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Want to become a monk...


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#1 Guest_Andreas Demetri

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Posted 21 June 2002 - 10:24 AM

I would like to become a monk though there apears to be very little information about this on this site. Would be very grateful for help that could be given to me

Thank you
Andreas

#2 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 21 June 2002 - 06:52 PM

Dear Andreas,

You will find it generally to be the case that there is very little information online on 'how to' become a monk. The decision to follow a calling into the monastic vocation is a very personal one, unique for every individual, and thus the 'process' for doing so is also unique for every individual. The Orthodox Church does not have, as some other churches do, a prescribed rule or order for monastic entry.

If one is genuinely interested in following this path, the course of action to take is to begin an affiliation with a monastery, under the guidance and with the blessing of your spiritual father. Once there, your desires can be expressed to the abbot, and the process will continue from there.

INXC, Matthew


#3 Guest_Vlad Benea

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Posted 21 June 2002 - 08:58 PM

I don't think there is really any advice one could give you about becoming a monk. Except for your spiritual father of course. But one of the Fathers says that in two things there can be no advice: monastic life and marriage. That is, your spiritual father can at most bless your decision, but not set you towards it.

In Christ,
Vlad


#4 Guest_tony saris

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Posted 25 September 2002 - 12:48 AM

i find monastic life intrigueing, and in many ways a calling. i have found the more i discover orthodoxy, the less desire i have to get caught up in wordly affairs and persuits. i guess my question is, isn't it a selfish existence to live in such an insular way, and avoid the trials and tribulations of common man? or would god prefer that you try and do your best in the world, rather than confine yourself to a monastic life, stemming from a selfish desire to elevate oneself spiritually, over the duty we have to common man?


#5 Justin

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Posted 25 September 2002 - 02:46 AM

The thing about monasticism is, you aren't avoiding trials and tribulations, but exchanging one set for another. You also aren't leaving your duty to love your neighbor, but exchanging one way of showing it and taking up another. The monk will not often be in the position to give food to those who are hungry, or his coat to those who are cold (at least, after he enters the monastery); but he can benefit his neighbors in other ways, especially by prayer to God. He may also perhaps, in time, write some things down as well, or pass along what he knows orally to people. Prayer is the most powerful thing in the world, and the prayers of a humble, sincere monk gains much. Many people (not you) seem to think that going to a monastery is neglecting your Christian duty, but in reality becoming a monstic is the highest calling for a Christian, for it is about devoting yourself as wholly as you can to seeking God and praying for your fellow men.

If indeed the goal is to "elevate oneself spiritually," (as an end in itself) the person likely wouldn't be allowed to become a monk anyway. If spiritual lust is the cause for becoming a monastic, it will be spotted. This isn't the same thing as just wanting to focus and grow in God, though, which is what it sounds like is happening to you. There's nothing wrong with going to a monastery to seek the Lord and let him work out your salvation with you.

Don't be so quick to think you'll be giving up the "ordinary stuff" though... if they find out you don't like doing dishes, guess who will be doing dishes for the next decade every night? ;) There are lots of ways of testing to see whether it is spiritual lust, or indeed a sincere desire to be with God, that leads you to monasticism. God Bless you on your journey.


#6 Guest_Janet

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Posted 01 October 2002 - 12:01 AM

Is it a greater sacrifice, then, to be a monk or a nun, than to be a married person?


#7 Justin

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Posted 01 October 2002 - 03:11 AM

I think it differs from person to person, though in general monasticism is a higher calling. The sacrifices differ greatly between monasticism and marrage, being of a much different kind; it's not really about one being greater or less a sacrifice. The most important one is not to determine which is the greater sacrifice in general, but rather, which is the best for for each of us individually.


#8 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 02 October 2002 - 09:34 AM

Dear Janet,

We have had some very good discussion in this community on the relationship of the 'callings' of monastic and married life; i.e., is one 'higher' than the other, etc. (See the Asceticism and Marriage thread for that discussion).

