Religious Communities for Men
Chapter 2:



The Monastic Vocation

‘To thee are my words now addressed, whosoever thou mayest be that renounceth thine own will to fight for the true King, Christ.”  (St. Benedict)

What is a monk?

As the very word implies, or as its Latin form ‘monachus’ shows, it contains the prefix ‘mono’ meaning one or singular. A monk is therefore someone whose desire is singular, he desires only one thing in the entire world, and that one thing is God alone.

A monk in his cell

The monks of old headed their letters with the Latin inscription ‘Soli Deo’, meaning ‘for God alone’ or  ‘to God only’.  Among spiritual exercises practiced in the solitude of their cells, the Carthusian monks have the custom of writing beautiful intimate lettters ‘soli Deo’, to God alone.  At the end of each year these monastic letters and meditations written in silence in the presence of God are cast into the furnace where they rise heavenwards as the smoke of incense.  Only ashes are left for the curiosity of men, since the spiritual exercise is . . . ‘soli Deo’. 

Dom Columba Marmion wrote that a person is worth whatever he seeks or desires.  So if you seek money, you could be worth millions . . . but money is only paper and will perish like all paper.  What has the profane to confer but profanity?  Only a travesty of reason would conceive lucre empowered to impart beatitude.  Your worth lies in the object of your desiring.  If you seek God, the object of your desiring is everlasting.

The average person’s desiring lies somewhere between two extremes, his desires are mixed, and his ability to concentrate on the ideal outlined by faith fluctuates at every moment.  Yet St. Augustine elaborated on the same idea saying, “My soul is restless until it rests in Thee my God.”

To desire something which is completely incompatible to us is contradictory.  Though our being is the union of flesh and spirit, the human soul is essentially spiritual, it makes little sense for that immaterial soul to desire something material.  Yet the effects of original sins cause us to desire things foreign to our spiritual make-up.  What, then, could be more normal than to want what was made for us?  Yet the contrary holds the true answer.  We are made for God, only He can be our beatitude.  Only the things that come from Him can give us true happiness.  “My soul is restless until it rests in Thee.”

The monk is therefore someone who desires God alone, who sacrifices all things so as to live for God alone.

The Chapel (outside)

A Pure Gift of Grace

The monastic vocation is proof of God’s infinitely merciful reordering of the human will through the workings of grace.  To seek and to desire what is actually our own perfect and supernatural end is the product of grace.  The will becomes lightened and free to desire with the purest longing the supreme good that is God.  To seek God, to want God alone, to want to live only for God, fleeing everything else – this is the monastic vocation.  Not only it is a wonder of God’s grace, but it is also the normal consequence of that same grace every soul receives at baptism.  A monk is one of these very same souls, that has decided to live in the grace that gives life everlasting, beginning now . . .

The Mystery of Monks

The monk is one of those ordinary souls who has decided to embrace the extraordinary life presented to everyone at baptism.  Yet if being a monk is such an ordinary and normal thing, why are there so few of them?  The mystery of monks is found among the parables of the gospels.  The most famous of these is the parable of the rich young man.  Speaking to Our Lord, the young man asked what he should do above and beyond the mere fulfillment of the commandments.  In His reply, Our Lord actually showed the young man what the commandments actually lead to.  He said to the young man, “Go sell what thou hast, give to the poor, take up thy cross and come, follow Me.”  In essence, Our Lord was presenting the monastic vocation to the young man.  But “the young man went away, sad . . .” The lesson of the parable shows that he had great possessions and was overly attached to them. They turned him away from Our Lord and drew him home.

Materialism versus the Monastic Vocation

The only obstacle to the monastic vocation, the only thing that can hinder one’s vocation is, as the parable shows, the attachment to material things.  Materialism is the enemy of vocations.  To allow belongings to set themselves between God and one’s soul is the only gain of materialism, for all else it is a severe loss.  Yet, on a moral level, there is also a kind of greedy materialism being purely spiritual which causes the soul to cling to itself.  This is selfishness, egotism, or self-love.  Through pride, the soul becomes infatuated with itself and turns its back on God: the will of God is rejected along with any calling to a life of sacrifice which, in fact, is an essential part of the monastic vocation.  For the unfortunate soul stricken with the disease of materialism, the only cure is the spirit of sacrifice: the practice of the spirit of poverty for material things, and the practice of generosity and self-sacrifice for oneself.

"Introibo ad altare Dei..."

Will I become a Monk?

Despite the call to many hardships and sacrifices which reveal the true face of the monastic vocation, why do some souls proceed undaunted by the forbidding cloister walls? The Psalmist writes: “In my meditation, a fire has flamed forth.”  When we invoke the Holy Ghost, we pray: “ . . . and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.”  In the story of Moses, God revealed Himself in the form of the burning bush which burned intensely but did not consume the branches.  It is the flame of God’s love for one soul, the mysterious power of fire not only to consume but also to hypnotize and fascinate, the image the Sacred Scripture most often used to describe the power of the mystery of Divine Love.  The fire of God’s love for one’s soul, first to capture its attention, to try it and make it strong like white-hot forged steel, and purify it like gold in a furnace.  It is powerful beyond anyone’s greatest imaginings, but powerful in a way which stirs awe in the soul and causes reverential fear.  This image of fire, in thinking about God in fervent meditation, in the guidance of the Holy Ghost, or when God reveals Himself to us, is the image of the purest of flames which is His intense love for us, which draws us to Himself.

