What is the reason for monastic life?
What justifies living a celibate lifestyle, hidden away in a monastery, spending hours at prayer? Wouldn’t it be more useful to society, and truer to the Gospel of Jesus, if we were out serving the poor and proclaiming the Good News of the Resurrection?
It is the love of Christ, above all, that draws us to monastic life. A Christian monastic is a person who has sensed a call from Jesus to give one’s whole life to him, someone who passionately desires to set aside all that is not focused on Christ. But this does not separate us from our brothers and sisters in the world; on the contrary, praying in union with Christ, who intercedes for all, we are united with them at a profound level.
The Cistercian monastic lives with other sisters or brothers, being purified and strengthened by the community for the life-long labor of prayer. Each of our monasteries has its own customs and daily schedule, but common to all is the practice of rising before dawn to begin the day with liturgical prayer and returning to church periodically during the day for further prayer together. At other times, as we work, we try to keep an atmosphere of silence, to help us grow in the practice of continual prayer. Our monasteries are normally located in the countryside, surrounded by natural quiet and beauty, keeping us close to the earth of which God has made us stewards.
Although we engage in no public ministry, we know from experience that our lives in common can affect other people deeply. The monastic way of life, including the choice not to bring forth new human life for this world’s future, testifies to Christian faith in the world to come. In these times the monastery is for many a peaceful refuge in the midst of noise and tumult, a place where visitors find that freedom from distractions which prepares the heart for its meeting with God. As people try to juggle the demands of modern life which can sometimes seem overwhelming, they find inspiration in the balance of work and prayer in the monastic schedule and in the sense of order and purpose it produces.
We believe that God hears the prayers of all, and we carry in our hearts the hopes and needs of all the world. But we pray above all because God is worth every ounce of our loving attention, and we marvel at his goodness and love in making us and in preparing us for eternity with him and with one another.
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people the most to be pitied.
1 Cor 15, 19
The monastery is an expression of the mystery of the Church, where nothing is preferred to the praise of the Father’s glory. Every effort is made to ensure that the common life in its entirety conforms to the Gospel, which is the supreme law… By fidelity to their monastic way of life, which has its own hidden mode of apostolic fruitfulness, monks and nuns perform a service for God’s people and the whole human race.
Constitutions of the O.C.S.O., Cst.4