Here we provide helpful answers to some questions about discernment and about our Order of Anglican Cistercian’s life and formation.
How do I know if I have a (monastic) vocation?
What may start as an unsettling idea becomes a recurring thought. The man with a religious vocation increasingly finds that there is a restlessness of spirit that only the things of God seem to fill. The idea of a romantic relationship may be attractive, but there is the question of whether or not God has something more in mind. A few questions to consider include:
Are you happy, yet find that deep within you there is an unfulfilled longing? With all that you have, is there a sense that it is not enough?
When you first considered monastic life, did the idea catch you off-guard, like someone who has been picked out of a crowd and responded, "Who, me?"
What can I do to discern God's call more deeply?
The best answer to this question is to pray, pray, and pray some more! God speaks to us in the silence of our hearts. We can look for extraordinary signs, but God works best with our cooperation in prayer and honest investigation. The closer you move toward the light, the easier it will be to see the road. Make a plan for your spiritual life and include the following:
Examine your conscience daily and seek to know yourself better in the light of God's love and mercy.
If you have access to a good spiritual director who understands the religious life and has the wisdom to guide you, then let such help benefit you.
If your parish church is not locked, then set aside some regular time in Christ's presence there. If not, try to visit another church when possible and spend some time in silent prayer.
Read the Scriptures daily and the classics of the spiritual life, learn about the various religious orders in the Church and their histories and ethos.
Participate in retreats, preferably at monasteries or convents. Much can be learned from such exposure and attention to your spiritual life.
Carefully read our Rule (see Home Page) and ask yourself if this kind of commitment is for you.
What are some of the basic requirements for acceptance into our Order?
You must be a confirmed Anglican, and a resident within the jurisdiction of an Anglican Diocese in Great Britain (i.e., England, Scotland, and Wales).
We place importance on emotional health and wholeness.
We expect you to be of a sufficient age and maturity and a bit of "life experience" is very helpful.
You must be prepared to “waste time with God” and a desire to live a contemplative life and to spend time in silence and meditation. Contemplation plays a vital role in the Cistercian way. You must find a healthy balance between ‘Martha and Mary’ – between 'living in the marketplace' and 'spending time in the desert'.
You must show a willingness and ability to be formed – you do not come to the Order to demand changes or exceptions or to instruct the community on your ideas and preferences, rather, you come and humbly embrace the ideas and customs of the community which are already present – they will form you into a good and faithful brother.
What is the best age to enter?
The best age to enter is when God calls. The greatest impetus comes when God's grace makes us 'ready'. For some this call comes in their twenties, for others it comes much later. Whatever the case, God's call is mysterious. What is most important is deep self-knowledge. If a man knows himself and has prayerfully considered monastic life and its essentials, he may possess a sincere and well-informed desire that this is God's gift.
I find that I am attracted to both monastic life (we prefer the terms 'religious life', or 'consecrated life') and marriage. Does the fact that I would love to be in a committed, loving relationship and have a family mean that I don't have a religious vocation?
No, this simply means that you are normal! Some of the same qualities needed to be a good husband and father are needed to be a good religious. We love with the same capacity, though the expressions differ.
What is the basic time frame for formation and the various steps along the way?
The first step is inquiring, thus, the candidate is known as an Inquirer. At this stage he makes initial contact with the Order and begins a dialogue with our Prior about himself and what he perceives might be a call to the religious life. Because we are a dispersed Community, it is challenging to get to know people, we therefore expect an Inquirer to spent at least three Chapters with us so that he can get to know the Community, and we can get to know the Inquirer.
If the Inquirer's interest in the Order continues and deepens to the point of serious consideration toward application, he will approach the Prior with the request to be considered for postulancy.
The first stage of formation is the postulancy, which usually lasts 18 months. The postulant begins to study the Governing Documents (Rule, Charter & Customary), the Cistercian Constitutions, and the basics of religious life and practice. At the successful completion of this period, he may be invited to advance to the novitiate where he will be clothed in the habit and may be given a new name in religion (the latter is optional and only if the candidate requests this). The novitiate usually lasts three full years and is a more intense time of study and formation. At the conclusion of the novitiate period, the novice may petition to make his first profession of vows. This first stage of profession is called the First Vows and lasts a minimum of 1 year. These vows are renewed annually. The final step, after three further years of annually Simple Vows is the Life Profession where the brother vows to live the religious life of our Order for the rest of his life.
We always welcome men who want to test their vocation. We will never put any pressure on those who are seeking guidance, but are always available to talk and to answer any questions you may have, so please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We would love to hear from you!
For further and more detailed information, have a word with our Prior, the Reverend Br Geoff van der Weegen, OCist (details on our Home Page)
Last Revision: GW/15-11-2010