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Coptic Orthodox Church
Desring to be a monk
edited June 2014
If one desires to enter the monastic life in a few years, what could he/she do and/or read to know learn more about the life and to prepare for it? (other than regularly retreating in a monastery, as that is a given)
Thanks for any replies!
edited June 2014
Advice from a monk:
'Work at least 2 years before deciding to be a monk'.
What can you do?
Talk to your Father of Confession to establish a growing/difficult prayer and reading routine.
My suggestion to you - focus heavily on loving the little annoyances of those who surround you such as family and friends. Imagine for instance, you lose your temper with your parents easily or close friends easily because of a habit of theirs. Now imagine if you are a monk and you are surrounded by over 25 monks with different little habits that may be annoyance to you. Thus, learning to deny your will on a short term basis will be essential for a successful monastic life. To do so, the virtue of obediance is crucial to learn to deny your will. Submit entirely to your father of confession and his guidance and do 'nothing' without his approval.
An interesting book you may want to read is "The ladder of divine ascent". But remember do everything with the guidance of your father of confession.
^ great advice
edited June 2014
This is a loaded question.
I went to monasteries yearly from the year 2000 and spent the equivalent of years of my life there before I entered a monastery. Today I'm part of a serving monastic order in the Coptic Church. I'm telling you this as background so that you understand that this is coming from experience and not just on whim or random opinions.
FIrst, monasticism is a
it's a particular vocation for particular people, and it's not an elite thing. Many people are enamored by monasticism in a very romantic sense. They have spent time reading monastic literature, they are moved by monks or bishops that they have met, or they went on a retreat and fell in love. This is all well and good, but it is insufficient for entering a monastery. Many of us go through "phases", and love the external appearance of something, or the philosophy itself, but not its application. The best way to deal with this aspect is
As you mentioned, retreating regularly is important. Going on retreats is sort of like "dating" before engagement. During retreats you are exposed to the monastic life. You need to do more, however, these days, than just staying in your room to pray. You need to actively observe the life of the monastery, the interaction of the monastic community, and the tone of the prayers and the life of the monastery. This is the same as getting to know a girl and her family. Yes, you are marrying Christ, but you're entering into a household as well, and the fit might not be good. Or, you may find that the life that you're observing does not match the exterior appearance that you had seen. The more you go, the more that you get to know if this internal matches the external. Just as you would need at one point to accept a spouse with all beauty and flaws, you would have to make that decision with a particular monastery. It's not something to rush for.
These days, you need to particularly look at a monastery and see if there is a successful image of discipleship or not. Monasticism is not monasticism if there is not discipleship. You enter as a novice to learn from an elder. If there is not a spirit of discipleship, then it is probably not wise to go to that monastery, no matter how much you love it. The early monks left the world and attached themselves to an Abba in willful and voluntary obedience. Anyone can "wait long enough" in a monastery for a monastic habit, but that doesn't make the person a monk. As the monastic adage goes, "Eldership is not by age". You need to be well aware of that, as self-guided monasticism is extremely dangerous for your spiritual life, and may entirely break you. You also ought to reflect on your life right now and see if you live a life of discipleship, or if you are very self-willed.
Finishing school is of utmost importance, as well as working for a period of time. A person who goes to the monastery should be giving something up, not going because they want to escape or because they were not successful in the world. For that reason, finishing your education is imperative. Working for a few years also really helps. Getting work experiences allows you to encounter the world and see how you react to it. It helps you develop personality and be more grounded, it helps you become a more stable individual. It also functions as a good test to see how much you love or are influenced by money. It's one thing to be willing to go to the monastery when you already have nothing, it's another thing to find out that you have no self-control when you are making a salary, or that you love your money. These are not deciding factors, mind you, they are simply helpful and telling of the person. A monk needs to be socially responsible because he lives in a community.
