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A calling to go to Mt Athos


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#1 Andreas D.

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 07:47 PM

For a while I have been reading this site and have found it quite useful and well moderated. However, I am curious to find out if any members might have some more recent information or suggestions about monasteries on Mt Athos that need monks and that might be capable of dealing with another international novice.

Since I am not known on this message board, I will quickly introduce myself and give some background information that will explain why I have started this thread. I am an American that has been living and studying (graduate level) in Paris for over six years (though I have not had the opportunity to study at St. Serge).

After several visits to Mt Athos, I was baptised at a monastery on the Holy Mountain having been raised nominally Roman Catholic. I learned my catechism from the fathers in a monastery (which seems to make it difficult to find a home parish outside of Athos). I am considering starting a novitiate, though I have yet decided which monastery. I shall ask the Fathers that baptised me their advice and guidance too. Only God will know in the long run whether or not I am destined to be a monk.

Ideally, I plan on doing a long walking pilgrimage later this spring to visit all the monasteries. I already know several monasteries (about 5 + a skiti or two), but as any one who has visited Mt. Athos knows, it very hard to visit them all. I am planning a shorter preliminary trip in early spring (diamonitirion already reserved ).

Ideally, I think it might be easier to be at a monastery where there are several other monks that speak either English or French (or Spanish) as my Greek is rather limited for the time being. (I can read quite a bit of the prayers in Greek and have rather basic conversations--enough to be mistaken as a Greek American constantly in Greece) Though having been a linguistics major and having already studied several languages (Sanskrit and Japanese among the more difficult ones) I am not too worried about the linguistic difficulties. My Russian is non existent despite the fact I attend Holy Liturgy often in Church Slavonic and can follow the basic prayers. Already living abroad for several years, I am also quite aware of the cultural adaptation that will be necessary.

Simonospetras would seem like an ideal place, however, at my previous visit they seemed to be a bit too full and were not taking any more novices. I'm planning on exploring Vatopediou and Skiti Agios Andreas on a short trip in February. Humbly, I would like any advice or suggestions that any members might be willing to offer.

In Christ,

#2 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 11:57 PM

Simonospetras would seem like an ideal place, however, at my previous visit they seemed to be a bit too full and were not taking any more novices. I'm planning on exploring Vatopediou and Skiti Agios Andreas on a short trip in February. Humbly, I would like any advice or suggestions that any members might be willing to offer.


The advice Fr Emilianos gave me while on the Holy Mt in 1986 has always stayed with me. He told me to spend the next few months visiting the Athonite monasteries. But he also warned be to be cautious of invitations from the monastics in these monasteries to stay. Briefly, Fr Emilianos explained that visiting the different monasteries on the Mt would be most fruitful. But foreign monks for the most part are unable to adapt to the Greek cultural environment of Mt Athos.

As time went by and I visited almost every monastery plus many of the sketes I began to see the great wisdom in Fr Emilianos' words. Many of the monasteries were like having a foretaste of Paradise. But yet I also met quite a few foreign monks who were devastated from having to leave their monastery. The pattern here was quite similar each time. A first few years feeling that one had really found a spiritual home. Then an increasing sense that one didn't fit in no matter how great the effort from all involved. The suffering caused by this was often double as leaving the community was interpreted as spiritual weakness. Monastics I met like this were often tragic in the extreme since the result often led to questioning their original monastic calling.

As I had already been advised by Fr Emilianos beforehand I didn't succumb to any long-term invitations to remain in some of the monasteries (although I certainly came close). Really, being on the Holy Mt was like being in Paradise itself at times (just the view from the guest balconies at Simonos Petras is enough to take anyone's breath away).

But I distinctly recall the feeling of being at home when visiting Prophet Elijah Skete, which at the time was inhabited by American and Canadian monks. Strange but true- to have a trapeza with food 'a la home' almost brought me to tears. I also was very moved to see Fr Seraphim Babich feeding the cats, cat food; there were cats in the monastery, even clean, without fleas and eyes and tails still in place! I thought, "well I guess there a still few good things left in the evil, decadent west."

