“The discernment of a vocation is above all an intimate dialogue between the Lord and His disciples”
Discernment is an active process. It is a movement of the heart by which an individual opens themself to receiving God’s call for their life. It is a process deeply rooted in prayer. Discernment is active because it requires effort and sacrifice. Discernment of one’s vocation is of vital importance, for it is in doing God’s will that we will find lasting purpose and joy in this life. We all have a vocation, whether it be to married or single life, religious life, or the priesthood, for God has called us all according to His purpose.
Discernment can certainly seem like a daunting task. How am I to discover God’s will? How do I know it is His will and not mine? How could God be calling me to that? These are very common questions for anyone who is seeking to know their vocation. The great thing is though, one does not have to swim in the pool of uncertainty forever. Christ and the Church have both given us countless tools by which we can deepen and expand our discernment and truly engage in this loving dialogue with the Lord.
Do you wish to discern a religious vocation at Saint Vincent Archabbey? Tell us about you!
Speak Lord, your servant is listening.
Have you taken the time to honestly pray and think about the vocation which God is calling you to give your life? Has your deep love for Christ or a certain encounter with Him touched your soul, making you desire to surrender yourself completely to Him? Are you restless? Can you no longer deny that God might be calling you to consider the vocation of religious life and/or the priesthood? If this is so, then take comfort, God has a special and distinct plan for you and He is calling you in a unique way. However, for one who begins discerning a vocation, fear, anxiety, and confusion are not uncommon feelings. For this reason, the role of a spiritual director in your life is indispensible.
What is Spiritual Direction and why should I consider it?
The job of a spiritual director is not to command or pressure you into a vocation. Rather, a good spiritual director will guide, advise, teach and encourage you on your path to sanctity. The relationship you have with your spiritual director is within the internal forum, meaning that it is extremely confidential. A man can pour out his heart and soul to his spiritual director, confident that whatever he says will not be repeated to others. During regularly scheduled meetings, you will be free to discuss not only your vocation but also your strengths and weaknesses, vices and virtues. You will discuss the health of your relationships with family and friends and how to improve them. In addition, your prayer life and love for Jesus are essential areas that must be addressed. Overall, growing in self-knowledge under the guidance of a spiritual director, one becomes freer to discern the life to which the Lord is calling him. Be cautious. Don’t think that spiritual direction will not benefit you. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux understood the necessity of a spiritual guide when he said, “He who is his own master is a disciple of a fool!” In discerning a vocation, the help of a good spiritual director will be indispensable.
How do I find a spiritual director?
Begin your search by praying for a spiritual director who will aid your discernment. Next, contact a priest whom you trust such as your parish priest. If he is unable to become your spiritual director, he will be able to point you in the right direction, perhaps even recommend a potential spiritual director to you.
Come and See Weekend
PHASE 1: Complete the Guidance Summary Form and Make First Visit
Those who wish to discern a religious vocation at Saint Vincent Archabbey begin by completing the guidance summary form found here. This short questionnaire provides the Vocation Director with basic background information that will enable him to invite the inquirer to visit the monastery as a vocation guest, to “Come & See.”
PHASE 2: Vocation Visits and Retreats
Once invited to the monastery as a vocation guest, the individual will spend a couple of days living in the monastery, praying, working and recreating with the monastic community. Not only will the individual get to know the community but the monks will also get to know the individual and discern whether he is truly called to live in this Monastery. The “Come & See” retreats offered in the Fall and Spring are also valuable opportunities for discerning a Vocation to religious life.
PHASE 3: Application Process
After much prayer, consultation with a Spiritual Director, and multiple visits to the monastery, the individual may apply for either the Postulancy or the year of Novitiate. In order to be approved, however, the candidate will first interview with the superiors of the monastery. Following these interviews, he will then be required to take the necessary psychological evaluations as well as acquire multiple letters of recommendation from family, friends, pastors, and professional relationships. Pending these requirements, as well as legal and background checks, psychological and medical evaluations, the Vocation Director will present the candidate to the Monastic Chapter for approval.
A “Come and See” weekend is a no-strings-attached chance to spend time learning about the life of the Benedictine Monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey. Come pray with us, talk with our junior monks, meet our older brethren, and most of all listen for the voice of Christ who continually calls men to a life of work and prayer in service to the Catholic Church. For more information about the weekend, life as a Benedictine monk, or to schedule a time to visit the Abbey please contact Father Canice McMullen, O.S.B. at 724-532-6655 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
**ATTENTION** Due to the changing circumstances of the COVID-19 Virus and its many variants, vistation for guests could change quickly at any given time. Please reach out to the vocations office if you are interested in visiting. **ATTENTION**
Three Phases of Discernment
“If after due reflection he promises to observe everything and to obey every command given him, let him then be received into the community.” (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 58)
After completing a year of novitiate, and three years of the Juniorate, the man is consecrated to God through his profession of the three Benedictine Vows: Obedience, Conversion of Life and Stability.
By the Vow of Obedience, the monk strives to hear and obey the Will of God perceived through the loving discernment of an Abbot. Self-emptying obedience such as this is liberating and enables the monk to cast aside any doubts and fears.
By the Vow of Conversion of Life, the monk promises a life of constant conversion, taking up his Cross each day, dying to self in his loving service to God and others.
And by the Vow of Stability, the monk seeks to live the monastic life in the context of a specific community (St. Vincent Archabbey), mutually supporting his confreres through his work and prayer.