To Answer God’s Calling is a Way of Life

The ancient monks of the desert were completely unaware of inaugurating a new way of life.  The monastic life they lived was nothing more than an ever-growing fascination with God’s own life.  Obsessed by the power of God’s love they trained themselves to surrender to Him and became the saints, the friends of God every baptized soul is destined to become.  For the monastic vocation it is a pressing thing to answer God’s calling.  But why does God call soul in this mysterious way?  He explained to the prophet Jeremias: “With an everlasting love have I loved thee, this is why I have drawn thee to Me.”  The monastic vocation is the initiative of the attracting magnetism of God’s everlasting love for any individual soul.  The response given to the love of God by that soul, the soul that is willing to listen closely to the voice of God and look seriously into his vocation – this is what decides the rest . . .

The Chapel (inside)

The Monastic Vocation and the Magisterium

Despite the many cries of protest coming from irreligious souls, the Church has placed the monastic vocation upon a pedestal where all may see it for use as an ideal.  The place the Church gives the monastic calling ifs by far the best way to understand its importance as well as its universal appeal.  Pope Pius IX, among no fewer than fifteen other supreme pontiffs, extolled this truth: “Established by very holy persons whom the Divine Spirit inspired for the greater glory of God and the good of souls, and confirmed by this Apostolic See, they contribute to that admirable variety which sheds such a marvelous splendor on the Church.  And they composed those choice troops, those battalions of auxiliaries in the army of Jesus Christ which have always been, both for civil society and for Christendom, a powerful aid, an adornment, a rampart.”  “Burning with ardent love for God and man, they have been a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men, knowing no other delight than that of using all their efforts, all their zeal, all their energy to meditate night and day on divine things.”

The Monastic Vocation in This Time of Crisis

The monastic vocation has been shown as something normal in its universality but extraordinary in its uniqueness among the many paths which lead to God. In this time of crisis, vocations have become rare since the means God uses to attract them have been forcefully held back by men of the Church.  The saintly Archbishop chosen to be the instrument of Providence has given us a clear reminder of the value of monastic vocations:

“Without monasteries, without the examples of the contemplative religious consecrated to the continual praise of God, the Church will never recover from the present crisis.  In order to traverse this present crisis, there must be more monasteries, more souls willing to devote their whole life to prayer and intercession.” (Archbishop Lefebvre)

“Upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed guardsmen.  All the day and all the night long, they will not hold their peace from praising the Name of the Lord.” (Antiphon from the Benedictine Breviary)

The Ecclesia Dei commission had succeeded in separating the traditional Benedictine monks of Le Barroux from the work of Archbishop Lefebvre. Nevertheless, a handful of monks could not in conscience consider the saintly prelate as schismatic and excommunicated. After the historic summer of 1988, it had quickly become impossible for these monks to remain in the monastery of Le Barroux and support the Archbishop at the same time.  The only choice was to leave, placing all in the hands of Providence.

Fr. Cyprian was one of those who left.  Having traveled to Ecône to speak with the Archbishop, where he met with Fr. Thomas Aquinas, who is the Superior of the traditional Benedictines in Brazil, the decision was made to found a new monastery faithful to Tradition located in the Southwest region of the United States.

The vast work of constructing a new traditional monastery has begun. High in the mountains in the Gila Wilderness, the first candidates to the monastic life are working to construct their own monastery.  A few young men have come to be the pioneers of the foundation, and as they alternate between the work of construction and the prayers of the Divine Office, the walls are beginning to rise.  There is already a waiting list of vocations from around the world wishing to come immediately to embrace the contemplative Benedictine monastic life, - but there is no more room.  A few stubborn souls have agreed to come anyway and “rough it” while living in RV trailers.

The hardships are many but the grace of God has given these souls the spirit of the monks of the Middle Ages who also constructed their own monasteries.  May Our Venerable Father St. Benedict instill in their hearts the burning fire of love to consecrate their lives to the sacred service of the Church, to be the choice militia engaged in the holy warfare against the powers of darkness.

Here is the horarium (daily schedule) in use at the Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe:

3:00 a.m. Rise
3:30 Matins
4:30 Lectio Divina
5:30 Lauds
6:00 Angelus, Private Mass, Mental Prayer in the Choir
7:00 Breakfast
7:30 Prime, Chapter
8:00 Lectio Divina
9:30 Tierce, Conventual Mass
10:30 Class, Study or Manual Work
11:45 Sext
12:00 Angelus, Lunch
2:00 p.m. None
2:15 Manual Work
5:30 Vespers, Mental Prayer in Choir
6:30 Dinner
7:30 Compline, Angelus
8:00 Retire

Note:  Due to the vast work of construction in which the community fully participates, certain modifications of the horarium take place accordingly.  A recreation takes place once a week in which the brethren go hiking in the surrounding mountains.

Fr Cyprian with one of his monks on the construction field

Rev. Father Cyprian, OSB
Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe
142 Joseph Blane Rd
Silver City, NM 88061

Tel: [1] (505) 388 92 79

Other Benedictine Congregations:

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Bellaigue
Bellaigue - 63330 Virlet
04 73 52 33 26


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