ontologically changed; that is, it is permanently marked and receives the power to dispense sanctifying grace through the sacraments. Priests can either work directly under a particular bishop in a particular diocese or in a religious order, such as the Benedictine Order.
A monk has professed religious vows to live out the evangelical counsels in powerful way, but these vows do not have an ontological impact on his soul in the same way a priest’s ordination does. The monk does not administer the sacraments if he is not a priest. Also, monks often live in community, whereas a diocesian priest most often lives at his parish.
Yes, canon law provides for this possible movement of the Holy Spirit in the life of the priest.
Where is a Good Place to Learn More about the Vocation to Religious Life?
Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation of Consecrated Life—Vita Consecrata
- Postulancy: Postulancy is a short period of time (one month to one year long, depending on the individual) in which an inquiring vocation guest observes the day-to-day life at the monastery.
- Novitiate: A novice is one who is accepted by the Monastic Community. Receiving the Monastic Habit and new Religious Name, signifying his “new birth” into the monastery, the Novice spends the next year under the supervision of a Novice Master. The Novice is free to leave the monastery at any time, and his Superior is free to dismiss him at anytime. After a year of prayerful discernment, the Novice may be accepted to profess “Simple” (temporary) Vows.
- Juniorate: Upon completing the Novitiate, the monk begins the three-year phase of formation known as the “Juniorate.” Junior monks profess vows which are valid for one year. When these temporary vows are about to expire the following year, the Junior Monk and the Monastic Community discern whether or not the Junior will make a renewal of these vows for yet another year. If during the three year Juniorate the monk strives to reach a high degree of human and spiritual maturity, the Monastic Community will accept the Junior’s request for “Solemn Vows.”
- Solemnly Professed: Forever Consecrating himself to God through “Solemn Vows,” the monk is no longer free to leave the monastery. Being Solemnly Professed does not mean that the monk’s formation has ended; rather, the monk continues to grow in his spiritual life. A Solemnly Professed monk will be called upon by the Archabbot to either continue his theological studies for priesthood or serve the monastic community in its various Apostolates.
5:00 AM Eucharistic Adoration (Optional)
6:15 AM Morning Prayer
7:00 AM Mass
7:45 AM Breakfast
8:30 AM – 11:00 AM
11:30 AM Midday Prayer
11:45 AM Lunch
12:30 PM – 4 PM Work Assignments (Seminary, College, Other tasks)
5:00 PM Evening Prayer
5:45 PM Dinner
8:00 PM Community Recreation (Wednesday)
9:00 PM Night Prayer – Novitiate
Candidates are generally admitted to the community once each year, on July 1. Ten days later, at Morning Prayer, they take the Benedictine habit and receive their religious name. At that time they are formally admitted to the Novitiate, which is a year of living, praying and working within the community, in accordance with the requisites of Canon Law.
Prior to admission on July 1 (or any other date), a candidate generally makes three or more visits, living and working within the community for up to a week at a time. The purpose of those visits is to get to know the community and for the community to get to know the individual. The discernment of a vocation is a two-way street; it is an important responsibility of both the individual and the community, and both must come to the same conclusion: that the individual is joining the right community because he has been called by the Holy Spirit.
The visits before entering, then, are an important time for the individual to familiarize himself with the schedule and the expectations of the life-style, confirming that he is open to full engagement in the religious life, as it is lived at Saint Vincent Archabbey. During those visits the candidate is interviewed by at least three senior members of the community and by the Archabbot. Following those interviews, the decision is made, inviting the candidate to receive psychological evaluation. Following the analysis of the test and the meeting with the candidate, the psychologist writes a report that is reviewed in a subsequent meeting with the candidate. The report includes the psychologist’s professional conclusion about whether or not the candidate is likely to be a successful member of the community.
The individual must also complete a physical examination by his own physician, a copy of which is submitted to the vocation director. Some health issues determine that the individual will not be admitted because reasonably good health is a prerequisite. Additionally, the candidate must provide at least five personal references and a number of written recommendations from family members, his parish priest, and his employer(s), among other information.
Once all the information has been collected and the candidate himself has decided to go forward with his request to enter the community, the Vocation Director presents the request to the Council of Seniors—the group of solemnly professed monks which advises the Archabbot. This is usually done in late April or early May at the latest. If the Council recommends the individual’s candidacy, the entire community must vote on the question of his admission at a Chapter Meeting. That Meeting of all solemnly professed monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey is generally conducted in mid-May and following the decision of the Chapter, the individual is informed that he is to report to the Archabbey on the afternoon of July 1 to begin his monastic adventure.