Becoming a Monk

Discerning a vocation to the monastic life is best done by personal experience and an encounter with the monks behind the cloister. We, at Mount Angel Abbey, open our door to Catholic men 18 to 45 years old who are discerning a vocation to come and join us for a three-day monastic discernment experience.

While on retreat, you can expect to:

  • Pray with the monks
  • Join them for meals
  • Tour the monastery
  • Listen to conferences and vocation discernment stories
  • Spend time in quiet prayer
  • Discern your vocation with monks and other retreatants

A typical Discernment Retreat schedule

Friday
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm Arrival: Check-in at Guesthouse Lobby
4:30 pm Welcome & Orientation
5:10 pm Vespers
5:45 pm Dinner
6:45 pm Eucharistic Adoration.
7:30 pm Benediction & Compline (Abbey church)
8:00 pm Conference: “One thing I ask” – Conversion and Vocation stories
Saturday
5:20 am Vigils (Abbey church)
6:30 am Lauds (Abbey church)
7:00 am Breakfast
8:00 am Eucharist (Abbey church)
9:00 am Hilltop tour followed by a conference:
“The Benedictines, Some History and Background;
including the history and mission of the monks of Mount Angel Abbey”
Noon ​Midday Prayer (Abbey church)
12:15 pm Lunch
2:00 pm Conference: “Monastic Vows and Formation”
Group Picture after the Conference
3:30 pm Emmaus Walks with monks
5:15 pm 1st Vespers for Sunday (Abbey church)
5:45 pm Dinner
6:30 pm Recreation
7:25 pm Vigils for Sunday followed by private prayer (Abbey church)
Sunday
6:35 am Lauds followed by private prayer (Abbey church)
7:35 am Breakfast
9:00 am Solemn High Mass (Abbey church)
10:30 am Conference: “Monastic Prayer and Spirituality”
Noon Midday Prayer (Abbey church)
12:15 pm ​Dinner
1:30 pm Conference: “Discernment and Making a Decision”
2:30 pm Departure

Discernment of a Monastic Vocation

Discernment is best done from a pure heart and well-formed reason. It is undertaken with the help of the Holy Spirit, wise counsel from faithful people, and utilizes one’s own God-given capacity to discern. It has been said that the three signs of a true vocation are desire, ability, and call.

Desire

The Scripture puts it this way, “One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: to dwell in the House of the Lord all the days of my life” (Psalm 27:4).

The Lord invites a man to be one with him. Discernment is not so much about “What do I want to do?” as “What does God desire for me?” The Lord wants us to know joy in this life and the fullness of joy in the life to come. Doing the will of the Father as Jesus did is the thing that will bring us this joy. No amount of “the good things” in life or “getting what I want” will satisfy.

Ability

Monastic life is not for everybody. There are Church requirements and personal qualities that are needed. To become a monk of Mount Angel Abbey, one must be a single male, a high school graduate, 21 to 45 years of age, and in good physical, mental, and spiritual health. He must be a Catholic Christian baptized, confirmed, and practicing his faith through regular reception of the sacraments, daily prayer, and involvement in his parish community. He must be a resident of the United States of America, employable, and in good financial standing.

In addition, the man must be able to “fit in” with the monastic community and be willing to adapt to the monastic ways of a common life in humility and simplicity and comfortable with limitations on “worldly ways.”

Call

Monastic life is rigorous. Prayer and work (ora et labora) in community define the days, months, and years in the monastery. Yet, it is a happy and fulfilling life lived among brothers who love you.

As Benedictines, we follow the Rule of Saint Benedict, which has proven to be a sure way to holiness for 1,500 years. St. Benedict advises us, Do not grant newcomers to the monastic life an easy entry, ‘but test the spirits to see if they are from God'” (1 John 4:1). The concern must be whether the newcomer truly seeks God and whether he shows eagerness for the Work of God (i.e., prayer), and for obedience and trials. He should be clearly told the hardships and trials that will lead him to God(RB Ch 58.1-2, 7-8). At the beginning of his Rule, St. Benedict writes, This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, and once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord.”

To test your call to the monastic life, please contact the Abbey’s Director of Vocations and arrange a visit to Mount Angel Abbey.

“As we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments,
our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.”
— The Holy Rule of St. Benedict

The Basics about Benedictine Monastic Life

What Is a Monastery?

If you have never heard of a monastery, here is the simplest answer: “A monastery is the place where monks live, work and pray.” Sometimes you hear it called an Abbey. Benedictines call themselves “monks” and live in a monastery.

Who Is a Monk?

Certain men in religious orders refer to themselves as “monks.” At Mount Angel Abbey, or monastery, all the members are monks but only some of them are ordained priests. A religious brother-monk is addressed as “Brother” and a priest-monk is addressed as “Father.” All of us are monks.

Who Is Saint Benedict?

St. Benedict was a monk who lived from 480 to 543. He was from a town in Italy called Norcia. When he was young he went to school in Rome but decided to become a monk. First he lived alone in a cave called Subiaco. Later he became the head of a monastery at Montecassino in Italy. He was then known as an abbot. While he was there he wrote a little book called The Rule. It became the rule of life for monks in other monasteries, too. Since they followed The Rule of St. Benedict, they became known as Benedictine Monks, and lived in Benedictine monasteries or abbeys.

How to Become a Monk

Discernment –  A candidate is encouraged to attend at least one 3-day discernment retreat. He stays in our guesthouse, but eats and prays with the monks. He may extend his stay upon approval of the monastic vocation council, to live inside the cloister for a week and join the monks in prayer, work and recreation. This is also the period where one seeks approval to apply to enter the monastery.

Postulancy – A candidate is received to live inside the cloister. He receives a tunic and follows the daily monastic horarium (schedule), and is assigned housework while he seriously discerns his monastic vocation in our community.

Novitiate – As the novice continues his quest to know God’s calling, he is provided with an in depth focus on our customs, history, and traditions of monasticism, the Scripture, the Psalms, and the Rule of St. Benedict. He receives a scapular and will be presented to the monastic Chapter for petition for simple vows after one year.

Juniorate – A junior monk makes simple vows for three years. It is a commitment to live out his monastic vows with fidelity and fervor. He receives a full habit and a new name to mark his transformation to a life according to the way of the Gospel.

Solemn Vows – This final vow is for life. It is a lifelong commitment to live the commands of the Gospel through fidelity to the monastic vows of obedience, stability, and ongoing conversion of life. The monk may aspire to respond to the call of Holy Orders as a fruit of his monastic gift.

Somehow a monastery evokes something and people are curious:
“What is a monk and what do they do?”

Monastic Vows

Our obedience is to Christ and his Church. We live this obedience under a Rule and an abbot, who rules the monastery more by example than by legislation: The purpose of the Holy Rule is to be an assistance and guide in following the Holy Gospel.

Stability has been described as the vow that stops us from running from the Cross. While community life lived in charity is a great deal of hard work, God always supplies us sufficient grace and love to resolve human difficulties, and in the process, our transformation is ensured.

The vow of “conversatio” is a promise to daily follow the monastic way of life, which is very much about conversion. If the Holy Rule presumes anything, it is that by God’s grace – and our cooperation with it – change is possible. Over the years, even entrenched vices can be transformed into virtues.

An Introduction to the Divine Office

Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., explains the Liturgy of the Hours. Composed of Psalms, canticles, antiphons and prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours finds its historical roots in the ancient and venerable prayer of the synagogue.

View more on our YouTube Channel.