Footsteps of Saint Benedict Pilgrimage
Footsteps of Saint Benedict Pilgrimage
The Footsteps pilgrimage is a spiritual journey for young single Catholic men (ages 18-35) who are open to exploring a religious vocation. By prayerfully visiting the holy sites of Saint Benedict’s life, one will be able to experience the origins of Benedictine Monasticism at its roots. No doubt, this experience will play a vital role in one’s vocation discernment. The Footsteps of Saint Benedict pilgrimage generally takes place shortly after Christmas. Please check back here for the dates once confirmed, or email email@example.com to be placed on the list of interested persons.
Tentative Schedule includes: Daily Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, and two meals at our residence in Rome, Sant Anselmo, the International Benedictine House of Studies.
- Leave from your most convenient airport for Rome.
- Meals and Prayer at Sant’ Anselmo and free time in Rome.
- Free day until Solemn Vespers with Pope Francis in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
- Mass with the Holy Father for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
- Free day in Rome (Tour churches in Rome, Roman Forum, Circus Maximus, Coliseum)
- Visit Subiaco Abbey, location of Saint Benedict’s cave and first monastery
- Visit Monte Cassino, Benedict’s famous Abbey where he wrote the Holy Rule
- Return to U.S.A.
Cost & Registration (based on 2018 rates, cost may vary):
$499 fee + purchase of your own lowest cost airfare. This fee will cover room, two meals a day, and all travel costs in Italy.
Space is very limited. Do not buy your airline ticket until you register with Father Maximilian Maxwell, O.S.B. and send a $100 deposit.
Make checks out to Saint Vincent Archabbey.
If the cost of the trip is preventing you from considering the pilgrimage, ask Father Maximilian about a Scholarship of $700.
One of the most readily recognizable passages in the Rule of Saint Benedict concerns the public prayer of the monastic community: “Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the work of God” (Chapter 43, first paragraph). When Benedict uses such an unusual expression as “work of God” for the public prayer of the monastery, he is drawing on monastic tradition, where the term probably refers to God’s prior claim on human activity as opposed to merely human projects or ambitions.
In any case, Benedict emphasizes the importance of this public prayer by devoting no less than twelve chapters of the Rule to his description of how the “work of God” is to be structured. He is also very concerned about the timetable for public prayer, as he sets aside seven distinct periods during the day when the monks are to drop whatever work may be engaging their attention in order to gather for prayerful recognition of God’s claim on their lives.
Time is one of the most precious gifts that we humans receive from God. It is clear that Benedict wants his monks to acknowledge this gift by returning choice portions of their time each day to God. In this way, they will practice the most basic form of hospitality, which is to make room in their schedules for the entertainment of God’s real but mysterious presence. All other forms of hospitality, whether it is welcoming guests or respecting nature, derive from this profound respect for the mystery of God. Thus, the apparent folly of “wasting” time on God becomes the wisest possible use of this precious gift.
This public prayer of the monastic community is made up primarily of biblical psalms, but there are also readings from other parts of Scripture, as well as special prayers, such as the Lord’s Prayer. The constant chanting of the psalms is intended to immerse the monk in a world where God’s presence is felt and where God’s goodness is praised. This world is made accessible to the monk through personal faith, which finds the gift of God at the center of all reality, in spite of much evil and violence on the surface of human life.
For the purpose of achieving this prayerful immersion, Benedict prescribed that his monks should memorize the entire Psalter. This must have been a daunting task for the younger members of the monastery. But they would have been greatly assisted and encouraged by the older members, for we can well imagine that they were carried along, as it were, on the waves of biblical words provided by their elders. Over the years, the effect would be that the minds and memories of all the monks would be filled more and more with expressions of praise and gratitude.
Living with the psalms in this way would become like a second nature and would color the consciousness of the monks in every circumstance of life. This would in turn gradually realize the ideal of monastic holiness, namely, a constant, loving awareness of the reality and presence of God in all of human life. With this awareness would also come a deep inner sense of peace and harmony, regardless of external chaos or even the final disruption we call death.
These unvarying and regular periods of praise and thanksgiving were thus intended to bring about that spiritual conversion which Benedict valued so highly. Such a transformation finds expression ultimately in liberation from self-centred preoccupation and anxiety, as the monk commits himself to unselfish love and service. The inner peace and calm realized through prayer will then permit greater awareness of the needs of others and the freedom to respond to those needs.
Such generosity is made possible through an ever-deeper trust in God’s goodness as reflected in the reality of divine promises. The future will accordingly be changed from a time of threat and darkness to an illuminated horizon producing invincible hope and joyful expectation. The monastic tradition has recognized this dimension of Benedictine spirituality by making Benedict the patron of a happy death.
It is well worth noting that Benedict, in spite of his meticulous concern for the structure of this public prayer of the community, makes explicit provision for the right of future abbots to modify the timetable and structure of this prayer. This makes it quite clear that Benedict did not believe that an exact, much less a scrupulous, observance of the “work of God” would produce the salvation of monks in some magical or mechanical way. Such prayerful attention to God will greatly assist them, however, in the painful conversion demanded by unselfish and sensitive behavior in all areas of their lives.
This public monastic prayer is not to be understood, therefore, as scheduled moments of explicit prayers totally divorced from the rest of the monks’ lives. They are to be understood rather as times when God’s loving presence is at center stage, as it were, while at other times of the day God is not totally forgotten but is allowed to recede to the wings. From there his presence can be recalled at any moment, especially when there is that atmosphere of silence and recollection that Benedict wishes his monks to foster in the cloister.
We know that Benedict’s spiritual wisdom is valid for all Christians. Many lay people would like to share in that wisdom and they can do so even when they are prevented from regular participation in the public prayer of the monastery. There are breviaries available, which contain prayers very similar to those used in monasteries. By saying these prayers, lay people will also be able to consecrate each day to God and to enter into that same loving awareness of the divine presence in their lives.
—Father Demetrius Dumm O.S.B.