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Monks without monasteries


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#1 Father Anthony

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 10:15 PM

Dear Father Anthony,

Possibly, it is because I have the flu today; but, I cannot understand what you are saying here in the above. I think you are saying I might not have seen "this" as an issue. But, if that's what you meant, what is the "this"? I understand the part about we need to know history so we don't repeat the same mistakes that have been made--this has wide applicatioin--however, I'm not sure about the repeated warnings about "this."

Otherwise, I'll take a crack at this another time unless one of my fellow babblers would like to give it at try?

And, on a side note, I have to wonder if this is the first time some of you have heard this expression (viz. monks without monasteries)?

In Christ,
Rick

PS Mary and Nina, if nothing else we see the necessity for language and speech that can be understood if there is to be any real form of communication. Although often the language of love is silent.

Dear Rick,

First of all from one with the flu to another, get well soon. I pray that I can shake this enough to be in the office tomorrow.

As for the term, "monastics without monasteries", this seems to be thrown around a lot without any clear definition. If we are to speak about the future of an American Orthodoxy, we need to be clear that we are speaking about the same thing. Otherwise, we have a lot of folks throwing around ideas not having any idea what the other is picturing and thinking.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

#2 Father Anthony

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 11:18 PM

Dear Father Anthony,

Oh Man! You have got to be kidding me, you have the flu too? This is perfect! Possibly we are both taking NyQuil and trying to clarify some things :)

But, seriously, I took a stab at it and obviously failed miserably. What would you think about giving it a go. It sounds like you have heard this term used before. I wonder if you would consider making a run at sharing your understanding of this expression and then possibly the log jam (and our heads/noses/throats) may clear up a bit as we move in this direction.

Thanks.

In Christ,
Rick

PS Actually the management shut down the original AO thread when it got to this size before, if we hurry possibly we can get to a point of better communication and open up AO III with this aspect of the discussion.

Dear Rick,

While having the flu is not fun as you can tell, the Nyquill is even worse, though it does its job in letting me get some sleep. So I can commiserate with you, though it has given me the time to post here and hopefully I can keep it up.

That aside, I laid out the three possibilities of what a “monastic without a monastery” could be. They were:

1.) Those that have been ordained into priestly ranks without ever having spent a day in monastic formation in a monastery and had no choice in accepting the monastic rank?

2.) Those that seem to have monastic titles and ranks afforded them because they are celibate clergy and that is the custom of their particular jurisdiction?

3.) Are monastics that have been asked by their communities and hierarchs to leave the confines of the monastery, to serve the church in the role of missionaries, evangelists, and pastors?

I would suggest that we need to define what these classifications are, and if we do then we have a common language with the Church not only in America, but also worldwide.

First, I would like to deal with point number two, since one of the larger jurisdictions in this country is very guilty of doing just this. It awards monastic ranks to celibates and widowers without any ever having the benefit of knowing the responsibilities and calling that monasticism is. This is not only a disservice to the one that receives the rank, but to the Church at large. It gives many a misconception of the value and importance of monasticism. It transmits the message, that when a clergyman is celibate or widowed then he is designated as such. It misrepresents the monastic life and state, and thus a lie to the faithful and Church.

Second, I am going to briefly hit on point number one. There should be no life within the Church that must be embraced for the sake of serving the Lord. If someone is called to serve in the priesthood without the benefit of marriage, fine but do not make him accept being tonsured to something he is not called to be. Again this does not serve the person or the Church well. He may grow into the monastic calling, but from those that I know that have been made to go this route, it was to them a pro forma necessity in order to advance on to what they are doing, serving as a parish priest. They neither consider themselves a monastic or would have accepted tonsure if it was not required. We have a couple jurisdictions that are guilty of this here in America.

Finally, to point number three. These are the ones called to the monastic life, and have accepted it freely and have given themselves over to God. They are man of prayer, taking on the monastic virtues and struggles of patience, obedience, and humility. the have been immersed in the liturgical life of the Church, and have been called by their communities and hierarch to serve outside the confines of the monastery to build up the church. We have the examples of the first missionaries to these shores from the Valaam monastery to illustrate this point. Where would the Church be without those monastic/missionaries today? They have the benefit of a community behind them for support and prayer. The have a discipline instilled upon them, that serves the Church in the crucial areas needed in building the Church. I could go on.