In any case, I came home to North America, after those three months of visiting Paradise. The Holy Frs themselves sent me back so it was an obedience really and hopefully not from self-will. A lot could be said. But for the purposes of this post I guess the point is that one can find God's guidance in other places besides the most obviously holy if we are there by God's will.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#3 Fr Seraphim (Black)

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 02:26 PM

The last sentence of Fr. Raphael's post is essential. The vocation is from God, the place is from God also, though with our mutual synergy.

Personally I was always drawn to the xentia of monasticism and throwing myself head first into foreign places just seemed to part of the parcel. I lived first in a Syrian Orthodox monastery in southern India and went barefoot.

On the Holy Mountain I lived at Stavronikita for six years. I arrived knowing only three words in Greek.

Fortunately, (before Athos) by God's tender mercy towards me I had been led by the Lord's hand (after India) to Fr. Sophrony's holy and blessed Monastery of St. John the Baptist, in Essex, England. This is where I found my true monastic home and of utmost importance, my Spiritual Father, Archimandrite Sophrony.

Forgive me for what I am about to say, I could be very, very wrong, because Posts don't allow the proper nuance always, especially when you do not know the person involved. Thus, if my words are incorrect, do show brotherly charity and please forgive me.

One must approach the monastic life with absolute, unshakeable desire, a fire consuming everything in its path. You say in your post: "I am considering starting a novitiate..." and "only God will know in the long run whether or not I am destined to be a monk".

This cannot be the approach of anyone desirous of the angelic life. First, because after the 'honeymoon' period is over, the temptations will swing into action in gale force. Secondly, one who is not determined to bear all for Christ, will soon find the whisperings of the Devil all too alluring to resist.

I am in full agreement with Fr. Raphael and the wise words of the great blessed Elder Emilianos. Further to this, just a short while back, I spoke to Abbot George of the Holy Monastery of Georgiou, about a personal matter, and he went on to mention this aspect of Athonite life, almost word for word, as Fr. Emilianos had said! Furthermore, Abbot George said to me, that even Greeks who are not born in Greece or Cyprus, thus say, an American Greek, or Cypriot born in England for example, will find Athos not the will of God.

Having said all that, by all means go on a serious pilgrimage to the To Perivoli tis Panagias. A blessed Garden of the Mother of God, so rich in monastic history - generations of monks who have cried to our Lord - how could a lover of monasticism not want to go there?

I know well the Fathers and the Abbot of Skiti Andreas, certainly they have lots of room - the Church was until just recently the largest in the Balkans! But then Karyes is only a few feet away...and the Abbot does not speak any other language than Greek.

Vatopedi is at the moment seemingly the most open to outside monks, as Simonas Petra was in the 70's and 80's. However, they are very full, and there is only one American there, the rest are Cypriots in the vast majority, a few Romanians, a few Russians. There is a hieromonk from France. A Greek Cypriot from Australia, and as Cyprus was a British colony, virtually all can speak English - except the Abbot, Fr. Ephraim.

He (Abbot Ephraim) does favour sending North Americans to a Romanian monastery that he has very close ties to. This monastery follows the Athonite typikon. Presently there is one American monk, who followed Abbot Epraim's advice and went to Romania to live at this monastery. He has been there about six years now.

We are missing one essential here, and in my opinion the most important - a spiritual father.

If you can not immediately converse and confess to a spiritual father with whom you find this common unity, of trust and confidence, I am afraid it will be very difficult.

I pray this helps. Simonas Petra has a dependancy in France, the monastery founded by Fr. Placide; there is another mens' monastery in France, whose Abbot I met years ago in Essex.

There are also monasteries on the mainland of Greece.

May our Lord and His Most Pure Mother guide your steps.

#4 Andreas D.

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 07:22 PM

Dear Fathers,

Please Bless. Thank you for your words of advice and please forgive me if I have caused any confusion by my post. My calling to the monastic life is something that I have had since my teenage years (now in my early 30s!). It is with an overwhelming desire to follow Christ to search purification and to strive for Theosis that I wish to pursue the monastic path, however, I have often found excuses not to follow that which I feel my heart desires. Not to mention, it took me a while to find Orthodoxy. I guess I do not feel comfortable in going into too much detail about my spiritual development on a public message board and as you suggest these are things that I must discuss with a spiritual Father. Unfortunately, I will have to wait until I see him on Mt Athos and he is already aware that I have been pondering this. As a side note, and perhaps I am imagining this, but I often find that priests outside of Athos often have a rather weird reaction when I mention monasticism or Mt Athos. It is not always easy to find a good spiritual counselor, but that would be a topic for another discussion thread.