Self-evaluation is important. A monk is not someone who is anti-social. A monk needs to be socially intelligent because living in community is very difficult. You ought to get some guidance and see whether or are not you are able to deal with the blessings and difficulties of living in a very closed community or not. This is something to "think about" in your preparations.
Time, time and more time. The best way to determine certain things is the test of time. Time shows the stability of the thought, it shows whether or not you grow more and more in peace toward the idea or not. Time brings you more experiences, new thoughts, random events, all of which can affect you, and it's import to see how those things do or do not affect you. Because if you see monasticism as simply a way of salvation, then you should not be upset or unhappy at whatever God has planned, because you will know that whatever He wills for you is what is perfect for you. Time opens/closes doors, thoughts, inclinations, countless things. Anything good is worth waiting for.
At all times -- seek with
God's will, and live a life of prayer. Submit yourself to Him and let Him guide you, and He will. Do not be stubborn, keep your heart open to hear His voice.
There are many other things to consider, but it might be best to leave it to you and to your spiritual guide to get into particulars. Feel free to holler any time.
Pray for me,
It's fascinating how monks go through such a process to develop a true fellowship with god in the monastery.
It's a full journey away from the world.
Abouna Antony Paul, very edifying advice. And coming from a celibate consecrated priest it's especially more apparent how practically important this advice is...Thank you
I was hoping you could explain the difference between St. Paul's Brotherhood and other monastic orders or monasteries. I was curious to know because it almost seems like it's taken for granted that a monk has to be affiliated with a monastery rather than a group of vowed members.
The Lord blesses, I just wave my hand.
St. Paul's Brotherhood is a monastic community. We have our own land (20 acres) and cells, we have monastic rules. We also take the same vows of monasticism (celibacy, poverty and chastity), but we take an additional vow of service. Although the concept does seem "new" to the Orthodox (not to the Catholics), Saint Basil actually had a similar community going. His monks were responsible for running schools, hospitals and charities for the locals.
In a sense, you could see the Brotherhood as monks who were sent out to serve, but instead of living alone, we live in community.
The Brotherhood is not going to be a community of priests. Our Bishop/Abbot has made it clear that just like a monastery in its early phases needs ordinations more quickly, that was what he was doing with us. In the future the monastic community will have priests, [real] deacons and laity who are "brothers".
The work of the members of the brotherhood, rather than being the normal work in the monastery will be service - that could be translating things, working on education, youth services, blogs, you name it...it's all possible.
Presently some of us are helping in specific parishes. In the future, it will not be so. A normal parish is meant to have a married priest, and a celibate should always be an exception only. Our services in the future will be general to the diocese as a whole. So HG has mentioned areas like Youth Services, Education (we hope to start a government-recognised seminary soon), Charity etc...
it's not clear whether or not we will be clothed with monastic garb in the future, but it's something that comes up in discussion frequently enough.
Everyone in the brotherhood are people who are monastic. All of us, actually, were monastery-bound and in various ways, God pulled us toward this community. So the flavor and taste of the community is like any normal monastery that you enter. This is vital because we're not meant to be a group of active servants. We are servants but we are also contemplative. Each member has a person rule similar to that of the monastery but determined between each and his spiritual father. We also have a communal aspect to prayer, but without the same rigidity of requirement of the monasteries because of the nature of our services.
Hope this helps clarify a little!
pray for me,
God bless your service Abouna! Thank you. I pray more communities like the Brotherhood (of St Paul
I expanded the response at this website:
pray for me,
Thank you Abouna
Thank you for the book recommendation (it's on my list of books I have to read) and the advice.
Abouna, thank you so much for taking the time to write that detailed response! You brought up a lot of practical good points I hadn't thought of before.
Btw I didn't know you were responsible for that site, I love the articles on there, especially "A night with Anba Serapamon"
Thank you for your services, pray for my weakness.
May the Lord guide you! It's a long journey, but every part of it is absolutely worth it. An honest heart on the journey deepens your knowledge of Him so much, and that is what gives your relationship with Him experience and love.
Pray for me, too!