But I think that your question is slightly different than those posed there. Namely, the question of sacrifice in monasticism and marriage is very important. While I do agree with the assertion that monasticism is the 'higher path' (as I've explained elsewhere), I don't believe this means that sacrifice is 'greater' in monasticism than marriage -- or good marriage, in any case. We must say that the manner of sacrifice is very different for monastics than for married persons; but 'greater' and 'lesser' do not really apply. One can sacrifice greatly as a monk, or poorly. One can sacrifice poorly as a spouse, or very greatly.

When one chooses either path, one willingly engages upon a specific journey of asceticism and sacrifice. In both cases, the deeper the sacrifice made, the holier the journey becomes (we have lost, to a great degree in modern society, the notion of marriage and family as mutual self-sacrifice).

INXC, Matthew

#9 Moses Anthony

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Posted 02 October 2002 - 08:58 PM

Dear Janet,

As I've read the posts (and some other material), this thought comes to mind: the greatest sacrifice to be made, is the one in which we lose ourself for the sake of Christ. The Apostle Paul says it this way "...Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it". Self preservation is a very deep rooted drive within each of us; therefore, this is a hard and long process, if in fact we ever desire, and begin at all!

the unworthy servant

#10 Owen Jones

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Posted 02 October 2002 - 09:36 PM

The desire to sacrifice is also something that is deeply rooted in human nature. It goes on all the time without a specifically religious motive. Certainly one does not to be a Christian to desire to sacrifice oneself for others.

It also gets perverted all the time into ideology and other false directions. The challenge for the church is to provide instruction on how we are to sacrifice in a specifically Christian way and provide constant support and reinforcement. Of course, the Church is us.


#11 Owen Jones

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Posted 02 October 2002 - 09:40 PM

Andreas,

I know a monk who lives in the high desert in New Mexico. He has labored spiritually for years and I believe his efforts are sincere. He has not tried to be a guru. People are typically looking for gurus these days to tell them what to do because they do not wish to take responsibility. He's not like that. He is open to inquiries for people who might wish to stay for periods of time and join him in prayer and work to determine if they might have a monastic calling. It is St. Michael's Skete. It has a web site.

Owen Jones


#12 Guest_Andonis Saridopoulos

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Posted 03 October 2002 - 12:46 AM

justin,

(my last post was under Tony Saris)

maybe you can guide me with my thinking once again. partly what makes monasticism very attractive to me, is that to live in this world is to accept that you will live amongst injustice and lack of love. whether subtle or overt, it is expressed in people's lack of concern for one another, and the current trend in modern society of individualism and "do unto others whatever you feel like".

it almost feels selfish and taking an easier way out to take up monasticism. this is because living in the world, means putting up with corruption of thoughts and actions, both your own and other people's. Sure as an individual i may fight for asceticism, but when you see that most of those around you don't, it seems to alienate you, rather than bring you closer to those around you.

i at times feel guilty, asking God forgiveness if i am mistakedly judging others too harshly, and elevating myself to the point of being too good for the world. for this is vainglory. i ask forgiveness if my desire to escape the world stems mainly from weakness and lack of character to deal with the worlds chaos.

for i see what i read in the book of Ecclesiastes, vanity, vanity it is all vanity. the moral fabric of society deteriorating, people acting purely out of self centredness and not of the desire to serve God, monasticism seems a dream come true. on the other hand, there are many whom endure the trials and tribulations of the world, and give much to their fellow man.

at this stage of my spiritual evolution, it feels to sacrifice the wordly life, is no sacrifice at all. it is so hard to conclude which one is the right path...