What I tried to mean by "only God will know in the long run whether or not I am destined to be a monk" was that I cannot not be sure of not falling and I must temper my arrogance. Forgive me if this seemed to lessen the seriousness of my request. However, what I am looking for and I thank you, Fathers, in your replies was practical information concerning which monasteries might have both a need and capacity to deal with foreign monks. I hadn't thought of visiting Skiti Elijiah, but I am quite tempted. I am quite aware that the cultural adaptation and language difficulties will be great. Perhaps I shall one day be called to leave and be part of a monastery outside of Athos, but I know myself well enough to know that if I do not try, I will always regret it. For me, I know that there is no better place where I could strive for the hesychast ideal and improve my greek than on Mt Athos.

I do not doubt that God's vocation can be lived anywhere as it is the internal dessert that is most important. I do intend to visit the metochion of Simonos Petras here is France soon. Though I have to admit that I have been rather reluctant to visit many monasteries outside of Athos lest I compare them and feel disappointed. However, I have been living abroad too long outside of the States, that I do not feel that I would find much comfort in an US monastery, England might be a different matter. If I am to be 'out of place' almost anywhere I would be, I would rather be so on Athos.

There is a point that has been mentioned that find interesting concerning the difficulties that many monks from non traditional orthodox countries might face on Athos (ie those from western europe and north America). Yet, despite the difficulties there are several monks that I do know from England and France that have been living on Mt Athos for already more than ten years. Perhaps with much prayer one can manage. However, could one not use the cultural adaptation as part of ones purification? Couldn't these difficulties help with erasing the ego and one's passions? Furthermore, how comfortable should we feel in a monastery as long as we find spiritual comfort in one's spiritual Father? Granted I do not speak from experience. From what I have read it seems that most or perhaps all monks go through a very difficult period after the so called honeymoon period and that would be regardless of the fact of the culture from which they came. No one is born a monastic and not even the Greeks are born Athonites, non?

Kyrie eleison me ton amartolon.

In Christ,
Andreas

#5 Rebecca Gabl

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 09:20 PM

But yet I also met quite a few foreign monks who were devastated from having to leave their monastery. The pattern here was quite similar each time. A first few years feeling that one had really found a spiritual home. Then an increasing sense that one didn't fit in no matter how great the effort from all involved. The suffering caused by this was often double as leaving the community was interpreted as spiritual weakness.


Story of my life as a foreign sister (not on mount Athos, of course) who spoke the language of the monastery poorly, and the language of the country not at all.

#6 Kosta

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 08:04 AM

Perhaps you may want to visit St Katherine's Monastery in Mt Sinai. I know theres an american monk there who is the first ever to catalog all of the monasteries manuscripts and icons. Archbishop Damianos from the little ove read of him is great

#7 John Papadopoulos

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 11:38 AM

For a while I have been reading this site and have found it quite useful and well moderated. However, I am curious to find out if any members might have some more recent information or suggestions about monasteries on Mt Athos that need monks and that might be capable of dealing with another international novice.

Since I am not known on this message board, I will quickly introduce myself and give some background information that will explain why I have started this thread. I am an American that has been living and studying (graduate level) in Paris for over six years (though I have not had the opportunity to study at St. Serge).

After several visits to Mt Athos, I was baptised at a monastery on the Holy Mountain having been raised nominally Roman Catholic. I learned my catechism from the fathers in a monastery (which seems to make it difficult to find a home parish outside of Athos). I am considering starting a novitiate, though I have yet decided which monastery. I shall ask the Fathers that baptised me their advice and guidance too. Only God will know in the long run whether or not I am destined to be a monk.

Ideally, I plan on doing a long walking pilgrimage later this spring to visit all the monasteries. I already know several monasteries (about 5 + a skiti or two), but as any one who has visited Mt. Athos knows, it very hard to visit them all. I am planning a shorter preliminary trip in early spring (diamonitirion already reserved ).

