“What do you seek?”
“The mercy of God, and the fellowship of this community.”
The novice, after experiencing the way of life in the monastery for a year, comes before the community and the abbot to request admission to first vows. The abbot asks him that question, “What do you seek?”
So the vowed life together is a solidarity of brothers seeking to prefer the love of Christ before all else. By the monastic vows we seek to live as Jesus lived, in union with his heavenly Father, and to be a city on a hill in the Kingdom of God. We seek to live as members of the Body of Christ and so bring the healing of Jesus to a fractured world.
Our fraternal life as a special family in Christ is a shared journey in which all monks seek to support the vocation of one another. Within this life Benedictine monks profess vows of Stability, conversatio morum, and Obedience. Through these vows we live the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience modeled by Jesus Christ.
As Pope St. John Paul II taught in Vita Consecrata, “the consecrated life is a living memorial of Jesus’ way of living and acting, a re-enactment in the Church of the way of life which Jesus embraced and proposed to his disciples.” Click here to download a pdf of this article.
Benedictine monks become members of the Order by professing stability to a particular monastery. Stability makes St. Benedict’s Abbey our permanent home, effectively planting our roots here. This vow is unique to Benedictine monks and it is an essential part of our charism. For us, stability is a freeing vow — we cannot be transferred to a new province or house, but we vow to be a member of this community for life. It is at St. Benedict’s Abbey that we make our monastic profession, it is here that we seek God in our life of prayer and work, and it is here that our mortal remains will be committed to the earth. We may be called away on various assignments, but this abbey is our spiritual home forever.
We promise to live here and serve under an abbot, running on the “road that leads to salvation (RB Prologue, 48) unto death.”
Stability has a twofold dimension; one of making a particular community one’s own and the other of having a stability of heart that embraces this place as our home and this way of life as our destiny. The crucifix (below) stands firm in our cemetery – reminding us that we are rooted in Christ in this place, and it is with Christ that we hope to rest in eternity.
Christ gave his whole existence to obeying the will of the Father and committing himself to his mission of bringing about the Kingdom of God. So the monk, by living according to the Rule of St. Benedict and obeying his abbot, seeks to replicate in his own life that of Christ who obeyed without reserve. He expresses his love and loyalty to his monastic family by collaborating through obedience with all that builds up the community in its journey to Christ our King. We obey our abbot who holds the place of Christ in the monastery (RB 2:2) but also obey one another (RB 71:1 -2).
Obedience is an opportunity for freedom in our vocation. By surrendering our will to God and to our abbot, we are free to seek Christ, unfettered and undeterred.
We promise conversatio morum, which is generally translated to mean conversion to the monastic way of life, especially the practices outlined in St. Benedict’s Rule. We promise to live in fidelity to this way of life and so enter more deeply into conversion of mind and heart.
Conversatio, faithfully practiced, leads us to conversion. Within this context we promise celibate chastity and evangelical poverty, which are fundamental pillars of monastic life since its inception. Through consecrated celibacy we forego marriage and family in order to respond to God who loved us first. The choice of chastity is made directly for God through Jesus Christ in order to belong to God in a way similar to how Jesus belongs to the Father. It is our hope that this initial renunciation in imitation of Jesus’ foregoing of family, will lead us to a deeper and more generous love of all the persons we encounter in life and will lead us to seek Christ with an undivided heart.
Similarly, the renunciation of good material things through the choice of evangelical poverty imitates Jesus’ dispossession of himself for love of his Father and the world he came to save. By renouncing personal ownership of property we depend upon Christ represented by our abbot and are interdependent on each other by our owning everything in common. Our mutual sharing of goods calls us to a reverent and respectable use of material things so that God may be glorified in everything.