#13 Guest_John Simmons

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Posted 11 October 2002 - 11:44 PM

Some points about exploring the monastic life suggested by a friend who is planning to become a monk:

  • A monastic intention is like an intention to ride a bucking bronco - only a firm resolve with a firm grip on the situation will allow one to remain in the monastery
  • As soon as you begin working on such a resolve, expect all the romantic possibilities to begin appearing
  • Good advice for pre-monastics is given in the new edition (in english) of the Letters of Elder Paisius the New (of Mt. Athos)
  • The ABCs of monastic life is given in books such as:
    • The Arena by St. Ignaty Brianchaninov
    • Discourses and Sayings By Abba Dorotheos
    • Spiritual Discourses by Sts. Barsanuphius and John
    • The Ladder of Divine Ascent
    • etc.
  • A relationship to a monastic spiritual Father and/or Brother is helpful - particularly from the monastery one hopes to enter
  • One enters the monastery with the intention to become a monk, but only time as novice reveals whether or not this is possible for the person in question. Finding that one cannot live the monastic life is not necessarily a failure, as one has found God's leading, and has probably benefited from whatever time was spent in the monastery
  • Elder Paisius (At St. Anthony's Monastery noted that one should note how monks spend their time, and begin adapting similar priorities in one's own life according to what is possible while still in the world, rather than just dreaming about "how it will be."
  • Illness can be a showstopper if it prevents one from participating in the common life, but some condescensions are possible. Sickness is often a useful part of monastic life, and if one is willing to be sick in the monastery, it need not be a deterrent.
  • What follows is a brief and incomplete outline summary of the instructions of Elder Paisios the new of Mt. Athos:

+
SUMMARY OF ELDER PAISIOS' INSTRUCTIONS FOR MONASTIC ASPIRANTS WHO
ARE STILL IN THE WORLD

1. Find a spiritual Father who is a friend of monasticism.

Understand the great mission of a monk and see past the
discouraging lack of understanding that people may have.

Monks are the radio operators of the Mother Church.

Monks do not visit those in prison, because they are voluntarily
imprisoned due to their great "philotimo" towards Christ.

(philotimo: the reverent distillation of goodness, the love
shown by humble people, from which every trace of self has
been filtered out. Their hearts are full of gratitude towards
God and to their fellow men, and out of spiritual sensitivity,
they try to repay the slightest good which others do them).

2. For the Preservation of Spiritual and Physical Purity:
It is better to live alienated from the worldly environment
and be close to God rather than to interact with a worldly
environment under that pretext that people won't think you are
unsociable and thus become alienated from God without realizing
it....When you walk, it is better to repeat the Jesus Prayer
and not look left and right.... When you don't have work to do
and cannot make good use of your free time for spiritual work,
it is more beneficial to go to a pigsty....than to be misled and
go to a night-club. There your soul will wallow in the slime
of pleasures, and you will return home full of anxiety, felling
within you this hell as a heavy burden in your heart....Therefore
it is better for the young men who wish to keep their chastity
to avoid women the way they avoid the devil....It is preferable
for young men to struggle hard when their flesh is lively or
flabby in order to acquire manliness, rahter than to be harmed
by their undisciplined flesh.... Try to make both your work
and its environment beneficial for you while you are still in
the world. Then you will have the chance to be helped at work
a bit, return home in serenity, and concentrate more easily.
As a result, your struggle will be easier.

3. Spiritual Study:
The study of the New Testament and the books of the Holy Fathers,
which assist in understanding the Bible, are neccessary for
your concentration in general, your prayer in particular, and
the invigorating of your soul....Before you start your study of
the Holy Fathers, pray for at least two minutes that God will
enlighten you to understand their divine meaning.

* The Lives of Saints
* The Gerontikon or the entire Evergetinos
* The Ladder of Divine Ascent
* Unseen Warfare
* St. Ephraim
* Lausiac History

It is also good to study Abba Isaac even though he is considered
appropriate for the advanced - for his writings also help
beginners grasp the deeper meaning of life and helps them reject
every type of complex, should any exist....(comment on avoiding
superficial and bad books)....Aim as much as you can, that your
study at home enjoys a degree of stillness.