Ideally, I think it might be easier to be at a monastery where there are several other monks that speak either English or French (or Spanish) as my Greek is rather limited for the time being. (I can read quite a bit of the prayers in Greek and have rather basic conversations--enough to be mistaken as a Greek American constantly in Greece) Though having been a linguistics major and having already studied several languages (Sanskrit and Japanese among the more difficult ones) I am not too worried about the linguistic difficulties. My Russian is non existent despite the fact I attend Holy Liturgy often in Church Slavonic and can follow the basic prayers. Already living abroad for several years, I am also quite aware of the cultural adaptation that will be necessary.

Simonospetras would seem like an ideal place, however, at my previous visit they seemed to be a bit too full and were not taking any more novices. I'm planning on exploring Vatopediou and Skiti Agios Andreas on a short trip in February. Humbly, I would like any advice or suggestions that any members might be willing to offer.

In Christ,


hi
there is a telephone in Thessaloniki for English language visitors of M.Athos : 0030 2310 252578 and an e-Mail : pilgrimsbureau@c-lab.gr
in Christ

#8 John Wilson

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Posted 12 March 2007 - 12:08 PM

Simonospetras would seem like an ideal place, however, at my previous visit they seemed to be a bit too full and were not taking any more novices. I'm planning on exploring Vatopediou and Skiti Agios Andreas on a short trip in February.

If you do get to Vatopedi, you may find a young monk who was known formerly to this forum as Andonis. Do send our warmest greetings :)

John

#9 Isaak Scott Cairns

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Posted 15 April 2007 - 01:56 AM

If you didn't get to it this time, you may want to visit Xenophontos in the future.

#10 John Papadopoulos

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Posted 21 May 2007 - 06:44 PM

Thank you for your kindness to propose this to me.It seems a nice idea .I like this monastery very very very much.
in Christ

#11 Shawn Lazar

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Posted 21 May 2007 - 10:44 PM

If someone does feel called to, and is invited to stay at, a foreign monastery, whether on Athos, Sinai, England, etc., are there legal provisions that would allow you to stay in that particular country? Can an American simply move to Athos and get a religious visa or something?

--Shawn

#12 Dcn Alexander Haig

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 06:11 AM

Simply yes, you can get permission to stay if you are staying at a monastery. If you decide to stay and are accepted in the Monastery you'd be give Greek nationality anyway.

However, the Greek monasteries can have problems from the Patriarchate if they take non-Greeks: I've heard of one case where two Romanian men wanted to become monks at a Greek monastery but the Patriarchate said that the monastery could have one of them so the Abbot had to choose between the two.

With love in Christ

Alex

#13 Euthymius Valdez

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Posted 24 November 2007 - 03:47 AM

Hi, would it be possible for me an English speaking American to go to Mount Athos or Saint Catherine's Monastery in Sinai to be a monk? I am interested in these two places. What would you recommend? Also, how would I get there? I have never travelled outside the U.S. I don't know anything about passports, costs, etc. Or should I just settle for an American monastery? Any advice or suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you.

#14 Isaak Scott Cairns

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 01:01 AM

Hi, would it be possible for me an English speaking American to go to Mount Athos or Saint Catherine's Monastery in Sinai to be a monk? I am interested in these two places. What would you recommend? Also, how would I get there? I have never travelled outside the U.S. I don't know anything about passports, costs, etc. Or should I just settle for an American monastery? Any advice or suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you.


Yes, it's certainly possible; there are several American, English-speaking monks on the Holy Mountain who first went there with little or no Greek. Their elders/abbots saw to their acquiring sufficient Greek along the way. Still, I wonder if your spiritual father has an opinion about this. I also wonder why you'd opt to go to one of these exotic enclaves on monastic life without any experience abroad. I suppose you have already considered and visited some of the many holy communities here in the state, yes?

In any case, good journey, Euthymius.

