A monk is a Catholic man who has taken religious vows, living under specific spiritual regulations (a Rule) that structure his life and under the guidance of an abbot. Most monks live out the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience in communities.
A Benedictine Monk is a Catholic man living the spirituality of Saint Benedict of Nursia (Patriarch of Western Civilization and Western Monasticism). He professes the vows of stability, conversion of life, and obedience as a special and particular way to live out the Gospel fully in response to God’s call.
The vocations to the priesthood and the monastic life are distinct, but not mutually exclusive.
A priest is called to stand in Persona Christi as he administers the Sacraments of the Church for the salvation of souls. In order to stand in the place of Christ, when the priest is ordained by the Bishop his soul is ontologically changed; that is, it is permanently marked and receives the power to dispense sanctifying grace through the sacraments. Priests can either work directly under a particular bishop in a particular diocese or in a religious order, such as the Benedictine Order.
A monk has professed religious vows to live out the evangelical counsels in powerful way, but these vows do not have an ontological impact on his soul in the same way a priest’s ordination does. The monk does not administer the sacraments if he is not a priest. Also, monks often live in community, whereas a diocesian priest most often lives at his parish.
Yes, canon law provides for this possible movement of the Holy Spirit in the life of the priest.
Where is a Good Place to Learn More about the Vocation to Religious Life?
Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation of Consecrated Life—Vita Consecrata
- Postulancy: Postulancy is a short period of time (one month to one year long, depending on the individual) in which an inquiring vocation guest observes the day-to-day life at the monastery.
- Novitiate: A novice is one who is accepted by the Monastic Community. Receiving the Monastic Habit and new Religious Name, signifying his “new birth” into the monastery, the Novice spends the next year under the supervision of a Novice Master. The Novice is free to leave the monastery at any time, and his Superior is free to dismiss him at anytime. After a year of prayerful discernment, the Novice may be accepted to profess “Simple” (temporary) Vows.
- Juniorate: Upon completing the Novitiate, the monk begins the three-year phase of formation known as the “Juniorate.” Junior monks profess vows which are valid for one year. When these temporary vows are about to expire the following year, the Junior Monk and the Monastic Community discern whether or not the Junior will make a renewal of these vows for yet another year. If during the three year Juniorate the monk strives to reach a high degree of human and spiritual maturity, the Monastic Community will accept the Junior’s request for “Solemn Vows.”
- Solemnly Professed: Forever Consecrating himself to God through “Solemn Vows,” the monk is no longer free to leave the monastery. Being Solemnly Professed does not mean that the monk’s formation has ended; rather, the monk continues to grow in his spiritual life. A Solemnly Professed monk will be called upon by the Archabbot to either continue his theological studies for priesthood or serve the monastic community in its various Apostolates.
To learn more about becoming a monk, see what some members of our community think about a wide range of topics, from taking a name of a saint in religion, to reflections on studies, work, prayer, to even what they may carry in their pocket, visit our Vocation website.