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Writing to Monasteries


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#1 Justin W.

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 04:07 AM

As many of you are aware, often in the lives of saints and holy elders we read that they received and wrote letters to inquirers and spiritual children.

 

I would like to know if any of you have been successful in writing and receiving a response from monasteries in the U.S.

 

I have written to three monasteries in the U.S. (several times over the past year) and have not had any response to my letters.  One of the monasteries is a smaller monastery in my state that is under the umbrella of St. Anthony's Monastery in Arizona.  I have written to the abbot of this monastery twice and called and left voice mails twice within the past three months asking for a blessing to visit the monastery for a day and I have yet to receive a response. 

 

Do monasteries no longer write because it distracts them from prayer or am I doing something wrong?



#2 Michał

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 04:12 PM

There are no reasons for most lay people to have a monastic spiritual directors. There are no reasons for most monastics to have lay spiritual children



#3 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 04:25 PM

In Europe, it is common for people to have a spiritual father at a monastery; it is so here in England, and also in Russia, Greece, and Cyprus. This maintains the links between monasteries and parishes.


Edited by Reader Andreas, 24 November 2014 - 04:26 PM.


#4 Michał

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 06:19 PM

In Europe, it is common for people to have a spiritual father at a monastery; it is so here in England, and also in Russia, Greece, and Cyprus. This maintains the links between monasteries and parishes.

 

Common, really? I am in Europe.



#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 07:13 PM

Common, yes. Most people I know in the countries I mentioned have a spiritual father who is a hieromonk at a monastery.



#6 Michał

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 08:28 PM

Among several hundreds of Orthodox people I personally know only a handful has had monastic spiritual fathers. And these relationships varied between "weird" and serious spiritual abuse.



#7 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 November 2014 - 08:40 PM

You know 'several hundreds of Orthodox people'? Gosh! I have not heard of the things you describe in the countries I mentioned.


Edited by Reader Andreas, 24 November 2014 - 08:41 PM.


#8 Michał

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 09:05 AM

Google "molodostarchestvo".



#9 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 09:45 AM

And what?



#10 Father David Moser

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 03:42 PM

I note that there seems to be a certain element of hostility towards monastics from Michal.  I suspect he does not see or hear about the beneficial contact between laity and monastics is simply the result of self selection (he doesn't associate or seek to associate with people who are sympathetic to such things)  That's fine, but it doesn't make it true that such contact doesn't exist nor that it shouldn't exist.

 

If we go back to the original question about writing monasteries.  I have found that often just a general letter to a monastery often goes unanswered since there is really no one who can answer such a letter.  If you want to write to a monastic and get replies, its best to have made some introductions in person first, gotten to know someone to whom to write.  Then use that person with whom you are acquainted as the focus of your correspondence with others in the monastery.  Some monastics will give advice to those in the world and some won't - its a matter of their calling and obedience. I do, on some level, agree with MIchal that there are monastics who inappropriately try to give advice and direction to layman and as a result can cause all kinds of problems in a parish or for a parish priest - but that is an abuse and distortion of the situation and cannot be used to create a standard rule.  So if you want to correspond with a monastic, you have to first know a monastic.  Monks are not there to be "pen-pals" and monastic spiritual fathers are not impersonal dispensers of fortune cookies and enlightenment so just writing "someone at NN Monastery" probably won't get a reply.

 

Fr David Moser



#11 Michał

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 05:25 PM

I am anti-monastic?I do not think so. Been to a 7-10 different monasteries, stayed for longer amount of time in 3 or 4. Liked it for most of the time. I am not anti.

 

There are two problems: people having no idea what monasticism is and monastics having no idea what monasticism is. Taking from ethymology, monasticism means "living alone".(or sort of). That would mean little to no interactions with the "world". There are reasons why monasteries exist in the first place and why they are excluded from regular parish structure.

 

If these monks whom the OP was trying to contact did not decide to try to solve his problems via email that would mean they might be wiser than average.