If we are considering point number three, then we have to foster some healthy monasticism in this country now. This leads to the future of our Church, in growth, spirituality, and helping it shape its identity. History has shown us how this has happened in other countries were the gospel has been spread and the Orthodox Church planted. This would be the model I would recommend for the future of American Orthodoxy. The other two, I would set aside and not repeat much for the future, because it is not the model that proclaims an important aspect of the life of the Orthodox Church.

I probably could go on, but I just wanted to throw another nickel into this conversation.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

#3 Rick H.

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 01:16 PM

I see a remedy also in the form of monks without monasteries.



Dear Father Anthony,

Thanks for your 50 cents there! Now I think I see where we are at here.

When I use the expression monks without monasteries, in my circle(s) this does not usually speak of a person who is a monk or a nun. I guess it doesn't excluded one who has the rank/title monk or nun, but it is generally not used to speak of a monk or a nun.

And, this computer screen is swimming in front of my eyes now due to my worsening cold, But, I would like to try to communicate that as I and others use this expression it speaks generally of a brother or a sister who generally lives what is considered the contemplative life--and is not affiliated with a specific monastic institution. So this is just an expression, and one to be held lightly.

On an increasing basis I do see words really getting in the way. This reminds me of when a community member named "Learner" was talking about his personal spiritual practice and used the expression "faith rule." After he used this expression there was an attempt to demonstrate the difference between what Learner was talking about and a prayer rule.

I guess overall, in your writing the 3rd point looks the most desirable of the three categories. But, hopefully you can see what I was saying now. I would say for better or worse, possibly we are seeing that in an American Orthodoxy we do not hold onto our words as tightly as others. And, in this sense expressions such as a faith "rule" or a personal spiritual practice and "monks" without monasteries need to be understood as expressions with a different intended meaning at times. We just can't seem to get away from this language speech problem.

I can see that you have given much thought to tonsured monks and the process by which a monk becomes a real monk and not just a monk in name only. And, while I not have not given this subject much thought myself, I guess it does fit in to all of this as we consider when is a monk a real monk? And, that question just doesn't even sound right but it's the best I can do through my purple haze at the present. Is a monk a real monk just because he has this rank? Is there such a thing as a monk who does not have this official rank/title?


In Christ,
Rick

#4 Father Anthony

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 01:21 PM

Is a monk a real monk just because he has this rank? Is there such a thing as a monk who does not have this official rank/title?


In Christ,
Rick

Dear Rick,

You may want to consider some Dayquil to go along with the Nyquil. It seems to be holding my illness at a status qou for the moment.

In brief, most monastics do not hold rank, they are simply a monk. Saint Herman of Alaska was just such an example. Yes, there are others that are brought forward to the priestly ranks, but like any organization you have workers, and then those that serve at higher levels. I hope this answers your question.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

#5 Rick H.

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 01:38 PM

Dear Father Anthony,

Yes, DayQuil is exactly what I need--I'm out of that though--and being the genius that I am I have been taking NyQuil during the day. Maybe I'll stagger out here in a bit and pick some up.

My question about when is a monk a real monk was an attempt to provide somewhat of a thought question playing off of your post last night.

But, as you have answered it, I would then ask who determines when one is called a monk?

In Christ,
Rick

#6 Father Anthony

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 01:47 PM

But, as you have answered it, I would then ask who determines when one is called a monk?

In Christ,
Rick

Dear Rick,

The same can be applied applied, to when one is called be whatever in the church. But getting down to the point you are asking, one properly formed over time, that has spent time in prayer and obedience and has been consecrated to the life is called a monk. Now, the question whether one is strong enough to go out of the confines of the monastery, is a question for the abbot and the hierarch to determine. Where one may flourish spiritually in a monastic confine, they may also flounder outside of it. In this instance of using a monastic to build the church outside of the confines of a monastery requires one that is spiritually strong inside so that he can use that strength to help build others and the church up outside of the monastery.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

#7 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 01:55 PM

Is a monk a real monk just because he has this rank? Is there such a thing as a monk who does not have this official rank/title?

