Questions About Discernment

How come your order follows the Rule of St. Benedict?

I have been discerning monastic life for almost my entire life, I first went to a monastery when I was three but didn't get the true call to the life until I was twenty seven. I then went to a Benedictine monastery and thought it was good but not "strict enough," so I decided to see the Trappists. So now my question is; how come your order follows the Rule of St. Benedict and not Rance or maybe even the Cistercian Fathers or any Cistercian in history? It seems to me that the Church already has an order that follows the Rule and they're the Benedictines. I actually heard from one Vocation director that they don't even follow the Rule or even the Pope! So, to say the least I have been confused and very disturbed by all this, what are you thoughts?


I appreciate your trust - and promise to keep your search, your discernment, in my prayer.

The 10th and 11th centuries were a time of renewal within the Church. The Benedictine Order was still very vital, but there were some (like the founders of our Cistercian Order) who felt that something had been lost of the original simplicity and balance of St. Benedict's Rule. Hence the choice to try to return to that by founding a new monastery.

In later centuries, due to many things including the sad state of Europe during the time of the Bubonic plague and all the wars going on, there was a falling away from this ideal of our Cistercian founders - and hence various attempts at another renewal. As you mention, one of these was that promoted by Abbot de Rance. He had a special focus on penitential practices (because of all the abuses of his time in history) which was somewhat foreign to the spirit of the founders of Citeaux as I have described above. Their genius was their intuition that the Rule of St. Benedict was a real school of charity (and all the other virtues!) and that its discretion and balance were what made it so.

Our Trappist/Cistercian life today is based on that inspiration of our Cistercian Fathers (and Mothers!) - with some of the additions of the centuries and "extras" left aside in favor of the contemplative orientation and balance of the original Rule of St. Benedict. This Rule is lived in different ways - by some lay people who try to incorporate some of its practices into their daily Christian lives. And by some Benedictine monks and nuns who combine prayer with various apostolic activities. And by the Trappists who try to live it fully within their monasteries especially by prayer. We believe that we are carrying out the intention of our founders, adapted to our time - as the Church has urged us to do. I hope this helps - and again, I will hold you and your vocational searching in my prayer.

Is it a Grace from God to answer the call of God to your order?

Is it a Grace from God to answer the call of God to your order? And If so, how do you discern your call? How do you learn the Good and Evil Spirits in one's life?


God does have a special call, a vocation (from the Latin word “vocare” – to call) in his mind and heart for each one of us, his dearly-beloved children.

This is a grace indeed – and our responding to it is also a grace – our response to God’s call. There are many Christian vocations, as you know – to the married life, to the single life in the world, to the priesthood and to the religious life. And within the latter group, there are many religious congregations. Our Order is among these, among the group that is called “monastic” – which signifies those whom God calls to serve him through the ministry of prayer. Other religious congregations serve God and his people in works of teaching, social assistance, education, missionary works, etc – and there is a need for each of these. But down through all the centuries of the Church’s existence, God has called some to serve him through lives of prayer and sacrifice, in a hidden yet very fruitful apostolate that reaches out to all the human family.

You ask about discernment. St Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, gives very precise rules and questions to aid in distinguishing between the various spirits that can influence us. And in the matter of a life’s vocation, it is very important not to try to do this on our own, but to seek guidance from someone whom you know and trust – to help you with this distinguishing. In general, inspirations that spring from wanting to know God’s will for our life, and that move us to service, sacrifice in communion with the Church are to be trusted – also inspirations and considerations that bring us peace versus those that cause us disquiet and a sense of unease.

I suggest you talk over the matter of your vocation with someone in your parish – perhaps the pastor or someone he might recommend.  And I will keep you and your discernment very much in my prayer. God bless you – and may Jesus continue to shed his holy light on your path!

How do you and your community as a whole respond to the needs of the priest shortage?

How do you and your community as a whole respond to the needs of the greater church in this time of reduced vocations to the priesthood? I am a 23-year old college graduate who feels the still small voice of a vocation to the priesthood, but I feel a strong affinity for the contemplative life. With discerning the two different paths (parish priest or a monk) I feel self-centered thinking about the contemplative life when there is such a need for parish priests.


Please know I'm praying that the Holy Spirit guide you in your discernment.

Trappists are aware of the shortage of priests in the church today and pray ardently that more young men will be inspired to open their hearts and minds to the possibility of following Christ as a priest. As one of a very few orders in the church whose mission is to live a life wholly ordered to contemplation, Trappists view the priest shortage as one more opportunity to return with renewed faith, hope, and love to our silent and hidden life of prayer.

Your own discernment is whether God is calling you to the active apostolate or this hidden life of a contemplative monk. You say you feel self-centered when you think about the contemplative life. You might be confusing the state of happy rest which many people associate with contemplative prayer with something very different: contemplative life. A Trappist monk, living his contemplative vocation day after day for years, over the course of a life time is presented with countless challenges to overcome his selfish desires, in other words, to become less and less self-centered and more other-centered – ultimately, Christ centered.

Perhaps a person relishing the felt consolation of a contemplative moment could be fairly called self-centered. A person committing himself by vows to a life of renunciation in order to free himself from self-preoccupation and be available to love and pray for the world perseveringly until death, is actually becoming day-by-day more and more other-centered.

Martha seems to have believed Mary her sister was being self-centered by remaining still and silent at Jesus' feet while she looked after a busy household. Jesus said: “Leave her alone.” At this point, Mary and Martha go their different ways. Martha speaks to the hearts of some, Mary to others. What if they were two girls at a dance? You've danced with both. Who do you want to leave with?

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