Questions About Becoming a Monk or a Nun

Are goods usually assigned to the monastery/community one is joining?


"Before taking vows, a monk or nun must assign the administration of his or her goods to someone else" Are goods usually assigned to the monastery/community one is joining? What typically happens?

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Yes, it is Church law that at the time of first vows, the person must assign the administration of his/her goods to someone else for the duration of the vowed period. This is simply to assure the person freedom to concentrate on his/her religious formation rather than on business affairs.

This procedure is officially called a "cession" - the ceding of the administration to someone else. It can be a family member, a friend, a business acquaintance - or it can also be the religious community that one is joining. But most communities would rather not take on this responsibility since it can put them in a different relationship with the new member.

Is there a Third Order of the Trappists Monks?


I have always been at home alone out in the woods. 16 years ago I broke my neck, and have relied on people to care for me in a nursing home. The noise is unbearable, but fortunately I have a private room and I have found the Lord Christ. Is there a Third Order of the Trappists Monks? Presently, I am a Third Order member of the Confraternity of Penitents, of the original 1221 Rule. It is not that I am unhappy with this order, it is just that I am interested in understanding or order in a broader way, and if there is a Third Order, please let me know that I may read and understand its constitutions and rules, etc.. If I could walk I know that I would be with you folks now because I know who I am, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless all of you and bring you to the gates of heaven.

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The Trappist (Cistercian) order does not have an international 'Third Order'. However, each monastery is free to host 'Oblates' which are sometimes referred to as 'Lay Associates'. Most, but not all, associates are geographically situated near the monastery they are affiliated with so that they can participate in retreats and discussions.

To get in contact with an Associate program through the Trappist Regional Webpage, you could locate the monastery nearest to you and send an e-mail to their vocation director. If you are living in or close to Virginia, Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, VA has a very fine program. As you may already know we follow the Rule of St. Benedict. Because it is a 6th century document, I would suggest reading it with a good commentary in hand, of which there are many.

There are two primary perspectives for these commentary's; those written for monks and nuns who live in monasteries, and those written for lay people who live in the world. Of the latter variety, Esther deWaal has several helpful books that translate the Rule into 21st century language and thought. It brings me great joy to hear that you have found the Lord! I will pray for your continued transformation and conversion in the Lord--these are profoundly Trappist hallmarks!

Can I be a nun if I have a medical condition?


I am Catholic and feel I might be called to the life, but I have a mild medical condition and need to take medicine. Would I still be able to be a nun or would I be refused just because medicine costs a little bit of money? I'm in my early 40's would I be denied entry just because I'm not under 39 or 35 or 25 (I know some other orders say be under this age or that age and one I saw requires you to be under 25)?

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Thank you for your question submitted to our website and please know I am praying for you as you discern your vocation. I believe the Vocation Director at most monasteries of women today would make a conscientious effort to place the fact of your medical condition in the larger picture of the mystery of a possible monastic vocation. Their primary concern would be to examine the signs of a call to monastic life. This should be your focus too.

My suggestion would be to contact the Vocation Director at a particular monastery and initiate a conversation that fosters an honest and open relationship. Your reliance on a particular medicine need not be the first thing you tell her about yourself. Let her meet you and hear your story. Share with her your heart and what you consider to be the more important signs of a possible vocation. Let her taste a little the mystery of this calling you experience, and then, when the moment seems right, inform her about your medical needs. Then, you “let go and let God”, and trust her to make the best decision she can. (They might inquire into the possibility of your own insurance covering the cost of your medicine until you take perpetual vows as a nun.)

Regarding age limits, these vary from monastery to monastery. Some will not initiate a discernment process with persons over a certain age, but others will. I believe it is not uncommon for monasteries, these days, to set the upper age limit at about 45, so it would be worth your while to contact a Vocation Director at a monastery you feel attracted to. I hope this is helpful. God bless you!

What do the liturgy and words of your Solemn Vows consist of?


What do the liturgy and words of your Solemn Vows consist of?

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A Trappist pronounces his / her Solemn Vows in the context of mass. Following the reading of the gospel, the monk enters the sanctuary and prostrates, (lies face down on the floor), after which follows this dialogue between abbot, (“Dom Ambrose”), and monk, (“Felix Anniston):

A: What do you seek from God and from His holy church?

F: The blessing of God and fellowship in the Holy Spirit, with this monastic community.

A: Thanks be to God. Rise in the name of the Lord. (the monk stands). Christ has said: “Greater love than this no man has than to lay down his life for his friends.” Do you now with to make of your whole life a gift of love to God and to your brothers?”

F: Yes, Reverend Father, with the help of God and of the brothers.

A: Do you wish by obedience, stability, and conversion of life, to advance in the school of the Lord's service until death?

