Can Trappists Maintain Contact With Their Families?

To what extent are Trappist monks allowed to maintain contact with their families?


The life of silence and solitude we embrace as Trappist monks and nuns has as its purpose to reveal to us the truth about ourselves. One of the most important things I learn as a Trappist is that I am the son of my father and I am the very particular son of my mother. I am brother to my brother and, over the course of my life, have been, in a very particular way, a brother to my sisters.

In short, the person I am before God, is only known as the member of a family. Ironically, this truth might be more evident to a solitary than to people who spend time with their family every day. Because a Trappist realizes he or she continues to be profoundly united with their family, we take care to nurture family relationships and actually do so in ways which I have found especially intimate and beautiful.

Most monasteries have a “family guest house” provided only for family members of monks or nuns of that monastery. A Trappist’s family might visit and stay in the family guest house two or three times a year for a few days. During these visits, it is not only the family members who rekindle their love, but new and very deep relationships can form between the monk’s family of origin and members of his monastic family. Between visits, a Trappist would be free to write to members of his family as he desires. Phone calls are also permitted though we are generally more accountable for these, partly because of the expense that can be involved.

Contact with family members on the internet and by means of social networks like Facebook is very new for us and something we regard with ambivalence. There is not only a lot of objectionable content on the internet, but invitations to view this content popping up on the screen at the most unexpected moments, and this is not something we find helps foster relationships with our family.

Finally, one of the most extraordinary and meaningful “contacts” a Trappist has with his or her family is in prayer; especially prayers offered in response to requests coming from a family member in a crisis.