4. Preparation of Parents and Siblings:
Therefore, try as much as you can to untwine all your worldly
balls of wool while still in the world that you will be ready to
intertwine with the brotherhood of the monastery and pray with
your prayer rope in peace....Therefore, my brother, stay away
from dinner parites, etc., even from family ones, because they
will set traps for you....In general, avoid anything that incites
(even a bit) your old man, if you wish to keep your mental and
physical health, which will be necessary for you afterwards
in the monastery that you will enter. You should know that
every trauma caused out of carelessness in the world, either
minor or major, will cause you to lag behind in the monastery.
An experienced spiritual doctor will be needed to look after
you and, of course, all of these changes will cause you to suffer.

5. Family Obligations:


THE DEPARTURE FROM THE WORLD

1. When that blessed hour arrives for you to leave the world to
become a monk, first examine yourself to see if your heart is
entirely yours, or whether someone else has taken hold of a small
part of it. Do not be in a hurry to leave for the monastery,
my brother, unless you have collected your heart within yourself,
otherwise you will fail. Even if you have sentimentally given one
one-thousandth of your heart to another person, the enemy will
cause problems for you later on. He will be entrenched within
this very small part of your heart, will fight you now with
the flesh, now with the thoughts, and then with both combined.
And the worst is that he will dominate the whole of your heart
after you have become a monk and then you will be found in
a deadlock.

2. Another serious issue that you should be mindful of before
you start your monastic life - that you may have peace in the
monastery and your parents may have all the blessings of God,
in this life and the next (since you depart with the blessing of
your spiritual Father) - is to entrust everyone and everything
to God. Absolute trust in God is an unceasing prayer for them.

3. Selecting the Monastery:

4. Monasticism and the Worldly Mentality:


#14 Owen Jones

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Posted 12 October 2002 - 12:36 AM

Thanks, John, for a very nice synopsis. In your research have you run across any advice to a peripatetic solitary? Other than the Way of the Pilgrim, of course.


Do you see a the possibility of an American version of the Holy Fool type possibly springing up?




#15 Guest_John Simmons

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Posted 12 October 2002 - 02:10 AM

Owen,
There has to be some path for peripatetic solitaries in America, given the problems with American Marriages. I am drawn to a quote from St. Ignaty again:

"I remember certain pious laymen, even from the nobility who were
contemporaries in my youth, who led a very simple life and were
occupied with the Jesus Prayer. This precious custom now, with the
general weakening of Christianity and monasticism, has almost been
lost. Praying in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ requires a sober,
strictly moral life, the life of a sojourner or a pilgrim. It
demands the abandoning of passionate attachments. But, for us,
distraction has become a necessity, a vast acquaintanceship, the
gratification of the great number of our passions, benefactors and
benefactresses. "Jesus departed, a multitude being on that place."

I have run across a few other gems specifically written for laypeople in the world (I will post one later).

Foolishness for Christ's sake is always listed as the MOST difficult podvig. I don't see how we can have this, when we barely have monasticism, and only in the cenobitic and skete forms, realistically speaking. We are also told that Eldership as it has been known, is generally not given to our times (although there is some eldership in Russia and Romania today).

Then again, we are told that Holy Foolishness often arises in times of false piety, so...who knows :-)



#16 Guest_John Simmons

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Posted 12 October 2002 - 02:17 AM

The Rule For Attending To Oneself For One Dwelling In The World

Written For A Certain Layman As a Result of His Desire To Live A Vigilant Life
In The World

By St. Ignatii Brianchaninov

The soul of all practices in the Lord is VIGILANCE. Without VIGILANCE, all
these practices are fruitless. He who is desirous of saving himself must so
establish himself that he might remain continuously VIGILANT toward HIMSELF,
not only in solitude, but also under conditions of distraction, into which
he is sometimes unwillingly drawn by circumstances.

Let the fear of God outweigh all other sensations upon the scales of your
heart; and then will it be convenient to for you to be VIGILANT TOWARD
YOURSELF, both in the silence of your kellia [cell] and in the midst of the
noise that surrounds you from all sides.