#12 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 06:28 PM

Michal, you say there are two problems. The first is that people have no idea what monasticism is. On what do you base that assertion? My experience in the countries I know is that people who are actively practising Orthodox Christians know exactly what monasticism is. Indeed, in England, Cyprus and Greece, such people have relatives who are monastics. The second is the startling assertion that monastics have no idea what monasticism is. Again, on what do you base that assertion? I recognise neither of these things that you say.

 

It is not enough to point to the etymology of the word 'monasticism'; it includes both coenobitic and idiorhythmic ways. The former does not mean having no 'interactions with the world'. Such are not excluded from parishes inasmuch as parishioners go to them. Have you ever been to a monastery in England, Cyprus, Greece or Russia? They are packed with regular visitors, especially on Sundays.



#13 Michał

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 06:38 PM

My aunt (father's cousin) is a nun. My mother's close friend and a former dormmate is a nun as well (an abbes, actually, in the other monastery). Does that make me to be allowed to speak up?



#14 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 06:48 PM

You make broad brush assertions about people and monastics, presumably for the whole of Europe, based on two relatives? What do you know about monasteries in England, Russia, Greece, and Cyprus? The point is important because the monasteries in these countries are, in a real sense, the 'engine rooms' of Orthodoxy there.


Edited by Reader Andreas, 25 November 2014 - 06:50 PM.


#15 Justin W.

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 08:47 PM

In Egypt, in whose ancient Christian past there had once been many grand monasteries, there once lived a monk who befriended an uneducated and simple peasant farmer. One day this peasant said to the monk, “I too respect God who created this world! Every evening I pour out a bowl of goat’s milk and leave it out under a palm tree. In the evening God comes and drinks up my milk! He is very fond of it! There’s never once been a time when even a drop of milk is left in the bowl.”

Hearing these words, the monk could not help smiling. He kindly and logically explained to his friend that God doesn’t need a bowl of goat’s milk. But the peasant so stubbornly insisted that he was right that the monk then suggested that the next night they secretly watch to see what happened after the bowl of milk was left under the palm tree.

No sooner said than done. When night fell, the monk and the peasant hid themselves some distance from the tree, and soon in the moonlight they saw how a little fox crept up to the bowl and lapped up all the milk till the bowl was empty.

“Indeed!” the peasant sighed disappointedly. “Now I can see that it wasn’t God!”

The monk tried to comfort the peasant and explained that God is a spirit, that God is something completely beyond our poor ability to comprehend in our world, and that people comprehend His presence each in their own unique way. But the peasant merely stood hanging his head sadly. Then he wept and went back home to his hovel.

The monk also went back to his cell, but when he got there he was amazed to see an angel blocking his path. Utterly terrified, the monk fell to his knees, but the angel said to him:

“That simple fellow had neither education nor wisdom nor book-learning enough to be able to comprehend God otherwise. Then you with your wisdom and book learning took away what little he had! You will say that doubtless you reasoned correctly. But there’s one thing that you don’t know, oh learned man: God, seeing the sincerity and true heart of this good peasant, every night sent the little fox to that palm tree to comfort him and accept his sacrifice.”



#16 Michał

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 11:27 PM

^ Perfect example of what I was saying.



#17 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 25 November 2014 - 11:54 PM

What exactly are you saying?



#18 Anton S.

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Posted 29 January 2015 - 12:33 PM

In Russia, there have always been many positive examples of monastics being spiritual directors for lay people. It happened in the 19th century (St Seraphim of Sarov, Optina elders, etc.). It happened in the 20th century - Father Ioann Krestyankin, St Sebastian of Karaganda and others. Only, in Soviet times, many monasteries were closed, so monks often had to live in the world and to serve in parish churches.

 

In Greece, recently canonised Father Paisios was just one of the numerous examples of monks who gave excellent spiritual advice and instruction to lay people.

 

Of course, there are bad examples too, but there are quite a lot of bad examples of spiritual direction by married priests.

 

In fact, the formal status of monk or a 'white' priest does not matter much. What matters is the spiritual wisdom of a specific man (and not only man - schemahegoumenia Maria Dokhtorova acted as a spiritual mother to the future Bulgarian bishop Parthenios). Even a lay man sometimes becomes a great starets.


Edited by Anton S., 29 January 2015 - 12:34 PM.





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