Isaak

#15 Euthymius Valdez

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 02:05 AM

Yes, it's certainly possible; there are several American, English-speaking monks on the Holy Mountain who first went there with little or no Greek. Their elders/abbots saw to their acquiring sufficient Greek along the way. Still, I wonder if your spiritual father has an opinion about this. I also wonder why you'd opt to go to one of these exotic enclaves on monastic life without any experience abroad. I suppose you have already considered and visited some of the many holy communities here in the state, yes?

In any case, good journey, Euthymius.

Isaak


I've always had an interest in Mount Athos. I want to be close to the Theotokos. I don't like America. I've lived here all my life. It is just too apostate, worldly, materialistic and carnal. I also don't think Orthodoxy is very healthy here in America. I saw a video on Sinai. I like the monatery there also.

#16 Father David Moser

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 03:36 AM

I've always had an interest in Mount Athos. I want to be close to the Theotokos. I don't like America. I've lived here all my life. It is just too apostate, worldly, materialistic and carnal. I also don't think Orthodoxy is very healthy here in America. I saw a video on Sinai. I like the monatery there also.


I noticed that you are Greek Orthodox. Since you are interested in Athonite monastic life, I think that it would be advisable to enter one of the monasteries founded by Fr Ephraim here in the US on a trial basis. These monasteries operate on a strict Athonite monastic rule and aside from not being on the actual mountain are close as you can come to actually being there. Go to one of these monasteries, try your vocation and if you are truly able to endure the monastic life, then seek the counsel of Fr Ephraim after he has had a chance to observe you in a monastic setting to see if Athos would be a good place for you to go.

Fr David Moser

#17 Euthymius Valdez

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 04:36 AM

I noticed that you are Greek Orthodox. Since you are interested in Athonite monastic life, I think that it would be advisable to enter one of the monasteries founded by Fr Ephraim here in the US on a trial basis. These monasteries operate on a strict Athonite monastic rule and aside from not being on the actual mountain are close as you can come to actually being there. Go to one of these monasteries, try your vocation and if you are truly able to endure the monastic life, then seek the counsel of Fr Ephraim after he has had a chance to observe you in a monastic setting to see if Athos would be a good place for you to go.

Fr David Moser


Thank you for your responses. I am not suited for awaking at 11 or 12 A.M. I need more sleep. I already have anxiety and depression issues. If I don't get enough sleep, these symptoms seem to increase. If they have a monastery where they awake around 5, 6 or 7 A.M. let me know. Thank you.

#18 Euthymius Valdez

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 04:40 AM

I noticed that you are Greek Orthodox. Since you are interested in Athonite monastic life, I think that it would be advisable to enter one of the monasteries founded by Fr Ephraim here in the US on a trial basis. These monasteries operate on a strict Athonite monastic rule and aside from not being on the actual mountain are close as you can come to actually being there. Go to one of these monasteries, try your vocation and if you are truly able to endure the monastic life, then seek the counsel of Fr Ephraim after he has had a chance to observe you in a monastic setting to see if Athos would be a good place for you to go.

Fr David Moser


By the way, I met Fr. Paisios at Saint Anthony's Monastery a few years ago. He actually recommended Mount Athos for me. He said the mountain was saturated with grace, and he even named a monastery he thought would be good for me because, as he said, it was very peaceful. It started with a "k" or "C" but I don't really remember the name.

#19 Kosta

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 11:29 AM

Probably the Kelandari (Chilander) Monastery is the monastery Fr. Paisios recommended. The monastry of St Katherine's on Mt Sinai probably will not accept you. Usually you have to be greek and from a specific geographic area??. Fr Justin Sinaiticus the first and only american monk ever on Mt Sinai is an exception not the rule.

I have no idea what the rules are for the other world famous monastery of St Saavas in Palestine is, but you will probably have to be fluent in greek and arabic. Same with the many monasteries in Greece except the Athonite monasteries. Mt Athos is pan-Orthodox, so yes that would probably be your best bet.

Fr David i think has given you the besr advice. If you can make it one of Elder Ephraims monasteries you can make it anywhere. In fact on Mt Athos you can become a hut dweller where there should be a less strict schedule.

#20 Euthymius Valdez

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Posted 25 November 2007 - 08:26 PM

I think it was Karakallou monastery. I love the idea of being a hut dweller. Thank you for your advices.




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