In Christ,
Rick


We reverence St Mary of Egypt as an ascetic. She was not tonsured and yet completed her incredible spiritual effort. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (which I don't have with me at the moment) tells of a Father who was directed to go into town and find a person who was a greater ascetic than he was. He found a merchant, a layperson, who nonetheless exceeded in charity and devotion even the holy monastic.

Such people do exist. But the mere thought of even attempting such a thing without the additional blessing of monastic tonsure and the help of the monastery blanches my very soul.

But are these people "monks"? Seems to be a rather semantic debate. Is someone who plays football but doesn't get paid for it a football player? Or do we reserve the title for the professionals? We are all called to give our lives to Christ. Many do so according to their circumstance and ability. We are all called to some sort of asceticism in our lives, and the more we can adopt into our lives, the better off we will generally be, just as those who exercise regularly are generally better of physically than couch potatoes.

I don't have a problem with reserving the title of "monastic" or "monk" to those who have been specifically designated as such by tonsure. They are the "professional" spiritual athletes who also inspire us "amateurs" to greater effort. But they are not the only athletes out there. There are also some rather accomplished amateurs out there who can also serve as inspiration and "coaching" (perhaps "mentoring" is a better word?), but I would not call them monks (and I should think they would prefer not to be considered such!)

We are all members of the "royal priesthood" but we are not all priests. We are all called to asceticism, but we are not all monks.

And at the same time, we need to be wary of those who think they ARE monks without monasteries. I am not saying it is not possible, but it is easy to be mislead, that's all.

Herman

#8 Father David Moser

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 05:21 PM

Dear Father Anthony,
...
I can see that you have given much thought to tonsured monks and the process by which a monk becomes a real monk and not just a monk in name only. And, while I not have not given this subject much thought myself, I guess it does fit in to all of this as we consider when is a monk a real monk? And, that question just doesn't even sound right but it's the best I can do through my purple haze at the present. Is a monk a real monk just because he has this rank? Is there such a thing as a monk who does not have this official rank/title?


When I read this Rick, my response was then that "is a married person a married person jst because he has this "rank"? Is there such a thing as a married person who does not have this official "rank"? I ask it all this way because I consider (and I think I am on pretty solid ground theologically) that monastic tonsure is an analogous sacrament to marriage. So if a person can be a monk who has not received the sacrament of tonsure, is it then by extension possible for a person to be married without having received the sacrament of matrimony?

I think that there is a misunderstanding of monasticism that Fr Anthony really seems to address well. Monasticism is not just a commitment to a particular way of life or level of devotion or dedication to Christ and His Church, monasticism is a sacramental state that is different from living "in the world", even when the monastic does live outside the monastery. A monk is not a monk because he lives (or lived) in a monastery - a monk is a monk because he has received the sacrament of monastic tonsure.

Also monasticism comes in many different expressions. Athonite monasticism (which seems to be the "ideal" that people assume when they talk about monastic life) is not the only expression of monastic life. The tradition of Russian idio-rhythmic monastic life is a different, but equally widespread, expression of monastic life than the cenobitic form of Athonite monasticism that many "assume" to be the basis. There are many other "variations" on the theme of monastic life, but the single common foundation is the monastic tonsure and a period of "formation" under obedience to a formal monastic rule. Sometimes the rule is strict, sometimes lax; sometimes it is cenobitic, sometimes idiorhythmic; sometimes in a monastery, sometimes in a skete. Even a layman who lives in a monastery as a laborer and who may appear externally to be a monastic is not a monk because he has not been tonsured.

When you talk about monks without monasteries, I get the impression that you are not talking exclusively about those who have received monastic tonsure and defining monasticism as some level of dedication/commitment. Fr Anthony, otoh, is defining monasticism as an entirely different way of life, established by a sacramental act (well at least that's the way I understand him).

Fr David Moser

#9 Father Anthony

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 06:19 PM

Dear Father David,

I was trying to in my flu-ridden head figure out how to start this off appropriately. You apparently were able to grab the bull by the horns and move it here. I am quite thankful for that. Now we have to see how it develops from here.

Thank you for your insights and clarifications. Yes my thoughts exactly.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

#10 Rick H.

