'What are you looking for?' ...'Come and see.'
When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, 'What are you looking for?' They said to him, 'Rabbi' 'where are you staying?' He said to them, 'Come and see.' They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. -- John 1:38-39
Greetings of peace from Holy Spirit Monastery!
I am Brother Michael, the vocation director, and on behalf of my abbot and brother monks it is my privilege to invite you to spend a vocation retreat with us: a time to pray and work with the monks, to read the things of God, to ask questions and start to find answers. This is an opportunity to join others who share a similar focus, in an environment of quiet, beauty and peace.
Sounds good so far? Then please read on.
We live on the grounds of the old Honey Creek Plantation, amid the rolling hills of rural Georgia. We feel that our geography, while nothing spectacular, is sacred --- because Christ has blessed it by calling here men of diverse backgrounds, so that they might gradually grow into a gentle kindness and generosity that gives without expecting anything in return.
One of our Cistercian monks, Thomas Merton, once said that "if you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat; but ask me what I am living for, and what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for." Does what Merton said apply to you, my brother in Christ? Then I invite you to 'come and see.'
But then let me ask another question. Have you ever been on vacation in an unfamiliar state, and reached a fork in the road --- with no sign signaling where each road leads?
Some who attend our retreats experience something similar: they are unsure of which life path to take -- is it to marriage, priesthood, monasticism, or is it some other "fork in the road?" They are seeking to find their purpose in life within the context of one of these paths. Whether it is as a monk or a married man, they want to live their purpose fully.
Others come in response to an inner instinct that bids them to at least explore the possibility that Christ might be suggesting: "Why not consider the monastic path?" They reach this point of exploration after having taken seriously certain desires that won't go away. Some or all of these desires might be ---
- For an environment that will facilitate going deep into the Heart of Christ, and finding their purpose in life there.
- For a lifestyle that challenges them to know and accept themselves and others, with both strengths and weaknesses, so as to gradually become the men they are meant to be.
- For the silence and solitude where they can ponder God's Word, addressed to each of us in so personal a way.
- For a place where deep prayer leads them to bring the needs and concerns of the whole human family into the Heart of Christ.
- For a life path which will challenge them to shift gradually from loneliness to creative solitude; and from absorption in self-serving work to selfless service.
- For a caring community of mutual trust and fraternal support.
This quest for wider horizons
The writer Paul Wilkes recalls coming to the monastery with a single desire: a yearning for something much bigger to live for.... and, if asked, to die for; something far beyond the horizons of a young man.
This quest for wider horizons can be a daunting task: a challenge capable of pushing us to the limits of our capacity to give without expecting anything in return. Monastic life does such things.
We monks live in what for centuries has been called in our Cistercian tradition, a "school of love." But because we are such slow learners, we realize all too well our need for Christ's continual help so that we gradually mature into a kind of love that knows nothing of control, manipulation, or ulterior motives.
This explains why we start every community prayer gathering by chanting,"O God, come to my assistance! O Lord, make haste to help me!" At every moment of our day, this chant lies at the heart of each breath we take. Without Christ, where would we be?
Because we live and move in Christ, we begin each prayer service by chanting together as one person, "Come quickly to my aid!" This points to our unity as a monastic family, as opposed to a loose collection of individuals who hang out together.... with little or no awareness of what we really want to live for.
Each monk shares responsibility for this unity. We do this by seeking to remain faithful to our Cistercian charism, and its capacity to provide our brothers with the conditions needed for the emotional and spiritual growth that makes for deep peace and happiness.
My brother, it is good to keep in mind that you and God want the same thing, your happiness. It makes sense to make a decision about your life that will bring gladness not only to yourself, but also to others. And joy to Christ as well!
Each lifestyle - as a monk or otherwise -- is a way to live out Christ's invitation to be happy by growth in self-giving.
Paul Wilkes recalls pondering matters of discernment, when from some whim he pulled a book off his shelf - a novel he had written. Wilkes opened to a passage, which describes an earnest, but conflicted man who had spent months in prayer and fasting at his hermitage near a monastery, seeking to discern whether to travel the monastic way.
After so many women in his life, he has met a woman, THE woman. To him, she is vibrant, wonderful. Now all his careful discernment is being tossed to the winds. In this section, he talks of "seeking God's Face." But the woman tells him instead to look into her face.
In agony, he says, "I'm searching for God's will. I want to do what God has planned for me."
The woman puts her hands on his cheeks and looks deeply into his frightened eyes.
"God wants what you want," she answers.
And so it is with you, my brother. Christ wants what you want. If there is anything I can do to help clarify what that desire is, I would be very happy to meet with you when you come.
Vocation retreats, free of charge, are open to single Catholic men and women who are discerning a vocation to the religious life.
The remaining schedule for these retreats in 2011 is October 3-6 (Midweek)
The dates for these retreats in 2012
- January 06-08 (Weekend)
- April 20-22 (Weekend)
- July 2-5 (Midweek)
- December 14-16 (Weekend)
If these dates are not convenient, other times can be arranged.
May Christ continue to bless and guide you, and --- God willing - may we meet before too long!
If you are interested in the Cistercian monastic life and would like to know about the procedure for discerning a monastic vocation, contact Brother Michael (Vocation Director)
- by e-mail
- by phone 678-964-2018, 1-800-592-5203 (Monday through Saturday, 10:00 am and 4:00 pm EST.)
- or write to:
Brother Michael, Vocation Director
Monastery of the Holy Spirit
2625 Highway. 212 SW
Conyers, GA 30094-4044
For more reading, see Conferences
Is the Cistercian Monastic Life for you? See the Vocation VIDEO