We are called...
When the Lord made us he made us free. He does not compel us to anything, but he certainly does not abandon us either. He calls us. And what he calls us to is Himself. It is not a thundering demand but a ‘still small voice’ that asks us to listen with the ears of our heart to the voice of one who loves us, and turn to him. We are all called to holiness.
When Christianity was no longer threatened with persecution by the Roman Empire, early in the 4th century, some people felt that choosing Christ was no longer the deep and radical matter it once had been. They wanted to live out their baptism in a special way, turning themselves over to seeking God and abandoning all else. They left the city for the desert, leaving possessions, career, even family behind. At first they were solitary (‘monk’ comes from ‘monachos’, meaning single or solo) but soon found real strength from living in small communities under a guiding wise man, an Abbot. And, while many feel called to family life, or to specific work such as medicine or teaching, there are still people today who feel called to leave the World for the monastic life.
How does a man know if he is called to be a monk?
There are many paths to the decision to join a monastery. For some it is the deep impression made on them by monks – perhaps in real life, maybe in the lives of the saint. For others it is the ideals of the life: prayer, brotherly love, honest work and a unity of life that comes from faith and generosity, centred on Christ. Reading the Rule of St Benedict, or books about it, can inspire him. And knowing his own life story, his gifts and weaknesses, and having an awareness of an attraction to monastic life which he can only partly explain – all these can be part of the picture.
How does someone join the community at Ampleforth?
Well, first he makes himself known to the Abbot or Vocations Co-ordinator here, and he comes to visit us, so we can get to know each other better. Once this connection is made, he would stay in touch, entering into a habit of daily prayer, allowing the scriptures to shape his heart through lectio divina, like the monks do, and visit often. Later, the Abbot might look for a more formal interview, and even ask for a psychological profile.The last part of the discernment process would be to live among us for a period at Ampleforth as a ‘postulant’, that is someone asking for entry. If it seems good to everyone, he will eventually be allowed to be clothed as a monk and become a novice.During his first year as a novice he can leave at any time or be sent away at any time, but if he stays he may ask then to take vows, to seek God among us.
If you have more enquiries about a possible vocation here, contact Fr Oswald by email. He will be happy to hear from you!
The Gospels are very clear that God's call to each person is unique. Nevertheless, it is a key element of the monastic (and wider Christian) tradition that those beginning to ask how to know what God is asking of them can be helped by hearing how others have faced this challenge before them. Some accounts of how different members of the community discovered their monastic vocation can be found below.