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 07:50 PM

Dear Father David,

Thanks for clearing things up so well and for bringing me up to speed. All things considered, I think I am going to drop this expression from my vocabulary. It just causes too much confusion. Although, I am glad to be in a position now to understand what it means as it is used by some non-Orthodox, as well as by some who are Orthodox.

I continue to observe, as in the past, in the history of the Church, how the same words and expressions can be used by different folks but have different meanings (even when spoken in the same language) which really make it hard to communicate. Live and learn.

Thanks again.

In Christ,
Rick

#11 Father Anthony

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 09:43 PM

OK Rick,

Now that we have clarified the terminology of what is a monk or monastic, let us get back to your premise that originally had brought about this exchange. How would you envision using those monastics that have been called by their communities and hierarchs to serve the Church outside of the confines of a monastery? Would you propose a team of monks like the original Varlaam mission or would it be in another context?

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

#12 Mary

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 09:52 PM

How about a monk in every parish to teach the people. Especially if the priest could use some help in that area. Or if the parish is way too large and he doesn't have time to do all his priestly duties plus teach classes for people like me, who don't get enough of knowing and asking.

in Christ,
mary.

#13 Father Anthony

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 09:58 PM

How about a monk in every parish to teach the people. Especially if the priest could use some help in that area. Or if the parish is way too large and he doesn't have time to do all his priestly duties plus teach classes for people like me, who don't get enough of knowing and asking.

in Christ,
mary.

Mary,

That actually sounds very good except for one slight little problem. With only a handful of monasteries in America, and the number of monastics both male and female tallied, there is only a few hundred monastics in those monasteries. I think we need to focus then on fostering some vocations, not only to the monastic life, but also for the priesthood.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

#14 Mary

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 10:57 PM

Mary,

That actually sounds very good except for one slight little problem. With only a handful of monasteries in America, and the number of monastics both male and female tallied, there is only a few hundred monastics in those monasteries. I think we need to focus then on fostering some vocations, not only to the monastic life, but also for the priesthood.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+


Fr Anthony,

I was just dreaming big! =) (If MLK Jr can dream, so can I! ) ;)

I know there's not enough monasteries, not enough monastics, not even enough parishes! I was looking for a parish I could direct my friends to - they're in Missouri. The one nearest to them was 2 hrs away! I figured, they'd only go if they're seriously motivated and starving to death.

But what do you mean by 'fostering some vocations,... to the monastic life... and also for the priesthood."? Do you mean, encouraging people to become monastic or priests?

There's another problem though - the existing monasteries, at least 2 that I know of, have been turning men away because of lack of space. Last year, the St John's monastery in CA, moved into a larger property. In just a year, they've had 7 men join them, so they went from being 10 to 17, and they're out of room. They do have the land to build more, so that's what they're going to do. But when they were at their old site, they had to turn away so many men. St Tikhon's doesn't have room for more men either. They have 10 - 12 monks, I think. I don't know for sure, but I was surprised that it was such a small number.

I was at a women's monastery yesterday, and they only have 8 nuns. I don't know if they have room for more.

So... I suppose, we need to help the monasteries expand, somehow.

in Christ,
Mary.

#15 Rick H.

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 11:01 PM

OK Rick,

Now that we have clarified the terminology of what is a monk or monastic, let us get back to your premise that originally had brought about this exchange. How would you envision using those monastics that have been called by their communities and hierarchs to serve the Church outside of the confines of a monastery? Would you propose a team of monks like the original Varlaam mission or would it be in another context?

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+


Dear Father Anthony,

You are probably really going to love this response . . . BUT, I was not really proposing anything in the AO II thread. I think I was offering an observation more than anything when I used that expression that will not be named (even though it is the title of this thread). :) In fact, any who might have read my posts over the past 1.5 years here in the AO threads will see that if I have come close to proposing anything it has been to highlight the necessity of a naturally occurring, organic process by which an existing Orthodoxy in America emerges so to say, to a greater degree than is to be found at the present, and one based on a clear movement of the Holy Spirit via the Sovereignty of God. Possibly, some may remember my use of Tonnies "Community and Society" used to point to this.