A well-reasoned moderation in foodstuffs, diminishing the passionate heat of
his blood, tends greatly to facilitate your being able to ATTEND TO
YOURSELF; while the impassioning of your blood, stemming, as it does, from
an excessive consumption of foodstuffs, from extreme and intensified bodily
movements, from the inflammation of wrath, from being heady with vanity, and
by reason of other causes, gives rise to a multitude of thoughts and
reveries-in other words, to distraction. The Holy Fathers, first of all,
ascribe to such a one as is desirous of ATTENDING TO HIMSELF a moderate,
evenly-measured, constant abstention from food. ( Dobrotoliubiye
[Philokalia], Pt. II, Ch. of St. Filofei [Philotheus] of the Sinai)

Upon awakening from sleep-an image of the awakening from the dead, which
awaits all men-direct your thoughts to God, offering up to Him the
first-thoughts of your mind, which has not yet become imprinted with any
vain impressions whatsoever.

Having carefully fulfilled all the needs of the flesh upon arising from
sleep, quietly read your customary rule of prayer, taking care not so much
for the quantity of your prayerful expression, as for the quality of it;
i.e., do it ATTENTIVELY, so that, by reason of your ATTENTION, your heart
might be enlightened and enlivened through prayerful feeling and
consolation. Upon concluding your rule of prayer, do you again, direct all
your strength to the ATTENTIVE reading of the New Testament, primarily the
Evangel. In the course of this reading, intently take note of all the
instructions and commandments of Christ, so that you might direct all your
actions-both manifest and veiled-in accordance with them.

The quantity of the reading is determined by one's strength and by one's
circumstances. It is unnecessary to weight-down one's mind with an excessive
reading of prayers and Scripture; likewise, is it unnecessary to neglect
one's needs in order to practice immoderate prayer and reading. Just as the
excessive use of foodstuffs disorders and weakens the belly, so too does the
immoderate use of spiritual food weaken the mind and create in it a
revulsion to pious practices, leading it to despair. ([St.] Isaak the
Syrian, "Sermon 71")

For the novice, the Holy Fathers suggest frequent-but brief-prayers. When
one's mind matures with spiritual age, becoming stronger and more manly,
then shall one be in proper condition to pray without ceasing. It is to such
Christians as have attained to maturity in the Lord that the words of the
Apostle Paul pertain:

I DESIRE, THEREFORE, THAT MEN PRAY EVERYWHERE, LIFTING UP HOLY HANDS,
WITHOUT ANGER AND REPROACH. (I Tim. II, 8) i.e., dispassionately, and
without any distraction or inconstancy. For that which is natural to the man
is not yet natural to the infant.

Enlightened, through prayer and reading, by our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Sun
of Righteousness, one may then go forth to carry out the affairs of one's
daily course, VIGILANTLY taking care that in all one's deeds and words, in
one's entire being, the All-holy will of God might prevail, as it was
revealed and explained to men in the Commandments of the Evangel.

Should there be any free moments during the course of the day, use them to
read ATTENTIVELY some chosen prayers, or some chosen portions of Scripture;
and, by means of these, fortify the powers of your soul, which have become
exhausted through activity in the midst of a world of vanities.

Should there not be any such golden moments, it is necessary to regret their
loss, as though it were the loss of a valuable treasure. What is wasted
today should not be lost on the day following, because our heart
conveniently gives itself up to negligence and forgetfulness, which lead to
that dismal ignorance, so ruinous of Divine activity, of the activity of
man's salvation.

Should you chance to say or to do something that is contrary to God's
commandments, immediately treat your fault with repentance; and, by means of
sincere contrition, return to the Way of God, from which you stepped aside
through your violation of God's will. Do not linger outside the Way of God!
Respond with faith and humility to sinful thoughts, reveries and sensations
by opposing to them the Gospel commandments, and saying, along with the holy
patriarch Joseph:

HOW SHALL I SPEAK THIS EVIL WORD AND SIN BEFORE GOD? (Gen. XXX, 9)

One who is VIGILANT toward oneself must refuse himself all reverie, in
general-regardless of how attractive and well-appearing it might seem, for
all reverie is the wandering of the mind, which flatters and deceives it,
while being outside the truth, in the land of non-existent phantoms, and
incapable of realization. The consequences of reverie are: loss of VIGILANCE
toward oneself, dissipation of the mind, and hardness of heart during
prayer, whence comes distress of the soul.

