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Coptic Orthodox Church
Age Restrictions for Monastic
Is there an upper age limit for entry into a monastery? If so, how strictly is enforced? Would be interested in hearing answers related to both Egypt and USA.
That's an interesting question. Normally, people ask if there is a minimum age for monasticism rather then a max. In general, the answer is, it depends. In Egypt, i was told different monasteries are based on different schools and thus have different guidelines to follow concerning age, while they are not set in stone. It depends on the person. I would say the factors are probably the same as if to follow the minimum age rule. Is the person mature enough? are they running away from something? will they be able to love a life of monasticism? will they be able to follow the 3 foundational vows with no end in site for that?!....all these are things that are discovered and observed during the preparation period that can last two over 3 years.
if u are still a psaltos, you are probably under the age of 80, so should to go by my reckoning!
(disclaimer: i am not a member of clergy nor do i have any connection to monasticism)
edited January 2021
Most monasteries that I know of (US and egypt) do not enforce an upper age limit (except for the baramous of 30years old ). But approval of father of confession and circumstances as Mina pointed out are essential in the decision making.
is it your grandfather who wants to go?
Thanks for the replies guys. SharetheLord, can you tell me about where you heard that it is just baramous? I heard there are a lot others. Is baramous strict about that policy?
Also, does anyone have an idea on the typical age people join monasteries? Is it normal for a person to join in his late 30s?
edited February 2021
Most people join in their mid 20s after college. It's a common practice (say for the last century or so) for a person interested in becoming a monastic to work in a profession for a few years before making such a decision. Pope Tawardros was a pharmacist, Pope Shenouda was a teacher and lecturer (he was fluent in English which I never knew) and Pope Kyrillos was a civil service worker, something comparable to a administration position in Western governments.
When you go to "become a monk" it's a long process. You'll have to do menial work and work as a unit for at least 6 months or more to be accepted for the opportunity to become a Monk.(Which is paired with lack of sleep, praying incessantly and losing yourself to the World) You'll then have to go about another 6 months to become a novice. I've seen 3 or 4 novices go back to secular life in 10 years. Being a novice can be anywhere from 5 to 10 years. A young woman came to the female Monastery where I serve in 2011 when me and my wife started going. Last year she become a "nun." Some monks don't become anything more than a lower level Deacon. So, becoming a Priest isn't a guarantee, and is a fairly modern concept in Coptic monasticism.
I'm not sure if Monks have a different experience, but look up Father Lazuras el-Anthony. He is an Australian man who came to our church in his 40s and is now a monk at the Saint Anthony Monastery in Egypt. So, there are exceptions! Remember, our church is one of the only churches which isn't all about a person's credentials, but their intentions.
The Baramous is the only one I know of that is strict. But I don’t know all the other ones in Egypt all that well enough. I know many are not that strict about it.
In the US, I know for a fact that neither are strict about age and both monasteries have ordained monks who joined late in their 30’s.
Thanks for the replies guys. Mid20s seems so young. I'm really behind. How realistic is it for someone to join in his late 30s. Will it just be too difficult?
In essence, it's not about being a specific age... it's about visiting the monastery regularly. You can't just come from no where and goto a monastery and say, i want to become a monk.
I shocked everyone the day i got engaged because everyone thought i was going to become a monk. To their credit, i was spending a lot of time in the monastery: yearly trips for atleast 2 weeks at a time since 2010, and going from NJ to Texas. What people didn't know though is, be my second or third trip to the monastery, i knew that this was not the call for me... but that didn't stop me from continuing to retreat there.
So, being regularly in the monastery and having a relationship with the fathers, brothers, and Abbot/bishop is a must. Because, and that's true in many ways, if you take spiritualty and worship out of it, there is no difference in life between outside or inside the monastery. In fact, life inside the monastery would be easier and less stressful since you'd have no major responsibilities, while still having basic neccassities met.
Tangentially related question: isn’t there still a hold on monastic ordinations in response to the death of HG Anba Epiphanius? I’mnot sure when that expires.
well, if it will take a new person a couple of years to become a full monk, that shouldn't be an immediate problem.
i was surprised to see that there seems to be an upper age limit in some monasteries.
i assumed you could join as long as you weren't imminently dying.
there are several saints in the synaxarium who joined late in life, some together with their adult children.
i suppose another option would be a vow of celibacy - i have a friend who did that who works full time for the church. i also know a celibate priest who is not a monk.
he is well out of his 30s but he would be a great monk.
in fact we can all live like monks and nuns, as minatasgeel suggests. we can go to church as often as possible, read/listen to the Bible a few times a year, pray all the agpeya prayers, forgive our enemies and give to the poor, and then probably someone will drop us a hint if we are supposed to follow the monastic path. (i am still working on reading the New Testament in less than a year, and am a long way from the other suggestions, but it is good to make a start).
but after all our speculation, it is up to you and your confession father to check out with God what His plan is. God's plan is always the best.
and when we are waiting to find out God's plan, taking care of our spiritual lives is always the correct first step.
remember saint macarius' surprise when he found the 2 ladies living in harmony with their husbands (who were poor) and their children? they were simply doing what the Bible tells us to (forgiveness, prayer and helping others) and they reached a higher spiritual state than the great saint macarius himself.
, so, what I have concluded from the application of the rules set is it really refers to ordaining monks into the priesthood rather than setting them as monk. Here are 2 things to consider:
1- A monk or a nun are not "ordained" but they are more like consecrated and only take the main 3 vows of monasticism. In essence, a deacon (despite their rank) is higher than a monk.
2- Priesthood complicated the monastic structure greatly in the last couple of decades. Some would enter the monastery specifically to become a priest, go serve outside, and maybe be in line for the bishopric, and that is bad.
Some would enter the monastery specifically to become a priest, go serve outside, and maybe be in line for the bishopric, and that is bad."
I wouldn't necessarily call this a bad thing. Desire for a rank on earth is, of course, reprehensible and should be discouraged.
But, consider the story of Anba Basilious, metropolitan of Luxor (
الانبا باسيليوس مطران الاقصر واسوان )
this saint had a desire, from a very young age, to become a bishop. He would say things such as, "ana sayedna" as a child.
Of course this is from his deep love of God, and love of the service as well. I think that having fervor in serving God is a beautiful thing. And in my opinion, if it were bad to desire the bishopric or if such a thing was discouraged among monks, then we wouldn't have bishops at all... since our fathers the monks who renounced the world and went to the monastery committed to that lifestyle. And by definition, would automatically reject any offer to become a bishop. We do know of the rare occasions in which a monk has denied this promotion, but this
denial is usually expressed by the holiest of persons (St. Pope Cyril VI, Father Raphael Ava Mina (alive today), and even Pope Shenouda III).
Really, though, it is the Lord who chooses His
servants among the monks, as to who among them will become a bishop.
I don't disagree with you, but we cannot consider exceptions to be the rule. Exceptional individuals or incidents will always exists--Christianity as a whole is not so black and white... otherwise would never ever be saved due to our sin every day.