I was brought up in the ranks of the Evangelical church growth movement whereby there were many technical methods employed by various church growth gurus, and I came to despise all of these. Much of my so called spiritual formation included training in vision casting, strategic planning, and church planting. I still have bad dreams about bell curves and other charts and graphs.

So on the one hand, what you are speaking of here is diametrically opposed to what I have been writing about in the sharing of my observations since I have become Eastern Orthodoxy. And, early on in my life as an Orthodoxy Church member I would have rejected it out of hand for the very reasons stated above.

However, that was then . . . and this is now. You are the first one I have ever heard to suggest such a thing. And, at this stage in the game, somewhat surprisingly to myself, it sounds very good to me to consider the possibility of monks serving outside the confines of the monastery!

And, I while I plan to continue with what I have been writing about in a new AO thread, I am able to change gears here with this I think--although I feel completely out of my depth even participating in this conversation. For example, I didn't even know really how one became a monk until just within the last 24 hours.

In fact, I've only ever seen one monk in my life. He was a very thin man, a short man with the longest and scraggliest grey beard I've ever seen. He was in church one Sunday, down from the Palamas monastery in the Columbus area. He was just hanging out by the end of the pews after the service, and I wanted to talk with him, but for some reason I didn't. Possibly, I didn't want to risk doing or saying something wrong, or causing him some grief. I don't know. But, I was attracted to him although I didn't speak to him.

But, possibly what I'm getting at here via the long way round is . . . the more I think about this the more perfect it sounds. I like the word transcend. And, it almost seems like the very institution of the monk (viz. the monk serving outside the monastery) transcends many long held divisions, even some that exist in the minds of some as we may consider church from above, or church from below--church for the people, or church of the people.

If I'm understanding things correctly in some ways, the monks represent and stand on a middle ground--a common ground between the hierarchy and the lay community. And, I'm having a problem now not moving back into what I've been writing about in the past as it relates to possibly what some others have called "a monasticism of the heart;" however, this sounds like wisdom from above to picture tonsured monks outside the monastery--this sounds very good the more I think about it!

From a spiritual standpoint, if the monks can keep from being corrupted and becoming political beasts or from being tempted to start to fill the role of a type of Orthodoxy Church Growth/Missions Guru, then this sounds most beautiful to me.

From a more pragmatic standpoint, I see folks all around me (especially in the Cinti. area) flocking to new age, Buddhist, and yogic holy men . . . it is not a new revelation that there is a great spiritual hunger in our age. Why not move in this direction with Orthodoxy if there are monks ready for this! In fact the more I think about this the better and more Beautiful the picture becomes in my mind.

But, again I will leave off with a call for balance here. Because, just as what is being suggested here in this thread now seems to be a very Beautiful thing, it is so easy, and I have seen it repeatedly, whereby what seemed to be a clear movement of the Holy Spirit initially, in some mission minded endeavors, ended up being nothing but a business venture run a master of ceremonies or a C.O.O. in the end. And, each time I see this happen, I think about attempting a writing project titled something like, "Before the Church Became a Business."

So now I'm starting to really ramble, so it's time to end this. But, hopefully, my enthusiasm can be seen for this suggestion even though I don't really have a strategic plan to offer or a vision to cast.

In Christ,
Rick

Edited by Rick H., 29 February 2008 - 11:16 PM.


#16 Father Anthony

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 11:38 PM

But what do you mean by 'fostering some vocations,... to the monastic life... and also for the priesthood."? Do you mean, encouraging people to become monastic or priests?

Dear Mary,

Yes, that is exactly what I mean. If you were to ask the average child in your parish what they would like to be when they grow up, I doubt you will find any that have any aspiration to the monastic life, and maybe one to the priesthood. Pretty much this would be the average across the board in almost all parishes throughout America.

Now we need to ask why? If monasticism is important to the life of the church, why such a response from these young people? Are we the adults falling short by not encouraging monasticism? Do our youth know anything about the life of monastics? Then again, do adults really know about monasticism?

Tough questions with possibly a plethora of answers, but ones we need to really seek out and address. If we are interested in building our church, we will need monastics both in the confines of the monasteries and outside those confines such as the missionary saints we venerate today.

