Becoming a Monk
We are often asked why we chose to enter the monastery and although it seems easy to answer, it is actually a very difficult question! We enter the monastery in response to a call from the Lord, a call that can be discerned through the desires of our heart, the circumstances that brought us here, and above all the peace and joy that make us recognise in this place the good soil where our life will bear fruit.
The choice of monastic life is therefore made step by step, as light is shed and as the evidence grows that nowhere will be a happier place than here. In order to journey towards the decision to commit ourselves definitively to remain in the community we are accompanied by the Abbot and our brothers for this mission. The brothers of the community support this progression through fraternal life, work in common and we also guide ourselves with some self-directed study.
The stages of community involvement
When a young man wonders about the possibility of joining our life, he begins by meeting us while staying at the abbey’s guesthouse. There, with other guests, he participates in the Divine Office. During this period, he meets with the Superior in order to discern if the desire for this life which is gradually being born in his heart fits with the Lord’s plan for him. If the exchanges go in this direction, he can ask to be guided in his next step.
Once he has decided to go this way, he can enter the monastery and begin a time of postulancy. He is then in civilian clothes in the middle of the community and he shares our daily life to consolidate his decision and so that we can get to know him better.
After about a year, the postulant receives the monastic habit (a tunic, a scapular and a cloak, all of which are white) in a ceremony in the Church. Then begins his novitiate. This lasts about two years and aims at allowing the novice to acquire the basics of his monastic formation, notably through study including Holy Scripture, spirituality, history of the Cistercian Order, etc. During this period, spiritual accompaniment is of fundamental importance so that the monk can commit himself freely and give himself entirely to God in the community.
At the end of the novitiate, the novice who wishes to do so and who is also accepted by the community makes temporary profession among the brothers and receives a black scapular. By these vows, he commits himself for three years to live the monastic life in obedience and stability in the community.
Finally, solemn profession marks the definitive commitment within the monastery. On that day, in the presence of his family and friends, the young aspirant publicly commits himself in the abbey church to persevere until death in the life he has chosen. He signs on the altar the written text of his promise to the Lord and Mass is celebrated on this charter of profession. Thus, the whole life of the monk is offered to the Father in union with Christ in the joy of the Holy Spirit. From then on, the monk when he sings in the choir wears the “cowl”, a large monastic robe with long sleeves.
Officially, the novitiate ends with solemn profession, but St Benedict explains in his Rule that the whole monastic life is a school where one learns to serve the Lord. After Profession, the adventure continues, until eternal life!
Praying for Vocations to the Monastic Life
On Friday evenings we gather for half an hour of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament to pray for vocations to our community. Perhaps you might wish to pray at that time with us and for us. Our prayer is:
Lord God, we are gathered here in your presence, ever-grateful that we have been called to render to you a service that is at once humble and noble, through a hidden way of life: in solitude and silence, in persevering prayer and joyful penitence.
Inspire suitable men to join us so that we may render to you more fitting praise and so play our part in the building up of the Body of Christ in New Zealand. We make this our prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Holy Mary, faithful daughter of Israel.
Pray for us.
– The Constitutions & Statutes of the Cistercian Order : online
– Vita Consecrata: online
– Strangers to the City: Reflections on the Beliefs and Values of the Rule of Saint Benedict
by Michael Casey OCSO
– The Meaning of Vocation by Pope John Paul II
– The Catechism of the Catholic Church: online