In the evening, departing into slumber-which, in relation to the day just
past, is death-examine your actions during the course of that day. Such
[self-] examination is not difficult, since, in leading an ATTENTIVE life,
that forgetfulness which is so natural to a distracted man is destroyed
through VIGILANCE TOWARD ONESELF. And so, having recollected all your sins,
whether through act, or word, or thought, or sensation, offer your
repentance to God for them, with both the disposition and the heart-felt
pledge of self-amendment. Later, having read the rule of prayer, conclude
the day which was begun by meditating upon God by meditating, once again,
upon God. Whither do they depart-all the thoughts and feelings of a sleeping
man? What mysterious state of being is this sleep, during which the soul and
body are both alive and yet not alive, being alienated from the awareness of
their life, as though dead? Sleep is as incomprehensible as death. In the
course of it, one's soul reposes, forgetting the most-cruel earthly
afflictions and calamities that have beset it, while it images its eternal
repose; while one's body (!!) ... if it rises from sleep will also arise,
inevitably, from the dead.

The great Agafon said: "IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO SUCCEED IN VIRTUE WITHOUT
EXERTING VIGILANCE TOWARD ONESELF." (The Patericon of Skete)

Amen.

Excerpted from The Writings of Bishop Ignatii Brianchaninov: Ascetic Essays,
Volume I, pp. 185-187 (in Russian). Translated into English from the Russian
by George Spruksts intrprtr@prodigy.net. English-language translation
copyright (c) 1999 by The St. Stefan of Perm' Guild, The Russian Cultural
Heritage Society, and the Translator. All Rights Reserved. Permission is
hereby granted to use this essay for non-commercial purposes, as long as
this entire notice is included therewith.




#17 Guest_Andonis Saridopoulos

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Posted 17 October 2002 - 02:46 AM

which requires more viginlance, certainly the wordly life. living in the world, whether you wish or not, is to observe and to some degree participate in the uncleanliness of the world. to try and adopt a just and honest approach to people of the world, is similar to a country without an army, which can be attacked and destroyed at any instance. you fight fire with fire, for you begin to structure your life in order to live with the injustices and immoralities that surround you, for you own survival you evolve into a selfish, self seeking, self serving person whom will inevitably tread on others.

monastisticism on other hand offers an alternative. you are no longer wrestling in a pigsty, where dirtying your self is inevitable. you isolate youself and begin to do battle with your own demons, away from the vain cares of the world. which battle would one rather fight? this is the question i ask myself today...

#18 Guest_Andonis Saridopoulos

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Posted 02 December 2002 - 02:40 AM

i pose some further questions regarding monstacism. would appreciate anybody's advice:

1)can monastics receive medical attention? i for instance have asthma, and have to use releivers and preventatives from time to time. does an illness such as asthma immediately disqualify somebody from the monastic life? how are these kinds of issues resolved?

2)if monsaticism is a higher calling, if all the world where to live as monastics do, are we supposing that we would create a kind of heaven on earth?

Andonis


#19 Guest_sinjin smithe

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Posted 02 December 2002 - 03:00 AM

Andonis, I can't specifically answer your questions here but I just read a book called Youth of the Apocalypse written by two monks who talk about the spiritual state of the world. It discusses what is wrong with society today and proposes a cure for it which is Christ. The monks encourage us to die to the world and begin to live for Christ. It is a very good book and I would suggest it for anyone pondering entering into the monastic life or yearning to understand the state of modern society today. It is published by St. Herman of Alaska Press.

#20 Guest_Andonis Saridopoulos

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Posted 02 December 2002 - 03:04 AM

how can i order it from Australia? i might check with one of our monasteries... thanks Sinjin, i really love getting my hands on books such as these...





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