Now that I have added another two cents to the discussion, I will sit back and see what comes into it.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

#17 Father Anthony

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 12:04 AM

However, that was then . . . and this is now. You are the first one I have ever heard to suggest such a thing. And, at this stage in the game, somewhat surprisingly to myself, it sounds very good to me to consider the possibility of monks serving outside the confines of the monastery!

--although I feel completely out of my depth even participating in this conversation. For example, I didn't even know really how one became a monk until just within the last 24 hours.

From a spiritual standpoint, if the monks can keep from being corrupted and becoming political beasts or from being tempted to start to fill the role of a type of Orthodoxy Church Growth/Missions Guru, then this sounds most beautiful to me.

Dear Rick,

I picked out a few points from your last post. No one is ever out of their depths when it involves learning and growth spiritually. It just has to be done in stages.

Monasticism is not a job, but rather a life in Christ. The pay is real lousy, but the rewards if you are faithful are fantastic. Puns aside, the aspirant to the monastic life is formed over time. This time is spent in transforming yourself and becoming as it were a soldier in the army of the Lord. The time one spends as a novice is meant to instill a kind of basic training for the novice. He is under the guidance of his elders and abbot to learn and to transform. He learns discipline, how to pray, how to focus, how to recognize temptation, true humility, obedience, and finally how to struggle not only for his salvation, but for the glory of God. He is stripped of the world, and slowly fed and trained the food of God. Saint Benedict of Nursia in his prologue states it so amply in his prologue o his Rule, that the monastery is akin to a school.

The monastery helps prepare the monastic to serve. The example I cited with the original missionaries from the Varlaam Monastery to Alaska in the 18th Century is a recent example. These carefully formed monastics were disciplined to serve in the calling bringing the gospel to the natives of Alaska. They followed no set program, just lived the life of the gospel and brought it to those that have never encountered it. We have many examples of this, and the lives of the saints tell us how each in their own way was able to accomplish this goal.

Corruption and other vices are if the monastic if formed properly, and relies on how we was trained, will be able to fight off these temptations. No one including the monastic is infallable, that is why those that are selected to leave the confines have been selected because of their strengths not their weaknesses. That is why some should always remain in the monastery, they are not of the material needed to serve outside. Just like anyone else, each has gifts to offer, but they should be always the best.

I probably have rambled on too much already.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

#18 Mary

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 02:06 AM

Now we need to ask why? If monasticism is important to the life of the church, why such a response from these young people? Are we the adults falling short by not encouraging monasticism? Do our youth know anything about the life of monastics? Then again, do adults really know about monasticism?


Dear Fr Anthony,

I hope those weren't rhetorical questions! I seem to have a knack for answering questions that aren't supposed to be answered!

Kids need people to look up to, and I've found the monks to be perfect for that role. I suppose it helps to know a few monks personally. My son wants to be a monk. He has a good relationship with his godfather, who is a monk, and he looks up to all monks, in general. Our priest is also a monk.

But his experience with them, has been positive. They talk to him, answer his endless questions and treat him kindly. We haven't made any acquaintance with any nuns, yet. My daughter wants to be a mommy. But, she wants to be a nun, later in life, like her patron saint - St Anna of Novgrodov. Monasticism and the monastic life is a regular part of our conversations. So - it definitely helps to have contact with a monk who can answer practical simple questions. And it really helps to tell my son: "Yes, even your godfather has to still be obedient to his abbot, so if you want to be a good monk someday, be a good boy now and practice, by obeying me!" =)

I think it's great for him to see that we're all under obedience to someone else who has authority over us, and that the rules I make up for him, are the same for everyone, regardless of how old you are or what life you choose.

Our choir leader was at some monastery, for some conference, but she said, the whole time she was there, she felt like she was intruding upon their space. I've been to two men's monasteries, and one women's and I wasn't made to feel that way. It helped that some of the monks' had the obedience of talking to the visitors and answering questions. I suppose, not all of them should be allowed to mingle freely with guests, because not all have the gift to do so.

I'm not sure why any parent wouldn't encourage their kids to become monks or nuns. Maybe they are desperate to become grandparents. Or, like my protestant family, they don't know what it means. My MIL thinks it's 'abnormal', while married life is 'normal'. That's what my mom thinks too. But, they're not orthodox.