F: Yes, Reverend Father, with the help of God and of the brothers.

A: For the sake of the kingdom of God, in imitation of Christ and his Virgin Mother Mary, do you wish to be free for God alone, in solitude and silence, in a life of continual prayer and joyful penitence?

F: Yes, Reverend Father, with the help of God and of the brothers.

A: May God who begun this work in you bring it to completion.

Brother Felix then pronounces his vows:

“I Brother Felix Anniston, promise my stability, my fidelity to monastic life and obedience until death in accordance with the Rule of Saint Benedict. I do this before god and all his saints, in the presence of Dom Ambrose, abbot of this monastery of Our Lady of the Assumption Abbey, of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, founded in honor of the Blessed and ever Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.”

There follows a Solemn Blessing by which Brother Felix consecrated to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Can someone who has college debt join the Trappistines?


I am a recent Masters graduate and have incurred a little bit of debt (around $14,000). I know that some orders allow those with debt to enter (they are allowed to work their debt off as they make their vows). Is it possible with this order? Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of these questions! God Bless!

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The situation of candidates to religious life with large outstanding college debts is something we encounter more and more these days. Different monasteries have different policies. Some require the candidate to be debt free before entering the monastery.

Others assist the candidate to pay the debt by drawing on a fund created by donors who wish to support vocations to monastic life. You would need to contact the individual Vocation Director of a particular monastery to inquire what their policy is.

Most importantly, don't let this factor alone discourage or distract you from discerning what might be an authentic call from God to enter monastic life. If you have a genuine vocation to our life, an outstanding debt will not be an insurmountable obstacle. There are good people who wish to help! God bless you!

I am in a non-regularized marriage for thirty years – can I become a monk?


I have been in a non regularized marriage for more than thirty years. My wife and I are living as brother and sister at present in order to be able to receive the Eucharist rightly.

I have always wanted to be some sort of religious. I have always loved the simplicity and poverty of Cistercian spirituality. I realize that I must either regularize my marriage or dissolve it. The need and the hunger for the total giving of myself to God in an un-distracted way by prayer and solitude is undeniable.

This marriage has been dysfunctional since the beginning. Having been away from the Church for a number of years, till about twenty years ago, I made decisions, such as the one to get married.

In addition, my life as a husband has never really worked. Personal factors aside, I wonder if I might be being called by God to the life of a monk. If it is an escape, I am sure He can show me that as well...

Would there be a place in a Cistercian monastery, somewhere, for a frail, sinful man such as myself?

You speak of degrees of dis-satisfaction with several aspects of your life: “a non-regularized marriage”, the “dysfunction” of your marriage, a time “away from the church”, and life as a husband that “has never worked”.

It seems to me a first step would be for you to engage and attempt to resolve these conflicts in your life which, to some degree, may actually be placing you at odds with yourself and with what you deeply believe to be good and true.

You also speak of cherished blessings in your life which are undoubtedly gifts from God: the desire for “un-distracted prayer”, “the hunger” to give yourself totally to God and a “love for Cistercian simplicity and poverty”.

Alleluia! – these gifts are not given to everyone. Cherish them and cultivate them!

When you have addressed those areas in your life where you feel you might be morally compromised, I believe a fruit of this growth will be a clearer inner sight and inner hearing regarding how God is calling you to serve him in the future.

If, having embraced a more disciplined way of living that is truer to yourself you continue to believe God might be calling you to a monastic vocation, you should contact a Vocation Director at one of our monasteries for men and begin a conversation with him.

You may be beyond the age limit of some monasteries. Others might consider receiving you as a candidate having discerned in you a serious intention and manifest signs of a desire to amend your life.

I hope this has been helpful. Please know that I will be praying that the Holy Spirit guide you in the months ahead to the fullness of life. God bless you!

Can a woman with an eighteen year old son enter a Trappist monastery?


Would a Trappistine abbey accept a woman with a grown, 18 year old son? Or would this be considered a serious impediment to monastic life? Would a Trappistine abbey accept a divorced woman whose marriage has been annulled by the Church?

While your eighteen year old son would probably be considered by most Vocation Directors as an “adult” child, you might need to discern whether or not it is advisable to take up cloistered life in the context of your actual personal relationship with your son. The monastic enclosure will limit you and your son's access to each other to a great extent.

Might this do harm to your relationship with one still relatively young? Might he still have particular legitimate needs for access to his mother that it would be wrong for you to deny him?

These are questions you could only answer after prayerful discernment with a Vocation Director.

Your marriage, having been annulled by a formal church process, should not be an impediment to your entering a Trappist monastery.

May God bless you and accompany you at each stage of this important discernment!

Contact a Vocation Director to learn more about the Trappists or pursue your vocation.