I think it would help for more people to visit monasteries, with their children, while the children are still young, and let the children make friends with monks and nuns. I'll bet that will be far more influential than the parents pushing their kids one way or the other. But, since parents can't be forced to take their kids to monasteries, maybe monastics can pay visits to nearby parishes, several times a year, to get to know the common folk and their kids...

The only way to dispel all wild imaginations (whether good or bad) - is by getting to know them, I think.

Forgive me for rambling on.

In Christ,
Mary.

#19 Father Anthony

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 02:39 AM

Dear Mary,

I can assure you that my questions were not rhetorical, but rather straight to the point and serious. Combined statistics depending on whose figures you would like to consult, the Orthodox in America number between one and two million faithful, and yet we have less than 500 monastics. This shows that we definitely have some sort of imbalance here.

It is heart-warming that your children would like to embrace the monastic life in their future, and I pray that God will guide and bless them. Unfortunately, if you look around at others like your friend, there is a problem there that seems to have folks shy away. Yes, visits to monasteries are important, and I have yet to find a community that will not welcome a visitor to their community. But, if we look at the resources that are generally shared among our faithful, little has anything to do with monastic life and how it is relevant to the life of the church. In some cases this leads to ignorance. I remember when I first expressed my desire to enter the monastic life. The response from my family and friends was anything but encouraging. I will save you their responses, but my determination and faith lead me on. My family and friends now see that this is what was best for me, and now encourage me in the life. I don't see that happening very often though.

Ignorance among our faithful regarding monasticism and its purpose and uses among the church is prevalent. Monasticism will always be a fringe part of our Orthodox culture in America as long as we allow ignorance to prevail. We definitely need for support and education to come from the top down. I ask those to think, when was the last time their diocesan hierarch spoke or promoted any monasticism in their diocese, actively? When was the last time your parish priest actually spoke and taught about monasticism? When was the last time you even saw any mention of it in a Church School lesson?

If you really think about those questions, then you can realize why some have little concept of what the monastic life is about and how it can serve the Church. Your children have been blessed by being exposed to the monastic life. Whether they follow through on their desires or not, the experience and knowledge they have gained will bless them always in whatever they do. If only many more would have such blessings in their lives.

Well enough of my rambling for the moment. I believed I used up my two cents worth already.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+

#20 Father David Moser

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 03:29 PM

Yes, that is exactly what I mean. If you were to ask the average child in your parish what they would like to be when they grow up, I doubt you will find any that have any aspiration to the monastic life, and maybe one to the priesthood. Pretty much this would be the average across the board in almost all parishes throughout America.

Now we need to ask why?


One answer to that question is that "the average child" doesn't know any monastics and in many cases doesn't have any exposure to monastics, it is not a "real" possibility. Fostering monastics (and clergy for that matter) requires that th monks (and priests) of the church are "real people" for the children. This means that the priest is involved in the life of the children and they see that he is an important element of the parent's life (not just an occasional visitor, but someone who knows the struggles of the parents and the children and who helps with those struggles). Clergy must also have "visiting monks" in the parish as a participant in youth activities and as a speaker in spiritual conferences and retreats. Also parents need to take their children to monasteries (when they are old enough) on spiritual retreats so the the child experiences first hand the monastic life. The monastics must become real people to the children.

With this exposure some children will then be able to imagine themselves as priests or monks. When this happens, it is important for the clergy and parents to recognize that desire and encourage it. That is something that I don't think happens often enough. Parents want their kids to grow up as doctors and lawyers and policemen. These are all important people in society - but many people mistakenly view monastics as worthless to society, and while they may be theoretically important to the life of the Church, they are separated off in their monasteries and eat weeds and drink muddy water (ok, I'm exaggerating a little). So children don't develop monastic aspirations because their parents (and sometimes even their priests) don't value monastic life and sometimes even "crush" those aspirations should they accidentally happen to appear.

Fostering monastic vocations will require that children are familiar with monastics as people and see the monastic life as a real life. And then beyond that the parish clergy and parents must inspire and nurture such aspirations as arise.




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